Sunday, April 30, 2006

What Keeps Us Going?

The following article was written by K. P. Yohannon, the founder and head of Gospel for Asia, in the 2nd quarter 2006 issue of SEND! magazine from that ministry. I thought the message he shares was worth sharing with you here, also, as it's a message I want to remember.

What Keeps Us Going?

I am always intrigued when I watch the start of the marathon during the summer Olympics. All the runners appear to be in top physical shape, excited to represent their countries and determined to win the gold medal.

However, it's a whole different story when I watch them 15 or 20 miles later. They look exhausted from the hot sun that beats down on them or miserable because of the rain that makes their trail slippery. Some have trouble breathing when the race takes them over a mountain, and others struggle to keep up with the fast pace.

Although everyone, no matter how long it takes them to cross the finish line, is celebrated with cheers and applause, some runners will never get there. Somewhere along the route they drop out of the race due to exhaustion, injury or discouragement.

In the marathon race and in our Christian life, persevering until the end is what it's all about, not just starting well.

What am I talking about? Not giving up in our walk with Jesus and enduring in the call He gave us to win this lost world and build His kingdom. Both have to do with our inner life and with our commitment to serve Him.

Like the marathon runners, we, too, will encounter adversities along the way that have the potential to cause us to quit the rate. Some of these trials include:

> Relationship problems with other Christians that severely threaten our treasured self-life and call us to humility
> Physical and financial setbacks that cause us to lose hope
> Lack of fruit and fulfillment in our service to the Lord when we forget that the sowing season must come before we can reap a harvest
> Facing our latent failures and sins when circumstances expose unbrokenness, pride, a selfish attitude, stubborn will or critical spirit
> Frustration and a desire to escape when serving the Lord becomes hard work and the feelings are gone
> Feeling inadequate and overwhelmed by the expectations our leaders and other Christians have for us
> Spiritual dryness that comes when God tests us to see if we will still walk with Him by faith, even when there is nothing within or without to support us
> Losing sight of our priorities--shifting from serving the Lord to protecting our self-interests

With such a frightening list of adversities, what chance do we have to run our race and victoriously cross the finish line as the Apostle Paul did?

I have served the Lord full-time for the past 40 years. From my own life and experience I can tell you this: The godliest Christian leaders I have met, the most challenging sermons I have heard and the best books I have read on evangelism and discipleship have not been enough to help me survive in the race!

Only one thing has kept me in the ministry and following Christ--and that is learning and practicing what the Apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 12:1-2: Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

The secret of our survival is fixing our eyes on Jesus and making Him alone our focus. Then our walk with God and our commitment to serve Him will no longer depend on whether or not people treat us right or circumstances are in our favor. We will no longer rely on our emotions to support us or on our successes to keep us going. Jesus alone will become our goal and motivation--our prize--and we will live for Him, run our race for Him and cross the finish line for Him.

My dear friend, unless you learn to fix your eyes on Jesus alone, you will have no stability in your walk with God or in your service to Him.

Jesus Himself said, "Follow Me."

Therefore, mediatate on Him, consider Him and think about Him so that you may not grow weary in your heart. The answer to enduring until the end is not self-effort or a rational attempt to figure out the answers, but to stop and look into His eyes.

If we do this, we will experience what this song says: "When I look into Your holiness/When I gaze into Your loveliness/When all things that surround become shadows in the light of You/...I worship You" (Wayne & Cathy Perrin, copyright 1990 Integrity's Hosanna Music). After all his struggles, Job found the answer he was searching for when he fell on his face and worshiped the Lord.

Today let us decide to fix our eyes on Jesus throughout the race set before us.

Others May, You Cannot!

Sharing here a quotation from G. D. Watson, which comes from a tract written by that gentleman and kept in Henry M. Morris' Bible. Henry M. Morris was the founder of the Institute For Creation Research; he passed away in February of this year (1918-2006). These words speak the same message that the Holy Spirit has been speaking to my heart for some time now and I wanted to share them with you, too.


If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to measure yourself by other Christians; and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things which He will never let you do.

Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful, can push themselves, pull wires and work schemes to carry out their Christian goals, but these things you simply cannot do. Others may boast of their work or their writings or their success, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you ever try it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, but most likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him and the joy of seeing Him supply your needs day by day out of an unseen Treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and keep you hidden and unappreciated because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others to a work for Him and get the credit for it, but He will make you work on and on without knowing how much you are doing; and then, to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

The Holy Spirit will rebuke you for little words or deeds or even feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem to be concerned about, but you must make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and He has a right to do whatever He pleases with His own. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in the way He deals with you, but if you will just submit yourself to Him in all things, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are very near to His heart.

Settle it, then, that He is to have the privilege of typing your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now, when you are so possessed with the living God that your secret heart becomes pleased and delighted with this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, then you will have entered the very vestibule of heaven itself.

G. D. Watson 1845-1924

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sharing A Good Article

I just got this article in my email from Outreach Israel Ministries and thought that it was good and fit so well with the direction that the Holy Spirit has been taking me in lately that I should share it here. This is part of a series of daily reflections called the Counting of the Omer, leading up to Pentecost or Shavuot. I especially appreciated the reminder of Ezra 7:10. I think I just might have to copy that verse onto a sticky note to put on my wall by my desk. I like how it says that Ezra "set his heart" to study God's Word and to "practice" it. That's what its all about--being a do-er of the Word and not a hear-er only.

Pirkei Avot
Day Fourteen Reflection

And your people, all of them righteous, shall possess the land for all time; they are the shoot that I planted, My handiwork in which I glory (Isaiah 60:21, NJPS).

Shammai says: Make your study of Torah a regular practice, say little and do much, and receive all men with a cheerful countenance (m.Avot 1:15).

