Do You Want to Get Better?

What does it take to be well? Is it physical, mental, spiritual, or financial? You can visit a professional in that field, someone you trust. Or, we have heard of a remedy, those good old fashion “wives’ tale”. You look for what could work, the easy way out, one that requires no commitment.

John 5: 1-5               ESV

1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 

Take a closer look at the numbering, I know that I do not leave the numbering in my Blog’s, but I needed to do so this time. I did not leave out verse four, yet the ESV translation does. So, what does verse four tell us? We will look at the King James Version to read find that text.

John 1: 4                  KJV

4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

In keeping with the thought of, “Basic Bible Thoughts”, let us move forward and understand how this passage can influence our daily walk with Jesus.

What do we know about this man at the pool? We are told that he is an invalid, unable to care for himself. We know that he was alone, “no one will help me in the pool”. We know that he has no where to go since he has laid there for thirty-eight years. We have some understanding as to why he has been there. He was told or heard from someone that miracles happen at the pool when the water is troubled.

John 5: 6-7               ESV

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”

Here is the scene as John sees it; we have this nicely decorated pool area that has been taken over by many who are blind, lame, and paralyzed. They stay there day after day waiting for the legend of the Angel to stir the water and then they must be the first in the pool. John paints for us a scene of helpless, lonely men with one plan.

Here is the scene as Jesus sees it; a man is lying, and it appears he has given up all hope of ever being healed. Jesus looks into his eyes, eyes he has seen so many times before, they seem to sink deep into his head. The man is just looking off in the distance with no real focus. Jesus says to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

Here is the scene as the man sees it; what day is it? Why don’t I just die, nothing is ever going to change, and I have no one. My family and friends have left me. Wait, someone new is walking through the pool area? And he is headed straight for me, is he here to help? He is asked a question and wonders why he needs to explain. “I have been told that these waters become troubled, if I can get in the pool first then I can be healed. But I have no one!”

John 5: 8-9                           ESV

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. 

This man after 38 years of being alone, helpless, and without hope, listens to a man he has never seen. Nerves begin to fire that he has never felt before, so he begins to move. Before long he is up and carrying his bed.

Do you see yourself in the life of this man; alone, helpless, and without hope? Maybe you have held onto a plan for years, or maybe you are trying everything out there; philosophies, self-help books, the latest miracle drug, or maybe just something to make you forget the pain. Days have moved into weeks, into months, and into years. You find yourself just staring off into the sky wondering if there is anyone who can help.

I have news for you today, Jesus is the answer, you have heard this before. He is our hope, and He is our Salvation. Here is the question that you must ask yourself, “Do You Want to Be Healed?”

It will require a commitment from you. You must pick up your bed of loneliness and hopelessness and start walking! Leave the pain behind. I understand all of this is easy to say but so extremely hard to accomplish. You are not alone, He will find someone to walk alongside of you, trust Him!

We Are Not Meant to Live Life Alone

I would like to make a point by walking you through the life of a fictional character, Fred. Throughout his life he often felt out of place and uncomfortable even among his family. His parents often found him sitting in the tree house all by himself reading a book. It was a tiny space, enough room for him and all his books, most had something to do with cowboys. He often fantasized of a life out west where he only needed a small space but a view that never stopped.

After High School he started to realize his dream and moved into a tiny home parked just outside a small town in Wyoming. He did not own the land, in reality he worked for the owners of the KOA. Doing some repair work and janitorial cleaning just to pay his expenses and buy some groceries. He was incredibly pleased with his new life, seldom missing his family, while enjoying the independent life he fantasized over, (so he thought).

A service call came in for Fred, it was his neighbor at the campgrounds, their waste system was backing up. Fred knocked on the door and introduced himself, they had never met. Peter and his small family had gatherings all the time at their camper, but Fred had turned down their request so many times to join them, but Peter just kept sending the invites anyway.

Fred promised Peter that the sewage line would be repaired by sundown. The Sun began to set in the distance, but Fred had not been seen or heard for hours. Peter walked around the back and found Fred laying lifeless on the ground. Peter and his family quickly rushed Fred to the hospital.

