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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Story: The Spirit of Christmas... a repost

I am sending this story on... May we all remember the original purpose of our gift giving at Christmas...

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS                   
Contributed by Father Miles O'Brien Riley

I was concluding a three day Christmas retreat in Raleigh, North Carolina when a family gave me this lovely, loving story.

It's just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas—oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it: overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma—the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else. Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties, and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner city church.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And, as each of their boys got up from the mat, they swaggered around in their tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly. "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved kids—all kids—and he knew them having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me.

His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. Each Christmas thereafter, I followed the tradition—one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.

The story doesn't end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, three more were there. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.

The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Man became the son of God… God became the son of man

Cosmic Hand of God captured by NASA
Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. KJV

After the writer of Genesis gives us the basic outline of creation (Days 1-7) He returns to the most important part and provides a more detailed account of the creation and history of mankind. Although God spoke all other creation into existence, we see He reached down in a way that enabled Him to directly form Adam, His premier creation. The King James version of Genesis tells us that as God breathed life directly into the body of Adam he became a living soul. Adam was formed in the image of his Creator, filled with the spirit of life from His breath and given a soul—free will, emotions and intelligence greater than any other creature. Adam was created to be the “Son of God”!

Four thousand years later Jesus is born as the “son of man”! The Almighty King of Kings, God became flesh to redeem us all. Glory to God in the Highest!

Matt 1:23and they will call him “Immanuel"-which means, "God with us."

Luke 2:11-14 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

You know, God could have chosen a thousand different methods to restore mankind to Himself. After all He created the universe, and all the system under which mankind lives and functions. However, He chose to come to dwell on earth… to live as man (limited to our frailty); to experience our human condition… from birth to death, as a child, as a teenager, as an adult. When He whispers into your ear during prayer “I know, I understand”… He really does! He has been there and done that! He has suffered, He has known joy, He was a child and He was a man—He was with us, He has been us!

1 Cor 15:45-49 So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. NIV

God robed himself in human flesh and lived as the perfect example as a “son of man”. He showed us how to live our human life and become again a true “son of God”. We can bear the likeness of the man from heaven, because He has borne our earthly likeness first.

As we celebrate His birth, let us think about the choice He made, to live as we must live in human form, so that we might live as He lived (before he left Glory to come and dwell as God with us), and now again lives (after His return to Heaven) as the Son of God in heavenly form! What a glorious, awesome future He has provided for us!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Is it time yet?

Thinking of Christmas makes me remember the days when I was small (and again when my kids were little) waiting for Christmas morning to come... oh the torture!  It felt like it would never arrive, even though we had an advent calendar to help mark off the time.  Now, get ready I am going to tell you one of those "when I was young ... back in the stoneage" stories.  I grew up on a farm, and even worse it was a dairy farm!  Milk cows wait for no man; when it is milking time you had better show up and do the job...even if it is Christmas morning! So, we had to go do all our chores before we could open Christmas morning presents.  That final two hour wait was longer than all the days leading up to Christmas.  And, my son tells me that it felt like trying to sleep on pins and needles on Christmas eve.

Often it feels the same (or worse) trying to wait for the promises of God to manifest in our lives.  Prov 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.   Do you have a promise you are waiting upon?  Maybe a prophecy spoken to you, or the still small voice of God whispered in your ear 20 years ago and you knew it was God, but you are still waiting for that to happen? 
In my "stone age" story I mentioned that we had an advent calendar to help mark off the time... however, God  usually does not provide a specific date or time for the fulfillment of one of His promises.  I have had promises that would "soon" come to pass delay 8 years or longer.  God's meaning for soon and my meaning for soon do not usually match.

I have recently had some of the long awaited promises of God in my life come to pass... or "start" to come to pass.  God is still faithful and has encouraged me to hold out for the rest of the fulfillment of the promises He has planted in my heart.  He surprised me,  I did not get exactly what I expected (just like Christmas gifts) and the fulfillment did not show up in the exact way that I had pictured it;  but I think the final results will be much better than I could have ever planned by myself. 

