Be Not Afraid!

“For God has not given us the spirit of  fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”                                                                                                      2 Tim. 1:7.

http://gospelgifs.com/

Perhaps you have heard the humorous description of the lady who could never come to grips with her fears. She confessed that she always felt her worst at the times she felt best, because she knew and dreaded how awful she was going to feel when she felt bad again. Have you ever known that kind of person?

I had a friend many years ago who could never enjoy a beautiful spring day because of the stormy weather he “knew” was just around the corner and would surely strike any day. To the greeting, “Isn’t this a beautiful day, Chuck?” He would invariably respond, “Yeah, but when we get it we’re really going to get it.” Wherever this dear soul was, the aspirin bottle was always within reach, and I don’t recall that he ever had a truly happy day. And he was a professing Christian. Unusual? Not at all. Many Christians today are dominated or noticeably influenced by fears.

To some degree, every person reading these words has been to that barren wasteland called “fear.” And that is exactly what it is: a wasteland. Fear never builds, it never enhances, and it never blooms into anything beautiful. And when fear makes an appearance, it goes about systematically turning everything good into a wasteland. All over the land, day and night, we are fed a super dose of things to be fearful about: fear for our country, fear for our schools, fear for our children, fear of disease, fear of losing a job, fear of not getting a job — fear everywhere and about everything imaginable.

But for the Christian, there is an answer for fear in every phase of our lives. The Bible tells us explicitly that fear does not come from God. The Word calls fear a spirit, and considering its destructive force, it is easy to recognize it as an evil spirit. And since Jesus passed on his authority over evil spirits to the disciples and the believers after them (that’s us!), that translates into our ability to cast fear out and keep it out by exercising that authority. The text Scripture supports this truth by telling us we have been given the spirit of power and love and a mind that is anything but shy. And all of these attributes are part of Jesus! Hallelujah!

One night in the midst of a vicious storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were on the edge of death and screamed out in terror. At His altar of prayer on the mountain, Jesus saw their plight through the all Seeing Eye of God and came to the rescue. God had already made provision for the safety of the disciples, just as He has, through Jesus, made provision for our total salvation; which includes healing, deliverance, provision, and safety. We must set our minds on Him as our total source. We must believe and act on His words that tell us, “Speak to this mountain (of fear) … and as you believe, you will receive.”

Go to work on the fears you are carrying with you. Hear those same words Jesus spoke on the sea as they ring from His throne of intercession, “Be of good cheer. It is I … be not afraid!”

And may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. In the Name of Jesus our Messiah, Amen!

Advertisements

Plumbing the Depths of Christmas

Exif JPEGDo we really know the depth of the meaning of Christmas? For many, it’s the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, but that birth was just the beginning of a massive plan prepared by God the Father before the foundation of the world. (1 Peter 1;19-20). Yes, God had a plan from the beginning to deliver man from sin and all of sin’s cousins. Then down through the centuries, from the day of Adam and Eve, God continually spoke to His prophets, telling them that a Messiah was coming, and to advise all of God’s people to look for Him.

And, finally, Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” So Christmas is really just the beginning of the culmination of the master plan of God begun before He even created us.

Actually, 337 times in the Old Testament, He foretold of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, and here is just a short sample of what He told His covenant people to look for:

1 – He who is to come will be a prophet like Moses. Deuteronomy 18: 15,18

2 – He will be the Son of God. Psalm 2:7

3 – He will be of the tribe of Judah (A Jew) Genesis 49:10

4 – He will be born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14

5 – He will be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2

6 – He will be rejected, despised and forsaken. Isaiah 53:3

7 – He would be silent. Isaiah 53:7

8 – He would be betrayed. Psalm 41:9

9 – He would be tried and condemned. Isaiah 53:8

10 – He would be crucified with his hands and feet pierced. Psalm 22:16,18

11 – He will be our sacrifice. Isaiah 53:5-6

12 – He will be raised from the dead. Psalm 16:10

Why did He speak all of these words and over two hundred more to His people? Because He cared for them. He did not create man to be lost and separated from Him. Here is a glaring example of the goodness and love of God.

