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12:00 PM   [26 Aug 2018 | Sunday]

Understanding Your Bible

  “No matter how hard I try, I just don’t get this stuff!”  Have you ever found yourself saying something to that effect when trying to understand the Bible?  A lot of how well we understand it has much to do with the approach we take when reading it.  That being said, let’s address our approach.  Since the Bible is a book, it would be easy to approach it like you would a textbook.  This is one reason some struggle.  In truth, it is not a textbook; rather, it is a spiritual revelation of God to us in written form.  Of course, If you like, you can consider it to also be a love letter from Him to you.  Since it is spiritual, it requires Holy Spirit to teach us in order to grasp what God intended for us to know (read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).  That also makes the Bible relational by design.  It requires interaction with Holy Spirit Who dwells in your heart, which means don’t use your head.  That’s sounds counterintuitive, but it’s more of a heart thing.  Think about it, we believe with our heart; not our head (see Romans 10:10).  Invite Him to teach you, and allow Him to give you the revelation at the proper time.  There are times, when you may not immediately receive it; but then, the “ah-hah” moment comes out of the blue.  Of course, it could be a combination of both.  Holy Spirit may reveal something right then and there, and later drop another revelation in your heart at another time.  Be patient, it’s part of the process of the relationship.  Incidentally, in this context, a revelation is an already existent truth that is new to us.

   In spite of what some may say, our loving Father really does want us to grasp His Word.  It does play a part in our pursuit for Jesus.  How many times have you told Him that you really want to know Him?  Searching Scripture is another way of getting intimate with Father and Jesus.  The experience can be feel like you’re curling up in ABBA’s lap reading it together.  The more time you spend with someone,  the better you know him or her.  Likewise, the more time you spend reading your Bible, the better you will know it.  More importantly, the better you will know Him.  Ask questions when you read -lots of questions.  Not in the sense of questioning; rather, from the standpoint of clarity.  Don’t be afraid to be curious.  Again, think relational!

   This will sound like a contradiction to what was just said, but if you really want to know the Word of God, you cannot be lazy.  You have to dig.  Question: have you ever stumbled across a word you didn’t understand?  How did you resolve it?  Did you use a dictionary by chance?  If you find a word you don’t understand in the Bible, look it up.  There are Bible dictionaries and lexicons.  For example, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible has every word in the Bible listed, along with a dictionary to define each one.  It has both Old and New Testament languages, which brings more clarity than a typical English dictionary (or whatever language you might speak).  A lexicon expands on those definitions.  In the course of study, Holy Spirit may tell you to look up a word that you may already know, or at least think you know.  Many people use Bible Apps which have built in concordances and lexicons.  They are valuable tools.  There are a plethora of online resources as well.  Even if you don’t have access, keep reading.  Here is a brief list of some resources: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible; Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words; The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament (Spiros Zodhiates); Harper’s Bible Dictionary, and Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament.  Some are available by translation. 

   As you study, keep cross-references in mind.  There will be passages found in one place in the Bible that are directly quoted, or have similar phrases and concepts elsewhere.  For example, in Luke 4:18-19, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1,2: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,  And recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”   Perhaps, jot them down in a notebook for future reference.  Often, other verses of Scripture bring clarity to other ones as Holy Spirit reveals them to you. 

   Know that God is faithful.  If you really want to know Him and His Word, He will teach you.   But, do be patient.

   2 Timothy 3:14-17 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

   Hebrews 4:12 For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

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12:04 PM   [19 Aug 2018 | Sunday]

Removing Satan's Advantage (Part Two)

   Emotions can be a very strong force to reckon with.  They can be wonderful servants, but they can also be tyrannical taskmasters.  If you allow your emotions to run your life, you will make it easier for Satan to gain an advantage.  This why it is important to yield to Holy Spirit and make your emotions bow before Him.  Moreover, it's critical to allow them to be healed, so they are less apt to take over at inappropriate times.  Emotions can skew perceptions when they're in charge.  This must never be underestimated; otherwise, you may find yourself saying or doing something you will regret later.  Let's examine a couple in relation to this principle: anger and wrath.

   Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity (see also Psalm 37:8).

