Are You Bold for Jesus?

After Jesus ascended to His Father, the apostles returned to Jerusalem, whereupon they formed the first church of Jesus Christ with an initial group of 120 people, all of whom received the power of the Holy Spirit at the same time. This empowerment rendered them with the ability to ‘speak in tongues’ – in this instance, to be able to preach the gospel in various languages to travelers from different countries that were in the city.

Some outside observers accused the church members of spewing drunken gibberish. The apostle Peter rebukes them, and then uses this occasion to speak up for Jesus – delivering the very first Christian sermon. He begins by telling the crowd that what they have been witnessing is the Holy Spirit at work in Christ’s followers – the supernatural spreading of the gospel to the multitude. This event constitutes the commencement of the ‘last days’ before the end of time and Christ’s return for the redemption of God’s children.

Then, Peter dresses down the non-believing Jews for their complicity in Christ’s crucifixion. Convicted, the crowd asks him how they can right their wrong. Peter answers with the gospel’s central message:

“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” Acts 2:38, 39. NASB

Peter was bold for Jesus; and 3000 people were added to the church that day.

On another day, Peter (along with John) was about to enter the temple when he came upon a crippled man who was begging for alms. The apostle responded:

“Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:6 NKJV

And he did! Peter was again bold for Jesus. He made himself available for divine use, by having faith in the name of Jesus. And he told telling a gathering crowd that it was God that did the healing through Jesus – glorifying His Son.

Peter again convicts the crowd for their denial of Christ, which led to His death. Yet again, out of his compassion and His boldness for Jesus, he offers them salvation:

“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance…Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing my come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His Holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:17 & 19 – 21. NKJV

The church number swelled to 5000.

We too must be bold for Jesus, to re-extend God’s invitation – letting everyone, both the unknowing and the rebellious, that salvation is just a confession and repentant prayer away, asking Jesus for salvation…

Peter and John were dragged before the Sanhedrin to explain by whose authority they were preaching and healing. Peter declares that their authority was from Jesus. The Sanhedrin forbade them to preach anymore about Christ. But Peter and John did not let go of their boldness. They replied:

“Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19, 20. NASB

All of the apostles are now working miracles. Subsequently, the high priest had them arrested. Yet that very night they were freed by and angel, who encouraged them in their boldness in preaching the gospel.

Again, they were hauled in front of the high priest, but they stood firm:

“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.” Acts 5:29, 30. ESV

“Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:31, 32. NKJV

This time they were scourged, and then let go. How did the apostles feel about that?

So they departed from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts 5:41, 42. NKJV

Not only were they happy for not backing down from the ‘Great Commission,’ they felt great joy in the opportunity to suffer for Jesus. In fact, it encouraged them in their boldness.

During this time, there was also a disciple from the church, named Stephen who stood boldly for Christ:

…a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit…And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Acts 6:5, 8. NKJV

He was also arrested for expressing his faith in Jesus, and then accused of blasphemy. He threw the charges right back at his accusers:

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts 7:51 – 53. ESV

And just when Stephen was finished, the Holy Spirit provided him with a vision of Jesus standing exalted at the at the right hand of God in heaven. Then he boldly declared that vision to the court.

For that, Stephen was stoned to death, making him the first martyr for Jesus. Yet even with his final breath, he was emulating his Savior – praying to God for the forgiveness of his executioners.

Are you bold for Jesus? You are entrusted with lighting Christ’s lamp, showing people the way out of the darkness. If you convict them of their sin, it is a bold endeavor to free them from it (without judgment). You are saving lives.

First, we convict if warranted. Second, educate with regards to what death without Christ will look like, and then offer the salvation message with love. What they do with it is between them and God. What you are doing is being a good and faithful servant.

We stand bold in our spiritual gifts, drawing upon them to bring home the lost. Jesus also told us that when we open out mouths to testify of Him, the Holy Spirit will fill us with the words that we need to say. Always be prepared to be used by Jesus.

We do that by living out the word of God, by teaching it, and by placing our obedience to it above all that the world would have us do. The world will be a better place, you’ll have more people to love in heaven, and you will live a better life now and for eternity.

Are you bold for Jesus? Can you be? Sure you can…

Goodnight and God bless.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

January 18 2018 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Jesus’ Parting Gifts

During the ‘Last Supper,’ after Judas Iscariot fled into the night, Jesus imparted a treasure trove of revelations to the remaining 11 apostles (and thus, to us). The first such treasure would be His ‘new commandment:’

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jn. 13:34, 35. NKJV

This commandment takes the Mosaic Law of ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ to a new level. Jesus is implying that love must be the primary drive behind all that we think and do, in addition to having an attitude of selflessness and servitude so that we may emulate Him.

Next, Jesus initiates the ritual of ‘communion:’

…He took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” Lk. 22:19, 20. NKJV

“Drink from it all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Mt. 16:27, 28. NKJV

When we take ‘communion,’ we are performing a ritual whereby we take something physical (often referred to as a ‘sacrament’) to remind us of the offer of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. We visibly utilize the sacrament to act out Christ’s proclamation in faith, trusting in the power of the grace of the new covenant that replaces / transcends / enhances the Mosaic Law. We are not putting our faith in the physical sacrament itself (that would be a work or man). Rather, it is our faith in the forgiveness of our sins, which Christ has attached to His body and blood sacrament, that we receive. There is nothing else upon which we can rely.

