Archive for June, 2016

Jesus Contact 12

God Contact

We are continuing in our examination of Christ’s teachings at the Sermon on the Mount. He first covered some principles about how to live a godly life, (see Jesus Contact 9 & 10). Jesus wraps it up by telling us to act out our new righteousness that He provides us with, by performing acts that reflect the transformation of our salvation – solely out of the love we have for God and from our desire to please Him.

This behavior stands in stark contrast to those who perform ‘pious acts’ in public to garner the favor of man in order to stroke the performer’s ego.

Jesus then applies this same principle to prayer as well:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men….But when you pray, go into your secret room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Mt. 6:5, 6. NKJV

Prayer is a sacred ‘love exchange’ between you and God; it’s how you make your God contact. But you demean it if you pray in public in an effort to demonstrate your piety. (Public prayer has its place, but it is generally rendered for the benefit of others.)

Jesus renders further clarification by giving us a ‘template’ (commonly referred to as the ‘Lord’s Prayer) so that we know how to effectively talk to God:

“In this manner, therefore pray:

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Mt. 6:9 – 13. NKJV

Jesus is not telling us that we need to pray this prayer verbatim. What He is doing is giving us the proper structure for an effective prayer.

Thus, Christ’s model suggests that our prayer begin with a preface – a declaration of just Whom (God) it is that we are praying to. Notice too that we meet God in prayer on the most intimate level – as our heavenly Father.

Following that, we offer up praises for His limitless love, grace, peace, abundance, life and mercy – along with offerings of reverence that recognizes Jehovah’s lordship over all things.

Next we ask God to bring His kingdom to earth (where at this point in our prayer we can also remind ourselves of our own role in forwarding that kingdom by asking that He helps us keep our hearts open to His will).

We petition Him for our ‘daily bread,’ i.e. our physical necessities. And note that we pray for ‘us’ – not just for ourselves but also for our brothers and sisters in Christ. (I believe that this would be the space where we would pray for anything else that is on our heart as well.)

Continuing, Jesus says that we pray for the forgiveness of our ‘debts’ (transgressions we and our brothers and sisters have committed against God), bringing our confession and repentance as well, to restore our love-connection with Him. We immediately follow by asking God to help us to be forgiving towards others who have perpetrated ‘sin debts’ against us – just as our Father forgives us.

The next petition in the ‘template’ (And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one) may seem confusing on the surface. Why? Because God does not tempt anyone into sin:

Let no one say when he is tempted “I am tempted by God;” for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away be his own desires and enticed. Then when desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. James 1:13 – 15. NKJV

Thus, this final petition is really about praying that when we are tempted, we would be strengthened in Him so as not to follow through in the commission of the related sin because we did not enlist His help. So, this would be a continual component of prayer because that’s how often the devil throws temptation your way.

Finally, we conclude our prayer with additional praise for our Creator and as we will learn later, we must seal that prayer with the name of Christ – through Whom God grants all things:

“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” Jn. 14:13, 14. NKJV

In other words, we complete our God contact when we make our Jesus contact.

At this point, Jesus finishes with the structure of prayer but He immediately introduces a caveat to the petition for forgiveness:

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Mt. 6:14, 15. NASB

How about that? We have a direct line to our Creator at any time. And now we know how to dial the right number…

Goodnight and God bless.

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June 23 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Jesus Contact 11

Applying Our Godliness – part two

Continuing with Jesus’ principles for godly living as He delivered them at the Sermon on the Mount:

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all…Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No;’ anything more than this comes from evil.” Mt. 5:33, 34 & 37. ESV

At this time, the Pharisees were teaching that the only way that one’s words were made true was if they were uttered in an oath. However, Jesus is saying that it is unnecessary to take any oath. Instead, He is teaching us to stand on our integrity, leaning only on our commitment to speak truth.