He woke up in a haze but was able to make out the childlike photos hanging in the room that Peter’s children had created. As Fred turned looking for more clues as to where he was, he found Peter sitting in the chair next to him asleep. How long had he been there and why was his neighbor asleep in this hospital room? The nurse walked into the room and was so please that Fred was awake. He had many questions, but focused his strength in asking just one, he had suffered a brain aneurysm. Peter began to awaken as the nurse was leaving and his family arrived. He introduced his family to Fred; this is my wife Rachel and our two children.

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 

Peter helped pay some of Fred’s deductible before leaving the hospital. Fred was curious as to why this stranger, his neighbor, would care so much. There was a song playing on the radio that caught Fred’s attention, one verse in particular. This song is by Casting Crowns, entitled, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners”.

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they’re the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet

Galatians 6: 9-10a                  ESV

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone,

Every Monday, Peter would check in on Fred. Fred would talk through the door and tell him all was well. This continued for months until one Monday, the knock at the door never came. For only the second time Fred went over to Peter’s and knocked on his door; once, twice, and then a third time. No answer. Another neighbor yelled out to Fred, “They took Peter to the hospital this morning, I saw them wheel him out on the stretcher. He didn’t look good; Rachel and the kids were all crying.” Fred got a ride to the hospital and went directly to Peter’s room. Rachel recognized him standing outside the door and pleaded with him to come in. He had suffered a heart attack but was already recovering. Peter spoke softly to his visitor, “Thank you for coming”. Fred stayed for a few hours sitting in the corner wondering why he was even there. “I live my life for myself, why do I care about a man I hardly even know?”

John 13: 34-35                        ESV

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Fred went home and dug through an old box of belongings. He found a Bible that the Pastor gave him when he graduated from High School. This is the first time he had opened a Bible and it fell open to John 13 and he began to slowly understand why Peter was able to show him love. Paul was reflecting God’s love. He remembered his parents talking about a friend of theirs that showed this same love to them. So, he turned the pages and continued reading, flipping around from page to page but continuing to read of God’s love with each turn of a page.

Ephesians 4: 1-3                                 ESV

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 

As Fred continued to read, he felt Jesus was calling him to accept His love. To trust and follow Jesus, but how? He had never met Jesus, to be honest Fred had never met anyone that cared about him as much as Peter. Was Peter Jesus?  No, Peter was just a person who had given his life to shine the light of Jesus to others. More than just a hello or a kind smile, Peter learned how to reach out and touch others. Jesus did it all the time.

Fred asked Jesus that night to forgive him. What came next, he wondered, is life going to be different now? Salvation is only the start, it is accepting the fact that your life before Him was no longer acceptable, something was going to be different. He was going to become more involved in the life of others. When needed he would be available to bear the burdens of someone else. Paul, the writer of Ephesians tells us to walk in humility, gentleness, with patience, so that we can bear with one another in love.

Proverbs 3: 5-8           ESV

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. 

Asymptomatic Christian

This year many of us have learned a new word, asymptomatic. According to Merriam Webster the definition of asymptomatic is presenting no symptoms of disease. I want to say this again to make sure we are clear; you are not showing any outward symptoms of the illness. If there are no symptoms, then how did we know they had the illness? Test are created to determine if the illness or virus is living inside.  

The debate about testing is loud and both sides have information to support their view. Some believe that all of us should be tested and some believe that with less testing we will have less of the virus out there. Why not test everyone or why not stop the testing? The answer to that debate depends greatly on the outcome you are looking to find. Test everyone and the number of cases will rise, stop testing and that number will drop. Does the testing increase or decrease are chances of death? “By no means!”

Romans 7: 12 – 13                            ESV

So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

Romans 7 has Paul explaining how the Old Testament Law is our sin test. The test is good and right when utilizing the data created, correctly. Paul continue to ask the question, “is it the Old Testament Law that brings about death to him, “by no means!” It is clearly sin that is causing death in our Body and Soul, not the testing.

How do you know if you are a Follower of God? In the Old Testament after the Israelites were released from the bonds of the Egyptians, God gave Moses the famous Ten Commandments. More laws or regulations were given to Moses from God that totaled a little over 600. When these laws are measured against the actions of our life, what will the results give us? Simply put, we are sinful people, we each carry the virus and are demonstrating symptoms.

