Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Grace is Like...

My two dwarf spruces
 
I love my two dwarf spruces. They’re called dwarf but they will still grow about ten feet tall. I enjoy stooping over with my face slightly above the top of the tree and taking a deep breath to inhale the fragrance of Christmas. Christmas was always extra special when my father brought home a live Christmas tree. After all if Christmas was a celebration of a real Savior, it just made sense to have a real tree. I took the one on the left home about five years ago and planted him in this spot. He has grown taller and fuller. I purchased his little brother about a year later and put him in a pot by my front door. He was doing fine for the first year. Then I noticed some of his little green needles started turning brown. At the advice of a friend, I added a little organic fertilizer to the soil and kept a close eye on him.  

The winter came and left and spring had arrived. I purchased a bigger pot for my little tree and relocated him to his new home. Several weeks went by and the little guy’s brown needles became a gaping wound. I knew if I didn’t act quickly he might not make it through the summer. I took him out to where his big brother was planted, and after I dug a hole large enough for his roots to spread out, I put him in it and filled the hole with topsoil.  

I talked to him every day. I told him he was going to get bigger and stronger like his brother and that I couldn’t wait for the day when he was big enough for me to dress him up for Christmas. I could swear I saw the sadness in his little face disappear and as it faded away he smiled and his sagging brown branches seem to reach out towards me.

In the days that followed my “boy’s” health improved. I noticed new life springing up as light green needles started appearing throughout his withered little frame. I told him how proud I was to have him and that I was delighted that his health was improving. I knew it wouldn’t be long before his wounds were completely healed. Soon new branches would replace his dead limbs. I told him how sorry I was for putting him in a pot. I knew that it was only in freedom that he could truly be who he was created to be. That pot wasn’t a healthy home for him; in fact it had been a place of captivity. But I could tell my little spruce loved his new home. His big brother was right alongside him and the sun beamed upon him from sunrise to sunset. I made sure that he had an ample supply of water. He is so happy now that he is living in freedom. He is getting stronger and healthier with each day. Not only does my little spruce look and smell like Christmas, he also sings the “Hallelujah Chorus.” I just might have the only singing Christmas tree in the whole wide world! 

 
My little spruce back to health and living in freedom
God made his creation to work in harmony. The sun, soil and rain provide the environment for my two dwarf spruces to live in freedom. It all works by God’s grace. I got in the way of God’s grace by bringing my little tree into captivity, an environment that got him sick and would have killed him. But my little spruce taught me a lesson in freedom.  

Grace is like: Christmas & a live Christmas tree; Romeo & Juliet; Jack and Jill; David & Goliath;  Bonnie & Clyde; Batman & Robin; Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers; John, Paul, George and Ringo; Sonny & Cher; Simon & Garfunkel; Laurel & Hardy; Moe, Larry & Curly; Abbott & Costello; Spanky & Alfalfa; Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis; Cheech & Chong; Lucy & Charlie Brown; Dumb & Dumber; hamburgers & french fries; steak & mash potatoes; spaghetti & meatballs; fish & chips; peanut butter & jelly; salt & pepper; 

heaven & earth; Adam & Eve; God and man…

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Who Wrote the book of Hebrews?

I recently started studying the book of Hebrews again. I conduct a weekly Bible study at a local nursing home and I just enjoy sharing what I’ve studied and learned. I often tell the residents there, that every time I study, God reveals more-He gives me more understanding. Some of the things that I’ve learned many years ago, I no longer believe-either because someone showed me the error in my thinking or God revealed it to me directly.  

One of the first things you will notice about the book of Hebrews, is that the author doesn’t identify himself. So I decided that I was going to try to figure out who it was.  

 

The writer of Hebrews says that the gospel message was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  

how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him (Heb. 2:3). 

But the Apostle (apostolos: messenger or one sent) Paul said that he received the gospel directly from the Lord by revelation, not by others. Paul was one of those who delivered (paredōka) or passed on the gospel to others. 