The School of Shammai was the stricter of the two Rabbinical schools that dominated the Pharisees. While many are inclined to think that the early Jewish Believers in Yeshua only followed the halachah of the School of Hillel, the School of Shammai likewise had influence. He says to “Make your learning of Torah a fixed obligation” (Neusner).[1] This very much mimics King David’s words in Psalms 119: “I will keep Your law continually, forever and ever” (v. 44). Shammai emphasizes that one’s true obedience to the Torah is evidenced by proper actions in the world, most notably, “Greet everybody cheerfully” (Neusner).[2]

An emphasis on studying the Torah can be seen all the way back in the time of Ezra, when the Southern Kingdom exiles returned from Babylonian captivity. Having a strong grasp on God’s Law was believed necessary so another such judgment would not happen again. Ezra 7:10 attests, “Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Of course, when we read Shammai’s words many get the impression that all he is emphasizing is a constant and rote examination of the Pentateuch. But is this really the case?

Not enough Messianics realize this, but in Jewish theology torah is considered to be more than just the Biblical books of Genesis-Deuteronomy. It is God’s teaching and instruction. While this instruction begins with Genesis, it extends through all vessels whom He has used to instruct His people. Do you think that all that Shammai is emphasizing here was reading and examination Genesis-Deuteronomy? This is what many consider “Torah study” to be, but the Rabbis of Yeshua’s day equally studied the histories of Israel, the Prophets, the Wisdom literature—in addition to the Torah. They also considered torah to include the Spirit-inspired directives of their spiritual leaders. More and more studies are revealing that when the Apostle Paul uses the word “law,” for example, he uses it in a much more fluidic sense than to only refer to the Written Torah of Genesis-Deuteronomy, as he also includes much of the Oral Torah or teachings of the Rabbis in his definition.

Some of this may come as a shock to some of you, because your primary—and perhaps only—Bible study as a Messianic Believer focuses around the weekly Torah portion. While the weekly Torah portion is absolutely imperative to study, there is a whole Bible out there of torah that should not be overlooked. There is so much to be gained by disciplining yourself to a constant study of all of God’s Word, that it boggles my mind why so many Messianics focus exclusively on just the Torah. I cannot remember when the last time I was ever in a Messianic study on one of the historical books of the Tanakh, or even one of the Minor Prophets. What does this say for the development of the Messianic movement? It means that we have much studying to do that we are overlooking! It means we have a long way to go.

None of us are to be engaging in any rote examination of any set of Scripture. There is Shammai says that we are to study God’s Word, torah, so that we can “do much” and “receive all men with a cheerful countenance.” Our faithful study to the Bible is to be reflected in a positive impact on the world around us. Do we study the weekly Torah portions, the rest of the Tanakh, and the Spirit-inspired words of the Apostles with this in mind? How many people study the Torah for reasons other than to grow spiritually? Consider this the next time you open your Bible, and be sure to pray before you read. Ask the Holy Spirit to quicken you with what you are reading, and convict you if you are not bearing the fruit of those obedient to the Word.

We are one day closer to Shavuot!

[1] Neusner, 674.
[2] Ibid.

By Thy Word Shall I Live

Psalm 119:93 (NKJ) I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have given me life.

In my Bible reading the other day, I read this verse and something clicked. The Word of God, the Bible, gives us life. I was reminded of a couple of my favorite verses:

Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJ) Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.

Job 23:12 (Amplified) I have not gone back from the commandment of His lips; I have esteemed and treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.

The idea that God's Word is food for my spiritual growth and wellbeing is not new to me. I have thought this before and have, in fact, used this analogy to encourage other believers to read God's Word, study it and meditate on it. What was new was the connection I made between this verse from Psalm 119 where the Word (specifically referring here to the Torah) gives me life and the following verse:

1Peter 2:2 (Amplified) Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation,

(NKJ) as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.

A newborn baby will not live long if he isn't fed milk. He will grow weaker and weaker and finally die. He will certainly not grow fat and healthy, gaining weight and inches, and going on to maturity as an adult. Likewise with us, if we do not partake of the "pure milk of the word" on a regular--dare I say, daily basis--we will fail to thrive and die spiritually. The "milk" of God's Word nourishes us, giving us life, causing us to grow to maturity. Yeshua/Jesus quoted the following verse (Matt 4:4, Luke 4:4):

Deuteronomy 8:3 (NKJ) So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.

So desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Bible Yeshua Read

Before I get into what I wanted to write about today, I thought maybe I should take a few lines to explain why I use 'Yeshua' instead of 'Jesus' most of the time. When I grew up, became a believer, and for most of my Christian life, I have known the LORD by the name Jesus Christ. I suspect that most of us have. And I believe that He understands and answers to that name. However, I have learned a thing or two over the past couple of years and one of those things is that Jesus was born a Jew, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. His parents, his brothers & sisters, the people He lived among, His disciples did NOT call Him Jesus and in fact, had never heard of such a name. His 'real' name, if you will, was Yeshua (or Yashua, Yahshua, Yahoshuah, depending on your preferred spelling and what you believe His name means). I have come to believe that I am to use 'Yeshua' when addressing Him, as that is what the Holy Spirit says to my heart. My own name is 'Cindy', not 'Cynthia.' My parents didn't believe in giving a child a name that would be shortened later. But in Greece or France, my name would be known as 'Cynthia.' Since I am neither Greek or French, however, I would still want to be called 'Cindy,' even if I were living in Greece or France. And you'd better believe that if you are a member of my family, you'd better be calling me 'Cindy' and NOT Cynthia! By calling 'Jesus' 'Yeshua, I am acknowledging His Jewish (the Lion of the tribe of Judah) identity. He was born to a Jewish mother, Miryam (Mary) and had a Jewish father, Yoseph (Joseph). He was born in Israel, the dwelling place of the Hebrews, including the Jews (descendants of Judah). Since I am a member of His family, it only seems fitting to call Him by the name He was known by when He walked among us. So enough of do what the Holy Spirit tells you to do.