The virus of Sin has been inside our blood stream since the time of our birth. The virus is carried from generation to generation. We have been able to trace it back to the first humans created on Earth. They are one of three humans to have tested negative for the Sin virus from birth. After a conversation with a known carrier of the sin virus, Adam and Eve became infected. That infection was so deeply rooted that it continues today. Below we see that Paul has taken the test and is now receiving his results.

Romans 7: 15-20                     ESV

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Paul’s results came back, learning that he was positive for the sin virus. He wanted passionately to fix the symptoms that he was witnessing in his life. He attempted to just stop doing those terribly destructive actions under his own power and found no success. Something outside of himself was required. He needed treatment, but what treatment will work the best for this sin virus?

Romans 7: 24-25                                 ESV

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

In Romans 12 verse 2, Paul speaks about the renewing of the mind. In our current Covid-19 struggle there is a race underway for a vaccine to cure the virus. Paul understands that the sin virus will still reside in his flesh but by serving the law of God with his mind, he can find hope for life and no longer dwell on the death the virus brings.

Romans 8: 1-3             ESV

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 

Jesus came to this Earth through the Virgin Mary, so He was not infected with the virus. Yet, on the cross He was injected with the sin virus, the sins of the entire World. When He defeated Death, Hell, and the Grave, He became that much needed vaccine.

Philippians 4: 7-9                    ESV

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you

Are we truly Asymptomatic Christians? If we understand the sin virus fully, then the answer is no. As we live and move in this World, we require the medication provided by the Cross. Can we overcome the risk of Death due to this sin virus, absolutely! Let your heart be at peace, accept the Holy Spirit into your life and allow him to transform your thinking and the God of peace will be with you.

FREEDOM

Freedom, we live in the United States as Free People. Some may not agree with that statement as much as others, but we are still free to make choices. There are limits to those choices, who has not heard this one, “You cannot yell fire in a theater”. Yes, we are free to choose but that freedom seems to end when it may endanger the life of another. Without getting ourselves too deep into this discussion, let us hold the thought that we are free within the confines of the law.

So, what does it mean to accept and act upon the Freedom that we have as Americans? Merriam-Webster tells us that Freedom is the quality or state of being free: such as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. In simple Steve Joiner terms that means we have the right to make unforced choices and actions. Now, there may be consequences for those actions and choices, but we were free to make them.

In the Bible we see a similar definition and yet a slightly different outcome. According to the Strong’s Expository, we have the Greek word eleútheros (an adjective) – properly, free (liberated), unbound (unshackled); (figuratively) free to realize one’s destiny in Christ. Again, I will give you the Steve Joiner translation, we were born bound, shackled, and needed to be released or liberated and there is only one place to find this freedom, Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 3: 17                 ESV

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Due to Adam in the Garden, we are born apart from Christ. We want freedom from the wrong that is in our life, so we come up with our own plan of escape. We think we can find freedom by living a life of compassion, living right, or many other options that are available to us. Of course, these plans are all limited to our ability. It comes down to this simple truth that we do not have the ability to pay for our freedom. The issue is spiritual not physical, whose words are you connected too? There is freedom in the Spirit of the Lord.

John 8:31-32                           ESV

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

“The truth will set you free!” I am sure that regardless of your religious background you have heard this phrase before. Reading further in the Gospel of John, chapter 14, Jesus proclaims that He is “The Way, The Truth, and The Light”! Here Jesus gives us an absolute truth statement, this causes many to struggle. Jesus is stating that He is the ONLY way, that there is no other plan! That He is the LIGHT that shines in the darkness leading us out of our shackles and into freedom! And, once we abide in and follow this TRUTH, we will be free!

Choice is the foundation of Freedom. God set before Adam and Eve a choice, “Do not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for in that day you will surely die.” Choices can bring you life or they can bring you death. We make choices every day, so am I telling you that every choice we make leads to life or death. Yes, our choices either draw us closer to God or away from God.

Luke 4: 16-20              ESV

And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.”

