1 Thessalonians 5 Encourage Ye One Another

1 Thessalonians 5 Encourage Ye One Another

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Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”  We can learn something from this simple advice given by the Apostle to the Gentiles.  The wherefore concerns what he has just spoke about. What has he just spoke about?

Well in the previous chapters he talked about how we should be living out our daily lives as believers in Christ Jesus.  In chapter one he commended the faithful witness of the Christians in Thessalonica. He called them examples of righteousness to Macedonia and Achaia.  He praised them for their fervent spreading of the gospel throughout the region.  He recognized the changes in their lives, turning from idols to believing on the Lord’s deliverance of them from the wrath to come.  In the second chapter; Paul reinforces the witness that thy have learned by example from him and his party and how they love the hearts of the Thessalonians and desire to be with them again.  Paul expresses his love for them and their love of him and Christ in him.  He encourages them and say that they share the same hope, “For what is out hope, our joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (v.19)

In the fourth chapter Paul tells them as you have learned from us how to walk in faith, continue in this so that you will increase the pleasure you give to God in your love and obedience.  He reminds them that walking in the spirit is walking in sanctification.  Those who are called of God are not called to uncleanness, but to holiness.  We who love God cannot continue in the sins that we used to walk in.  We should have a different attitude.  We should actually despise our old lifestyle, wanting nothing to do with it.  Instead we should seek to become more knowledgeable about the Lord, his Kingdom, and his will. Then he answers some questions about the rapture and the resurrection.  This is important to the advice his gives us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

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We do not have to fear the times that we live in.  All of these things are given to us as a sign.  A sign that the Lord’s return is imminent. Just as persecutions were on the rise in ancient Rome against followers of the Way so are the prevalent today.  Today we have another 100 year event.  It seems the past few years we have had a 100 year event, of some sort, every year.  This 100 year event for 2020 is the pandemic; COVID-19.  This event has attacked every part of society in every part of the globe and will undoubtedly change the way many things are done in the future.  The way we interact with one another will be different.  The way that foreign government interact and support one another.  Even the sovereignty of nations will be changed.  Individual freedoms will be forever effected.  Powers of local, state, and federal governments will be increased.  Universality of mankind will grow in acceptance, doing away with many boundaries we previously had.

This virus is already affecting all of those things and more.   We are losing family members.  Some are questioning God.  Some are flat out angry with God, and have chosen to reject him.  Others have renewed their faith.  Some who have stopped praying and seeking God decades ago are now seeking him out.  This same dynamic plays out in the family circle.  Many families are being drawn together.  Forgiving one another for offences long forgotten.  Parent spending time with their children.  Children once starved for attention from their parents are now being filled up with love.  However; with these things we see unfolding.  The changes in the governments, religious acceptance, the move toward universal-ism and far more set the stage for the events which must unfold.  With these things, and the very upfront reality of death.  Paul tells the Thessalonians, and us to comfort ourselves and one another.

We know the times and the seasons in which we live.  This have been told to us before.  Jesus himself told us of the signs that would show as his return grew closer.  He told us those things so that we could take comfort in them.  When we see these things happen, we know that he already told us and that it is part of his plan.  These things have to take place in order to save as many as possible and to spare them from the wrath to come.

For us, the follower of the Way, we have supreme knowledge and comfort.  We know, that everyone has an appointment with death.  As far as death is concerned, we know that we are just passing through this world.  We are not to cling to things of this world.  We know that the things of this world are temporal.  That means that everything of this physical world fades away, it is temporary.  Things rust, mold, decay, turn to dust, and even dust disappears eventually.  Scripture says that the life of a man is like a vapor.  It is here one moment and then gone.  For us who believe in Christ, we have a more complete knowledge in knowing these things.  We know that there is life after death.

We know that we do not fade away or become a part of the cosmos and loose who we were.  Instead, we have a new life.  We know or true life is spiritual, not the flesh.  We know that God has made a way in Jesus Christ for us to live this eternal life in his presence without fear, without death.  We know that our sorrow will be taken away, and that God himself will wipe away our tears. We can believe this because Jesus Christ not only died for our sins, but he conquered death and arose from the dead.  He is alive, and because he is alive, we who believe have been grafted into his life eternal.

This guidance, given by the Spirit through, Paul says that we should take comfort in what he has just said, and as we take comfort, we are to encourage one another.  What he just said is that Christ is eternal.  Christ is returning.  We know this because of the signs all around us. We then walk in the light of Christ. So we can take comfort in these things that are unfolding around us. This comforting is a two-fold process.

 

We take comfort in the Lord and then this gives us the ability to comfort others. What is our comfort?  We know that we dwell in him.  We are his children.  1 John 4 says that we who know God know that God loves us; for God is love.  He manifested this love in Jesus Christ; that we might live through him.  We are able to love one another because the love of God is in us. We also know that his Spirit is in us because without the Spirit, no man can confess Christ.  With this comfort in our hearts we know that God loves us and that he is faithful.  We can then encourage one another in these odd days of fear, sickness, and death.

We can comfort one another by doing what we are called to do.  Remember Paul complemented the Thessalonians in walking upright before man and the Lord. This example of godliness they lived encouraging him and the whole region about Thessaloniki.  People were being saved and believers were being encouraged by the life that they lived.  Lives of holiness and dedication to Jesus Christ.

We see that walking in the Spirit through living a sanctified life encourages others around us. We can give hope to others in the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We can teach one another of the faithfulness of God in his Word and in the testimony of our own lives in him.  We can also pray for one another.  Pray without whole hearts.  Pray aloud.  Pray boldly.   Pray in faith and in hope.  The Lord says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much (it means a whole lot- have great influence).  Guess what, you who have believe on the name of Jesus, you have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus.

The Importance of Baptism

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38 (King James Version)

Baptism, a tradition in our common faith, that a number of us do without full knowledge of how important this act is. Quite often, we are baptized at a young age before we know the importance and the meaning of the act of baptism. Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing, plenty of people in the Bible as we will discuss we simply told be baptized and so they got baptized. Though as you mature in your faith, it becomes important to understand just how import this symbolic act is.

The act of Baptism was so important to God, that Christ Himself got baptized and is one of 8 events that is recorded in each of the gospels (the others being: call of the first disciples, Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, the agony at Gethsemane, Judas’ betrayal of Christ, Peter’s denial of Christ, Christ before Pilot, then the death, burial, and resurrection). You can read the story in John 1:29-34, Luke 3:21-22, Matthew 3:13-17, and Mark 1:1-11. Mark 1:1-8 reads as this:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the            prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and   unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. (KJV)

And Matthew 3:13-17 gives us a better completion of the story:

13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all  righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the  Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven,   saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (KJV)

Christ felt it to be so important to be baptized that He led the way with His own example. Then God, the Father said He was well pleased with His Son for the act of righteousness and faithfulness. So, if God almighty humbles Himself to be baptized, that should speak to the level of levity that this act has.

So, what is the big deal??? Well, Paul writes on that subject in Romans 6:4-11:

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (KJV)

It is the marking of our new life as believer’s. Used to be the circumcision, but now our mark which also serves as an outward symbol and metaphor for the death, and resurrection of Christ. To show the world that we are no longer who we used to be. That from that day forward we are Christians, followers of Christ renewed by the Spirit of God. The act of being fully submerged is the dying to our former selves as Christ died on the cross to take away our sins, and then the reemergence from the water a parallel to the resurrection of Christ in that a promise was fulfilled and our sins are no more. When we are baptized it is our symbol of dedication and a public testimony that Christ has begun this work of Salvation in us that will be completed on Christ’s return (Phil 1:6).

