A NEW DWELLING PLACE

While I was on my way to church on the night of December 31st, for the New Year’s Day Service, I came across a devotional that ransomed my mind for the entire evening. The topic was taken from the very popular Psalm 91. The verse that was focused on, however, was one that I’ve probably recited hundreds of times. This time, due to the speaker highlighting it in the manner that he did, I derived not only an entirely new meaning of this verse, but a profound entry way into a deeper relationship with God.

 

“Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”  Psalm 91:9

 

Whenever this verse is read, it is usually acknowledged with a resounding ”Amen”, and rightly so! However, what the author of the devotional asked that really got me thinking was this:

 

The promise is contingent only on “if we have made The Lord our refuge and The Most High our habitation”.

 

Therefore, the obvious question is:

 

Have I made The Lord my refuge?

 

Have I made The Most High my habitation?

 

How do I know if I have?

 

If I have not, how do I do it?

 

There is a zeal that comes as a result of positive thinking.

 

“All will be well”

 

“Everything is going to be ok”; “Everything will turn out fine”.

 

Though there is nothing wrong with positive thinking, the truth is positive thinking is not an indication of Christian faith.

 

Positive thinking is a direct result of a positive/optimistic attitude.

 

That positive attitude can come from human nature, past experience or the profession of a belief that is non-Christian.

 

Believing “everything will be all right” because my spirits are high or because things have worked out well in the past is different from believing these things as a result of my hope in God.

 

If the promise of Psalm 91:9 is to become a reality in my life as a believer, it has to be of the utmost importance to me that The Lord become just that for me.

 

My Refuge. My Habitation. My Dwelling Place. My Home.

 

God must become everything!

 

The danger of “zeal centered” positive thinking for a Christian is that it causes us to make affirmations based on our hopes and desires. We then proceed to ask God to certify those affirmations. Then, when things don’t work out as we hoped, we question God and become disappointed. We have to make sure that our zeal for God is not separate from our knowledge of God, and it is only the Spirit of God, who can give us a knowledge of God.

 

Our faith has to be in God. In his Omniscience.

 

Not in a “good life”; not in things working out how we would rather they work out; but by a total surrender of our lives to Him. As willing vessels. Allowing Him to use us as He pleases. All the while, trusting Him completely as He reveals Himself to us through the Holy Spirit.

 

The only way we can intimate ourselves with God is by recognizing the purpose for which He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, and allowing that purpose to be made a living actuality in our lives via the Holy Spirit

 

The Lord being our Habitation means that He covers us – not our worldly existence, but our life in Him. Our lives are hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3) and the evil one cannot touch us (1 John 5:18, John 14:30b).

 

Under normal circumstances, one would say that making The Most High our Habitation is the easiest thing to do.

 

In theory it is.

 

In words, it is.

 

But in actuality; in the course of “working out of our salvation”, we realize that under the assault of “worldliness” in this present age, it is hard!

 

But for the grace of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

 

It is only the Spirit of Christ that can make it possible for the Most High to be our Habitation.

 

This is why unless we have deliberately sought the Lord in this manner, let us not assume that we have made Him what these verses ask that we make Him.

 

Look at what He saves us from:

 

“No evil will befall thee”

 

“No plague shall come nigh thy dwelling”

 

But only if we deliberately make Him our Refuge and Habitation.

 

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  Ephesians 6:12

 

Fellow sojourners, we need to understand that the evil one is not interested in “interfering with our happiness”, unless he knows that the disruption of our happiness will cause us to stray from God in our hearts. If it is all about happiness in this world, then, it is not about God. If it is all about God, then, we are devoted to Him whether we are “happy” or not. Satan is interested in stealing our joy in the Lord; in causing us to lose our crowns of salvation by losing faith in God.

 

That is why The Lord urges us to make Him our Refuge and Habitation. Because it is only in Him that the evil mentioned in Ephesians 6:12 “will not befall us nor come nigh our dwelling place” which is – our life in Christ.

 

The Lord in His infinite mercy has seen it fit to allow us to see 2018. But it is simply not about “not dying”, it is about “living to declare the works of the Lord” (Psalm 118:17).

 

For every morning that we are given the grace to awaken, let us place the Lord’s promise of Psalm 91:9 before Him in prayer, because He says, “I watch over My Word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12).

 

Let us ask Him to fulfill the promise.

 

To become our Refuge and Habitation.

 

The exact way He meant it when He spoke it.

 

The exact way He wills and purposes to be so.

 

That we may always dwell in safety. In Him.

                                                                                                                   His Handmaid

 

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ABIDING IN THE SHADOWS

In Luke 2: 41-49, we are told:

 

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival.  When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual.  After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first,  because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there.  Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”  “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant.

The passage tells us that this incident occurred when Jesus was 12.

