Wednesday, September 6 2017

The Image of God Renewal Devotion Day 2

The Image of God Renewal Devotion__

Day 2

Prayer:__

Father God, I surrender my wrong ideas about you and ask that you would begin to guide me to understand who you are. Please help me to know who you really are. In Jesus name, Amen!

Scripture:

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Thoughts to ponder:

The first thing I noticed about the above Scripture is that God is active in wanting us to know him. God spoke long ago, and he is speaking today. God is speaking to us today through his Son, Jesus Christ—The Word (Jn. 1:1). We have a record of God speaking through his Son in the Bible. The Bible is revelatory of who God is and what he is doing to be engaged and involved in desiring a relationship with us. To clarify, here is an illustration.

A young bride has been patiently waiting for her groom to return from active duty in the armed services. To prepare, she has her house in ship shape and has rehearsed every word of any possible combination of discussion she could have when her groom walks through the door. She is excited and can’t stop thinking about how much she loves her groom. She has written many letters to reveal her love, but now, her groom is actually coming home to be with her for real—to talk with her, to love her, to have a relationship with her.

God desires a relationship with us too! He can’t wait for us to come home to him. It might be hard to imagine, but God actually is so in love with you that he is excitedly waiting for you to come home and have a relationship with him—to talk with him, to love him, to spend time getting to know him. How do I know? Because he sent many emissaries to speak to us in many ways, and has finally sent his Son to show us God’s love.



Closing remarks and prayer:

God is speaking to us, has been speaking to us in many portions and in many ways. He invites you to come to him through his Son, Jesus Christ. We don’t have to change anything about who we are or what we’ve done. Just come in faith! God is excited about our arrival, much like the father of the prodigal son. He desires to love us, talk to us, and have an interactive relationship with us. Lay aside the fears and false ideas of God, come to him and see that he is loving and good.

Father God, I come to you. I lay aside the fears and false ideas I’ve had of you. I come to you because I love you too and desire to talk with you, to have a relationship with you. I’m coming home to be with you! In Christ’s name, Amen!

Tuesday, September 5 2017

The Image of God Renewal Devotion Day 1

The Image of God Renewal Devotion

Day 1

Prayer:

Father God, forgive me for the wrong ideas and images I’ve had of you. As you know, the wrong feelings I’ve had of you have kept me from having a relationship with you, from knowing who you really are. From now on, I commit to renewing my mind in your word so that I can know who you really are and experience you on a level you first created me for. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Scripture:

“without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Thoughts to ponder:

The greatest faith blocker is lack of belief.

In chapter nine of the Gospel of Mark, there is a story told about a distraught man who had brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus’ disciples for deliverance. Jesus wasn’t around at the time, he had taken a couple of his other disciples up onto the mountain to experience the transfiguration. The disciples who stayed behind were not able to heal the boy. Apparently, there were some Scribes, (some of the religious rulers of the day), present and began an argument with the disciples about the healing of the boy. When Jesus showed up the crowds were amazed and began running to him to see what he would do.

Jesus inquired, “What are you arguing with them about?”

The answer came from the father of the demon-possessed boy, "Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it." (Mark 9:17-18).

Jesus responded by making a few shocking remarks about their lack of belief, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?”

I’m sure those who heard Jesus’ statements were picking up their jaw after the reaction to the shock.

It gets even worse, the father of the boy says, “If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"

Essentially, the father was saying, “I don’t know if you can do anything at all. I know that your disciples couldn’t do it! But, if you are able to do anything, even if it is only a very little, please do it out of pity on us!”

It’s obvious the father was a man who had great doubts about Jesus’ abilities and willingness. “If you can do anything…”

Now, think about this for a minute! Colossians 1:16-17 informs us that Jesus is the creator of the universe and holds it all together. The very existence of everything we are and see around us was and is created and held together by Jesus. This very Jesus is standing with this group of people consisting of Scribes, his disciples, common people, and a troubled father with a demon-possessed boy. After a few words, the boy’s father says, “If you can…”

The way Jesus responds to this request demonstrates his own faith, “’If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."