It marks the beginning of the relationship that you have with God. Like getting a friend request on Facebook or other social media, God has sent the request to everyone. And when you repent and accept Jesus as Lord, and Savior, that is you accepting the friend request. But, what makes a friend special on Facebook? It is the one you tag in everything, and the one that you talk about how proud you are to know them! Think of baptism as your first tagging of God in your life! That is the first moment that you acknowledge and profess Him before all of man! That is what is so important about baptism. What is the point of accepting Christ if you are ashamed of Him? There is no point, baptism is merely the completion of your old life and marks the beginning of your new one.

We can see this in the life of Paul, formerly known as Saul. In Acts 9, we read of Saul’s redemptive encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, but his new life did not begin until he was baptized by Ananias (Acts 9:10-19). After his baptism Saul became one of the greatest apostles of Christ and went on to author the majority of the New Testament. Another great way to think about it is this: A brother in Christ once told me about this riddle. There are 7 birds on the wire, and all 7 decide to fly away. How many flew away? The answer might surprise you, but the answer is 0. None flew away, all 7 are still sitting on the wire. Just because you decide to do something, does not mean you have actually done it. This is the same with repentance and acceptance of Christ. If you never take the first step of Baptism, then have you truly dedicated your life to God?

In the Great Commission given to us in Mark 16:15-17 we are commanded to go all over the world and preach the gospel and “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16, KJV). We are actually commanded to believe and be baptized! The book of Acts contains another great example, in Acts 8:26-39 we have the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Now, eunuch was a man that was devoted to purity of not only himself but of generally a lady he protected or some position that he held. In other words, they were men of righteousness and were beyond reproach. In this story, we can tell he clearly believed the word of God, he just did not quite understand it. Phillip was directed to go and preach to this Eunuch that he might understand the word of God. The eunuch, having it been placed on his heart, was full of conviction and asked Phillip to baptize him then and there on the middle of the road, in the middle of nowhere. That is how important baptism should be to us as believers!

The act of baptism should so important to us that when we confess our belief in Christ that we should straightway seek to act on that belief and be baptized! Even Christ did not begin His ministry until He was baptized! If nothing else is gained out of this, then remember that the Lord, your God, decided it was so important to Him that we should be baptized when we come to Him that He set the example and began His earthly ministry by being baptized. Now, yes Christ had performed miracles and even preached before then, but He did not set out to complete His Father’s work until after being baptized.

All of that to say this, baptism; is it important to your belief? Yes, we are all called to be baptized. If you are still having doubts about this whole Jesus is Lord talk, then I would encourage you to check out the other posts on this site and really read into the Bible for yourself and put to test the things you read in it! God is still in the miracle business, let the next one He works be in the transforming of your life! Repent of your sins, believe in your heart, and confess that Jesus is Lord and follow it up with baptism, and be saved! A future without worry of what comes after death is just a prayer away! If you have questions, please feel free to email us at twocministries@gmail.com . God Bless You, and have a Wonderfully Blessed Day!

By What Manner is this “Good” Friday?

It is Good Friday! A day that Christians around the world hold holy and dear, a day that we remember the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the day of our dear Savior’s death, but we call it ‘Good’ Friday… how could anyone call the day of someone’s death good unless they were talking of a merciless dictator like Hitler or Stalin? Christ is recognized by the world as being the first real equal rights activist, and one of the first nonviolence practitioners (Funny they forget He took a whip to people, John 2:15), as well as model for most philosophers and philanthropists to follow, so how can we call the death of this overall respected and trusted being to be a good day? This is a day where our Lord suffered through the worst punishment the human body could take, and is described here:

Many scholars believe that Pilate originally ordered Jesus scourged as his full punishment and that the death sentence by crucifixion came only in response to the taunt by the mob that the Procurator was not properly defending Caesar against this pretender who allegedly claimed to be the King of the Jews.  Preparations for the scourging were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. It is doubtful the Romans would have made any attempt to follow the Jewish law in this matter, but the Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than forty lashes.  The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs.

At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.  The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.

The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be king. They throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again there is copious bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body.

After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from His hand and strike Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and the robe is torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, and almost as though He were again being whipped the wounds once more begin to bleed. (Dr. C. Truman Davis, 2018)

But that was not the only thing Christ endured before finally dying! Christ carried the cross to Mount Calvary a staggering 650-yard journey with a 75 lbs. weight affixed to His back. Pushing his muscles beyond the point of failure, Christ is recorded to have stumbled 3 times before the Centurion loses his patience and orders a denizen to help Christ with the weight. How can any of this be considered good? How? Even further the death on the cross is regarded as one of the cruelest forms by which to die. Not only are there nails in your wrists and feet, but you are slowly suffocating. To which to breathe you must pull by the nails in your wrists and push yourself up by the nail in your feet, causing even more pain just to breathe and live a little longer. So, again, I ask how can any of this be good? Let me remind you of the prophecy from Isaiah found in Isaiah 53:

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12, KJV)

This is where we begin to see why it is a Good Friday, as Christ was put through all of this to bear our iniquities. But let us read in Romans 5 to get the full picture.

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:6-11, KJV)

Christ died for us, while were enemies of Him! And we were justified by His blood. By His death, we were forgiven. Christ presented Himself as a perfect sacrifice for all of our sins! By this we have JOY in knowing that our sins are no more and we no longer have to fear the day of judgement or what comes after death for those who believe. This is why it is Good Friday! Because a good thing has been done, the remission of sins by the shedding of His blood. No one else could fill the sacrifice as God alone could.

If you are in a stage of doubt as to believing that Christ died for you, because you are a good person, we have to remember that everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23), and that where sin is God cannot be (1 John 1:5), and to be without God is death (Romans 2:1-11). Here is the good news, Jesus Christ, the Son of God came to this world to die for our sins because He loved us and all you have to do is believe that He is who He is (John 3:16-17, 1 John 1:9). To accept this free gift of salvation all you have to do is believe in your heart and confess it with your mouth (Romans 10:9-11)! I would encourage you not to wait, because tomorrow is never promised, and there is no better time than the present to begin your walk with God than now (2 Cor. 6:2). This means so much more than just a religion, it begins a relationship with God almighty (1 John 1:3-4). If you have any questions or are interested in finding a good church to be a part of, reach out to us via our contact link or through email at twocministries@gmail.com ! God Bless you, go in peace!

Maundy Thursday: The Prayer of Intercession

The Prayer of Intercession is probably my favorite chapter in the entire Bible. This prayer is an intimate conversation between Christ and the Father on our behalf that we may know His heart and how much He cares and loves for us. Beyond anything else, save His crucifixion, this prayer shows how much Christ truly felt our emotions, of love, longing, loss, heartache, and joy. Through this, we can see that He truly experienced the human condition. While He certainly holds true to His divinity, He also remains humble and makes requests for us, who He counts as a part of Him.

Following the Last Supper, and a whole lot of divine revelations to His disciples they begin to walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. Along this walk Christ begins to pray in the middle of the night. His prayer is said aloud for His disciples to hear and that they may be filled with the same spirit that He has in these final moments. As a soldier and his unit preparing for combat, He says this prayer to fill His team with confidence in the things to come. It is His last battle cry, His rally to arms. Though, it was not for combat, it was for love and the work of the ministry. Let’s read this powerful prayer. John 17 holds the entirety.