After this, Jesus tells us that He’s building homes for all of us:

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also.” Jn. 14:2, 3. NKJV

No guesswork. We have a heavenly appointment. Neither is any guessing involved as to how we get there:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jn. 14:6 NKJV

Christ is the only door to the kingdom. There are no gray areas. Jesus then says that being in His presence is the same as being in His Father’s:

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Jn. 14:7 NKJV

Jesus is building the apostle’s faith. Next, He tells them how to return His love:

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Jn. 14:15 NKJV

“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and disclose Myself to him.” Jn. 14:21 NASB

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” Jn. 14:23 NKJV

Jesus has left us physically, (for now), but He always covers those who love Him on all sides. He continues to be with us spiritually – especially through another of His parting gifts – the Holy Spirit:

“…I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells within you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans…” Jn. 14:16 – 18. NKJV

“…He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Jn. 14:26 NKJV

In a nutshell, Jesus said that because He taught them so much, they would not be able to recall it all. However, the Holy Spirit would bring it to light when they needed it. In addition, Jesus was only in a teaching mode for the last 3 years of His earthly incarnation. He didn’t have near the time to tell them all that He wanted to. The Holy Spirit will reveal those things, as well as any ongoing revelations regarding the full nature of Christ.

The peace of Jesus is yet another wonderful parting gift:

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Jn. 14:27 NKJV

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” Jn. 16:33 NKJV

Finally, Jesus left us with the gift of knowing who we are in He and His Father:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch that is in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Jn. 15:1, 2. NKJV

Jesus is saying that it’s not enough to know God. We have to live as He would have us live. And like any loving parent, He will, from time to time, dole out a little divine discipline to nudge us to return to His path whenever we stray.

“Abide in Me, and I in you As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” Jn. 15:4, 5. NKJV

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give you.” Jn. 15:16 NKJV

You were chosen by Christ Himself for the kingdom of God and for helping Him to advance that kingdom, by inviting others into the love of God, through the love of His Son.

Having parted with these gifts, Jesus stood and faced His destiny…

Goodnight and God bless.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

January 10 2018 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Are You Ready for the Second Coming of Christ?

Jesus warned us that before He shows up, there would be imposters that would precede Him:

“The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go out or follow them! For as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.” Lk. 17:22 – 24. ESV

The Son of God knows we will long for our Savior’s return, making us vulnerable to the false claims of others who profess to be the Messiah, or, at least pretend to know His whereabouts.

Moreover, Jesus is stressing the fact that His return will be global in its impact. And, it will unfortunately catch many by surprise:

“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will also be in the days of the Son of Man. They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” Lk. 17:26 – 30. NKJV

We have to be ready for Jesus’ return. Furthermore, we have to impart the urgency of accepting Christ to others, instead of leaving them to blindly steep in their ignorance with regards to their eternal disposition. Why? Because that ignorance will lead to their eternal undoing.

When Jesus returns, the jig is up. You’re forever stuck with the ramifications of your decision. When He comes, He’s only ushering His sheep (the children of God) through the gates of heaven:

“On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife.” Lk. 17:31, 32. ESV

You need to be ready when Christ returns, to have both feet in the kingdom. Jesus will accept no straddling, no fence sitters (like Lot’s wife). You are either with Christ, joined to Him for eternal life and love, or, you become one of those who are ‘left behind’ in the great sifting of all the people who have ever lived:

“I tell you, on that night there will be two in bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place: one will be taken and the other  will be left.” Lk. 17:34, 35. NASB

And being ‘left behind’ does not look like a good place to be:

“Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” Lk. 17:37 NASB

Jesus tells us to persist in prayer as we await for that glorious day. He told a parable that drove this point home. In it, Jesus weaves a story about a widow who suffered an injustice at the hands of an adversary. Distraught, she took her plight to an unbelieving and unjust judge, whose initial response was to ignore her pleas. However, she persistently returned to him again and again until he finally ruled in her favor, just to be rid of her. The point is, that her persistence in seeking a just outcome brought her the desired result. Likewise, God (being the ultimate ‘just’ judge), will not let the persistent prayers of His children go unanswered.

Christ also begs this question of us:

“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Lk. 18:8 NKJV

When Jesus returns, there will be many who have given up their faith and hope. That’s why He urges His followers to hold steadfast to theirs.

Jesus also warns us against believing that our ‘self-righteousness’ will gain us access into the kingdom. That path is doomed to failure. Only the true righteousness conferred upon you by Jesus Christ will open those doors.

He illustrates this with another parable, wherein a Pharisee and a tax collector (considered to be the lowest form of scum in the social strata of that era) went to a temple to pray. The Pharisee boasted about his self-righteousness, declaring that he was so much better than all of the sinners around him. The tax collector, on the other hand, would not even raise his eyes towards heaven. Furthermore, he beat his chest and cried out to God, begging Him to have mercy because of His sins. Jesus concludes the parable:

“I tell you that this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Lk. 18:14 NKJV

During Jesus’ travels, He was approached by a rich man who told Him that he keeps the Ten Commandments and wants to know what else He must do to have eternal life. Jesus responds:

“If you wish to be perfect [that is, have the spiritual maturity that accompanies godly character with no moral or ethical deficiencies], go and sell what you have and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path that I walk.]” Mt. 19:21 AMP

Jesus is not telling him to make himself a pauper; He’s revealing his disobedience to the first of the Ten Commandments by making riches his god. Sadly, the man could not part from his possessions and went his own way. He left because in spite of his riches, his soul was stricken with poverty.

