Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Devil’s Two Favorite Words

I received this testimony from a friend of mine who has faced some unprecedented health privations.

I hope that this blesses you:



At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm.—Nehemiah 4:6
The most dangerous part of a work is when it is half done, when it has reached the halfway point, because the devil’s two favorite words are give up. As the people of Judah were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, the Bible tells us they were tempted to give up: “The people of Judah began to complain, ‘The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves’” (Nehemiah 4:10 NLT). Have you ever felt that way? The critics only win if you quit. Maybe you’re trying to get your life sorted out. You’ve thought, “What a mess!” Maybe you’ve struggled with alcohol, so you’ve asked God for help and have been able to get free from it for a while. Now take the practical steps. If you have any of it still left in your home, get rid of it. Sometimes you have to move out the old junk to make room for the new. If you have old friends who are dragging you down, get some new friends to take their place. Stop hanging around with godless people and start hanging around with godly people. Jesus said “If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. . . . And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out” (Mark 9:45, 47 NLT). That was not meant literally. Jesus was saying that whatever it takes to be free from a sin that might be dragging you down, take action. Clear out the rubble. Then rebuild a brick at a time. Just start where you are, and don’t give up. Don’t give up on your marriage. Don’t give up on your family. Don’t give up on your life and your spiritual growth. Keep building. The most dangerous part of a work is when it’s half done.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

In Christ, We No Longer Backslide, Just Turn to Him in Times of Need


A few days ago, a dear friend of mine shared that he was not feeling very well.

He felt that his spiritual growth was diminishing, that he was “backsliding” in his walk with God.

That word “backsliding” caused me to want to get more information on this.

Here's what God showed me when I studied the whole "backsliding" issue.

First, there is no mention of "backsliding" in the New Testament. Sure, some people might say Hebrews 6:4-6 speaks of people who "backslide":

4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

However, this verse refers only to people who have "tasted" the heavenly gift, but didn't drink it in completely. For example, Judas Iscariot experienced Jesus during the three years of His earthly ministry. When he betrayed Jesus, he was then sorry for it, but ultimately resorted to paying for his own sins rather than believing in Jesus' Finished Work. Hebrews 6:4-6 verse does not refer to believers who have "backslidden", but people who heard about and experienced the Gospel in some way, but sadly do not believe and choose not to believe. They were never believers to begin with!

The first mention of "backslide" in the Old Testament, Meshubah in Hebrew, appears here:

"For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them." (Proverbs 1:32)

Yet even under the Old Covenant, God is going out of His way to restore us!

The first mention of "simple", the word used in Proverbs 1:32, appears in the Psalms:



"The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple." (Psalm 19:7)

He wants the simple (i.e. unbelieving, unwise) to believe!

The second mention of "backsliding" in the Old Testament appears here:

"Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts." (Jeremiah 2:19)

Here, God is speaking to the Israelites. They routinely would fall away from God, not honoring His Covenant (no longer shedding of blood through bulls and goats; not honoring the Sabbath days), and they would run after other gods.

One phrase in the above passage stood out for me: "My fear is not in thee."

I then heard the LORD tell me: "Look up where I will say that I will put my fear in them."

Here's what I found:

"And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." (Jeremiah 32:40)



God would provide a way to put the fear of Him into their hearts, so that they would not depart from Him. Keep in mind that "fear" in these contexts is not about inspiring terror or fright, but rather honor, respect, and worship.

You and i need to know that God has taken every step so that those who believe on Him never have to worry about "holding onto God" so to speak. This is so awesome! This promise speaks to the New Covenant that God will cut for everyone in the world who believes on His Son Jesus!

Notice how God turns the issue of man’s sin into a means of showing His grace. Man may struggle in his ability to focus on Him, but He makes it clear that he will “not turn away from them”. What a wonderful God we serve!

