Monday, December 10, 2018

ROYAL ROBES DON'T MAKE A KING


For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, 
And the government shall be upon His shoulder, 
And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, 
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 ESV

Humans have the propensity to judge by outward appearances. We clearly see that in Israel's rejection of the LORD and their demand for an earthly king. God then directed the prophet Samuel to go to the family of Jesse and select God's choice for a king. 

Samuel saw the first son and thought certainly this is God's anointed King. But the Lord told Samuel, "Don't look at his appearance or how tall he is, because I have rejected him. God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the Lord looks into the heart," because outward appearances deceive (I Samuel 16:7).

Samuel looked at seven sons and rejected each one. He then asked if Jesse had more sons. David was fetched from the fields and the Lord said, "Go ahead—anoint him. He is the one." Samuel anointed the young boy, and the Lord's Spirit came over him and remained with him (I Samuel 16:8-12).

Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the Prophet Isaiah told of the birth of Christ, a King, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, who would come into the world. However, the Jews perceived that their king would arrive as a great military leader, and not under the dark of night, born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and tucked inside a lowly trough where animals ate. Only the angels, a few shepherds, and the Three Wise Men would herald His arrival. 

Jesus grew and thrived, living a humble and uneventful life among His people for His first thirty years. Although His earthy parents raised Him, He "grew up before [God the Father] like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. 
He— 
 *  had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him 
* Nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. 
* He was despised and rejected by mankind, 
* A man of suffering and familiar with pain. 
* Like one from whom people hid their faces, 
* He was despised 
* And we held Him in low esteem" (Isaiah 53:1-3). 
·  Although He was in the world that was made through Him, the world did not know Him. He came to His own (the Jews), and His own people did not receive Him (John 1:10-11)

After Jesus' baptism and temptation in the desert, He returned to His hometown of Nazareth, and went into the synagogue to read from the scroll:
       "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Jesus as He said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." They responded, "Isn't this Joseph's son?" The people in the synagogue became enraged and tried to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:14-30 NIV).

Jesus lived when the Roman Empire ruled. There were major tensions among Jews regarding Roman policies and the high priests. They were hoping for a messianic redeemer, a great military leader, and man of power, who would restore Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. They did not recognize Jesus as their long-awaited Redeemer, because they could not see past the simple, ordinary carpenter and son of Joseph.

The Jews viewed Jesus as just a prophet, teacher, and a wannabe king. He did not wear royal robes or a crown upon His head. His crown would be a crown of thorns driven into His skull and a purple robe draped over His shoulders to mock His Kingship. His death and resurrection would forever defeat Satan, who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus' shed blood would give us life, abundantly (John 10:10). 

Jesus left us a warning that in the last days, deceivers will come in His name to lead many astray. We will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Nation (people) will rise against nation and kingdom (countries and states) against kingdom. (We see civil unrest across the world.) There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. Believers will be persecuted and hated by all nations (people) for His name's sake. Many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. False prophets will lead many astray. Lawlessness will increase and love will grow cold. (Hate and vitriol have escalated to unprecedented levels.) Therefore, we are cautioned to stay awake, for we do not know the day our Lord is coming (Matthew 24:4-42 ESV).

The Apostle Paul prophesied that in the last days, a "man of sin," a liar and deceiver will come on the scene, whom Satan will enhance his natural abilities with supernatural power to confuse and ensnare people (2 Thessalonians 2). People will see him as the savior of the world and a great religious leader. He will appear as a lamb but will speak like a dragon. He will imitate Jesus Christ, but he will be empowered by Satan (Revelation 13:11).

There is an old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." We might wonder how the Jews could hear Jesus' teachings and witness His miracles and not recognize Him as their Redeemer, the Promised One. But how many people today are deceived by a secular philosophy and lifestyle and reject God's Word? We are witnessing an escalating hostility and hatred towards Christians and Jews. The Bill of Rights, which was written to afford liberty to all, is continually being adulterated to take away rights and protections from Christians. 

People are looking for a new "savior" who will bring change, unification, and world peace. Unfortunately, they are not looking to The Prince of Peace and true Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

Jesus warned, "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36 NIV). Therefore, stay awake (spiritually), for you do not know what day our Lord is coming (Matthew 24:42).

So, as we celebrate the birth of Christ, we must remember that He defeated the Prince of Darkness, and He will return as a conquering King, wearing a royal robe, and on His thigh there is a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:11).

PRAYER: FATHER, I thank you for Your Son, who came to earth as a servant and suffered an undeserved death in my place. Give me discernment for these days. Help me to pray, to stay spiritually awake, to daily seek Your Word, to place You first above all else, and to live a consecrated life in You, so that I will not miss the Lord's coming. In Jesus name, amen.