 

Here, the 12-year-old Jesus is bewildered as to why His parents were worried about His whereabouts.

 

“Where did you expect me to be?”

                 OR

“Where else could I have possibly been?”

 

Was the question that the child Jesus asked, quite perplexed.

 

Luke 3:23 says “Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry.”

 

Even though the “Miracle Working Jesus” was not made known until age thirty or so, the scripture tells us clearly that “The Son, doing the will of His Father” had always been there. Present. Doing exactly what the Father had called Him to do:

 

ABIDING.

 

As Christians, we often believe that it is only the conscious “thrilling” things of life, are a sign of God’s presence in us.

 

We are only conscious of God when we are in the act of service: preaching, ministering, charity work, prophecy, church work, when we are in prayer and the expectation of answered prayer.

 

However, here was Jesus, years before His public ministry began.

 

When He was just “the carpenter’s son”, faithfully abiding in the will of His Heavenly Father. Behind the scenes. With no audience – except the One who sent Him.

 

Are we zealous in the shadows?

 

Are we faithful in obscurity?

 

Are we abiding in the ordinary, mundane, routine, every day aspects of our lives?

 

Is abiding in Christ as important to us in the menial things as it is in the grand “everyone is looking at me” things?

 

Is abiding in Christ as important to us when we the other driver cuts us off in the road?

 

Is abiding in Christ important when our husband/wife/friend/parent/sibling does not behave in the way that we would prefer them to?

 

Is abiding in Christ important to us when we don’t receive the things we believe are our right to receive?

 

Do we abide in Christ when someone disrespects us? Dishonors us? Cheats us? Wrongs us?

 

Is abiding in Christ important to us when dealing with people we don’t like? Who don’t like us?

 

Is abiding in Christ important to us even if it does not seem like God even hears us? Not to mention giving us what we are asking of Him?

 

Are we abiding in Christ in the drudgery of life? Or are we just barely getting through it?

 

If someone came looking for us in those times, where would they find us?

 

In our “Father’s House” abiding faithfully? Or in “Our own houses” doing as we see fit, while saying “God will understand.”

 

God does not call us to perform miracles. He does not call us to raise the dead, heal the sick or save souls.

 

He calls us to ABIDE IN HIM. OBEY HIM. PLACE HIS WILL ABOVE OUR OWN.

 

It is in the obedience of ABIDING, that He can now use us to raise the dead. Heal the sick. Save souls.

 

Jesus Christ says “I and my Father are one” John 10:30

He also says “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5.

Jesus is our only example of what it means to Abide in the Father.

                     AT ALL TIMES!

“How is that even possible?” We ask.

He answers:

For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

Not only was Jesus’ life on earth our example, it is He, by His Spirit, who works in us, enabling us to obey the will of The Father”

But He can only work in us when we come to what is called “The end of ourselves”.

Which simply means that “On my best day, at the peak of my self -flattering reverence of all of the good qualities that I possess – and my  “thank God I’m not like all those weak, useless, sinners” state of mind – I realize that “I” do not have the power or ability to make myself right before God.

Only Jesus Christ can do that.

Only Jesus Christ –through His blood and by His Spirit – can make me acceptable before God.

But Jesus Christ will do NOTHING until we come to Him in the total, broken, humble, inadequacy of ourselves…

…and when we arrive there, we should not ask for any other heart’s desire, except the desire to live every single day, for the rest of our lives, Abiding in Him.

Jesus Christ could only be the “Propitiation for sin” because He was “The Spotless Lamb”.

Not just as an adult but throughout His entire life!

How did He do it? Have we ever thought about this? He was FAITHFUL to His Father his entire life! NEVER, not even once, placing His own will above the will of His Father.

But the Word of God tells us that this is exactly what He did.

Therefore, if we truly believe the Word of God, if we truly believe on the Name of Jesus, then we will ask Him to give us His Spirit. This Spirit, which is His Life; His victorious, successful, perfectly God pleasing Life. It is then by this Spirit and through this Spirit, the Holy Spirit, that we too can live a life that is pleasing to God.

This is the “life” that the Father requires that we live on this earth. This is the “life” causes us to be “in this world” but not “of this world”.

But brethren, we cannot live this life unless we willfully, purposely, determinedly, abide in Christ.   May this be the new life, the Abiding Life, that we desire from this day. Amen.

STOP SEEKING THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD

STOP SEEKING THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD

 

We have just celebrated Easter Sunday, otherwise known as Ressurrection Sunday. This is when Christians all over the world celebrate Jesus Christ’s ressurection from the dead.

