Compassion for the Scum and Refuse

November 24, 2014

We had our Thanksgiving dinner at my church yesterday. As he does every year, Deacon Thomas Milloy opens the floor for people to share the reasons for their thankfulness. What I shared was my gratefulness about being REDEEMED. I Been Redeemed is a song by an artist named Flame. In it, he and Trip Lee rap about what Jesus did in redeeming man. The chorus says, “Jesus did it. Every time I think about it, I get amped.” It follows the Word of God in Lamentations 3:58 that gives rise to my writing today. It says, “O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul; You have redeemed my life.” 

I am not sure if you have ever been in trouble, broken the law or in dire straights without resolution. When there is no way out or no resolution, the sense of loss and regret is an all-consuming, all-encompassing burden. One feels trapped as one is held under water without and escape. This is man’s condition before God because of man’s sin. We break God’s law. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death…” Man desires to follow himself. When he does, he becomes an idolator. Jeremiah 17:5 says, “This is what the Lord says:“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.

When we desire to lead our lives and follow that lead, we damn ourselves and become worthless to God. 2 Kings 17:15 says, “They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.” We who were created to have fellowship with God cease to have a relationship with God because of our sin. We are cut off from God just as we cut off people whom we feel are repeatedly trifling without excuse. When we do so, that person becomes nothing to us. That person is powerless to cause us to re-engage him/her in a relationship. This is where God’s Compassion for the Scum and Refuse comes into play. It enters the scene. Verse 45 says that God makes us the scum and refuse. Actually, God allows us to become what we really are. Once more, we become worthless and rejected when we pursue our own desires and not those of God.

Lamentations 3:22-23 states “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” God’s compassion is prompted or motivated from His love for man. I thank God for loving me. Otherwise, I would not have an opportunity to be redeemed – to made right by Christ buying back my life, value and worth to God. It is in Christ that live, move and have my being. Without Him, I am nothing and neither are you. If you don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are still damned in the eyes of God; yet, God has Compassion for the Scum and Refuse. Simply do as the writer did in verse 55. Call on the name of the Lord in humility and a willingness to surrender your life unto Him.

55 I called on your name, Lord,
    from the depths of the pit.
56 You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears
    to my cry for relief.”
57 You came near when I called you,
    and you said, “Do not fear.”

Why did God tell him not to fear? Verse 58 tells us “58 You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life” or in the NKJV “O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul; You have redeemed my life.” Jesus pled the case for my soul. He became my advocate, my lawyer if you will. He pled and won my case. Hallelujah. I am not no longer worthless. I am no longer scum and refuse to God. Read the Word of God and be blessed. 

Lamentations 3 (NIV)

   I am the man who has seen affliction
    by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
He has driven me away and made me walk
    in darkness rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand against me
    again and again, all day long.

He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
    and has broken my bones.
He has besieged me and surrounded me
    with bitterness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in darkness
    like those long dead.

He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
    he has weighed me down with chains.
Even when I call out or cry for help,
    he shuts out my prayer.
He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
    he has made my paths crooked.

10 Like a bear lying in wait,
    like a lion in hiding,
11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me
    and left me without help.
12 He drew his bow
    and made me the target for his arrows.

13 He pierced my heart
    with arrows from his quiver.
14 I became the laughingstock of all my people;
    they mock me in song all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
    and given me gall to drink.

16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
    he has trampled me in the dust.
17 I have been deprived of peace;
    I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
    while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence,
    for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
    there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
    and let him be filled with disgrace.

31 For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.

34 To crush underfoot
    all prisoners in the land,
35 to deny people their rights
    before the Most High,
36 to deprive them of justice—
    would not the Lord see such things?

37 Who can speak and have it happen
    if the Lord has not decreed it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that both calamities and good things come?
39 Why should the living complain
    when punished for their sins?

40 Let us examine our ways and test them,
    and let us return to the Lord.
41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands
    to God in heaven, and say:
42 “We have sinned and rebelled
    and you have not forgiven.

43 “You have covered yourself with anger and pursued us;
    you have slain without pity.
44 You have covered yourself with a cloud
    so that no prayer can get through.
45 You have made us scum and refuse
    among the nations.