He wanted to redeem fallen man. And for Jesus to be the Word made flesh, that Word had to be spoken by the prophets into this world. As God spoke through these prophets, He was giving people hope so that they would have something wonderful to look forward to. What was to come was no more animal sacrifices, no more living in doubt and fear.

The Messiah Jesus would be the once and for all sacrifice for the whole world.

Christmas is more important than all of the outside glimmer we are used to. Christmas is the culmination of all that God said about the Savior to come. We celebrate with glimmer and lights – nothing wrong with that. But we also celebrate Christmas because we recognize that Jesus actually “came down” for us.

He “came down” so that one day we might “go up”.

He “came down” to a lowly stable so we can one day have a mansion.

Simple shepherds welcomed Him to earth, so that one day angels will welcome us into His presence.

He “came down” to put the devil completely out of business.

God has not changed. He wants us to reap and enjoy the benefit of Christmas, and to rejoice in our Savior who came to deliver us from sin, sickness, and everything the devil tries to throw at us.

Because of Christmas, we are overcomers.  KAVOD! GLORY!

~~~

Advent Attitudes

ADVENT WREATH - SHARON BAPTIST“For the coming of the Son of man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark. And they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away. So shall the coming of the Son of man be. Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:37-42

The four week period before Christmas in the Christian church calendar is known as Advent. The purpose is to underscore and celebrate the Advent-or soon arrival- of the Christ child at Bethlehem. Denominational churches throughout the world, particularly liturgical churches, will recognize this season with special services and programs.

This is certainly a fitting recognition of a great historical event. But our purpose here is to center your attention upon an Advent period not restricted to four specific weeks out of the year, but unrestricted and constant in these last days. It is the Advent of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to claim His Bride; and then, after a short season, the return to earth with that Bride to establish His great Millennial Kingdom.

What a day that will be! This time He will not arrive as a baby; He will not be despised, accused, beaten, spit upon and finally brutally murdered. He will be in full regalia as a conqueror, His royal insignia shouting, “Behold, the King of kings and Lord of Lords –before whom every knee will bow!” We are now in the Advent season of His soon return. Do you believe that? If we accept the reality of that statement, it is incumbent upon us to develop and maintain a spiritual attitude that points in that direction. Remember, the scriptures tell us that He is coming for those who are expecting Him. That translates to believing that He is coming, and will appear at any moment!

To help us develop that high level of expectancy and preparation, we are listing thirteen “Advent Attitudes” with applicable scripture references. Read them, study them, absorb them, until they become an integral part of your walk of faith.

1 – Believe His coming: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 This is not a fad or a theory, but a reality and vital part of our faith. This is not a simple statement, it is a promise. All of the promises of God are yes and Amen in Christ Jesus!

2 – Pray for His coming: Matthew 6:10, Revelation 22:20 Intercession for His coming motivates us to a deeper commitment to holiness and service.

3 – Love His coming: 2Timothy 4:8 “…to all those who have loved and longed for His coming.” Are you caught up in the madness of this world, or does the Advent of His coming cause you to fall deeper in love with Him?

4 – Preach His coming: 2 Timothy 4:2,1 The soon return of our Lord for His Bride is a vital part of the message we must declare.

5 – Watch for His coming: 1Thessalonians 5:6 Part of our faith walk includes being awake, sober and full of expectancy.

6- Expect His coming: Romans 6:19,23 Here the Apostle Paul urges us to eagerly anticipate His soon coming, and to welcome the first indication of it.

7-: Mark 13:35; Titus 2:13 The word “looking” as used in this text carries the double meaning of separation and expectation. Re: Hebrews 12:2

8- Wait for His coming: 1Thessalonians 3:5 The margin here reads “…the patience of Christ.” Patiently our Lord awaits the Father’s signal to come after His Bride. We are to manifest that same patience here on earth.

9 – Do not despise His coming: 2Peter 3:3,4 This may sound like a strange statement, but scoffers abound today. Many who professed belief in His coming are cynically asking, “Where is He?” Some do not believe in the Rapture and reject any approach to prophecy. That is “despising” His coming.

10 – Hasten His coming: 2Peter 3:12 Literally translated this reads “expecting and hastening”.

11 – Live in the power of His coming: 2Peter 1:16 The confidence in the soon return of our Lord is not just a spiritual luxury, but a source of real power for daily living and life.

12 – Live His coming: Philippians 3:20 It is not sufficient for us to grasp this truth – it must grasp us!

13 – Be unashamed at His coming: 1John 2:28 We saints must never be ashamed of this truth, or be a shame to it. On that day, many Christians will meet Christ with a saved soul, but so ashamed of their non-works of “wood, hay, and stubble” that they will feel like shrinking away in shame.  We would rather hear, “WELL DONE, MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT. ENTER IN TO YOUR REWARD!”