Wealthy people are not necessarily wicked. They can enter the kingdom of heaven if they don’t idolize their possessions. Wealth is a blessing from God – both for the possessor and for whom the possessor blesses with his or her wealth to forward the kingdom of God.

Lastly, Jesus leaves us with this:

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mt. 19:29, 30. NKJV

Jesus is speaking metaphorically. You don’t have to literally leave your house or family to be able to follow Him. You just have to make sure that you don’t make ‘gods’ of them by putting them before Christ. The last sentence in this scripture teaches us that one must serve for the sake of serving and out of a love of God – not for the sake of being rewarded.

Are you ready for the second coming of Christ? You can be. Jesus has just spelled it all out: Don’t follow ‘false shepherds,’ cling to Jesus for you salvation, walk in the word of God to the best of your ability, persist in prayer, nurture your faith and hope, let go of the ways of the world and what it considers righteousness (i.e. self-righteousness), use your abundance for good works and put Jesus first in your life.

If you love Jesus, He has already done the work. Your heavenly gate is wide open…

Goodnight and God bless.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

January 03 2018 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

The Cost of Following Jesus

Near the end of Jesus’ ministry, He explained to His disciples how the imminent culmination of His earthy mission was going to look like:

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests, and be killed, and be raised up the third day. Mt. 16:21 NKJV

Christ had to suffer. Moreover, He tells us that anyone who would follow Him would be subject to suffering, and must be willing to do so:

“If anyone wishes to follow Me, [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests] and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living, and if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].” Lk. 9:23 AMP

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man will also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mk. 8:38 NKJV

“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with the angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Mt. 16:27 NKJV

In other words, obeying God’s will should always come first – regardless of what our personal interests or desires are. The God-walk is a ‘Road Less Traveled,’ because the path can be difficult and it generally stands in opposition to the ways of the world. However, God’s ways are the best ways, regardless of what our flesh is yearning for…

To follow Jesus, is to walk in the kingdom of God. Jesus had something to say about this as well, when He caught two of His apostles arguing over who would be the greater in the kingdom:

“If anyone desires to be first, he shall be the last of all and servant of all.” Mk. 9:35 NKJV

To bring even greater clarity to what Jesus is saying, He places a nearby child in the midst of the disciples and says:

“…unless you repent [that is, change your inner self – your old way of thinking, live changed lives], and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 18:3 AMP

“Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 18:4 NKJV

Thus, being ‘great’ in the kingdom of heaven requires child-like faith and humbleness…

Jesus continues to reveal the character requirements of those who may follow Him to the apostles while they were traveling through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem. The Samaritans had refused to lodge Jesus and His retinue. This upset John and James, who asked Jesus if they could call down heavenly fire to destroy them. He rebukes them:

“You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” Lk. 9:55, 56. NKJV

Jesus was telling them that their intent was in error, because the spirt of true Christ followers is one that readily offers peace and love, through the free sharing of the gospel – not to direct anger or punishment at those who refuse to receive it.

Shortly after, Jesus is approached by three would-be followers while He kept traveling towards Jerusalem. They said these things:

“Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord I will follow You but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” Lk. 9:57 – 61. NKJV

But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.” Lk. 9:62 AMP

Jesus’ responses enable us to become very clear about the parameters for, and the consequences of, making the decision to follow Him. First, it will be challenging because we must give up the (supposed) security of all worldly things and place our absolute trust in Christ to provide for our needs.

Second, Jesus in not telling us to ignore our familial obligations, but rather to make our obedience to Him our highest priority, i.e. to place our task of spreading the gospel (expanding the kingdom) first.

Third, Jesus uses the farmer and the plow analogy to show that we must face forward and not look back, so that that we do not veer off course. We cannot keep one leg in the world and try to straddle the other in heaven. It’s an ‘all-or-nothing’ choice.

Jesus would not ask us to follow Him if we couldn’t (with His and His Father’s help):

“…the one who endures and bears up [under suffering] to the end will be saved.” Mt. 24:13 AMP

“And I give them eternal life, and they will never, ever [by any means] perish; and no one will ever snatch them out of My hand.” Jn. 10:28 AMP

You can do this…

Goodnight and God bless.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

December 29 2017 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

The True Christmas Story

 

In approximately 7 B.C. during the reign of King Herod (also referred to as ‘Herod the Great’) who ruled over Judea, Zacharias, (a priest – also translated as Zachariah or Zechariah) was visited by an angel by the name of ‘Gabriel.’

Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth (she happens to be a cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus) were very old and childless. Still, they were righteous and faithful, and never gave up hope that God would bring them a child.

Gabriel tells the priest that he and his wife’s prayers are answered, and that the child would be a son. He told Zacharias to name him ‘John.’ (The name means ‘God has shown favor.’)  And, John would be special:

“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord…He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Lk. 1:15 – 17. NKJV

Thus, John (to be known as ‘John the Baptist’ in adulthood) would be driven by the Spirit of God Himself, and he would preach powerfully in the manner of Elijah, the Old Testament prophet.