46 “All our enemies have opened their mouths
    wide against us.
47 We have suffered terror and pitfalls,
    ruin and destruction.”
48 Streams of tears flow from my eyes
    because my people are destroyed.

49 My eyes will flow unceasingly,
    without relief,
50 until the Lord looks down
    from heaven and sees.
51 What I see brings grief to my soul
    because of all the women of my city.

52 Those who were my enemies without cause
    hunted me like a bird.
53 They tried to end my life in a pit
    and threw stones at me;
54 the waters closed over my head,
    and I thought I was about to perish.

55 I called on your name, Lord,
    from the depths of the pit.
56 You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears
    to my cry for relief.”
57 You came near when I called you,
    and you said, “Do not fear.”

58 You, Lord, took up my case;
    you redeemed my life.
59 Lord, you have seen the wrong done to me.
    Uphold my cause!
60 You have seen the depth of their vengeance,
    all their plots against me.

61 Lord, you have heard their insults,
    all their plots against me—
62 what my enemies whisper and mutter
    against me all day long.
63 Look at them! Sitting or standing,
    they mock me in their songs.

64 Pay them back what they deserve, Lord,
    for what their hands have done.
65 Put a veil over their hearts,
    and may your curse be on them!
66 Pursue them in anger and destroy them
    from under the heavens of the Lord.

Give Glory to God

November 21, 2014

Wow,

I felt a longing in my soul to go away from John 15 which I have been reading and writing about over the past few weeks. I asked God what should I read. Should I spin the wheel on my app to see where it lands. This has been very pointed for a friend who is seeking the Lord within the past weeks. God directed me to Psalms 115 which is where “Give Glory to God” jumped off the page.

It is ironic that it says that after getting on Facebook this morning for the first time in several days. I saw a post from one of my former students. He was a very accomplished student. He posted about a former educator. He stated it reminded him of his former high school principal. I felt honored and proud that the student attributed any positive influence in his life from me, but God said give glory to Me in your response, so I did. Now, I read this text which I had no idea I would read this morning, but God did. This just shows why He deserves glory. He knows all things, arranges all things, connects all things for His glory. I admit there are times when I am baffled by what God does or allows, but I am reminded of Peter’s response when he had been fishing all night and had not caught anything after Jesus told him to cast his net again in a specific location. Listen to Peter’s response found in Luke 5.

“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Peter demonstrated the notion of how to Give Glory to God! There are several ways in which we give glory to God.

1. We give glory to God by not giving it to ourselves. Peter could have trusted in his thoughts and experiences. He referenced them in his response to Jesus, but he did not trust and follow his thoughts and experiences. He did not trust in himself. Ps. 115:1

2. We give glory to God by not giving it to idols. Again, the idol could have been himself, but Peter did not trust himself or the experiences of the other boat. Ps. 115:2-8.

3. We give glory to God by trusting in Him, His promises and His blessings. Ps. 115:9-15

All points presented are reflective of what Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary about Psalm 115

Psalm 115

Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.

Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but cannot walk,
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.

All you Israelites, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.
10 House of Aaron, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.
11 You who fear him, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.

12 The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
    He will bless his people Israel,
    he will bless the house of Aaron,
13 he will bless those who fear the Lord
    small and great alike.

14 May the Lord cause you to flourish,
    both you and your children.
15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

16 The highest heavens belong to the Lord,
    but the earth he has given to mankind.
17 It is not the dead who praise the Lord,
    those who go down to the place of silence;
18 it is we who extol the Lord,
    both now and forevermore.

Praise the Lord.

The text (v. 9-11) tells us that God alone is our help and shield. It is God who helps us. It is God who shields us from the wicked one and the ramifications of sin in this world. Regardless of what happens around us or to us, Give Glory to God!

My Light Fills the Room

November 19, 2014

I want to share with you that I have been a little off-center over the past four days or so. While there were days that I had my quiet time/devotion, there were days that I did not. I was working in the morning. Every time we take on a new role, we become a novice. There are no plans for me to alter, but I must build everything I must do. It is taking time; however, I was robbing God, you and myself. After one day, I knew that I was missing my time with the Lord. I missed hearing His voice. I missed seeing Him work in His Word. I missed Him. My Light Fills the Room.

