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Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Personal Encounter with Jesus



This Easter Sunday, I would like to remind of our "access to God," a personal encounter that is sometimes taken for granted.

Under the old covenant, in the Old Testament, our access to God was extremely limited.  Unless one was the High Priest, one could never meet directly with the Lord. 

In the Old Testament there was a veil that separated the the most holy place in the temple and the tabernacle.

In Exodus. 26 this veil is described for us: v.31-33 "And thou shalt make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver. And thou shalt hang up the veil under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the veil the ark of the testimony: and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy."

The high priest was required to make an animal sacrifice before attempting to enter this most Holy of places to meet God face to face.  Only a pure, perfect man without sin could be a suitable sacrifice that God would accept as an offering for sin.

PRIOR to the death of Jesus on the Cross:
  • Only priests of the Levite tribe could offer gifts and sacrifices.
  • Only Hebrews could be called the sons and daughters of the Lord.
  • Only those who kept the Day of Atonement were considered in right relationship with God.
  • Only those who fully knew and followed the Law could be called righteous.
To understand the purpose of the veil we must understand the work that Jesus came to do.

Jesus said in John 6:37-39: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day."

This verse speaks of the Lord's work in saving his people from their sins.

Jesus is the righteous One and, according to 2 Cor. 5:21: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

"Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments." Matthew 27:35

"Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.  And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, "My God, My God!  What have You forsaken me?!" Matthew 27:45-46.

"And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold!  The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth trembled and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many."

"When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, and saying, "Truly this was the Son of God." Matthew Chapter 27.

AFTER the death of Jesus on the Cross:
  • Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  Romans 10:12-13 says, "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
  • A person can be called a child of God regardless of race, gender, or social status.  Gatatians 3:26-29 says, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
  • Whoever believes in Christ shall be counted as righteous.  1 John 2:29 says, "You know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him." 
  • Whoever believes in Christ shall inherit everlasting life.  John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoesoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
  • All who believe can make the ultimate sacrifice to God. Luke 10:27 says, "Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind."
This Easter Sunday, I want to remind you how easy and personal our acces to Christ is.  Praise the Lord!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Criticism Gone Bad!



"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." James 1:26

What does criticism mean?  To express grief, pain, or discontent.
To make a formal accusation or charge.
To find fault with; point out the faults of.

How many of us can remember a cutting remark from childhood?  "Look how silly her pants are!"  "She has buck teeth!"  "I don't like girls with glasses!"  "Her house has K-Mart furniture!"  "I can't play with you because you don't have a nice home."

Now, these remarks above are all blatant remarks from one child to another and are intended to hurt and injure the recipient's heart and soul.

But what about remarks spoken by adults and to adults that are equally as damaging?  "Nice house, Mary, but I would've chosen one with a wraparound porch."  "Sure it's a nice car, Tom, but I would've chosen one with leather interior instead."

One of the root causes of "criticism gone bad" is jealousy.  "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."  When one of your friends gets something new - say, a new home or even a new car - instead of being excited with your friend, you are jealous and so you make a "dig" at your friend's new purchase, as illustrated above.  The Bible says to "rejoice with those who rejoice."  Romans 12:15.  Are you able to rejoice when your friends receive good things in their life that you don't have?  Jealousy is one root of criticism that can cause hurt.

Another root cause of criticism gone bad is negativity.  "...out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks."  Luke 6:45.  An example could be this scenario:  You come home from working all day to find your teenage daughter cooking a meal of pancakes and eggs for the family for dinner.  But you also notice that she hasn't done that load of laundry you specifically asked her to do when you left for work in the morning.  Do you yell at her:  "Why didn't you get that load of laundry done like I asked?  I work hard all day long and I expect to come home and have a clean load of laundry!"  Or...do you respond this way:  "Looks and smells delicious!  Thanks for thinking of me and the family and taking initiative to cook this meal for dinner.  But after dinner, while I do the dishes, I'd like you to start that load of laundry that's still sitting in that basket, okay?"