John the Baptist reconciled many people, turning them to pursue righteous behavior and positioned them to receive Christ – fulfilling yet another Messianic prophecy.

When Elizabeth reached her sixth month of pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, to reveal His will to Mary – a woman engaged to a man named Joseph. Gabriel speaks:

“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” Lk. 1:28 NKJV

Indeed, Mary was chosen to be the carrier of the Salvation of the Earth. What this scripture does not mean, is that she should be worshiped in any way. That would violate the first and the second of the Ten Commandments.

Mary was beside herself but Gabriel assuaged her fears; and then he makes a phenomenal earth-shaking declaration:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Lk. 1:30 – 33. NKJV

The name ‘Jesus’ finds its roots in the Hebrew word Yhowshuwa, translated as Jehoshua or Joshua, and from the Greek word Iesous, meaning ‘The Lord is salvation.’

So, Jesus is revealed as the Son of God, who will reign over God’s children eternally.

Mary protests, thinking it impossible in her virgin state. She was thinking small:

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.” Lk. 1:35 ESV

This is a one-time only event in all of history – a Holy Spirit-facilitated conception, whereby the Spirit of the Son of God is transferred into flesh.

(The Koran refutes this scripture, as it interprets this event to mean that God was involved in some carnal act, but it was nothing of the kind. It was a transformation.)

Gabriel went on to tell Mary that God had rendered her cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias fertile so that they were now bearing a child. How did God do that, knowing that the couple was so advanced in age? Gabriel reminds us:

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Lk. 1:37 NKJV

After Mary’s encounter with Gabriel, she rushed over to Elizabeth’s house. As soon as she entered it, the unborn John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit – who reveals to her the miraculous transformation of her cousin. Elizabeth shouts:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Lk. 1:42, 43. NKJV

The answer was that Elizabeth was being rewarded for her faith.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth until just before John was born. When he is born, Zacharias is filled with the Holy Spirit, and he bursts forth with prophecy concerning his son:

“And you child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; to give His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Lk. 1:76 – 79. NASB

At that time, Mary was three months’ pregnant. Joseph knows that the child isn’t his, so he is considering not marrying her. But in his dreams, God sent Him an angel who enlightened him:

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Mt. 1:20, 21. ESV

This is yet another fulfillment of Messianic prophecy – one where Isaiah told of the virgin birth of Christ 400 years before it happened.

Joseph married Mary, but he did not have marital relations with her until after the birth of Jesus.

Near the time of Jesus’ birth, Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome, and he ordered a census be taken so that everyone would be registered for the purpose of taxation.

Everyone had to register in the city where his or her ancestral records were kept. For Joseph and Mary, that meant a trip to Bethlehem. When they got there, there was no available lodging, so they had to stay in a manger (translated from the Greek word phatne, meaning ‘stall’).

And that’s where our Lord was born.

Simultaneously, an angel appeared to a group of shepherds who were tending their sheep at night in a nearby field, declaring:

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Lk. 2:10, 11. NKJV

Immediately after this declaration, the angel was joined by a multitude of other angels, who burst into praise:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Lk. 2:14 NKJV

(The fact that the shepherds were in the fields at night would suggest a warmer time of year than that of winter. So, we don’t really know the correct date of Christ’s birth.

One of the earliest references to December 25th says that in 354 A.D. the Catholic Church picked that date, as both Christ’s birth, and for a ‘Christmas’ to celebrate it.

Christmas has a storied past. It has been denounced as a Catholic invention to give the pagans a ‘holy holiday’ to celebrate – instead of reveling at winter solstice festivals or at celebrations used to worship a god named Saturn; i.e. ‘Christmas was believed to be some form of ‘conversion tactic.’

The early American colonists were against it because the holiday was too ‘English’ for them.

Many of the early Protestants were in opposition to celebrating it as well, because some people used the holiday for drinking and cavorting. Some even went so far as to call ‘Christmas’ evil, because it wasn’t biblical and because the only two examples of ‘birthday celebrations’ in the Bible were associated with evil outcomes.

Yet to me, that’s like saying that if someone died of a poisoned apple in the Bible, that all people should stop eating apples.

I believe that if a true follower of Christ wants to proclaim Christmas for the purpose of exalting the Savior and to celebrate God’s gift to us through the earthly incarnation of Christ, then they should be able to follow their own heart.)

Returning to our biblical narrative:

The angels left and the shepherds went to see the baby Jesus; and word began to spread about this Christ child.

On the eighth day, Jesus was circumcised and formally named. After approximately 40 days, He was dedicated to God in the Temple. At that time, there was a man named Simeon, whom God had directed to the Temple by the Holy Spirit (to fulfill an earlier promise that He had made to Simeon – a promise that he would get to see the Messiah before he died). Simeon picked up baby Jesus and said:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, for glory to your people Israel.” Lk. 2:29 – 32. ESV

Thus, Christ is the Savior for all of God’s children around the world – Jews and Gentiles alike.