As I awakened today, the message from God was the same. God told me to not start on anything else before I spent time with Him this morning. He said, “Spend time with me first.” At church, my pastor, Robert Benson, has been speaking about giving the last two weeks. One verse that he quoted was Proverbs 3:9-10 which says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” In regards to an offering, the idea is that God receives first fruits of the first harvest. Translation – give to God before anything or anyone else. We tend to think of giving in terms of money; however, God wants our heart, mind, soul and strength. He wants our time to build our relationship with Him. As I walked into the den of the house that God gave me and has kept me in despite loosing over a third of my income, I had to turn on the light on the steps that lead downstairs in order to plug in my cord for my computer. I need the power to run my computer. God is the power for my life, for my soul. When I turned on the light on the stairs, the light filled the room of the den. I could see where the prongs of the outlet were once the light filled the room. Immediately, God said, “My Light Fills the Room“.

In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Was I truly following Him? Was I putting my work before the Lord? Yes! It was unfortunate, but it was true. Jesus said it then; He is saying it now – “My Light Fills the Room” of your life, or your heart. Likewise, God has said to His followers“You are the light of the world.”… He also says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”(Matthew 5:14-16)

As you know, we have been in John 15 for several weeks. Jesus said, ““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Remaining in Him requires me to obey Him. He commands His followers to give Him first fruits of their hearts, soul, mind and strength. If I was not spending time exactly as He commands, His Words “My Light Fills the Room” were not exactly being realized in my life.

This is what I love so much about God. He teaches, rebukes, corrects and trains in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). We know from John 15 that He is the power source. His Word illuminates the darkness of our hearts and minds. It then is incumbent upon us to choose to follow Him in obedience or to keep going in disobedience. I could not continue this morning trying to make sure my lesson for my students were refined. God told me the greatest lesson is to follow Him, to spend time with Him hearing from Him how to live my life today. I needed to know how to let my light shine. It starts with removing the lamp shade of being too busy to consistently spend time with God in Word and in prayer. By failing to do so, I prevent God from saying to me and to others through me My Light Fills the Room.

At 2:30 in the morning today, it was almost completely dark in the house. When I turned on the light on the stairway, the light filled the stairway as well as in the den. I could see how to plug in my cord to my computer to power it up. God’s Word is not only the Light that fills the Room; it is also the source of our life. Without His Word, we fail to hear from God. For the Word of God says in Hebrews 1:1-3a that “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

If we want to be sustained, we must spend time in God’s Word. We must read it, hear it, memorize it, meditate on it, and study it. I had failed to consistently do that over the past few days. Thank God for His direction and correction. For this morning, God has fulfilled in me what He said,My Light Fills the Room” God is saying to us through the Prophet Nehemiah (9:11-13) “11 You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. 12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.13 “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good.” God has taken extreme measures to purchase our freedom. Let us not forsake that by failing to walk in the light of His love and Word.

You Did Not Choose Me

November 13, 2014

I was supposed to address why God chose us, but I continued to think on “I chose you”. In Christendom, we, unknowingly, assume credit for things that we shouldn’t. We unknowingly grab for God’s glory. Let me give you an example. We will pray for something either for someone or for ourselves. God will answer the prayer, and we are excited about the answer. We start telling people “I prayed for that”, “I asked God to…”, “I went into my closet” or I laid prostrate before the Lord (me)” Likewise, we assume too much credit when we come to Christ. We say stuff like “I gave my life to Christ”, “I decided to get saved”, “I just saw all God showed me, so I gave my life to Christ” or “It was like the preacher was speaking to me, so I gave my life to Christ”. Jesus sets the matter straight. He says, “You Did Not Choose Me“.

John 15.

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Despite Christ telling us “You Did Not Choose Me“, we persist in thinking we follow God because of a choice we make. The Word of God says “13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” Colossians 2:13-14 Moreover, Jesus had already told the disciples in John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Furthermore, Jesus says later in John 6 that “63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.” Lastly, John Calvin was quoted to say “Indeed the Word of God is like the sun, shining upon all those to whom it is proclaimed, but with no effect among the blind. Now, all of us are blind by nature in this respect… Accordingly, it cannot penetrate into our minds unless the Spirit, as the inner teacher, through his illumination makes entry for it.”