Next, Jesus takes on the Pharisees again, this time for their practice of justifying personal revenge:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Mt. 5:38, 39. NKJV

‘An eye for an eye’ is taken from Dt. 19:21 – a Mosaic Law that teaches the punishment for a crime should be limited to the severity of the violation in order to prohibit excessive punishment.

Instead of revenge, Christ is instructing us not to retaliate when we are wronged but instead to try to compassionately defuse the situation with the perpetrator and try to reconcile with him or her (if that’s a safe thing to do). It’s a metaphor! Jesus is not telling us to stand still and let someone beat us to death.

Then Jesus confronts the human tendency to be self-centered and indifferent to the plights of others:

“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Mt. 5:42 ESV

Jesus asks us to extend our compassion to everyone in need, doing whatever is in our power to help him or her. Why? Because it is a way to apply our love, mercy and integrity:

“And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Lk. 6:34-36. ESV

Our motivation needs to be love-based; and even though we shouldn’t focus on self-interest, look at how we are blessed for that love:

“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Lk. 6:38 NKJV

When we live a life of godly integrity by walking in the light that Christ has shed upon the word of God, we’ll be living in a way where we resist anger, honor matrimony, reach out to help our brothers and sisters and in so doing, revenge and indifference will become a practice of the past. In fact, when we step into the shoes of Christ, even the concept of ‘enemy’ can no longer exist. Indeed, Jesus winds up His examples of ‘evolved’ Mosaic Laws with that very thought:

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

(‘You shall love your neighbor,’ is a quote from Lev. 19:18. The ‘hate your enemy’ part was added by the Pharisees and thus non-scriptural.)

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you, that you may be good sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good…” Mt. 5:44, 45. ESV

When you walk that walk, you cannot have enemies in your heart. And that’s what it’s all about – seeking to become more like God, by following the example of His Son…

Goodnight and God bless.

June 18 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Jesus Contact 10

Applying Our Godliness

We are continuing with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where after He declared that we would be blessed by living a godly life, He starts telling us how to do that very thing. He begins:

“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Mt. 5:14 – 16. ESV

(Up to now, Jesus has only referred to Jehovah God as His Father in heaven. Note He is now telling us that God is our Father as well.)

Jesus is saying that we are to be living testimonies of God’s goodness, examples of the transformation made available for all who walk with God so that we would draw others into wanting to make that same choice. Moreover, Jesus lays out a divine imperative for not only living a godly life but to teach others to do the same – without distortion:

“Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom of 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

Christ is referring to both the Mosaic Law and the New Covenant. In addition, He is saying that we must adhere to the word of God in its purity instead of falling prey to man-inspired distortions of it, as the people were in His time were taught by the Pharisees.

Walking with Jesus is the only way to raise your righteousness to qualify for your free gift of salvation.

Next, Jesus tackles some of the Mosaic Laws and evolves them into His Father’s ultimate intent for their application:

“You have heard it said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ ” Mt. 5:21 NKJV

The ‘judgment’ referred to the sentence handed down to the guilty offender by the council of the Sanhedrin (high court in Jerusalem). Jesus now brings this law into its highest meaning / application:

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council, and whoever says ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Mt. 5:22 ESV

So, even if you only entertain anger or disdain for another, you are in effect already murdering them – for which you will have to answer for to a heavenly court. I believe Jesus is referring to ‘chronic’ anger and disdain because we are human, subject to bursts of anger. God gets angry too, but His is short-lived and directed at unrighteousness. And He balances that out with abundant mercy. (Num. 14:18; Ps. 30:5.)

Thus, to be godly, we must emulate Him and let go of our anger (that which ought to be directed at the sin and not the sinner) as soon as possible. Then to complete the cycle we do our best to reconcile:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Rom. 12:18 ESV

There is no peace in anger. We must rapidly dispense it because when you are angry with someone, you’re withholding your love – effectively cutting off the love that God wants to send to him or her through you. God will not accept that. In fact, unrepentant anger severs your love connection with Him as well. That brings urgency to your situation because it has eternal ramifications. Jesus clarifies:

“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Mt. 5:23, 24. NKJV

God won’t even grant you an audience with Him until you have cleaned up your heart and done the best that you can do to make peace with whom you have a broken relationship.