Happy Advent!
A Merry and Blessed Christmas!

A Purpose in Patience

Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.”
(Psalm 27:14)

FLOWERS UNDER UMBRELLAAs Ben left his office in lower Manhattan, he followed the usual pattern for Friday and stopped by the little flower stand on the corner to pick up a bouquet for his wife. The stand was unpretentious, and the lady who operated it a study in contrasts of human nature. Elderly, frail looking, shabbily dressed, and yet, a pleasant personality with a perennial smile.

Although Ben had stopped by the stand of the “flower lady” every Friday for months, he had never taken the time to talk to her beyond making his selection. But this time was different; something prompted him to comment.

Every time I come by here you seem to be happy.”

Sure, why not? Everything is good,” she replied.

Well, you mean you don’t have any troubles?”

Oh yes, just like that man walking over there, and you, and everybody, I have troubles. But when trouble comes, I just think about Jesus and Good Friday.”

What do you mean?” Ben asked, somewhat puzzled.

Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, the worst day in the world. But after three days came the greatest day in the world … Resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead and everything was OK. So, when I have trouble I tell Jesus about it, wait three days, and everything always turns out OK for me too.”

Interesting philosophy … “Tell Jesus then wait three days.”

But there is a dilemma here; we are part of a “want-it-now” society that will not wait any length of time for anything. Even the most elementary student of the Word cannot help but notice that our God is just the opposite. He is organized, deliberate, extremely patient, on time, and always successful. Have you ever wondered about the death and resurrection of Jesus, and why the climax of that earthshaking event had to wait until the third day? He died on Good Friday; why didn’t God the Father bring Him out of the tomb the next morning … or even late Friday night?

We must remember that when Jesus died on the cross, only His physical body experienced the phenomena of death. His Spirit lived on and continued to function in the Father’s business. His Father had much for Him to do during the period described as “three days and three nights.”

He told the repentant thief, “Today, you shall be with me in Paradise.” Here is solid indication that upon His Spirit’s separation from His body, at the instant of death – on that day (today), He traveled to Abraham’s Bosom … Paradise, where all the faithful saints of old were peacefully awaiting that moment of fulfillment. They had believed the prophets and anxiously anticipated the coming of the Anointed One, but fell asleep in death before the appointed time. Can you imagine the excitement among those joyful souls, as they saw with their own eyes the vindication of their faithfulness? Then, the Risen One completely emptied Paradise and escorted all of the jubilant saints to heaven. Just think, they will be seated with us at the great wedding feast.

Now, on to the next job.

In 1 Peter 3:18, we are told that His body (flesh) was put to death, but He was alive in the Spirit and (in the Spirit) went to proclaim His victory to the spirits kept in prison. Those who rejected the message of God’s spokesmen, and (v.20) who thumbed their noses at Noah, as the Creator waited patiently for them to repent. All of the deceased unbelievers, now in Hades – the place of torment — saw the Messiah as He presented Himself as a proclamation of His eternal victory and proof that God’s Word was and is true!

And now, one final detail before Sunday morning. Our Lord faced Satan, himself, toe to toe. Undoubtedly the devil thought he had Him, and probably summoned every demon he had to join him in trying to keep the King of Kings in hell. Now, Satan is not stupid, but he does stupid things, and this act ranks as his dumbest move since his rebellion.

In a flash of divine power, Jesus stripped the evil one of every vestige of authority, and as an act of totally disarming him and his hordes forever, snatched the keys of death and the grave from his grip. Satan and his cast fell back in cringing fear, and could not stop the Messiah as he blasted out of the confines of hell and in a flash, returned to His body in the tomb.

And not a moment too soon, for dawn was about to streak across the Jerusalem sky. The Resurrection power of the Holy Spirit was dispatched by God the Father, and Christ the Anointed One, came forth out of the tomb in His glorified body … the First Fruit of many to follow!

It was the third day!

Hallelujah!

Wait three days …

There is a message here that has eluded us far too long: “Wait three days” or “wait until the third day” are simply metaphors for “waiting upon the Lord.” If Almighty God, Creator of all, had reason to wait three days before He brought His Son forth from the tomb, why can’t we trust Him to answer our prayers regardless of the time span? His Word assures us that He is faithful — that our prayers in faith that line up with His will (His Word) are heard and will be answered.

Sometimes the answer comes immediately. At other times, for reasons only He may know, the answer does not manifest until “the third day.”

Listen to the “flower lady.” In faith, tell Jesus about your situation; then wait three days! He has promised everything will be OK!