Monday, December 3, 2018

TRUST GOD



"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord." 
(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NKJV)

The Oxford American Dictionary defines "trust" as having a good relationship built on what I refer to the following as "The Seven Building Blocks of Trust." Trust is paramount to believing and having faith; therefore, I have defined each building block, according to Scripture:
  1. Confidence is complete faith and trust in a person or something. "And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask,  we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him" (1 John 5:13-14 ESV). 
  2. Belief is an opinion, a view, a conviction, and a way of thinking. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel," because "all things are possible for one who believes" (Mark 1:15; 9:23 ESV).
  3. Faith is complete trust and confidence in someone or something. Faith in God comes through revelation of His Word. "For in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith" (Romans 1:17). In other words, faith has all assurance and trusts God.
  4. Assurance is confidence in the word, promise, pledge, vow, guarantee, and commitment made by another. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1 ESV). Faith believes God and His Word for what is hoped and prayed for—before there is manifestation of that request.
  5. Certainty is a confidence, conviction, and assurance in the integrity and honesty of a person. However, "it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man" (Psalm 118:8).
  6. Conviction is an unmovable belief, faith, sureness, confidence, and reliance in something or someone. "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot or cold, I will spit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16). We are either convicted by the truth and reliability of God's Word and we live by it, or we do not hold to that conviction. There is no middle ground—no fence riding with God. 
  7. Reliance  is dependence and trust in someone or something. Whom do we rely on? Do we rely or trust in ourselves, the economy, our job, our spouse, etc., or do we rely on God?

I have learned firsthand the importance of trusting God. When I was a new Christian, I had many challenges as a divorced mother of a young son. However, I believed that God would take care of us, no matter the circumstances. The more I trusted God, the more He graced our lives with big and small miracles. I had complete confidence that He would take care of our needs, and He always did.

As time passed, I began praying that God would send a godly man to be my husband. While praying one day, I thought I heard God speak into my spirit that He would be sending him "soon."

"Soon" turned into months and then years. I became angry with God and began dating a non-believer. I did not know God's Word that instructs us, "Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing...(Hebrew 3:8 ESV). I had hardened my heart and no longer trusted God, because I erroneously believed He had lied to me.

Had I known God's Word, I would have known "God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?" (Numbers 23:19-21 ESV). I did not know that "for all the promises of God are "Yes" in Christ. And so through Him, our "Amen" is spoken to the glory of God" (2 Corinthians 1:20). Instead of rebelling, I should have said, "Amen. I trust You and Your timing."

Interestingly, the Hebrew definition of "amen" means truth, certainty, and is used adverbially as an expression of agreement, consent, belief, and affirmation. Several months later, I became convicted of my rebellion, repented, and broke off the relationship. I then re-surrendered my heart to the lordship of Jesus Christ. A few short months later, God brought a godly man into our lives who would become my husband of 39 years and counting.

God is a good and faithful Father who loves His children. However, as His children, we must learn to first and foremost trust Him and not lean on our own understanding, because He tells us, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV).

God will do things in His time and not in our time. "For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay" (Habakkuk 2:3)God has an appointed time for everything and we cannot change or rush it. He will do what He has promised—no sooner and no later.

Trusting God is the key element to faith. For without trust, it is impossible to believe God. And without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Any close relationship formed with another person, has been developed over time, bringing about a level of trust. So that truth begs the question, "How can we trust God, if we have not formed a relationship with Him?"

How do we form a relationship with God of the universe? We start with prayer (talking with Him as we would talk with a friend) (John 15:15). The next step is reading and studying His Word, because "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training..." (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV)

God assures us that if we seek Him, we will find Him, when we seek Him with all our heart, He will be found by us (Jeremiah 29:13). But why does He tell us to seek Him with all our heart? The "heart" is mentioned 963 times in the King James Version; therefore, God places much emphasis on the heart. Jesus said that where our treasure is there our heart will be also (Matthew 6:21). 

What kind of treasures are we storing in our hearts? Hopefully they are the Words of God.

PRAYER: LORD, I ask that You give me a hunger for Your Word, so that I may know You and trust You with all my heart. I want to be a person of faith who does not doubt, but believes and trust You to fulfill Your promises and to perform Your Word in my life as I surrender all to You. In Jesus name, amen.







  

Monday, November 26, 2018

A TIMELY INCONVENIENCE



Have you ever been annoyed by an inconvenience? Recently, I believed I was being unnecessarily inconvenienced. Although exasperated, I was making every effort to maintain a calm demeanor before calling the cable company. "For whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city" (Proverbs 16:32 ESV).