 

In the account of the resurrection according to Luke’s gospel, chapter 24:1-7, we are told:

 

Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they (the women also, which came with him from Galilee-Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them) came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.  And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:  and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,  saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”

 

The two men who informed the women that Jesus was no longer in the tomb were angels of God. Their words to the women: specifically them saying “Remember how he spake to you in Galillee…”: were bringing to their recollection something that Jesus had told them would happen.

 

The angels were saying “When Jesus was alive, He told you that they would kill Him. He also told you that He would rise from the dead after 3 days! So, if He told you that He would rise from the dead, that means that He would certainly not be in this tomb. A tomb is for dead people. Jesus is not dead. He is alive. That being said, “Why seek ye He who is alive in the place set aside for those who are dead?”

 

The celebration of Easter is an annual event, and though the world has tried and continues to try to secularize it to the fullest, it remains, I believe, a most significant gift of God to His people in this world.

 

As Christians, we are affected by circumstances just as every other human being in this world. We face hardship, suffering, disappointment, loss, trepidation, heartbreak, oppression, illness, devastation, fear, depression, sadness, etc, just like everyone else in this world…

 

…and Christ said that we would.

 

However, just before He was parted from His disciples, He prayed to The Father for them saying:

 

“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17: 9, 15-16)

 

In His prayer, Jesus makes a clear distinction between His disciples and ‘the world.’ This distinction also assures us that His prayers and promises are meant for His disciples and all who will believe in Him through their word. His prayers and promises are NOT meant for ‘the world’.

 

When Christ prays to the Father to “keep us from the evil” many of us believe that it means that we will not suffer. That is not true. Not only is that belief unsubstantiated in the Word of God, the Word of God specifically tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” and in John 16:33b “In the world ye shall have tribulation”

 

The world (which is a term that represents every thing and system determined to do without Jesus Christ) and all it has to offer constitutes ‘the evil’.The world, under the direction of Satan, aka the Prince of this world, will offer deceptive forms of relief. These deceptive forms of relief will not only be within our reach, but they will always mimic that which Jesus Christ offers us, and Jesus Christ is praying for us to the Father to deliver us from these things.

 

1 John 2:15-17 tells us:

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

 

The Lord is telling us in these verses that if we continue to seek solace and comfort from the things of this world: a world that is perishing and temporal; ‘dying’, then we are, in essence, seeking the things of “Life” from that which is dead, i.e the world.

 

So the question now becomes, O thou follower of Jesus Christ, what do YOU do when that persecution comes? Where do YOU turn when that persecution comes?

 

Understand that the ‘persecution’, though it be meted out by the hands of men and women, it’s source is always the “evil” referred to in John 17:15 and in the Lord’s prayer where Jesus says “but deliver us from evil”, and Christ’s prayer to The Father, on our behalf, is that we not be “overcome by that evil.” Meaning that we do not turn from the only source of our deliverance – Christ, and turn to the world or the things of this world to seek relief.

 

We who are children of Light cannot seek the things of Light and Life from that which is ‘death and darkness’, namely, the world. We can and must only seek Light and Life from the Giver of Light and Life – Jesus Christ.

 

No matter the suffering (for we are not experiencing anything that Christ did not tell us in advance that we wouldn’t experience with “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” [2 Timothy 3:12]  and “In the world ye shall have tribulation” [John 16:33] ) we must trust in Christ and the deliverance that comes from Him alone.

I believe that the problem for many Christians arises when we envision that Christ’s deliverance will come in a certain manner and when it does not come according to our vision, we become desperate for relief by any means. That is when we become ensnared by anything that gives us relief and makes us feel better. The truth, however, is that not all ‘relief’ comes from God.

 

Therefore, knowing this, we cannot seek the living (the relief, peace and strength to endure that can only come from Jesus Christ) amongst the dead (the relief, comfort and convivialities of this world).

 

Satan offers comfort. Satan offers peace. Satan offers prosperity, happiness and healing. But the things offered by Satan are the things of death.

 

Jesus says in John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

 

He also says in John 16:33

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

 

What the world and it’s Prince have to offer are nothing compared with that which our Lord and Savior has to offer. That is why we, His followers, must not seek peace, prosperity, relief and comfort, but the peace, prosperity, relief and comfort that comes from Christ and Christ alone. If Christ is all we seek, He will expose any angel of darkness trying to masquere as an angel of light.

 

2 Timothy 3:10-11  the Apostle Paul says

“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.”

 

The Spirit of Christ will cause us to fully understand His doctrine, manner of life and purpose. His Spirit will manifest in us His faith, longsuffering, charity and patience. So that when we are faced with persecutions and affliction, by His Life within us, we will endure and overcome.

 

There is, however, a question that each of us must ask ourselves: “Which is more important to me? Overcoming the world as a faithful disciple of Christ or having a good life in this world?”

 

Because if all we want is a good life in this world, the we do not need Jesus Christ. The world can give us that.