It’s almost as if Jesus responds by leaning back slightly upon hearing the father’s request with a surprised look on his face and responds with a slight grin forming in confident assertion and then followed by a quizzical expression to amplify his response saying, “If you can?” I can almost hear Jesus’ thoughts at this point, “I am the author and sustainer of life! I am the one who provides the very air you breathe! I hold all the molecules of your very existence together so you can experience life! There is nothing impossible to me!”

I believe the boy’s father was astonished by Jesus’ response. The narrative does not give us the details of the voice inflection, facial expressions, and body language that Jesus used in response to the boy’s father, but something happened to cause the boy’s father to cry out, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

Actually, the original Greek is more like, “Right away he screamed, ‘I DO BELIEVE: HELP MY UNBELIEF!”

Certainly, something caused the boy’s father to react with rapidness and a heightened voice inflection or else why would the writer describe the event with such expressions as “Immediately” and “Screamed”?

Ultimately, Jesus delivered the boy, moved on to address the disciple’s methods, and instructed them on how to handle similar circumstances in the future.

Faith and belief both come from the same Greek root word. The difference, faith is more of an action, whereas belief is more of the foundation for that action. Faith is putting belief to the test by action. Jesus believed so much so that his actions demonstrated the supernatural power of his belief.

Jesus claimed that we could tap into that supernatural power too, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you,” (Matt. 17:20).

However, you must believe before acting in faith. If you believe, then faith will be natural.

So then, the biggest obstacle to growing in faith is lack of belief. If we develop our belief in God the Father and Jesus then we will be in a position of living, moving, walking, and acting in faith with the same supernatural power Jesus claimed we would have; the faith to move mountains!

Closing remarks and prayer:

God rewards those who seek him in faith! The greatest reward is his self-revelation. In other words, those who seek God in faith will be rewarded by coming to know God as he truly is; A loving Father who tenderly cares.

Father God, I do believe in you, please help my unbelief! Help me to know you as you really are. In Jesus name, Amen!

Saturday, July 15 2017

The Pursuit of Wisdom and Understanding

A man was climbing a hill. The going was very difficult for the way was steep and treacherous. Along this trail where various roots and small tree limbs protruding from the ground. As the man looked up at these roots and limbs, they gave the appearance of being firm and unmovable. However, as the man grabbed each one they gave way and were easily pulled from the ground, offering no help for the climb. The ground was mostly loose dirt and pebble size rocks, causing the footing to be unsure, unstable, and quite often the man slid down further than he had climbed. Yet, the man continued, day after day, year after year. At times, discouragement took hold and the man felt like giving up. However, something inside him kept driving him with a persistence like what drove men to forsake all in exchange for finding gold during the great gold rushes of our recent past.

Yes, this man is driven to climb. His heart cries out to obtain the image he has created in his mind; the image of greater material wealth and prestige.

The man continuously thinks to himself, “If I can only reach the top, I will have obtained the pinnacle of life’s meaning!”

Onward he goes, a step or two up and a slide back down, all the while driven by an image, a great idol of promise; all allusive, but ever presenting a false light of hope.

The idol appears to be a beacon, nevertheless, for each person who has died while trying to pursue it will testify, “It is a fool’s hope, a shipwrecked life!”

Not many have a voice who’ve passed from this life to the next. There is at least one recorded in Scriptures; A rich man “habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day,” (Luke 16:19).

Jesus compares this rich man to a poor man, covered in sores, called “Lazarus.” (Luke 16:20-21).

Eventually, Lazarus and the rich man both die. Lazarus is taken to Abraham’s side in heaven and the rich man goes to Hades. A conversation breaks out between the rich man and Abraham.

At one point, the rich man asks Abraham, “I beg you, father (Abraham), that you send him (Lazarus) to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” (Luke 16:27-28 Italics mine).

Apparently, the rich man spent his life duped by the idol of false hope.

Crying out from the afterlife; the rich man wants to warn others not to climb the hill in pursuit of material wealth. Is anyone listening to the rich man’s cry? Yes, this one climbing man hears the cry from the afterlife.

A voice in agony calls out to him, “be warned, the climb you’re on leads to torment! There are no rewards there, it is emptiness! Turn away, before it’s too late!”