Jesus officially begins His ministry, a ministry that will bring about Spiritual Freedom in our lives. That is what Humans have longed for since that day in the Garden, a relationship with God. But instead we are willing to stuff anything into that Cross shaped hole, except the Cross.  

Death equals emptiness, void of any love or connection. For us to be free, a battle had to take place to gain freedom. Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin, lived among us. He was captured and hung on a tree, having done nothing deserving of that death. The battle started and three days later, Jesus overcame the void and emptiness of death. Jesus reconnected with His Father and sits beside Him today making it possible for us to have access to that same relationship. His death on the cross paid for our freedom. Once we have accepted that payment by surrendering our will to His, we are free.

Romans 6: 5-6                   ESV

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 

Once we surrender our will a new person is created. The new freedom allows us the ability and desire to know and understand God. This new freedom has moved us away from death, that empty void, but more importantly it is taking us to a better life. Jesus then gives us the Holy Spirit to encourage us daily so that we can truly find Love and Acceptance. That is what all of us are longing for, deep within us is that desire, so make the right choice today and find the best consequence to any decision you have made, A life of peace in the guiding hand of our Savior.

Good overcomes Evil!!!

We have been taking a walk through my life chapter, Romans 12, and finding the basic’s of living a life everyday with Jesus as the focus. Today’s topic is not any different.

I remember back when I was in the 6th grade, we lived in Edison, New Jersey and I walked to Washington Elementary School daily. One day my younger brother was surrounded by four boys. Totally out of character, I stood up to those boys and told them to leave my brother alone. They fled but promised they were coming to my home to finish what they started. I came to myself and realized what I had done. Fear had set so we ran home, and I would not walk one step out of my house.

I told my father about the events of that day. He went and got one of our baseball bats and handed it to me. I will never forget as he walked me to the front porch and told me, “This is want we call an equalizer and when you see them coming I want to run in their direction, swinging the bat and yelling from the top of my lungs”. The boys showed up riding their bikes and so I tore out across the front yard and into the park running after those four boys. Thankfully, my father knew I could not catch them.

1 Samuel 24: 10-11                 ESV

This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the LORD’s anointed.’ See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 

In my personal story, I learned what it meant to trust the words of my earthly father with the assurance that he was standing on the porch watching. My father understood that those boys were not my issue, but the fear that had gripped me. My earthly father gave me what I needed to raise my courage. The odds were totally against me with four to one. The lesson I learned that day had nothing to do with four boys but everything to do with trusting my father. He became a picture that day of how my Heavenly Father protects me from the evil that rises inside of me, the feeling of being all alone to fight my own battles.

In 1 Samuel 24, David was told in his younger years that he would be the next King of Israel. King Saul was full of envy toward David. David had nothing but respect for the King. David finds himself in the perfect situation. The King was all alone and David had his band of warriors in the cave (read the full chapter for this complete story). David listened to his Heavenly Father instead of his military men and did not utilize the opportunity to murder the King. David taught his band of warriors that our Heavenly Father does not look at situations with the same focus as we do. Those four boys were teaching me to lay aside my fear and trust my earthly father. King Saul was teaching David to lay aside his impatience and trust the plan of His Heavenly Father.  

Romans 12: 9-17                     ESV

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

I heard a quote the other day from Tauren Wells, “Love looks like listening.” Paul says it this way, “Let love be genuine.” I find that often genuine and authentic are interchangeable. Here is another quote that comes from C.S. Lewis, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself it’s thinking of yourself less”. You may be wondering what the two previous stories have to do with the remaining chapter of Romans 12. Paul, through the leading of The Holy Spirit, is requesting that we behave counter to our culture and our natural reaction. Look back over the passage above, maybe even list each directive, how do we walk within this lifestyle with a genuine and/or authentic love for others?

Romans 12: 18-21                   ESV

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

When we accept Christ salvation into our life, we ask God to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us closer to Jesus. With that confession we have asked the Creator of all things to care for us. If you are willing to look, we can find our Heavenly Father standing there ready to fight our battles. The thing to remember is that our Heavenly Father will fight differently than we wish he would.  

Luke 9: 51-56

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. 