 

For Christ did not live and die to give us a good life in this world. He lived and died that we might have life and have it more abundantly. That is what He promises to those who are faithful to Him.

 

The former comes with only a promise for this world which as the scriptures have told us, is perishing.

 

The latter comes with a promise for this world and the world to come – For this world we will be certified. For the world to come, we will be glorified.

 

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-12.

 

Fellow Christ seekers, as we march on in this life, under the umbrella of God’s grace, let us ask Him, that by the power of that grace at work within us, to help us to stop seeking the living among the dead. Let us stop seeking the things of this world to ease our afflictions. Instead, let us seek the deliverance of God only.

 

The Lord, by the working of His perfect grace, is sufficient to point out the difference between the two to us. However, He will only point it out to us if we are truly desiring to know if we are guilty or not.

 

Let the prayer be “Lord, if I, unbeknownst to myself, seek peace and relief from any source other than you alone, please reveal it to me. When you reveal it to me, grant me the contrition to accept it. Then, lead me in The Way everlasting. If I have to endure suffering for your sake – for the sake of my trusting in you and you alone as my source of everything – then I, by your grace will endure it in joy and confidence. Trusting and believing that you will, according to your promise, deliver me.”

 

Since we know that God will answer every prayer according to His will and we know that it is His will that we trust in Him completely and walk in the Light and Life of Jesus Christ, then we know, of all surety, that this is a prayer that He will answer. May we continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

WHAT DO WE REALLY BELIEVE?

  WHAT DO WE REALLY BELIEVE?

 

If there is only one God and one begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, why are there so many Christian denominations?

 

If a child – your child asked you that question, what would you say?

 

If we all believe in God: Jehovah – I AM and in Jesus Christ- and if Jesus says in John 17:21-22

 

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

 

Why are there thousands of different Christian denominations all over the world?

It’s something to think about, wouldn’t you say?

More so, it’s something to pray about.

 

We know the scripture verses, I’m sure:

 

For many are called, but few are chosen  – Matthew 22:14

 

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23

 

So many denominations. So many practices. So much doctrine.

 

Yet, we all “Believe”.

We say we believe in God.

We say we believe in Christ.

We say we follow Christ.

 

Yet, Matthew 7:21-23 and 22:14 say what they say and mean what they say!

 

Have we ever paused to examine our belief?

 

Perhaps I should say, to examine what it really is that we believe in?

 

There comes a time when doctrinal loyalty replaces faith in God and Christ alone.

 

There also comes a time when our belief in our religious beliefs replace our belief in God and our pursuit of God.

 

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

 

“For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6b

 

We cannot deny what the bible says about the many falsehoods that will exist in these end times. By way of false leaders, prophets and doctrines.

The deceit will not always be as evident to us as we might think it will be.

 

That is why Christ urges us not to “lean on our own understanding” – Proverbs 3:5

 

That is why Christ promised us the Holy Spirit who will “guide us into all truth” – John 16:3

 

That is why Christ tells us to “seek to know the One True God and Jesus Christ whom He sent” John 17:3

 

It is a very tricky and slippery slope, brethren.

 

Satan is called the deceiver for a reason. He is quite good at what he does.

“The thief cometh but to steal, kill and destroy” John 10:10a

 

But Christ said “His sheep follow Him because they KNOW His voice.” John 10:4b

 

That is why we must make becoming one with Christ our only aim.

 

Not knowledge, not riches, not a “good life”, but the manifestation of the gift of the Atonement – as purchased by the blood of Christ – in our lives.

 

If our goal is Him, above ALL THINGS – Christ, then, He will “Keep us in the way and bring us to the place that has been prepared for us”.

 

Let us pause and examine ourselves.

 

Not by vainly saying, “I know”, but by humbly saying, “Only you know, Lord. Search me…and lead me in the way everlasting”. Psalm 139:23-24

 

“Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”. John 16:31-32

It happened then.

It happens every single day in Christianity now.

It will continue to happen until the day when all things cease.

The only way we will be counted as those who believe in Him is not by royal proclamation or the beating of the chest, but by a total giving up of our lives to Him, and letting Him live in and through us. This is not done by human effort. Our effort is in the turning to Him. He, personally, does the transformation.

 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

 

                                                                                           The handmaid at His feet.
   

A TALE OF TWO THIEVES

A TALE OF TWO THIEVES.

Luke 23:

 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.

40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?

41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Every time this incident has come up in sermon or bible discussion, we’ve always been hung up on what Jesus was referring to when He said “Today”.

According to scripture, He descended into hell, the third day He rose and ultimately ascended into heaven. So, why did he say “Today” to the thief?

We Christians often seek to understand His word from a “breaking into secret knowledge” perspective. May the Lord continue to reveal to us the extreme pride in that. However, when we come to Him as we are meant to – Sinners in need of a Savior -, He “Opens their minds that they might understand the scripture”.

