Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Christmas Story In Chronological Order

There's only one place to get the true facts of the Christmas story - read the Bible version. Below are the scriptures dealing with the birth of Christ, in chronological order, as they happened. Take your time, and read these passages in order, for a simple but accurate Christmas Season Bible Reading Plan.

There are some amazing events and incredible drama recorded in these passages -  miracles, angels, Magi, prophets, the Star, and of course, the birth of the King of kings. 

Luke 1:5-25
The Birth Of John The Baptist Foretold

Luke 1:26-56
The Birth Of Jesus Foretold
Mary Visits Elizabeth
Mary's Song Of Praise

Luke 1:57-80
The Birth Of John The Baptist
Zechariah's Prophecy

Matthew 1:18-25
The Angel Appears To Joseph

Luke 2:1-7
The Birth Of Jesus

Luke 2:8-20
The Shepherds And The Angels

Luke 2:21-38
Jesus Is Presented In The Temple
The Prophecy Of Simeon
The Prophecy of Anna

Matthew 2:1-23
The Wise Men
Herod's Attempt To Kill Jesus
The Escape To Egypt
The Return To Nazareth

Luke 2:39-40
Jesus grows up in Nazareth

Sunday, December 14, 2014

7 Good Bible Reading Habits

Over the years, I've discovered 7 good Bible reading habits that I'd like to share. If you put these 7 habits into practice, I know you will be blessed. Since the Bible is the unique, inspired Word of God, the only way to know who God is, what He has done, what He will do, and what He desires from us, is to read it. So, here we go......

HABIT #1:  Keep Reminding Yourself Of  How The Bible Is Divided
As you read the Bible, always remind yourself of the big picture. In other words, be in the habit of thinking about what section you are in, i.e., history books, or books of law, or poetry books, or prophecy books, or letters to Christians. This will give you a good perspective of what you are reading.

The Bible is comprised of 66 books.  There is the Old Testament (39 books) and the New Testament (27 books).  In very general terms, the Old Testament is about the development of the Jewish nation in which a Messiah would come, and the New Testament is about the Messiah (Jesus), who came through that nation. The Bible is somewhat in order, but not in true chronological order. Instead, it is divided into general sections. 

The Old Testament (39 Books)
Early History of Man and Old Testament Law:  First 5 Books (Genesis to Deuteronomy)
History (of the Jewish Nation):  Next 12 Books (Joshua to Esther)
Poetry (in writing style not in rhyme):  Next 5 Books (Job to Song of Songs)
Prophecy:  Next 17 Books (Isaiah to Malachi)

The New Testament (27 Books)
Gospels (the life of Jesus): First 4 Books (Matthew to John)
History (of the Christian church):  Next Book (Acts)
Epistles (letters to Christians):  Next 21 Books (Romans to Jude)
Prophecy (John's end times vision):  Next Book (Revelation)

HABIT #2:   Always Have A Reading Plan
Don't just randomly pick a place in the Bible to read. And please, don't close your eyes, open up the Bible somewhere, point your finger on a specific place in the page, and open your eyes thinking that's exactly what God wanted you to read. Yes, God wants you to read His word, but read it with a purpose and a plan.

It's best not to read the Bible for the first time by starting at page one and continuing through. You will get bogged down in Old Testament law real quick. And since the New Testament gives the way of salvation through Christ, I would start there, in the New Testament. For a first time reader, start with one of the Gospels, then the book of Acts, then an Epistle, then another Gospel, then another Epistle. Then read Genesis, but always working in another Epistle before going back to another Old Testament book. Make sure you get through all the Gospels and all the Epistles before going through much of the Old Testament.

There are several Bible reading plans you can find online, or in book form. Choose one that you feel you can follow and accomplish. And if you want, make you own plan, such as reading a particular book of the New Testament, maybe a chapter a day. Just take your time, and just have a plan!

HABIT #3:   Highlight Your Bible
Don't be afraid to highlight your Bible, or make notes in the margins. You would be surprised how it helps you, and how many times you will refer to those markings in the future. Even if you use only electronic versions of the Bible, most of them give you the ability to highlight and even make notes.

To be honest, if I was living in a country where Bibles are scarce, I probably wouldn't mark it up. Or if the only Bible I had was a family Bible that was passed down generations, I wouldn't make markings in that one, either. However, in our country, where Bibles are so accessible, and where many people have 2, or 3, or even more Bibles in their homes, I think making notes or highlights is a different story. However, if you are really against it, then at least take notes.

HABIT #4:  Occasionally Compare Bible Translations
Some people are totally and exclusively hooked on one particular translation of the Bible. Some churches actually only consider the King James Bible as the one and only true Bible. To me, the one and only true Bible is the original one written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). Everything else is a translation from those languages into another language, such as English.

Now it's true that some translations are more literal than others, and these are the ones that are a 'word for word' translation. They include The New King James Bible, and The New American Standard, among others. You should definitely have one of these literal translations if you want to be as accurate to the original text as possible.

A second type of Bible translation is based on "thought for thought". Bibles are usually easier to read because of the way they are worded. These include translations such as The New International Version or The New Living Translation. And finally, a third type of translation would be the "paraphrase" type Bibles such as The Message. The problem with paraphrase Bibles is that they may stray too far away from the original language, so be cautious with these.

If I'm looking for additional insight or perspective, I like to occasionally compare, side by side, at least two different translations. You'll find that the different translations basically say the same thing, but in a slightly different way. Sometimes this helps you to better understand a passage. There are several Bible websites that allow you to compare translations. BibleGateway is one of my favorites.

HABIT #5:  Ask Yourself The Right Questions
When reading scripture, always ask yourself good questions: Who wrote the passage? Who is it written to? What is the context (what comes before it and after it). What can I learn about God from the passage? What can I learn about myself from the passage? Does the passage challenge me with a response, perhaps something God wants me to be better at?  What does God want to teach me from this passage?

HABIT #6:  Read Some Scriptures Every Day
It's important to read some scriptures every day, even if it's just a few sentences. Of course, a Bible reading plan is the best way (#2 above). There's just something about developing the habit of daily reading scriptures. It develops and strengthens your faith. At a minimum, at least sign up for a daily email devotion, or a verse for the day type of routine.

HABIT #7: Share What You Learn
Reading the Bible on your own is one thing, but discussing it with other people brings it to a whole new level. There's a scripture that says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). Sometimes another person who reads the same scripture can give you addition perspective and understanding. So, share what you have been reading, especially something that really is special to you.