Jeremiah reveals this New Covenant in the two previous verses, too:

38And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: 39And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: (Jeremiah 32:38-39)

Jesus talks about the New Covenant at the First Communion, which was cut through His blood:

"Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." (Luke 22:20)

The writer of Hebrews repeats all the elements of the New Covenant:

"10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:


"11And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.


"12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8:10-12).

So, God makes it very clear that He will go out of His way to heal Israel from the very nature of sin, which inevitably leads to them to turning away from Him, or backsliding. God is more interested in us not feeling that we have fallen away than even we are!

Consider also what Hosea prophesied:

"I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him." (Hosea 14:4)



The solution to a sense of "falling away" is to remember that He loves you freely, and that His anger is turned away from you.

How can you know that He loves us freely and that He is no longer angry with us? Because of the CROSS! Jesus accomplished a perfect work, taking upon Himself all our sins, and sin itself, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of all that Jesus has accomplished, God the Father has seated us in Christ, at His right hand! (Ephesians 2:4-6). We cannot backslide anymore, for we are forever seated in Christ!

We see the full power of the Cross also prophesied in Isaiah:

“For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.” (Isaiah 54:9)

Because of what Jesus did, my friend, God will never be angry with you again! His anger is turned from you.

BUT ... those feelings of "I am far away, I am backsliding" come up from time to time, don't they? That sense that “I am not close to God because I have done something wrong” still troubles us from time to time. What do we do then?

This is the revelation for everyone: If we "feel" that we have fallen away from God, the answer is to remember that ALL our sins are paid for, and just to keep receiving those gifts of righteousness and abundance of grace (Romans 5:17).

Sadly, what often happens is that people think that they have to start "doing" something to "get back to God", because they they think that they have "backslidden".

The moment that you start trying to "do" something, though, you fall from grace (Galatians 5:4), and then you end up back in the "wandering-wondering" Romans 7 experience, where you want to do good, but the bad ends up emerging in you instead.

So, realize that in Christ, you can no longer backslide. Your righteous standing in Christ can never be taken away from myou. Stop doing, and start believing that Jesus has done the perfect work, and that nothing can separate you from Him! (Romans 8:38-39; Hebrews 13:5)

To summarize (thanks for bearing with me in this), if you feel like you are backsliding, the solution is not to look at yourself or to do something to restore a right standing with God.

The solution is to … just come to Him!



"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

There's no greater time of need than we you "feel" that you are far away, or that you have failed or sinned. God doesn't say "Get your act together, and then you come to me." He says "Come to me, and I will get your act together!"

In sense, there is no longer any backsliding. If we fail, it's a falling forwards, a falling upwards, as we keeping coming to our Loving Father, receiving more of His grace and favor in our lives.

YES!

I know and believe that this will bless you!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Develop "Heard Immunity"

There's talk going on about "Herd Immunity", and the fact that many Californians are probably immune to this COVID-19 problem.

Then I spoke this morning about "Heard" Immunity" with a friend of mine.

And look what I was reading today in God's Word:

"Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

"Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." (Isaiah 55:2-3)

and

"Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your earnings for what does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness [the profuseness of spiritual joy].

"Incline your ear [submit and consent to the divine will] and come to Me; hear, and your soul will revive; and I will make an everlasting covenant or league with you, even the sure mercy (kindness, goodwill, and compassion) promised to David." (AMPC)

There are a few times where the phrase "Hearken Diligently" appears in the Old Testament. In the literal Hebrew, it reads "Shema Shema" or "Hear Hear", i.e. the verb is doubled, which means that it's intensified.

Here are the other appearances of "Shemua Tisma":

"And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul," (Deuteronomy 11:13)

"And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:" (Deuteronomy 28:1)

There are seven other examples where "Shema Shema" appears in the Old Testament. Click here.

All of this corresponds to Romans 10:17:

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



That comma does not appear in the Original Greek. And the original Greek has "Word of Christ", not Word of God.

So, it would be better rendered"

Faith comes by hearing and hearing (hearing hearing!) the Word of Christ!