If you've been following my posts, you know that I've been reading the Bible every day for over 20 years. In that time, I have mostly focused on what we refer to as the New Testament. I think I assumed that since I was following Yeshua, I should focus on the Gospels and the other books of the New Testament because they were written after Yeshua was revealed. I didn't understand the importance of the Old Testament books. I did read them, especially Psalms and Proverbs, but didn't focus on them like I did the New Testament. But that has been changing in the last couple of years and here's why.

Using a study Bible, I began to notice how often Yeshua, Paul, Peter, and the other writers of the New Testament books referred to Old Testament references. I began to pay attention to what they meant when they talked about "the Law and the Prophets" or "the Scriptures." Then one day it hit me: they didn't have the New Testament! The 'Bible' that they read and quoted from was the Old Testament! What a revelation! When Yeshua told the story of Lazarus and the rich man, He says: Luke 16:31 (Amplified) He said to him, If they do not hear and listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded and convinced and believe [even] if someone should rise from the dead. Whoa! To me, this means that if I do not hear and listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will I be likely to hear and believe Yeshua, Who rose from the dead. This puts some of our favorite scripture memory verses in a new light, too. Think about these verses, in context of the Bible Yeshua and His disciples had to read and learn from:

2Timothy 2:15 (Amplified) Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.

2Timothy 3:15-17 (Amplified) And how from your childhood you have had a knowledge of and been acquainted with the sacred Writings, which are able to instruct you and give you the understanding for salvation which comes through faith in Christ Jesus [through the leaning of the entire human personality on God in Christ Jesus in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness]. Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose, and action), So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

As a consequence, I have been reading and studying the Old Testament, particularly the first 5 books of the Bible, sometimes called the Books of Moses or the Pentateuch by those in the Church but known mostly as the Torah (the instructions of YHWH) to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You know, it is really amazing how interesting those books become when you read them as though they were written just for you and not just as ancient Jewish history! Because I am adopted into the family of Yeshua, have become engrafted into the olive tree of Israel and a spiritual offspring of Abraham, every word in the Torah and the rest of the Old Testament becomes my heritage and inheritance, too. And you know what else? Understanding the Scriptures that Yeshua, Paul and the others were referring to has helped me understand better what they were teaching in the New Testament. I've realized that the Old Testament is the foundation that the New Testament builds upon. The New Testament doesn't replace the Old Testament; it elaborates on it and explains it. I feel like an old gold miner who's stumbled across a really rich vein of ore in an old mine, one that somehow he'd missed in all of his forays into the different shafts. Suddenly everything I've been reading all these years is coming alive in a whole new way and it's just SO exciting! In closing today, let me share something I have written in my Bible, on one of those blank pages between the 'Old' and 'New' Testaments...

from Franklin Graham's The Name

The New Testament is contained in the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is explained in the New Testament.

The New Testament is concealed in the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament.

The Old Testament anticipates the New Testament.
The New Testament authenticates the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament the New Testament lies hidden.
In the New Testament the Old Testament lies open.

The Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament.
The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, they were always seeking.
In the New Testament, they found.

The Old Testament predicts a Person.
The New Testament presents that Person.

That Person is the Lord Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach)...who fully validated the Old Testament.

The Psalms present the Feelings of Christ.
The Prophets present the Foretellings of Christ.
The Gospels present the Facts of Christ.
The Epistles present the Fruits of Christ.

My note: The Torah presents the Commandments of Christ.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Bible or The Bullet

I just had to share this post from the guys at The Rebelution. It goes so well with my post for today. May it bless you as it has me. Click on the title link to read it.

Thy Words Were Found

Jeremiah 15:16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

In my last post I wrote about how some 20+ years ago I developed the daily habit of reading and studying the Bible. I may have 'nailed' the habit at that time but my love for the Bible began when I was still just a child. My mother had a black-leather copy of the King James Bible which sat by her bedside. It had very tiny print, but lovely pictures. I have always loved books and reading so was quite intrigued by my mother's Bible. I asked her once if I could read it and she said No, that I wouldn't understand it. She never read it to me, either, or even any Bible story books that I can remember. But I didn't give up. I kept asking and when I was a little older I was given a copy of a children's Bible that was really more of a story book than a Bible. It didn't satify me for long. For Christmas 1973, when I was 16, all I asked for was a Bible. What joy I had that Christmas as my parents gave me a hardbound copy of The Living Bible! At last I had my own real copy of the Bible! Yes, I know that The Living Bible is a paraphrase and not a proper translation, but the Holy Spirit began to do a work in my heart through the words of LIFE that I was reading in that Bible. It was just a few short months later that I made the decision to follow Christ, when I was 17.

Later, after I began attending the Assemblies of God, I found out the difference between a paraphrase and a translation. I decided I needed a new Bible so that I could study and learn better. My 2nd copy of the Bible entered my life in 1979, a Revised Standard Version Harper Study Bible. This was a paperbound copy and has been much-used, so it is in rather fragile condition today. By 1983 I had 'graduated' to a hardbound copy of the Amplified Bible (which version I still love). Though hardbound, I have used this copy much and it, too, is in fragile condition today, though I still use it to compare scriptures. In 1988 I began using a Guideposts Parallel Bible, containing full texts from the King James, Revised Standard Version, New International Version, and Living Bible. I copied all my favorite Amplified verses into the margins, too. With this Bible, I figured I had at my fingertips two of my favorite versions from my earlier Bibles, as well as the tried & true King James text and the newly popular NIV. There was only one problem; this Bible is really big and heavy! Nevertheless, it served me well for many years and now has a safe place on my bookshelf, as it, too, is falling apart at the seams. For Christmas 2000, my sweetheart, my husband Tim, gave me a new Bible. This is the Bible I use currently. It's a New King James Women of Destiny Bible hardcover. Like all of my previous Bibles, this one too is underlined and highlighted, with many notes written in the margins or verses from another version copied into the margins for comparison and with stickers here & there to highlight especially important verses with certain themes. One other Bible that I need to mention is the Complete Jewish Bible, which I use for comparison, and which sits ready to hand at my desk. We recently purchased a copy of the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible New American Standard Version, but it's more for a study resource than to replace our personal Bibles.

