Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Final Divorce

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and become united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”
Matthew 19:5 (NIV).

“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness...” Matthew 19:9 (NIV).

A cadre of Pharisees stood off to the side and observed. The upstart religious phenomenon's popularity grew with a combination of homespun tales and slick tricks. The former carpenter turned rabbi lacked the necessary credentials for them to take him seriously, still He possessed remarkable wisdom and insight concerning God's laws.

In an effort to entrap Jesus, the teachers of the Law approached Him with a question concerning divorce. On the surface it appeared as an honest inquiry. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” Matthew 19:3 (NIV). They awaited His response, ready to pounce. Surely He'd give them something to use to silence Him. What they got was just the opposite.

With an answer more orthodox than expected Jesus caught His opponents off guard. Quoting Genesis, He reminded the Pharisees of God's original intent – no divorce at all. When they married, a couple became one flesh and no one was to severe that union. Jesus continued to correct the experts. It was Moses, not God, who permitted divorce and only in response to their hard-hearted condition. End of discussion; the snare set for the prey entrapped the hunters.

I sense a deeper meaning beside the issue of marriage and divorce; our relationship with God. The union between a man and woman is sacred and permanent – they are one. Like a groom, Jesus left His Father's home to pursue His bride. He reconciled the world (the good, the bad and the ugly) to Himself through the crucifixion and resurrection. God and man are back in relationship and are never meant to be separated again.

Jesus stated infidelity is the only grounds for a marital dissolution. Concerning God, everyone has the choice to accept the reconciliation already in place. To reject Him for any reason is akin to unfaithfulness. Jesus said we could only be for Him or against Him. No middle ground and no neutrality; we're either with Him or we're not. Any decision to reject God's free gift of love and relationship will bring about the final divorce and the right to live eternally without Him – in hell.

God's always faithful, He never walks away from anyone. He respects us and the choices we make. If you don't realize that right now you're in God's good graces, today is your day! Is there any good reason preventing you from accepting what's already yours? I hope not. God is only a prayer away. Don't miss out on the deal of a life time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith” Hebrews 12:2

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.
In the light of His glory and grace.”

As a new Christian the words of this song brought comfort and reassurance. There was just one little problem – how did you do it? I wanted to actually see Jesus like the chorus suggested. Would my everyday cares and problems evaporate at the sight of His face?

I didn't know anyone who'd ever seen or would admit to having seen Jesus. Forty plus years ago if I'd stood up and testified that I'd really seen the Lord I may have received a polite, tepid response at best. If I persisted in my belief that I'd had a personal encounter with God I may have found myself in the Pastor's office for a sit down, or worse, received the left foot of fellowship. Sound far-fetched?

Oral Roberts was one of the forerunners of the healing revivals that swept this nation. No fly-by-night kook, Brother Roberts had a proven, documented track record of miracles and healings. When he announced that he'd seen a nine hundred foot tall Jesus the secular media blasted him (no surprise there). The Christian community crucified him, present company included. The audacity – someone claiming to see Jesus! If he couldn't see Jesus what made the rank and file think we were any different. We mocked, laughed and kept right on singing that same old chorus.

Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” John 20:29. This verse and 2 Corinthians 5:7 “we walk by faith and not by sight” seem to exclude the possibility that we can see into the heavens. It's more necessary than I once thought and it's totally in the realm of possibility.

Jesus said in John 14:12 that we would do not only what He did, but even greater things. The Apostle John told us that if everything Jesus did had been written down there wouldn't be room enough to contain all the books that documented His activities. The Lord accomplished a lot in that three year span of time. The dude was busy. Jesus Himself said that He only did what He saw the Father doing and only spoke what He heard the Father saying, John 5:19 (emphasis mine). If it worked for Him, why are we busy testing out new methods?

Christians like to brag that New Testament believers have a better covenant than those who lived under the Old. Genesis eighteen records Abraham's first hand encounter with God and their discussion concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses spoke with God “face to face,” Exodus 33:11. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders went up, saw God and ate with Him, Exodus 24:9-11. Before there was either an Old or a New Covenant, Enoch “walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” Genesis 5:24. Abraham's personal interaction with God didn't exclude him from the Hall of Faith described in the book of Hebrews. For us New Covenant folks, Paul not only encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus but also visited heaven on at least one occasion. Those experiences didn't seem to dampened or diminish Paul's ability to walk by faith.

Sounds like I may be venturing onto some slippery, theological territory. Am I implying that we can actually “fix our eyes on Jesus,” as the scripture says? I may get stoned but I say, “Yes it does.”
This may sound controversial or even New Age-ish. For the record, there isn't anything new about the New Age. Everything they have is a counterfeit of something real that belongs to believers. Do a cursory search of early church history and you'll find that supernatural experiences weren't unusual. In may parts of the world outside our Western, logic, reason based mentality, spiritual things are as real if not more so than what is seen in the natural. They're normal. If that's so, we could benefit from that kind of normality here.