The more that we see Jesus, learn about Him in the Word, the more our faith is built up - and thus we develop Heard Immunity!

We find ourselves immune to shame and guilt.

We find ourselves immune to sickness.

We find ourselves immune to poverty.

Because we keep hearing and hearing about Christ Jesus!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

My Blood Pressure is Decreasing, Because (Awareness of) His Love is Increasing

"38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)



I am learning so much more about the Love of the Father.

For years, I used to think that bad thoughts, bad feelings would hinder my ability to understand, to receive God's love for me.

I actually believed that God's presence, His loving caress, depended on how I was feeling and what I was thinking.

Can you imagine going through life thinking that how you feel, what you think, is going to affect your standing before God? The torture, the trauma that it created it was just beyond comprehension.

The tension, the trauma, the terror was so great.

I am finally understanding how real, how present, how prevalent God's love is for me. It's really exciting.

I can lose my temper, I can have wayward thoughts and feelings, and yet God's love is still there, still present, still refreshing and rolling over me.

For decades, I was stressed out internally, constantly playing catch-up with my feelings, trying to keep a lid on sexual temptations, lust, anger, fear, etc.

Fears was particularly damaging, because I feared that because I felt fear, that would make God angry and He would not answer my prayers.

This verse started to make so much more sense when I realized that my feelings don't block God's love:

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18)

I used to think that there was something wrong with me if I was feeling fearful. Now I understand that any sense of fear was then undercut with a sense of condemnation: "Oh, you are feeling fearful now, therefore, God is not going to bless you!"

But that's now what "perfect love" is! He loves me perfectly, completely, and it is not dependent on me at all.

In fact, God's perfect love came first. It's not about whether I was fearing first. That never comes into the equation:

"We love because He first loved us."(1 John 4:19)

God loves me and cares for me not because of anything that I have done or will do, but because of everything that Jesus has done!

"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10)

The Angel of Death passed over the houses of the Israelites with blood on their doorposts, regardless of how the family members may have felt. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, not our belief in the blood.

Now, we do need to believe in His gift of salvation. We are saved by grace through faith. It's not a work that we have done, and it's not some universal salvation. A gift has to be received, after all!

At any rate, the stresses, the pressures, the upsets, uptight sentiments which were so prevalent in my body caused my blood presure to go up! It's incredible! This kind of thinking and feeling was so common in my day-to-day life, that I hardly noticed it.

After suffering a stroke, after giving up all the diet soda, and after giving up much of the fast-food, I did notice that my blood pressure was going down considerably. I got off the blood pressure medication at one time, and then my blood pressure shot up again. It was really strange how this kept happening.

Since then, I have begun to realize that there were a number of stressors that had been working within me automatically. I was constantly looking at myself, trying to catch myself so that I was not fearful, angry, or falling into bad thoughts and feelings.

Now that I recognize that His love is completely independent of my actions, i.e. I don't earn it, I can let feelings, thoughts, bad ideas come and go. They have no chokehold on me, they no longer serve as a hateful stronghold over me, because I know that the love of God has taken hold of me.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Jesus Loves Me: That's All that Matters

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)



God's love for us is inconditional. In fact, God loved us enough to send His Son for us even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).

God did not wait for us to get our act together, but sent Jesus so that He could reconcile us to Himself:

"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:19)

Nothing can separate me from God's Love.

For the longest time, and even recently, I have realized still that I had placed conditions on God's love. If things were going well in my life, then I was assured that God was for me.

But if things were difficult, if I was going through trials, then I would waver. "Where is God in the midst of these hardships? Why am I going through all of this?"

God wants to break those doubts out of our lives. Also, He allows us to endure hardships to test and refine our faith (1 Peter 1:17).

God wants us to rest fully in Him, to labor, to make it a priority to enter His rest and receive from Him all things.

Consider what Joseph went through. God had given him two dreams, in which his brothers and even his parents would bow down to him. Yet he endured many trials before God finally accomplished all that He had dreamed, all that He had planned for Joseph.