Years ago I came across the following poem, which I have copied into the front of every Bible I have used. I have memorized this poem over the years and I can honestly tell you that I believe every word of it. There is NO book more valuable to me than the Bible and if the house was burning down, it's the only book I would try to save. It's more than just words on pages; it's LIFE to me and I love it very, very much!


This holy Book I'd rather own
Than all the golden gems
That e'er in monarch's coffers shone
Than all their diadems!

Nay, were the sea one chrysolite,
The earth a golden ball,
And diamonds all the stars of night,
This Book were worth them all.

For here a blessed Balm appears,
To heal the deepest woe;
And he who seeks this Book in tears,
His tears shall cease to flow.

Over the course of time, I have learned many scriptures, mostly without actually memorizing them, just by repetition. And the Holy Spirit so wonderfully brings them to my remembrance as I meditate and ponder many things. But you know, there's one thing about the Word of God; it isn't enough to know all the scriptures, to have all kinds of 'head knowledge' about the Word, unless you also have 'heart knowledge' and are a Do-er of the Word (James 1:22-25). Psalm 119:11 reminds us that God's Word should be hidden in our hearts, that we might not sin against Him. Psalm 119 is one of my favorite psalms, so full of praise for God's Word, His Torah, and prayers to be able to remember and obey it.

Psalm 119:105 NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:97 MEM. O how love I Thy law! It is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:26-32 (Amplified) I have declared my ways and opened my griefs to You, and You listened to me; teach me Your statutes. Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on and talk of Your wondrous works. [Ps. 145:5, 6.] My life dissolves and weeps itself away for heaviness; raise me up and strengthen me according to [the promises of] Your word. Remove from me the way of falsehood and unfaithfulness [to You], and graciously impart Your law to me. I have chosen the way of truth and faithfulness; Your ordinances have I set before me. I cleave to Your testimonies; O Lord, put me not to shame! I will [not merely walk, but] run the way of Your commandments, when You give me a heart that is willing.

Psalm 119:33-40 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I will keep it to the end [steadfastly]. Give me understanding, that I may keep Your law; yes, I will observe it with my whole heart. [Prov. 2:6; James 1:5.] Make me go in the path of Your commandments, for in them do I delight. Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to covetousness (robbery, sensuality, unworthy riches). [Ezek. 33:31; Mark 7:21, 22; I Tim. 6:10; Heb. 13:5.] Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity (idols and idolatry); and restore me to vigorous life and health in Your ways. Establish Your word and confirm Your promise to Your servant, which is for those who reverently fear and devotedly worship You. [Deut. 10:12; Ps. 96:9.] Turn away my reproach which I fear and dread, for Your ordinances are good. Behold, I long for Your precepts; in Your righteousness give me renewed life.

Psalm 119:41-48 (Amplified) Let Your mercy and loving-kindness come also to me, O Lord, even Your salvation according to Your promise; Then shall I have an answer for those who taunt and reproach me, for I lean on, rely on, and trust in Your word. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for I hope in Your ordinances. I will keep Your law continually, forever and ever [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying it]. And I will walk at liberty and at ease, for I have sought and inquired for [and desperately required] Your precepts. I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings and will not be put to shame. [Ps. 138:1; Matt. 10:18, 19; Acts 26:1, 2.] For I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love. My hands also will I lift up [in fervent supplication] to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes.

Psalm 119:49-50 (Amplified) Remember [fervently] the word and promise to Your servant, in which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort and consolation in my affliction: that Your word has revived me and given me life. [Rom. 15:4.]

I am very thankful to live in a country where the Bible is freely available and to have such a wealth of Bibles on my own bookshelf. At times, it's an 'embassassment of riches' as I remember my brothers and sisters in the LORD in other parts of the world who long to own a copy of the Bible but cannot afford a Bible or cannot obtain one because they are in such short supply. That's why I appreciate ministries like Bible League and Gospel For Asia. As I enjoy reading and studying my Bible, I want to remember to do what I can to help my less fortunate brethren in the LORD own their own copies of the Bible so that they can read and study and "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." I hope and pray that you, too, who are reading this, will love God's Word, will make time to read and study it each day, will hide its truths in your heart, and will remember to share it with those your life touches, to His glory and honor.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Little Personal History

I thought maybe I should take one post and give anyone reading this blog a little personal history, beyond what has already been mentioned. It might make understanding my spiritual journey a little easier 0r maybe just understanding me a little easier.

The first church I remember is a little white clapboard country church that my parents took me to when I was quite young, less than 5 years old. It's a little United Methodist Church and is still active. I drive past it every time I go to visit my mother. I grew up, so to speak, in the United Methodist Church. I was attending a United Methodist Church when I made the decision at 17 to follow the LORD. I was married at 19 in the United Methodist Church.

Then I began looking for something more, some spiritual reality that I was not finding in the UMC. I didn't want to just 'play church', if you know what I mean. Some how I have always known and believed that just as Yeshua/Jesus made a difference in the lives of every person He met while He walked on this earth, that if He was truly living in my heart, that He would make a difference in my life, too. And so, I was not content to go to church on Sunday and feel that I had met my religious obligation, and then go my own way the rest of the week. Sadly, this is what I see in so many who consider themselves to be good Christians. Too many hold a comfortable level of religion, but it never impacts WHO they are or HOW they live.