If you are still waiting for some promises that seem to be long overdue... don't let your heart be sick, choose to trust God's timing.  It takes a long time to make a diamond, or a pearl; but a cubic zirconia or a cheap white bead only takes a few moments. Maybe you are just in your final "two hours" of chore time before you get to receive your gifts!  It you hang in there for the "real" thing you will receive something of far greater value than if you settle for the cheap imitation that you can give to yourself, or make happen by yourself.

Jer 29:11-14  For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let's Party!

Matt 18:20 For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them.

I had the great pleasure of joining a group of friends last night for an early Christmas party. Best of all, Jesus came too. It was planned as a group of friends having a simple Christmas decoration/ornament exchange with the added pleasure of seeing someone’s new house! The house was beautiful but even better was the Spirit of peace that rested there. We caught up on the events of each other’s lives and in our conversation we encouraged one another, celebrated a few victories and prayed about some trials. I thought about the scripture in Ecclesiastes that tells us two are better than one and if one falls his friend can help him up.

I especially appreciate my friend who took the time and trouble to host the event – it is so easy to become too busy to stop and join with like minded friends to bask in friendship and fellowship of the Spirit. In Phil 2:1-3 Paul exhorts the believers to respond to one another in a certain way :

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

I think Paul would have looked at our time of fellowship last night and proclaimed that his joy was complete! I know mine was.

Maybe it sounds trite, but I encourage you all to find time for true fellowship in the love and joy of Christ during this busy season; as Paul said in Hebrews 10:25… don’t neglect meeting together…but encourage one another. When we join together (formally or informally) and invite Jesus to join with us, we do end up encouraging each other. We have a twofold benefit: being encouraged and getting to encourage someone else. Hey, what is a birthday without a party? Happy Birthday Jesus, and thanks for the a reason to party with you and your friends!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 7 Ahhh...Rest.............. I Surrender!

Gen 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

I have missed my blog (and I am hoping you might have been missing it to). However, I had a good rest over the Thanksgiving holiday (and recovered from mild sickness). I hope you all enjoyed a Rest as well!

The origin of our word holiday is the designated Holy Day established by God when He called the Israelites out of Egypt and gave them the Ten Commands. Deut 5:13-15 states God’s third commandment to set aside the seventh day of the week as a Sabbath (Hebrew: Shabat – to rest, cease) and as we see in Gen. 2:3 He blessed it and made it holy (Hebrew: qadhash—set apart, consecrated, hallowed). Upon this seventh day God rested; His work was complete and good and He set aside time to rest, enjoy the fruit of His labors and gave us an example to do the same.

When Moses is first stating this third Commandment in Deuteronomy he reminds them that they were slaves. Deut.5:15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. We must understand that we will never have REST until we have FREEDOM in Christ! We are first freed from our sins, but we must continue in a path of freedom from self, from pleasing others, from living under condemnation, from the influence of this world… the list goes on and on! When we can live in God’s type of Freedom we will be living in His continual REST!

Observe the words of Isaiah (the Old Testament prophet who is most respected by the Jewish people):
Isa 58:13-14 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14 then you will find your joy in the LORD.

What are we admonished to do in this scripture?

1. Delight in God’s plan for our Rest. We will further look at this plan in Paul’s New Testament discussion of the Rest of God found in Hebrews Chapter 4.

2. Not going your own way. Remember that Jesus says “I am the WayJn.14:6. We must come to Him and enter into His life to be able to resist going our own way.

3. Not doing as we please. Rom 8:78 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. If we live by the control of His indwelling Spirit we can resist and overcome our carnal or fleshly desires .

4. Speaking idle words. Matt 12:34-37For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." The person who has truly committed all his words to God has submitted himself to the Spirit of God and this will produce great abundance and life! Only a changed heart and mind can consistently produce positive, Godly words.

The Rest of God is no longer established by a set aside day of the week; but rather is found every day in living according the Spirit of Christ that dwells within us and influences our reactions to daily life. Col 2:16-17 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Now, to further discuss “delighting in God’s plan for our Rest”, we will dissect Paul’s teaching on Rest in the fourth chapter of Hebrews. As Is 58:14 tells us we will find our JOY in the Lord when we can enter into His Rest-- we must surrender to Him!  Can we follow His plan, His timing, His choices for us instead of our own?