The climbing man heads the warning and looks for direction. A close by messenger, one who has been persistent and relentless in his prayers and love for the climbing man, presents him with these words,

“How blessed is the man who finds wisdom And the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver And her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; And nothing you desire compares with her. Long life is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways And all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who hold her fast,” (Proverbs 3:13-18).

It is revealed to our climbing man that Jesus is the Wisdom of God, (1 Cor. 1:24). Further, he was informed of a greater wealth which “comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and understanding.” (Colossians 2:2-3).

The climbing man finally realized that all the blessings of wealth promised to those who find wisdom and understanding are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Knowing Jesus is greater than the profit of silver and fine gold. Knowing Jesus is more precious than jewels. Nothing mankind can desire compares with knowing Him, (The Apostle Paul can testify to this!). Knowing Jesus is riches and honor, and following Him leads to pleasant ways and paths of peace. Jesus is the tree of life and brings happiness those who hold to Him.

The climbing man has now exchanged the empty pursuit of climbing the slippery hill of false hopes for the pursuit of wisdom and understanding; Jesus Christ. The climbing man is no longer climbing, he is now experiencing treasures beyond comprehension; A new life in Christ. The old has passed away, behold, new things have come, (2 Cor. 5:17).

It is interesting, mankind spends life pursuing material wealth at such great cost, when, all the while, something greater than material wealth is presented for free at the cost of someone else’s life.

Tuesday, July 4 2017

Walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

What’s on my mind? Frustration, despondency, anger, hate, standing at the edge of the sheer cliff overlooking utter and complete darkness of the unknown tomorrow. Every time I try to shine my little flashlight out into the darkness it reveals nothing. By little flashlight, I mean looking into the future for any signs of the path that leads from where I’m at to where I need to be; the other side. I’ve tried for years to find the pathway leading down through the darkness, but every time I find what appears to be a straight drop to a bottomless canyon and a dark valley below. At least, my little flashlight can’t shine bright enough to see any bottom.

Hopelessness often overwhelms me and I sit down and weep, wishing for the comfort which has evaded me.

Occasionally, another person comes by, they appear to be just as stumped as I am. However, a few portray confidence while attempting to convince me they have found a path through the dark canyon. Yet, upon further inquiry, I discover that they are no closer to discovering a path than I have been.

I’ve watched as several people brought ropes and attempt to scuttle down the cliff, most are never heard of again. I’ve even seen some run and jump off. I’ve looked over the cliff and watched as their lights extinguish after only a few feet down into the darkness.

Then one day, I discovered an old dusty book, it lay beside the cliff. I remember people telling of such a book. Although many have quoted some of the books content, most had not allowed it to direct them. The book, dusty and old, appeared to not have been opened for quite some time.

Just as I picked up the book and perused the cover a man walked up and laughingly said, “you will not find any help from that old book, it was written by lost men who perished while trying to climb down the cliff.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

The man replied, “That old book tells us that God created everything, including you and I, and this accursed darkness that keeps us at bay from crossing the doomed valley below.” The man continued, “I’ve discovered that we are the product of millions of years of evolution. Somehow, through some cataclysmic event, this canyon of darkness was born. We; you and I, were birthed from the elements which coalesced, leaving us stuck here on this side, ever changing shape and form through the years.”

I asked the man, “What are we changing shape for?”

“To be better prepared to cross the darkness!” exclaimed the man. “It may not be in our life, but eventually mankind will have changed shape enough that our ancestors will be able to cross that dark valley without any assistance from some old dusty book! The man said as he began to walk away.

Then, as if an afterthought, the man turned and stated, “Science will lead the way!”

“Have you read this book?” I asked.

“No,” replied the man, “someone told me what it said.”

I watched as the man turned and strolled away. There was a sort of slump to his demeanor and he walked as if his head hung low in despondency.

I gave some thought to the man’s words, which seemed as empty and dark as the valley. If his words were true, then there is no hope that I will be able to cross the valley in my lifetime, only hope for my future offspring. But when? What future generation will be better equipped than I, and what form will they take?

I looked back as far as I could see, with the help of many who existed before me, through their writings and artistic expressions, there was no indication of any form change in mankind.

I discovered that the concept of mankind changing shape over time was a recent development.