When I was 22 years old, I began attending a small Assemblies of God. The people there welcomed me as though I were a long-lost family member. There was such a loving atmosphere there, such caring. And there was LIFE--in the worship, in the preaching, in the living out of what we were studying in God's Word. It was very different and a little scary! I was not used to pentecostal worship with raised arms, clapping, saying 'Amen' out-loud while the pastor prayed or preached, or to speaking in tongues and interpretations. It was all very different from the liturgical style of the Methodist Church. Here people smiled and hugged each other and prayed out loud for one another. This wasn't just 'church'--this was family! And I ate it up! Every time there was a service, I was there with my children. When my second child was born, she came on Wednesday; on Sunday we were in church and I was going forward to become an official member of that fellowship. Whereas going to church was sometimes optional while I attended the UMC, here it was not. I looked forward to every chance to be in church. My children, all 6 of them over the course of time (5 daughters and 1 son), were raised in church. Our church home was our 'family' and our social life. When my first marriage ended in 1989, when my husband left our family and pursued a divorce, my church family was there to support and encourage and at times, provide for our material needs. Through the years, we attended several different fellowships, either Assemblies of God or non-denominational pentecostal fellowships like the AG. I married my 2nd husband some 10+ years ago in one of these fellowships.

Two spiritual disciplines that I have endeavored to make daily habits over the years are Bible reading/study and prayer. I am still working on that second one and probably will be for the rest of my life. But the first one I managed to make a daily habit over 20 years ago. About the time that my 5th daughter was born, I decided that I was just going to DO IT! Some where, some how I had obtained a copy of a daily devotional/Bible reading plan, I think from Walk Thru The Bible ministries. I began to use that and viola! in a very short time I HAD to start each day with reading my Bible. So for over 20 years of my life, I have been starting my day with reading at least one chapter of the Bible. Usually, I read consecutively through a book of the Bible. I have lost track of how many times I've read through the 'New Testament', Matthew-Revelations. I've read through the whole Bible at least a couple of times, but in the 'Old Testament' have tended to focus on specific books like Psalms or Proverbs or Isaiah or Genesis, rather than reading through the whole thing consecutively. A month or so ago my husband received a copy of a Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc Bible reading plan from one of the prison inmates that he corresponds with which has you reading selections from the entire Bible each week. I thought it looked like a really good idea so am now following that. Here's how my daily Bible reading shapes up: Sat--read from Genesis to Deuteronomy; Sun--read from Joshua to Esther; Mon--read from Job to Song of Solomon; Tues--read from Isaiah to Malachi; Wed--read from Matthew to John; Thurs--read from Acts to Revelations; Fri--read any portion you like. It means I have a lot of bookmarks in my Bible, but I like having a plan to read from all of God's Word each week. I still read at least a chapter a day, making notes, comparing scripture to scripture and Bible version to Bible version to gain a fuller understanding of what I am reading and looking for the personal application that the LORD has for me in His Word. My mornings just don't feel right if I don't have that time in the Word. Some days time is at a premium and it's as though I grab a 'fast food meal', but other days I can take lots of time and just feast on the Word, savoring each 'bite.'

Jeremiah 15:16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and
thy word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

All of that to say that, when friends who are 7th Day Adventists questioned me about why, if I believed that the 10 Commandments were supposed to be kept, I wasn't keeping the 4th commandment to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy? It wasn't something I had ever thought about until they asked, but I definitely thought about it a lot after that. As I do when I have a spiritual question that I need answers for, I went to the Word. I got out the Strong's Concordance and looked up every verse that contained the word 'Sabbath'. In so doing, I came to understand that according to the Bible, God's days begin with sunset and end with sunset. I also came to understand that He had commanded everyone who calls on His Name to keep the Sabbath day, to honor it and set it apart unto Him, to do no work on the Sabbath, to not buy & sell on the Sabbath, but to rest and fellowship with other believers and learn of Him. And so begins the journey of discovery and discipleship that I am on now. Once I understood about the Sabbath and believed what the Bible says about it, what God says about it, I knew I had to make some changes in my life. One of those changes involved changing shifts where I work so that I wouldn't have to work on the Sabbath. As a consequence, for the past 2 years I have been working on third shift, from 11 pm til 7 am, Sunday night through Friday morning. But the Holy Spirit didn't let me stop with learning about the Sabbath. From there, I went on to learn about God's appointed times, His festivals, and so much more. We found a small home fellowship of other believers who were learning and applying these things in their lives. In Sept 2004, we withdrew our membership in the Assemblies of God and began focusing on home fellowship, which is where we still are. And so the journey continues...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Still He Walked

Still He Walked
(Carrie McCutcheon)

He could hear the crowds screaming
"crucify" "crucify"...
he could hear the hatred in their voices,
these were his chosen people.
He loved them,
and they were going to crucify him.
He was beaten, bleeding and weakened...
his heart was broken,

but still He walked.

He could see the crowd
as he came from the palace.
He knew each of the faces so well.
He had created them.
He knew every smile,laugh,
and shed tear, but now
they were contorted
with rage and anger...
his heart broke,

but still He walked.

Was he scared?
You and I would have been,
so his humanness would have
mandated that he was.
He felt alone. His disciples had left,
denied, and even betrayed him.
He searched the crowd for a loving face
and he saw very few.
Then He turned his eyes to the only ONE
that mattered and he knew
that he would never be alone.
He looked back at the crowd,
at the people who were spitting at him,
throwing rocks at him and mocking him
and he knew that because of him,
they would never be alone.

So for them, He walked.

The sounds of the hammer
striking the spikes
echoed through the crowd.
The sounds of his cries echoed even louder,
the cheers of the crowd,
as his hands and feet were nailed to the cross,
intensified with each blow.
Loudest of all
was the still small voice
inside his heart that whispered
"I am with you my son",
and God's heart broke.

He had let his son walk.

Jesus could have asked God
to end his suffering,
but instead he asked God to forgive,
not to forgive him,
but to forgive the ones
who were persecuting him.
As he hung on that cross,
dying an unimaginable death,
He looked out and saw,
not only the faces in the crowd,
but also,
the face of every person yet to be,
and his heart filled with love.
As his body was dying,
his heart was alive.
Alive with the limitless,
unconditional love he feels for each of us.