I'm sure you can come up with more good habits when it comes to Bible reading. I guess the key is to make Bible reading a 'habit', a routine, a practice. Do that, and your life will be enhanced. You will grow spiritually, your relationship with God will grow, and you will come to know Him more fully.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Secret Of Being Content

Have you ever met anyone who claimed to be content? I'm not talking about someone who seemed to be content, I'm talking about someone who claimed to be content. It seems it's a rarity, at least in our culture. We've got 2 things going against us who live in the US as far as contentment is concerned. First, like all people everywhere, being content is against our human, selfish nature. As Christians, we need to constantly battle selfishness and greed because Satan keeps tempting us in that area. Secondly, our culture in the US is anti-contentment. Because of our materialistic society, we are always conditioned to desire more and more things. It's the old keeping up with the Jones' mentality. 

Forget the basic necessities when it comes to living in America. We want extravagance. That word means luxury or indulgence. Just look at all the commercials on TV, magazines, and newspapers. It's all about trying to persuade you to buy more and better stuff, whether you need it or not.

By definition, to be content is to be satisfied. And it seems no one is satisfied any more. We're not satisfied with our jobs, or how much money we make, or where we live, or what we have, or our cars, or our house. 

When I visited Tanzania, Africa, there were families living in places we would not even call a house. Some were just plain, small block structures with only openings for windows and no electricity or running water. A lot of these houses were small, family farms where they grew their own food as well as food to sell or trade. It made me wonder, could these people still be content? 

With that being said, being content doesn't mean we must live in poverty. In other words, we do not need to live in poverty in order to find contentment. On the other hand, we do not need to gain great wealth and riches as the means to acquire contentment. Perhaps the real definition of contentment is being glad, being fulfilled, and being ok regardless of the circumstance we are in. Being content, whether one is poor or rich, is having an inner peace unrelated to an outward condition. 

So what is the secret of being content? Well, there is a special ingredient. It's revealed in the passage below written by the Apostle Paul.

"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:11-13 NASB)

Paul learned to be content regardless of the circumstance. There were times when he had little and was hungry, and there were times when he had much and was well fed. But in both of those two extreme situations, he was content, he was satisfied, and he was ok. Why? He explains the reason. Paul says, "I have learned the secret." What is the secret? How did Paul find contentment no matter what? He reveals the answer in this statement, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

You see, true contentment does not have a direct correlation with wealth. But it does have a direct correlation with God. Contentment does not necessarily increase as wealth increases. But contentment does increase as your relationship with God increases.

And it's true that someone living in poverty can have terrible struggles and trials, but they still can find inner peace and contentment in knowing Christ. That's because there's hope and peace in knowing His love and the hope we have in Him. Just as those in poverty can still find contentment, those who are wealthy can also find peace and contentment, but only through knowing Christ. And furthermore, if we are in Christ, the Spirit of Christ is in us. And that is what gives us the strength and endurance to handle what comes our way.

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."  (Romans 4:17)

There's nothing wrong with being wealthy as long as one who is wealthy is a good steward. However, the love of money should not be our motivation in life, and certainly it can't be our fulfillment. This doesn't mean we should not work hard and be responsible. It's just that life is not about finding wealth, it's about finding contentment.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5)

Another wonderful thing about contentment is that is shows no partiality. It doesn't matter what one's social condition, culture, economic status, intelligence, skill, or race is, the contentment that is found in Jesus is equally available to every person, and in equal quantities.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."  (Colossians 3:15)

Those who are not in Christ may not understand what I've been saying, but those who are in Christ know exactly what I'm talking about.

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." (1 Peter 1:8)


Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Case For Spontaneous Generation

Spontaneous generation is the now debunked theory that living organisms can arise from non-living things. I was so disappointed in middle school when I was taught that fruit flies don't just appear out of nowhere. I was convinced they did. Even today, I sometimes wonder. It sure seems like they just spontaneously appear when there's fruit around. And before I found out the truth, I was fascinated by the theory. Perhaps my level of my disappointment didn't quite rival the sad news that Santa doesn't exist, but certainly another one of my bubbles was busted. What I thought was really cool turned out to be just another myth. O the humanity!

Centuries ago, everyone believed in spontaneous generation. It was taken for granted. For example, it was the common belief that rotten meat produced maggots, dust produced fleas, and mud generated frogs. That is, until people became too scientifically intelligent. Although, in reality, the experiment to disprove spontaneous generation was quite basic. It just required a little logic. It wasn't until the 17th century that a man named Francesco Redi did a simple experiment. Essentially, he put meat in 2 jars, one of them covered. Eventually, maggots appeared on the meat in the uncovered jar, and no maggots appeared on the meat in the covered jar. This showed the maggots didn't come from the rotting meat, but from outside sources, namely fly eggs.

I personally like the fantasy of spontaneous generation. And still, I wish it were true. But wait! I've got good news! To my  delight, I have come to realize that spontaneous generation is indeed a reality! That's right! There have been actual, documented cases that happened long ago. We can find them right in the Bible.

The first documented case of spontaneous generation involves creation itself. The power of God is so great that He just spoke and the whole universe was created! Spontaneous generation!

"They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water." (2 Peter 3:5)

What's incredible and so difficult to grasp is the fact that God spontaneously generated physical matter out of absolutely nothing. He created a physical realm when only the spiritual realm existed. He created a visible reality when there was only an invisible (to us) reality in existence. Spontaneous generation!

"By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen." (Hebrews 11:3)

Not only did God create the universe, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the planets out of nothing, He created all living things from nothing. And He did it true to the definition of spontaneous generation - creating living things from non-living things. Namely, He generated man from dust, spontaneously. Centuries ago, people thought dust generated fleas. Well, God blew that away with something way over the top. Out of dust He generated man! Spontaneous generation!

"Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7)

If you think what God did in creation was amazing, there's another case of spontaneous generation that surpasses even creation itself. It's the case of Jesus entering into the physical realm from the spiritual realm. Jesus was not created. Jesus was God in the human form. Jesus pre-existed as "The Word", then at just the right time, spontaneously generated into the womb of Mary. That, in itself, is a miracle. Many call it the incarnation of Jesus. Incarnation literally means taking on flesh. Spontaneous generation!