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, (1 Cor. 11:23)

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— (Gal. 1:1)

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Gal. 1:11-12) 

Paul was called to preach among the Gentiles, but in his writings he didn’t distinguish between Jew or Gentile, rather he wrote to the saints. Again he didn’t consult or receive it from another person but by revelation, as we just read. 

to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus (Gal.1:16-17). 

To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:7 KJV). 

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). 

 

Today I’ll make the case for Silas as the author of the book, although in the book itself, the author does not identify himself.  

1) Silas was a respected leader among the believers in the Jerusalem church. 

Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers (Acts 15:22). 

2) Silas was a prophet sent to Antioch to encourage new believers. 

Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers (Acts 15:32).

3) The book of Hebrews is written to the nation of Israel (notice God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets-God spoke only to Israel through the prophets). The book may have been written in Hebrew. Silas was a leader in Jerusalem and would have been able to communicate effectively in the Hebrew language.  

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, (Heb. 1:1) 

4) NAS Exhaustive Concordance says the name Silas is of Aramaic origin. Silas probably spoke that language as well. So if Hebrews was originally written in Aramaic, there’s a good chance that Silas would have been able to communicate in that language.  

5) He was Paul’s traveling companion and helped share the gospel. He was flogged and put in prison with Paul. 

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:22-25). 

Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women (Acts 17:4). 

Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible (Acts 17:15). 

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 18:5). 

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes” (2 Cor. 1:19). 

4) Silas may have helped write First and Second Thessalonians and First Peter. 

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you (1 Thes. 1:1).

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: (2 Thes. 1:1) 

With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it (1 Peter 5:12). 

5) Silas was a Roman citizen and Hebrews was written from Italy. 

The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed (Acts 16:38). 

Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings (Heb. 13:24).  

6) Paul and Silas and or Paul, Silas and Timothy were referenced by Paul often in the New Testament, as we have just read. Here the author mentions Timothy as brother and this statement would most likely appear to have been made by Paul or Silas, based on the amount of time they spent traveling together. Since it appears that Paul is excluded from writing Hebrews based on the opening statements I made earlier in this blog, that leaves only Silas to have written the book. 

I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you (Heb. 13:23). 

 

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide (my emphasis in italics).

 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Often Overlooked Message of the Book of Acts, "The Last Days!"

The often overlooked message of the book of Acts is that we are in the last days! We have been in the last days since the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers just like Jesus said. The apostles were, like so many of us, concerned about Jesus return to earth to establish his kingdom. But they didn't understand that Jesus was going to "return" first through the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-8)! The plan of God was that the kingdom of God was being established within men (Luke 17:21). The Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands (Acts 7:48). He was to live his victorious resurrected life in human beings through the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 2:20)!

After Jesus was resurrected he commanded the apostles to stay in Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:44-53). They were witnesses of the Holy Spirit and the power of God demonstrated in Jesus life through the many miracles that he performed and in his bodily resurrection (Acts 2:22, 24). Now that same power would be working in them so that they would be able to testify of what they had seen and heard (Acts 4:20).

On the day of Pentecost, after Jesus had received the gift from the Father, He poured the Holy Spirit out upon those who believed, just as he said. Peter told the crowd that was present that the prophecy of Joel was being fulfilled. He quoted the prophet Joel saying, 'And it shall be in the last days,' God says, 'that I will pour forth my Spirit on all mankind...' (Acts 2:17).

We are in the last days; however we have been in the last days since the day of Pentecost. Our focus should not be on an event, but on the person of Jesus Christ who desires to live his victorious, resurrected life within us with power, through the Holy Spirit which he freely gives to those who obey him (Acts 5:32).

That's the gospel - it's incredibly good news and something to get excited about!

Listen to my message from July 8, 2012, "What did the Witnesses Have to Say?"