That is why He walked.

When I forget how much My God loves me,
I remember his walk.
When I wonder if I can be forgiven,
I remember his walk.
When I need reminded of how to live like Christ,
I think of his walk.
And to show him how much I love him,
I wake up each morning,
turn my eyes to him,

And I walk.

He Is Not Here; He Is Risen

Glorious words! Most wonderful words! They bring such hope, such joy! My heart rejoices in God my Savior and with my mouth I will sing His praise!

Christ Arose
written by Robert Lowry

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes;
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign,
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

And this too is yet another of those foundation stones which my faith is built upon. Not only did my Savior suffer and die upon the cruel tree, shedding His blood in my place, carrying in His flesh my sins and their penalty, but He conquered death and the grave for me too! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

1Corinthians 15:19-23 (Amplified) If we who are [abiding] in Christ have hope only in this life and that is all, then we are of all people most miserable and to be pitied. But the fact is that Christ (the Messiah) has been raised from the dead, and He became the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [in death]. For since [it was] through a man that death [came into the world, it is] also through a Man that the resurrection of the dead [has come]. For just as [because of their union of nature] in Adam all people die, so also [by virtue of their union of nature] shall all in Christ be made alive. But each in his own rank and turn: Christ (the Messiah) [is] the firstfruits, then those who are Christ's [own will be resurrected] at His coming.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because He lives, I know that there IS life after death and that a glorious future awaits every one who puts their trust in Him. Because He lives, I know that the dead in Christ will rise again and the grave will not separate us from our loved ones who died trusting in Him.

Blessed are You, LORD God Heavenly Father, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, Guardian and Shepherd of my soul, Who has conquered death and the grave, rising triumphant over all the powers of hell and death. I thank You, Father God, for the manifestation of Your steadfast love and tender mercies towards us in the sacrifice of Your Son, Yeshua HaMashiach, the Passover Lamb. Thank You that the blood of the Lamb of God avails for me and let me never forget the price that You have paid for my redemption. Help me to walk in Your righteousness and holiness, looking unto Yeshua, the Author and Finisher of my faith, laying aside every weight and the sin that so readily entangles me, to walk in all of Your ways with all of my heart, glorifying You in my body and in my spirit, which are Yours. To the glory of God my Father and my LORD Yeshua the Messiah, Amein!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

All We Like Sheep

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

As I continue to define the foundation stones of my faith, it seems especially appropriate at this Passover season to look at two things: 1) our/my sinfulness and the "wages" we/I deserve as a result, and 2) God's mercy towards us/me in providing a sacrifice for our/my sins in His Son, Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah, Who is our/my Passover Lamb.

Romans 3:10-18 (Amplified) As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one. [Ps. 14:3.] No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God. [Ps. 14:2.] All have turned aside; together they have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless; no one does right, not even one! Their throat is a yawning grave; they use their tongues to deceive (to mislead and to deal treacherously). The venom of asps is beneath their lips. [Ps. 5:9; 140:3.] Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. [Ps. 10:7.] Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction [as it dashes them to pieces] and misery mark their ways. And they have no experience of the way of peace [they know nothing about peace, for a peaceful way they do not even recognize]. [Isa. 59:7, 8.] There is no [reverential] fear of God before their eyes. [Ps. 36:1.]

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Isaiah 64:6 (Amplified) For we have all become like one who is unclean [ceremonially, like a leper], and all our righteousness (our best deeds of rightness and justice) is like filthy rags or a polluted garment; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away [far from God's favor, hurrying us toward destruction]. [Lev. 13:45, 46.]

1John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death.

Yep, all that describes me pretty well. I have definitely sinned and fallen short of the grace of God. I know all too well that in me, in my flesh, dwells no good thing, as Paul said in Romans 7:18. Romans 7:14 says I am sold under sin, a slave to sin, and I know that's true, too. Scriptures are clear that unless we are redeemed, we will all surely die in our sins, for the wages that sin pays is death.

Hebrews 9:22 (Amplified) [In fact] under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins.

Ah, but I have hope! God loved me, and everyone else, so much that He made a way for us to be redeemed; He sent His only begotton Son, Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah, to die in our place, to shed His blood for us, to carry in His own flesh our sins and the penalty for them, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life. Hallelujah!

Matthew 20:28 (Amplified) Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free]. (also Mark 10:45)

1Peter 2:24 (Amplified) He personally bore our sins in His [own] body on the tree [as on an altar and offered Himself on it], that we might die (cease to exist) to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.

1Peter 3:18 (Amplified) For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God.

1John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Ephesians 5:2 ...and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.

John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming to him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.

Romans 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Colossians 1:20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself; by him, I say, whether they are things on earth, or things in heaven.

Hebrews 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood; he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

What more can I say? I was a sinner, lost in my sins, bound for death, helpless to save myself. But because of the great love that God my Creator has for me, He took my place; He bore my sins on the cross, shedding His blood that I might go free. I have been "bought with a price" (1 Cor 6:20, 7:23), redeemed not with silver and gold but with the precious blood of the Messiah (1 Peter 1:18-19), so that now I should glorify God in my body and in my spirit which are His.


O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
Which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinners' gain:
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain;
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
'Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever,
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love to Thee.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

In The Beginning God

Philippians 3:16 (Amplified) Only let us hold true to what we have already attained and walk and order our lives by that.

So what are those foundation stones to which I need to hold fast? In looking back over the past 30+ years, what lessons have I already learned? To what have I already attained, that I might walk and order my life by that?

The very first thing that comes to my mind is the belief that God IS and that He has existed from the beginning.

Genesis 1:1 (Amplified) IN THE beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth. [Heb. 11:3.]

John 1:1-3 (Amplified) IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. [Isa. 9:6.] He was present originally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being.

Hebrews 11:6 (Amplified) But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].