The Bible says "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  Philippians 4:8  The point here is to be a cheerleader (encouraging) rather than a demolition crew (destructive) with your words.

The third cause of criticism is sarcasm and/or cynicism. Sarcasm is a cutting remark that wounds.  Cynicism is an attitude of jaded negativity.  For example, your husband took some initiative to do a load of laundry without you having to ask, but instead of being thankful, you make a sarcastic remark: "I think pigs must be flying in the sky right about now!  I never thought I'd live to see the day when you did a load of laundry without me having to command you to do a load."

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs."  Ephesians 4:29.

Just as the furnaces in our homes need a filter to filter out the dust and dirt, so our mouths need a filter, as well.

I would encourage you today to find a trusted friend or spouse who can help you stop your destructive comments.  Maybe your spouse can give you the "time-out" symbol in sports when you begin to speak jealously, or negatively, or with sarcasm/cyicism.  Perhaps your coworker can "signal" you when you begin to use these root causes of criticism in your workplace.

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Questions and Answers to Share with your KoTH Partner:

  1. Share with your KoTH partner how critical words have hurt you personally.  How has this wound healed?
  2. Who do you most often criticize?
  3. Very honestly, where does jealousy raise its ugly head in your life?
  4. Why are Christians so good at sarcasm and cynicism, do you believe?
  5. If you are a negative person, what are the roots of that negativity?
  6. Who in your life/world needs encouragement right now?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rewards In Heaven



Rewards in Heaven

One of the things I feel I have picked up from the Holy Spirit is that it will really be “worth your while” to fully surrender your entire life over to God the Father and go with His call on your life rather than you deciding what you are going to do with your life.

The reason for this is that there will be some incredible rewards being given out in heaven for those who are willing to do good works for the Lord while living down here on this earth.

Good works will not get us into heaven, as the Bible specifically tells us that we can only be saved by grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. But being willing to do good works for the Lord in this life will bring us certain types of rewards as you will see in the Scripture verses I will list in this article.

As I have said numerous times in many of our other articles, each Christian must make a big personal decision as to how they will live their life on this earth. You can either choose to fully surrender your entire life over to God the Father and let Him decide what your divine destiny is going to be in this life, or you can choose to do things your own way and completely run your own life.

Most Christians take the latter approach. They do not ask God what their vocations or jobs should be in this life. They do not ask God who they should be marrying in this life. They do not ask God what their real goals and aspirations should be in this life. In fact, the only time they really approach God is when they get in some kind of trouble and they then need some type of miracle from God to get them bailed out of a bad situation.

When many Christians are faced with what the Bible says about making a full and complete surrender of their entire lives over to God the Father, they really have a hard time in doing it.  They are afraid if they fully surrender everything over to God, that they will lose their one and only chance to make it big in this lifetime. They are afraid that God may call them to do a job that may pay them only pennies a day.

Many Christians are not really aware of some of the verses in the Bible that are talking about God really rewarding His people for the good works they can do for Him while living down here. I will go ahead and give you some of these key verses in this article.

The Bible also says that crowns will be given to some of His people for different levels of service. And when the Bible says that crowns will be given, I believe this is literal interpretation, and that crowns will really be given by God for special types of service.

I also believe that God can reward you with some incredible blessings while you are still down here on this earth. However, the rewards I will be keying on are the rewards that you will be receiving when you enter into heaven. These are the rewards that will really matter. These are the rewards that will last you for the rest of your eternal life. A lot of what God can reward you with down here on this earth are still perishable rewards. You cannot take some of these blessings with you when you die and cross over.

Remember the story of Moses. Moses was 80 years old when God called him out of the desert to rescue His people from the Egyptians. Look at the exciting and adventuresome life that Moses had in God over the last 40 years of his life. It is never too late to fully surrender your entire life over to God the Father to see what He can still do with it.