~~~

 

Jesus, Our Passover

(Note:  My wife Pam and I conduct “Christ in the Passover” services every year during the Passover/Easter season. These services include the full Passover celebration, including the complete Seder dinner. In each element of the service, we explain how that particular element represents Jesus Christ, and how He fulfilled the purpose of every aspect of the Passover celebration. Many of the photos with this article are from those services.)

“These are the appointed times of the Lord; holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed.  In the first month, on the fourteenth day of that month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover”  Leviticus 23:4-5.

In the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Leviticus, Jehovah God commanded the children of Israel to faithfully recognize a full calendar of feasts that He was setting before them.  He ordered Moses to proclaim to His people that these were the “Lord’s appointed times.” In other words: “I, the Lord God Jehovah have established them, and the times set are my times.”  What God did in these two sentences was to establish what is known as “The Seven Feasts of Israel.”  All of them would bring remembrances of some great thing Jehovah God had done for His people; and prophetically point to the future fulfillment of each by the coming Messiah.

It should be noted that on His last night on earth, just before His crucifixion, our Jewish Messiah Jesus chose to celebrate Passover with His disciples.  He placed His personal imprint on the celebration that night, in a way that would impact the Church for all time.

The Feast of Passover is the convocation that begins the Festival Year for the Jews, and occurs at the beginning of spring.  Exodus 12 and beyond tells in great detail the story of how the Israelites were delivered from Egyptian bondage and slavery.  The critical time slot in this saga was the night of the tenth plague.  From this historic night, God begins to set dates.

Now, we need to understand that the Hebrew calendar is much different than the Roman calendar we use today.  It is a lunar calendar, based on the phases of the moon, not on the revolutions of the earth around the sun. Each month starts with a new moon, and reaches a full moon in the midst of a 28-day cycle.  Passover always falls on the first full moon of spring, in the month of Nisan, the first month of the Sacred Festival calendar, and the month that is equivalent to our April.

Almond trees in bloom. Courtesy USAF, via Wikipedia.org

An interesting sidelight here is the beautiful story of how God uses the almond tree at this time of year.  This tree grows profusely in the land of the Hebrews and blooms at the end of winter.  Even if a Jew could not read or understand the calendar, he would not miss Passover. All he had to do was watch the almond tree: when blooms appeared, the next full moon was Passover.