So too God allows hardships to take place, so that we mature, we grow in grace, and receive more from Him:

"3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (Romans 5:3-5)

and

"But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:4)

God's love is all that matters. Whatever you have thought or be thinking, whatever you have done or may done, nothing can separate you from the love of God:

"38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

Whatever good or bad comes your way, know that God's love for you is there, is real, and is going nowhere!

"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)

His love is unconditional, independent of your circumstances and certainties. Jesus loves you--that's all that matters!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Jesus, Not a Means to an End, But the Beginning and the End

"Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25)

Jesus spoke these words to Cleopas and his wife, both of whom were travelling back home to Emmaus.

Jesus came alongside them while they were talking, but His identity remained concealed from them at the time. He listened to them talk about Jesus, and how they believed that He would restore the greatness of Israel:

"21But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done." (Luke 24:21)

Israel was the most important thing on Cleopas' mind. For God, He is interested in far more than the political redemption of Israel.

Jesus then poured through the Scriptures and taught them everything concerning Himself.

Jesus did not come to be a means to an end. He is the beginning, the middle, and the end:

"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,

"Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" (Isaiah 46: 9-10)

Everything is about Jesus. He is not a means to a different. He is everything that we want and need.

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)



and

"15[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." (Colossians 1:15-17)

Everything that exists was made by Jesus, and for Him. Everything that exists is held together by Him, as well.

Jesus is fully God, and fully man, and no one can dispute that. He is not a part of the story. He is the story. 

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." (Hebrews 13:8)

Jesus is not a means to an end. He is the Beginning and the End!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

God Tests Us, So that He May Surround Us With His Grace

"And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am." (Genesis 22:1)



First, it's important to get the proper meaning from this verse.

The word "tempt" is not accurate, at least as we understand that word today. God did not tempt Abraham, in that he was seducing him to commit a sin.

The better rendering is "test", or rather "prove", so that He could see that Abraham had attained a robust faith in God.

God later asked Abraham to offer up his son Isaac:

"And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." (Genesis 22:2)

Indeed, the LORD was asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Of course, what was really playing out here was the type and shadow of God offering His Son, His only Son, the Son whom He loved, for all the sins of the world.

Moreover, here we see Abraham's faith in God fully flourishing. The writer of Hebrews confirms this:

"17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." (Hebrews 11:17-19)

Abraham trusted God so much, that he knew that God would bring His Son back from the dead. After all, God had promised earlier:

"3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 12:3)

and

"And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir." (Genesis 15:4)

God promised Abraham a son, and an heir, and that through this heir all the nations of the world would be blessed.

Now, what are these tests really all about?

Peter explains in his First Epistle:

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:" (1 Peter 1:7)

God wants us to believe in Him and thus receive all things from Him:

"31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32)

Keep in mind, that we are called to grow in grace! (2 Peter 3:18), and our grace grows in our greater revelation of Christ Jesus (2 Peter 1:2). In fact, grace is something that we receive from God by faith:

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" (Ephesians 2:8)

God wants us to reign in life, and we reign in life as we receive--and keep receiving--the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17).

So, what is all this testing about? What does God test us, try us, and thus prove our faith?

He wants us to receive more of His grace, His favor in our lives!

The word "Test" in Genesis 22:1 is the Hebrew word נָסָה

"Nasah" in Hebrew.

Here are the three letters for that word, and the meaning of those letters:

נָ -- Nun, which speaks of the Son, Jesus
סָ -- Samech, which speaks of surrounding, or the sun (the light of the sun)
ה -- Heh, which speaks of God's grace

So, when God tests us, tests our faith, He is doing this so that His Son can surround you with his favor!

God wants us to live from faith to faith (Romans 1:17) for that is how the righteous live. He wants us to see more of Himself, and to receive more from Himself. When we face trials, hardships, and difficulties, we should never think that God does not love us or favor us. In fact, what God is doing is guiding us to see more of Himself, His love for us, so that He can extend more favor to us.