It is clear that we are incapable of choosing God unless God first chooses and enables us to respond to Him. As always, Jesus is absolutely right when He says, “You Did Not Choose Me“. If you have been struggling with making the initial decision for Christ, pray that God will enable you to respond to His Word. Pray that you are one of the ones whom Jesus knows who will believe. Jesus knows, but we do not, so it is not futile for us to pray. It is not futile for us to evangelism and love on people. It is not futile for us to investigate or pursue God in our infinitesimal strength. Remember, Jesus said, You Did Not Choose Me, but I Chose You.” Now, we know what God did in choosing us. Maybe tomorrow we can look at why God chose us. Be blessed as you reflect over the great and mighty work of God in us through Christ and the Holy Spirit. 

I Chose You

November 12, 2014

In the proverbial example of being left out, I think about the scenario of kids on the play ground choosing a team among those looking expectantly at the two captains. The exhilaration of the first person chosen contrasts well with the deflation of the last player chosen. More than that, there are times when the players were not chosen at all. The pain of being chosen last or not all is reflecting on one’s worth. Most internalize their selection status as not worthy.

Romans 3:23 tells us about our worth – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” We have failed God. We are not worthy of Him as our efforts pales in comparison to God’s glory. We are no where close to the character of God. We sin. God does not. We are imperfect; God is perfect. We are pitiful; God is praiseworthy. Need I go on? It is obvious that we are out of our league in comparison to God. If you still think that we are something, Isaiah 59:2 tells us “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” Furthermore, Ezekiel 39:23 says, “23 And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me. So I hid my face from them and handed them over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword.”

Those examples of our unworthiness serve as the backdrop for Christ’s comments to the disciples in John 15.

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

I do not want to simplify and minimize such an important doctrine presented in this verse: the doctrine of Election. I want to emphasize the privilege and importance of what Christ said. I Chose YouJesus, as a part of the Godhead, reiterates what He had told them in John 13:18. Though in that passage, it is easy to get lost in the notion that He chose them to be disciples. It is true; however, the chose was made by Jesus that those men would be the ones whom God used to establish the ministry of Jesus as God builds His kingdom through the church. Unlike the playground, Jesus did not chose them because of their worthiness. We know that from Romans 3:23. They, like us, were all unworthy.

Why did He chose them? Why does He say I Chose You? I am laughing right now because the Holy Spirit like an enthusiastic student was telling me the answer to those questions. Hallelujah!!! Imagine that, God speaking to me. He Chose me. The Holy Spirit told me Titus, Titus, tell them Titus’ words from Paul. Titus 3 says,

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

God chose them and chooses man because of His mercy. Paul tells us to stop complaining about God’s choice. Romans 9:14-1614 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

God had mercy on the disciples in choosing them. God has had mercy on me in choosing me as a follower of Christ. Consequently, the correct response is love for God expressed through thankfulness and obedience. That is what Christ meant when He told them “Love each other as I have loved you.” I have given you mercy that you did not deserve. Now, give mercy to one another as they do not deserve it, but as my followers, you will do this because I Chose You.

I Chose You. God has chosen me. Has he chosen you? Tomorrow, we will talk about why we were chosen. Today, I will revel in the fact that I have been chosen by God to be on His team. I am on the winning team before the conclusion of the game. The end is already determined. Hallelujah – Praise the Father, praise the Son, praise the Spirit three in one. Give glory to God saints. Give glory to God.

I Am the True Vine II

November 11, 2014

In the post I Am The True Vine, I shared with you that this was the last of Jesus’ “I Am” As a reminder, Jesus made the 7 “I AM” statements.

I AM the True Vine (John 15:1-17)
I AM the Way, Truth and Life (John 14:1-7)
I AM the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:1-44)
I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18)
I AM the Door (John 10:1-9)
I AM the Light of the World (John 8:12-18; 25-30)
I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:25-35; 48-59)

In the “I AM” statements, Jesus revealed truth about His being and character that is essential for believers. We who profess Christ must know who He is in order to properly proclaim Him to other and to teach others about Christ. That is a matter that we should not miss. After all, we are command to proclaim, teach and know Christ.