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

So, yes, there is such a thing as spontaneous generation. It may not be true in the case of fruit flies, but in a much bigger realm of things it's true. And to go even one step further, you and I, if we are in Christ, are going to be personally involved in our own case of spontaneous generation! It's going to occur on the final day, when Jesus returns. We are going to go through a spontaneous transformation, in a twinkling of an eye. The dead will be raised and we will be transformed from perishable, mortal bodies into eternal, imperishable spiritual beings. Wow! Spontaneous generation!

"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

I always liked the idea of spontaneous generation, and I've come to realize that it indeed does exist, and that God is a God of spontaneous generation! And that is a trustworthy statement.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Does God Speak To People Today?

Does God audibly speak to people today? I know I've heard people say, God told me to do this, or God told me to do that. It's never happened to me, so I can't give a first hand account. It's just that when someone tells me that God "spoke to me", I have this uncontrollable, automatic reflex involving one of my eyebrows raising up higher than the other.

To those who have heard voices, I guess the question is, was it real or imagined? Was it actually God's voice that they heard? Or was is the voice of some other spirit? Perhaps it was an angel, or maybe the Holy Spirit. Or perhaps it was a hallucination - a sensation that appears real but is created by your mind. Hallucinations involving the hearing of voices are the most common type.

I recall one person told me that God told him to quit his job, sell his house, and move to Chicago, a city where he had no connections at all, and no job lined up either. Hmmm. That was a little too much for me, so I didn't stick around long enough to extend the conversation too far.

It would be awesome though, if God could speak to me and I could hear His voice. Unless of course, it was only at times of scolding and rebuking me for every sin I committed. No thanks. But it would be nice to get some great advice from God's own mouth on occasion.  Just think how amazing it was for people like Moses and the Patriarchs and the Prophets to hear God speaking to them. It actually did happen! The God of the Universe, Creator, Almighty God talking out loud. Wow.

In the New Testament, there are only 3 times where God the Father actually speaks out loud from the invisible realm. All involved Jesus. Now there are several instances in the New Testament of angels speaking to humans, people being told in visions and dreams what to do, the Spirit guiding people, and even the case of Jesus talking to Saul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. But as far as God the Father's voice, there are 3 instances in the New Testament.


1. The Baptism of Jesus

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

The Father in heaven talks to Jesus, the Son of God! What great encouragement for Jesus! What son does not want to hear those words from his father? Obviously, this was confirmation of the relationship Jesus had with His Father in heaven, and that He was doing the right thing.

2. The Transfiguration of Jesus

Jesus took Peter, James, and John, to a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. It was like His spiritual state, His real spiritual identity, started to show through His physical body. Perhaps He was in the spiritual realm and in the physical realm at the same time! As this change of form, or transfiguration was occurring, Peter began speaking to Jesus. However, Peter was interrupted by guess who? God the Father!

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. (Matthew 17:5-6)

3. The Final Days of Jesus

Just after Jesus made His last triumphal entry into Jerusalem for His last Passover feast, Jesus knew His time was at hand, and shared that with His disciples. Then the Heavenly Father once again spoke out loud.

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine". (John 12:27-30)

Here's the question. Are we living in times that God is silent? But why would He be? His presence, providence, and influence is definitely real, and we are in reciprocal relationship with Him. Now, I may not have heard God talk, but I'm sure of this...God does speak to us today.


1. Through His Word
Certainly the Bible, the inspired word of God, is a powerful way that God speaks to us today. You want to hear what God has to say? Start reading the Bible everyday and you will come to know more fully who God is, what He does, and what He expects from us.

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

2. Through Our Conscience
Now this is where it gets interesting. Yes, the Word of God infiltrates us and affects us, but there's more. That's because, as Christians, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit. To me, one of the obvious ways that the Holy Spirit works is through our conscience. I believe everyone is born with a conscience - a guide to what's right and wrong. The problem is, without God, everyone does what is right in their own mind. However, for Christians, the Holy Spirit uses our conscience to guide us. And I know this, once you sin, you know it!

3. Through the Spirit's Nudging
A nudge is a gentle push, especially in subtly trying to get someone's attention. I believe another way God speaks to us is through spiritual nudges. Something like a conviction - maybe to talk to someone, to help someone, or to make a decision. Something like an intuition. After all, His Spirit is in us.

So, those are 3 ways God speaks to me today, but you can be sure of one thing - if God does speak to me with words that I can hear, I will certainly let you know right away.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why The Earth Is Round

Here's how I imagine the exchange that went on in heaven between God and His angels before the creation of the world. God had been planning the layout for the physical world, and it was time to reveal it to the angels. Let's take it from there.

God: "I am going to create a physical realm."  
Angels: "What's a physical realm?"
God: "You wouldn't understand. Just trust me. I'm also going to create something called time."
Angels: "What's time?"
God: "Never mind. You wouldn't understand that either. Just trust me."
Angels: "Why do you want to create a physical realm?"
God: "So I can create an environment for my greatest creation of all...humans."
Angels: "What's humans?"
God: "They will be living creatures who will see and hear and think and breathe and talk and smell and touch and taste and......."
Angels: "What will they look like?"
God: "I will create them sort of in my image, but each one of them will be a little different."
Angels: "How many are you going to create."
God: "Just one to start with. But there will be more, many more."
Angels: "Where are these humans going to live?" 
God: "Here's the good part. I'm going to create a physical universe that has no end. It will sort of reflect our spiritual eternal realm in a physical way. They won't be able to comprehend it totally, or figure it out completely, but that's ok. Maybe they'll realize I exist even though they won't be able to see me."
Angels: "Where will they be in this universe?"
God: "They will be on a planet they will call Earth. I will place Earth perfectly in the universe near a sun that will warm them, and a moon that will give them light at night."
Angels: "How long and wide will this planet be?"
God: "It will be round."
Angels: "What!? Round? You mean like a sphere? Why round?"
God: "One reason is so I can contain them all in one place."
Angels: "If it's round, won't they fall off?
God: "I will create something mysterious - something incredible - it will be called gravity - and allow them to stand anywhere, even up-side-down without falling off. Not to mention that I'm going to make the planet spin. There's a lot more to it."
Angels: "How can that be? It sounds impossible."
God: "Nothing is impossible with you know who."
Angels: "What a genius idea."
God: "Thanks for the praise."
Angels: "What's going to hold this planet up?"
God: "Nothing. I'm going to sort of hang it in the middle of nowhere, then give everything a spin, and watch it all go. The universe will always be sort of alive in the sense that it will be always in motion."
Angels: "Crazy!"
God: "It's all about the spin. That's another reason I'm making the planets round."
Angels: "These humans will be amazed at Your creation."
God: "Some will. But many will not believe I created the universe, and will not believe in me. Non-believers will think they have the universe and the planets all figured out. Those are the ones who think they don't need me."
Angels: "That's terrible."
God: "Yes, but I will make it obvious in so many ways that I exist. I hope they will be convinced, and that they will see me, even though I'm invisible."
Angels: "Can we go to visit this Earth someday?"
God: "Once in a while I will send you - as my messengers, and to minister to them in different ways. But if they see you, it will probably scare them half to death."
Angels: "We can't wait to meet these humans."
God: "You will eventually. You see, the ones who choose to come to me and love me will someday dwell eternally with us. They will be called my children, and I will be called their Father."
Angels: "What's the whole point of this plan?"
God: "It's called love."
Angels: "Will they be able to earn Your love?"
God: "No it's free to them, if they choose to believe and obey me. But it won't be free to me. It will cost more than you can imagine."
Angels: "Why?"
God: "Because I will give them free will. And they will have a choice whether to believe in me and follow me, or reject me. But most of them will reject me."
Angels: "Sad."
God: "Their free will is the only way I can be sure that their love is real, and that it's their personal choice."
Angels: "How will You show them Your love?"
God: "It's a plan that is bigger than the universe. I will reveal it to you eventually. You will even be involved in it someday. It will require great sacrifice on my part. But it will be worth it in the end. You will be amazed."

