Posted in A Great Irony, Knowing Jesus, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, Personal Relationships, The Journey Back, The journey begins, The Journey Continues, The Meaning of Life

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE

Life is a funny thing. For many of us, we can look around and find a host of people, to compare to ourselves, who seem to face nothing of the rejection that we have experienced. However, at the same time, we can look around at others, who when we consider their plight in life, we just want to fall on the ground and thank God for sparing us their heartache, and then cry for them.

Personally, I have been married for forty-three years to a person who delights in others. She is warm and friendly, and many people over the years have expressed how much they wait for and enjoy her hugs. She loves to care for children, even though because of her partial disability due to back surgery, it is very difficult physically to care for them they way that she would prefer.

For many years it has been my privilege to observe the concern my wife has for people, and her willingness to give herself to those that others would deplore and avoid. It’s a strange thing, that the most common reaction that people have, who have experienced the kind of life as my wife, is to become hateful and try to avoid others as much as possible. On the other hand some try to gain the acceptance of others at any cost, that is, without really caring and giving of themselves to them. I have observed all three kinds of people many times in my lifetime.

I have had the good fortune, under the sovereign design of Almighty God, to enjoy the loving protection and care of two very loving and giving parents. My mother lost her own mom when she was barely four, and spent almost a year searching for her. My father possesses the manor, wisdom, and grace of sheriff Andy Taylor. Therefore, I cannot imagine what life is like to be brought up in a home, having been sent to my grandmother because my father didn’t want me.

My wife’s grandmother was a very godly and loving woman, who herself met with betrayal, rejection, and trials that no sane person would choose to face. However, in time she returned her granddaughter to her daughter-in-law so she could be with her mom. Her stepfather was very abusive and brought her up as though she was in the military and not a family.

Rejection defines my wife’s existence during her formative years. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have my grandmother tell me my real dad is not the man, who is married to my mom. I would like to be able to say that abuse ended with my wife’s childhood, but that would misrepresent her life.

We all begin with the inclination to be selfish, hateful, jealous, spiteful, gossipy, and judgmental because we are all part of a fallen and sinful race – the human race. We begin innocent in the sense that we are born naive, and then we have to grow into an intelligent and discerning human being. The heart of every boy and girl learns from their parents, family members, peers, and culture as a whole, how to act and react to their environment.

The heart of each person begins soft and hardens over time, to some extent. For this reason the bible says, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:7, 8a) Some people hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and harden their hearts to the truth of His salvation. They refuse to accept the call to be saved from their own sins, being too self-righteous to accept the fact that they sin. Others, by the grace of God, turn from their sins, regardless of the suffering they have faced throughout the course of their lives, and turn to Jesus Christ as the Bible reveals Him.

Last night my wife, a friend, and I went to see, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE. Sitting their and observing the life of Bart Millard, I could only think about my own wife. During the eighties we went to visit her birth dad, whom she forgave for abandonment, and who never tried to contact her. As if feeling rejected for her whole life up to that point were not enough, she was rejected yet again.

Because of the love of Christ, my wife forgave even her stepdad, and has only said good things about him to me since that time. She honors him as a military man, having given himself to the service of his country for many years.

It is all too easy to become bitter because of difficult circumstances we face. It is also possible to respond in a positive way to the evils that befall us. We can pick our self up from trials and send our life in a new direction. I have witnessed numerous people make such decisions, as in the case of drug addicts. There is, however, a vast difference between picking up one self and being picked up by Jesus Christ.

It is one thing to be brought up in a Christian home, with all the advantages that such an environment brings, and still another to respond in faith to Him amidst all the pain and suffering that a wicked world can provide. It is one thing to see Jesus through the lens of our own perceived goodness, and still another to see Jesus through the lens of our own wicked reactions to the evils of this present world. For this reason Jesus said to a religious leader, who was consumed with his own goodness, who was judging Jesus for having kept company with a street woman.

“Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. “You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Mark 7:44-47)

Those who TRULY love much have been forgiven for much, because they have recognized the depth of their own vile and sinful soul, and found forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love at the cross of Jesus Christ.

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In the heart of a person that has been rejected through neglect, and abused physically and emotionally by the one that should exemplify sacrificial love and respect, there is an absence of belief in the ability of others to love them.

Only God in Christ can fix it!

 

 

 

Posted in A Passion for Christ, A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, Eternal Life, FALSE RELIGION AND TRUE FAITH, Knowing Jesus, Uncategorized

DO YOU KNOW JESUS as a FACT or as the TRUTH?

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It probably seems strange to ask whether or not you know Jesus by fact or truth.  Isn’t a truth also a fact? However, a fact may be far less than a truth, because truth can transform a person in a way that a mere fact cannot. The best statement to this effect that I know of is by A.W. Tozer.