To be clear, anger and wrath are not evil or bad in themselves.  God Himself has been angry and displayed wrath, and we are made in His image.  However, neither of these are the result of selfishness, unlike the flesh driven variety.  Things like injustice and unrighteousness cause Him to become angry.  In fact, He has no desire for anyone to experience His wrath.  Even  His anger is filtered through love and holiness.  For example, it angers Him to see one person mistreat another.  When orphans and widows are mistreated, He becomes very angry.  That anger is for the sake of others.

Could unbridled anger and wrath be a symptom of arrogance?  "How dare he do that to me!"  That is self-centered, don't you think?  On the other hand, anger may stand up for those less capable of defending themselves, which is an entirely different thing.  When feeling anger starting to burn, it would be a good time to ask why it's happening.  Long burning anger can lead to wrath which is the sudden burst of rage or explosion.  By the way, "venting" can be a form of wrath.  The more you vent, the more you will vent.  Where in the Bible does it say that's okay?  Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  The way to calm things is found in verse 32: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.  Try being kind and angry at the same time.  When you forgive someone, the anger they may have "caused" you subsides.  Yes, quotations were used for a reason.  You decide what makes you angry; not the perpetrator.  Spiritual warfare as it were, has more to do with staying spiritual than it does fighting.

Romans 12:17-21 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord.   "But if your enemy is hungry, feed him,  and if he is thirsty give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

By yielding to Holy Spirit, emotions fall in line.  Look at the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.  Your emotions can actually become tools for building relationships and proper expressions of worship unto God.  Speaking the truth out of anger as an expression of the flesh has no place in the disciple of Jesus Christ.  Truth apart from love is not truth.  It may have factual statements, but what is the intent behind the words?  If they are to truly edify another, you find love involved.  When it's to belittle or even destroy, it absolutely is void of truth.  God is love and that means His every Word is truth!

One other misuse of anger is manipulation.  Using anger to get your way is ungodly.  In one sense, it's an attempt to force someone to do something against his or her will.  Some also use it to silence those who might be in disagreement, especially if it escalates into an argument.  It makes it rather obvious that either one or both parties involved are unteachable.  Have you read anywhere in the Bible where Jesus uses anger to have His way?  Are we not called to be Christ-like?

Finally, anger and wrath may be symptoms of something deeper going on in someone's life.  It might be a hurt or a fear underneath the surface.  Anger and wrath give a sense of power over them.  Because some love to feel powerful,  anger and wrath are their drugs of choice.  Others have simply made anger and wrath their friends.  Do understand that in this context, they are not your friends!

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12:00 PM   [12 Aug 2018 | Sunday]

Removing Satan's Advantage

 We need not fear Satan because Jesus stripped him of his authority at the Cross (see Colossians 2:13-15).  He can do nothing without permission, which is why “the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  It does not say, “who he will devour.”  It’s a permissive statement, which means he needs an invitation to enter.  By the way, doing something for God is not an invitation.  Whether you do exploits for the Kingdom or just sit and do nothing, either way he wants to destroy you.  He may try to hinder you, but he cannot stop you -unless you let him.  Remember, Greater is He Who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).  Consider this: it was Michael and his angels who cast the devil and his angels out of Heaven; not God, Himself (see Revelation 12:7-9).  Furthermore, we also read in Revelation,

   “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time” (20:1-3).

   It does not say an “Archangel,” such as Michael; it was an angel.  An angel is a force to be reckoned with, but it underscores a point about the extent of the devil’s power, or lack thereof.  Moreover, Holy Spirit lives in you.  Is Holy Spirit, God?  Yes, He is.  Who is greater, Him or the devil?  The answer is rather obvious.  Think about it, by the power of Holy Spirit, we cast out demons, so we need not fear them either.

   Having said all of that, it is still possible for Satan to gain a foothold in a believer’s life.  How so?  By invitation from the believer.  “I haven’t given him an invitation!”  Perhaps you didn’t, but some have.  In fact, their door is wide open to him.  Here’s one way he receives an invitation: unforgiveness.

   2 Corinthians 2:10-11 But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no  advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

   For the entire background of this passage of Scripture, read 1 Corinthians 5:1-3 and 2 Corinthians 2:1-11.  In short, the Apostle Paul addressed an issue of sin that an individual from the church at Corinth had been committing.  In essence, they excommunicated him until he repented.  This part of the story has to do with forgiveness and restoration.  Even though this is a separate issue, excommunication is not meant to be some ecclesiastical punishment; rather, it is a form of discipline with repentance and restoration being the end goal.

