Sets You Free!

Smith Wigglesworth was a great man of God and a man of tremendous faith.  He had a relationship with God that was non-stop. He said that he seldom prayed for more than 30 minutes but he never let 30 minutes go by without praying. He was filled with the Word of God and was always ready to minister.  Some  thought of him as being harsh in his ministry.  It’s been recalled that in a healing line he once punched a man in the stomach.  He went on to say that he wasn’t punching the man, but punching the devil who is behind all sickness and disease.  The man was healed.  You’d better know that you are hearing from God in a circumstance like that.  And Smith did hear from God. Jesus Himself said that His words were not His own but the Father’s.  People probably get pretty tired of hearing how important God’s Word is.  But there is just no getting around it.  God’s Word is our final authority.  If God said it, then that settles it.  That’s the way Smith Wigglesworth lived.  And of course, Jesus too, seeing that He is God’s Word made flesh.  If you struggle in life, in any area at all, God’s Word holds your answer.  It will make you free!

28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I AM he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. John 8:28 (NLT)

19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. John 5:19 (NLT) 

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NIV)

30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:30-32 (NKJV)

Deceiver or Overcomer?

Last week we looked at Joseph.  This week let’s look at his father Jacob. The name Jacob means supplanter, or one who replaces or displaces. So from the beginning, his name gives us a clue as to what will happen between Jacob and his twin brother Esau, who was born first.  Plus scripture also tells us that before they were born, God revealed His will by telling their mother Rebekah that the younger will serve the older (similar to Joseph and his brothers). So did Jacob get a bum rap by being known as the deceiver by stealing both Esau’s birthright and his blessing? Well, let’s look at the birthright. It doesn’t appear that it took much convincing for Jacob to persuade Esau to give him his birthright. Scripture tell us that Esau had no regard for his birthright to have traded it for a bowl of stew so it meant little to him. No amount of hunger should have caused Esau to regard his birthright so casually.  And let’s look at the blessing. It would seem that the entire scheme was Rebekah’s. Jacob was doing exactly what his mother told him to, although he lied to his father when Isaac asked him several times who he was.  It would seem that Rebekah was the deceiver. But Rebekah, just as Joseph did with his dream, did not forget what God had told her about her sons, that the older would serve the younger.  So this gives some insight into her motivation. In Jacob’s adult life, the deceit we read of was perpetrated against Jacob, not by him.  Was Jacob really a deceiver?  That may be for you to decide, but God knows what it takes to carry out His purposes.  And birth status isn’t the most important requirement to God, as we saw with Joseph  and even with Isaac and then later with King David. God knew us all before the womb and His plans for us were set long before we breathed our first breath. He knows who is best for His purposes. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel which means: one who struggles with God and humans and overcomes. Jacob may have started out a deceiver, but he ended up an overcomer.

23 And the LORD told her, “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.” Genesis 25:23 (NLT)

34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:34 (NKJV)

16 Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. Hebrews 12:16 (NLT)

5 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT)

From the Pit to the Palace

Have you ever questioned why some things happen?  You are walking out your journey with God day by day, putting Him first, obeying His Word, minding your own business and then – BAM!   Something so completely contrary to God’s promises happens and you wonder WHY!  If this hasn’t happened to you yet, you’ve probably only been serving God for about 5 minutes. First, we must remember, God does warn us that trials and sorrows will come, so it should not surprise us. In fact, He tells us there will be MANY trials coming our way. But when you face a trial, there is a person from the Bible that we can look to that brings much encouragement.  And that person is Joseph, the 11th son of the patriarch Jacob. With many of the stalwart men and women of the Bible, there is usually some area of weakness or sin where we see their humanity such as with David or Samson or Peter.  But with Joseph, we read of no transgressions in his life, unless you count being dad’s favorite a sin, as some siblings might. But what happened to Joseph certainly was undeserved (being thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers and sold into slavery, being falsely accused of crimes and imprisoned).  But through all of this, we find nowhere in the Bible where he ever blamed God or really even complained. How could that be considering all that came against him? It was because of a dream. Because of a dream, Joseph knew there was a higher plan behind everything. In the pit, he never forgot the dream. In prison, he never let go of the dream. The dream was his impetus, his life preserver, it kept him afloat when the sea raged around him. And through slavery and imprisonment, the favor of God was so strong over his life that it was evident to everyone around him.  Through all his trials, Joseph prospered. The dream took him through the pit, the chains, the deceit and the dungeon and elevated him to the palace! When God reveals His will for your life, you should expect resistance, especially from the world.  But remember, God is true to His promise and Jesus has already overcome the world!