Who are the thieves being crucified next to Christ? They are us. Mankind. And the attitudes of each thief mirrors the true attitude of man where he answers Christ’s question of “Who do you say I am?”

The mocking thief did not believe in the Christ. He’d heard of the miracle worker. Probably even seen him do his work. So he said what he said with the malcontent of the Enemy that was speaking through him. Mocking and tempting Christ yet again to prove Himself outside of the will of the Father.

Do we see ourselves in this thief?

We should.

It is precisely what many of us do. Coming to Christ, not in repentance, but in entitlement. “If you are God, do this and that for me!” Demanding that He prove Himself to us for our benefit. Though we hang on our respective crosses for transgressions that we DID commit, we demand He save us without an ounce of acknowledgement of those transgressions or remorse for those transgressions.

Then here’s the other thief. Head bowed low on the cross. In reverence, saying “Do you not fear God”?

In acknowledgement and remorse “for we receive due reward for our deeds”.

Then came the faith. Not in “save me from the punishment” but “remember me when you come into Your Kingdom”. Up until then, not even the disciples had acknowledged Christ with respect to His Heavenly Kingdom. But here was this thief on the cross! To believe Jesus had a Kingdom meant that the thief also knew that he could also save him. But he didn’t plead for his physical life. Instead, he asked for the Kingdom. He pled for his eternal life.

What faith. What humility.

We believers have moments like this. During prayer, in revival moments, when ‘all is well’. But most of us would clearly be lying to ourselves and to God if we said this was our disposition in trial, tribulation or even during well-deserved punishment.

What Jesus said to the thief had very little to do with that thief hanging on that cross. Instead, it was an illustration meant for US. The thieves of today. Who after living a sin and self-dominated life, finally end up nailed to our cross of condemnation, face to face with Jesus. Nailed to the cross of Salvation.

Which thief are we in that moment?

The sneering, carnal thief. Full of pride and arrogance. Making demands of Christ?

Or are we the thief who acknowledges our wretchedness and acknowledges His majesty?

What Jesus is saying in the statement is that when we finally come to Him. Acknowledging our sinfulness and seeking the ‘Kingdom of God’ that is in Christ Jesus, “Today – On that day; in that moment; in that instant – He will receive us unto Himself.

Right then and there, He will save us.

He, in that day, will start to take us on our journey Home – Paradise.

“For where I am, there will my servant be also”.

We are with Him. He is in us. He is in the Father. He is with The Father. The Father is in Him. The Father is with Him.

Jesus doesn’t want us to focus on the things that He can give us on this earth.

He wants us to focus on His Kingdom and for us to allow HIM to lead us there.

While He’s leading us there, He assures us that He will make provision for ALL of our needs on this earth.

But our focus; our gaze must be on The Kingdom.

“In that day…” The day that we enter into His death and arise into New Life in Him”, That day (Today) we will no longer be of the world.

But of the Heavenly Kingdom.

In the life of the Kingdom of Heaven that lives in us.

In the life of our Christ. Who Himself is Paradise.

 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep us from falling away and will bring us with great joy into His glorious presence without a single fault.

 All glory to Him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time!

Amen

In Christ,

THE STORY OF BAR (INSERT NAME HERE)

Mark 10:46-52 tells the story of Jesus healing a blind beggar known as Bartimaeus. It is a well known account of Jesus’ healing ministry. The problem with “well known stories of the bible” is that we have a tendency to flip through them very quickly. Primarily because ‘we already know what happens’.

I happened to be listening to Mark 10 yesterday, and when it came to the story of Blind Bartimaeus, something in the passage caught my attention that had not in the many times I’d read this scripture in the past.

As a side note, I’m not a fan of advocating one bible version over another. The lovers of the KJV sometimes instruct everyone to read KJV as they believe it’s the original English translation, and therefore, the most accurate. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with that claim here. I, personally, study by comparing several translations side by side. (It helps me to do it that way), but the version of the bible that I was listening to, when I heard what I heard was the KJV. Then, when I compared it to other translations, it read differently. So, since the Spirit of God caught my attention with the KJV, I will refer you to the KJV for this discussion.

Mark 10:

46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.

48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.

49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.

50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.

51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.

52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

So, let’s walk thought it together, shall we?

46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

1. Of all the accounts in the bible where Jesus healed a beggars (even this story as portrayed in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke), the account in Mark’s gospel is the only account where the beggar was referred to by name. The literal translation of the name Bartimaeus is said to be (Bar Timaeus) which translates to (son of Timaeus).

Therefore, the name here is really an identifier of who this person is.