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. (John 17:1-5, KJV)

This first part of this prayer is Christ acknowledging His Father’s will that He has fulfilled already and asking for the strength to bring it to completion that He (Christ) may glorify His Father even more. He even says that God has given eternal life, and that eternal life is found in the truth that God is God alone who sent Jesus (who is God, the Son ref. John 1:1-4, Rev. 1:8). It is simple, and plain, yet profound and a centerpiece to our faith. To call yourself Christian is to believe in the fact that Christ is both the Son of God and God, himself. Carrying on in verse 6:

I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. (John 17:6-8, KJV)

These verses are Christ acknowledging His Father’s will. He says that His disciples were chosen by the Father and that everything that He taught and said was His Father’s will. Christ says that everything that was given to Him, He turned and gave it to His disciples. Like a band of brothers, He kept no secret from those He loved most, all the words and lessons that God had, He gave them to His friends, disciples, and his most trusted followers that they might be fully equipped for the work of the ministry after He left. Now, He gets personal starting in verse 9.

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:9-12, KJV)

Here we see Christ begin praying specifically for His apostles. Because they are special to Him, He says those that are given to Him, as our most treasured friends are, so were these men to Him. God grants friendship, kinship to be the bonds by which we learn how to love one another and it was something that He felt Himself. Christ asks that God keeps His friends, as in keep them in His will that they may be one in the spirit of God and fellowship. Jesus knows the hard times that are going to ensue following this prayer and He wants them to be kept together despite what they would do (Judas’ betrayal and suicide, Peter’s denial, the general cowardice in the face of controversy). Christ wants them to hear this also, because He knows that it is important that they hear how He prays for them that they might know how to pray for one another. We get to go even deeper with what comes next in verse 13.

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:13-19, KJV)

This is one of my favorite parts of His prayer, here this is where Christ prays for their protection, but not as we might pray for one another’s protection. See, I normally hear in prayers, and have prayed myself before, that God keep people from danger, or from death, but Christ does not. More rather Christ says that He prays aloud (these things I speak in the world) that they may have JOY despite the hate that this world shows them. He even goes as far as to say, do not take them from the world, instead keep satan away from them and sanctify them in Your Word that they might be filled with joy and strength. That is just beautiful! He knows this world will turn against them and so instead of trying to keep them out of it, He prays that they be filled with joy because they are doing what is right and when the world hates on them it is because they are doing what is right! The only protective thing He asks is that Satan be kept away from them. And that is who we truly fight against in this world, not people, but Satan and his many schemes and deceptions. Now, let us see what Christ prayed for us! Beginning in verse 20:

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23, KJV)

All right, now we are getting into why the prayer of Intercession is so important for us! Here we see Christ change from just His present disciples, and begins to pray for all those who would believe by the accounts, testimonies, and witness bore by His apostles, and that is everyone else who ever became a Christian, i.e. YOU and ME! Christ prays for our salvation here, prays that all those who should believe in the testimony of other disciples that we would be made one with God! And this is to honor and glorify God, because the world will see when we begin to act as believers and our lives change, as they should, that there is no denying that we are followers of Christ. As we talked about yesterday, that the world should know we are Christians by our love! Because as He said that “the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them” (John 17:23, KJV), that is what we are to embody as a unified body of believers. It does not matter what you think of another believer, because you cannot claim to love God and hate your brother (1 John 4:7-21). This is so important as a believer, it is beyond an imperative, that it is so important that God, Jesus, made certain to make it not only His final command before dying, but also prayed for it that we may know just how important it is to Him.

In closing, Christ turns back to His praying for His disciples that are with Him beginning in verse 24:

Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:24-26, KJV).

In closing for His prayer, He returns His focus on His disciples. He prays that they would be able to truly bear witness to the glory of God that they may have a full understanding that God is who He says He is. And lastly, that they may have the same love that the Father has for the Son. Again, it is a beautiful picture of how real Jesus was. He had friends that He wanted to know just how awesome His Dad was, and He would stop at nothing to prove to not only them that God loved them and was all powerful, but He did not want to rest until the entire world has heard this! Shortly after this prayer Christ and His apostles arrive in the Garden Gethsemane where Christ begins to pray for strength to fulfill His Father’s will by going to the death of the cross. But all of that, and more we will cover tomorrow.

Maundy Thursday: The Command

Maundy Thursday, what does that even mean? I, like most of you, have grown up knowing about Maundy Thursday, but never what does that really mean. So, let us dig in. Grab your Bible and a good bit of spare time we are here to dig in deep to the Word to be enlightened about this special day in our faith.

We are going to be covering 3 things today and another tomorrow, all about and just covering what happened on Maundy Thursday and just how important and vital it is to know! Though, first off what is this word Maundy? The word itself just is not in our normal vernacular. The word comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum’ where we get mandatory from, and it means commandment! So, Commandment Thursday. Now that has a different ring to it, but what commandment has/was given to us this day that this day if forever remembered as Commandment (Maundy) Thursday? We will cover this shortly, today we are here to discuss the Last Supper, Christ’s revelation of omnipotence, and the Commandment of Christ.

The Last Supper as we know it, is a symbol of Christian unity in our time. But to Christ it was something different altogether, this last meal was His opportunity to impart His last few lessons before departing this Earth to accomplish His Father’s will (though not a permanent leave of absence). Often times, we place great importance on someone’s last words or moments before they pass, and with Christ we should make no exception. This last night and meal are filled with lessons and doctrine, so much so, that we are covering even more of this tomorrow! Alright, enough delay, have your Bible handy? Good, turn to John 13:1, Luke 22:13-20)

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. (John 13:1)

And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:13-20)

And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 13:2-17)

With a complete reading of the Last Supper, we see some important things done. First, the creation of Communion, the act of partaking of the body and blood of Christ (symbolized through bread and wine) in remembrance of what Christ was about to do. It is important to note, that this was done with only those who were truly followers of Christ (with the exception of Judas who was already taken by satan’s scheme). To partake of this tradition, legacy, and remembrance, you have to believe and have nothing left between you and God (1 Cor 11:23-34). You are not to partake if you are not already at peace or one with God. You must have confessed your sins to Him and cleared your plate of all things, for this Communion is a pure symbol between Christ and you. To accept the gift of the new testament, you have to have confessed to the truth and accepted the gift of Salvation. Though that is not our focus, what He does after is.

In John 13:2-17, we see another lesson entirely. One of leading through servitude and a reminder that we still will sin and must remember to constantly ‘wipe our feet’ as it were. Christ lowers Himself (once again) to be the lowest of people and clean the apostles’ feet. This was traditionally done by the lowest in social standings of household or group. Yet, Christ not wanting to waste the opportunity to teach in His last moments cleans their feet and tells them that as long as we are in this world, we will become dirty, and we need to constantly turn to Him in confession and repentance. This way we might become clean again. Additionally, we see this wonderful lesson of servitude, that as a follower of Christ we ought to see ourselves as the least of us and serve others. There is no greater way to reach to others and show them just how God loves them than by being the literal hands and feet of God and serving them! Getting down on your knees and helping someone with their uncleanliness.