Nothing else that I believe would make any difference if I didn't believe that God IS. If God didn't exist, then life would have no meaning, no purpose. But I DO believe that God IS, and more than that, that He cares personally about each & every person who is conceived on the face of the earth, that He is intimately involved in the affairs of men, and that He has a plan for all of the craziness we call life. I believe that He cares about ME and for ME and has a plan & a purpose for MY life. Yes, I dare to believe that the Creator of heaven and earth, the universe, and all that therein is, cares about ME. Not that I matter in and of myself, because I DON'T see myself as the center of the universe and all that important, but I matter because He has created me and as my Creator, He is intimately, personally involved in the details of my life. Believing that leads me to the second foundation stone of my faith, which is that He loves me.

John 3:16 (Amplified) For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.

John 3:16 is probably the first verse that most people learn when they start to go to church. Most believers know it like the back of their hands. When we read that verse and put our name in place of the word "world", it comes alive in a very personal way. God so greatly loved and dearly prized me, Cindy, that He gave up His only begotton Son, so that if I, Cindy, would believe in Him, I should not perish but have everlasting life. Wow! Such love!

1 John 4:9-10 (Amplified) In this the love of God was made manifest (displayed) where we are concerned: in that God sent His Son, the only begotten or unique [Son], into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins.

1 John 4:19 We love Him, because He first loved us.

The love of my heavenly Father is like a rock under my feet. It is a sure foundation. The wonderfully amazing thing about His love is that it's unconditional.

Romans 5:8 (Amplified) But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.

God didn't say that I had to clean up my act first and then He'd love me. Thankfully, He loved me while I was still a sinner. He embraced me, even though I was covered with the filth of my sins.

Ephesians 2:13 (Amplified) But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were [so] far away, through (by, in) the blood of Christ have been brought near.

1 John 1:7b (Amplified) ...the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].

Revelations 1:5 (Amplified) And from Jesus Christ the faithful and trustworthy Witness, the Firstborn of the dead [first to be brought back to life] and the Prince (Ruler) of the kings of the earth. To Him Who ever loves us and has once [for all] loosed and freed us from our sins by His own blood, [Ps. 89:27.]

To quote from the chorus of Charles Wesley's hymn, And Can It Be That I Should Gain?....
Amazing love!
How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love!
How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Blessed are You, Lord God Heavenly Father, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Guardian and Shepherd of my soul, Who has loved me with an everlasting love and called me by name, that I might be Your child and the sheep of Your pasture.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hold Fast

Philippians 3:15-16 (Amplified) So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also. Only let us hold true to what we have already attained and walk and order our lives by that.

The LORD has brought this scripture to mind, as I have determined to follow Him. I know that I have a lot to learn still, a lot of growing yet to do, a lot of dying to my self, a lot of becoming more like Yeshua my Messiah. But I also know that over the past 30 some years of following Him, He has taught me many things already. He has built a spiritual foundation under me. Over the next few days, maybe weeks, depending on how the Holy Spirit directs, I want to write about the things I have already learned, to define the foundations that my faith is built upon. In the process, I will be remembering this verse:

1 Thessalonians 5:21 (Amplified) But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast.

Monday, April 03, 2006

No Turning Back

Hebrews 10:38-39 (Amplified) But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live by his conviction respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him. [Hab. 2:3, 4.] But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery (perdition) and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe [who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and by faith preserve the soul.

This study of what it means to be a disciple is teaching me one very important truth: being a disciple is serious business. It isn't something I can play around at. It's all or nothing. Yeshua demands my all. It isn't enough to give mental assent to His being the Son of God and the Savior from sin's penalty. A commitment from my heart is required, a commitment that is expressed through every attitude, action, and word that I speak. I have to choose to submit my will to His, to learn to walk in His ways, to listen for His voice and obey. And I suspect that this is something I will have to do daily, as His Word says:

Luke 9:23-25 (Amplified) And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also]. For whoever would preserve his life and save it will lose and destroy it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he will preserve and save it [from the penalty of eternal death]. For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and ruins or forfeits (loses) himself?

I am going to have to choose daily to die to my self, to my own interests, my own desires, my own agendas, and to live for Him.

Luke 14:27-33 (Amplified) Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to complete [the building], all who see it will begin to mock and jeer at him, Saying, This man began to build and was not able (worth enough) to finish. Or what king, going out to engage in conflict with another king, will not first sit down and consider and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand [men] to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if he cannot [do so], when the other king is still a great way off, he sends an envoy and asks the terms of peace. So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Can I do it? Can I willingly lay down my life, die to my self, let go of all that I am & have? But if I don't, what is my life worth? The Word says that if I lose my life, I will save it, but if I hold on to it and refuse to surrender, then I end up losing my life. I am reminded of a book I read this past year: Hind's Feet On High Places, by Hannah Hurnard, one of those old Christian classics that is well worth the time it takes to read it. In the story, Much Afraid heeds the call to follow the Master and as she journeys onward & upward, she comes to a place where she has to lay down her life, but in dying, she is reborn. This reminds me of the following:

John 12:24-26 (Amplified) I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains [just one grain; it never becomes more but lives] by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it, but anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. [Whoever has no love for, no concern for, no regard for his life here on earth, but despises it, preserves his life forever and ever.] If anyone serves Me, he must continue to follow Me [to cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying] and wherever I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

1 Corinthians 15:36-38 (Amplified) You foolish man! Every time you plant seed, you sow something that does not come to life [germinating, springing up, and growing] unless it dies first. Nor is the seed you sow then the body which it is going to have [later], but it is a naked kernel, perhaps of wheat or some of the rest of the grains. But God gives to it the body that He plans and sees fit, and to each kind of seed a body of its own. [Gen. 1:11.]

John 15:16 (Amplified) You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have planted you], that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit may be lasting [that it may remain, abide], so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as presenting all that I AM], He may give it to you.