He’s not just “A blind beggar”, of which I’m certain there were many in that region, in those days. He was a blind man who begged on the side of the highway and he was the son of Timaeus. The identification of Bartimaeus makes this account somewhat personal. Somewhat specific. “This is not a story of a blind beggar whom Jesus healed, this is a story of a SPECIFIC blind beggar whom Jesus healed. I believe the specification is made here because there is something different; something unique about Jesus’ healing of this particular man.

47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.

48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.

2. I’m certain we’ve all heard this story preached in a sermon at least once in our Christian lives. We’ve heard that Bartimaeus, upon hearing that it was Jesus who was passing by, ‘cried out’ to get his attention. Upon being reprimanded to be quiet, he cried out all the louder still. We’ve been taught to consider the act when we are seeking something from God. ‘Cry out to Him” this has taught us. Then when your circumstances or your adversaries attempt to silence you or to discourage you, ‘cry out even louder’. It is an excellent and accurate lesson! When seeking the Lord for deliverance from our circumstances, we are indeed to boldly and loudly cry out to Him. The loudness does not indicate that we need to shout because Christ is hard of hearing, but that our voice of faith needs to be louder than the voice of our opposition and the voices that are looking to silence and discourage us. But there’s an additional point that I want to highlight in this passage.

The other amazing feature in this story is not simply that Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus, it is WHAT he cried out to Jesus.

The passage tells us “when He heard it was Jesus of Nazareth” he cried out; not just Jesus, not Rabboni, not master, not miracle worker, not prophet; though Jesus was all of those thing.

Bartimaeus did not simply cry out his name, or reference Him concerning what Jesus could do, Bartimaeus cried out WHO JESUS WAS!

“Jesus, thou Son of David”!

Bartimaeus addressed Jesus as the Messiah!

For one reason:

He BELIEVED that the Jesus of Nazareth, whom he had heard about, was indeed the one whom the scripture had foretold was The Son of David. The Messiah!

Even when he was charged to be silent, he cried out even louder “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me”!

Remember that this was a time when even the 12 disciples weren’t fully convinced if Jesus was the Christ or not. Enter this blind beggar. Positioned at the side of the road leading to Jericho. As he sat there, he was told of who was passing. It is what was that revelation stirred in him that makes all the difference in this story.

Bartimaeus wasn’t simply stirred by the fact that the man whom he’s heard had performed all of these miracles was now in front of him and now, he could get a miracle of his own. No! His spirit was stirred with the knowledge of “It’s Him! The one whom the scriptures foretold! It’s Him! He’s here!”

Bartimaeus’ faith was confident of not only what Christ could do, but of who He was. He believed on the Holy One of Isreal. He believed Jesus of Nazareth who was there in that moment was He.

Which brings us to a very pivotal moment. Not only in the life of Bartimaeus in that moment, but by application into the life of everyone today who not only believes what Jesus can do for them, but who believes on who Jesus of Nazareth is – The Son of David; The Lamb of God; He who takes away the sins of the world; Our Savior!

49 And Jesus stood still.

3. Jesus, in His Word tells us that He will never cast aside anyone who comes to Him. He also says that anyone who does anything in His name cannot speak evil of Him. The same Jesus also expressed exasperation at times when He addressed the requests of those who sought Him when he said, “How long must I be with you people…” But, when Blind Bartimaeus cried out to Him, He stopped. There was no exasperation. There was no question of “do you believe?” Jesus already knew not only Bartimaeus’ belief, but the type of belief that he had. So, when Jesus commanded that Bartimaeus be brought to Him, He went straight to the point by asking:

“What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?”

Before we talk about Bartimeus’ response, I need to point out a very significant thing that Bartimaeus did when He was called by Jesus.

50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.

4. I am a firm believer of everything in the bible having significance. There is no idle or irrelevant reference.

When I read this line again, yesterday, I asked, “Lord why are you referencing the garment?” Instantly, the answer came.

I said earlier that reading familiar passages routinely can cause us to gloss over some relevant symbolisms. On it’s own, the reference to “the garment” seems very insignificant. However, tie it in to the other significant parts of this story that we have pointed out so far, then the reference to “the garment” becomes huge!

Bartimaeus was a beggar for one reason:He was blind.

It was his blindness, his inability to ‘see’ that put him in the predicament that he was.

It is obvious from the scripture that Bartimaeus knew enough of the scripture to know of the coming of the Messiah.

It is also obvious from this scripture to know that Bartimaeus, before the day their paths crossed, had heard of Jesus of Nazareth.

So, on this day, when Jesus of Nazareth came his way, what Bartimaeus had already believed in his heart now burst forth from his mouth.

“Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.”

I wonder what Bartimaeus’ ponderings were before that day whe Jesus came his way.