"It is I who made the earth  and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts." (Isaiah 45: 12)

"He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth..." (Isaiah 40:22)

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! " (Job 38:4-5a)

 "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Man Who Never Died

Eons ago there was a man who walked on this earth just like everyone else. He was an ordinary human with no special powers or abilities. However, there was something extraordinary that happened to him though. He never died! Now this doesn't mean that he is still living on this earth today. Perhaps a better description of what happened to him would be this: he was 'translated'. What?!

Let me tell you more about this man. He lived in days of old, in ancient times, the times of the Biblical patriarchs. His name was Enoch. He was just a handful of generations after Adam. He was the great-grandfather of Noah. Remember, in those days, men lived to incredible ages (see my blog, "The Thousand Year Old Man"). For example, Adam lived 930 years! Methuselah, the oldest recorded age for a human, lived 969 years! Noah lived 950 years! When you think about it, Adam, the first man, was supposed to live forever until sin brought death, so I guess compared to living forever, 1000 years or so is a short span. Ha. 

Even though Enoch lived in the era of long life (that is until God shortened the human life span, perhaps because of wickedness), Enoch himself only lived about half the years that others of his time did. He lived 365 years. But his relatively short life span wasn't because of his wickedness - just the opposite. Enoch was faithful and true to God for his entire life span. He walked faithfully in close relationship with God. That was special. So special, that God decided to take him into heaven relatively early, without him physically dying! Wow. 

"Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him." (Genesis 5:23-24 NLT)

The book of Hebrews, in chapter 11, presents to us the hall of fame of faithful men. Enoch is listed there, in the New Testament, as an example of a man of strong faith. It also gives us a little more detail on what happened to him. 

It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him." For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5 NLT)

In the book of Hebrews, the King James Version uses the word "translated" instead of the term "taken up". I like that because it gives the picture of God sort of transferring him seamlessly from the physical realm into the spiritual realm without physical death. 

"By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." (Hebrews 11:5 KJV) 

So how does this story affect us? It does because it strengthens our faith, our hope, our belief. You see, Enoch gives us insight into our own lives. Here are a couple of truths that we can hold on to.

First, God is pleased when we walk with Him daily - when we live in a close relationship with Him every single day of our lives - when we trust in Him completely and have total faith in Him. This faith gives us eternal reward.

Secondly, we can have the hope of eternal life - the hope of resurrection. There is life beyond this physical world. If we are in Christ here on earth, then just as Christ resurrected from the dead, we too will resurrect. We can be confident in the reality of a spiritual realm.

One more thing. Perhaps God gave us the story of Enoch to give us a real-life illustration of what we will experience if we are living on that final day when Jesus returns. On that day, those who have died in Christ, will be resurrected. But those who are in Christ and still alive will have a similar fate that Enoch experienced. They will be 'translated' from the physical realm directly into the spiritual realm with our Lord. And this will happen in the twinkling of an eye.

"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

So, who knows, maybe you will be alive when Jesus returns, and you won't need to experience death! After all, it sure seems like end times are approaching soon. If that happens, and you are in Christ, you will just be 'translated' just like Enoch was. But don't worry, if you die before Jesus comes, as long as you were in Christ, walking with Him daily, and trusting in Him in faith, then that's all that really counts. You will be resurrected into eternal life, from the physical realm into the spiritual realm. Then you can ask Enoch anything you want to.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Can You Say Mephibosheth?

This is the true story of Mephibosheth. What a name! And what a great story! It's one of the greatest stories of friendship in the entire Bible, and it involves David and Jonathan. The book of 1 Samuel describes the relationship between David, King Saul, and King Saul's son, Jonathan. After David killed the giant Goliath, King Saul became jealous of all the praises David received. Not only that, he was threatened by the possibility of the people demanding that David be the king. Thus, Saul eventually wanted to kill David!

Saul’s son, Jonathan, became David’s best friend, and even protected him from being attacked and killed by Saul. Over time, David and Jonathan developed a sort of covenant type of friendship – one that would never be broken. Unfortunately, in a battle against the Philistines, both Saul and Jonathan were killed. This was tragic news for David. Years after the death of Saul and Jonathan, when David had become king, he began searching to see if there was anyone left in Saul's family line so he could express kindness for Jonathan's sake.

David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” At your service,” he replied. The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” (2 Samuel 9:1-3)

The name of Jonathan's son was Mephibosheth. He was just five years old when his father and grandfather Saul were killed. At that time, his caretaker nurse, hearing about the Philistine's victory, was so worried that the Philistines would track down and kill the next of kin, she fled to safety with young Mephibosheth in her arms. Unfortunately, in her haste, she dropped the young child, permanently crippling both his feet. 

So now, many years later, after learning that a son of Johathan was still alive, David summoned for him. He was anxious to meet his best friend's son.