Through the events of this night Christ makes it undeniably clear to them that He is God and the Son of God. First Christ identifies His betrayer (John 13:18-20), then He tells of Peter’s denials to come (John 13:34-35), but the most important revelation comes after these. Those first two are just Him revealing that He is omniscient (all knowing) and that He sees into the future. Then He lays down the truth of how to get to heaven (though He has before Luke 9:23). In John 14:1-11.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. (John 14:1-11)

Here, Christ lays it bare before His disciples. He told them, this is the way it is, nothing is hidden from you anymore. In Him have they seen the Father, and through Him they would join the Father in heaven and inherit the Earth. Amidst the confusion and panic of the prophesies that He is spewing out about His most trusted followers, He lets them know, that there is a great deliverance for them in faith. He even says that they should go on to do greater things than He has (referring to the work of the ministry). Jesus just lays out the whole picture for His disciples fully knowing that these were amongst His last words before the time of His death.

Next, the Commandment of Christ. After all of this, let us see what commandment Christ has given to us that this day should be known as Commandment Thursday. John 13:34-35 reads “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Now, keep in mind that Christ has already given them and all who heard the commandment that we should love our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and love our neighbor as ourselves, so why is this different? Here He says to love one another as He has loved them! And that is with His life! His entire Earthly life was to bring redemption to mankind despite our sins, despite our fallacies, and despite the rejection by His own people. He tells us that we should love in a way that the world would know us by our love! That is radical in our day and age. Most of the world will easily tell you that Christians are bigoted, close-minded, intolerant, and hateful people. The truth is that most of us who call ourselves by His name, do not show the same love that God did for us.

John 15:13 says this: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” The God of all creation (John 1:1-4) just said that there was no greater form of love than sacrificing yourselves for those you love! Now, He is not asking for martyrs, He is asking that we sacrifice our pride, and our livelihoods to serve Him and one another. He says we are His friends if we keep His commandments (John 15:14-15). Again, right before this saying He repeats the command that we are to love as He loved (John 15:9-10). After that, He goes on reaffirming His divinity by the rites of His Father. No other commandments are given until His ascendance into Heaven where we are left with the great commission. In other words, Christ’s dying wish is that we would love so dramatically that the world would not be able to deny His presence in our lives. There is an old hymn that says “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love” and I challenge you to make that so for your life. If we are truly followers of Christ then we ought to love like it. This does not mean compromising our values or bending over backwards for the world, but more rather as Christ did, teaching, and preaching the truth through servitude and humbleness.

Don’t Mess With The Scripture

Don’t Mess with the Scripture

Newsweek, 12/23/2014 ran an article titled The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.  https://www.newsweek.com/2015/01/02/thats-not-what-bible-says-294018.html

In this letter the author skillfully outlined how the bible cannot be trusted.  If you look at the evidence they put forward then it would be easy to convince yourself that there is no reason to put any trust in the bible, or any of its translators or scribes for that matter. 

This is not necessarily a direct response to this article, but rather it did get me thinking how many young Christians are attacked with such half-truths and then told that they don’t have a leg to stand on. Indeed this article goes so far as to start the article in such a manner as to silence ignorant Christians from the very first few paragraphs.

The author uses phrases like, “They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians…”.  In addition the article states that “clergy invoke a book they seem to have never read and words they don’t understand”.  The only true thing the author reveals is ignorance of what Christianity is all about.  That is probably our fault.  We do know that not everyone who calls themselves a Christian, is in fact a disciple of Christ as required in scripture.  Despite the stereo types we have been granted by modern day Nero’s we do have some real assurances that the Word of God is in fact just that.

Here is the thing.  Most critics do not have an issue with the original scriptures being divinely inspired by God. The reason is that none of these original text have survived.  What most arguments center on is the accuracy of the text we have received.  Here is the fundamental Christian view of scripture.  If God divinely inspired the writers of the Bible, then he (God) also can preserve it. We have been given warnings from God, not to alter his revelation of himself to us.   

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Deuteronomy 4.2

Numerous times the different authors of the Bible asserted that they received direct guidance from God on their writings.

  • Leviticus 1.1 – the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him… “saying”
  • Jeremiah 1.4 –(Jeremiah) “the word of the Lord came…. “saying”
  • Revelation 1.1 – The Revelation of Jesus Christ … which God gave unto him (John)

Throughout the bible the authors warn of the dangers of altering the text of the scriptures.

Moses the 1st author warns against adding or taking away from the Words of God.

What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it (Deuteronomy 12.32)

The Apostle John gives a clear warning with a consequence on adding or taking away from the words of the prophecy.

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

This statement tells us:

  • Not to add to the prophecy or you will receive the judgement of God
  • Not to take away from the prophecy or the Lord will take away you part in the book of life, and the holy city, and from the blessings that are written in this prophecy
  • This also tells us that there is no further revelation to be accepted, because God is not sending anymore revelation.

Even in the middle of the Bible God commands us:

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (Proverbs 30.5-6)

Solomon reminds us that the word is:

  • Pure
  • Trustworthy
  • There is a consequence for changing the Word
  • God will reveal you as a liar

The importance of these warnings and reverence of the word of God is demonstrated in archeological findings.  The Isaiah text (700 B.C.) when compared to the copied text of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (200 B.C.) are almost identical with only punctuations added.  So the idea that original texts are necessary to get direct inspiration from God is foolish.  God has preserved his message to us. 

Mathew 5:18 – reminds us that not one jot or tittle will be removed until the law is completely fulfilled.

Some proofs of accuracy in prophesy Recorded in history:

         
Prophecy Book Written Fulfilled Expanse
Babylon ruled over Judah Jeremiah 25:11-12 626-586 B.C. 609-539 B.C. ~50yrs    
Babylon’s Gates Open for Cyrus Isaiah 45:1 Between 701 and 681 B.C. 539 B.C. Hundreds of years after prophecy  
Babylon permanently overthrown Isaiah 13:19 Between 701 and 681 B.C. 539 B.C. Hundreds of years after prophecy  
Babylon Reduced to Swampland Isaiah 14:23 Between 701 and 681 B.C. 539 B.C. and Archology confirmed in 1800s Hundreds of years after prophecy  
Jews survive Babylonian Rule Jeremiah 32:36-37 From 626 and 586 B.C. 536 B.C. ~90 yrs    

Add to this over 300 prophecies fulfilled in the birth, death, resurrection, and ascending of Jesus Christ to the throne room of God. 

How can we know what we received is accurate? Jewish tradition takes place after the fall to Babylon and Assyria. The scribes located the books of the Law and began making copies.  This custom of copying the text was a show of extreme respect and detailed scribing of the Word of God. Scott Manning published an article in March 17, 2017 that gives the following requirements for copying the Old Testament by Jewish Scribes.[i]  

Jewish requirements for scribes:

  1. They could only use clean animal skins, both to write on, and even to bind manuscripts.
  2. Each column of writing could have no less than forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.
  3. The ink must be black, and of a special recipe.
  4. They must verbalize each word aloud while they were writing.
  5. They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies before writing the word “Jehovah,” every time they wrote it.
  6. There must be a review within thirty days, and if as many as three pages required corrections, the entire manuscript had to be redone.
  7. The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original document.
  8. The documents could be stored only in sacred places (synagogues, etc).
  9. As no document containing God’s Word could be destroyed, they were stored, or buried, in a genizah – a Hebrew term meaning “hiding place.” These were usually kept in a synagogue or sometimes in a Jewish cemetery.