Simeon (still filled with the Holy Spirit) turned to Mary and said:

“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed – and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Lk. 2:34, 35. NASB

So, Christ will be the eternal Savior of those who follow Him but He will be the harbinger of death to those who stand in opposition. And Mary’s heart will be pierced at the crucifixion of her Son, as the full impact of who He is and what He’s done, is acutely felt…

News of the birth of the Messiah traveled fast and far – even reaching the ‘East’ (a term generally used in the Bible to refer to Arab lands). And so it was, that ‘wise men’ (which can also be translated as philosophers or astrologers) from the East came to Jerusalem to find the Messiah. (The Bible never says that there were three of them by the way.)

The wise men inquired:

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” Mt. 2:2 AMP

King Herod got wind of this, and he began to worry about his rule being usurped. He gathered together his priests, who, in answer to his demand, tell him that the Old Testament says that the birthplace of the Messiah-King will be in Bethlehem.

Subsequently, the king gathered the wise men of the East to him and asked them to return to him after they find the Messiah, to tell him of His whereabouts so that he can worship him as well. (In reality, Herod wanted to kill this ‘Christ.’)

The wise men followed a star to where Jesus lay, and worshiped Him and presented Him with gifts. Afterwards, God sent the wise men a vision in their dreams – warning them against returning to Herod. Wisely, (pardon the pun) they returned to the East by another route.

Immediately after the wise men left, an angel came to Joseph in a dream and presented him with an urgent task:

“Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” Mt. 2:13 NKJV

Joseph obeyed.

After the wise men fail to return to King Herod, he figures out that he’s been duped. Using the approximate time of Jesus’ birth, (as was relayed to him by the wise men, before they found Jesus), Herod retaliated by having every male child in Bethlehem, aged two and under, slaughtered. His act is commonly referred to as the ‘Massacre of the Innocents.’

When Herod died, (approximately 4 B.C.) God sent another angel to Joseph – this time instructing him to bring his family back to Israel.

They returned to find Herod’s eldest son Archelaus ruling over Judea. Archelaus’ rule was oppressive, so Joseph takes his family to live in the region of Galilee (which was under the rule of Archelaus’ half-brother, Herod Antipas – who apparently ruled with a softer glove). Within that region, they settled in the city of Nazareth.

And the Bible tells us:

And the Child continued to grow and become strong [in spirit], filled with wisdom; and the grace (favor and spiritual blessing) of God was upon Him. Lk. 2:40 AMP

That’s the true Christmas story. Tell a friend…

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Lk. 1:5 – 14.

[2] Mal. 4:5, 6.

[3] Mic. 5:2

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

December 21 2017 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

The Essence of Your God Connection

Jesus and His apostles had entered the city of Capernaum, where as usual, He drew a large crowd. Many of them were just looking for a free handout, after hearing about Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5000. Jesus perceives their motivation. Instead of performing a miracle, He begins to preach:

“Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Jn. 6:27 NKJV

What Jesus is saying is that God has placed His authority upon His Son. Thus, Jesus speaks with the authority of His Father, and that the content of His speech (the gospel) is the key to eternal life.

The crowd doesn’t get it. They’ve been brainwashed by the Pharisees, who taught them that they must earn their way to heaven. So, they ask Jesus to tell them of the nature of the works that they must perform. He responds:

“This is the work of God: that you believe [adhere to, trust in, rely on, and have faith] in the One whom He has sent.” Jn. 6:29 AMP

The stiff-necked crowd wants to see a miracle instead. But Jesus tries to steer them towards a greater spiritual understanding:

“Our fathers ate manna in the desert, as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’…”Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Jn. 6:31 – 33. NKJV

The crowd can’t stop thinking with their stomach. They ask Him to give them some of this ‘bread.’

Our Lord of infinite patience, love and mercy, continues:

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jn. 6:35 – 40. NKJV

Jesus could not be clearer. He is the ticket to eternity – the walking, talking plan and method of God’s redemption. But, Jesus is facing a tough crowd here. They still have doubts. Jesus persists:

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jn. 6:44 NKJV

“…he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” Jn. 6:47 – 51. NKJV

NOW, WE GET THE COMPLETE PICTURE OF THE ESSENCE OF OUR GOD CONNECTION!

When we seek God, He leads us to Christ. Jesus in turn, if we accept Him as our Savior, connects us to God, through Himself. Jesus willingly vacated His seat next to His Father in heaven, to inhabit flesh, so that we could relate to Him and to the redemption that God offers through His Son – which is accomplished through the sacrificial gift of Jesus’ flesh and blood. That’s it!

Unfortunately, this spiritually blind and hardened of hearts crowd cannot get past their literal take on Jesus’ teaching allegory. They become angry and horrified at the notion (as they understood it) of actually eating Jesus’ flesh.

Undeterred, Jesus is committed to bring His Father’s salvation to as many as possible. He pushes back:

“…unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life…He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” Jn. 6:53, 54, 56, 57. NKJV

Jesus is trying to break through the Pharisaic conditioning that binds and blinds this crowd, so that they can comprehend the spiritual implications of His death and resurrection. He’s trying to plant seeds of faith – the faith required to hold onto the hope of salvation, when these events occur.

Christ is trying to get them to see that His flesh is in reality the ‘spiritual food’ found in the gospel, that they must ‘eat’ (bind to their hearts), in order to walk a godly path towards salvation. And He wants them to understand that the blood (the life) that He is going to shed for them, must be ‘drunk’ (believed in) to acquire His atonement for their sins, so that they can receive that same salvation.