Jesus said,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15)

What I really want to major on is the fact that Jesus says I Am the True Vine II. I am sure there are multiple meanings that one may take away from that statement. I originally wrote about another thought when I read the passage. Today, as I began to read the passage for my devotion, The Lord God, through the Holy Spirit, stopped me. He had me to reread the first verse. He questioned me about word usage in the verse. In the major versions, the word “true” is used as a modifier or adjective of the vine. In that five word statement, Jesus declares something exclusionary about Himself. He is giving us a headline, an exclusive in an interaction.

I Am the True Vine II. Jesus declares that He is the true vine. There can only be one true vine. Jesus declares that He is it. True being the real, official and authentic vine. All other vines are not true, real or viable. Our world abounds with imitations. There are imitations found with food, clothing, accessories, design, research, presentations and the like. There is imitation crab meat. There is imitation Gucci apparel. Some say that Chrysler imitated Bentley for the 300. Jesus proclaimed to be the real thing long before Coca Cola.There are imitations all around, but Jesus wanted the disciples and us to know that there is only one true vine.

Now in the analogy presented by Christ, I Am the True Vine, the order of the relationship between man and Christ is set forth. He is the vine and those who profess Christ as Savior and Lord are the branches. If one is not connected to the vine, the nourishment that the branch receives is imitation only. Christ submits that it is not even imitation. It is not true nourishment as evidenced by the branch being cut off (v4), thrown away, withers, picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. The eventual end for a branch that bears no fruit is to be burned (v6). Christ says that we are to bear fruit. Fruit in the Word of God always refers to people’s character being transformed bearing out that of Christ not the sinful nature (Romans 8:4-9 & Galatians 5:22-23). Fruit also refers to evidence in sharing our faith or in evangelism (Matthew. 13:3–8 and Romans. 1:13).

The only fruit that Jesus is concerned about is our character being transformed in likeness to His (sanctification) and our sharing with other people that Jesus is the Christ who redeems man from the curse and eternal consequence of sin (justification). Followers of Christ must be involved in both endeavors in order to have a healthy balanced observance of what Jesus did here on earth as well as the charge given to us (Matthew 28:18-20).

I Am the True Vine II. Jesus wants us to know there is no other source of redemption and reconciliation nor is there for reforming our character. All other attempts to reform/transform our character falls short of who He is and what He espouses. This is why He explains that He proclaims I Am the True Vine. Who is it that you are connected with for your redemption and reformation? If it it not Christ, He says you are connected to the wrong vine. Your branch will be cut off, thrown away, wither, picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. Is that the end you want? If not, seek Jesus Christ alone as your means for redemption and reformation.

Servant or Friend

November 9, 2014

In life, relationships take on many dynamics. There are some people who get along with well. We handle challenges and conflict with ease. There are others whom we have some challenges, but we work them out. On the other hand, there are some people who we just cannot workout our challenges and conflicts. We tend to stay away from those people. We may interact, but we do not have any type of relationship.

In John 15, Jesus talks about His relationship with His disciples. He qualifies the nature of His relationship with them. He has a close relationship with them. He is entering the time of their relationship where He will have to work out challenges and conflicts. He has already shared that one (Judas) will betray Him. From scripture, we know that Peter later denied knowing Jesus. Despite all of that, Jesus makes a proclamation to the disciples.

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus has already clarified what it means for man to be His friend. Obedience is the criteria. He says, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” There is much in that statement. First, Jesus, like all of us, establishes a criteria for which He calls people friends. Like us, it has to do with the manner in which people respond/relate to us. For Christ, obedience is the key. Now, if we do not read, memorize, meditated, hear or study the Word, we cannot know what Jesus expects us to do. If we don’t know what He commands, we cannot follow the commands. Consequently, you are not Jesus’ friend. In fact, Jesus states that you don’t know Him. I John 3 further clarifies Jesus’ expectations.

Now, we know that we nor the disciples are perfect in our execution of Jesus’ commands. While holiness is the expectations, Jesus knew that we would not be perfect, so He came to die for our sins to redeem us. In this passage, we see Jesus making a distinction between a servant and a friend.  Once more, Jesus provides a criterion to determine whether one is a servant or one is a friend.