Some unique things about the bible verses other ancient scripts

  • Bible’s claim that God is the author
    • Over 1500 statements in the text claim divine origin
    • Bible’s Internal Unity of Message
    • 40 Different Authors
    • Written over 1500 years
    • 3 Different Continents
    • Message from cover to cover: God saves through Jesus Christ
  • Historical Accuracy – some examples
    • There has never been any archeological evidence to dispute any historical claim in the scriptures
    • Moabite Stone found in 1868 documents Moab rebellion against King Jehoram soon after the death of Ahab (2 Kings 3)
    • Lachish Letters found in 1930s are documents found of a communique between two Hebrew commanders concerning the oncoming of the Babylonians impending invasion under King Nebuchadnezzar
    • Hezekiah’s tunnel discovered in 1867 recorded in (2 Samuel 5:6-8)
  • Textual Accuracy – No other ancient text has as many resources to draw upon to test its accuracy as the Bible does.
    • Over 5300 manuscripts fo the New Testament
    • 10,000 Latin Vulgate
    • Over 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the text
    • No other ancient text has close to the amount of verifiable copies for comparison of accuracy – including Homer’s Iliad (643 surviving manuscripts)
  • Concerning Christ in Archeology
    • Codex Mediceus 68 II – Roman historian Tacitus wrote in a major work titled Annals (116-117 A.D.) giving credit to Pontius Pilate for executing Jesus.
    • Famous and Memorable Works of Josephus (including Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities Book 20) – Jewish historian Flavius Josephus’, (37-100 A.D.), account of the martyrdom of James, identifies James as “the brother of Jesus who-is-called Messiah” being executed by the high priest Ananus in 62 A.D.
    • Tetimonium Flavianum – 15th Century manuscript contains the testimony of Josephus referring to Jesus as a wise man, “if one out to call him a man.” It further speaks about his crucifixion, and resurrection. (authenticity contested – however it is an ancient text that has been recovered).
    • Ossuary of East Talpiot a district in Jerusalem inscribed, “Jacob, son of Joseph, brother of Yeshua” (published in 2002).
    • These tell us:
      • Jesus existed as a man
      • His personal name was Jesus (Greek translation)
      • He was called Christos (Greek translation)
      • He had a brother named James
      • His followers multiplied in both Jew and Hellenistic cultures
      • Jewish leaders did not approve of him
      • Pilate decided to execute him
      • Pilate was the governor of Judea 26-36 A.D.
  • Other not so famous people in history
    • Celsus a philosopher thought Jesus was a majician
    • Piny the Younger a Roman governor wrote about worship of Christ as a god.
    • Suetonius a Roman writer, lawyer and historian, wrote of riots in 49 A.D. among Jews in Rome thought to be incited by Christians
    • Mara bar Serapion, a POW held by Rome wrote a letter describing the wise Jewish king, indicating Jesus as the subject. 

Why is this so important?

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 32.31)

  • We can trust what is written
  • We can trust that it came from God
  • We can trust that we have the complete revelation from God
  • We know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
  • We know that we can please God in obedience through Jesus Christ
  • We know that we can believe in Jesus Christ for salvation
  • We know that this belief in Jesus is all we need to have life

The 1st chapter of John refers to 2 different reactions to the Light (Word). 

  • Rejection and darkness
  • Believe and Life

John 1:10-13 says:

  • Some received Him
  • Some believed Him
  • Those who believe were empowered to be the sons of God

We cannot determine who will believe our report.  However; this must not stop our witness.  In the Book of Exodus it speaks of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. But; if you take a closer look you will see that God in his mercy revealed Himself to Pharaoh multiple times and gave him many chances.  The scripture says that first Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his heart toward God. God so then with no other recourse left, let Pharaoh have his way.  Pharaoh’s disbelief led to his death, and the death of many others.  Unfortunately, those who do not believe and have a public forum will lead many to their own death because of unbelief. 

The good thing is that those of us who do believe.  To us has been given the message of redemption.  This message is ours and ours alone to deliver it.  Angels are not given so great an honor as to lead others to Christ.  If you have ever wondered what God has for you to do, it is this, love God (Mark 12:30), love your neighbor (Mark 12:31), and make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).


[i] https://scottmanning.com/content/process-of-copying-the-old-testament-by-jewish-scribes/

Covetous Conversation: A Thought While Shopping

I was walking through Walmart about 2 days after Christmas, we needed some small food items, so I thought I would just kill some time while Dana Smith shopped. As I was walking I noticed a child and his mother, he was leading her by the hand and pointed to a toy that he wanted.

I thought how strange that this soon after Christmas they should be buying him a toy. Considering this I had to stop and evaluate my own reasons for looking around, when I really did not need anything. Was I too, just looking to consume something else that I did not need?

Then something else hit me. How often do I talk with others about things that I wish I had? How often do I look at someones car, or some other item for sell and say, wow I wish I had that? Maybe I don’t say it out loud, but I still say it in my heart. If so, then am I really believing that I have everything I could possibly need in Christ?

Covetousness can lead us into a form of idolatry. Idolatry is putting making a graven image (man-made) and making it more important than God. I know we all know the pitfall this can be. But let us consider the scripture on our words. 

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Hebrews 13:5 KJV

You see our conversation reveals our hearts. Everyone knows this simple truth. If you have conversations with unbelievers or other believers and all you talk about is what you do not have, this is a tell-tale sign that you are not walking in the Spirit. It also tells others that either you are a hypocrite or that the Jesus thing is not all it’s cracked up to be.

We should guard our conversations. Lucky for us this verse shows us how to change our motivations in our heart. It says that we should be content because we know that Jesus said that HE will never leave us, or forsake us. This means that he is always looking out for our best interests. We can have confidence in him that we lack nothing that is needed. 

Let our conversations so reflect the satisfaction we have in Christ. Let our mouths speak of the great and wondrous things he has done in creation, and in our very lives. Delivering us through storms, trial, and temptations. He keeps us from evil, sparing our hearts and minds of guilt and anguish. He was the one who sought us out, to deliver us from death, and restore a loving relationship with him. Life and I mean all of life is ours in him.

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 4

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 4

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. (Luke 11:4) 

Forgive as we forgive.  We must realize that we are broken from our own sin.  It is a natural condition.  Romans 5:12 explains to us that sin came into the world and was passed down to every single man, woman, and child through the sin of one man.  This sin separated God from man and produced death in man.  In this manner, death has moved through all the generations of man, through one common ancestor.  Our sinfulness is more than that.

Not only do we have inherent sin, but; we also commit sin of our own.  You can try to say, “The Devil made me do it”, however; it was your own sinful nature.  This sin nature is driven out of selfishness.  Just as Adam chose to disobey God, so do we choose to disobey God.  This sin makes a separation between you and God (Isaiah 59.2).  WE forgive in recognition that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23).

We must recognize that just as we needed forgiveness, so do others around us.  We cannot hold ourselves to one standard, and hold all others to another.  We are all in the same boat, as it were.  If we have been forgiven, of all that we have done. Forgiveness that includes the sin that was on us from generations past, and those of our own seeking.  In recognizing then, we are truly and completely clean of sin, and that we could not have cleansed ourselves no more than a pig can clean itself in the pen.  Knowing that we did not earn this cleansing by our own merit, because we cannot be good enough.  We cannot be good enough because even at our best, we are still in sin from Adam.  We have come to the understanding that without this forgiveness our sin is punishable by death. (Romans 5:12).