“The essence of my belief is that there is a difference, a vast difference, between fact and truth. Truth in the Scriptures is more than a fact. A fact may be detached, impersonal, cold and totally dissociated from life. Truth on the other hand, is warm, living and spiritual. A theological fact may be held in the mind for a lifetime without its having any positive effect upon the moral character; but truth is creative, saving, transforming, and it always changes the one who receives it into a humbler and holier man. At what point, then, does a theological fact become for the one who holds it a life-giving truth? At the point where obedience begins. When faith gains the consent of the will to make an irrevocable committal to Christ as Lord, truth begins its saving, illuminating work; and not one moment before.”

I have one major question regarding Tozer’s statement. How does faith gain consent; or put another way, what part do you and I play in faith and obedience? It is not certain to me what Tozer meant by faith gaining consent of the will, but the Bible speaks in this way.

 “…just as you have always obeyed …work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12, 13)

It is essential to understand that even the willingness to obey God must come from Him. Continuing from my last blog, intimacy with God is the most important and relevant factor. Jesus said, apart from Him we can do nothing. Therefore, abiding in Him, resting in Him, and allowing Him to take up residence in our heart is essential to obedience. To abide, rest, and desire Christ to reside in our heart are actuated through the privacy of prayer.

Prayer changes me 3There is one thing more than all others that will keep us from prayer – sin. Jesus said, we should go into the closet, that is to say, we should spend alone time with God. Prayer brings faith to its place of completion. Prayer is where we ask God for what we need, and learn to see ourselves as we actually are, that is, in desperate need of Him. However, praying is not merely saying words. If prayer is not deeply heart-felt and personal, it dishonors the One to whom we pray.

Prayer changes me 1The year was 1979, walking into the chapel of the Bible Institute a voice became audible. Someone was obviously having a conversation, but the closer I got to the person  the more evident it became that he was alone. He was having a heart to heart to be sure, but it was with no person that could be seen. It was not like any prayer that I had ever heard. The intimacy level took prayer to a place I’d never been. Suddenly it became clear that I was intruding on a private conversation. All I could do was to walk quietly backwards and let myself out. As serious as the conversation was, there is no doubt in my mind that he was not aware of my presence.

Prayer is never to be done as a ritual or something on a check list. If prayer is not as a personal transaction with the person of God, it accomplishes nothing good. When our faith goes to work, then we willingly invite God into our lives, recognize Jesus Christ as Lord, and thereby, live a life of obedience.

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As we pray and meditate on the truths of scripture, and consider them against the backdrop of our own ignorance, biases, cultural mores, and sinful desires, then God speaks to us through His word. Only intimacy with God can overcome the perils of the world, the flesh, and the devil that distort a proper interpretation of scripture.

Again I say, faith is made complete in prayer, and God honoring prayer always honors God’s revealed word more than our own misunderstandings. Only then do we hear Him with a willingness to believe Him and obey. To know Jesus Christ in this way is to live a new and transformed life.

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The best way to know the one true Jesus is to know well what the Bible has to say about Him. THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW was written to give you much to meditate upon, regarding the person of the Son of God. 

There is nothing better than to know Jesus Christ.

Posted in Knowing Jesus, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, The Journey Back, The journey begins, The Journey Continues

DO YOU LOVE JESUS MORE THAN THESE

Jesus did not seek to impart love as it is measured by earthly standards. The love that God desires must first be received from Him by faith in the matchless work and person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinful men in their own strength cannot even exercise acceptable faith without God’s impute. For this reason, twelve men who followed Jesus largely in their own strength for 3 years, denied Him during His greatest hour of need. However, though they fell away in the garden, they soon returned to the savior of their souls.

Feed-My-SheepAt that time Jesus restored them to the fullness of their faith, with the responsibility of being sent out as Apostles.

“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

On all three occasions Jesus called Peter by his  Simon birth name, meaning unstable one, do you love me. Jesus used two different Greek words. On the first two occasions He used the word, agapaó; this word is a word denoting the truest, deepest, and most sincere love. It is a love born out of self-sacrifice. On both occasions, Peter (The immovable rock) responded with the word, phileó, a word of warm affection, characterized by tender, heartfelt consideration and kinship. This was a good word but a love not at all at the level of the word Jesus used.

Peter had taken a serious fall in denying Jesus. Three times He denied that he knew Jesus, and the last time he took an oath and used cursed words to say he did not know Jesus (Matthew 26:74). When the rooster crowed at that moment, as Jesus predicted, Peter went out and wept bitterly or (violently).

When I was a youngster and living on the streets of Brooklyn, New York, in the sixties, it was not uncommon to hear the roaring of an engine as a foolish teenager raced down the block. On one particular occasion, after the roar, one block over, their was a screech and a loud thud. I ran between the houses and came out on the street to see a woman, probably in her fifties, come out of her house and scream, “You killed my mother.” Even now it makes me want to cry. It was the scream of a person in the deepest kind of pain, at the loss of a person, of the closest relation, forever, without any hope of recovery.

Peter was going to need some serious encouragement and restoration, if he were to do the work to which he had been called. Jesus asked him the third time, do you Phileo me, or do you even have fond affection for Me? Peter was grieved that Jesus would even question his affection. Peter responded once again, you know I Phileo You. Peter had confidence in his affection, but he was not proud anymore in his ability to follow through with agapao action. It is this kind of humility, which allows a person to flee to Christ for help, to receive the imparted resurrection life of Christ, to meet the greatest temptations, persecutions, and suffering in order to be faithful to Him.

In conclusion,  the phrase Jesus used in John 21:15, “more than these” was meant to remind Peter of his words at the last supper, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” It is always foolish to compare ourselves with others, and think more highly of ourselves. Jesus wanted to bring this lesson home to ensure that Peter would fulfill his calling as an Apostle and not with foolish pride in himself.

To fall away from Jesus is bad, and such an attitude and action should be avoided at all costs. However, should it take place, take heart because the restoration that Jesus will impart will make you a better, humbler, and more immovable Christian than you were before.

Always be encouraged in the transforming love of Christ!

Thoughts like these can be found in my book, THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW

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There is nothing worth knowing better than the person, work, love, and righteousness of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Posted in A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, Knowing Jesus, THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW, The Meaning of Life, The Priority of Christian Knowledge, THE TRUTH IS A PERSON

THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

A fact can be held in a mind, unattached, unacknowledged, and not applied, for a lifetime, and thereby not do the person any good. Truth is living, it too can be rejected, but ultimately only by the dead. Those whom God has “…appointed to eternal life believe” (Acts 13:48), and thereby will be transformed into the the image of God’sSon.

THE HEARTS OF MEN ARE REVEALED BY KNOWING OR NOT KNOWING GOD

Paul, when writing to Titus, declared the state of men who profess to be Christian but in reality are not, and prove themselves to be counterfeit because they deny Christ. “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed.” (Titus 1:16)

The optimal word in verse sixteen with regards to man’s spiritual condition is the word know.  Authentic Christians, or people who possess spiritual life, know God. The idea of knowing God, as it is used in the scriptures, translates into the possession of eternal life. To know God is to partake of God, and thereby partake of eternal life, because God is eternal life. The Apostle John said as much when he wrote concerning Jesus Christ, “and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—” (1 John 1:2).

Eternal life is defined by John in His Gospel as a knowledge of Jesus Christ. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

The knowledge of which the Bible speaks is not chiefly intellectual, even though that is of knowledge of Godcourse necessary; biblical knowledge is intimate in nature. “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…” (Genesis 4:1). The highest form of human knowledge according to the Bible is considered to be that of a man and a woman in marriage, as it is restricted to only one relationship. Only two people, within the bonds of holy matrimony for a lifetime, are to have such an intimate relationship.

Hence the word (ginóskó), in the Greek, means “to know, especially through personal experience (first-hand knowledge)”. Such knowledge of a person by another could not be obtained by reading a book or told any other way but by spending time together, and thereby, becoming intimately acquainted. “And Mary [a virgin] said to the angel, ‘How will this be since I do not know (ginṓskō = sexual intimacy) a man?’ (Luke 1:34)

The knowledge of God of which the scripture speaks regarding eternal life is of a spiritual nature. Of course, it is not physical as in the case of marriage, which is only meant to point to the intimacy that God desires with His people. Intimacy with God is a first hand knowledge of God, which can only be found in the person who trusts in Him.

evans-our-god-is-awesome-god-response-5-728Christianity is not a matter of perfection but direction. Nevertheless, the distinction between true and false Christians by whether or not  we obey. Found in the heart of every believing Christian  is the desire to keep God’s commandments. “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3, 4).

A person can desire to be good by adhering to cultural norms. However, a desire to be good apart from a personal knowledge of God is not what John is referring to as keeping His Commandments. The practice of which John speaks in 2:29 is the intimacy of filial love.  “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.”

Christianity is about identification with Christ by faith; identification through faith makes Jesus near and dear, thus creating intimacy. The Christian understands that when Jesus died, he died. When Jesus rose from the dead, he rose from the dead. These things took place in the heart of God, as God sees the believer in Christ. The believer knows this and lives accordingly.

A day is coming when the kingdom of God will be made complete, and of that day the scripture says, “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘know the LORD,’ for all will know me, from the least to the greatest of them” (Hebrews 8:11). The kingdom of God consists of only people who have come to a saving knowledge of God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. To know Jesus is to partake of Him.