Now I will give you some very interesting verses from the Bible that will specifically talk about these rewards and crowns.

How well you work for God, and what you accomplish for Him while down here on this earth is where the good works will be coming in. The gift of eternal salvation gets you into heaven, but good works will be getting you the bigger and better rewards once you enter into heaven. This is why the Bible says that “faith without WORKS is dead.”

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things DONE IN THE BODY, according to what He has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

… and each one will receive His own reward ACCORDING TO HIS OWN LABOR.” (1 Corinthians 3:8)
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone ACCORDING TO HIS WORK.” (Revelation 22:12)

“… I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you ACCORDING TO YOUR WORKS.” (Revelation 2:23)

So Jesus answered them and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or land, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a HUNDREDFOLD now in this time … and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

The Bible specifically talks about 5 different crowns that will be given to some of God’s people when they enter into heaven. If you look very closely at what these crowns are going to be for, they will be for work that is done for God that is beyond the normal scope of what the average Christian may attempt to do. This is for work that goes far, above, and beyond what the average Christian may actually strive for.

Just like trophies, rings, and plaques are given to sports heroes or winning teams in sports, God apparently is going to be doing the same thing in heaven. He will be giving out certain types of crowns for the people who were willing to go that extra mile, who were willing to give that extra special effort in whatever God had called them to do. These crowns will be a special reward that will be rewarding excellence and maximum effort.

These crowns will also be incorruptible and will last for all of eternity. They will be a special mark and a special token given by our Lord to honor and reward all of those who have faithfully served Him in this life – way above and beyond what the average Christian would have considered doing for Him. Now here are the five specific crowns mentioned in the Bible.

1. The Crown of Righteousness

This crown will be given to those who have lived a good and righteous life for God while living down here on this earth. 

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

2. The Incorruptible Crown

Bible scholars feel this next verse implies that some will be given what could be considered a “victor’s crown.” And this crown is called incorruptible. The New King James Version calls it an “imperishable” crown – the Original King James Version calls it an “incorruptible” crown. Either way, it will be a crown that will last for all of eternity.  The apostle Paul goes on to state that those who run in any kind of a race, all run with the goal of obtaining some kind of prize. He then goes on to state that those who run a race in order to win the prize are temperate in all things.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.

Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an IMPERISHABLE CROWN. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

3. The Crown of Life

This next crown has been called by many the “martyr’s crown.” Jesus Himself says that He will give this crown to those who undergo severe hardship, testing, tribulation, and/or physical death on His behalf.
The Bible does not say anything about whether or not these 5 crowns are ranked in any way as to which is greater. However, if they are ranked in any way by God the Father in heaven, then I believe there is a very good chance that this next crown will be ranked #1 out of the 5 crowns available to all believers for special service. 

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the CROWN OF LIFE.” (Revelation 2:10)

4. The Crown of Rejoicing

This next crown has been called the “soul winner’s crown.” The apostle Paul is calling those he has saved his “joy” and his “crown of rejoicing.”  The word “crown” seems to be implying that God will be giving out a crown to those who have been instrumental in getting other people saved and led to Him through the blood of His Son Jesus.

For what is our hope, or joy, or CROWN OF REJOICING? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)

5. The Crown of Glory

This next verse is telling the elders of the church to “shepherd” the flock of God. Shepherds lead the flock into the ways and knowledge of God. They are teachers. These could be the Sunday school teachers, the pastors and ministers who teach the Word of God in their ministries, or people who are appointed by God into the office of a teacher like a Joyce Meyer.  I believe God will be giving His teachers and shepherds this crown due to the extreme importance of bringing up others into the knowledge and ways of God. Once you get saved, this is just the beginning. God wants you to grow in His knowledge and grace by reading from the Bible and learning as much as you can about Him, His Son, and His Holy Spirit.