James and John wanted to bring vengeance to those who would not allow Jesus to travel through there town. Jesus fights our battle’s but not on the level James and John request. Let’s take a look at how He overcame the evil of Sin in the World. He was born a baby, lived as a carpenter’s son, started a ministry that appealed to the hurting and broken, and then died to free us from the feeling of being all alone, needing to fight our own battles.

The last line in Romans 12, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” I want you to think of all the good you have within yourself, compare that now to the good that Jesus is. If Jesus is the King of our life, We have nothing to fear, so trust God!

He Gave it to You – What and Why

Last Week we discussed Romans 12: 1-3, my Life Chapter for living in relationship with Jesus. I talked about taking your everyday walking around life and giving it to God as an offering. God is asking for everything, every single part of our lives. He wants to play a role in our ups, and downs. In our passions and disappointments, in our joy and our sadness, and He wants to play a role in our work, vacations, homes, families, and our everyday walking around life.

We have accepted His Grace, that overflowing unmerited Love, salvation has come, and your life will never be the same. So? What is going to be different? We still find ourselves living within the struggles of our mind. Our body still craves the things it should not crave. Our thoughts are still in turmoil, except we are pushing ourselves to do the right thing. Those acceptable works of kindness that we believe make us a better person, right?

Romans 7: 18-21                     ESV

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

You really need to read this passage slowly and fully weigh the contrast between what Paul wants to do and the very thing he ends up doing. This is the Apostle Paul, who outside of Jesus we consider Paul to be the only human that understands how to walk with God. And, yet Paul is struggling with thoughts from the mind and the desires of his heart. We can see clearly that even Paul within his own ability cannot overcome this struggle. The only logical conclusion is that when we accept Christ, we allow Him to rule over our thought process. We need God’s Grace to allow us to become smaller and then allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be our compass that directs our path.

Romans 12: 2              ESV

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

We need to go back now to verse 2 of Romans 12, “be transformed by the renewal of your mind”. How? Verse 3 goes on to tell us, “not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think”. Paul is telling us to think well of ourselves but do not prioritize ourselves above Him or someone else. Since birth, our minds have been set on what we want, what is best for me, and to get it at any cost.

Romans 12: 4-8                       ESV

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Transforming the mind begins with understanding that we are no longer in charge of our own life. We are now a part of a larger body that requires care and we have an important role in that care. But, is it the head, are we the one directing the steps and actions of this larger body?

Colossians 1: 18, 20, 21, 22                ESV

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

God is the head and we are a part of His body (or as the passage reads, the church). God has given us a gift, a passion, or a talent. But here is the thing, not every Christian has the same gift, passion, or talent. Yet, we serve the same God. The Holy Spirit, that we received at Salvation, guides us in our gifting. I have come to learn that my role or gifts, are Teaching and Leadership. There are many ways to find this out, I can send you to a website where you answer a few questions to reveal your gift and walk you through what it means for you, (https://gifts.churchgrowth.org/spiritual-gifts-survey/)

“According to the Grace given to us”, some may read the word Grace as the freedom to do what we want without consequences. This definition does not accurately explain the fullness of God’s Grace. I have heard it explained as “unmerited favor”, I used it myself earlier in this Blog, this is getting us closer to an understanding of true Grace. Let us dwell on one more explanation for a moment, “seeing beyond the current you, into the full potential of who you can be, and still accepting the current you”.

I started teaching God’s Word early in my life, I have not arrived and still find myself with much to learn. But as I look back at that young man, he has come a long way since then. It is God’s Grace that saw beyond who I was, allowing the flexibility for me to become who I am today. Back in verses 4-8 of Romans 12, Paul list a few gifts. The gifts are not the main point of the passage, it is the push behind each gift that Paul is punctuating. If teaching, then pray that you will teach as The Holy Spirit reveals. When I have had the opportunity to utilize the gift of leadership, I have found encouragement as a more productive tool than demanding my team to perform.

Here is a quick review of our foundational belief in walking with God.

  1. God created the Universe
  2. Sin happened in the Garden (Adam and Eve thought they could be like God)
  3. Jesus died on the Cross taking the punishment for our Sin, overcoming through His resurrection
  4. I find my purpose by allowing God to transform my mind to reflect the mind of Christ. Allowing Him to become the head so I can find my role in the body.