Heb 4:1-7 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. Note: you can miss the Rest of God—even if you are His child. 2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. The message of God’s Rest failed because they did not live in FAITH. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. He CEASED from his work and He rested; we must also CEASE from our own work, rest in faith that HE will work out all our problems and produce a GOOD result and a GOOD plan for success in our lives. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." 5 And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest." 6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Why did they disobey? They failed to TRUST God (lack of faith). 7 Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when must we trust God and rest in Faith that He will solve our problems and work a perfect work in our lives? TODAY! when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."

Heb 4:9-11 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, the effort we make is in yielding our heart, mind, will, emotion and thinking to the control of the Spirit—we CHOOSE how we think and feel! so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

Jesus is the source of REST and His Spirit is the power over fear, worry, doubt, negativity… as we see in Mark 2:27-28 Jesus is the Lord of Rest: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

Why is the 23rd Psalm so popular and powerful to us? It describes a life of Rest under the care of the Good Shepherd.      Ps 23:2-3 He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. 3 He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised.

May you pause to appreciate His care and REST in this busy holiday season! Remember it is His Birth we celebrate, let Him plan the party!  SURRENDER!

I just want to let you all know that I am planning to blog more frequently. I expect to do a complete study (like the one above) about twice a week. I would like to use the other days to discuss your comments, ideas and general topics applying God’s principles to our daily life…. Send me your thoughts, ideas, questions. Please JOIN into the discussions! Comments can be left by clicking on the Anonymous choice under comments, if you do not wish to fill out a profile or to become a regular follower of this blog.

Friday, November 19, 2010

…and man became a Living Soul

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Gen 1:24-31 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

God completes the process of creating the animal kingdom on Day 6. We see a shift in methods as God creates man. Mankind is His final creation for whom He has prepared the Earth and everything in it.

26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

God creates mankind in His own image and likeness. He does this in a “hands on” way as we’ll see later in Chapter 2 where God gives a more specific description of man’s creation. We know that God is a Spirit   (Jn 4:24) and invisible (1 Tim 1:17). We must understand that mankind is not created like God in a physical sense, but rather in His Spiritual attributes. God elevates man above all other creatures and creation by breathing into him the breath of God and making him a living soul.

Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (KJV)

The discussion of God’s image is a long and involved one. A study of the attributes of God would take us down a very long road. Primarily God is Love (I Jn 4:8) and all that absolute love encompasses. He is Righteous (Ez 9:15) and Perfect (Mat 5:48). Adam was made in His likeness. The Hebrew word used here for “likeness” is as a shadow of God. As a child can be in the likeness of his natural father, so were we made in the likeness of God. The child is not the exact copy of the father, but blends qualities of his parents into a new and unique individual. We incorporate God’s qualities into the unique personality
God has given us.

God had an original, perfect intention for Adam and equipped Adam for his role as a ruler of the earth and a child of God. Of course we know that Adam traded his place as ruler and his eternal life for the knowledge of good and evil which corrupted his soul.

Man is a three part being (as in the likeness of our Father) we are created with a body, spirit and soul. Man is not a Spirit, but he has one. Man is his Soul (the very seat of our personal being). We are the most unique creation of God in that we have a soul. Our soul creates our individuality. Our soul is a certain and unique package of abilities, talents, thinking, creativity, personality, goals, authority and self will; our particular “self”.

In our development to become the shadow of God (His image) in the world today God redeems our soul and brings us back to His original intent for our life. The death, resurrection of Jesus and return of His Holy Spirit to dwell within us enables us to be renewed into His Character and Attributes. His image is woven into our life and should regenerate our soul to the original character God breathed into Adam. We should each be a unique, individual representative of God. We must reflect (shadow) the qualities of His Image to the world. This is the highest level of our spiritual development. Let us pursue His specific intentions for our life in this world. Show others that each one of us can fulfill God’s intent in our lives by becoming a unique member of the family of God. Be the exact part of the body of God that He created you to be.

Finally, Jesus gave eternal life back to us and will prepare us to enter into the next world through His “life-giving spirit”.       I Cor.15:45-49 So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. …49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. He sent His Holy Spirit back to the earth to live within each of His believers.  We are must bear His image in all we do.

Gen 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day When God looks at what you have done with your life will He decree that it was very good? Mat 25:23 "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.