15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

In our lives, there are casual acquaintances and there are real friends. We do not share our business with casual acquaintances. We share our deepest thoughts, cares and concerns with those we feel are invested in the relationship, with people we believe we can trust. They have shown themselves to be trustworthy. They have consistently kept our trust by not sharing our trusted thoughts and feelings. They have maintained our confidence. For Jesus, I have read that the difference between a servant and a friend is not between diligent obedience and disobedience (or even casual obedience). The difference is between understanding and not understanding. Because friends have a close relationship, they understand while servants do not. here is no previous record of Jesus Christ calling the disciples “servants,” except possibly 12:26; yet Jesus had a right to do this, as He had the right to be called “Lord” (13:13). “Friend” suggests a close relation, and the language of brotherhood is closer still (Heb. 2:10, 11) Christ did not have a higher revelation reserved for an inner group; He revealed Himself to the disciples unstintingly. (from the Reformation Study Bible)

According to Jesus, the criteria for calling one a friend is obedience. The benefit of being called a friend is disclosure of Himself. What an awesome thought! Jesus, who created all things, wants to disclose Himself to me, to you. Jesus wants us to know and understand who He is in light of what He commands us to do. When we know who He is and what He can do, obedience is easy and natural. This is why it is so important to consume the Word. In the Word, we develop our understanding of Christ.

Are you Servant or Friend? Jesus has shown us how to assess ourselves. Are we obedient? Do we consistently consume the Word of God in pursuit of Christ? Those standards Jesus set. Evaluate where you are in terms of being a Servant or Friend.

The Great Bailout

November 5, 2014

Over the past seven years, Americans have faced difficult financial times. The times were so great that financial institutions, automakers and many others received assistance from the government – bailouts. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, commonly referred to as a bailout of the U.S. financial system, sought to stabilize the American economy and to avert a greater world depression than the Great Depression. There was and is great debate over whether government should be taking on debt now for debt later. America’s insolvency, the inability to pay its debit, was only delayed. The national debt continues to rise. The challenges of the day were only delayed for challenges of tomorrow which our children or grandchildren will have to shoulder assuming tomorrow comes. America still remains insolvent.

There is a greater insolvency that we all face. We continue to outpace our ability to repay the debt owed on our actions. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death” According to that and several other passages, the result of our disobedience to God’s Word and will results in death. Obviously, the Word is not referring to immediate death entirely though there are instances when that is true. The death referred to is a separation between man and God. Because of sin, man’s union or fellowship with God was broken. We first saw this with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. Listen to the response of Adam after his sin.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

Since God is omniscient, the question He asked Adam was rhetorical and reflective in nature. Adam acknowledge that he was now separate and afraid. He hid because he knew he had done wrong; he had violated the rules of his relationship with God. Fast forward, we too have violated the rules of our relationship with God. We have not loved “the Lord your God with all your heart and with all yoursoul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30. Adam, Eve and all of us experience death when we sin against God. In doing so, we create a debt that we are incapable of paying without our eternal demise. “For the wages of sin is death, but he gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The gift of God, Christ Jesus, is The Great Bailout. In John 15:13, Jesus proclaims that Himself when He said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus proclaimed that the greatest demonstration of love is to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 1 John 3:16 says, “16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Here we see the Father and the Son working in concert with each other to provide for the The Great Bailout.

The difference between my triune God’s The Great Bailout and the U.S. government bailout is its permanency. The debits assumed by the government must be repaid. In fact, some have asserted that the 2008 bailout sold America into slavery to the benefactor. Conversely, Christ’s bailout is permanent. Romans 6:10 says, “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Similarly, Hebrews 7:27, says “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” The Great Bailout is anchored and secured by Jesus Christ. To secure funding to cover your sin, one needs to surrender his debts and follow Christ. A life of fellowship, faith, peace, love, security in the midst of storms in exchange for eternal damnation after a tumultuous life with no aid from He who calms the sea is no comparison.

