Candy Corn

Candy Corn

Ps 34:8  Taste and see that the Lord is good;

Every season my wife decorates our house. I mean spring, summer, fall and her favorite, Christmas. She puts out what is appropriate for the particular season. This being Fall, she puts out all the things she decorates with, lights, leaves, flowers, pillows, dishes, candles, and which color coordinates for this season. Every fall for many years now she has put out a small dish in the shape and color of a candy corn and will fill it up with a particular brand of, (you should have guessed it), candy corn. For those of you who do not know of this candy, it comes out in the stores during the fall and looks like a yellow and orange piece of corn. Now of course our girls and their children know about this dish.  When they come to the house they look for this dish and help themselves to the candy corn. Throughout the fall this dish will get emptied and filled several times. 

Recently my 2 old grandson was at the house with his mother and I gave him his first candy corn. I picked up the piece of candy and handed it to him. He looked at it and played with it a little not knowing what it was and then I took one, put it in my mouth and he did the same. At first he looked like he would spit it out but then the sweetness touched his taste buds and an overwhelming approval registered on his face. He looked at me almost instantly and motioned to me for more. Watching his face go from not sure to positively yes for more, his mother and I just laughed. A couple of days later they stopped by the house and as soon as they came in the door he went straight to the dish. It just so happened to be empty at this time but he would stare at the dish and look at me like where are those wonderful little candies? 

Now think with me for a moment, do we taste to see how good the Lord is? God with His overwhelming love for us is always wanting us to experience more. More of everything He has that He gives to us for our enjoyment. He doesn’t do things to leave a bad taste in our mouths but a good taste. A taste we approve of and look at Him with the same face my grandson had wanting more. Do we run to God looking for more of the candy corn of His words, character, and nature because we remember how good it tasted before?

In the scripture above the actual Hebrew word taste is referring to perception of a thing. Look at the definition of taste; to try with your taste buds, to excite a particular sensation, by which a quality of flavor is distinguished, to perceive with your tongue/taste buds, to experience and distinguish a flavor most likely for the first time. 

According to the scripture the flavor you are looking for is good. You are perceiving how good God is. You are wanting to experience this particular sensation. The best thing about this is God wants you to taste this too Because He knows once you have tasted a flavor and you have liked it you want more. 

I have had many steaks in my life but there is one place both my wife and I had a steak that to this day is the best. We still will talk about it.  When you mention this particular restaurant we both light up and overwhelmingly agree the best steak we ever have had. Our taste buds had a sensation that we would go back again and again to partake of. 

There was a time we did mission trips to Romania. Getting there we would sometimes have to stop in Zurich. I had gotten to know some of the things to do and try with overnight stays in Zurich. There was a particular chocolate shop and every time I would take a team through Zurich I had to take them to this shop and buy them their first Swiss chocolate. I would joke and tell them the first one’s on me. I would enjoy treating people to their first chocolate truffle and watching their facial expression. Of course they would want another one, and now you know why I would only buy the first one, because I knew they would want another. 

Do we have a spiritual facial expression with the things of God? Do we want more?  This is really how we should know our Lord. We should be wanting more, having tasted, we want another. Why? Because it is so amazingly good. He is so amazingly Good. 

I have said this many times and I am sure I heard it somewhere but God is never holding anything back from us but holding it for us. He isn’t hiding things from us but wants us to come and taste and see His goodness. He is holding them out for us to come and partake of all He has for us. 

We taste what is good by enjoying His Word, finding pleasure in walking with Him, growing in His abundant love for us. 

There are many things I have tasted and did not like. I did not care to taste them again. However, never have I in over 40 plus years of walking with God have I tasted anything bad from Him. Just the opposite I have only found that which is good and loving, caring and always willing to share every aspect of His life with me. 

The whole message about His Son is making sure we receive the very best He has to offer. He wholeheartedly gave us Jesus so we could enjoy all His goodness. The way Jesus enjoyed life with his Father, the Father wanted to make sure we received the exact same abundant life. Again, He is not keeping anything from us but holding out to us to come and taste and see how truly good He is. So think of all the good of God you have tasted and remember this every time you come to Him. Look for the dish with the candy corn of life in it and help yourself.

Luke 10:21

 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.  NIV

Eph 1:9-10

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure,

which he purposed in Christ, NIV

Luke 12:32

32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. NKJV

Forget The Half Glass

Forget The Half Glass

We have all probably heard the saying, “the glass half full or half empty” and the meaning is pointing to how we view things, either positive “half full” or negative “half empty”. It reveals the attitude of the heart in how we see events unfolding in our lives as well as around us. However, why just half a glass?

 In Lam.3:22-23 states His love and mercy is brand new every single morning we get up. In Jn.10:10 states He gives us life in abundance, and the amplified states “till its full, overflowing.”  This means every morning we can start with an empty glass and fill it up with as much of Him as we possibly can. So everyday with God the glass can be full and even spilling over. 

So coming back to the glass being half empty or half full it’s only just half a glass. To be truly positive we will see the glass filling up with the life of Christ. Every morning we wake up, our quest should be to see how full we can get the glass with His life spilling out of us. Filling the glass up with our walk with Him, discovering the newness of Him filling up the  glass. He provides us with an abundant supply of life. He just keeps pouring till we stop it for whatever reasons. I mean, we determine how much of His life we will live today. We determine then how full our glass will be. Whether negative, seeing the problems, situations, and lack, or we’re thankful to be alive today, physically, mentally, Spiritually, and letting 100% of His life live in us today is our choice. 

Everyday He gives us the ability to be as alive as we want to be with Him, after all He is the author of Life. So start with an empty glass today and fill it up with as much of the life of Jesus as you possibly can. Live seeing Him adding all of what He has for you, today. Not negative, not seeing the lack or problems, even if they are there, no old dry religious ways of the past, nothing from yesterday. 

Today, right now, He is creating, producing new things. He is the only source of life, purpose and destiny. Let’s look with a heart that wants to be filled till overflowing. Forget the half glass, reach for the overflowing one. Now this is the attitude to have when looking at the glass. 

It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him. The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.   Lamentations 3:22‭-‬26 AMPC

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].   John 10:10 AMP

Desfrutando de Sua dádiva da vida “hoje”

Desfrutando de Sua dádiva da vida “hoje”

Graças a Deus por Sua dádiva indescritível! 2 Coríntios 9:15 NASB2020

Toda boa dádiva e todo dom perfeito vêm do alto, descem do Pai das luzes [o Criador e Sustentador dos céus], em quem não há variação [não há nascer nem pôr] nem sombra da sua mudança [pois Ele é perfeito e nunca muda].Tiago 1:17 AMP

Se você é cristão e consegue ler o título deste artigo, então a dádiva da vida de Jesus Cristo, tudo o que Ele é e tudo o que Ele representa foi estendida a você hoje. Se você não é cristão, a dádiva da vida ainda está disponível para você hoje. Agora, vamos parar um minuto para realmente refletir sobre esse pensamento ao analisarmos a definição de um presente.