Unable to access emails on one of my iPhone email accounts, I was thoroughly frustrated. Although not a problem in the past, I was now getting a message instructing me to set up a new account, despite the fact that I already had an account. I wanted to make sure that nothing nefarious was happening.

I called and talked with a pleasant lady who informed me that their app had been updated; therefore, it was necessary to follow the prompts, so that everything could be corrected. With renewed hope that the problem would be quickly resolved, I thanked her and hung up. 

After following each prompt, the program updated, and then a message appeared, "Unable to access account." Really? Really?! Mail was there, because I had just viewed it on my computer, so why not on my iPhone?

Frustrated, I called again and explained my situation to a very sweet girl. She apologized for my trouble and said she would need to place me on hold to retrieve some information. A minute later, she returned to the phone and apologized once again, explaining that she needed to do a little more research and then asked permission to place me on hold again. I assured her that waiting was not a problem. "With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love..." (Ephesians 4:2 ESV).

As I waited, the Holy Spirit spoke into my heart, "You did not add your new password to your phone." I wondered why God had not shared that information with me before I called. 

Feeling very foolish, I hurriedly updated the password and voila! The mail started coming into my phone.

The representative came back on the phone, and was in the midst of apologizing once again, when I giggled and said, "No need to apologize. I owe you an apology. The problem was me! I had changed my password but neglected to update my iPhone. Realizing my mistake, I added the new password while waiting for you, and all my emails downloaded." Chuckling again, I added, "I guess that's what happens when you're 72. You don't always remember everything" She laughed and said, "I can't remember things, and I'm 24." 

She then told me that her day had started out badly when she was late for work. Then when she gathered information to sort out my problem, she was unsure how to present the information to me. Since she had been late, she did not want to ask her supervisor. She said, "Your joy, laughter, and kindness have made my day. You live up to your name, Joy." 

Kindness, patience, and an apology are simple gifts to offer to others. God knew her need for compassion, understanding, and a little humor to set her on the right footing for the day. He calls us to bear with one another in love with all humility and gentleness (Ephesians 4:2 ESV). When the phone call ended, I literally said aloud, "That was so sweet, Lord." Again in my spirit, I heard Him say, "That was a timely inconvenience and I want you to write about it."

The word "timely" means something that is well-timed, appropriate, and expedient. "Inconvenience" means anything that causes trouble, trials, problems, difficulties, stress, irritation, or discomfort. Used together, the words may sound like an oxymoron, but our omniscient God will plan well-timed inconveniences to accomplish His divine purposes and show His sovereignty. 

How many times have we been delayed or inconvenienced in traffic or have had to wait an excessive amount of time in line at a place of business? God just might have delayed us to be a blessing to someone needing a kind word or a helping hand. Maybe that inconvenience was for an attitude adjustment. Or possibly that inconvenient delay saved our life­­.

Investment banker, George Keith, had a meeting 
scheduled on September 11, 2001, for 9 a.m. on the 79th floor of the World Trade Center. However, while driving through Central Park the night before, the transmission of his new BMW got stuck in first gear. The breakdown forced him to cancel his morning meeting. He would realize on the morning of the 11th that what he had perceived as an irritating and inconvenient problem with his new vehicle was in actuality a life-saving blessing in disguise. 

Monica O'Leary thought it more than an inconvenience when she was laid off from her job at a technology company with offices on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center. When she said goodbye to her colleagues on September 10, 2001, she had no way of knowing that the very next day all of her business associates would die in the deadliest attack in American history.

Jesus had been required to lay aside His divine privileges and take on the form of a human. Although he knew that His mission would be messy and inconvenient, He also knew that through His obedience, blessings, and eternal life would come to all who will believe and receive Him. 

If we are His obedient, teachable, and available servants, then we will be required to experience timely inconveniences, which provide great opportunities to grow in faith and become mature Christians. Therefore, as God's people whom He dearly loves, we are to take every opportunity to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).

We are encouraged to "do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count other more significant than ourselves. Let each look not only on their interest, but look to the interests of others. Therefore, we are to have the mind of Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself and took the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:2-8 ESV)

Are we willing to pour ourselves out to make room for those inconvenient moments that God uses to shape, mold, and guide us in becoming a blessing to others? So the next time circumstances delay or frustrate, it just might be one of God's orchestrated, timely inconveniences growing our faith and adjusting our attitude. 

PRAYER: FATHER, forgive me if I have had a bad attitude in those times of inconvenience. Help me to recognize that Your sovereign hand moves in mysterious ways and that You use very timely inconveniences to make a difference in my life and the lives of others. Help me to always be faithful to obey You, to be available when You call, to have the right attitude, and to always be teachable, so that I can learn from You and be a blessing to others. In Jesus name, amen.