The crowd doesn’t see it, so they scattered. Even many of Jesus’ followers abandoned Him after this teaching. Thank God that the Holy Spirit brought the Apostle John all of this recollection and revelation, so that we could make that God connection and help others do the same…

Goodnight and God bless.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

December 14 2017 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Jesus and the Religiose

One of the meanings of ‘religion’ is, ‘a particular system of faith and worship.’ Religion is a man-made construct, to attempt to explain God and have a relationship with Him.’ ’Religiose’ is defined as being ‘excessively religious.’

When Jesus began His ministry in Judea, the temple in Jerusalem was a place of worship for Jehovah God, the God of the Old Testament Bible. The New Testament had yet to be written. (Still the same God.)

The religious focus in that temple was centered around the behaviors that one would live by, to satisfy God. These were primarily found in the Torah, i.e. the first five books of the Bible, which were written by a Holy Spirit-inspired Moses, referred to as the Mosaic Law.

Those doing the teaching of the Law were called Pharisees, widely believed to be the first ‘rabbis,’ or at least their forerunners. The problem, in Jesus’ time, was that many of the Pharisees added their own personal ‘interpretations’ to the Laws. Put bluntly, they twisted the scriptures to suit their own purposes, and became fervent taskmasters over their laity – punishing them if they did not live up to them. The Pharisees became religiose.

This did not set well with Jesus, because what they did ran against God’s word with regards to keeping His word pure:

“You shall not add to the word which I command you, not take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God…” Dt. 4:2 NKJV

The first time Jesus voiced His displeasure with the Pharisees was when He was dining with His latest convert, the apostle Matthew. He did so by speaking a parable to Pharisees that were present (they’d been following Him around, worrying that their control over the people was being usurped by Jesus’ teachings and miracles):

“No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old one is good.’ “ Lk. 5:36 – 39. ESV

Jesus was describing a process that was well known and understood by the people living at that time – saying that using a new piece of cloth to patch an older one will tear away from the old if it has not been previously ‘preshrunk’ with a combination of pressure, heat and moisture. He’s trying to get the Pharisees to see that the old forms of Judaism could not contain the New Covenant message He was bringing, because His message was not a patch for the old one.

Similarly, Jesus spoke of the fact that new fermenting wine must be put into new goatskins, because the outgassing of fermentation would cause the old skins to swell to the bursting point. It is metaphorical reference to the fact that the Pharisees can’t mix His message with theirs and that they are not spiritually able to receive His.

Finally, the last sentence in the parable alludes to the Pharisees’ stubborn preference for their old ways, which will ultimately deny them the kingdom.

Jesus has another confrontation with the Pharisees in the temple – they, being angry with Him for previously healing a cripple at the pool called Bethesda. He responds by pointing out their scriptural ignorance regarding the coming of the Messiah:

“…the very works that I do – bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me…You have neither heard His voice at any time, or seen His form. But you do not have His world abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” Jn. 5:36 – 40. NKJV

Even though Jesus is chiding them for their disbelief, you can see that He is offering them eternal life at the same time. They refused…

Jesus took issue with the Pharisees again, during His Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For I truly say to you until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Mt. 5:17, 18. ESV

Jesus is refuting the Pharisees’ claim that He was trying to invalidate the Mosaic Law. Christ was sent from God to open the eyes of the ‘spiritually blind,’ in order to give them the full understanding of all Scriptures so they could walk their best with His Father.

He blasts the Pharisees again:

“Therefore whoever relaxes on of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 5:19, 20. ESV

He is telling the crowd listening to His sermon that the Pharisees have so distorted the laws of God that if they follow them, it will jeopardize their chance for salvation. Furthermore, He offers an example of a law that the Pharisees had twisted:

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Mt. 5:43 NKJV

The first part of that sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor is a quote from Moses (Lv. 19:18). The ‘hate your enemy’ part was added by the Pharisees, and thus, not scriptural.

Jesus continued to have run-ins with the Pharisees throughout His ministry. He finally reveals their evil nature:

“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.’ “ Mk. 7:6, 7. NKJV

“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the traditions of men. You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of of God in order to establish your tradition!” Mk. 7:8, 9. ESV

Ouch! That must of stung. Jesus is alluding to the worthlessness of their traditions – those ascribed by them to have the same authority as the Mosaic Law, even though the Pharisees made them up.

Jesus gathers a crowd around Him to crystalize the nature of the Pharisees and their meaningless rituals:

“…there is nothing outside a man [such as food] which by going into him can defile him [morally or spiritually]; but the things which come out of [the heart] of man are what defile and dishonor him.” Mk. 7:15 AMP

Later, Jesus tells them of their ultimate fate for their hardened hearts and their fake religiosity:

“You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” Jn. 8:19 NKJV

“I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot go”…”You are from beneath; I am from above, You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die for your sins.” Jn. 8:21, 23, 24. NKJV

There are still religiose people today – pharisaical, re-writing scripture, judging portions to of it be false, seeking approval and status for their piety and denying the Christ-road to salvation. As you can see, without repentance, things will not go well for them.

That’s why it is so important to bring the message of salvation to as many as we can. What they do with it is up to them…

If we stick to God’s word and live by it, our salvation is assured.

Goodnight and God bless.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

December 10 2017 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Jesus Pursues Your Salvation

Jesus and His apostles were traveling through Samaria on their way to Galilee. The Bible tells us that Jesus needed to go through Samaria. (Jn. 4:4) Most Jews avoided that region because they were prejudiced against the Samaritans for being a gene pool hodgepodge of Israeli and Assyrian lineage, i.e. not pure Jew, and therefore considered inferior.

So, Jesus had a purpose for being there. They came upon Jacob’s well. Jesus remained there while He sent the apostles to a nearby town to purchase food. Seemingly coincidental, a woman approached the well to draw water. I believe that Jesus’ purpose for going through Samaria was for this very meeting – so that He could reveal something to her that we all need to know.

Jesus asked the woman to draw Him a drink. Initially, she is taken aback because this ‘Jew’ is talking to her, a lowly Samaritan, and she tells Him so. But, there isn’t a prejudicial bone in Jesus. He answers:

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” Jn. 4:10 NKJV

What is Jesus doing here? He’s pursuing her salvation! She responds by asking Him of the whereabouts of this ‘living water.’ He ignores her question and instead contrasts the water of the well with His living water:

“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into eternal life.” Jn. 4:13, 14. NKJV

The woman’s curiosity was piqued, and she asked Him for some of His living water. But instead of directly responding to her request, He keeps her off balance by telling her that He knows that she has been married and divorced five times, and that she is presently shacking up with another guy.

Jesus is bringing the depth of her sin to the light for examination, but not with condemnation, so that she could perceive her need for salvation. Then, Jesus leaves the subject of her sin alone.

That’s the way Love operates. Jesus knows everything we’ve ever been up to. Even if our deeds are deleterious to our spiritual health, His love for us never waivers. He faithfully waits by our side, until we choose to return to Him.

Because of Jesus’ revelations about her past, the woman now believes Jesus is a prophet. So, she asks Him what she perceived to be a relevant spiritual question (and undoubtedly wanting to turn the focus of their conversation away from her sin). She tells Jesus that the Samaritans worship God in a temple in Samaria, but the Jews maintain that He can only be worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem. She asks Him which temple was the correct place to worship.

Jesus answers in a way to plunge the woman into deeper contemplation:

“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming the you will neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” Jn. 2:55 NKJV

Jesus is telling her that worshiping God will no longer be limited to designated physical settings. He is also saying that Samaritan worship is a corrupted mixture of Mosaic Law and Assyrian paganism. And, He’s letting her know that He is a Jew and that the Messiah comes from the Jews. He continues:

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is a spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Jn. 4:23, 24. ESV

Jesus is saying that the time for worship is now. In addition, He reveals that God is a Spirit, and therefore occupies all space and time. Thus, He can be worshiped from anywhere at any time. Jesus is also opening her mind to the reality that God is available to all sincere worshipers – regardless of race or ethnicity.

How do we worship in the spirit? Our spirit must first become predominant in our lives when we are born again.

Jesus has worked His wonder. The Samaritan woman’s spiritual eyes begin to open and she expresses her heartfelt desire:

“I know that Messiah is coming, (He who is called Christ – the Anointed); when that One comes, He will tell us everything [we need to know].” Jn. 4:25 AMP

In response, Jesus throws the doors of salvation wide open. Turning to her in His infinite compassion, He says:

“I who speak to you am He.” Jn. 4:26 NKJV

The woman left to go into the town and tell all of the Samaritans that she knew about this ‘Man’ at Jacob’s well – whom she believed to be the Christ…

Jesus will go to any lengths to lead someone to salvation. If you haven’t made the choice for Jesus yet, He is just waiting to swing your doors wide open as well. If you have, help Him with your ministry, swing wide someone else’s…

Goodnight and God bless.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

November 30 2017 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Making a Public Declaration of Your Faith

It is glaringly apparent that the world is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians. That should come as no surprise, as Jesus warned us of this very thing:

“Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; and all children will rise up and rebel against their parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by everyone because of [your association with] My name, but it is the one who has patiently persevered and endured to the end who will be saved.” Mt. 10:21, 22. AMP

The world hates us just because we follow Christ. Why? Because if we do our best to emulate Him, we are vicariously heaping judgment upon it as He did:

“…it (the world) does hate Me because I denounce it and testify that its deeds are evil.” Jn. 7:7

AMP

“For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Jn 3:20 NKJV

And so it is with us:

“…and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” Mt. 24:9 AMP

All you have to do is pick up any issue of the Huffington Post to validate that. Indeed, we are entering tumultuous times, where we will see both persecution and a falling away of many of the faithful:

“At that time many will be offended and repelled [by their association with Me] and will fall away [from the One whom they should trust] and will betray one another [handing over believers to their persecutors] and will hate one another. Many false prophets will appear and mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, the love of most people will grow cold. But the one who endures and bears up [under suffering to the end will be saved.” Mt. 24:10 – 13. AMP

The time will come when Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats. You definitely want to be in the sheep crowd. (Mt. 25:31 – 33.)

Sometimes, Christians are their own worst enemies, by letting their flesh take precedent over their spirit. For example, you have people playing with snakes, denying their children medical care, protesting outside of military funerals, killing abortion providers, advocating war over peace and putting politics over the kingdom.