Presente; algo dado voluntariamente a alguém sem pagamento; algo voluntariamente dado ou transferido por uma pessoa a outra sem compensação; um item dado a alguém sem a expectativa de pagamento ou algo em troca. É uma oferta de livre e espontânea vontade, sem compromisso e sem expectativa de receber algo em troca;

Os presentes devem simbolizar o afeto e o apreço que temos por alguém. Dar presentes, independentemente da ocasião, deve ser uma demonstração de nosso amor e apreço pela pessoa a quem estamos dando o presente. O objetivo é abençoá-la e incentivá-la. Entretanto, também sabemos que, às vezes, parece ser uma obrigação.

Sabemos que, seja qual for a ocasião, o protocolo é que devemos levar um presente. Quando foi o último presente que você deu a alguém por causa de seu amor ou afeição por essa pessoa? Agora pense em quantas vezes você deu um presente por protocolo, sem realmente ter nenhum sentimento ligado ao processo de dar um presente.

Se você tem uma família grande, geralmente dá presentes o tempo todo e, é claro, há aqueles momentos em que a norma social é dar um presente. Agora, antes de nos condenarmos, não há nada de errado com a norma social: aniversários, chás de bebê, casamentos, a lista pode continuar. Sabemos que um presente deve ser dado. Sabemos que é considerado apropriado dar um presente. Mas o presente não é tanto por nosso amor e apreço pela pessoa a quem estamos dando o presente, mas sim porque é o que se deve fazer.

No entanto, todos os dias, ao acordarmos para um novo dia, o presente de Cristo está sendo dado a nós com o maior amor e carinho. Não se trata de uma norma social, não é uma obrigação para com Ele, mas é por causa de Seu amor por nós que Ele nos abençoa. Essa dádiva de Sua vida, Sua presença conosco, é a própria pessoa de Jesus demonstrando Seu amor e afeição por nós hoje. Ele nos dá esse presente todas as manhãs quando acordamos.

Não há nada que você tenha feito para receber esse presente, é o que “Ele” fez e ainda está fazendo por você de todo o coração. Lembre-se, um presente é algo dado gratuitamente, não é um pagamento por algo, é apenas uma oferta generosa que uma pessoa tem e está disposta a dar para beneficiar outra pessoa. Esse presente é para abençoá-la, para melhorar sua vida de alguma forma, para melhorá-la ou elevá-la de alguma forma e para demonstrar amor e afeição por ela.

É isso que Jesus está fazendo todos os dias. Ele está nos dando a dádiva de Sua vida. Ele está nos dando a Si mesmo, Sua vida, nova para abrirmos e desfrutarmos. Podemos sentir o amor e o carinho que Ele tem por nós todos os dias.

Quer você seja cristão ou não, cada dia em que estamos vivos é uma dádiva. O que fazemos com essa dádiva é uma escolha. A escolha de Jesus, todos os dias, é dar a dádiva de Sua vida para que a desfrutemos. É um presente dado diretamente de Seu coração para nós.

Sabemos que em ocasiões especiais, ao longo do ano, há momentos em que receberemos um presente. No entanto, todo dia é uma ocasião especial com Jesus. Todos os dias Ele nos dá o presente da vida e tudo o que vem com ela. Como cristãos, podemos receber o presente de Jesus, novo e renovado todos os dias, com todo o Seu amor e carinho. Sua dádiva é permitir que exploremos e experimentemos coisas novas Nele e com Ele todos os dias, se quisermos.

Precisamos ter cuidado para não começarmos a tratar essa dádiva como se ela estivesse sempre presente e não pensarmos mais nela. Não podemos nos esquecer da grande dádiva que Sua vida realmente é para nós, hoje.

Quando eu era um jovem ministro, lembro-me de um orador convidado que tivemos na igreja. Em certa época, esse homem e sua esposa eram ministros de uma igreja muito bem-sucedida na Califórnia. Então, ele teve um ataque cardíaco que causou a morte de 80% de seu coração. Ao contrário de hoje, não havia nada que pudesse ser feito por ele em termos médicos. Ele mal estava vivo e a vida, como ele conhecia, havia desaparecido. Se ele se esforçasse demais ou fizesse qualquer coisa muito rapidamente, desmaiaria ou possivelmente teria o resto do coração parado e morreria.

Eles tiveram que desistir do ministério. Ele viveu nessa condição por vários anos. A vida, como ambos sabiam, havia desaparecido, e sua esposa teve de aceitar um trabalho braçal para que pudessem sobreviver. Tiveram que se mudar de casa para algo menor que pudessem pagar.

Anos depois, eles participaram de uma conferência e, durante uma reunião, ele começou a ter um ataque cardíaco. Algumas pessoas ao seu redor perceberam que ele precisava de ajuda naquele momento. Elas o trouxeram para a frente e oraram por ele, e seu coração foi completamente restaurado, 100%. Sua vida mudou instantaneamente, de quase morto para uma vida plena. Ambos tiveram suas vidas de volta, ele era um novo homem. Ele literalmente tinha um coração que funcionava 100%. Ele deixou de ser capaz de sair do sofá e passou a andar de bicicleta pela vizinhança, compartilhando seu testemunho com todos que quisessem ouvir. Agora ele estava viajando, pregando o evangelho novamente e compartilhando seu testemunho.

Nós dois, que liderávamos a igreja naquela época, quando olhamos em seus olhos, vimos uma gratidão imensa por uma segunda chance na vida. Era realmente possível ver isso em seus olhos. Olhando para ele e ouvindo-o, sabíamos que ele sabia que havia recebido uma segunda chance com o dom da vida.

Talvez não tenhamos uma condição médica que dificulte nossa vida, mas o quanto entendemos que recebemos a dádiva da vida hoje? É um dia totalmente novo! Esse é realmente o primeiro dia do resto de sua vida. Quão gratos somos? O quanto realmente apreciamos este dia? Sentimos o amor e o carinho que Ele está nos dedicando hoje?
Ele quer que você desembrulhe Seu presente da vida hoje e desfrute de todos os aspectos de Sua vida. Você percebe que Deus está gostando de desembrulhar o presente da sua vida e tudo o que você é hoje? Você está dando a Ele o presente de sua vida como uma demonstração de seu amor e afeição? Devemos perceber que Ele está lhe dando a vida Dele porque também gosta de você. Devemos ter cuidado para não olhar para o dia de hoje pensando que é apenas mais um dia, semelhante ao de ontem, nada diferente. Em vez disso, veja Jesus como vivo conosco hoje, criando coisas novas, dando-nos novas experiências e nos aproximando Dele. Embrulhadas em Sua dádiva de vida hoje estão infinitas possibilidades. Portanto, hoje, reserve um tempo para dizer: “Obrigado, obrigado, obrigado, Senhor Jesus” pelo seu presente de vida abundante hoje e, em seguida, abra e aproveite o maior presente já dado a você.

Graças a Deus por Sua dádiva indescritível!
2 Coríntios 9:15 NASB2020

Mas a cada um de nós foi dada graça segundo a medida do dom de Cristo. Efésios 4:7 NASB2020

Blessed Are The Flexible

Luke 2:6‭-‬7

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. NIV

Luke 2:16-20

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. NIV

They say if you have family then you have true wealth.