Even though we deserve the death penalty, we have been forgiven of all sin in Jesus Christ our Lord.  This was a gift from the Father, and is witnesses in the sealing of the Holy Spirit.  Through this grace, we have been justified by God, in the faith we have in Jesus.  (Galatians 3:11). In having a true understanding of this in our hearts, we cannot approach the Lord with our petitions if we are holding something against another.

To be unforgiving, especially after we received such a gift ourselves, is hypocrisy. This attitude is contrary to the heart of God, who wishes that all should come to repentance and not die (2 Peter 3:8-10).  Jesus himself said that you come to the altar and remember that someone has something against you, or it you have something against someone else; leave the altar.  Jesus said, leave your gift where it is and make things right between you and them.  Once you have addressed the issue with whom you have offended or who has offended you, then come back to the altar.  With a clean heart, offer your gift.  Do not offer a vain gift to the Lord.

We must come to the Lord with the right heart, motivated by love and gratitude.  We cannot hold animosity.  To hold animosity means that we have judges ourselves to be more important than someone else.  We think too highly of ourselves in thinking that we deserve forgiveness but someone else does not.  In truth, no one DESERVES forgiveness, not you, not I.  Hypocrisy is as it’s heights in an unforgiving Christian. In fear and understanding, we humble ourselves before God.  We recognize that we needed his forgiveness, and so do others.  How can we who have been forgiven, not forgive other?  You may say, but I have not done the terrible things that they did to me, or to so and so.  That is not true.  Your sin had someone else tortured.  Your sin caused a mother to lose her child.  In fact she watched him being tortured, and beaten, and mocked.  She watched him shamed in public, and stung up to die.  Your sin caused a man to die.  How much worse can someone else do, then to kill someone either by malice of forethought or even by happenstance?

Forgiveness also does some other things.  Forgiveness sets the one who was wronged free from anger and resentment.  Forgiveness relieves victimization.  Forgiveness gives one the chance to renew their life.  Forgiveness causes a person to be stuck in the offence.  Forgiveness also reveals the nature of our own heart.  In order to love God with our whole heart, we must be able to love one another.  We are incapable of loving one another without being able to forgive one another.

And lead us not into temptation…

Part of this salvation provided by the Lord is Justification, which we covered already.  Now we move into the next portion, that of Sanctification.  Justification happened when we first believed on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Justification is passed to us through faith in the gospel message concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  God sees our faith in Jesus and is pleased with this faith.  We are then given a legal righteousness imputed to us for all time, which delivers us from the penalty of sin.

Sanctification is a present experiential or progressive work performed in us by the Holy Spirit, keeping us holy until the final phase of salvation.  Sanctification is then a process of spiritual growth in the Christian life where we are delivered from the power of sin in daily life through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Looking again at this portion of the prayer recorded in Luke 11 where is says, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, in this context, we see a great hope in living for Christ in our daily lives.  This is not some vain wish or aspiration, but; a real living hope!  This is voicing and expectation in dependency.  This statement gives recognition that we are dependent upon the very Spirit of God not only as a provider, but as a protector.

This is pleas has specific connotations. I am sure that you recall, if you have had a child, or know someone who has a toddler.  When the child gets old enough to walk, but not old enough to know better, which for some of us can last until the 40s. (LOL) The very safe environment of the family home can become a living hazard to the exploring babe.  A parent must safeguard the environment with outlet covers, door latches, and the sort.  Even then with all of those precautions, a parent must be ever vigilant for where the child is and what they are doing, especially if they are to quiet.  The attentive parent must from time to time, correct or avert the attention of the young one from things that may cause them harm.

This is the plea made here.  God keep a watch out for me God!  Keep me from the things that would harm me.  Even if I really think I want them.  Protect me not only from the temptation out there that is in this sinful age, but also from the lure to sin that I create in myself.  Don’t let me sin against you, safeguard me!  We must also realize that we are in a real spiritual battle.

There is a war going on in the spiritual realm.  In that realm, just as there are angels that are aligned with the Heavenly Father, there are fallen angels who fight against his will.  These fallen angels, known as demons, have a leader we know by the name of Satan, the devil, the Evil One. They make war against the lamb of God, Jesus. Since you are in the will of God and in the family of God the enemy will make war against you.

This evil is real and is powerful. Alone we cannot stand against such power.  However, our God is all-powerful, and in Him, we can stand against the Devil and his demons.  You see God is our salvation, and our protector from this present age and all the evil that it contains.  There is no enemy that can stand against us, because we can call on the name of Jesus.  This prayer is a seeking of the will of God in our lives.  Jesus then says in his model of prayer, that we should seek first the kingdom of heaven.

We should seek to do what is the will of God the Father in recognition of who He is, and what he had provided for us.  We must never forget that He did these things because of His great love for us as mankind and as individuals. We glorify Him, but in actuality we do this because He has glorified us first.  Not only that there is a future glorification to come that we cannot understand.

The final stage of salvation is glorification.  For a lot of us this happens when we die.  But there are some of us who may yet see the rapture of the church.  I say this because we are in the last days, and he is standing at the door ready to open it wide.  In this final glorification we will put on immortality.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:53-55 KJV).

Death shall be finally defeated.  We will have moral perfection and a resurrected body.  This is a promise made by God and this promise will be deliverance from the presence of sin.  You see we will be in the presence of God himself, and sin cannot enter into His presence.  There are allot more things that can be written, concerning this prayer.  I think to answer the question, is there more to this prayer than just being a model for prayer can be answered with a loud, resounding “YES!”  Thanks God! YES!

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 3

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 3

While in the Army, I had the distinct honor of being an Infantry Squad Leader.  A Squad Leader is responsible for 2-3 teams that equal  from 9-12 men.  The size is generally 9 men, but can bolster up to 11 or 12 with the addition of  a weapons team, augmented to the squad.  Routinely, a Platoon Leader or Company Commander would select such squad for special missions that would separate the squad from the main company for days at a time.

This limited the team on resources and causes special security considerations.  In order to properly function and successfully complete the mission, with all personal alive and well, a lot of planning had to go into effect.  All of the resources, including; Ammo, food, water, transportation, medical emergencies and other contingencies, came from the resources of the Company Commander.  A squad by themselves would be left dependent on the resupply and emergency coordination’s planned out, prior to the separation of the units.  Failure to make these coordination’s, and the necessary planning involved, could be fatal to both units.

Squad Leaders and their team leaders take the orders of the commander and analyze his intent.  They then study the terrain, perform risk assessments and measure up the possibilities of success and failure.  They inventory their on-hand equipment, ammunitions, and weapons.  They look at the mission’s risk assessment and identify specialized equipment that may be needed to overcome obstacles and to give the squad the necessary tools needed in order minimize the risk, and to ensure mission success.  Then they present these finds to the commander and request the supplies and resources needed that the squad does not have.  The commander looks over the plan, and the requests and provides needed feedback and resources.  The commander does this to protect the squad and to ensure their best possible chance of success.  A good commander will not hold back anything that the squad needs in order to minimize friendly casualties, and ensure success.  However, the Squad Leader must make the request.

Coming from a military background, this is the importance of Luke 11:3.

Give us day by day our daily bread. (Luke 11:3)

This is more than just asking God for food.  This is a recognition that everything we need is supplied through His grace.  He is the source of our existence.  Without his provisions in life we would not be successful in our mission for His kingdom.  Just like a soldier needs daily provisions of food, water, and routine ammunitions and medical supplies, so to do we, as children of God need our daily provision.