"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Gift of Love



 

Jesus sat in the Temple and watched as crowds dropped their offerings in the collection box. He told his disciples that a certain widow had given more than the many who had given a much larger amount of money, because she gave out of her poverty while others gave out of what they had left over (Mark 14:41-44). The story reminds me of my friend Clinton Tuck who I’ve written about several times before on this blog.

Several weeks ago, I read a story in Christian Odyssey magazine of a former Buddhist couple turned Christian who started a bilingual school in Thailand. They wanted to share the gospel with their countrymen. They saw a need as Thais desire to learn English to improve their careers prospects. They were encouraged by a friend and mentor who many years ago, gave them $100 to get started. They bought and renovated a five story office building, which is now a school for several hundred students grades K-6. Earlier this year they opened a kindergarten in a building that was once a warehouse which stood behind the office building.   

I read that the couple, Chugait and Fong Garmologomut was in need of high quality educational books in the English language. I sent an email to my friends and posted a request on Facebook. I received a donation of books from a friend and on the following Sunday made a verbal request for books at my local congregation, Worldwide Grace Fellowship. Many were excited about contributing to the effort. I was planning on collecting the books over the next couple of weeks and then mailing them to John Halford, the editor of Christian Odyssey and a friend of the Garmologomuts. Mr. Halford is coordinating the effort here in the U.S.. However, during that same week my aunt, who has been battling cancer, ended up in the Intensive Care Unit of her local hospital on Long Island.  When I spoke to her over the phone, she asked when I was coming up for a visit. I told her I was planning on coming in early June to housesit and dogsit for my cousin who was planning on attending our cousin’s wedding. She said “Oh.” It was an “Oh” of disappointment, an “Oh” like I don’t know if I will live that long. I thought about that conversation while lying in bed that night and by the next morning I decided that I should leave that Saturday, May 12 to see my aunt and the rest of my relatives including an uncle who is suffering with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Before I left my home in Kentucky, I called my friend Clinton and asked if he would like to help me collect some books for the children in Thailand. His response was: “I got your back.” It’s the response that I’ve come to expect from Clinton.

When I returned home from my trip, I went to see Clinton at Shady Lawn Nursing home where he lives. He was wearing his typical big smile as I walked into his room. He had collected two very large boxes of books from his friends at Shady Lawn and Rocky Ridge Baptist Church. I jokingly said that maybe someday he and I could go visit the school in Thailand. To which he responded with and ear to ear grin.

Clinton isn’t wealthy by this world’s standards. Yesterday as I was combing through the books and packing them in smaller boxes, he told me that everything he owned was right in the room where he lived. As I looked around to observe his belongings, there were photos of many of his friends taped and pinned to the wall over his bed, along with his television set, some clothes and a collection of hats and caps. Yes Clinton is a lot like the widow that Jesus spoke of. He doesn’t have worldly possessions, but he does have a gift of love in his heart given to him by the One who he is passionately fond of, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just What Is The Purpose Of The Bible?


In the movie “A Few Good Men,” Lieutenant Jonathan Kendrick (played by Keifer Sutherland) tells Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) 

“I have two books at my bedside, Lieutenant: the Marine Corps Code of Conduct and the King James Bible.”  

It's estimated that more than six billion copies of the Bible have been sold. But how many people know what the purpose of the Bible is? 

I opened the Bible for the very first time while attending college at the University of Minnesota. There wasn't enough room on campus for all the students that desired on-campus housing, so we were placed at the Hotel Duluth. I read through chapters of the Bible and found it very interesting, but I never understood what the real purpose was. 

Jesus said to the very religious and pious people of his day, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life John 5:39-40 (TNIV). 

These are the same people that let the Law come between them and the Life Giver! They even accused him of being a sinner, a blasphemer and eventually got their wish and had him “gorified.” They were sin-centric not Christ-centric and therefore never experienced the freedom of the new life that Christ wanted to give them; the freedom that resurrection Sunday pictures. 