What Clarence the angel told George Bailey in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life,

“Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.”

Bettye and I arrived Thursday evening pulling up to a huge cabin that sleeps 30 plus people. This was where the family would get together for the weekend before Christmas. Our entire family, our children and their children, all 20 of us were going to be in this cabin till Sunday. We started the evening off with the theme, “everyone must remain “flexible”. This is such a good word for our bunch. I believe this is a good word for any family to hear because God created everyone so different and unique. 

Flexible: capable of bending easily without breaking, able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances or conditions, ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances.

With our group there were 8 families represented. All very diverse in their personalities, thinking, and in their general way of doing life. But everyone did life as one family for a weekend. 

There were the obvious differences in how each navigated their families. There were differences on how things should or shouldn’t be done for us as one big group. But it worked because we stayed flexible. This meant whether we agreed or not we would bend and flow together with what was happening and be willing to change to do life together as a group. 

Staying together as a group was more important than our individual wants, likes, and dislikes. Being with family, and staying family was what would override our personal differences on how we thought things should go. I could tell things throughout the weekend rubbed some of us the wrong way but everyone kept civil and flowed together for what was an enjoyable time as family.

Think of it. Mary is given no option on being the mother of Jesus. She is told the Holy Spirit would be the father. She is technically pregnant without being married, and her husband to be is considering divorcing her. Joseph is told to marry her even though the child is not his. We know family and neighbors close to them knew what was happening, it couldn’t have been a secret. I’m sure it was challenging trying to explain their situation. Both of them had to have remained flexible. 

Even right before giving birth they had to travel. Mary could not find a room to stay in and gave birth in a place, I am sure, she wouldn’t have picked. We could say they didn’t have an option. This was to fulfill prophecy, but they flowed with it given these unusual circumstances. This was how Joseph and Mary started their family. I’m sure it’s not what they would have chosen themselves. This is also how Jesus chose to begin life, under conditions and circumstances that were not the normal way. 

What’s amazing here is scripture states Mary treasured all these things and pondered them. Meaning she held them close and thought about them as good memories. No question about it, for Joseph and Mary the memories would have the theme of how flexible they had been. 

Christmas is one of the best times to cultivate stronger relationships whether it be family or friends. A major factor to take into account on Christmas is Christ came to earth born into a family, and displayed to the whole world His personal relationship with His Father. He made the statement toward the end of His physical life that no greater love has a person than they lay down their life for a friend. This is the true Spirit of family and of friendship, this is what Jesus brought to earth with His birth and throughout His life. 

We know Jesus seemed to struggle with His disciples grasping what He was teaching them. We know Jesus’ mother asked things of Him at times that didn’t seem to be according to His plans. We know the disciples didn’t always get along with each other. Yet throughout His life, here on earth, Jesus maintained a flow even in difficult circumstances and situations. He remained flexible.

No doubt probably one of the hardest areas to navigate flexibility is with family and friends. But we know it can be done, because Jesus showed us the way. In Him and with Him we can let go of our differences when there is a greater goal. The greater goal is to keep the Spirit of family and keep friendships regardless of our differences and ways of doing life. We must set aside personal differences and preferences for the sake of staying together as family and maintaining the friendships.

 I’m sure Joseph and Mary would have chosen differently but they chose to do it the way God planned. I think Jesus at times wondered about those He called His friends, yet maintained a flow with those that even abandoned Him. He chose to show them something greater than their attitudes and actions which was love. Talk about being flexible! Can we flow with those God has put in our lives, can we love them even though they do not do life the way we do? Family can be tough at times to flow with yet it is a major theme God has always maintained throughout scripture. Family was and still is of great importance to God. Friendships can be tough at times yet seem to be important enough for Jesus to show what friendship truly is all about.

All throughout scriptures you will find the theme of family and friendship and doing life God’s way. God is all about family. Family is the environment of home, it is what happens in a house. House is the word used to describe the physical building someone lives in. Home is a more personal term which involves the people and daily activities inside the house. 

Family environment happens in the home. Whether your home life was great or not so great, you can still cultivate in your heart a family spirit. God has made you one of His family members. So His family will always be the standard for any family. God proved His heart about family with the birth of His Son Jesus. So again whether your home life was good or not everyone has this standard to understand how to build a family spirit in their heart. Even if you are at a point in life where you have no family, then be a blessing somehow to someone else’s family, this is how you develop a family spirit for yourself. 

Christmas is a great time to cultivate family. Wherever you go bring His family Spirit with you. Maybe your family is hard to be around, remember to be flexible. Well that’s easy to say, but you don’t know my sister or you don’t know my brother, you haven’t met my parents. Remember, you as a Christian should  set the standard of family. God the Father accepted you when you were not family. Jesus puts up with you and accepts you as a brother or sister. He even calls you a friend.  

Family is one of the greatest attributes of His creation. God used the family of Joseph and Mary to bring forth His Son. God began with a family, Adam and Eve, He used Abraham to start a family which would become the nation of Israel, and He ends with family with His Son coming for His bride. 

What’s interesting is throughout this history of the Jewish people Abraham was not just known as a father but a friend of God’s. (2Chron.20:7, Is.41:8, James 2:23)  A friend of God means He is there for the good of this person. However a person needs to be flexible, because sometimes His Good for a person may not be what they would choose. We can see through Abraham’s flexibility he gets to display family, father, and friend for all of eternity. Jesus continued the same Spirit of family by displaying a strong loving  relationship with His Father. 

The family is the nurturing environment for people to come into their full potential. It is to be the strongest example, here on earth, of the environment of love. The family produces our concepts of love, father, protection, sensitivity, and the list can go on and on. Family is God’s divine container to preserve His ways for mankind to be passed on from one generation to the next. Family is God’s ordained school for molding, shaping, and growing His Kingdom in every generation.

His friendship reveals how strong a bond should be between two people. Family and friendship is a powerful biblical truth. You may say I have no friends, you can still move in the true Spirit of friendship like Jesus.

John 15:13-16

13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his 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. NIV

You might say I have no family or your family is torn apart, you can still have the family Spirit of Christ and reveal this to others. You are part of the biggest and greatest family to ever exist. During this time of the year be a friend to someone whether they see you as a friend or not. Be family to someone, maybe even help a family but show the family Spirit of God to others, whether they are your family or not. For those who have family, and they are hard to be around, be flexible and be there for them.

In God’s eyes, family and friendship are His most powerful method in doing Kingdom Business. The devil is always working at destroying family and to separate friends. Christmas is a great time to promote His Kingdom ways with the Spirit of  family and to show true friendship. He started with family, and brought forth many sons and daughters and called them friends. Family and friends are the method for which He wants to produce and reflect His ways and nature here on earth. It is how God, throughout history, will continually defeat the devil. 

He builds you into family by molding and shaping you into His image. God is in the business of redeeming multitudes of men and women into His divine plan. Christmas is a great time to let go of what you may be lacking concerning family or friends and sow into others. We can build the atmosphere of both family and friendship by aligning with the Father’s heart for people everywhere, which is why His Son was born.  