We should not wait until we have an emergency.  We should analyze what our needs are and request the spiritual and physical resources we need on a daily basis.  Recognition of our needs keep us humble and submissive to the Spirit.  Matthew 6:33 tells us that we should seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. What things?  The things are your daily needs and provisions like food, and water, and shelter.  These are the things that are provided to everyone.  “That ye may be the children of your Father which in in heaven:  for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just an on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45).  What we should be seeking are the things that are not provided to just everyone.  We should be looking in to our communities and into our surroundings.

How do we fulfill the mission that was given to us for the Kingdom?  What do you need to be successful in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to those who are around you?  What provisions do you need to be a good and faithful servant?  What do you need to overcome to provide a good witness to those who are watching and listening to you and your life?  What daily nourishment do you need?  Some provisions I know we all need are:

  • Guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Spiritual Disciple
    • Prayer
    • Fasting
    • Daily Reading of Scripture
    • Teaching in Scripture
  • Personal Relationship growth with Jesus
  • Fellowship
  • Encouragement

These are just a few off the top of my head.  I am sure that as you sit and analyze your lifestyle, that you can get a more detailed and personalized list.  These are the things you need to be successful. These are the things you need to be asking for.  Yes you can still ask for healings, and financial security and all of the other things that we need to survive while here in this earth.  However; the focus of your prayers should not be selfishly motivated.  The focus on your prayers should be on things on the kingdom of Heaven.

We are just passing though.  In truth we do not know if we will be here the next day or not.  Psalm 144:4 puts it this way, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”  We should be mindful that our days here are numbered and that we only have a little bit of time to perform out tasks here on this earth.

More importantly, the days of those who are lost are numbered also.  They are like a vapor that is here one moment and then gone.  How selfish are we to spend this little bit of time seeking to pray for only our own needs when so many are dying all around us?  You see our Father knows the importance of our mission.  He wants us to be successful.  The Lord wants all men to come to repentance.  He does not want anyone to die.  He is patient and long suffering for our benefit.  Everything He does is oriented to saving the lost.  Shouldn’t we have the same heart?

We can also be secure in knowing that the provisions we ask for will be provided.  While Jesus was here on the earth, he never turned anyone away who needed his provisions.  He did not measure by race, religion, ethnic background, gender, or age.  In fact if you look back at the Old Testament, you will see how God continuously provided for his people.  He provided them security to grow to a nation, even under bondage in Egypt.  He provided food and water to a rebellious people in the wilderness.  He gave them strength and resources to conquer the promised land.  He led them throughout their history by:

  • A pillar of fire
  • His voice
  • His commandments
  • Prophets
  • Judges
  • Kings
  • The Messiah

God has always provided.  Even in the Christian faith the Lord has provided.  He has led the church to overcome.

  • Martyrdom
  • Infighting
  • Scandals
  • Genocides
  • False Doctrines

We can have confidence in looking back in what He has done for us.  We have been delivered from sicknesses, addictions, diseases, natural disasters, other hazardous events and relationships, even death itself, in some cases. The Lord provides what we need every day.

So we pray for our daily bread knowing that the one we ask is who provides our daily bread.  We then have a greater understanding of the goodness of our Father, that even though in times past, when we did not ask for it he gave it.  We know that even though we were His enemy, that he loved us so much that he provided not only the daily things we needed to live, but; He did so to give us the chance to receive the salvation that he already provided for us in Jesus Christ.  We ask because we seek Him, of whom all blessings flow from.  We ask because we believe in Him, and in his Son.   We ask because we understand that our very existence is dependent upon His grace.

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 2

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 2

The closest disciples to Jesus had witnessed miracles.  They had seen the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the lepers healed.  Scripture tells us repeatedly; Jesus healed all who came to him.  The early disciples were eyewitnesses to these things, and many more.  The closeness of their relationship to Jesus gave them an insider’s view.

They must have noticed the way Jesus prepared himself each day.  They would have seen his dedicated prayer life.  They would have heard the prayers that Jesus prayed for healing. They herd the prayers of thanksgiving that rolled from his lips.  In hearing these and seeing the wonders wrought through this prayer fed lifestyle they were forced to examine their own prayer life.

In doing so, they could see that they fell short.  With all of their religious efforts, all of their sacrifices, all of their Hebrew upbringing, they had somehow missed this important lesson. It felt like the doors to heaven itself were sealed closed. In seeing Jesus’ prayer life and the results of his prayers on his ministry, then knew that they needed to know more.  So they asked him the same question that many of us ask today, “Lord teach us to pray”….

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. (Luke 11:2)

Now we see Jesus beginning his teaching of what an effectual prayer should be like.  He said, “When ye pray say”. There are allot of individuals who miss understand this phrase.  Some have mistakenly taken this to mean that what Jesus is about to say, should be said verbatim.  That is that is should be repeated word-for-word, or else you have not said a prayer.

Some believe that there is some supernatural binding to this prayer when recited exactly as written, God himself has to answer whatever follows. Some think that you have earned some special audience with God as a result of reciting this prayer.  There are thousands who believe that atonement can be made by reciting this prayer over and over.  This is not the case.  God cannot be invoked. You cannot summon him like some ethereal game piece. He is the Almighty, the creator of the universe who has all autonomous authority.  Meaning that God as God is self sufficient and answers to no one.

Luke is not saying to repeat identically each word and stanza that Jesus said.  The Greek words usage, in this phrase, infers that Jesus wanted them to “say” in the same manner or way; not implying an obligation to repeat the exact verbiage. Repeating the Lord’s Prayer line-by-line, or even over and over again does not bring salvation and is not a means of penance.

It is probably better to look at the translation in Matthew’s recording of the same teachings in order to give us another disciple’s point of view of this important message.  Matthew records, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9).  In this catalog of the event, Matthew clearly states that we should pray in the same manner, or “in this way” (Strong’s, 3778,3779) that Jesus then instructs his disciples to pray. So when you pray, pray something like this…

Our Father which art in heaven… I do not know if you know this, but the carnal minded cannot please God.  In all honesty there are some people praying, that really don’t have any faith that God exists.  There are those that believe God exists but that he doesn’t care and is uninvolved in men’s lives.  They are just throwing up their hands and speaking to the clouds and hoping that “if” there is a God, he will prove it in answering their prayer.

The Word of God tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, and those that come to him must first believe that He IS.  Secondly the scriptures tell that God rewards those who seek him persistently. In addition, scripture tells us that those who believe on Jesus have been adopted into the family of God, as his children. Romans 8:14-16 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:”

So then, since we have already believed that He is and that He rewards those who seek him, and believe that He has already adopted us as children through Jesus Christ, we can then boldly come to him.  Seeking him ourselves.  We can call him Father, because he literally is our Father. I am getting excited already!

Jesus further clarifies the importance of this relationship later in the chapter when he explains the nature of the Father.  Jesus explains, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13) WOW! Nail on the head!  Did you see that! Jesus said that even though we are evil, we still know how to give good things, then he said… that God is Good! So- if God is Good, then how much more does he have the ability and will to give good things to those who ask?