When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied. “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” (2 Samuel 9:6-8)

Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons. (2 Samuel 9:9-11)

There are several crucial points in this story. 
1. Mephibosheth was shown grace by the king.
2. Mephibosheth was considered a son of the king. He was provided for from that point on.
3. Mephibosheth inherited everything that was his father’s. 
4. Mephibosheth didn’t feel worthy of all he was to receive, and even referred to himself as a dead dog!
5. Mephibosheth was shown kindness because of a third party – Jonathan. 

This gives us such a great parallel between Mephibosheth and ourselves as Christians. I love it when you see an Old Testament person, place or thing pointing to Jesus and symbolizing the Church of the New Testament. The relationship between King David and Mephibosheth is a picture of the relationship between God the Father and us. Compare the 5 points above with the 5 below. 

1. We as Christians have been shown grace through Christ - we are saved by grace.
2. We as Christians are adopted as sons of God, we get to eat at his table, and He provides everything we need.
3. We as Christians inherit everything that is our Father’s – His promised rewards, Eternal life, Heaven.
4. We as Christians are not worthy of the God's grace, once dead in our sins.
5. We as Christians are shown kindness because of a third party - Jesus. 

What a great comparison to remind us of who we are and what God has done for us because of his great love for us. From now on, when you hear the name Mephibosheth, remember you are not much different than him.

Monday, September 22, 2014

90 Different Titles For Jesus!

90 Different Titles for Jesus!

Alpha and Omega (Revelation 22:13)
Amen (Revelation 3:14)
Anointed One (Psalm 2:2)
Apostle  (Hebrews 3:1)
Atoning Sacrifice for our Sins (1 John 2:2)
Author of Life (Acts 3:15)
Author and Perfecter of our Faith (Hebrews 12:2)
Author of Salvation (Hebrews 2:10)
Beginning and End (Revelation 22:13)
Blessed and only Ruler (1 Timothy 6:15)
Bread of God (John 6:33)
Bread of Life (John 6:35; 6:48)
Capstone (1 Peter 2:7)
Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20)
Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)
Christ (1 John 2:22)
Deliverer (Romans 11:26)
Eternal Life (1 John 1:2; 5:20)
Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6)
Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11)
Faithful Witness (Revelation 1:5)
Faithful and True Witness (Revelation 3:14)
First and Last (Revelation 22:13)
Firstborn From the Dead (Revelation 1:5)
Firstborn over all creation (Colossians 1:15)
Gate (John 10:9)
God (John 1:1)
Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
Great God and Savior (Titus 2:13)
Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14)
Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20)
Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2)
High Priest (Hebrews 2:17)
Holiness (1 Corinthians 1:30)
Holy and True (Revelation 3:7)
Holy and Righteous One (Acts 3:14)
Hope (1 Timothy 1:1)
Hope of Glory (Colossians 1:27)
Horn of Salvation (Luke 1:69)
Immanuel (Matthew 1:23)
Jesus (Matthew 1:1)
Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42)
King of kings (Revelation17:14)
King of the Ages (Revelation 15:3)
Lamb (Revelation 13:8)
Lamb of God (John 1:29)
Lamb Without Blemish (1 Peter 1:19)
Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45)
Life (John 14:6)
Light of the World (John 8:12)
Living One (Revelation 1:18)
Living Stone (1 Peter 2:4)
Lord (2 Peter 2:20)
Lord of All (Acts 10:36)
Lord of Glory (1 Corinthians 2:8)
Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14)
Master (Luke. 5:5)
Mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews. 9:15)
Messiah (John 1:41)
Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6)
Morning Star (Revelation 22:16)
One Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5)
Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7)
Power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24)
Precious Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6)
Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
Prophet (Acts 3:22)
Rabbi (Matthew 26:25) 
Redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30)
Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
Righteous One (Acts 7:52)
Righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30)
Ruler of God’s Creation (Revelation 3:14)
Ruler of the Kings of the Earth (Revelation 1:5)
Savior (Ephesians 5:23)
Son of God (John 1:49)
Son of Man (Matthew 8:20)
Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32)
Source of Eternal Salvation (Hebrews 5:9)
Spiritual Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4)
Stone the builders rejected (Acts 4:11)
True Bread from Heaven (John 6:32)
True Light (John 1:9)
True Vine (John 15:1)
Truth (John 14:6)
Way (John 14:6)
Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24)
Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)
Word (John 1:1)
Word of God (Revelation 19:13)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Favorite Miracle

This is the tale of a collision between two processions. One of the processions was a funeral march coming out of the city of Nain, and one was a procession of Jesus and His followers approaching Nain.

"Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him." (Luke 7:11)

For some time, there had developed a multitude of people following Jesus wherever He went, as was the case here. And as it worked out, at the exact point in time when Jesus and His followers arrived at the gates of Nain, they met up with a funeral procession leaving the city.

Back then, with few exceptions, it was unclean for Jews to be buried inside the city walls. So they would take the corpse outside of the city gate to their designated burial ground. The dead were embalmed with spices, wrapped in cloth, and brought out on a bier, which was something like a stretcher. This practice of being wrapped in linen can be seen in the example of Lazarus as well as Jesus Himself.

"As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her." (Luke 7:12)

Notice the two important points found in verse 12. First, it says that the dead person was an only son, and secondly, that the mother was a widow! In the culture of the day, when a husband died, the son would take care of his mom. But in this case, not only did the mother lose her husband, but now, she lost her only son. And with her only son dead, she was left alone, with no one to care for her. 

Yes, two large crowds meet. Not for a dispute, not for a protest, not for a reunion, but for something unplanned, unforeseen, unimaginable - an astonishing miracle by Jesus. Jesus did a lot of miracles - most were to demonstrate His deity - His power - His authenticity - and to instill belief. However, the primary reason that Jesus performed this amazing miracle was not for any of those things, although all of them were sort of secondary spin-offs. The prime motivation for this miracle was strictly compassion.

When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” (Luke 7:13)

Of all the people assembled that day, notice who Jesus immediately focused on...the mother who was grieving. He wasn't focused on all the people. He wasn't even focused on the dead person. When Jesus saw the mom mourning, he saw her heart, and therefore, in response, His heart went out to her. And look at what Jesus says to the mom..... "don't cry". This says volumes about who Jesus is.