Next week we will discuss the motivation behind serving in the body. God’s Love.

The Instruction Manual Says!

Some of you may not have ever opened an instruction manual or even seen one. Today we Google the issue at hand and head straight for a video. Also, every parent holding their Child wonders where the manual is located. Yes, we can find a manual on any piece of equipment. Life is not a piece of equipment; it is so much different. Where can we find the answers to life?

Romans 12 is my life chapter. What does that mean, simply put, if I had to place the way I attempt to live my life into a few words it would be chapter 12 of Romans. I want to take this Blog and maybe one or two more and explain why I shape my life around these words. For me, it is as close to a life manual as I could find.

When putting this Website together I did some research into the process of Blogs and how they work best, sort of an instruction manual. I then needed to understand the basic foundation concerning the what and how behind my Blog. Reading God’s word as a manual for life works through the same process. To fully understand God’s Word, we need to know the what (truth) and the how (a relationship with God).

There are four simple questions that answer the meaning of life, how you answer them will determine how you live your life.

  1. How did humans get here?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. How is it resolved?
  4. What is my purpose in all of this?

Here are my personal answers to those questions; (1) God created us in His image, (2) Adam and Eve ate of the Forbidden Tree which brought Sin into the World, (3) Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection brought about the Gift of Grace, and (4) I am to reflect His love through the gifts and abilities He has granted me.

Romans 12: 1              The Message Bible

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

I normally use the ESV (English Standard Version) but I want to get this topic as basic as I can so I will be utilizing the Message Bible instead. This verse appears to quickly answer the purpose of life until we get to that one word, offering. Your first thought might take you back to sitting in church and they pass a plate for you to drop in a few dollars or some change. You may have gone to a church that had drop boxes on the walls or near the exit door where you can drop your offering. If this is how I understand the word, offering, then taking my every day, ordinary life and placing it before God may not require very much.

Let’s go back to verse 1 and read the first 8 words, “So here’s what I want you to do”. Paul did not include chapters and verses when he wrote this letter. It will assist us in our thought process to go back and understand why Paul is telling us to do something. The instruction book is sending us back to the previous step.

Romans 11: 33-36                   The Message Bible

Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice? Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.

God is more than we can place into a simple box that we bring out from time to time. You see, God is not asking for just a few parts of our life as though we are helping Him with His favorite charity. NO! God is asking for all our walking around life. It means that we understand our plans are not what is best for us but His plans for us is all that we need in this life.

Romans 12: 2-3                       The Message Bible

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

I was bullied often as a child, our family moved almost every school year and sometimes in the middle of a school year. I had a choice; do I accept the name they were placing on my life or do I understand the name that God is placing on my life. Their names would bring me down and keep me in a life of depression, unworthiness, and immaturity. God’s name: Christ follower, Friend, and Son. These are names that lift me up and instill maturity and growth. I am who I am today because of Jesus Christ, The Father, and the Holy Spirit. I owe Him my every day, ordinary life.

I tried my best to repay God for all He had done for me, that was a useless waste of time. There is nothing I can add to him that makes up for what he has given to me. I learned an extremely hard lesson and it took some time for me to understand. God just needs me to be who He created me to be. Period! It is not up to me to become more, and it is far to easy for me to be less. God has created me for a purpose; to reflect His love through the gifts and abilities he has already created within me.

More on our purpose next week but for today, take time to understand that God created you to reflect Him not Sin. But the challenge we face is still wanting life to go according to our plan. Allow God to be God and let Jesus love on you as the Holy Spirit directs you. That is how you grow and mature.

The Mind of Man, Again

As I have watched the news over the past weeks, my mind goes back to so many similar photos, videos, and tragic scenes. For over 400 years in this country, The Civil War, Women Suffrage movements. the decade of the 60’s, mass School Shootings to name a few. The needle has not moved extremely far! Yet, the mind of man continues to struggle, argue, and shove its way toward self-created unity.

Genesis 4: 9-14                       ESV

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 

Cain and Abel were brothers, each had a different role to play but each shared the same blood line. Cain lost it and murdered his brother. Cain was now going to be a poor farmer, never to find success from the ground. Cain feared that he would be noticed and murdered. There must have been some trait about Cain that would allow him recognition immediately.