Jesus, the Messiah, said he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; but to fulfill them (Mat. 5:17 TNIV). The word fulfill is the Greek word Pleroo, and it means to complete. Jesus not only completed the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, but he is the Light that opens up the Scriptures so that we can understand them (Luke 24:44-45).

The Light of the gospel of Jesus Christ will remove the scales from your eyes and the shackles from your ankles! 

Are you living life thinking that Jesus called you to change?  Changed equals “chained.” Jesus never called us to change. He calls us to receive a new life in him (Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3). 

I couldn’t understand the purpose of the Bible when I opened it up for the first time while attending UMD, because I never wholeheartedly surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. 

The purpose of the Bible is to lead us to Jesus Christ for eternal life or immortality in Him, that we may receive freedom and a new life in Him, and that we would grow in the grace and knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18) and that we would participate in His priestly ministry. 

I’m sending each of you a “key.” Here it comes! Now catch it. Stand up. With the key in one hand, lift the opposite leg up and put your foot over your knee. OK. Now reach down and unlock the shackle from your ankle. Shake it off and free yourself from that ball and chain that you’ve been carrying around. Now do the Hallelujah dance. Jump up and down and yell, “I am free! Free! Free! Hallelujah Amen! 

You are now free to experience your new life in Christ!  You have been unshackled from whatever sin or problem, fear or anxiety that you have focused your life on! You are now free to center your life on Christ. You are free to wholeheartedly surrender to him! To live in Him! The old life is gone with all its sin and problems and fears. It’s really that simple. Don’t complicate it. Don’t labor. Rest in Jesus (Mat. 11:28-30). 

There is no life in the prophets…there is no life in Bible stories…

Nor is there life in the Scriptures…but the Scriptures, the Bible does point us to Christ who fulfilled them… He filled them to the full… He completed them… because as the Messiah, that’s  what He was called to do. He completed his earthly ministry when he was resurrected from the dead and ascended to the Father.

For us this means a new life. Not a changed life, but a new life in Him- Eternal life in Him. Freedom in Him! We share in His priestly ministry. It’s good news for us and for everyone who believes. 

We are free! Free! Free! Celebrate your freedom in Christ!










Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Update: Touched By The Hand Of God Community

I recently completed a revision to "Touched By The Hand Of God." If you have already purchased the book you can get the latest revision at Smashwords by clicking on the book cover to the right of this post and then signing in to the site and downloading it. If you haven't read my book yet, you can purchase it and read it on your computer or on iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Android or just about any other e-Reading device. Just click on the book cover and you will be directed to my Smashword's book page where you can read more information about it and download a free sample.

I came across a great site for uploading and sharing audio files. I uploaded a sermon that I gave on February 19, titled "If You Aint Got Love You Aint Got Nothin," to this site and shared it on the Touched By The Hand Of God Community page last week https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Touched-By-The-Hand-Of-God-Community/226463410760342. The name of the site is yourlisten.com. You can listen to my sermon by clicking on this link http://yourlisten.com/channel/content/116724/If_You_Aint_Got_Love_You_Aint_Got_Nothin?rn=cvxxbqs4xwqo

I'm also experimenting with video editing software and I hope to put together a video to compliment Touched By The Hand Of God and some additional videos to share with the Touched By The Hand Of God Community (read my post from December 28, 2011, "Living Life Fearfully of Fearlessly").

If you like what you read or hear, why not join me? Follow my blog and like my Touched By The Hand Of God Community page. Together we can encourage one another and others through every seemingly hopeless situation that comes our way. Knowing our hope is not in this world but in Jesus Christ who lived and died so that we may live in love and peace together forever united with him and in him.





Monday, February 20, 2012

If You Aint Got Love, You Aint Got Nothin!

A hero is most often described as a person who in the face of grave danger unselfishly and without regard for their own personal welfare, risks their own life to help save the life or lives of others. Michael A. Monsoor was a Navy SEAL who is such a hero.