Moved by sympathy and compassion, Jesus not only comforts the mother, but He acts. What He does next is not the result of the mother's request, for she didn't request Him to do anything. And it's not the result of what the mother expected Him to do, because she didn't expect Him to do anything. For all we know, she didn't even know who He was! And I suppose that's why this is my favorite miracle of Jesus. It's a miracle strictly driven by compassion. Now Jesus did many miracles of compassion, but for me, this one demonstrates it the best.

This particular miracle was unprecedented by Jesus because it's the first time that Jesus raises someone from the dead. That's right, He raises the dead son back to life! Wow!

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” (Luke 7:14)

Jesus speaks directly to the dead young man, and commands him to come to life! What power and authority! And as with all of His miracles, they override the laws of nature, they are without failure, and they are totally complete. The young man not only sits up, but he immediately begins to talk! Jesus restores the son to his mother. Can you visualize the scene? Can you hear the mom's reaction? Can you imagine the crowd's response?

The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. (Luke 7:15-17)

Talk about a feel-good miracle! And you can be sure of this...."Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) That means that Jesus is just as compassionate today. That's the type of King we have. That's the type of God we have.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

The lesson here is that God is a God of compassion, He's the Father of compassion, the originator of compassion, the source of compassion, and the example of compassion. We should therefore be compassionate also, and comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. Let's put that into practice.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Can God's Mind Be Changed?

Can we alter what God has planned? If God decides to go ahead and do something, can we make Him stop? If the answer is yes, then it would imply that that we, as humans, as mortal creatures, as small as a grain of sand relatively speaking, have the power to change the mind of the Almighty, All-Powerful God! Could this be possible? Isn't there a so called "destiny" that is laid out for us? Or do we have a part to play in how our journey through life unfolds?

First of all, is there any documentation that this idea, changing the mind of God, has ever happened throughout history? Well....let's stop with all the questions, and start looking for answers! Actually, there is documentation! Changing the mind of God has happened, and therefore can happen even now!

Let's look at the story of Jonah. God sent Jonah, the prophet, to warn the people of Nineveh that God planned to destroy their city because of their wickedness. Jonah relayed God's message to the people of the city, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” That was God's plan, and the city would have been wiped out, but something changed God's mind and altered the destiny of the people of Nineveh!  The reaction of the king and all the people caused God to rethink His plan.

"The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust." (Jonah 3:5-6)

The Bible describes that even the animals were made to fast - not permitted to eat or drink anything. Not only that, the animals were also dressed in sackcloth (a coarse, black cloth made from goat's hair that was worn together with the burnt ashes of wood as a sign of mourning for personal and national disaster; as a sign of repentance; and as a sincere request for deliverance)!

Here is the result of their obvious, sincere actions: "When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened." (Jonah 3:10)

Amazing! They changed God's mind! And it was done by their actions, by their repentance. Because the nation turned from their evil ways, God showed mercy toward them and backed away from His original plan.

Another example of a man altering God's plans is documented in the book of Genesis. Here, in Genesis chapter 18, we find God ready to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin and corruption.

Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? (Genesis 18:24)

Notice how God responded.  The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” (Genesis 18:26)

What's amazing here is how Abraham negotiates with God! Abraham knew how corrupt the city was, but he also knew his nephew, Lot, lived there with his wife and two daughters. So, he tires to get God to change His mind about destroying everyone in Sodom, and spare the city instead, if only 50 righteous people are found. God agrees.

But even more amazing, Abraham continues to negotiate (knowing that there are probably not even 50 righteous people in the whole city). He convinces God to agree to spare the city if only 45 righteous people are found, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10. Wow! Of course, as the story goes, not even 10 people could be found righteous, so God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah anyway, but not before Lot and his family were rescued.

God was definitely influenced by Abraham's requests, and that's more confirmation that God's mind can be changed, or at least influenced. Because of Abraham's persistent pleas, God showed Him grace and gave in.

So in the above two examples, both mercy and grace are displayed by God. And both are His response to man's interaction with Him. And that's the key. We can actually interact with God! Perhaps the best and most powerful way is through prayer.

Here's the point....God interacts with us in real time. You could say He is a "real-time" God. He is relational. He listens to us and intervenes when He chooses to. He has an open ear, and we have the privilege of making our requests to Him.

And what's really comforting is the fact that whatever our requests are, God will at least consider them. And if He considers our payers, that means He will do what's best for us in the long run as far as how He answers them, or if He answers them, or when He answers them.

So keep on asking, keep on praying, and know that God is listening. And you never know, through His mercy and grace, you may convince Him to take action!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Ransom Of Captain Charlie Spade

The story of Captain Charlie Spade is similar to what happened to Captain Richard Phillips, the ship captain who was taken hostage by the Somali pirates in 2009 in the Indian Ocean, off the dreaded northeast African coast.

Picture this... the Estonia Emperor, with Charlie Spade at the helm. A 950 foot cargo container ship, cruising in the dark of night off the coast of Somalia, Africa. Things were going fine until they made a foolish mistake. They tried to make better time by taking a shorter route that brought them dangerously close to the shoreline, a practice that the shipping company prohibited. Nonetheless, Captain Charlie Spade and his crew took their chances, thought they could get away with it, and gambled that in the dark of night, while at full speed, they could avoid any possible pirate attack.

Sure enough, the worst case scenario unfolded. A small blip showed up on the radar, closing in fast. Armed pirates were chasing them down with the intent to board the ship, take the crew as hostages, and hold the ship until a large ransom was paid. Captain Spade tried to outrun them, but the huge vessel could only max out at about 28 knots. That's about 32 mph, no match for the pirate speed boat. 

The pirates reached the ship in no time. The crew had been alerted and was ready to try some evasive tactics such as turning on high power water canons which blasted water from the top of the ship toward the surface of the sea. However, the pirates were able to maneuver around that, and successfully throw hook and ladders to the side deck. Unlike the crew of the Estonia Emperor, who had no weapons on board, the pirates were heavily armed with machine guns, grenade launchers, and rifles. The crew had no recourse but surrender with their hands up as soon as the pirates spotted them. 

The pirates ordered Charlie to slowly bring the ship in close to the shore, anchor it, and wait for a ransom to be paid for the release of the ship as well as the crew. They were in trouble, not only because they were being held hostage, but also because they disobeyed company policy. The shipping company ended up paying a very large ransom...7 million dollars. After receiving the payment, the pirates released the ship and its crew, and they were set free. And even after discovering his illegal route, the shipping company reconciled their relationship with Captain Charlie Spade, and he continued to serve as a captain, convinced to never disregard any shipping company policy ever again. 