Jesus asked a rhetorical question, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those (his children) who ask of him?  I love my children and I can honestly tell you that one of the most heartbreaking things that a father has to face is when one of his children ask him for something that he cannot provide.  It never gets easier, and it does not matter which child asks.  You see as a father, I want to give all kinds of good gifts to my children because I love them, and I love being able to provide for them. I love being able to protect them. I love for them to look to me when they are in trouble, or even when they just need someone to listen.  I love being a confident to each and everyone of my children.  But you know, there are times when I can provide for them, but I don’t, because; they do not ask for me to.  If they don’t ask for my help, knowing that I want to help. I cannot help them though, if they don’t ask me to.  Why? Because it is their choice to make, not mine.

So first we must ask, then he will give.  Now he did specify what he would give, that is the Holy Spirit, but look he also said how much more… this means how much more willing is he to give the Holy Spirit.  It is like he is just there waiting for you to ask, and BAM! It is on the way! Now this is not a teaching on the Holy Spirit, but since it was brought up.  What good does that do?  The Holy Spirit does many things for the believer, just as a quick list; he is our comforter, he is a teacher, he is a counselor, he is an encourager, and many more things to us.  The Holy Spirit is the seal of God on our lives.  The Father gives the Holy Spirit whole heartedly, in fact scripture says that the Spirit of God indwells those who follow Jesus Christ.

Which art in heaven… The Creator of the universe exists outside of normal time and space, He is not hindered by laws of physics or the limits of mans imagination.  He does not dwell in little wooden crucifixes or crosses for that matter.  Those things are made my man, and cannot contain God.  The earth as a whole cannot contain God.  If the universe could contain God then what kind of a God would He be?  No God is above all powers and principalities.  God exists outside of our universe.  In scripture the heavens are referred to in three different arenas.  The first arena of the heavens referred to is the atmosphere of the earth.  This covers what we breath, the ozone which includes the clouds and weather.  The second spectrum that the heavens refers to is our universe.  This convers from the atmosphere on our into the area we call space.  Where the universe with it’s multiple galaxies spin and collide.  The third area that scripture refers to heaven is the place that is outside of time and space, the area where God resides.  This is Gods place from which He over sees all of creation.  Creation includes, the universe, the multiple galaxies, and the earth.

“Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1)

We now begin to see that when we come to the Lord God Almighty, we need to have an understanding of who He is.  We need to know that “he IS”.  We need to know that he is above all other things in existence.  If we don’t believe this about God, then why should we waste our time in seeking Him out? This then is where faith begins.

Faith doesn’t start with a warm fuzzy feeling, or some emotional high after a revival.  Faith begins with a proper understanding of God.  A proper understanding of God comes from scripture.  There are NO secular authorities on God.  There are no scientific rules that can determine that God does not exist.

Scripture tells us that the very design of creation points to the fact that God exists, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” (Psalm 19:1-6).  There is no excuse under heaven to NOT believe in God.

Hallowed be thy name… Hallowed means to be sanctified or set apart. This term set apart means to be unique, or different than anything else.  The manner that this refers to in saying hallowed be thy name is to mentally set his name apart in such a manner to bring honor to his name, by counting Him as holy. Acknowledging that God alone is holy. God is unique. God alone is good.  We need to have an understanding of the reverence that God deserves.  My children have an open door to me at any time.  We play around and kid one another.  We also pull pranks on one another from time to time.  We tell jokes, we fish, we camp.  We do all the informal things that fathers and their children do.  Do you know with all of that familiarity, they still address me as “sir”?  Why is that?  Because with everything we share, there is one thing we do not share… we are not peers. My children respect me as their father, and as an elder.

We should respect God in the same manner, as one who is our Father, and one who is Holy. In fact scripture says that we should mimic our Father, just like sons do to their earthly fathers. Peter wrote, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;” (1 Peter1:15).  See if you believe that God is holy, and that you are called by his name, then you should honor him by being Holy in your behavior.  Faith breeds action.

Not so long ago, a man’s name was his reputation.  This is because everyone knows that you actually can judge a book by its cover.  Now I know this is contrary to the whole “why can’t we all just get along” politically correct stance that has paralyzed the entire human race.  What was meant as a good thing about not being to hard on someone who has fallen on hard times, has now gone to the extreme.  This saying and many others like “who are you to judge me?”, while many claim to be bible based, are twisted doctrines straight from the enemy.  Scripture in no manner ever says that a man should be lazy, if he can work.

If a man has shown himself untrustworthy, unsafe to be around, or in need of being imprisoned then that is the reputation of the man, that he has earned by his actions.  Not because someone judged him.  That man’s name is dirt.  Not so long ago, people understood that.  I know you think I have gotten off topic, but take a look again at the verse… thy name.  See I am still here.  The other part to “hallowed by thy name” is being able to trust in that “name”.  This is more important than you realize.  Being able to trust in that name is more than just getting your prayers answered.  It is the key to life itself.  In Acts 4:12 we read;

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

This was the Apostle Peter talking about Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified by the Romans at the behest of the Jews.  This Jesus rose from the grave and is now in the presence of the Father where he makes intercessory prayers for us.  This intercessory prayer is the true “Lords Prayer”, which goes up continuously on our behalf.  What have we to fear?

If we do not believe these simple truths about God then we need not go any further.  You see in order to ask God anything and expect that He will answer we must at a minimum believe:

  • God Exists
  • He is unique in any and every way
  • He is our Heavenly Father
  • He has all authority
  • He is willing to listen to us and to answer us
  • He is good and desires good things for his children
  • Jesus is the only way to the Father

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth…  We also see in this opening that prayer is about our relationship to God.  Knowing who He is, accepting of Jesus and Lord and Savior and seeking His guidance.  Prayer is foremost an acknowledgement of our responsibilities to God. Prayer is not about getting mans will done in heaven, but getting God’s will done on earth.  Prayer is asking God to use us in a manner that is pleasing to Him to accomplish what He needs done.  God is the one who is to be glorified in our lives, not us. We pray for His kingdom to be expanded and strengthened.  You see we are wanting his kingdom to come because we understand that no one can make peace here on earth, but God.  On one can make us whole, but God.  No one can take away our pains and fears, but God himself.

James says, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3).  That is when you do ask, you ask for the wrong things and for the wrong reasons.  Selfish desires are not what prayer is for.  Here is another way to look at it.  What heavenly good does it really do for my little league team to win the ballgame?   Or how does my getting a new car further the advancement of the gospel?  Am I really praying for what I need to be walk in the spirit of God?  Notice I did not include prayers for legitimate needs.  Needs like deliverance from addictions, sicknesses, disease, or even financial burdens.  These prayers can affect your spiritual maturity and the furtherance of the gospel.  These are legitimate prayer needs.  These types of prayers should be done for ourselves and for one another.  These prayers show love and concern for one another.

Prayers for those in authority are also legitimate prayers that we are actually commanded we should pray.  We should pray for those who use you and persecute you for Christ’s namesake.  Prayers should be offered for all men everywhere.  We should pray for the widows, and orphans.  We should pray for the blind, that they may see.  We should pray for the lost, that they may seek and find Jesus.  This is the will of God.  These prayers bring the kingdom of God here to the earth where men live and breathe.  By praying these sorts of prayer and inviting God to take part in our governments, and in our schools, and in our neighborhoods, and churches we are seeking God in a manner that is pleasing to him.  These are unselfish prayers.

The challenge this week if to set some time apart to tell God that you do believe in Him, and his Son.  Pray for the Spirit to teach you what you should know.  Pray for someone else, that God may reveal Himself to them.  Pray that God will show you how to further His kingdom in your neighborhood.  Go  and be His ambassador, and his child.