Monsoor became a SEAL on September 2, 2004. In April 2006, he was sent to Ramadi, Iraq to help train Iraqi soldiers to fight in the War on Terror. Ramadi was described by former President Bush as a place where the fighting was most fierce. Yet even though Monsoor was scheduled to be going home, he volunteered to stay and continue to fight.

On September 29, 2006, Monsoor and his team were engaged in heavy combat. He and several other SEAL and Iraqi soldiers took a roof-top position. He was a heavy machine gunner and he positioned himself between two snipers. From out of nowhere a grenade was thrown and it hit Monsoor in the chest. Instead of taking cover behind a nearby brick wall and saving his own life, he yelled “Grenade!” to warn his teammates and then leaped on top of it smothering it with his own body. He died thirty minutes later but saved the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Monsoor won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor. He is described as a man who had faith in God. Master at Arms Second Class (SEAL), Michael A. Monsoor, was true to his identity as a Navy SEAL.

Although many in Jesus day tried hard to persuade him to be someone he wasn’t, Jesus was also true to his identity as the one and only Son of God-God incarnate or God in the flesh. Yet being God didn’t diminish him from being a man. He was and still is the Godman; one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. The apostle Paul says he is “the fullness of God in a human body,” (Colossians 2:9).

The apostle Paul lived as a Pharisee until he saw a “blinding light” and the risen Lord revealed himself to him while Paul was traveling on the road to Damascus. Paul was then given the task of telling others that they have an “identity crisis” and that their true identity is in Christ Jesus. He told the Colossians, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God,” (Colossians 3:3).

A couple of years ago, I came to see that I had been worshiping an anemic Jesus; one who had shed a lot of blood and made that long journey from earth to heaven and in the process had grown a little tired and had become frail.  Because I was worshiping an anemic Jesus, I thought I needed to help him out and work tirelessly to “help him save me.”  I was having an “identity crisis.” I didn’t know the “real Jesus,” the one that Paul told the Colossians about and because I didn’t know the “real Jesus,” I didn’t live in the reality of who I am in Christ. I didn’t understand that the Christ who “lived in me,” (Galatians 2:20), was the all-Powerful all Mighty God himself. He was and is the God who knows who he is and always was and is faithful to who he is and the fact that he now lives in me by the Holy Spirit, does not change who he is.

When Jesus commanded his disciples to “Love each other as I have loved you,” (John 15:12, 17), it seemed like an impossible thing to ask, especially when we consider that Jesus lived a life of selfless surrender. I believe what Jesus was saying, was to trust in his faithfulness to be who he is-love (1 John 4:16), and then live in the identity of who you really are in Christ.

The soldiers who were with Monsoor the day he displayed great courage trusted in his faithfulness to be true to his identity as a Navy SEAL and he did not disappoint them.

Upon graduation from SEAL training both officers and enlisted personnel receive a gold badge that’s called a trident. Because they are brothers in training and on the battlefield, they receive the same insignia. On the day of Monsoor’s funeral almost every SEAL on the west coast turned up. Each SEAL took the gold trident from his uniform and tapped it into Monsoor’s casket as they passed by to pay their final respects.

Jesus didn’t receive any gold badge when he was killed. His insignia is his wounds of love that he bore in his flesh on our behalf! He was content with that. All he asks is that we trust in his faithfulness to continue to do what he has done throughout eternity-love! 

Listen to sermon here: http://yourlisten.com/channel/content/116724/If_You_Aint_Got_Love_You_Aint_Got_Nothin?rn=jbbw5wwazxfk

Sources: You Tube Videos: Mike Monsoor Medal of Honor by eliotness76; Medal of Honor Story by gopconvention 2008; Marcus Lutrell on Michael Monsoor’s Medal of Honor by unclejimbomadcity; Michael Monsoor-American Hero-On Huckabee by timandanita; Zuster Michael Monsoor by kruisvaarder1683; Rare Mikey Monsoor memorial footage by SEALbrotherhood. The Holy Bible. Incarnation, The Person and Life of Christ, Thomas F. Torrance.