33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)

5
But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. Genesis 45:5 (NLT)

19 But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:19-20 (NLT)

 

To Fear or Not To Fear

In last week’s Food for Thought, we saw two people who either did not understand God’s expectations for His church, or, they didn’t fear God enough to be concerned with consequences of their behavior.  And in fearing God, it’s not being afraid of Him, but reverencing Him with the utmost awe and respect. Many in the church today might say they love God, but in their speech and behavior, it becomes obvious they do not fear Him.  Or another way to put it is, Jesus is their savior but not their Lord. In John 14:15, Jesus says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” ESV.  Making Jesus Lord of your life means doing things His way, not yours.  It means checking the scriptures for what Jesus said about a matter and doing that no matter how you feel about it.  It means praying about a matter and waiting on God until you receive an answer and a peace.  And, many times, doing what God wants is not always what is apparent or logical.  Fearing God is having a respect that He means what He says.  And we must be willing to face the consequences if we set off on our own course.  After Sapphira’s dead body was dragged out and buried next to her husbands, the Bible says “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things ” Acts 5:11 (NKJV).  According to the concordance, this was literal fear as in terror, as one could image after witnessing such things.  But one would think that this also led to a flurry of self-examination of motives and a knowing that God was serious about the condition of one’s heart. In the beginning of your walk with God, it is possible to love Him without fearing Him because you haven’t yet learned of His immense greatness and faithfulness to His Word.  But as you learn of and even experience His greatness and faithfulness, your love for Him and your fear of Him abounds.  It is this fear of the Lord that keeps you on the right course.

6 Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the LORD, people avoid evil.   Proverbs 16:6 (NLT)

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. John 14:23 (NLT)

Is It Really Just a Lie?

The story of Ananias and Sapphira is an interesting one.  Many people hear their story and gasp at the thought that they died just for lying.  In the story, Ananias and Sapphria were among a group of people that the scripture says were of one heart and one soul.  The scripture also says that great grace was upon the people. All that anyone owned belonged to everyone and no one lacked anything.  The things they owed were sold and the proceeds were brought to the apostles and distributed as anyone had need. Ananias and Sapphira sold a plot of land but held back some of the proceeds for themselves.  This, in itself, wasn’t the problem.  The issue was that when asked if they were giving the entire amount, they lied and said it was.  Upon lying about it, they were struck dead.  Many people are so focused on the horror of their deaths for lying that the bigger picture is often missed.  Ananias and Sapphira were part of the church.  They were representatives of the Lord Jesus and His followers.  God takes His church seriously.  Pretense, hypocrisy and deceit are not to be tolerated in His church. When they lied, they evidently didn’t realize the standard to which God holds His church.  God will purge His church of anything that is not holy and pure.  He is waiting for a church without spot or wrinkle. He gives us plenty of opportunity and even instructs us to examine our lives to see where we measure up on the holy and pure scale.  It’s good to remember, they didn’t lie to Peter, they lied to God.

4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” Acts 5:4 (NLT)

28 That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 29 For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. 31 But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. 1 Corinthians 11:28-31 (NLT)

What Am I Reflecting?

Our children are a reflection of us, like it or not.  Often our children will repeat things that they’ve heard us say.  And once in a while they repeat things that make us cringe.  They use a word that is not exactly “Christian” or they repeat something they heard us say about someone else.  And often our reaction is more embarrassment that they repeated it rather than on the fact that they heard us say it in the first place.  If we want them to reflect love and kindness, then that is what they should be exposed to in the home.  Just like our children are a reflection of us, we are also a reflection of our Heavenly Father.  How often do you think that God “cringes” at some of the things we say or do? But His reaction is probably not embarrassment as ours would be.  His reaction is sorrow. Sorrow that, through us, the world is getting a poor and inaccurate reflection of who He is.  If we want the world to not just see, but to know a loving and kind God, then that’s what should be reflected from us.  So we must ask ourselves “Is my life an accurate reflection of who He truly is?”

10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. Colossians 3:10 (NLT)

24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:24 (NLT)

27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

Pray For Our Leaders

 

There is a lot of contention in our nation over our current president.  Half the people love and support him and the other half are rooting for, if not encouraging his failure.  We have never seen the likes of it, how one man can cause such polar opposite reaction from people. But no matter which side of the political aisle we are on, as a Christian we are commanded to pray for our leaders.  We should pray that God’s will be done in and through our leaders.  We should pray that our leaders would not just seek God, but listen to and obey Him.  We should pray for our president to surround himself with people who will give him Godly counsel. The scripture tells us that God can turn the hearts of kings.  And our prayers can be the catalyst to turn the heads of our leaders toward Him.  If you are not praying daily for our president and all of our leaders, then start today.  By praying for and thanking God for our leaders, we will be on the path to peace.