Now that I have linked this passage inside the context of our Nation’s current situation, you may be utilizing your own experiences to formulate what happen between Cain and Abel. In today’s World we are witnessing an erosion of moral authority; first the virus is taking out our desire for Godly authority as we look to science to resolve that issue. Second, we are moving from Police Enforcement to looking at human social training to resolve behavior patterns in our country. In this Blog you may notice that I lean toward a type of training, but one that relies fully on the unity of God’s Spirit being placed inside of us. One that loves first, values everyone, and cares for those who are the least cared for.

With Cain in mind, I would like for us to focus in on the thoughts and emotions that came about once Abel’s offering was accepted and Cain’s was not. The struggles between Humans has been around as long as Sin has been on the Earth. Let me give you a good working definition for Sin, “The desire to control my life, my way.”

1 John 3: 11-15                       ESV

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 

God has given us this message from the beginning of time, “Love one another”! It was Cain who felt superior to Adam. Cain went into the day feeling he had the better offering and should have been honored by God for his actions. Look back in Genesis 4 above, the punishment was that the ground would no longer yield its strength. That makes me believe that Cain was excellent at growing crops before the offering and Abel’s death.

Genesis 4: 3-7

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” 

“Sin is crouching at the door”. Cain’s desire for acceptance brought about anger instead. He felt his offering was as worthy as Abel’s. Cain had the opportunity to create a new offering, but instead he fell into sin, “The desire to control his life, his way.”

To be Worthy – The definition of worthy is someone or something that has desirable qualities and is entitled to respect or attention. An example of someone who would be described as worthy of an award is a person who has all the qualities required to obtain the award. (from http://www.yourdictionary.com)

Ephesians 4: 1-2                     ESV

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Colossians 1: 8-10                   ESV

and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 

Philippians 2: 1-8

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

We do not have the capacity to resolve the evils of our World within our own ability. Laws do not make us better; they may move us toward some resemblance of civilization. But they cannot resolve the challenges rooted deep within us. We must let go of our desire to control our life and instead we must transform our mind to accept the mind of God. One that is of one mind: having the same love, being in full accord and doing nothing from rivalry or conceit. Let us live in humility counting others as more significant than ourselves.

If you would like to know more about this transforming power in Christ, please let me know by making a comment below.

The Church in Flux Part 2

We ended part 1 of this thought with a brief move from the Old Testament and into the New Testament. We started with a declaration from Peter after Jesus asked the question, in Matthew 16: 15-18 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This statement is the foundation of Church Life.

What is the Church? Globally it is God’s Children in connection with Him. Locally it is a gathering of God’s people. Once you are in the Family of God, you are a part of His Church. So why join a local Church, couldn’t you just watch on YouTube, listen to a Podcast, or read his word alone? That may be a question that many will ask as we move away from the “Shelter in Place” mandates we currently find ourselves in.

Below I have pulled together many passages from the New Testament and created a type of letter. Bible verses are in Bold Italic and my own words all in a lighter font. I believe you will see that Jesus intends for us to grow in Him by being accountable to each other. As you will see, I found repeatedly that we are to reflect Christ, serve, and grow each other in our gifts. This is all done because Jesus writes a new commandment, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13: 34-35)

We have accepted Jesus and want so much to follow Him, where can we learn, where can we be led, and who holds us accountable, The Church, God’s People!  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10: 23-25)

How do we stir up one another to Glorify God as the unified church? Put on, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.(Colossians 3: 12-13). We accept these characteristics because at salvation, we put ourselves in the background and allow Jesus Christ to lead, by being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ. (Colossians 2: 2-3). For Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5: 23-33).

Paul encouraged Timothy to be a good servant of Christ Jesus. This encouragement is given for all who follow Christ and gather in His name. Being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine

Train yourself for godliness. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Teach these things, set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this. (1 Timothy 4: 6-16).

We are more than one building, we are one body with many members, and the members do not all have the same function. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: prophecy, service, generosity, leadership, mercy, and cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Love one another with brotherly affection, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12: 4-13). He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, to the knowledge of the Son of God. (Ephesians 4: 11-13). This is only a sample list of Gifts that God has given. Find your calling and once you have connected in the Body of Christ, Serve!

Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4: 15-16).  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. (Romans 12: 14-16)

Being a part of Church should cause us to look within ourselves and find the person God created within us. And then grow that person to equip others by the transformation of our mind. When we accept Christ into our life it is the beginning process of transforming our thoughts and our way of life. We need each other to accomplish that transformation.

At the end of Part 1 of this thought, “The Church in Flux”, we read in Acts 2 the spirit of the believers. Let us look at that to end this discussion.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts. (Acts 2: 42-46)

My prayer is that wherever you call Church, that you find these four foundational truths to be at the heart of your gathering (Church).

  1. Devoted to the teaching of God’s Word
  2. Fellowship and love for each other
  3. The breaking of bread, more than eating together but serving and caring for each other
  4. Prayer!!!!

The Church in Flux Part 1

At the time of this writing the World finds itself amid the Covid-19 Pandemic and we are very unsure of how to solve the illness without destroying the everyday facets of life. Church is on my mind and has been since we first started the “Shelter in Place” orders, how does this affect the Church? For us to tackle this question we need to understand Church (gatherings) from the Bible.

It is my passion that this Blog stay within the framework of Basic Bible Thoughts. My goal will always be to give my thoughts as I see them and attempt to keep them basic enough for all who read them.

Genesis 2: 15-18                               ESV

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 

In the Garden, God’s presence walked with Adam. God placed within us a desire for fellowship, nourishment, and learning, all of which brings us to a sense of community. Adam was able to fellowship with God, “As he was walking in the Garden in the cool of the day”. God created Eve, “It is not good for man to be alone. Food was abundant everywhere they looked, “Adam, you and Eve can eat from every tree in the Garden but one.” Adam was trained in the ways of caring for this new Earth, “Adam, as you name the beast so it shall be called”.

Exodus 33: 7-10                 ESV

7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 

After the fall in the Garden things changed. We had separated ourselves from His presence. God spoke with Moses from time to time and through that relationship God was able to set His people free from Pharaoh, Egypt, and their life of slavery. He demonstrated His spirit and direction with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. 

When you needed to talk with God, you would walk out to the tent of meeting. When Moses went to talk with God the people watched from their own homes and saw God enter the tent by way of a cloud. The people would hold a worship service while Moses talked with God. So, now we see a different style of connection with God and yet we find: a desire for fellowship, nourishment, and learning.

1 Kings 8: various verses                               ESV

1 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes … to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. 9 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 10 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, 23 and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness. 54 Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven.  65 So Solomon held the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly.

God moves out of His temporary dwelling and into a building. When Moses placed the Ark in the tent, it carried three items; manna, a staff that bloomed, and the 10 commandments. At this time it appears that the provisions (manna) and new life (blooming staff), were no longer a part of the Ark. Time had once again changed how the people viewed God, he now was a God only of Laws. Solomon was changing the perspective of God, in verse 23, “there is no God like you, keeping covenants and showing steadfast love”. With all the changes, a new building, only the law in the Ark, and Solomon’s proclamation of forgiveness, we notice again a desire for fellowship, nourishment, and learning.

Matthew 16: 15-18                          ESV

15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

God’s physical presence is back on Earth in the form of Jesus. We are moving away from a Temple location for God, “In three days I will destroy this Temple and rebuild it”. The Church will be built on the understanding of Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Acts 2: 1-4                           ESV

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 

Jesus left this World with a promise that he would send a Comforter, one who would direct us toward Himself. The Holy Spirit draws us closer into relationship with Him. God no longer lives outside the camp or inside a building, but he lives within us.

Acts 2: 42-46                      ESV

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 

What did these people have in common? Let us look back at Jesus’ statement to Peter, “Upon this Rock I will build my church”, “You are the Christ the Son of God”. The Holy Spirit living inside these Temples (our very Soul) leading us to the fact that He died, which allows each individual to fellowship with Him. He became the Bread of Life so we could be nourished, and He left us the Holy Spirit to teach us how to follow Jesus.

We move into Church life next week.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started