He is using this world to prepare us to be unique members of the Heavenly family of God. We will rule and reign with Him eternally. Are you getting ready to fill your special, particular place in His eternal kingdom?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Soar on Wings like Eagles!

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Gen 1:20-23 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

God is beginning to create a new level of “living” creatures on Day 5. We have previously seen plant life, but now we are seeing creatures that move, breathe and live in action! It is interesting to think about the types of creatures God creates on this 5th creative day: those that move through the water and the air. Have you ever watched a salmon swim upstream, or a trout or bass in a lake? The movements of fish in water are (dare I say it?) so fluid! Their movements look almost effortless; and birds in flight are astounding. Right? In Prov. 30:18-19 the writer describes the way of the eagle in the sky as too amazing for him to understand.

In our Spiritual Parallel Universe we have discussed transformation, growth, becoming lights to the darkness and now we come to a new level of living for God in seemingly effortless action. In this level of our godly development we must learn to interact with our world in a way that reveals God’s strength and peace. God wants us to move through our environment with ease so that those around us are as amazed at our ability to endure and overcome as the writer is amazed at the eagle soaring in the sky.

Isa 40:29-31 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

What do you think the world is looking for today? I think it is a solution to our daily stress! Generally the world expects those solutions to come in the form of money, jobs, medical care etc. But in God, as we grow in grace (2 Pet.3:18) and “rise above” the stress of this world (like the eagle that catches the wind currents and soars on the thermals in the upper reaches of the sky) we develop strength to endure and faith to overcome the issues of life. Christians are not exempt from the trials of life, be we can rise above the stress those trials cause mere mortals and soars on wings like eagles, so that our life in God appears effortless to those around us.

Ps 103:2-5 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--
3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

In this scripture from Psalms we see the progression of benefits that God brings into our walk with Him. As we grow and overcome and become more Christ like (do you ever see, in the Bible, Christ succumbing to the stress of life?) God is able to increase our blessings and satisfy our desires with good things. Our life in Him really can become smoother, easier, less stressful and more blessed in the natural and spiritual realms if we learn to trust Him (faith) and rise above the power of the enemy (fear). 1 John 5:3This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

James 1:2-4 Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

When we can live in this state of trust and peace in God we are also able to live a life of action for God. We will be effective in all aspects of our life and increase the kingdom… be fruitful and multiply. James tells us in 2:17faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. Our lives must reach out into the world with action and draw others to Christ because they see our peace and joy and righteousness!

Gen. 1:22 God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." 23 And there was evening, and there was morning--the fifth day.

I leave you with one of my favorite New Testament scriptures. I think this describes the wonderful life God will develop for us if we will submit to His process. In this scripture we see a believer that lives “above” the stress of the world.
Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Again,  please leave your comments... love to hear all your thoughts!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Give Light to the Earth!

Day 4, we are getting closer to the “good parts” as my kids used to say. As we discuss this day I will just insert the spiritual parallels I see into the discussion. Feel free to chime in…

Gen 1:14-15 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so.

First, let’s establish that Jesus is the sun in our parallel universe—spiritually speaking. Sounds like I am writing Sci-Fi, doesn’t it? As you read your Bible, you will find that God’s future universe is much better than the science fiction or fantasy universes that our modern writers conjure up, and it is REAL! Rev 21:22-23I did not see a temple in the city (New Jerusalem), because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, Jesus is described on the Mt Transfiguration in Mat.17:2 in this manner: “His face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light”. Again, in Mal. 4:2 Jesus is referred to as the sun of righteousness.

Let us consider a few things we know about the sun; the sun is the center of our solar system. The energy of the sun supports all life on Earth and controls the climate, weather and most elements of our daily life. In the same manner, Jesus is the center of our lives and all elements of our life must revolve around Him. If we live in this relationship to Him, giving Him the authority and influence in our lives, He will control our weather too. We receive from Him all the energy we need to live and succeed in our world.

God creates specific lights (sun, moon and stars) to place into the atmosphere of the world He was creating for mankind. He indicates three purposes for these lights: to separated day and night, to serve as signs and indicate time periods. The Sun has authority over the day and the moon shines into the night. There will come a time that there is no longer night (check out Rev. 21:25) and we will not need our solar time telling system. We will step into an eternal system no longer controlled by time; one that basks in the brightness of the Glory of God. But, until that time… we must be the representatives of God (signs) in this world of darkness because time is marching on toward that eternal day.