“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed.
SHEPHERD THE FLOCK OF GOD which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the CROWN OF GLORY that does not fade away.” (1 Peter 5:1-4)

Conclusion

All of these crowns will be permanent, incorruptible, and will never fade away. They will be eternal rewards bestowed upon those deemed to be deserving of them by God the Father for extra-ordinary service rendered on His behalf while living down here on this earth.
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* portions taken from http://www.bible-knowledge.com/rewards-in-heaven/

I'd like to thank my dear Sister in Christ, Billie, for making me aware of the above information. 

Questions and Answers to share with your KoTH partner:
  1. Were you familiar with any of these verses that speak about eternal crowns?
  2. Out of the crowns listed above, which two crowns would be the most difficult for you to "obtain"?  Why?
  3. Can you share a Christian song or poem with your KoTH partner that might speak of eternal crowns?
  4. How can your KoTH partner pray for you this week?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Broken Promises



This year, 2012, marks our next Presidential race in America.  Politicians and Presidential hopefuls stand on stage in fancy suits, fancy shoes, and coiffed hair telling Americans how they will be their "savior" in all issues facing our lives.  From economic depression to environmental issues, each hopeful will boast of his or her power to save.

Our world as a whole has many needs.  Political candidates world wide make promises of how they will improve worldwide conditions...if only you vote them into office. 

But Government cannot make the changes that people need the most.

Our basic needs are spiritual in nature and cannot be satisifed by political solutions.  It's only when we are changed inwardly through the Holy Spirit that we can then change the world around us.

God's promises are the only promises that never fail to be kept.  After all, a promise is of value only if the person speaking that promise can follow through.

Here are 7 Promises of God to us:

What can be said about God's promises to us?

  1. He has promised to supply every need we have. The Bible says: "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus". That's Phillipians 4:19. Now notice, God has obligated Himself only to the extent of our needs. That would include food, clothing, shelter, companionship, love, and salvation thru Jesus Christ. It would not include the multiplicity of luxuries that we have come to think of as needs.
  2. God has promised that His grace is sufficient for us. (II Corinthians 12:9). in fact, He has made provision for our salvation by His grace through faith. Read Ephesians 2:8. It is through an obedient faith that we have access into the grace of God according to Romans 5:2.
  3. God has promised that His children will not be overtaken with temptation. Instead, He assures us that a way of escape will be provided. This promise is recorded in I Corinthians 10:13. Jude wrote: "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present your faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude v 24). Darius, King of the Medes, said to Daniel, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee" (Daniel 6:16). He did deliver Daniel from the den of lions.
  4. God has promised us victory over death. He first resurrected Jesus by way of assuring our resurrection. Peter said: "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses" (Acts 2:32). Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3,4). Later on he adds: "but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15:57).
  5. God has promised that all things work together for good to those who love and serve Him faithfully (Romans 8:28). It may be difficult for us to see and understand how this is accomplished at times, but God has promised it, and He will deliver.
  6. God has promised that those who believe in Jesus and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins will be saved. (Read Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38).
  7. God has promised His people eternal life (John 10:27,28). In closing, let me appeal to you to live so that the promises of God will be yours.

 Changing the world is a daunting, seemingly impossible task.  When we look out at the world and the shape it's in, we are overwhelmed.  What can we do?  Where do we begin?  We must first look up to the One who can bring true hope and change.  He has the answers the world needs.

Let us not forget to look inward...because if we hope to be God's hands and feet in this world, we must first know and share His heart.

* Taken from LifeLessons Bible Studies For Life, The Roads Less Traveled Learner Guide, Winter 2010-2011.
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Questions and Answers to Share with Your KoTH Partner:

  1. Do you trust more in politicians than in God to create change in our world?
  2. As God's instrument of peace and love, how can you help create change in today's world?
  3. What issue is most concerning to you in modern-day America?
  4. Do you pray about this issue and ask God to help bring about change?
  5. When a politician makes a "promise" to you, what will your response or thought be?
  6. Which promise of God touches your heart the most today?
  7. How can you pray for your KoTH partner this week?