I wonder if he prayed that He would come that way. I wonder if he ever said to himself, “If I could just meet him…”

This scripture, however, does tell me that Bartimaeus was well aware of his ‘blindness’ and the conditions that the blindness had subjected him to.

His blindness had made him a beggar. It had subjected him to sitting on the side of the road; with his beggar’s cloak and everything that identified him as a beggar.

Bartimaeus was a slave to his blindness. The cause of the blindness, we do not know. The effects of it are glaringly obvious. Bartimaeus was not content being a beggar, even though he was subject to it as a result of his blindness. I believe that the “cloak of the beggar” that he wore was directly related to a blindness that he desperately wanted taken away, but did not have the power to.

However, once Jesus called him, he cast aside the beggar’s cloak. Because he BELIEVED that Jesus, not only COULD cure his blindness, but WOULD cure his blindness.

Once Jesus, Son of David became a certainty in his life, Bartemeus rejected his beggars cloak. He cast it aside. Bescause rose up to go to Jesus with the ABSOLUTE FAITH that Jesus would open his eyes and his life would be changed forever.

Now, what happened next is really where the specifics of Mark’s account of this event truly make a difference. As I referenced in the beginning, it is also the main reason I chose to use the KJV over the other translations.

52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

6. We’ve already talked about the faith of Bartimaeus. Not just his faith in what Jesus could do, but his faith who Jesus was. It was this faith that Jesus referred to in this verse. It was this faith that made him “whole.”

His belief in who Jesus was healed his blindness and gave him back his sight.

His belief in who Jesus was cast off his cloak of bondage and shame.

Even more important than these 2 signs of deliverance, the biggest was that:

Once Bartimaeus received his sight, he followed Jesus “in THE way.”

Other translations of the bible write this to say that he followed Jesus to where He was going (along the road). I believe it goes deeper than that, and each key point that we have touched on in this passage alludes to that.

Bartimaeus’ heart was sealed in Christ that day and he went in “The Way, The Truth and The Life.”

He became a true believer of Christ.

Many walked with Jesus for a time. Many followed Him. Many chanted “Hosanna” and greeted him as he entered Jerusalem. But as many that followed Him for the things that they saw Him do, as many turned away from Him for the things that He did not do.

“If you really are the Son of God…”

Bartimaeus, on the otherhand, believed that Jesus was the son of God. No further convincing was needed. For that faith, Jesus not only healed his affliction, but He made him a complete man in Him.

The title of “Bar (Insert Your Name Here) was chosen because of how personal I believe this story is.

We are all the child of someone. Also, Jesus knows who we are. We are specific to Him.

We are all afflicted with some hinderance or another that keeps us under a cloak of bondage.

What is your ‘blindness’? What is your hinderance? What is your brick wall? What is your rut?

Are you sick and tired of the garment or identifier that your “blindness” has subjected/confined you to?

Are you tired of wanting to obey God yet the cycle of disobedience somehow sucks you back in?

Are you tired of tripping over the same stumbling stone, over and over again?

Are you held down by a physical/emotional/mental/behavioral trait that you can’t seem to shake no matter how desperately you try. Yet, you know that this trait is keeping you from walking in the way of Christ?

Are you tired of being unhappy? Depressed? Angry?Confused? Envious of others? Discouraged? Despondent? Resentful? Vindictive? Unforgiving? Unfulfilled? Stagnant? Unfruitful? Anxious? Nervous? Uncertain? Afraid? Insecure? Lost? Out of place?

If you are at a place that you cannot seem to get beyond or keep coming back to after it seems as if you made progress and that, ‘place’ has caused you to a state of helplessness…

Then, my friend, put yourself in the place of Bartimaeus, (Insert your Name here) and behold! Jesus, Son of David is there with you!

Cry out to Him.

He will stop!

When your oppression tries to restrain and stifle you, cry out louder still!

He will stop!

But, don’t just believe that He can change your circumstances?

Believe that He can change your life!

Believe that He cal change your way! So that you walk in The Way. In His Way!

Christ did not come to simply touch our lives, He came to change our lives!

But we have to believe in Him.

It is only in our believing on His Name; truly knowing Him and allowing Him to walk us in His way, that our blindness can be healed, our garments of bondage cast off, and we can be made whole in Him.

So, my friends, “Be of good comfort. Rise. He calleth thee.”

Now to him who is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy. To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ.

The handmaid at His feet.