Gen. 1:16 -19“God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day”.

We have already talked about the greatest Light: Jesus. Jesus GOVERNS the day: He is the ultimate authority in righteousness and has all power over the earth and over the spiritual forces in this world. Isa.9:6 tells us the “government will be on His shoulders”. Daniel described the future King and His kingdom in Dan.7:14He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” And finally, Jesus told us in Matt 28:18 "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

So, If Jesus is the Sun, what does the moon and stars represent in our spiritual parallel? Consider this known fact… the moon is not a source of light (as the sun is) but rather reflects the light of the sun onto the surface of the Earth. As disciples of Christ, we are also called to be lights to the world, as the moon reflects the light of the sun into the dark night. Romans 13:12So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: Matt 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Note our light and the benefit of our light always will glorify God and bring the praise back to Him (not for ourselves). Jesus is the source of our Light, but we must be able to reflect His light into the darkness and govern the night! We need to be an influence, just as the moon is an influence on the tides of the earth. Our light (reflected from Jesus--the true source of spiritual Light) should dispel darkness and bring enough light into the world that others can see their way back to Jesus. Phil 2:15 Be children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe”. You may not be the primary influence for someone living in darkness (the moon of their life) but we should all be bright lights(stars) in the night, shining with the Light of God and being recognized as a child of God, even from a distance!

Jesus also invested His authority in His disciples. He expects us to learn to govern with His invested authority to influence our atmosphere with His righteousness. Col 2:9 -10For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” Our government should affect all aspects of life, we are His representative at work, in our family life, as students, parents, business people, artists, in every aspect of human life. Am I using my influence and authority in all aspects of my life to further His Kingdom? Are you?

Dan 12:3Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Growing into God's Plan

Gen 1:9-12 God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. (NIV)

God calls the waters together into seas; as God told Job ( 38:11) concerning the waters “this far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt”. He set the boundaries of the oceans and the land rose up. Verse 11 shows us that the land contained the seeds and brought forth that vegetation in the same growth process that we see today in our gardens. Of course the dirt in my garden produces a lot more weeds than useful produce! (Remember this fact when we discuss the spiritual parallels.)

Further, each seed brought forth the kind of plant it was designed to become and then produced seeds to bring forth another plant of the same type. The fruit of the trees also contains the seed for the next generation.

Now, let’s talk about GROWTH which is the next step God takes us through in our development as His child. We must grow into the person God wants us to be; part of that growth process is the ongoing purification that God starts when we first come to Him. Remember my mention of the weed seeds in the soil of my garden? We also have seeds of a “carnal nature” planted into our flesh; we have lots of weeding to do. Sometimes God pulls weeds out of our nature and sometimes He expects us to share the work in our own “garden”. I know I was always trying to get my kids to help weed our family garden when they were growing up!

Secondarily, God expects us to grow into productive useful vegetation in His Kingdom. Eph 4:15speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. When God formed Adam from the dirt (Gen.2:7) He had already planted the seeds of His will and plans for his future into Adam. We also have the seeds of God’s plans planted into our earthen vessel. He has a plan and a design for us to grow into…Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. God has planted into you specific talents, abilities, and gifts to become a one of a kind “tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord.” (see Is.61:3) God has created you to be a unique representation of Him in your business or job, in your relationships, in all aspects of your daily life. We should take stock of God’s plan for our life. What kind of tree are you, an oak, a fir, a flowering tree or maybe like me, a nut?

Finally, we must bring forth fruit. John 15:5 & 8 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (NIV) God expects us to grow into productive, fruitful and successful lives. Think about this, what is the purpose of fruit from a tree? Fruit serves two purposes: first, people can pick that fruit and eat it and second, fruit is the method by which the tree reproduces. Our lives should benefit others; we must produce the fruit of the Spirit to share with the world (see Gal. 5:22). We should also be able to share with those around us all the benefits of a righteous life that God has added to our lives. We can share wisdom, knowledge, monetary blessings, healing, … the list is almost endless. Are you producing fruit that others can come and pick out of your life?