The story of Charlie Spade is an illustration of Biblical redemption. Charlie's disobedience got him in trouble, similar to how our sinful nature, early on in our lives, gets us in trouble. Charlie was held hostage. Similarly, we are held hostage by sin which can entangle us, shackle us, take us captive, and separate us from God. 

There's no way Charlie was going to be released by the pirates unless either force was taken or a ransom was paid. The definition of a ransom is this....."money that is paid in order to free someone who has been captured or kidnapped". In a sense, we are captured or kidnapped by sin, become separated from God, and there's no way to be released from sin except by God's own doing. 

The shipping company paid the high ransom price which freed Charlie Spade. Likewise, God paid our ransom price - the price to free us from the bondage of sin. It cost God a lot. This payment that freed Charlie redeemed him. To redeem is essentially to 'buy back' or better yet, to 'trade for payment', like redeeming a coupon at a department store. That coupon is as good as money.

Regarding the ship, the captain, and the crew, the shipping company said to the pirates, "They are mine!" And the company was willing to pay the price. Regarding us, as sinners, God says, "You are mine!" And He is willing to pay the price.

God must see every person as extremely valuable, even when it may seem that we are undeserving, unworthy, and sinful. That's proven by the astronomical price that He is willing to pay. The price God is willing to pay is the life of His one and only Son. But we must accept God's offer of the 'payment'. That's done through faith and obedience in Christ, committing our life to Him as our Redeemer, Savior, and Lord. If we accept the offer, Jesus trades His life for ours! The sacrifice of Jesus redeems us, frees us, forgives us, and reconciles us with God.

We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. It's true of every human. Still, because of His love and His grace, God's payment of ransom, through Jesus, is available to anyone. And just as Charlie Spade needed to be rescued, and just as his relationship with the shipping company needed to be reconciled, we can be rescued, and our relationship with God can be reconciled. Have you accepted God's offer to be redeemed, to be bought back? If so, walk faithfully. If you haven't yet, will you accept His offer to pay your ransom?

"For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God." (1 Peter 1:18-23)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Christian Zombies

Warning! - there may be Christian zombies in your midst! Even worse, you may be one yourself! What is a Christian zombie? Well, first of all, what is a zombie? It can be defined as "the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose". In other words.....the walking dead!

So how does this apply to Christians? Well, as Christians, we are supposed to die to our 'old self', our 'sinful nature', our selfishness, our worldly ways. Christianity is all about new life - a new life of forgiveness and grace through Christ. So a Christian zombie is a Christian whose old self, the pre-Christian person you once were, the self-centered sinful-natured person you don’t want to be, keeps trying to come back. And as a Christian, we are supposed to bury our old self, not bring it back! There's no better picture of this than Christian baptism, especially baptism by immersion.

"Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives." (Romans 6:3-4 NLT)

At our baptism, our old self dies and is buried, and we rise to walk in a new life, joined with Christ, united with Him. Over the years, I’ve seen dozens and dozens of people, hearing and understanding this concept for the first time, become so convicted that they are compelled to be baptized - many for the first time, and many re-baptized for the right reasons.

“For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12 NLT)

This new life is only possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, and our belief and obedience to Him. New life = New start. 

"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

To illustrate further, when we decide to become a Christ follower, not only are we to undergo a spiritual death, burial, and resurrection, but we also go through a spiritual crucifixion! That’s right, we crucify our old life style, our old self. You see, it's one thing to believe in the crucifixion of Jesus as simply a historical event, it’s another thing to personally identify with it! 

''We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin." (Romans 6:6 NLT)

So what does being crucified with Christ look like? It’s a process of transformation from living for self into living righteously for God. It’s becoming not just a “Christian”, but a Christ follower - not just believing, but learning from Him and walking with Him, for life.

“Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.” (Galatians 6:14b NLT)

So....if we crucified our old self, why would we want to resurrect it? Well, we don’t!! - at least intentionally. It’s when we slip up, yield to temptation, and fall back into our old ways, that our old self tries to return. That’s why we need to be on guard. When we have a tendency to resurrect our old self, it makes you wonder if Satan has his hand in it. Remember the definition of a zombie?...."the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose". I would bet that supernatural force is Satan tempting us, trying to convince us to resurrect that old self. But don't do it!

Some horror movies depict a grave yard scene where during a dark, rainy night, in the solitude of a lonely graveyard, a hand pops up from a grave, usually with some freakish music! Yikes! If you find this happening, spiritually, to you, stomp that hand back into the ground!

There are some ways to avoid becoming a Christian zombie. Below are five:

1. Stay Connected with the Word (the Scriptures)
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2a) 

2. Stay Obedient to God's Commands
"If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love." (John 15:10)

3. Stay focused on Jesus
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-2)

4. Stay in tune with the Spirit
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives." (Galatians 5:24-25)

5. Stay in fellowship with other Believers.
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

Keep doing those 5 things, and you will never need to worry about becoming a Christian zombie!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Man Who Astonished Jesus!

I'm sure Jesus experienced all kinds of people while He was on earth. People who surprised Him. People who disappointed Him. People who even made Him angry. But there's a particular man who astonished Him -  in a good way! 

You see, Jesus, while He was on earth, was specifically looking for something. He was searching intensely. He was always on the lookout it. Everywhere He went, and every moment He was awake, He was searching and searching, trying to pick it up on His radar screen. And unfortunately, most of the time, it wasn't there. Time after time, He was disappointed. Yet, He kept on anxiously looking. 

Before I tell you what it is that Jesus was so earnestly desiring to find, let me introduce to you the man who had it. Jesus was well into His ministry when He met a Gentile man, an unlikely one to have what Jesus was looking for. That's because you would think that Jesus would find it among the Jews, His people, the chosen people. But no, it was a Gentile man, a non-Jew.

This Gentile man was a military commander in the Roman army. This, however, was not what impressed Jesus. And it wasn't that he was a man of authority. That didn't impress Him either. What astonished Jesus was what this Gentile man possessed....great faith! That's right, Jesus was astonished by the degree of faith he had. That's because Jesus had not found anyone in Israel, not anyone among what was supposedly God's people, who had such great faith as this man! This Gentile commander, called a centurion, absolutely believed that Jesus had the power of God, and that Jesus was able to do all things. Here's how the story goes:

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. (Matthew 8:5-10)

There are at least 4 things that must have certainly impressed Jesus about the centurion.