The primary requirement of The Great Bailout is captured throughout the Word; however, Romans 13:8 says, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” This is exactly what Jesus told His disciples – Love one another. He demonstrated His love by laying down His life. In John 10:11, Jesus tells us He is the Good Shepherd. In John 19:30, He shows us that He is the Good Shepherd. Are you willing to lay down your life for Him? Are you owning up to your indebtedness to Christ? Are you still in need of The Great Bailout? If so, surrender to Jesus. He will lead you out of the bondage to sin. John 15:12 tell us to “12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Love Each Other as I have Loved You

November 2, 2014

In John 15, Jesus shares a number of concepts, consequences and commands. As we review verse 12, we see the first explicitly stated command.

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

While Jesus has certainly given direction and even commands earlier in the text, Love Each Other as I have Loved You is the first explicitly stated command in the passage. By explicitly stating “My command is this”, Jesus evidences the importance of what He is telling the disciples. It also reveals to us what is Jesus’ priority in relating to the body of Christ as we seek to follow Him. As a command, love is not optional for the believer.

First, we are to love God. For we cannot truly love one another if we do not love God. Jesus has equated love of God with obeying His commands. When Jesus said, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”, He provided the blue print for accomplishing the greatest command: love. First, Jesus shared with the disciples that I have modeled love for you. Remember verse 9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” Jesus had washed their feet even the one who would betray Him as well as the one who would deny Him. God called Jesus to love those whom He had given to Him. In doing so, Jesus conveys that loving God is inextricably tied with loving each other, the believer. This is why Jesus says Love Each Other as I have Loved You. 

How did He love them? Philippians 2:8 tells us how. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Likewise, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) The call to discipleship demands that one completely abandon self. Abandoning self involves surrendering your innate desire to seek comfort, fame, or power. Those are the natural inclinations of the heart. Jesus’ incarnation shows that He figuratively and literally took up His cross though in reality the cross he carried was that of each believer. He endured a physical beating. He carried our crosses. He bore our sins on a cross. He endured separation from the Father because of our sins, so when Jesus says, Love Each Other as I have Loved You, Jesus qualifies the manner in which we should demonstrate our love.

Why does Jesus say Love Each Other as I have Loved You, we show ourselves to be His disciples, and we experience the fruitful life, joy, as He intended for us to live. The next time a believer, especially a spouse or child, gets on your nerves, remember the trivial matter pales in comparison to the sin we commit against God. Remember Jesus. Remember Jesus’ love for you. Then, carry your cross by letting your personal issue die as you put the believer’s welfare before your interest. No matter how we dress it up, our concerns do not equate to what Jesus gave up for us. Philippians 2:8 above reminds us what He gave up. It also qualifies how we are to Love Each Other as I have Loved You.

Love Each Other (L.E.O.) Be Brave, L.E.O.

Your Joy May Be Complete

November 1, 2014

“9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.John 15:9-11 (NKJV)
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:9-11 (NIV)
Jesus told His disciples and future followers to Abide in My Love or Remain in My Love. Imagine God telling you to live in His love. Love is what we all desire, so I am sure that was appealing to them. I know that the appeal of living or dwelling in the love of God is alluring to me. God’s love is the grandest. We all want to be loved. Even the world accepts Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s Belongingness is addresses the human not only desire for love but need to be loved.
As creator, Jesus knows exactly what we, His creation, needs. Consequently, we consistently see Jesus telling the people and His disciples that they need Him. In this passage, Jesus is telling us how to obtain what we need, Him. Jesus said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love,” Abiding in Jesus’ love is driven by our obedience.
Obedience then is the key to experiencing Your Joy May Be Complete. Notice, Joy is in the believer. It is not something that originates outside or is obtained by something external. Joy is an internal dynamic. A dynamic driven by Jesus. More specifically, joy is a by-product of the indwelling God – the living Word and the living Holy Spirit. While the disciples were not aware of what Jesus was saying, we have the benefit of looking backwards in light of the Word of God. We do know that Jesus told the disciples that He would send the Advocate, the Helper when He went to the Father. This is how Your Joy May Be Complete.
Jesus spoke those things to them. It is the Word of Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus that brings joy. The Word reveals to us the beauty of who God is and what He does for those who believe in Him. Moreover, His Spirit produces joy as a fruit of living in the hearts of man. The truth about joy resides in obedience. The truth about obedience is that it springs from one’s love for God. Love is the means to joy. This led Paul to say “12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13
If you love God, you will obey Him and Your Joy May Be Complete.

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