 

THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH

If someone asked you today what you think is the most urgent message in Christianity?What would your answer be?
Considering the rise in atrocities that currently exist in the world: terrorism, mass shootings, voilence, lawlessness, perversiveness, etc. One can say it is a clear sign that the end times are indeed near. Therefore, the message should be to repent and receive Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior.
Another, in line with the first, would be to prepare for Rapture. Gird one’s loins, so to speak. For the coming of Christ is near.
Both of these messages are relevant, and urgent.
There’s another message that I find to be very urgent at this time.
STRIVE TO BECOME COMPLETELY FOOLISH!
Yes! It is of a great urgency, and a high priority, that we Christians should beg God to make us fools!
Christians/Believers need to come before the Throne of Grace, and ask the Lord to wipe away every shred of wisdom and intelligence that we have acquired about Him that is not from Him, and that is not focused SOLELY on Him! We are to earnestly ask Jesus to rid us, remove from us, totally empty us of any, and all knowledge, wisdom, learnedness, intelligence, savvy, pomp, and absolute certainty of any and everything that we have come to believe/trust/place our faith in. Erase it all. Then, replace it with HIM and ONLY HIM.
Not the knowledge of Christ. Christ Himself. His very nature. His very disposition.
This is a prayer that we should be screaming, whispering, groaning, weeping, pleading, begging, fasting, worshipping 24/7. It is that urgent!
If you question is “What is the difference between the knowldge of Christ, and Christ Himself, the answer can be found in John 5: 39-40
 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
The Jews, had read the scriptures. They had a knowledge of who their Messiah was, and how he was supposed to come. Based on their interpretation of the scriptures. Yet, here was the Messiah standing in their midst, and they RECOGNIZED him not. They ‘believed’ that they had a knowledge of Christ. However, they were full of their own vision. Their own understanding. Which had nothing to do with Christ Himself or what He represented.
Twenty people can read the same bible passage and have twenty different interpretations. Especially when it comes to the aspect of the Christian. How is that possible if there is only one Christ? Christ did not misrepresent Himself in the bible. That means it is we who are misrepresenting Him. Because we interpret the scripture according to our understanding. Therefore, if we are interested in being Christians, do we not want Christ to be the one revealing Himself to us? Not our belief of Him (which could be influenced), not our understanding of Him (which is subjective), not our knowledge of Him (which could be flawed). But, we want Him. His nature; His Disposition; His Spirit; dwelling in us, and guiding us.
In 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul is reprimanding the Corinthians over the disputes that he has heard were prevalent amonst the people. These disputes were over the teaching of Paul versus the teaching of Apollos. It was causing a huge divide amongst the Christians. This was happening because people were adding to their ‘belief’ elements and interpretations that had nothing to do with Christ, but based on their association with the preaching of one preacher versus the other. So, Paul, quite displeased said:
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Paul was urging the people to stay away from the deviation that carnality causes. What is this carnality? “Our” way. “Our” wisdom, “Our” associations, “Our” preferences, “Our” rationalization, “Our” understanding, “Our” experiences, “Our” creeds, “Our” doctrines…
Everything that is “authoritatively us”, and nothing that is the Spirit of Christ.
The Apostle then goes farther to warn them of the dangers of this “building”, this “adding”. This placing as the “Essence of Redemption” things that are not! The externals, the disciplines, the personal “valuables” of our understanding and misinterpretation of scripture. He says:
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
The foundation is Jesus Christ. The “Essence of Redemption” is Jesus Christ crucified.  The Atonement. The Propitiation. (Romans 10:8-10 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.)
 It is only the Spirit of Christ who can bring us into that Essence. We don’t learn it, we become it. We become one with Christ when His nature replaces our nature.
Paul said if we add anything to this and make that our belief, we should be warned that this belief will be tested! It is this testing that will reveal to the Believers whether we have stayed in line, or where we have erred. I specified “Believers” because verse 15 says “ If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” A true Believer will never be lost ( All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. John 6:37-39) But, we WILL be refined until we are brought into perfect alignment with Jesus Christ.
When the Bible tells us that God will make foolish the wisdom of the wise, we like to think He is talking to the pagans and unbelievers. Though this does apply to them in a general sense, this instance in 1 Corinthians 3 was not being addressed to the unbelievers. Paul was speaking to the Believers. The Christians! Who were now applying carnal wisdom and intelligence to matters of the Redemption.
This is what Satan does. He injects the right amount of deceit, in the right measure, at the right time, under the right circumstances amongst the right set of people, who by the time they are fully entrenched in vain disagreements over every irrelevant thing, will be fully convinced that they are debating matters of Christ. When in reality, they have drifted miles away. The whole time, never even realizing when they strayed from the path.
 He isn’t called the Deceiver for nothing, brethren.
“ Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”;  and again,“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” 1 Cor. 3:18-23.

 

So, if your indignation rose when I said earlier that it was urgent for Christians to strive for foolishness, hopefully you will now climb back down, and lead your brethren to the foot of the cross.
That we may surrender our way for His Way. Our will for His Will.
That we may come, and ask, and receive, His Spirit, that He has promised to give to us.
 If only we would desire it.
 If only we would ask.
Now to Him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
In Christ.
The handmaid at His feet