Well, what is the meaning of Passover?  In one word: SALVATION!  On that night in Egypt, because of “a male lamb without blemish” and its shed blood, there was deliverance and life!  The message in both the Old Testament and New Testament is very clear: the Blood of The Lamb saves and delivers. That blood delivered the Jew from Egyptian bondage and death and the Christian from the bondage of sin and death.

It is no coincidence that Jesus was sacrificed on Passover.  He spoke with resolute firmness in Matthew 26:27, “This is my blood of the New Testament, shed for many for the remission of sin.” John the Baptist had declared earlier as he introduced Jesus on the banks of the Jordan River, “Behold the LAMB of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  God set the dates, and the principle involved here is present in all of the remaining feasts.

Table Being Prepared for Passover Seder Dinner
Table Being Prepared for Passover Seder Dinner

The faithful Jew today celebrates Passover in commemoration of the deliverance of their ancestors from Egypt while looking forward to the ultimate deliverance through the Messiah to come.  On the other hand, the Christian today, both Jew and Gentile, celebrates Passover, not only recognizing the deliverance from Egypt, but also seeing the feast as a prophetic shadow —  pointing to the Messiah, Yeshua Jesus, who has already come and fulfilled this wonderful convocation.  In Egypt the Hebrew children marked their house with the blood of the lamb.  Today, as Christians we mark our hearts and body with the Blood of Christ, the true Paschal Lamb of God.  We have already been passed over; the death angel cannot touch us. Our eternal life has already begun — RIGHT NOW!

On that night, at the Passover table with His disciples, Jesus took the unleavened bread, gave thanks and broke it.  He then passed it to the disciples and said: “Take and eat, this is my Body given for you…”  Then He raised the Third Cup, “The Cup Of Redemption,” prayed the prayer of thanks, and passed it to the disciples saying, “Take and drink; this is my Blood of the New Covenant  shed for you…”.  And thus, our Holy Communion was born!  As they ate the Bread and drank the Cup Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” He is literally saying, “I am now the Paschal Lamb of God; it is My Blood that saves from death and brings life more abundantly.”

Enlarged Representation of the Seder Plate Showing the Foods Eaten at the Mean
Enlarged Representation of the Seder Plate Showing the Foods Eaten at the Mean

Not only did Jesus fulfill the Feast of Passover by going to the Cross, but He also fulfilled the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Feasts.  He was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, arose from the Tomb on the Feast of First Fruits, and sent the Holy Spirit to His church on the Feast of Pentecost. In the not too distant future, He will fulfill the 5th Feast — The Feast of Trumpets — when He comes for His Bride!  Can you shout “GLORY!”?

 

Power-Points from God’s Word: # 1 – Trust

TRUST - LAKE - GOSPELGIFSLet’s talk about trust; specifically, trust in God and His Word. One of the most important lessons we need to learn in life is that God has a plan for our lives — after we are born again and filled with the Holy Spirit — that supersedes any plan that we may be pursuing. The big lesson to learn here is to “let go and let God”

One of my favorite characters in the entire Bible is David, who in my opinion was one of the greatest men to walk on this earth. He was the greatest of all the kings of Israel, and there was a reason for his greatness: It centered on “trust!”

In his early teen years, the sheep field was David’s church, where he developed a heart for God and trusted Him to the point where virtually everything he touched “turned to gold.” Even bears and lions could not stand up to him. That was his lifestyle — TRUST!

Then something dramatic happened to him one day.  He was summoned from the field by his father, and there was Prophet Samuel ready to pour anointing oil over his reddish blonde hair. As the oil ran down his handsome boyish face, the Prophet announced, “By the direction of Almighty God of Israel, I anoint you the next King over Israel.”