Jesus then takes on another Mosaic Law:

“You heard it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that a man who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery in his heart.” Mt. 5:27, 28. NASB

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” Mt. 5:29 ESV

As shown in Jesus’ evolved admonition against murder, adultery too begins in the mind. Jesus is not literally telling you to pluck your eye out. He’s saying that you need to be far removed from that with which you may engage in sin – in this case whether you, the other person, or both are married and either of you are entertaining the possibility of straying. We must run fast and hard from anything that entices us to transgress the word of God.

And because adultery so often is a precursor to divorce, Jesus immediately touches upon the gravity of that situation:

“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except for sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” Mt. 5:31, 32. NKJV

Jesus was speaking to the conditions laid out by the Pharisees for divorce in His time. A man could divorce his wife for just about any reason (as is practiced now). Christ is declaring that divorce is only acceptable if the offending spouse will not relent from their adulterous behavior. However, if the spouse is repentant, it is the Christian duty of the offended spouse to forgive the offender and work together to restore that wounded marriage.

If a divorce is procured for any reason other than unrepentant adultery, the procurer forces the affected spouse to commit adultery if he or she remarries because the divorce was not recognized in God’s eyes.

The Pharisees would later try to justify their stance on divorce by referring to what Moses put forth in Dt. 24:1-4; but these scriptures were not meant to justify divorce but to address the ways the wife was to be ‘protected’ during this process.

God never sanctioned divorce. In fact, He hated it:

For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garments with violence. Mal. 2:16 NKJV

Indeed, if you’ve ever been exposed to couples going through a divorce, there is no peace between them.

Later, Jesus would set the record straight for all time:

“But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mk. 10:6 – 9. NKJV

There was never supposed to be divorce. I believe that divorce is Satan’s greatest weapon. If he can destroy a family, he has the potential of being able to separate generations of people within that family from God within the wake of that destruction.

Blessed be our Lord Jesus. How much stronger can we walk with Him when we make contact and He brings us such clarity to the appropriateness of our steps?

More to come…

Goodnight and God bless.

June 09 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Jesus Contact 9

Blessed For Living A Godly Life

Jesus finally gathered up all 12 of His apostles. Immediately thereafter, He sat with them at the foot of a mountain, whereupon a crowd gathered to hear Jesus speak the first of His major series of teachings – the Sermon on the Mount.

He begins to teach how to live a godly life – one that leads to righteous living with an eternal extension. In doing so, Jesus is bringing the Old Testament to its final evolution as He reveals its synergism with the New Covenant. Ultimately, it is a call to follow Him.

He begins with a series of short sentences called the ‘Beatitudes’ (Latin for ‘Blessed’), which actually summarize His entire sermon:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 5:3 NKJV

This one-liner brings a treasure trove of revelation. First, we see that we are blessed (covered with the favor of God) when we recognize that given to our own devices, we are living in spiritual poverty – cognizant of our need to grow in God and of the necessity of His help in order to live out a godly life.

It doesn’t mean the children of God are weak. He is saying that they understand they’ve been privileged to be able to tap into the strength of the Source of the universe, given the opportunity to squeeze out every drop of life the kingdom of God has to offer.

Secondly, it says that ‘theirs is the kingdom of heaven;’ i.e. they are able to dip into the kingdom now, receiving blessings of spiritual clarity so they can walk with God. Note that this teaching is diametrically opposed to the ways of the world, which considers ‘dependency’ a form of impotence.

The apostle Paul was one of Christ’s mightiest warriors and God’s spiritual channel for the authorship of most of the New Testament. Yet, he too admitted to having spiritual poverty:

…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who believe in him for eternal life. 1 Tim. 1:15, 16. ESV

We see then that Jesus uses our spiritual deficits in order to glorify His Father through Himself. How? Christ holds up God’s redeemed children as an example of the grace of God to those who have yet to commit to being related to Him.