Remind yourself of this when you start feeling the difficulty you might find with your family or that friend, be FLEXIBLE!! Remember to have a Christmas you will treasure for yourself by letting the past go and start afresh with the Spirit of Christ operating in and through your life by being family and friend to all you encounter. To have the best Christmas ever has nothing to do with being on your best behavior, but everything to do with being the best friend or family member you could ever be. 

The birth of Jesus empowers us to forgive and  gives us the ability to not just overlook offenses but to let them go. It doesn’t matter how others have been toward you, but it does matter how you are toward them.  Let the heart of Christ in us direct us to have the best attitude. If you are going to honor the Christ of Christmas, then be His friend by bringing His Spirit to all your family and friends. Create for them a memory they will last. Be the best friend ever, be the best family member ever. Enjoy what you can of the relationships you have with family and friends. 

His birth was about bringing people that were distant close and into His family. Those who did not deserve His love, He extended it to them anyway. Should we not clothe ourselves the same? Jesus extends the same love and acceptance toward all. If we want to have the best Christmas ever, one to remember, then be that friend you should be and bring the family Spirit with you. Make a new friend, and form a stronger bond with a family member. If you have family you have wealth, if you have friends then you have wealth. Be thankful for the wealth you have and out of this gratefulness extend His Spirit to as many as you can. Christmas is one of the best times to do so. 

Christmas Series Part 3

Grinch, Scrooge, or Merry Christmas

True Joy

Luke 2:10

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. AMP

The angel announced to the shepherds a statement of the position God now took with mankind for eternity. The birth of Jesus was a “great joy”. It would ring true, echoing throughout the corridors of time. God through His Son, brought joy for anyone who wanted it. It came in the package of Jesus. If you have Jesus then you have God’s great joy. What the angel said was so profound. Good News of a Great Joy and it was for All People.

Look at what this term “great joy” means scripturally. The word “great” concerning this joy has two distinct definitions. First, the importance of how great His birth was, how important the person who was just born is to all. Angels announcing His birth show the intensity and high degree of importance which was given to Him, this is His greatness. 

Second, the size and volume of the joy He brings. It is infinite joy, it never ends and is always found there with Him. It is a joy which is greater than anything else that could ever be found that would bring a person joy. This was a joy brought forth for the whole earth. 

 Let’s define this “joy” in the scripture. One definition is an archer’s term. When an archer pulls the string of his bow and releases the arrow, the twang of the string signifies he can now relax. The tension of the archer’s arm holding the pulled string is gone. So joy is a sense of release, to relax, and to be at peace. A second definition of joy is to show or proclaim  excitement when darkness and chaos have  been swallowed up or overwhelmed by God. With God, a person can have His joy which is greater than any negative situation or circumstance. His joy is greater than anything else and can actually cover, overwhelm, and swallow up any circumstance of any degree. A third definition is happiness, inner gladness, a deep seated pleasure which a person can only find in God. A joy found only in His spiritual realities that bring a sense of happiness regardless of what may be happening around an individual.  

God’s own personal joy the angels announced at Jesus birth was now found in His Son. This would be a great joy to all people everywhere. The joy Jesus has from His Father is now given to anyone who wants to have it. It is there for anyone who comes to Jesus. In Him, with Him, through Him is this great joy. A great joy which came to all with His birth. 

As a Christian He lives inside of you and reveals Himself to all those around you. We are now representatives of this joy for all to see. Through Jesus we have the ability to always be joyful just like Him. There is no better time to proclaim and display this joy which is deep within our hearts than when people are most open to hear and see it, which is during the Christmas season. 

So you might be asking why  I went through such a lengthy definition. Because having this knowledge will produce something deeper coming from your heart when you say, “Merry Christmas”. This is so our words are not shallow, or without depth behind them, or being overused to the place where it lacks in importance. 

You no doubt hear the words Merry Christmas hundreds of times over the Christmas Holiday. So when you say it to someone or return the saying back to someone you have the true basis of where “Merry” comes from. When you say Merry Christmas it comes from the great joy of Jesus Himself. An inner gladness, a relaxed position where there is no tension because darkness and any chaos has been swallowed up in Him. 

We are presenting His truth of joy to others. It’s His joy in us bringing a deep pleasure from within, regardless of our situation. From this position we are spreading His joy to all those around us. It is a normal attitude for those walking with Jesus, because He is our great joy. You can bring this deep seated  happiness, this type of joy every time you say, “Merry Christmas”. 

To be happy is an emotion, to be merry is a behavior. Now that does not mean we can’t be happy, it just means there is a foundation to happiness, a foundation to being merry, which is His great joy living inside of us. This is what His birth brought us at Christmas. This word “merry” actually is an old word which comes from the idea that something is so pleasant it makes time fly. So let His joy be seen. Christmas is a great time to show what “merry” really entails. It is a joyful heart that leads to joyful behavior. This joy we display shows the very heart attitude of God Himself. 

There is no grinch in God, nor is there a Scrooge, God doesn’t know how to be grumpy, just the opposite, He only knows how to be full of joy. His character is pure, undefiled joy and this is what He brought to the whole world at the birth of Jesus. So let the people around us see true joy being expressed, this great joy which came at the birth of Christ. Let them sense you really do hope they have a Merry Christmas. 

Luke 2:20

 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. NIV

We need to check our joy thermometer, to see how joyful we are?

Is His joy in our “Merry Christmas”?

Christmas Series Part 2

Unwrapping the Gift

Having Child Like Faith at Christmas

Matthew 18:1‭-‬4

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. NASB2020

It was  completely quiet in the house and then I was awakened by the sound of children trying to act quiet. I could hear them doing their best to whisper as they were running down the hall toward our bedroom door to see if we were awake. It was Christmas morning and they were wide awake with excitement. They had already been up staring at the presents under the tree which had been there for a week or more. They knew which ones had their names on them. Christmas morning was here, and they didn’t have to wait anymore, they finally get to open their presents. 

Of course they knew they had to wait for their mother and I to get up. So there they were at our bedroom door asking if we were awake. I have to admit I was excited for their excitement. We got up and moved to the living room where the tree with all the presents sat under it. They were so excited as they started opening up their presents with each gift getting a special reaction. 

That was many years ago, my daughters are all grown now with their own homes and waking  up with their children on Christmas morning. Looking back, what is so amazing to me was their excitement, the excitement of a child. 

At that moment it was their whole world, nothing else existed.  There was nothing more important than that moment, they were focused. Remembering all those Christmas mornings their excitement is what I remember most but also as parents our excitement as well. It was just as exciting watching their excitement, it was contagious. It was priceless to see their reaction when they saw the gift inside for the first time. While there was anticipation on their side, there was on my side as well. Even though I knew what was in the wrapped present, watching them was a thrill. 

Jesus said unless you become like a little child. Think of how our Heavenly Father is when He blesses us, watching us as we are surprised by the blessing just like opening a present. Again, Jesus said unless we become like little children. While we cannot go back and be a child again, we can look at the truths about being a child and what that means in attitude of heart and mind to imitate now. 