I read of the hopelessness and despair left in evolution’s wake and how it reaped havoc on mankind’s civility. I looked around and could see madness had crept in and mankind appeared to be acting like animals with no sense of direction. Many no longer looked for a way to cross the dark valley, instead, they looked for ways to numb their brains and escape through pharmacology.

As I studied mankind I discovered that, if evolution were true, the species is reverting to some brutish form of beast; no closer to discovering the path through the dark valley and certainly not taking a better form in preparation for such a trip.

I thought to myself, “How in the world is altering our thoughts through both recreational and medically prescribed chemicals placing mankind in a better position for the next evolutionary jump and training our offspring for the challenge ahead of them?” “No,” I continued to answer myself, “The outcome of such folly is mankind’s total eclipse from truth and purpose!”

Just then, a crazed person came running by me and jumped out into the darkness over the cliff wildly screaming as if they had gone mad. I’ve seen many men and women do the same thing in the past. It is disheartening to watch those with no hope take such measures. It is their response to misleading information; a lie they bought into without further inquiry. They run with the masses and tend to desire “fitting in” with the flow, rather than seeking truth, as it may and can be found by those who are willing to delve truth’s depths.

“No!” I thought to myself, “That man who told me this dusty book is worthless is a harbinger of lies, spreading hopelessness and despair to the masses, all the while spouting theories created by scientists who’ve stepped outside their domain of testing hypothesis in labs and have ventured to the untestable—the un-re-creatable—creation of man.”

I submitted to the impulse of opening the dusty old book and searching its contents. I chose to open the book to somewhere in the middle and began to read,

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

My heart quickened as I read these words. Could it be that herein is a map to crossing the dark valley of death to dwell in the house of the Lord forever?

I pondered this for a while and my thoughts took me to understand that it is the Lord who does the leading through the valley. He is the guide that serves those who are willing to be led through the dark valley.

However, there is something even more mystifying revealed here; through the dark valley the shepherd leads, but even though darkness is all around, there are consistent green pastures and quiet waters along the way. As a servant Shepherd, the Lord’s rod and staff comforts. The rod and staff do not bring fear, but comfort.

“How?” I thought to myself.

I could see the answer almost straight away from asking the question; because his rod and staff keeps any evil enemies at bay.

So then, the Lord not only guides me through the darkness, but instead of a dark valley there are green pastures and quiet waters, but he also protects me from the evil at work in the dark valley which has snuffed the life of all who dare tread there without the Lord’s guidance and protection.

“There is much more here that I do not understand as of yet,” I said to myself.

I determined that as I follow the Lord through the dark valley he would explain to me how goodness and lovingkindness will be in my wake. I would ask him about the significance of being anointed with oil, and how my cup will overflow, for that matter, what is my cup? I want to know more about walking in the paths of righteousness. I also want to watch as the Lord prepares a banquet table for me in the presence of my enemies. Lastly, I gathered as much, that the dwelling in the house of the Lord forever meant the other side of the dark valley.

My mind pondered the journey and I began to daydream of what it would be like. My mind couldn’t begin to wrap around the reality of it all.

Suddenly, I was awakened, as if I was in a dream. I was back at the edge of the cliff sitting with the book opened on my lap. I realized that I had just been granted a vision of truth as it was meant to be.

Then, before I knew of his presence, there beside me stood the Lord. He embraced me and repeatedly told me how much he loved me and how excited he was to have me join him on this journey. He pointed to a well-lit path, and invited me to follow him.

I enquired of him, “Lord, I’ve looked over every inch of this canyon and have never seen this pathway before, how did I miss it?”

The Lord responded, “The evil of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving in order that they are not able to see the path. It has been granted to those who believe to have the eyes of their hearts enlightened in order that they can see Me and follow me through the dark valley to a house I’ve prepared for them.”

As I followed the Lord towards the path, panic came over me as I suddenly realized how unrighteous I am. I felt unworthy and wanted to first clean myself up and then I’d be better prepared for the trip.

The Lord must of knew my thoughts for he turned to me and said, “My child, do not fret over your past! I’ve cleansed you and am leading you from now on through paths of righteousness. There is no preparation that you can accomplish to follow me, only act on what you know to be true by following me in faith.”