In other words, having recognition of your spiritual immaturity whilst being willing to grow, is an asset. It means that God can work with you, covering you with His grace as He helps you to become more like His Son.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Mt. 5:4 NKJV

I don’t think it was by happenstance that Jesus uttered this sentence next. I believe He is speaking of those who are mourning over their present spiritual state and or the fruits of it. They know that they sever their relationship with God when they sin, and they feel an unction to repent, in order to restore their love-connection with Him.

The only way that can happen is through the forgiveness that only God’s grace can bring. Within that grace, our Father brings His blessings and comfort as well.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Mt. 5:5 NKJV

Jesus is channeling this spiritual truth from Ps. 37:11. Meek does not mean weak. ‘Meek’ is translated from the Greek word prasso, meaning ‘gentle and humble’ – traits of one when they remove their self from the center stage of their mind and put God at the nucleus of their heart. He or she stands in respectful awe of God, knowing that they have the power of the Creator of the universe on their sides.

This creates an attitude of servitude and a desire to remain humble by bringing their flesh under submission to their spirit and cast their worldly cares aside – trusting fully in the provisions of God. We see again they are blessed now and inherit the earth of eternity.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Mt. 5:6 ESV

Their satisfaction comes from having a loving relationship with God by being in ‘right standing’ with Him through Christ. This 4th beatitude crowns the first 3 because you cannot have a hunger and thirst for righteousness until you first recognize your spiritual vacuum, which humbles you. Having that awareness will bring you to mourn for something bigger and better for your life.

We hunger and thirst because we know in our hearts Who we are supposed to be connected with and innately aware that we need to usurp the commands of our heads. We were all created to commune with our Creator. It is the great circle of love that is our birthright.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Mt. 5:7 NKJV

If you live a godly life, it must show up in the way that you relate to others. The grace and mercy of God will only flow to you if you let it spill out of you onto other people. ‘Mercy’ is translated from the Greek word eleeo, which means to show compassion.

We know it’s hard to manage life without God and we are aware that suffering people often act it out in spontaneous, unintended and injurious ways. We’ve all been there. Our greatest act of love towards them is to help lead them to Christ who is the most willing to shoulder their burdens.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Mt. 5:8 NKJV

A pure heart is something that transcends any ritualistic external attempt at purification. It’s a heart that loves God with all its might, staying with Him and focusing on His will in any situation. It leads its owner back to the grace of God when he or she falls of His path.

When we listen to our pure heart, we will see His glory and feel His presence because we are walking in the footsteps of His Son.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” Mt. 5:9 NKJV

(Later on, just before His crucifixion, Jesus said this to His apostles:

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives you do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled nor let it be fearful.” Jn. 14:27 NASB)

Jesus gives us His inward peace that flows from His Father – both perpetual and filled with serenity. When we accept it, we transcend the chaos of our inner and outer worlds. When we share that peace, we are peacemakers – a reflection of God, rightly called his sons and daughters.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 5:10 NASB

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Mt. 5:11, 12. NASB

As a child of God, you will be persecuted because you are a living rebuke against the ways of the world. You sear the conscience of its followers.

When you take a stand for righteousness, you’re taking one for God and His Son. God will reward His children for the animosity of the willful unbelievers. That’s not to say we should just live in the hope for a heavenly reward. When you live in the present, girded by His promises, you’ll more easily toss aside the trivialities the world mires itself in and enjoy each moment that God gives you now.

Thus, Jesus in His ‘opening remarks,’ has helped us recognize all the areas where we may have been spiritually bereft so that we may lay humbly at feet of God with a repentant heart, hungry for His gifts. Then, He can empty our vessels so that we can be filled with His attributes – strengthened by those bulwarks of mercy, peace and spiritual armor that enable us to take a stand for His righteousness.

Christ is building our character so that we can represent Him, and He does so every time we make that Jesus contact.

To be continued…
Goodnight and God bless.

June 04 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »