Archive for June, 2012

“Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.”

– Acts 3:4, 6-7 NIV

There are 3 distinct contradictions I recognize in this short encounter Peter and John had with the crippled beggar at the temple gate called Beautiful in the book of Acts. 1) The man born crippled sat at a gate called ‘beautiful’ to beg, 2) Peter acknowledged not having silver or gold, but he had a wealth of power to bring restoration to a man who was born crippled, and 3) All 3 men were born into debilitating circumstances (being crippled and the state of sin), yet all 3 were set free by a power beyond themselves. Peter and John may not have been born crippled, but they were born with the crippling condition of sin they became all too familiar with when they failed to demonstrate their loyalty to Jesus in the face of great opposition deserting Him and denying even knowing Him in Jesus’ greatest time of need for support from devoted friends. Their failure could have crippled them for the rest of their lives, mentally and emotionally. They could have resigned to live in the crippling mindset of regret, or languished in the debilitating neutrality of shame, or guilt. Peter and John could have resolved within themselves that their sin, failure, or mistake was too great for them to ever be of use to the Master and remained forever haunted by their past, their failures and the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve’s of life.

Instead, after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter and John endured and persevered through the reality of their season of adversity and encountered the restoration power of Christ that aroused within them the mission and purpose for which they had been chosen by God, through faith in Christ, to follow. They allowed the redemptive, regenerative work of the Holy Spirit to accomplish within them what they would then be empowered to share with others, including the crippled beggar at the gate called beautiful. How discouraging, disappointing and disillusioned it can be to be in a place called beautiful, but be in a crippled state in a posture of humiliation feeling less than and impoverished in comparison to others around you. How frustrating and agonizing it can be, creating a sense of anguish, even bitterness and resentment, when you are born, or placed,into  a context, condition, or set of circumstances that positions you to be in this beautiful world God created for our enjoyment, but not benefit from it to the degree others are enjoying. It can be heartbreaking, gut wrenching and instill within us a self-loathing that can create a crippled lifestyle for us, as sin can do.

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, that no matter what condition, context, or set of circumstances we may be in, God has the power, through faith, to restore us and give us power to provide the same restoration for others! Peter’s discourse with the crippled beggar reminds us and reinforces to us that there is a greater wealth and power at our disposal than money. The woman with the issue of blood suffered for 12 years and spent all she had, but it was her faith that made her whole and restored her. She said if she could only touch the hem of Jesus’ garment she would be made whole. Peter said, in essence, ‘I do not have money to give you, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Peter and the sick woman both declared what they believed and experienced the restoration power of God in a way that money could not produce for them. There is a life Christ came for us to have that extends beyond the boundary of what money can provide and produce for ourselves and others. Believe and speak the authoritative word of God and allow the anointing of Christ’s power resonate within you so you can experience the true hidden life of Jesus Christ.

May God bless you and help you to speak, by faith, what you believe according to His word to allow His power to work in you, through you and around you, by His Spirit, to experience the fullness of life Christ came for you to have.

Advertisements

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”

– Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV

When the Christian ponders and contemplates the meaning of life and inquires about their ‘purpose’ in this world, Isaiah 61:1-3 addresses this. Those who discover the life that is regarded as truly life; according to what the Apostle Paul declared in 1 Timothy 6 regarding doing good, being rich in good deeds, generous and willing to give, lives a life predicated upon investing themselves in benefitting and blessing others. It is a lifestyle devoted to making use of what God richly provides for our enjoyment to help others in their time of need. It is not just about sharing one’s material goods, because the wealth of who we are, in Christ, far exceeds our net worth from a financial perspective.

In Ephesians 1, the bible teaches that God has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. That is a new testament proclamation of what the prophet Isaiah delcares in Isaiah 61:1-3. In Christ, I have the authority, anointing and ability to help the poor, the brokenhearted, those held captive, prisoners of darkness, and those who mourn. Through the love, grace, mercy, kindness, comfort, inspiration and encouragement God has richly supplied me through His word and His Spirit, I can be that source of replenishment for others. God has created me to be an oak of righteousness to display His splendor to make the world around me a better place. As I rely on the strength of His Spirit, God uses me to become a source of strength for others. As I come to Christ to get rest and peace for my soul, God supplies that source of peace through me to others as I allow Him to work in, through and around me to minister to others. As I devote and invest quality time with His word, the Holy Spirit inspires me to speak it and share it as I courageously position myself to be a mouthpiece for Christ to proclaim His truths to others.

God has gifted us with abilities, aptitude and a growing knowledge of Him and His word, as we grow and mature in faith, to use to encourage, comfort and inspire hope in others. With prayer, invested time with His word and a generous heart sincere in sharing His grace in its various forms, God can make use of us to be a blessing to others as He blesses us! Who is within my sphere of influence that could benefit from receiving the good news preached to the poor? Is there one I am aware of who is brokenhearted that could benefit from what God has richly provided me? Who do I know is currently being held captive in their circumstances, thoughts, or feelings that needs freedom proclaimed to them? Have I come across someone lately who is grieved, mourning, needs to be warned about the direction they’re going in, or weigehed down by the troubles of this world? Write a letter, send a card, email someone, make that phone call, schedule a visit, make it a point to be a vessel through which the LORD’S spledor is displayed and store up for yourselves treasure in heaven!

May God bless you and help you to live the true life invested in the authority and anointing of Jesus Christ, empowered by His word and His Spirit, to benefit and bless others as you experieince the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

– 2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV

God did not command us, from the beginning, to be wealthy or poor, but to be fruitful, multiply, rule over the earth and subdue. Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden highlighted a fundamental truth about being human, that without God we are incapable of living as He commands and expects for us to live. Jesus Christ became the means and model by which God would guide us to encounter the life He planned and purposed for us to live when He created us. Jesus reiterates this point and principle of living in the gospel of John 15 when He teaches His disciples from the parable of the vine and the branches and the principle of bearing fruit that supports God’s command given back in Genesis 1:26-28. When you continue reading 2 Peter 1:5-8 and compare that with Galatians 5:22 regarding the Apostle Paul’s teaching on the fruit of the Spirit, it provides greater clarity to what is being mentioned in today’s scripture reference from 2 Peter 1:3-4.

In essence, what 2 Peter 1:3 is saying is that by His own power God has given us everything we need to live the way He desires and commands. Everything we need to live and be like Christ comes through our knowledge of Him. Our knowledge of God comes through the written word provided for us in the bible and our obedience to His word that allows us to experience Him personally, intimately according to His word. So everything we need to live, according to God’s word, comes through what we learn from His word. In essence, the quality of the life I live and the means by which God will measure the value of my life will be accredited to the amount of knowledge I made use of in His word to live by. I don’t have control over my circumstances, misfortune and injustice that comes my way, but I do have control over how I make use of my knowledge of God to live according to His word in all circumstances. This is the point of 2 Peter 1:4. Through God’s word, His glory and goodness, God provides His promises (His word) and the person, presence and power of His Holy Spirit (divine nature) to empower us to live and experience the true life, hidden life taught in the scriptures. Notice the corruption in the world is caused by evil desires which Adam and Eve demonstrated in the garden of Eden. In a perfect environment, before the knowledge of sin existed, they still chose to live opposite of what God commanded. They could have chosen the tree of life, but they chose opposite of what God desired. In a nut shell, God is using the first verses 3-4 of 2 Peter to encourage sincere believers to do what those who do not believe are incapable of doing on their own.

The true life is a life that participates in the divine nature (the Holy Spirit) and allows the divine power of God, accessed through our knowledge of Him and obedience to His word to influence how we live daily that causes us to prosper, become fruitful, mature and benefits and blesses others as God does with us. I may not have an abundance of material wealth, but I possess the One who richly provides everything I need in this life for my enjoyment. If I believe this, I will not spend my life, as Jesus taught, seeking after material wealth and possessions. I will spend my life, on Christ’s behalf, seeking to invest in my eternal future by doing good, being rich in good deeds, generous and willing to give to others! When you read 2 Peter 1:5-8, this is what God expects after we understand what is written in verses 3-4 of 2 Peter.

May God bless you and help you to grow in your knowledge of Him and participate in the divine nature so you may mature and become fruitful to experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

– 1 Timothy 6:17-19 NIV

It is the second half of the last sentence of verse 19 of 1 Timothy 6:17-19 that always intrigues me when I read and reflect upon this verse, “so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.’ Immediately your mind has to grapple and wrestle with contemplating what the Apostle Paul meant when he shared this with his protegé Timothy in sharing the gospel message and principles of Christian living with, as he stated, ‘those who are rich in this present world.’ When you align what is written here, in Paul’s admonition to Timothy, to what Jesus declared in Luke’s gospel that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions, then you begin to discern that the fullness of life Christ came for me to have is not about material wealth. It may include it, but it may not be the focal point of what Jesus meant when He made that declaration in the gospel of John chapter 10. When you also consider the conversation Jesus had with the rich young ruler, Jesus mentions to the rich young ruler that if he sold all he had and give to the poor he would then have treasure in heaven. The Apostle Paul mentions this to Timothy to share with those who are rich in this present world as a way to get them thinking about living life with eternity in mind.

You begin to see the consistency of scripture that reinforces Jesus’ teaching on the deceitfulness of riches that becomes a distraction to living a lifestyle congruent with scripture and positions us to experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have. Jesus taught that the worries of life, pleasure and the deceitfulness of riches choked out the seed planted among thorns and kept the heart (soil) from maturing and being fruitful. Wealth and the desire for it can distract us from becoming mature in our faith to live a life that allows us to store up for ourselves treasure in heaven, so when we depart and transition into eternity we will have suffered twice in not investing in our future as a member of God’s kingdom as Paul admonished Timothy to address with those who are rich about the coming age and establishing a foundation for it. It only becomes that much more trying and challenging for those among us who are not rich when you see so many around you who are wealthy, or well off, and we are struggling to make ends meet. This is another aspect of the deceitfulness of riches, because it stirs up discontentment in the sincere believer and inhibits them from striving fully to live with their heart, mind and soul fully committed to Christ because of the distraction of the riches of this world. The sincere believer may lose sight of the true life the Apostle Paul addresses Timothy about to share with those who are rich in this present world.

Remaining faithful in prayer to God and focused obedience to His word, learning to be content whatever the circumstances and trusting what the Apostle Paul mentioned about God richly providing everything we need for our enjoyment will empower us to overcome the trap of the worries of life, pleasure and the deceitfulness of riches. Applying the principles of doing good and being rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share, is how we store up for ourselves treasure in heaven. A balanced Christian lifestyle embodies self-actualization, becoming all that God has called us to Christ to become, while also being a blessing and benefit to others along the way to eternity!

May God bless you and help you to become mature and fruitful in your faith walk with Christ doing good, being rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share so you may experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.”

– Isaiah 58:9b -11a NIV

Someone in our realm of influence is in need of what God has deposited in us to share with them to make their world a better place. I am learning that material wealth, alone, is not the only means by which God can make use of me to be a blessing to others. In the book of Acts, Peter said to a man who was crippled that he did not have silver or gold, but that which he did have he would give to the beggar who was crippled. Peter spoke by the authority and anointing of the name of Jesus Christ and the crippled beggar was restored. We may not be encountering people in our lives who are physically crippled as Peter encountered the crippled beggar in the book of Acts, but there are those around us who have been crippled mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Each of us knows someone who has been crippled by sin, life’s circumstances and the internal  opposition we all face that cripples our ability to stand firm and walk by faith.

Is there someone in our family we can intercede for investing our lives in prayer on their behalf to invoke the authority and anointing of God’s power and love to cover them and draw them closer to Him through a personal faith walk with jesus Christ? Who do you know could benefit from an encouraging word? Is there someone, whom by your presence alone, could gain strength from your interested presence that could help them endure and persevere? My mother and I try to read one psalm every Tuesday (now on Psalm 11) sharing what we understand from what is written. The bible teaches that God is present where 2 or 3 are gathered together in His name. A longtime friend told me early in my Christian walk that no time invested with God is wasted time. Is there someone at work who could benefit from a passage of scripture or testimony you have in your heart? A teaching I heard from Dr. Charles Stanley, a long, long time ago, reinforced the reality of the amount of time we spend at work and the opportunities we have daily to be a witness for Christ in spending my life with eternity in mind. A church member’s testimony about starting a bible study at work led me to conduct bible studies after work with students and fellow colleagues in Christ for over 10 years.

Blogging has broadened my understanding of God that He will provide an audience for any who seek to be a witness for Him and serve His purposes. Jesus admonished His listeners to store up for themselves treasure in heaven. Apart from the bible, you will not hear anywhere a  message that will challenge us to consider our eternal life as the bible does. The longer we live in this world, the more we become influenced by how we operate and seek to live according to the principles of this world. Only through a renewed mind consistently influenced by the principles of scripture could we begin to consider how we would spend our lives now with eternity in mind.

May God bless you and help you to move forward, through faith in Christ, to consider how to spend your life on behalf of others as you encounter the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

– Isaiah 58:6-7 NIV

A life invested in Christ is a life spent helping others. Jesus said He came to seek and save those who were lost, to be among those who were sick and to give His life as a ransom for many. He explained to His disciples, who were with Him during His earthly ministry, that He was sending them to do the work of His Father as His Father had sent Him. Before His ascension, Jesus proclaimed to His disciples the Great Commission, to go into all the world and preach the gospel teaching others what He had taught them. A life invested in Christ is a life spent invested in sharing the love, truth and compassion of Jesus Christ. The challenge of the Christian today, as we see it was for those who believed in God during the days of the prophet Isaiah, is to live a balanced life that strives to achieve while also blessing and benefitting others along the way.

When I take the time to reflect back over the past week, month, year, how often has my life been spent invested in bettering someone else’s, including family members (my own flesh and blood), as I have sought to better my own? Early in my faith walk with Christ, I was seeking to understand more about fasting and my oldest brother led me to this passage in Isaiah 58. The New International Version of the bible titles this chapter True Fasting. God challenged the people of Isaiah’s day to consider what fasting during their time accomplished for them in their faith walk with Him. God expressed His displeasure with them, that though they abstained from food in reverence to Him, their conduct and lifestyles did not reflect a change in association with their ritual of sacrifice and self-denial. Though they abstained from food, it did not affect change in the way they conducted themselves and how they treated others. Recent personal challenges I have faced over the past 6 years has helped me to see with more clarity the point of Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed that fell among thorns that chokes out the seed that grows preventing the heart of the sincere follower of Christ to grow, mature and produce the fruit of faith (change in lifestyle). I have witnessed first hand how the cares of this world, pleasures and the deceitfulness of riches can impede one’s progress in investing one’s life in Christ to spend it for the benefit and betterment of others.

As I have witnessed God’s love at work in my life to defend and deliver me from one challenge after another and continue to uplift and uphold me in the face of great trial and testing, I am compelled more to consider the teachings of Christ on the subject of storing up for yourself treasure in heaven. Conversations with my oldest brother reinforce the need to move from the elementary teachings about faith, as the bible teaches, and give greater consideration to weightier matters of the scripture with regard to my eternal salvation and my purpose in Christ beyond what God can do for me. As former President John Kennedy stated in asking not what America can do for us, but what we can do for the freedom of man, so to is God challenging us to ask what we can do for Him to be a blessing to others.

May God bless you and help you to grow, mature and be fruitful in investing your life in Christ for others as you encounter the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”

– John 20:21-22 NIV

For the Christian, questions like, ‘Why am I here?’ ‘What is my purpose?’ ‘What is the meaning of life?’,’ do not have to remain mystical, unfathomable, or unanswerable. I am convinced that my purpose in life is distinctly intertwined with my purpose in Christ and like the treasure in the hidden field it is to be discovered and disclosed as I sincerely make investment in my faith walk with God through prayer and time spent with His word. The bible teaches that our life is hid with Christ in God which tells me that I must seek Christ and desire to know God to discover the life hid with Christ in God. Another way of saying it is a life of substance, meaning, significance, value and one worthy of God’s approval is a life connected to Christ. Remember, the rich young ruler had great wealth, but he was found still lacking something. Jesus declared that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. I Corinthians 13 says that you could give all you have to the poor, surrender your body to the flames, but without love (God is love) it will profit you nothing. So I could be living a life worthy of the gospel, but without the content of the gospel message (Jesus Christ) in my heart, my life will not profit me entrance into heaven in the end.

The parable of the hidden treasure speaks to the principle of purpose from the perspective of a change of perspective of one’s purpose in life. The man who discovered the hidden treasure lived a certain life prior to the discovery of the hidden treasure, but after his discovery, his purpose in life changed with the discovery of the hidden treasure. His new purpose was directly associated with the discovery of the hidden treasure (kingdom of God) and the field (new life in Christ) in which the treasure was hidden that he purchased after investing in it from the sell of his personal possessions (former life) to acquire the field. With the discovery of the hidden treasure (kingdom of God), the man discovered a new purpose for his life. The discovery of the hidden treasure changed his focus from what constituted his former lifestyle to a new ambition inspired by the joy associated with the discovery of the hidden treasure. His concept of wealth and prosperity changed with his discovery, because he sold all his possessions to acquire a field that housed the hidden treasure he discovered. In his joy, he experienced a contentment he did not have with his former life, because the story ends with him investing his former life in the discovery of the hidden treasure and acquiring what appears to be of less value than what he owned previously. The inexplicable power of God at work in the heart and mind of one who believes is the only conclusion one can derive from what would make a man do what the man did in the parable of the hidden treasure when it comes to denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Jesus.

Notice when Jesus says to His disciples that they are being sent as He was sent by the Father, Jesus is speaking to them about purpose. Simply, Jesus is telling them that the same purpose God the Father sent me into this world to live by, I now confer to you. Then He performs the ritual of breathing on them and saying to them to receive the Holy Spirit, to confirm and affirm them in what will happen later in the book of Acts when they are baptized with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Our status in life, profession, external circumstances or internal challenges does not supersede the purpose of Christ. No matter the height of my ambitions and aspirations, my purpose in life does not dispel my purpose in Christ as a Christian. My true significance, value and worth is not derived from anything other than who I am in Christ. The bible teaches that those who believe in Christ, Christ is my life and that life is hid with Him in God. Meaning, Christ is in me to help me live and experience the fullness of life He came for me to have. The discovery of the hidden treasure and the acquisition of the field is the lifelong encounter of experiencing the fullness of life that comes with investing in the advancement of God’s kingdom on this earth that includes with it treasure in heaven through faith in Christ.

May God bless you and help you to experience the renewed mind through prayer and invested time with His word that will equip, enable and empower you to experience the fullness of life Christ came for you to have and store up for yourself treasure in heaven.