1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NLT)

1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1 (NKJV)

Endure To The End!

Have you recently asked yourself “What in the world is going on?”  If so, you are not alone.  It seems when you watch the news, crazy things are happening. Division is not only rampant in our society, it is even being encouraged by some.  It would seem that turning to lawlessness is gaining momentum. Calls for eliminating a major law enforcement agency so that our laws won’t have to be enforced seems unimaginable but yet we see it happening today. But should this surprise us?  We are told in Matthew that, in the last days, lawlessness would abound. Lawlessness is where people pay no heed to the laws and they do as they please. Some Bible versions use the word wickedness or iniquity in place of lawlessness.  The original Greek word is anomia which translates to unrighteousness or transgression of the law.  We certainly see this happening in our society today. Along with lawlessness, deception will explode.  False teachers will rise up to deceive people. On the outside they will display Christian appeal and charisma, but they will use the oldest trick in the book and inject just enough scripture into their lies to cause weak Christians to second guess their beliefs.  BUT, have no fear!  Because the scripture goes on to say “but he who endures to the end shall be saved”! Who are those “who endure to the end?”  What empowers you to endure to the end is the Word of God, the Holy Spirit and God’s love abiding in you.  You must have a good grasp on God’s Word because the only way to recognize a lie is to know the truth. And the Holy Spirit will prick your heart each time you are confronted with lies so that you can stand firm only on God’s Word. And last but not least, is the abiding love of God which endures all things!  Don’t let these times we live in scare you!  You have been equipped to endure!

10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. Matthew 24:10-13 (NKJV)

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Matthew 7:24 (NLT)

27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:27 (NKJV)

7 love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NKJV)

Where Are You?

The story of Adam and Eve is one of the first Bible stories that we learn, most of us since childhood. God had planted a beautiful garden to be their home.  The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:25 – “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”  But a few verses later we read that after Adam and Eve had sinned by disobeying God, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings”.  Also, the Bible goes on to say that Adam told God he heard God’s voice and was afraid because he was naked.  So what changed?   Why was a covering necessary after they sinned but not before? For the answer, we must go to Psalms.  We find in Psalm 8:5 that when God created man, He crowned him with glory and honor. The original Hebrew for crowned here means to encircle or surround for protection.  So man was literally clothed with God’s glory!  Now we know from many references in the Bible that no one can see God’s glory and live.  Before sin entered the world through Adam, God not only walked along side Adam in the garden, but God’s glory was his covering. The difference before and after was sin.  After Adam sinned, everything changed.  Through sin, Adam lost his covering so God had to sacrifice an innocent animal to provide a covering for him.  When God first asked Adam “Where are you?”, perhaps He wasn’t referencing the physical, but rather the spiritual separation between them. And it continues today that man is born with that sin nature that separates him from God.  But now, instead of sacrificing an animal, God has provided His son Jesus as the final sacrifice for sin to end that separation.  So that leaves us with God’s original question – “Where are you?”

5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. Psalm 8:5 (NLT)

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”…… 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Exodus 33:18 & 20 (NIV)

15 which God will bring about in his own time–God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see…  1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NIV)

Doing Right or Not Doing Wrong – Is it the same thing?

Here is a hypothetical scenario (although sadly, all too often very real):  A girl at school witnesses a fellow student being bullied by a large group of students.  She knows that it is wrong so she does not participate and continues on to class.  Did she do the right thing?  After thinking that over, my next question to you is this:  Is not doing the wrong thing the same as doing the right thing? Clearly we can give this girl kudos for not joining in with the bullies and tormenting this student.  Some might define this as morality or the distinction between right and wrong.  We all have our set of morals, most of which include not doing things we consider wrong.  So morality is good, but is it enough?  In James, it tells us that when we know the right thing to do but don’t do it, it is sin.  Let’s look at what is commonly accepted as The Golden Rule: ” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  Notice this doesn’t say “Don’t do things to others that you wouldn’t want others to do to you.”  For this would require absolutely no action.  It only requires refraining from action.  The Golden Rule (which by the way is found in Luke 6:31) says “DO unto others”, which of course, requires doing something. This girl knew that bullying was wrong so she didn’t do it.  But she could and probably should have gone a step further and gone to this student’s aid, to defend and support her(him), as she most certainly would have wanted someone to do for her.  So clearly, refraining from doing the wrong thing is not the same as doing the right thing.  Doing the right thing is not always easy, convenient or popular and, it may very well end up costing you something.  But know, it is always the correct thing.

31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you. Luke 6:31 (NLT)

17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. James 4:17 (NLT)

14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 1 Peter 3:14 (NLT)

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. James 2:8 (NIV)