How about you? If you could see Jesus face to face, what would that look like to you? What in your life could take on more importance when you looked into His eyes? What would keep you from pursuing that kind of relationship with Him right now?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Are You Ready For Some Football?

“Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing (rightly handling and skillfully teaching) the Word of Truth”
2 Timothy 2:15 (AMP).

Fall means cooler temperatures. Leaves fall and pigskins fly high. In the South, football is serious business. The elongated weekend begins with the Thursday night NFL game. Friday night, high school players take to the field and the hometown fans jam stadiums to cheer their team on to victory. Saturday is dominated by college football. The pros take over again on Sunday afternoon and the weekend winds up with “Are You Ready For Some Football?” - the Monday Night Game. Personally, I miss Hank Jr. doing the intro.

As a life long Eagles fan I'm happy, my team has started out strong this year (condolences to Nancy Pike and other Giants fans, I know your pain). So far there's room for cautious optimism, but hey, it's still early in the season. Philly fans are known for two things: booing Santa and the exceptional ability to endure repetitive disappointments.

Two weeks ago I discovered an interesting fact about Christians and now I think I've discovered the root cause of my team's propensity to fail. Only 20% of the players read the playbook! Check out the numbers.

The final roster of an NFL team is 53 men. 20% of 53 is 10.6 so for ease of math I'll round up to 11. This figure happens to be the maximum number of players a team can have on the field at any given time. If all of a team's prepared members are defense they'll be brilliant in comparison to the ill-informed offense and vice versa. If the number is split between offense and defense, both will be equally mediocre. What if those 11 players are bench warmers? How can any coach effectively call a game if no one on the field understands what he's saying? This might explain the erratic performance of my hometown heroes – and the church.

There are those rabid fans whose lives revolve around their team. The rest of us realize that the morning after the Super Bowl, the BCS College Championship, or any other game of importance, based on which team won, only a small microcosm of the world's population awakens with a new view of life. Both the elation of victory and the sting of defeat are short-lived. Soon things return to normal.

Football doesn't change the world. If 80% of the players fail to prepare the contest will be a bore but the earth will still rotate on its axis. None of the problems, threats or challenges that can upset the fragile balance of peace are resolved by any game's outcome.

Should we not be surprised that Christianity's impact on the world isn't more profound when only 20% of its adherents read their playbook, the bible? Unlike football, Christianity can change the world. If 80% fail to prepare is it any wonder that success is so elusive and results sporadic?

Which group are you part of – the 20% or 80%? What changes could you implement to be ready when The Coach sends you out into the game? There's one thing you can do to help ensure victory. Read the playbook.

Video from youtube

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fragile Handle With Care

“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not put out.” Isaiah 42:3

Do you feel like an empty, brittle shell of your former self? Failures, disappointments, missed opportunities, unmet expectations, unrealized dreams and visions have drained the balance of Your Life's Meaning Account dry. Would the hint of the gentlest spring breeze shatter you into millions of irretrievable pieces? People are cruel and unforgiving, unfortunately. Your biggest fear – falling into the hands of an angry God who surely disapproves of you and your life as it now stands.

One meaning for the word reed is measuring stick. We treat ourselves like these all the time don't we? How do we compare to where we should be (wherever that is), where others are and what God expects of us? Do we make the grade? Discouraged, we admit we've fallen short – again. The solution - TRY HARDER, a program that wears us down and causes us to drop even further behind.

“This Little Light of Mine,” remember that one? “Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” Now the flame's all but extinguished and of little help to you or anybody.

Good news, the Savior isn't coming in the form of the Heavenly Street Sweeper to gather up the refuse and debris of our lives for disposal in the celestial dump. He's not out to eradicate the final remnants of our miserable existence, quite the contrary.

Isaiah knew all about the Messiah. In those tenuous, friable, teetering-on-the brink of implosion moments we have nothing to fear from Jesus. He handles the broken with the tenderest care. Battered and at the breaking point, He won't sweep us under the rug, out of sight to be trampled underfoot. Jesus wraps his arms around us and coaxes us down off the ledge to safety. After the punches are piled on and we're beaten to a bloody pulp, left for dead – the Savior never abandons us. Caught in the arid wasteland of frustration and defeat, Jesus refreshes our soul like a frosty glass of ice cold lemonade. If our light's nothing more than the ember on a smoking wick, He re-ignites us to shine brightly again. His touch heals. Recovery often includes some discomfort but He's not about to inflict needless suffering. Jesus doesn't kick those who are down, He raises them up instead.

If you fear His gaze would be the final, fatal, crushing blow, look again:

whoever (that includes you) comes to me, I will never drive away” John 6:37 (emphasis mine);

He has pity on the weak and needy, and saves the needy from death” Psalm 72:12-13;

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” Psalm 147:3;

But I will restore you to health, and heal your wounds, declares the Lord, because you are called an outcast” Jeremiah 30:17.

Jesus is interested in putting people back together not writing them off as a hopeless case. Let these words flow over the tattered remnants of your heart like a healing ointment. As you do, entrust yourself to the One who wrote the instruction manual on “Fragile, Handle With Care.”

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