   Here is a takeaway, if we do not forgive someone and confirm our love to him or her, we give Satan the advantage.  If we do not forgive someone, we leave ourselves vulnerable.  Unforgiveness can drastically affect someone who chooses not deal with it.  For example, one who has been very kind, can become very cruel.  Unforgiveness leads to bitterness, and bitterness leads to cruelty.

   If someone still experiences deep emotional pain from the distant past, there is a strong possibility that unforgiveness is at its very core.  Without forgiveness, there is no healing.  You cannot hold onto something contrary to God’s nature, and expect to enjoy His blessings.  It is somewhat arrogant to not forgive someone.  Yes, emotional pain makes it very difficult to let it go; however, it does not give anyone the right to condemn others.  Fundamentally, unforgiveness is an act of judgment.  The Bible says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).  In one sense, a person places himself above God by holding another’s sin against him.  By holding someone in unforgiveness, you are in agreement with Satan who is also known as the “accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10).

   If you desire revenge, forgive!  Essentially, forgiveness is a weapon of the Kingdom.  The enemy would love nothing more than to destroy you and the perpetrator.  Our fight is not with flesh and blood.  God’s grace empowers us to do those things we are incapable of doing in our own strength.  If emotions and the thoughts in your head are getting in the way, ask Him for the strength to forgive.  In truth, He’s already given what you need.  It’s question of humbling yourself and submitting to Jesus. 

   Hebrews 4:14-16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

   Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

   Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (see also Matthew 18:21-35).

   James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.


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12:00 PM   [05 Aug 2018 | Sunday]

Why the Hurt and Division?

 Boiling things down, the reason for division, hurt and the like in the Church is simply a departure from love.  The fighting and refusal to be truly reconciled to one another started with lust and carried on with pride.

   James 4:1-2 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask (read also verses 3-12).

   The refusal to do things God’s way reveals a lack of true belief.  A person’s need to be right, and fear of being wrong in the eyes of others exposes one’s  failing to believe his or her identity as a child of God.  It also reveals immaturity.  When a group of people is filled with individuals who are so wrapped up in themselves, it has no ability to sustain cohesiveness.  As long as we try to unify the Body of Christ on our terms, it will never become one Body.  Why do you suppose the Bible says, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3)?  Our unity requires Holy Spirit; not our theology!  Without Him, we will not properly love one another, which is a requirement for unity.  Remember, Galatians 5:22 shows that love is part of the fruit of the Spirit, and that means love (AGAPE) is derived from Him.  That dovetails off of what Jesus said in the book of John.

   John 17:22-23,26The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.  I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them (read entire for full context).”

   Notice, Jesus gave us His glory and His love.  Why?  So we would be one, and that the world may know Father sent Him.  Our lack of unity hinders the Gospel.  By definition, love (AGAPE) takes joy in the recipient for the recipient’s sake alone.  That kind of love is not selfish (Read 1 Corinthians 13 for more details).  It is not looking for the Return On Investment (ROI).  Not only that, it eradicates fear.  If we truly love one another, we won’t have to be afraid of each other.  In fact, we’ll be free to celebrate every brother and sister in Christ.

   Hurtful religious traditions of men crept in when love lost the focal point.  In the name of being holy, people became more concerned about one another’s behavior than their welfare.  They chose to judge and shun others who may have fallen, instead of loving them and seeking their restoration.  Their own reputation became more important than the love of God.  They became pretenders, actors, or more clearly, hypocrites.  One of the fastest ways to become a hypocrite is to become self-absorbed and vacate love; not necessarily in that order.  Love has compassion for the sinner and the backslider.  When you read Exodus through Deuteronomy, you discover that Moses fell on his face before God to intercede for a people whom God was prepared to destroy.  The children of Israel rebelled; in fact, they slandered God and Moses.  Even still, Moses feared the Lord, and feared for the people.  Yet, here we are with the love of God dwelling in us through Holy Spirit, and how concerned are we really for our brothers and sisters, let alone sinners?  Who is our First Love?  Think about this: Love never requires repentance!  By walking in love, we actually avoid sin.

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