Now, how do we reproduce? Of course we know that all Christians are called to be living witnesses for Christ; as Paul says in 1 Cor 3: 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. Our life should attract others to God. God may also bring people into our lives that we are supposed to mentor—helping them grow into the same skills, talents, gifts and purposes which He has helped you develop. We may not be called to a “pulpit” ministry to help others, but we are all called to be examples of Christ to those around us. Others grow into their place in the Kingdom with the love, encouragement and examples of their brothers and sisters to help show them the way to become trees of righteousness for Jesus! Paul encourages Timothy to “set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Tim 4:12)

It is my desire that these blog posts will cause you to …” grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. “ (2 Peter 3:18)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

And God Separated...

Before I move on to Day 2, I want to make a short (well, short is a relative word right?) note here concerning the period of time each “day” of creation may take. Scholars have long argued over the time period indicated as the evening and the morning—the first (or second, etc.) day. The idea that God’s creative days were actually 24 hour periods became popular after the publication of The Annals of the World, published in 1650. Today, most Jewish scholars and many Christian scholars believe that the physical time period is not a 24 hour solar day, but rather indeterminate time periods. The entire creation process is also referred to as a Day (singular time period) in Gen 2:4 This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, (NKJV).

Further, the time period for Adam and Eve’s death was indicated as a day (same Hebrew word) in Gen 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (NKJV). We know that the entire process of their death took a long time (much longer than one solar day). Also, it seems reasonable to me that the days of creation are not to be determined as 24 hour periods of time, considering our solar method of time telling was not established until Day 4.** Either way, God’s miraculous, creative power is the most important aspect of the creation account (not how long He chose to accomplish each step)!

Onward Christian soldier…(if you know about my musical talents you will really appreciate that you cannot hear me singing this line as I am typing!)

Gen 1:6-9 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day. (NIV)

God called an “expanse” or atmosphere into existence in verse 6. This expanse separates two sets of waters. Have you ever thought about where all that water came from that poured out of the sky during the 40 day Flood? It is possible that our earth was encapsulated in a shroud of water vapor in our outer atmosphere. This would have created a “greenhouse” effect, moderating the climate over all the face of the earth. Further, it would have filtered out the radiation that affects our aging process. Just a thought…

As I mentioned in my last blog, I want to consider the spiritual parallels between God’s creation story and our own story of creation as Children of God. After God brings Light into our lives, He starts a process of separation in our life. He calls us to live as light and salt in the world (Mat. 5:13).  Concerning His disciples, Jesus prayed this prayer: John 17:15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Jesus asks God to keep us separate from sin and the atmosphere of the evil one. We are instructed to live in the midst of a crooked nation, but to keep our lives separate from sin, holy and consecrated to God (Phil.2:15).

Sometimes the process of purification in our lives will also create a separation from those in our atmosphere that are involved in sin. This enables us to grow stronger in our commitment to living a consecrated life. The “waters “ drawn up into the heavens also rain down into the atmosphere creating a cleansing effect. Just close your eyes and imaging the atmosphere after a spring rain when the sun comes out and shines…is there anything better, cleaner and more uplifting?   Eventually (as we are purified and strengthened by God’s Light) we will be able to bring the Light of God into the atmosphere of our family and friends that are living in the darkness.

**For in depth study on this subject check out Keil & Delizsch Commentary or The Creation Account Unsnagged by Paul Porter; copyright 2008 Xulon Press

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Let there be LIGHT!

Light is the absence of darkness. Darkness is the original absolute state and light must be introduced to remove darkness. In the natural sense, you can’t bring in darkness, but rather you remove light. Okay, I know this seems to be “straining at a gnat”, but I am going somewhere with this (I think). In Genesis 1:2 we find darkness on the face of the deep, and in verse 2 God introduced light.

God does not indicate what the “source” of the light was (note our sun doesn’t make an appearance until Day 4). Throughout the rest of the Bible we see that the Lord is the everlasting light (Is.60:19); Jesus said “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12) and 1 John 1:5 says “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all”. We generally do not think of these references as a physical manifestation of light—we spiritualize it (well maybe you don’t, but I usually do).