Christmas is His celebrated birthday all over the world. I know there are those who say it wasn’t really on the 25th, so What?! There is no other known date and there is no other time people are celebrating His birth. Therefore we should do our best to center our attention around His birth. We can show our excitement for Him, put Him first. 

Ask yourself how excited are you about the gift of Jesus? Can you imagine God the Father giving us His Son knowing what was in the gift we would unwrap. He told us about this gift for thousands of years through the prophets and patriarchs, and now this gift gets to be opened. Try to imagine how excited the Father must have been. The day of His birth was finally here. He knew what the gift was. Think of His excitement. He sent angels to announce it and they were rejoicing and giving praise for this gift. How exciting this was for all of heaven to join in the celebration of His Son being born. 

Luke 2:10-14

And so the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army of angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased.” NASB2020

Just like my children on Christmas morning opening their presents, we get an opportunity to be reminded of God’s gift, His Son Jesus every Christmas. However the difference now is we get to enjoy this gift 24/7, 365 days every year. We get to unwrap the present of Jesus given to us every single morning we get up. It can be Christmas morning, every day. How excited about this gift are you? Even if you’re a fuddy dud about Christmas, use this time of the year to remind yourself and as many around you of this truth. His birth was the entrance of salvation for the world. It was the Fathers greatest gift for us. 

2 Corinthians 9:15

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! NIV

Ephesians 2:8

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—NIV

Ephesians 4:7

Yet grace (God’s unmerited favor) was given to each of us individually [not indiscriminately, but in different ways] in proportion to the measure of Christ’s [rich and bounteous] gift. AMPC

Matthew 7:11

……….. how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! NIV

His life, grace, and mercy is new every morning. We get to open this gift of Christ every single day. He is alive, living and breathing right now. Again, how excited about Jesus are you? We get to open the greatest gift ever given in the history of mankind. Every day the gift of His Son is there for us to unwrap and explore all the depths and riches of His grace, His love, the blessings He has for us, afresh and anew. He knows what we are going to unwrap, and He is just excited. So how much excitement should we really be displaying to those around us?

We should always have enthusiasm and excitement about Jesus, but Christmas gives us a great opportunity to show it, especially because people are thinking about it.

Enthusiasm: intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval.

If you are excited about Jesus then your excitement can naturally spill over to excite others using Christmas to show your enthusiasm for Jesus. Just like my excitement watching my children’s excitement opening their presents, let your excitement be seen. Show others Christmas is about the gift of Christ and how everyday we get to open this present which started at His birth. Of course this shouldn’t be just at Christmas but all year, however this time of the year is when the majority of people throughout the world are aware of His birth.  Unwrap God’s gift of Jesus in front of as many people as you can showing excitement and enthusiasm. 

The most amazing part of this truth is we get to keep opening the gift of Jesus everyday for the rest of our lives. How exciting, to have Him as the gift which keeps giving. The Father gave us a gift, one which can be opened all the time, not just on Christmas. Let our excitement and enthusiasm spill over as we open the present of Jesus Christ for others to witness.

Excitement, and enthusiasm are contagious. Unwrap the Present of Jesus in front of everyone, so everyone one can see how great a present we were truly given. Christmas is a wonderful reminder of the birth of His Son given to the world as the greatest gift ever given in the history of mankind on earth.

How excited about Jesus are you?

Do you anticipate  unwrapping the present of Christ?

Is your excitement contagious? 

Christmas Series Part 1

Upgrading Your Version Of Christmas

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away,

 yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV

It’s that time of the year again, Christmas. No doubt there are so many things at this time of the year to distract us and cause us to sometimes not be in the best of moods. We know Christmas comes every year, and as a christian we know it’s about the birth of Christ. Of course with it comes all the usual negative worldly trappings. For about 4-5 weeks there will be a constant reminder of it everywhere you go. There are endless commercials on tv, social media, even the fat man himself, Santa Claus is everywhere you look. Again, there are multiple distractions which have nothing to do  about what is really being celebrated, which is Christ’s birth.  So we can head into it with the same old, same old routine, focused on the negative or we can choose to be different this time at Christmas. Whether your version of Christmas is good and you love this time of the year or not, it may be time for an upgrade. 

I remember a flight once where they upgraded me to first class. The plane remained the same and was still going to the same destination but it was different. My experience was definitely enhanced, it was easier to enjoy, the flight did not seem as long. If you have ever been upgraded on a plane you know what I am talking about. We update our phones, computers and other digital devices because the makers have added new features which make it run smoother, faster, or features that enhance our user experience. It’s able to do something it couldn’t before, making it easier to use and enjoy. 

Maybe it’s time for an upgrade with your version of Christmas. It is a great time to renew our heart in the truths which Christmas presents. If you want to have a Christmas to remember then it has to start by upgrading and even updating your version of Christ. Use this time to renew and refresh the truths about Jesus and His birth. Use Christmas to remind yourself of all the amazing things Jesus did for you this year. Look at your growth as well as all of the improvements you made with His help. After all, if He hadn’t been born, we would not even have a savior. Remind yourself His birth is your salvation. Don’t let the negative about Christmas drive your thinking and attitude. Instead look at all His birth means, and all His birth brought to mankind. Scriptures may not reveal an actual day, such as the 25th, but it does reveal His birth was a pretty big deal whenever the actual day was. So let this be a time to remind yourself and anyone else around you of what His birth means. It’s a great  time of the year to look at His birth and renew, refresh, and upgrade your version of Christ. 

A powerful truth in scriptures is the concept of being renewed in your heart and mind. Use this time of the year to renew your version of Christ. To renew simply means to make it new again, make it fresh again. Scriptures teach us, as a Christian, to renew our minds because things just creep in from time to time that take away the true meaning of our life in Christ. So we need to evaluate ourselves, take a look at our walk and maybe make some areas new again. This will bring a freshness back into our lives with Jesus. 

This isn’t a bad thing, there is nothing wrong with making things new again, and nothing wrong in realizing things have gotten maybe a little stale, stagnate, or so routine that it has become automated in your response. So step back and take a fresh look at what you are doing and how you are doing it, you may need to make it new again. This is why the scriptures encourage us to renew our hearts and minds. You simply look at truths you already know and bring a freshness back into them by reminding yourself what they mean. Everything we do in life could always use a fresh focus, a renewed look again to see where we are at with something. 

In approaching whatever you are sizing up, check your attitude, is it good or indifferent?  How much do you really care about it anymore, or maybe you have a bad attitude when getting ready to do whatever it is. Are we still getting the same life, enjoyment, excitement, and warmth you did when you first did whatever you are examining? Do you still have a good attitude about it or did it change somewhere over the course of time? 

Maybe it’s time to add something new to Christmas this year or just bring a freshness back into it again. Do you need to renew your heart and mind about this season? Maybe you need a fresh view. Does Christmas bring you good feelings and a great attitude or does it bring a different feeling? Examine your heart. Even if it’s a great attitude or not so great, just like your phone or computer, perhaps you need to add some new features, or get a newer version. 