1. He was a Gentile but still believed in Jesus, regardless.
Of all people, it was a Gentile who turned out to have great faith! Impressive. Jesus was a Jew, and came into the world as the long awaited Jewish Messiah, but as a whole, was rejected by His own people. So for a Gentile to have such great faith was amazing. He may not have understood that Jesus was God in the flesh, but he knew that Jesus was an authentic man of God, regardless if he was a Jew or a Gentile.
2. He was humble. 
The centurion could have been one prideful person considering the position he held. Yet, he displayed humility. He obviously regarded the authority and sovereignty of Jesus as much greater than his. He told Jesus that he did not deserve to have Him come to his house. This statement reveals that he was underserving of the miracle he was asking for. He was totally relying on the Lord's grace, and was at the mercy of Jesus.
3. He was a compassionate man
The centurion was so sincerely concerned about his servant, that he didn't just send a messenger to Jesus, but he personally went to plead with Jesus himself. It shows his love and compassion for those around him, including his servant. And he was relying on the love and compassion of Jesus for healing.
4. He was absolutely confident that Jesus could do it.
The centurion knew all about authority, and all about giving commands. He believed Jesus, without a doubt, had the power to heal. Not only that, the centurion was so sure Jesus had the power to heal, he believed all Jesus had to do was say the word, from a distance, and his servant would be healed immediately without even Jesus being at the house where the servant was. And that's exactly what happened! "Then Jesus said to the centurion, 'Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.' And his servant was healed at that moment." (Matthew 8:13)

The centurion, in the eyes of Jesus, had great faith. Jesus, while on earth, was always looking for great faith. Unfortunately, He was disappointed time and again. Remember when Jesus calmed the sea, and the disciples were scared that they were going to die? "He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." (Matthew 8:26) Or the time Jesus walked on water, and Peter began to go to Him but took his eyes off Jesus? "Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'" (Matthew 14:31)

There are many more examples of doubt and lack of faith, however, that doesn't mean there were not any examples of people who did have faith. There were many. As a matter of fact, Jesus even performed several healing miracles as a response to a person's faith. There's one other example of 'great faith' besides the centurion, and it's by a Canaanite woman in Matthew 15, a Gentile! (The 2 examples of 'great faith' were by Gentiles, not Jews!)

Jesus was always looking for faith when He was on earth. But it doesn't stop there. Jesus asked a question that should rock you:  "....when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (The words of Jesus in Luke 18:8b) Jesus is still looking, even today, and until He comes back, for people who have faith.

I suppose the real question is whether or not He sees faith in you and I. Even if we start with faith a small as a mustard seed, it can grow if we water it. He is always searching, looking for those who have faith, hoping to find it. Will He?

"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

5 Ways God Still Shows Up

Have you taken time lately to reflect back on how God has worked in your life? Maybe you should, because when you look back, you can see more clearly His intervention. And as you reflect on it, maybe you should take a moment to praise and worship Him for it.

God is alive and well. He is an interactive God - a real-time God. His involvement in our lives can be explained under the umbrella term: “Providence”. Providence can be defined as divine intervention, made possible by the authority and sovereignty of God. In other words, God is in control.

I know for me, many things have happened, and continue to happen, that go far beyond coincidence. And I always give God the benefit of the doubt when it comes to who is responsible for the things that fall in my favor.

Hopefully, you also recognize and experience the hand of God moving in your life. When God decides to intervene, here are five ways that He does it. 

1. Timing
Through His providence, God can arrange certain things to happen at just the right time. This might be done in microseconds, or it might be done in years. And sometimes God’s timing is nowhere near how we would have arranged things to happen. In other words, our timing is not always the same as God’s timing. One thing is for sure, God is a God of timing, and His timing is perfect. We need to trust in that. Consider this verse:  "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law." (Galatians 4:4)

2. People
Sometimes God's use of timing involves people. Through providence, He can line up people with people, and line up people with opportunities.  For example, sometimes He lines you up with another person, perhaps for the purpose of encouraging or witnessing or serving. The problem is that sometimes we miss the opportunity, don’t recognize it, and therefore don’t take advantage of it. I’m sure it’s not hard for you to look back at situations in your life when you ran into someone just at the right moment. Or sadly, in retrospect, when you've seemed to have missed an opportunity that God may have lined up. In that case, I can just imagine God saying, "I'm trying to help you out, can't you see? Oh well, maybe next time. I'll try again soon."

3. Angels
Ever have any close calls? It could be that an angel was involved in helping you out! Angels certainly can be one of the means by which God intervenes in our lives. Yes, angels are for real, it’s just that we can’t see them. Or can we? I love this interesting verse: "Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!" (Hebrews 13:2). Not sure if this still happens today, like it did in Bible times, but it does make you wonder. One thing is for sure, God has used angels ever since man was created, and continues to use them even today. "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14)

4. Physical Nature
I believe that if God is creator, and if He calmed the raging sea, and did all sorts of miracles (altering the laws of physics, science, and nature), then He can still do miraculous things in this world today. Sometimes during a storm, I pray that God will change the course of the wind, or calm it. I believe He is able to do that, as well as being able to alter the physical realm in any way He chooses. He is able to do all things if He desires. Think of this example...if a car had loose wheel lug nuts, do you think that God can hold the loose tire on the car, not letting it fall off, but allowing it to be noticed before it's too late? I say yes. Can He heal physical sickness and disease if He wants to? I say yes. He is able.

5. The Holy Spirit 
I believe in the Holy Spirit, and if you do too, then you must believe the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. It’s another way how God is with us, and how His intervention works. I like to think that the Holy Spirit affects our conscience, as well as our intuition. The Holy Spirit can guide us. And if we try to be perceptive to it, the Holy Spirit can give us nudges to do something, or say something. Or perhaps, not to do something or not to say something. 

To summarize, God still moves in our lives. He does it in many ways -  through timing, through people, through angels, through altering the physical laws of nature, and through influence by the Holy Spirit.  

Sometimes He intervenes as a response to our prayer. Sometimes He initiates the intervention Himself simply to work things in our favor. Sometimes He intervenes for purposes that we can't understand or see - things that are in accordance with His will or plan. Regardless, all I can say is thank You Lord for your providence, and that You are in control!! I live by it, and I rely on it!  And I hope you do too!