However, let us look at Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration: Matt 17: 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Jesus is the Light of the world, and in this instance we see the physical manifestation of the His indwelling Light. Do you think that the Light that God called forth on Day One could actually be His Manifest Light, His presence on the Earth? Again in 1 Tim. 6:16 we are told that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Jesus) lives in unapproachable light. The eternal city needs no sun or moon because the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp thereof. (Re. 21:23). God is a being of light, maybe that is why the sci-fi writers like to depict the higher “evolved” creatures as beings of light.

God’s first creative move was to bring Light. No other processes needed to build a working world could happen until light was available. Light gives heat to sustain life , is essential in photosynthesis for growth, and enables all creatures to function. The earth and all that is in the earth absorbs the light. Are we absorbing God's light when we are in His presence?

If you will allow me a “preach” a little here—I want to show you a parallel between the story of the creation of the world and the process God takes us through to become a new creature in Him. When we are in chaos and darkness (the same condition on the earth before God started the process of Creation) the first element God brings is Light. We cannot come to God except we are drawn to Him through Jesus (Jn 14:6), the source of Light. We can’t see our condition in the dark; He must bring Light into our lives to show us our lost condition. His light creates an atmosphere in which we can LIVE, GROW and FUNCTION for Him. He fills us with His Light

Our light is veiled by our flesh, just as the light in Jesus (except on the Mt. Transfiguration) was veiled while He was on the earth. Did you, like me, sing “this little light of mine” in Sunday School? We begin with such a little light, but it should grow and become more evident as the process of transformation occurs in our life. Jesus was transfigured before men, He expects us to become transformed before men. A little girl once described another believer as “Jesus with skin on”. We are to be the vessel of His Light to the world, so they might see their way to Him.

Mt 5:14-16: You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

God Said... and I can Say too

Again,  I promised myself that I would not get "stuck" in one verse or idea... so I am forging ahead.  We will leave the prehistory of man in God's capable hands and move on into the story of man's creation.  The account of creation of course involves the earth, atmosphere, animals etc. but this world was created specifically as a dwelling place for God's favorite creation - mankind and more specifically the future Bride of Christ.  Now,  I know that some folks might want to argue about mankind being God's "favorite" (mankind is not always MY favorite creation!). 
But, I submit to you that at the end of the creation of humans God declared it was VERY good, whereas, all other creations were only declared good.  And,  mankind is the only one that was created after His Image!  I know your mother never had a favorite -- but God does, YOU are God's favorite!

Uh ohh...I am enticed by several "rabbit trails" I could take here, but I really want to think about two elements of the first Creative Day. ... The Word and The Light

Gen 1:3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.  First,  let's talk about the power of God Said.  Nothing occurred until God spoke... He was present and moving or brooding (as the Amplified Bible tells us in vs. 2) over the face of the deep; but nothing was created until He spoke.  What strikes me as important about this is that we are created in His Image and invested with His Authority (Gen 1:26). 

Follow me now...  Jesus is the Word and was the Creator
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (NIV)

Jesus tells us that all that He did we can do, and more also (Jn 14:12..anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these.);
He also tells us to be like Him  (Rom 8:29...  become conformed to the image of His Son...)

So,  We have access to CREATIVE POWER through our words... IF we are conformed to the image of His Son, IF we are functioning through the Spirit in faith. Jesus tells us that He did only that which he saw His father do... we can do what we see the Father and our older brother (Jesus) do.  We are ambassadors for Christ (2Cor.5:20)... He has invested his Authority in us (Col 2:10-11 you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.)

He does not tell us to beg in prayer, but rather to ask with true expectation and declare the will of God into our atmosphere, our sphere of influence and our own life. We may not see instantaneous results... does the Bible tell us how long from God's declaration and the evidence of light?  No, we might assume that it was immediate, but the Word does not tell us so.  Jesus spoke to the fig tree and walked away (see this story in Mark 11), expecting that his curse would be obeyed.  He did not stand for an hour praying against that tree.  He just went on about his business in Jerusalem. Now Matthew's version of this story says the fig tree immediately withered, but Mark indicates that they did not see the evidence of it until the next day. The disciples were amazed the next morning when they saw the proof of his authority-- the fig tree had withered from the roots.  When God said it, it was a done deal... but the rest of the party saw the evidence a little later down the road.  Sound familiar in your life?
Jesus is a living representation on God's Spoken Word...don't we need to become a living representation of God's Word and His plans and intention for us as His Child, His Ambassador to the lost world?  I guess I am suggesting that we need to know the will of God in our lives (we gain this through communion with Him in Prayer and Word); then we can ask, declare and go on about our daily lives with the expectation that we will also see the evidence of God's invested authority show up in our lives.