Take a fresh look at the truths about Christmas to remind yourself why the holiday is celebrated. Everything in life can always use a fresh look, to bring into focus again things we know but have allowed to become so routine. Things may not have the same meaning or excitement they once had. 

How much enjoyment can you take away from this holiday by reminding yourself of how special this event truly is. Look again at the scriptures  which tell of His birth, study them out. It’s a powerful story. It really did happen whether it was the 25th or not does not matter. There is a story in scripture of His birth and it’s marvelous. 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  Luke 2:8‭-‬14 NIV

Face it, this time of the year is going to be much the same scenario as it was last year. So use it to your advantage in reminding yourself and everyone around you of how powerful His birth was. Change your perception to getting the very most out of it as you can. Just like my upgrade to a better seat made a big difference in the flight, upgrade to a better seat for this Christmas. Don’t just trudge through it with an attitude of just surviving till it’s over. Look to improve your heart and mind and learn how to enjoy every aspect of Christ’s birth, i.e. Christmas. 

The great news is you can right now, at this moment, start to renew or maybe even add some new features to your life and walk with Him through this holiday season. Update your version of Christmas, look at the areas you may need to rethink, renew or possibly add something new to enhance your enjoyment giving you a better experience. Remember it is about His Birth. So go ahead give yourself A Christmas to Remember. 

2Co 5:17

Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life]. AMP

What Did His Birth Truly Give Us?

What Did It Add To Our Lives?

“the running father”

I’m sure most Christians are familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son.  But my daughter told me about a Bible study she was in a couple of months ago where she learned in the Middle East it was referred to  as the story of The Running Father. It was not so much about a rebellious son repenting and coming to his right mind but instead the story was about the actions of a father. This intrigued me, so I began my own study on this concept (Luke 15:11-31). The following hopefully will bless those who want to see another take on this parable.

In Luke 15 before you even come to this story you have the shepherd that searches for the one lost sheep (4-7). Most sermons focus on the one lost sheep instead of the heart of the shepherd and His commitment to his sheep. It is revealed in verse 7, Jesus states the attitude of heaven is one which reflects the attitude and heart of our God, which was joy. The same with the woman who searches for the lost coin (8-10). Again, the emphasis needs to be on her heart and commitment in finding the coin. Here again it reflects the heart and attitude of heaven in verse 10, even the angels are rejoicing over the lost being found. 

Jesus is pointing to the heart of the Father in heaven. It’s about a shepherd and his dedication to search, not so much a lost sheep, or a dedicated woman to find, not so much a lost coin. These are the parables leading up to the prodigal son. The emphasis is on the attitude and heart of the one searching and not so much on what was lost. 

Now what is lost is important but really understanding the heart of the one searching and the attitude of heart toward what was lost is the emphasis. So looking at this third parable we should put the emphasis on understanding the attitude of the heart, and the commitment of the father. Also, to truly see this we need some insight into the culture of a Jewish community during this time period as well. 

Cultural Observations in a Jewish Community at this time. 

The Son:(12-19)

To ask for his inheritance was the same as saying his father was dead to Him. 

For the Father to give him what he asked for would mean putting into cash what would have been his share, of the land, livestock, business, etc..The father would have to act on the premise of how much would the son get if He were dead. The whole time the father is putting this share together it’s as if he were dead. As the Father does this it would have been heartbreaking to him. This would not have been an overnight transaction, it would have required a little time. This means there would have been tension throughout the family which the son’s action brought on all of them. The entire household would have known what was going on and most likely the community as well. This could not have been a task done in secret or overnight without others involved and knowing full well what was happening. It would have brought dishonor, embarrassment, and shame on not just the father but the family as well.

A Kezazah Ceremony) Hebrew: cutting off; It was the technical term used when a family severs its connection to a member of their family. It is where the family and community disown the individual.The whole community gathers to meet with the individual at the city gate, and the elders would break a large clay pot in front of him and say out loud for all to hear, “You are now cut off from your people!”  and then the community would totally reject him and sever all ties. It’s interesting that according to some historical accounts during the kezazah, if it was a child the father was not allowed to be present. However, the mother could attend and ask for mercy for the child, but not the father.

The son was old enough to know all of the implications that went with this, to his family, to his community, culture, traditions, he was turning his back to all of this. In a manner of speaking, he wanted absolutely nothing to do with any of them any longer. He wanted to be completely separated from His father, family, and community in which they lived. 

The wording here implies he left to live and eventually join himself to non Jewish people, which was forbidden for Jews. 

He obviously lived way above his means and making poor decisions which eventually cost him everything. He was, in our terms, flat busted broke, completely penniless. He goes from the stature of one who has money and influence to one who becomes a servant. This would have been very humiliating to him. During this time period It states he came to his senses, further stating he knew he sinned against God and his father and was not worthy to be a son but maybe a hired hand. He knew even the servants of his father’s house were treated better than his own life at that moment. His thinking is in the mindset of a servant, a hired hand. He is not thinking as son any more. His image has changed completely.

Now let’s pick up in scripture the response of the father. 

Luke 15:20-32

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'” NIV

The Father:

A long way off:(20) He knew it was his son even at a long distance off. His son could not have looked the same yet the father knew it was his own. For him to react as he did it would have been already in his heart to do so if given the opportunity. There had to have been a hope that one day he would return, something he must have continually thought about. The point was he had never forgotten his son.

Filled with compassion:(20) (Compassion; to take action to relieve the suffering of another, compassion is the action of mercy. The word compassion is not just a feeling but is the action taken to lift and if possible take the suffering off of the one needing compassion.)

Instead of disdain or contempt it was the opposite reaction. This was the son who told his father you are dead to me and I want nothing to do with you anymore, yet the father was filled with compassion. Upon seeing His son he felt the condition of His son and wanted to relieve him of his suffering. The son feeling shame, humiliation, and embarrassment, truly at his lowest possible point as a human being received only compassion from His father. 

He ran to his son:(20) This small part of the parable was huge, in this culture and time period. It was seen as an undignified action for a person of his stature and influence in the community to run. Men of his status just did not run. To run required he lift up his garment and expose his legs. Men in his position have servants to do the running. However, him running to his son immediately reveals his heart. He knew how people would react to his son returning. But before anyone could condemn or reject his son, He got to him first. By running to his son he also drew attention to himself, taking the attention off his son and his condition. The father made sure by his actions the community could see plainly the position he had concerning his son making sure no one could say anything else. The father completely accepted his son`s return.

 The son is fully aware of what he should expect from his father. But instead sees his father running towards him. The son had to have thought the same as everyone else, why is He running toward me?  He knew he was not worthy to be a son but he could be a hired servant. The son didn’t even get all of his rehearsed speech out, his father hugged and kissed him which would have been a shock to the son as well as everyone else. The son knew how He treated his father, Yet his father acted as if it never happened. Instead he starts the process of restoring his son to his place as a son born into his family. To the father even though the son told him he was dead to Him, He was and always would be His son. The father only saw his son. The father shows He would have it no other way. The suffering this young man endured, even though self-inflicted, was instantly lifted off of him by his father. 