However, be careful to understand the Jesus who offers Himself as the eternal life, of which men must partake to be saved. For Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). Jesus further said, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me” (John 6:56 & 57). To abide in Christ is to desire what He desires and obey whom He obeys.

Do you know God in this way? Do you possess a knowledge of God like a fact that does no good, or do you have an intimate relationship with God, that is transforming  your heart? Do you ask him questions and find the answers in his word? Do you live your life for His pleasure or is it all about your own? Can you answer these questions honestly and truthfully without self-deception? I hope and pray you can?

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“The greatest motivation to receive the message of Jesus is Jesus Himself. His moral integrity and trustworthiness draw men to Him …Jesus perfectly introduced a form of life that makes love the most desirable thing on earth. The life that Jesus lived flowered from a heart filled with an uncompromising love for God and His fellow man. It is Jesus’s heart – His motives, attitudes, desire, and will – that make Him the most desirable person in the universe. It is the desirable person of Jesus whom the author has attempted to describe publicly and accurately.” (Quoted from the introduction)

 

Posted in Knowing Jesus, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, Personal Relationships, THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW, The Meaning of Life, The Priority of Christian Knowledge

THE JOURNEY BACK

From the time that I repented of my sin and placed my faith in Jesus Christ for my salvation, until I began to understand the Bible was about six years.

There can be no substantial spiritual growth in the grace of God apart from faith in God’s word. It is impossible to have faith in God when we do not understand His will and what He expects of us. At the sixth year mark with no learning for support, I chose to go the way of sinful behavior.

My soul was torn within me, so that I could say with king David, “For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; My strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my body has wasted away” (Psalm 31: 10). As wonderful as it is to experience the joy of forgiveness, mercy, and grace, it is equally awful to grow distant from God, and turn back to a sinful way of life.

trust in GodSo desperate were my feelings of guilt that on the way home from work, seeing a phone booth (long before cell phones), I hopped out of the car, and called the Billy Graham organization for the phone number of a church, to seek counsel. Then a man stepped into my life, who held the truth in his heart, and who returned me toward an accountable relationship with Christ and the Church.

The only thing comparable to the experience of enjoying the grace of God for the first time is experiencing it for the second time. Every subsequent return to God for the saint is not for salvation but to restore fellowship with God. Returning to God has no meaning if a person is not united with God for the first time.

I am so thankful to God for having called me to Himself because apart from His calling and enabling me to exercise faith, I never would have come to 36724-cross-sunset-humility-pexels.1200w.tnHim for the first time.

Praise God for the cross, apart from it there is no turning or returning to God.

Some believe that turning to God is a one time act. You come to Christ and for the rest of your life you are right with God. However, while that is true by God’s accounting, that is not true in experience. The Christian is called to a life of obedience, which is possible by faith in God’s promises and the fellowship of the saints. Nonetheless, there is no sinless perfection this side of heaven.

In conclusionJonah and Great Fish for now, there are sins that we commit in ignorance or passively, in such a case there should be short accounts kept the Christian. Confession of sin (1 John 1) should be daily. There is a life style of willful disobedience, which is not acceptable for the Christian. Such willful disobedience brings chastisement by God, and should bring discipline by the local church (in love). Till next time!

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Posted in A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, Jesus Christ: The Character of God, Knowing God, Knowing Jesus, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, Personal Relationships, THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

It is one thing to hear the gospel call to receive Jesus Christ as Lord, and it is still another to to follow Him as set forth in the scripture. Barely a teen and a failure at reading the Bible, the way to follow Jesus was foreign to me.

The great lesson learned during those years was discipleship. There was no one in my life to help me navigate the terrain of the Christian walk, which involves separation from the world, war with our own flesh, and spiritual warfare. Some paths are best walked with an experienced guide.

My high school years were spent growing in the fine art of becoming an odd ball. As a typical teenager there was a desire to fit in, but there were some things I would not do. Something was different about me but I couldn’t identify what it was. When speaking to my dad on one occasion, the words rang out of my mouth with an assurance that had not been present before, “I know that there is a God.”

It is good to have assurance of God’s existence, however, the devil is assured of God’s existence and trembles. Furthermore, it is equally important to understand God’s will and to be empowered to carry it out. You can only coast for so long, where there is no growth the world, the flesh, and the devil will become too much to resist. So it was in my case, sin got the best of me after high school.

The authentic Christian cannot live with wrongdoing for very long, the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and makes living in sin completely unbearable. It is a hard lesson to learn but in the end it makes the student more empathetic toward those he/she will seek to help through similar circumstances.

As a along time teacher, it is never a good idea to be tolerant of sin. Furthermore, even though empathy is an important part of helping others to know that you love them, it is equally important to teach well that sin is the most destructive force in everyone’s life.

There is always a consequence to sin in this life and for the Christian that means discipline from a heavenly Father who loves us very much.