And then came the experience of a lifetime for the appointed shepherd-king — GOLIATH: Two feet taller and 400 pounds heavier than the tallest and heaviest NBA player.

Twice a day for six weeks Goliath instilled frantic fear into the army of Israel — including King Saul. David happened to be visiting his brothers on the battlefield and saw what was going on. Noticing that nobody in the army was challenging Goliath, he rose up and declared, “I’ll take care of him.”

 He approached him with a sling shot declaring ( paraphrased) “You come to me with a big body, a big mouth, and pounds of armor and weapons, but I come to you in the name of the God of Israel, and He will give me your head.“ And God did! David let go and trusted God!!

What about you? Are you trusting — or are you just “hoping so”?  Let’s get out of the “hope-so club” and trust Him. Let go and let God. He will never fail us! GLORY!

~
(Artwork is courtesy of Jim Sutton, GospelGifs.Com)

Healing Is Yours!

DAD CROPPED ALONE

 

And The Lord God said, if you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will not permit any of the diseases to be brought upon you which I have permitted to be brought upon the Egyptians; for, I the Lord, am your healer.”    Exodus 15:26 (Direct Hebrew Translation)

There are many truly fine born-again Christians today who are floundering in a theology that keeps them doubting the wonderful mercy of God; particularly in the area of physical healing. I don’t recall ever meeting any Christian who does not believe that God can heal; but I have encountered many who will not believe that God will heal them – or that it is always His will to heal the sick. This latter group has been taught to believe in God’s ability, but not His mercy.

The problem is, man’s concept or idea of God is considerably stunted. We have listened for centuries to what man says about God, and these words often are classified under something called “Theology.” And the trouble with theology is it enlightens and tells man all about God’s power, but it often ignores, puts down, or outright denies God’s desire to use His power on man’s behalf.

It is foolish for us to put all our confidence in what man says about God and totally ignore what God has to say about Himself. He announced from the very beginning that He was a healing God, and our text is one of many examples. David, in the 103rd Psalm writes, “Bless the lord O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all of our iniquities; who heals all of our diseases.” (NAS).Psalm 107:20 says, “He sent His word and healed them …” (NAS). John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”(NAS), and that Word was Jesus, “Who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil.” (Acts 10:38, NAS).

Regardless of what may appear to be the immediate cause of any illness, the origin of all sickness and disease goes back to the high treason of original man. When Adam sinned, he immediately died spiritually, and sickness came into the world riding on the back of that spiritual death. And since Adam’s sin was not God’s will, how can any of the evil results of sin be His will? The truth is, beloved, sickness in any form is never the will of God. In 1 John 3:2, the Apostle John writes, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.”(KJV).

Just before He ascended to Heaven following His resurrection, Jesus commanded the disciples to go and preach what he had commanded them and He said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe (that’s us): In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:16-18,KJV).

He said, “I am the Lord who healeth thee.” And He also said, “I am the Lord; I change not.” Are we ready and willing to listen to what God says about Himself? Are we ready to believe Him?

It is imperative that we answer those two questions correctly. You see, believing faith is the hand that reaches up and takes what Our Lord freely offers; and that most certainly includes healing. So reach for it!

~ ~ ~

 

Valentine’s Day: Expanding Our Boundaries


YOU ARE LOVED - DEEPERJohn 15:11,12,17 — “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. … These things I command you that you love one another.”

Generally speaking, Valentine’s Day is reserved for spouses, children, grandchildren, and possibly a couple of friends.  But let’s expand our love boundary and take a look at God’s love.  Here is a love that has no boundaries; never did have boundaries; never will have boundaries.

God is the source of love, and He directs us to love as He loves. Take a look around you.  Do you love your neighbor – your fellow employee and boss – your mother-in-law???

On this Valentine’s Day, let’s expand our boundaries and greet everybody with the salutation of “Happy Valentines Day – and – God’s blessings upon you and yours!”

~ ~ ~