This is why in the thinking of Middle East culture it was titled “the Running Father ”. The focus is not so much on the son but on the father’s actions. Jesus was making the point of God the Father’s heart, how the Father in heaven sees us and how He responds to us when we come to Him. It’s hard to picture God the Father in heaven so excited to see us returning home that He would run toward us, yet this is the picture Jesus wants us to see. God sees us no other way but as his children. He sees Himself as our Father and us as His son or daughter. 

Quick, bring the best robe, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.(22) The father instantly restored him to the status of a son, his son, making a distinction between a servant and his son. He obviously had to look disheveled and more like a servant. But the father never saw him any other way, but as his son. The robe instantly covers his son, gives him honor back and changes the condition he was found in, the ring signifies to all His identity and who he belongs to and belongs with, his authority and position in the family given back to Him.  The sandals give purpose to his path again, no longer a servant but a son, remember he had fallen to the place of a hired servant, now he is restored back to a son. The Father never once brings up the past, except to say He was dead but now alive, he was lost but now found.

The father throws a feast,(23-24)

He celebrates and displays publicly how he sees his son who just returned. He is overwhelmed with joy. Everyone from servants to the rest of the community would have known what was happening. Even more importantly, it would have revealed to everyone the position the father took concerning his son.

Through this parable Jesus is revealing how God sees all of us. He is painting a picture of His Father’s heart toward those who are lost. The minute we turn and start toward home He watches and sees us. Even a long way off He runs toward us. He doesn’t care what anybody else thinks. This is truly the definition of His grace. An unmerited love and favor which no man deserves but still receives from God. He never brings up the past mistakes. He doesn’t focus on who we were or what we have done but the focus is on how God the Father sees us and who we are to Him. He instantly restores us to our rightful and proper place in His family. He covers us, He gives back our dignity. He establishes us as one of His own with the position of one born into His family. His heart is ecstatic, and overwhelmed to see us come home. He is rejoicing, celebrating when we come home. All of heaven above reflects His attitude of celebration and joy. 

The Other Son:(25-32) 

Obviously the other son had a bad attitude. He probably felt justified to some extent. His focus was on what His brother had done and who he had become. However, this is not how the father saw things. Look at the father’s response to what this son says, and how he says it. The other son states he has slaved for his father, always obeying His father and yet never received a party with the fatted calf. He states his brother was wicked and not deserving. His focus was on the worth of who he had become. He saw only his brother’s past actions. This son thought he was better. He judged and looked down on his brother for his past actions. He thought His actions made him special to his father, he was different and not like his brother. 

This son did not know his father’s heart like he should have. Jesus points out that even though this son was not like the returning son, he still did not know who his father really was and his attitude and heart was wrong. 

The father corrects this son’s view of his brother. The father saw this son the same as he saw the returning son, no different. I think of how often Christians make condemning remarks, in the same way as the other son did, by feeling superior, “I’m not like them”. But by the fathers response we know this is not what he wanted from his son. He should have had the same heart and attitude of his father. This son should have been rejoicing, overwhelmed to see the return of his brother just like his father. Forgetting his past mistakes and seeing only as a brother restored back into the family.

This is a good place to look at our lives, especially if we have been walking with the father for any length of time. Do we still see ourselves by our past actions? Now that we are home and we have been serving God for sometime, what is our place and position? Do we see ourselves like the other son, quick to judge others by their past. Do we think since we have been serving God all these years we are better? 

To mature and grow and keep the same heart and attitude of our Heavenly Father is what Jesus is wanting us to see. This is what Jesus displayed through His life, death and resurrection. We are to continually have in our mind how joyful it is to see a returning son or daughter and that He sees us the same as He did when we returned home. We should encourage anyone to see themselves the way the Father sees them. This is how He always sees us, we are special but no more special than anyone else who has returned home. So what the father tells his other son is the mindset the Father wants all of us to have. 

My son(31)

We are completely totally accepted with God as one of His own. You are one of His children accepted just like He accepts Jesus. You must be secure in how He sees you. No one has a right to say anything else. This is our place and position with the Father. He put the best robe on us, put a ring on us, and sandals on our feet. We now have the right to see ourselves this way and should always see ourselves this way. God only sees a son, He only sees a daughter. He sees nothing else because He fully accepted you. Just because He rejoices when another son or daughter who returns home does not mean they are any more special then you. He sees us all the same and treats us all the same.  

You always have me(31)

We can always rely on Him being there with us and for us. He proved this with the son that was lost. He proved this with Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The true question is, are we enjoying being with Him or is He still a distant Father? His position is for us to be with Him and  to enjoy every aspect of Him and His Father’s heart toward us. 

All I have is yours(31)

Everything of God’s is ours, He has never held anything back from us. All He has is ours. He shows no partiality but freely accepts us as a full family member with all the rights and privileges which come with our place with Him. 

When The Scales Have Fallen

When the Scales Have Fallen

A basic fundamental for any Christian who desires to be strong in the Lord is having a proper understanding of “God is with us” . To move from the spectator seats to being in the actual arena where the building of His Kingdom and the work of Jesus is being done, you must have a solid foundation of His omnipresence. If you have accepted Him into your life then you must believe He is there, He is with you. 

To help in the development of this concept, let’s look at Paul’s encounter with Jesus. 

Acts 9:1‭-‬12, ‬15‭-‬19

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. 

Let’s notice first, Jesus knew Saul. He knew all about Saul. He knew everything Saul was doing and knew where to find him.  This would mean Jesus had to have been on the road to Damascus as well. In this encounter there was nothing hidden about Saul which Jesus did not already know. Again, He knew who Saul was, where he was, what he was doing and who he was doing it for, and who he was doing it to.  He saw all that was happening in the life of Saul.

Jesus spoke to Saul and he understood the words being spoken. This means Jesus had to have been there in order for Saul to hear. The other side of this story is Saul did not know who Jesus was, he was not aware of Him yet. Therefore, Jesus actually had to identify Himself to Saul. Even if Saul did not know it was Jesus, he was obviously aware of His presence at that moment. 

The men with Saul heard the sound but saw no one. Jesus chose not to identify Himself to them. What an amazing event which clearly shows the omnipresence of the Lord and what His presence is truly like. Now let’s look at part two of this story, Ananias. 

Acts 9:10-19

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength…. NIV

Jesus knew right where to find one of His disciples to do the work He needed done. Jesus knows where all His disciples are at any given moment. He also knows how He can use them, and what they are capable of doing for Him. 

Remember this word “moment”. 

Jesus called on Ananias to go and minister to Saul. Ananias knew the voice of the Lord and the moment Jesus called him, he answered. Obviously they had conversed before and he was familiar with the voice of Jesus, He didn’t have to identify Himself. Ananias instantly knew who was talking to him. For this to take place Jesus’ presence had to have been there with Ananias. Again, he knew who was speaking to him. They talked to each other and understood one another like any two people who knew each other twould be in a  normal conversation.