We all have our human side, and fall repeatedly. This is where we must stay humble in the face of our sinful nature, take Jesus by the hand, and get up over and over to once again try our best:

“…he who comes to the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” Jn. 3:21 NKJV

And we mustn’t lose sight that Jesus is depending upon God’s children to spread the gospel message for the salvation of the world:

“You are the light of [Christ to] the world…Let your light shine before men is such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Mt. 5:14 & 16. AMP

“What I say to you in the dark (privately), tell in the light (publicly); and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops [to many people].” Mt. 10:27 AMP

So, it is both what we say and do for the kingdom that matters; and the more that we can do that publicly (teach the word, evangelize, volunteer, etc.) the larger the net we will cast for Christ.

Our public outreach begins humbly, but powerfully, with our first public declaration of our faith – our baptism. Why is that an important deed to undertake?

“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a person is born again [reborn from above – spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God.” Jn. 3:3 AMP

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Jn. 3:5 NKJV

This was Jesus’ first ministerial teaching – laying out the entire reason that He came, i.e. that there is nothing that we can do in and of ourselves that will get us into the kingdom of God. It is only open to those who allow God to birth them anew by changing what is in their hearts. Then, the continued presence in that kingdom is assured for those who do their best to live by those changes.

Water baptism is a requirement from God, through Jesus – not only for ourselves, but we are also called to help facilitate the baptism of as many people as possible:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Mk. 16:15, 16. ESV

When we get baptized, our example of faith in God and our obedience to His word can potentially draw others to do likewise. It is an outward sign that our faith is both growing and being reinforced. Without the faith, the act of baptism would be worthless. The water is just water. It is the connection of the water to the word of God, by faith, that fulfills our requirement.

Water baptism by itself however, is not the way to salvation. It is a declaration of one’s faith in salvation through the Spirit. Baptism in water is a metaphorical demonstration of being re-birthed as a newly cleansed child of God, through the forgiveness of sins – confirming that your old ’worldly self’ has been buried (symbolized by your immersion in water) and that your ‘spiritual self’ has been resurrected and cleansed from the stain of original sin (portrayed by your rising out of the water).

The act of water baptism begins with your repentance of the actions of your flesh and ends with the declaration of your faith in the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

True salvation (having been made righteous from the cleansing blood of Christ) comes when you ask God for your Spiritual new birth by petitioning Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit – changing you into a new child in Christ. Only then, does God provide kingdom guidance and eyesight so that you can walk in His ways.

This is so BIG:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Pt. 1:3 – 5. ESV

Declare…

Goodnight and God bless.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

November 24 2017 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

The Nature of Jesus Christ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Jn. 1:1, 2. NKJV

Christ is the ‘living word of God’ – the ultimate expression of Jehovah. We can see too, that Jesus was with God in the ‘beginning.’ The beginning of what? [Because God has no beginning or end (Ps. 90:1, 2.)] Here’s two big clues:

All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him not even one thing was made that has come into being. Jn. 1:3 AMP

He is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible], the firstborn [the preeminent one, the sovereign, and the originator] of all creation. Col. 1:15 AMP

Therefore, Jesus was with God at least at the point of when our universe was created, because we can see that God created everything through Christ. How long before time began, was Jesus created? Well, we can’t measure that, because there was no ‘time’ yet.

In addition, we have the viewpoint of many Christians that profess that Jesus was not born or created, (saying that the term ‘firstborn’ in this scripture refers to privilege, and is not literal), but rather has eternally co-existed with God and the Holy Spirit.  This is according to the Trinitarian doctrine, the scope of which is outside of this discussion.

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. Jn. 1:4 NASB

So, not only did God create everything through Jesus, He brought the spark of life to His children through His Son as well.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Jn. 1:5 ESV

Christ, being the primary agent of God Himself, is a light that cannot be quenched – especially not by the darkness in this world or by its followers.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. Jn. 1:9 – 11. ESV

Thus, God sent us the image of Himself to facilitate our reconciliation with Him. However, most people who encountered Jesus, rejected Him – as still happens today. Yet, the true children of God readily receive Christ:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believed in His name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God. Jn. 1:12, 13. NKJV

We can see then, that there is no earthly path by which we can become a child of God; it is only through Christ and Christ alone. Only when we receive Him, can we be ‘reborn’ by the Spirit of God, to a child of God (which is when we return to our true nature).

This is the biggest and most important decision that you will ever make! Indeed, it must be made while you are still living. You can either choose to become a child of God, accepting Christ as your Savior, followed by a guarantee of an eternal life of complete love, or, you can reject Jesus, live out your allotted time on this earth, and then be thrust into an eternity that promises not to be a pretty one…

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Jn. 1:14 NKJV

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. Jn. 1:16, 17. NASB

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. Jn. 1:18 NKJV

God sent His only Son, out of His great love for us. And Jesus, the ever faithful and obedient Son, consented to allow His limitless Spirit being, to be housed in flesh, to have the full experience of being human – with all its temptations and sufferings.

Christ did so, so that we could commiserate with the image of God Himself, to be able to receive the opportunity of a lifetime: to make the choice to allow Jesus to elevate us spiritually, to be conjoined with God through Him.

Our heavenly Father gave His Son, who had been by His side for eons, to cover us with His love. He sent Jesus to envelop us with the grace of God, that yields the forgiveness and reconciliation that the Law of Moses could not…

How blessed we are.

Goodnight and God bless.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

November 15 2017 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Next »