As Paul Harvey might say...stay tuned for page 2... The Light.  (I guess I just don't know how to make it short, do I?)  As always, I encourage all readers to comment and add your thoughts...


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I can’t believe how energized I am about this God Blog, couldn’t sleep for thinking about casting the Word of God into the ATMOSPHERE! The scripture in Eccl 11:1 kept coming to my mind… Cast your bread upon the waters; for after many days you will find it again. This principle in God’s Word really works; I expect to find a great exchange in this blogging process. Oh, I better not get started on this topic… as a friend of mine used to say “That will preach!”
Anyway, as in any walk, it is easy to get sidetracked and enjoy a stroll down a divergent path. But, I promised myself (and God) that I would try to stay on track and make some progress through the Old Testament. It is my hope to bring the valuable truths from the Old Testament into our New Testament lives and possibly impart some of my love for the Old Testament to the readers of these humble posts. So, back to the past…

I mentioned in my last post the possible event between verse 1 & 2 in Genesis chapter 1. Let’s examine the things we know.

1. Scientist have well documented a prehistoric world, replete with living creatures and an orderly system of existence that does not match to the world we see today. But, they have yet to build the road that will actually connect the two.

2. God’s Word is basically silent about that prehistoric world. He begins the Bible with a world that is without form and void (Gen.1:2)-remember this is a history of mankind, not a history of the world. God’s knowledge and thoughts are far above ours, and above our capacity to comprehend (see Is.55:8-11)—He is not telling us everything; He is telling us what we need to know. Just as a good parent will not try to explain all he knows to a child, but rather impart the information that is pertinent to the child’s current situation.

3. Our timing is not God’s timing. Remember the scripture in 2nd Peter—a day with the Lord is as a thousand with man? God is not limited to our time frames. He did not even create our system of time until the 4th creative day.
So, what happened to destroy the prehistoric world and leave a mass without form and void for God to use in the creation of our current world? Jesus, God the Son, tells us in Lu. 10:18 “I saw Satan fall like lightening from Heaven”. (read also: Is 14, Ezk 28:13-17, Rev. 12:7-10) I think this was the cataclysmic event that turned the world upside down, freezing dinosaurs and the world that existed into chaos. Our Redeeming God chose this same world to create the place that would “prove” His future Bride. Selah… (this is a Hebrew word often used in the Psalms that means pause and think upon that!)

Such a long post… sorry, I will try to keep it brief, but it is so hard to stop when I get started talking about the awesome Word of God! Your thoughts?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stroll through the Old Testament... In the Beginning

I love the Old Testament, so it is my intention to walk through it Genesis to Malachi. This won't be a thourough study, just my thoughts and comments as I am reading through the Old Testament. Some verses are so rich that we must spend time contemplating them one by one, Others (the "begats" come to mind) seem to be less important to me. I welcome your thoughts and additions to my ramblings...

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning ... The Bible is the story of man and our relationship with God. In the beginning refers to man's beginning, the start of our history. Man is a creature of time and space, God is beyond time and space. God was, is and always will be-- He is not limited to time. He can move through time, back and forth. Can you stretch your mind around that? I can't, but I can understand that God is not restricted by time like we mere chunks of clay are. I think it is vital, when studying the Word of God, to remember that God is not limited to our methods, our ways of reasoning or our abilities or our time frames.

God created the heavens and the earth. This is a broad statement that Moses (writer of Genesis) later fills in with details about the step by step process. Note that it is a plural heavens and singular earth. Earth is the designated dwelling place for man, the heaven are divided in several sections, The dwelling place of God's Spirit, the celestial heavens and the general atmosphere of Earth.

What do you think, is God still pleased with all that He made? Verse 2 starts with a mass that is without form and void... I was taught that an event between verse 1 and 2 put the earth into the disarray that we see in verse 2. This could be the answer between the age of the dinosaurs and the age of human history. Seems to be that the "missing link" that some scientists would like to claim connect prehistoric history and the current history of man really is MISSING. God began a new creative process in verse 2.