He smiled at me, the love beaming from his eyes, as he held out his hand towards the path with a gesture that I should follow.

So, began the journey through the dark valley, the Lord guiding me, serving me in protection, serving me with a spread-out banquet table beyond description in the presence of the enemies who were held at bay by his great rod and staff.

I began to experience what walking in the paths of righteousness is. I discovered that religious devotion and moral conformity had nothing to do with following the Lord through the valley of darkness. The Lord restored my soul as I did nothing but follow him in faith. Every day of the journey the Lord has led me by still waters and into green pastures. I fear no evil for the Lord is constantly and consistently with me.

The more time I spend with Him the greater my understanding of his love for me. Truly, my cup overflows and I am freed from selfishness in order to love others without expectation and kindly serve them.

One day, as I lounged in a beautiful green pasture, I ventured to peer into a crystal-clear pond. No ripples appeared and the reflection off the surface mirrored everything perfectly, as if standing before the threshold of two duplicate worlds bound together by a seam of connection. As I looked at my reflection I noticed a stark change in my soul. No longer was I a man of sin leaving unrighteousness and hate in my wake, I had been transformed into righteousness with goodness and loving-kindness in my wake. The Lord had changed me.

The Lord spoke up, again, as if he could read my thoughts, “Child, you are now a harbinger of love and truth!”

Wednesday, May 24 2017

The Authority of the Word of God is a Non-Negotiable

The Non-negotiables

Recently I was asked to provide what I would consider to be my theological non-negotiables. As I set and thought about it for a moment, I realized that there are hills that certain people and certain denominations are willing to die on. Things they would consider to be non-negotiable. However, and as I examined a few of them, I realized that every doctrine the church has had throughout the history of the church, and all the doctrines sprouting out of the Pentateuch, the prophets, and all the other Old Testament Scriptures, would be without power and not much more than the weight each is willing to place on them if it were not for the fact that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God. Many attempts have been made throughout the history of the church to degrade and even eradicate the authority of the Word of God. However, just the miraculous history of the sustained accuracy throughout many hand-written copies alone demonstrate divine intervention. However, also consider the fact that the Word of God has been translated into other languages while maintaining a reasonably close proximity to substance. There is no other book in antiquity that comes as close to the original autographs as does the Bible. There are some who would squabble over the linguistic method God chose to use to pass on the account he wanted us to know. As if the ink and paper God’s word was written on was divine, or even the language itself. Maybe it was the plant and whatever the ink was extracted from that was divine, which in turn made the message authoritative. Maybe it was the linguistic form that made it divine. No, methods and means were chosen based on the best method for delivery at the time, nothing divine in that. Once we start saying trees and ink sources, even forms of communication are divine, then we’ve turned God’s creation into divinity (God). No, the only thing divine about the word of God is the message itself and the authority comes from its author. If we look within, the Bible claims to be the authoritative Word of God. For example it is written, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (1Th 2:13) Also, Peter wrote, “just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2Pe 3:15-16). If we discredit the authority of the Word of God what are we left with? The devices of manmade religion requiring moral conformity to a religious standard with no authoritative means to do so. In other words, an empty religion that is just as empty as the religion of someone who worships a rock or tree carving. The non-negotiable of the authority of the Word of God is paramount to our faith. If we can’t verify the history, transmission, and accuracy of the Word of God we have no authoritative basis for accepting the contents as truth. The fact that its contents is truth and informs us of The Truth (Jesus Christ, Jn 14:6) rests on the power of the authority behind it. All other doctrines that the body of Christ would consider, “essential,” as well, rests on the authority of the Word of God. For example, the doctrine of the virgin birth, or the impeccability of Christ, and so on. Therefore, the authority of the Word of God is a non-negotiable.

Tuesday, May 23 2017

Faith. . .

What is so important about faith anyway?

Continue reading...

Saturday, May 20 2017

Welcome to A 180 Perspective

180 Perspective is here to help you gain a new perspective on how you see yourself, others, and most importantly; God. Be prepared for some life changing blogs and eventually, videos. We look forward to our future time together and know that it will be rewarding for us all.

See you again! Steve