Yeshua has chosen me. He wants to plant me, like that grain of wheat that must die, so that I might come forth, bearing fruit. Am I willing to accept that? Am I willing to say, "Here I am, LORD! I am ready to be planted"? You know, I thought I had made that choice a long time ago, but the more I learn, the more I realize that I haven't really made that choice. There is still a great deal of self alive in me that needs to be put to death. Or maybe it's a process, like peeling an onion, and now after all these years, we are starting to get to the heart of the matter. Will I be like those who turn back? No! How can I be? There is NO life without Him! As Peter said, (Joh 6:68-69 Amplified) Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words (the message) of eternal life. And we have learned to believe and trust, and [more] we have come to know [surely] that You are the Holy One of God, the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of the living God.

So difficult though it may be, I will persevere; I will say "NO" to my self and take up the cross each day. I WILL follow Him, NO turning back!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

To Be His Disciple

Luke 14:26-27 (Amplified)
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters--[yes] and even his own life also--he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.
Luke 14:33 (Amplified)
So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple.

I've been reading some articles about discipleship. D.T. Lancaster has written a really good article titled, The Great Omission: Raising Up Disciples, which can be read at Beth Immanuel>Study>click on the article title. This morning I've been reading articles from Perfect Word Ministries in their MessianicLife archives. The very first issue of the MessianicLife magazine contains an article titled, What Is A Disciple? Very thought-provoking and challenging! Here are a couple of quotes from that article that I highlighted:

"A disciple is more than someone who believes--a disciple puts actions to his convictions and allows his life to be transformed according to the teaching and pattern of His Master."

"Yeshua never taught His diciples to simply believe that He was the Son of God. He never taught them to make mental assent to the truth, and they would be saved. When Yeshua exhorted His followers to believe, He was calling them to a life of active faith--the life of a disciple."

"Yeshua gives us at least three indicators that one is a disciple.
1. "...abide in My word..." (John 8:31)
2. "...have love one to another." (John 13:35)
3. "...bear much fruit..." (John 15:8)
Each one of these requires diligence and faithfulness on the part of the disciple, but not without total reliance upon the Master. These characteristics come with consistent commitment, not merely to the concepts, but to the Teacher Himself."

"A disciple is not just who we are, it's what we do. We have to be active, deliberate and intentional in both being and making disciples."

"A disciple is not one who merely sits at the feet of his Master listening to and enjoying all the wonderful insights and truths he has to offer. Disciples are not just students--they are teachers. A disciple without a teacher is not a disciple--he is an individual. A disciple without students is not a disciple--he is a consumer."

"Being a disciple of Yeshua is not just following Him, but stopping following other things. It means separation from the world, denouncing of sin and worldliness, turning from what we think we want and toward what ADONAI knows is best for us to have. The choice is clearly ours. If we live by faith with commitment and dedication to the Master, acting upon what we have learned, we ourselves will be built up. We will be able to pass the living truth on to another generation."

So, more than a follower, more than having mental assent that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Savior from the penalty for my sins, but a do-er of His Word, a do-er of His ways. It comes back to 1 John 2:6: "Whoever says he abides in Him ought [as a personal debt] to walk and conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself."

James 1:21-25 (Amplified) "So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls. But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth]. For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror; For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like. But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience).

Trust and Obey!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Follow Me

Luke 9:23 (Amplified)
And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself--that is, disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself--and take up his cross daily, and follow Me [that is, cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example, in living and if need be in dying also].

This is one of those scriptures that the LORD, by His Holy Spirit, has been speaking to my heart. I am and have always been a very selfish person. I struggle with genuinely caring for others, being available to them when they need me, and not just when it fits my own agenda. I struggle with ownership of my material possessions. I am so often like a 2 year old child who doesn't want to share and screams, "MINE!!!" Whether it's my time, my energy, my possessions, my money, whatever, my selfish heart struggles to deny itself and take up that cross, following my LORD. It is hard to deny yourself. The flesh is strong and its demands are insistent. And yet, that is exactly what I am called to do and what I will continue to strive to do.

Then there's that cross thing...The cross, an instrument of death and humiliation, as well as a place of submission to the Father's Will, even if that Will requires our physical death. It speaks to me of death to my self-will and my personal agendas. It speaks to me of death to love of the world and the things of the world. It speaks to me of embracing the Father's Will in every area and relation of my life, submitting to His Will, and walking in trusting obedience to every command He has given in His Word. It requires me to examine my motives and choices in what I wear and how I look (hair, clothes, jewelry, other physical decorations), what I listen to (music, talk shows, gossip), what I look at (books, magazines, internet, tv, movies), what I eat, what holy days I keep and how I keep them, my friends and companions, my possessions, my employment, where I live and worship, my speech, my attitudes, my actions, my priorities for my time and my money, in short--every aspect of my life. In each area, I need to think about what I am doing and why; is my heart attitude one of submission to my Father's Will and pleasing in His sight? Has He given specific commands in His Word about that area and if so, am I obedient to those commands?

Hebrews 12: 1-4 (Complete Jewish Bible)
So then, since we are surounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us, too, put aside every impediment--that is, the sin which easily hampers our forward movement--and keep running with endurance in the contest set before us, looking away to the Initiator and Completer of that trusting, Yeshua--who, in exchange for obtaining the joy set before him, endured execution on a stake as a criminal, scorning the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Yes, think about him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you won't grow tired or become despondent. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in the contest against sin.

Philippians 3: 12-14 (Complete Jewish Bible)
It is not that I have already obtained it or already reached the goal--no, I keep pursuing it in the hope of taking hold of that for which the Messiah Yeshua took hold of me. Brothers, I, for my part, do not think of myself as having yet gotten hold of it; but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind me and straining forward toward what lies ahead, I keep pursuing the goal in order to win the prize offered by God's upward calling in the Messiah Yeshua.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 (Complete Jewish Bible)
May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and the perseverance which the Messiah gives.