This encounter did not startle Ananias, nor did it seem strange or out of place to him but perfectly normal. So normal was this encounter Ananias was comfortable enough to respectfully question the Lord in what He was asking him to do. He was talking to the Lord the same as he would with anybody else.

 Again, Jesus knew everything about Ananias, who he was, where he was, and knew what He could count on from him at any given moment in time. Jesus even shared His plans and purposes for Saul’s life (Acts 9:15-16) with Ananias. The following scripture shows the heart of Jesus in wanting to share His plans with any of His disciples. 

John 15:15‭-‬16

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. 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. NIV

Jesus knew Ananias and he knew Jesus. He was ready and willing to go and do for the Lord the “moment” he was asked. He was aware of the Lord’s presence, His voice, and what the Lord was asking of Him specifically. He knew what it meant to lay hands on Saul and ask for the Holy Spirit to come into his life. This was not a strange request for Ananias, he understood exactly what He was asked to do. This is also a great picture of what a trained disciple of Jesus looks like. 

This is the only mention of Ananias in the Bible, but what he did for the Lord in a moment of time went down as a powerful testimony in Saul’s life with Jesus. Two brief moments in time, two short encounters with Jesus literally affected the lives of millions throughout history. 

In examining the presence of Jesus, here is what this story reveals. 

Jesus had personal knowledge of these two men. He knew them, and everything about them. Jesus knew everything they were doing and where He could find them. Jesus knew how to communicate with them so that each one of them understood Him perfectly. Although Saul did not know it was Jesus, he still understood the words being spoken to him. Jesus also knew what each man was capable of doing and how to use them. 

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above–spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. Eph 2:10 AMP

So one knew Jesus personally and how to talk with Him, and one needed his eyes and ears opened. When the scales fell off of Saul’s eyes he could now physically and spiritually see. From that day forward he had a working knowledge of the presence of Jesus in His life.  

This is who Jesus is, this was not just a special one time occurance. This is how He would be present with anyone. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb.13:8).  If He was this way with Saul and Ananias then He can be this way with you. He knows everything about you. He knows right where you are physically, spiritually, and mentally. In every way possible, Jesus knows you. He knows what you are capable of doing so He knows how to use you. The real question is do you want to be used by the Lord? 

As these scriptures reveal to us Jesus was there, it is one of the attributes of the Lord, which is so powerful. He is the God who is here. Our understanding should always be that the Lord is present. He is not lost or away at the moment. He is not on vacation and should be back in a week or two. He is not gone, leaving you to hope He shows up. He is not distant, instead His presence is always here. So living in the moment with Jesus will be based on how aware our faith allows Him to be present. 

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 NKJV

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:20‭-‬23 NKJV

No matter the story in scriptures, if you examine them you will find these truths of God being present in what is happening, God is there. His ability to be there should not be in question nor should there be any doubt about His presence, but rather our ability to know and hear Him, and being fully aware of His presence. 

In the article titled “The Awareness Factor”, we mentioned the concept of our personal life space. This is the space where you and the Lord merge your spaces. With Ananias the spaces were already merged, the Lord was able to communicate freely with him and he with Jesus. He was able to give Ananias an assignment and knew he would carry it out for Him. This should be every Christian’s goal, to be this type of disciple for Jesus. Your personal space being so in tune with Jesus that you are one with Him (Jn.17:20-23). Being fully aware He is there, knowing who He is and what life with Him is all about. To truly have those, in the moment encounters with Jesus, we need to grow and mature in our awareness of Him with us. 

If you choose to stay immature, then you are going to miss those opportunities where He lives His life through you. They will just slip right by because you are more focused on your own personal space and not the two of you together. You are really centered on self, doing for yourself what you want, living your life and not really including the Lord all that much. This is what keeps us immature and dulls our awareness of His presence. You can be a good church goer, but still not fully allow Jesus to have His life working through you. Maybe like Saul you need to have the scales fall off from your spiritual eyes.  

Jesus wants you to have and enjoy life, He does this by merging His life with your life. He wants you to be one with Him. He wants you to experience His presence all the time. So start letting your faith center on Him and come alive to the awareness of His presence, and know He is Jesus, the “God who is here”, right here, right now with you. 

Hearing & Obeying

Jeremiah 13

13 This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and buy a linen belt and put it around your waist, but do not let it touch water.” 2 So I bought a belt, as the Lord directed, and put it around my waist.

3 Then the word of the Lord came to me a second time: 4 “Take the belt you bought and are wearing around your waist, and go now to Perath[a] and hide it there in a crevice in the rocks.” 5 So I went and hid it at Perath, as the Lord told me.

6 Many days later the Lord said to me, “Go now to Perath and get the belt I told you to hide there.” 7 So I went to Perath and dug up the belt and took it from the place where I had hidden it, but now it was ruined and completely useless.

8 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “This is what the Lord says: ‘In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless! 11 For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’ declares the Lord, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor. But they have not listened.’

“A call to listen intently on the Lord“

The Lord will speak to you in any situation if we can listen. Just as Jeremiah had a dynamic relationship with the Lord, God desires the same with us. What would be the outcome to Jeremiah if he ended just with the waistband? 

Ask yourself this, God tells you to go out and buy a car. It is not a question of finances or payment because you have enough faith to do what the Lord asked of you. It is not just any car but the finest car you can think of. Spotless all that the specs offer, everything that the dealer would throw at you, you take. God tells you, don’t wash this car because it has the finest polish on it and it just shines. So you go and get the car and you are driving around town. A week passes and then God tells you to go downtown to the worst part of town. Get out of the car, open the doors and walk away. At what point would you start to question what the Lord told you to do. If Jeremiah stopped at the wearing of the waistband he would have been just a guilty as Judah and Jerusalem, not only that but he would have declared the waistband more important than God. God gives us the Call to Listen to Him. What are the things in our lives that keep God’s word from coming in and what are we doing to overcome these things before they consume us?

We are the waistband of the Lord.

God desires that we adhere to Him just as a waistband adheres to the waist of a man. We are for the Lord. We are His praise, His Glory and His renown. Everything that we do should be a call to the weight and power of who God is. The waistband during this time was a symbol of wealth and prestige, it showed class and status. Jesus says “You are the light of the world, a city on a hill.” Jesus is the status and the class that is to be shown. It is important to remember that the most important part of evangelism is our relationship with the Lord. If we speak of repentance and salvation and don’t have the relationship with God, we are going to show whoever it is we speak to that it is ok to not listen to the Lord and thus become worthless to the call.

Stubbornness Kills the called.

What Jeremiah received in revelation was a wake up call to God’s chosen, You are to be a waistband for me but you did not listen and thus became worthless. And now I am going to release you to the very things that blinded you. You will walk thinking that you are in light but in darkness.

2 Timothy 4:3-4

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

Paul’s Charge to Timothy

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

So what is the call for us men today? It doesn’t change. We are to stand our ground and listen to the Lord no matter what the situation is. It may be a difficult request from God and it might not be, but the reward and the relationship that follows is the Kingdom of God.