Monthly Archives: June 2015

Every Knee Shall Bow

With the Supreme Court decision last week and the remarks made by our Commander in Chief in support of it, many Christians are recognizing that our country’s leadership has sunk to a new low, and put a whole nation at odds with God Almighty. It’s hard to believe that 6 people can wield that much power in a supposedly free republic. As citizens of this nation and Christians, what kind of position does that put us in in the eyes of God? We do live here, we work here, we enjoy the prosperity of this land, and as American citizens, we are subject to the laws of the land, unless they conflict with the higher laws of God.

Heb. 11 presents the great examples of faith of those who have preceded us, and who serve as an example to us of how to live in faith on this earth. vs. 1 defines what faith is … vs. 6 tells us how essential it is for us to have and exercise this gift of faith … and then vs. 8 begins to cite the example of a man who is called, “the father of all them that believe” in Romans 4:11

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Heb. 11:8-10)

We, too, are called out of this world to live by a set of laws and standards given to us by God which set us apart from society as His own children, and like Abraham we have no idea where that journey will take us. Ours is a spiritual ‘coming out’

Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. (2 Cor. 6:17)

Now back to Hebrews 11.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Heb. 11:13)

The Greek word for ‘strangers’ here is xenos.  It literally means “aliens,” and I must be one, because my wife and I were in the garage working this week, and she had the Glenn Beck show on the radio, and he was playing clips from various supporters of the Supreme court ruling that so exasperated me I jokingly yelled, “HUMANS!”

For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb. 11:14-16)

To ‘declare plainly’ means to exhibit, disclose, appear, or declare. It’s fashionable to ‘come out of the closet’ these days. Well, this is my kind of “coming out.” We’re seeking a new deal … a country that Strong’s calls a “Father-land.” I really like that — we are declaring our desire to live in the Father’s land under the rule and reign of His Son, Jesus Christ.

When we declare to God our desire for His Kingdom, He takes pride in us, and prepares a place for us. That provides us with an assurance that no Supreme Court ruling can dampen, no matter how ungodly it might be. And we can rest assured that our Father and His Son will continue doing this as we are muddling through the frustration of exposure to this agonizing anti-Christ agenda that is now taking over our nation, and the world in which we live.

But what will become of those who are driving this insanity down our throats? Peter asks that question in his first epistle, and reminds us that it’s time now for us to make our declarations to God.

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. (1 Pet. 4:17-19)

A day of judgement is coming for the ungodly and the sinner. Yet the scriptures also indicate that many of those who now oppose God will come around, and we should hope and pray that they do.

Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath. He shall say, ‘Surely in the Lord I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, and all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him. (Isa. 45:22-24)

And one day the proponents of the abominations that took place in this country this week will also be ashamed.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Phil. 2:5-11)

Are we working toward being like our Lord? Toward greater respect and admiration and worship of the King of the coming kingdom? Bowing the knee … declaring openly our desire for His rule and His Kingdom?

For to this end Christ died and rose] and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Rom. 14:9-1)

There is a judgment coming for ALL of us — we can’t just sit back judging others and thinking that we’re alright. We have to work on our own relationship with God.

The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up—and it shall be brought low—upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan; upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up; upon every high tower, and upon every fortified wall; upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all the beautiful sloops. The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,(Isa. 2:11-17)

This tells us what will happen to pride filled men and women who live in open defiance of God’s Holy laws. When the transition to the Kingdom of God begins and the nation that we really belong to comes to this world, there won’t be anyone left who can stand up to God and re-define what He has already defined.

As each of these aberrations comes upon our country, it should serve as a real-time wake-up call to each one of us, and our declaration of intent should be made clear to the Godhead that we truly desire a new homeland in the Kingdom of God where Every Knee Shall Bow.

Children of Our Father

Remember the young guy in Matthew 19 that asked Christ what he could do to inherit eternal life? Christ told him to keep the commandments, and this young man was elated because he was already doing the lightweight stuff … the letter of the law things that human beings think make them “good people.” But then Christ gave him a heavy weight, and everything changed. “He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matt. 19:22). Isn’t that the way most of us are???

To Be Like Him

Christ used the example of the rich young man to teach His disciples that it is hard for a rich man to enter His kingdom, saying “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” This caused the disciples to ask a question that has often come to my own mind, “Who then can be saved?”

 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:18-22)

Do I want to lift that weight? To really be like Him? Verse 21 tells us the the reason we were called is to follow Christ’s example … not just to see it from afar and marvel at it!

who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:23-25)

Verse 23 has always been a killer for me, brethren, because I was raised to hate injustice. It’s almost automatic when somebody hits you, you want to hit back … only harder! When they yell at you … to yell louder … to hurl a more cutting insult … a more penetrating jab. But to follow Christ’s example, we have to give up the smart comebacks, the “reviling in return,” and the threatening. There’s only one reason I’d want to do that … to follow His example, and in so doing, to return to the Shepherd, Overseer and Guardian of my soul.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matt. 5:43-44)

This seemed so easy when it was just those faceless people out there in the mainstream persecuting us for keeping the Sabbath. It was more impersonal back then. During the last 20 years though, things have radically changed in the churches of God. We are a divided house, and the situation being what it is opens the door for some things to be said and done that we should never participate in.

Bless means to speak well of … to wish good things for. Curse means to give one over to ruin … to wish evil upon them … A natural, human, and easy thing to do when someone is cursing you!

A Prayer Request

BaptismForLife.wordpress.comWe all hear many urgent prayer requests, brethren. There is much illness and suffering in the churches of God today, and many prayer requests each week, but I would submit to you that Christ Himself is giving us an urgent ‘prayer request’ here in the last sentence in vs. 44.

What Christ is doing here with this ‘prayer request’ is presenting us with a great opportunity to prove something to His father … that we want to be His sons and daughters enough to do whatever He asks us to do. Let’s look at verse 44 again, with the rest of the sentence going on into verse 45.

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.(Matt. 5:44-45)

I’d like to examine this phrase a little more closely. “That you may be children of your Father” — The words, “you may be” G1096, ginomai mean: to come into existence, be made, to be ordained to be, turned into.   We are to be “formed in the image” of His firstborn son, who reviled not nor threatened, but committed His cause to the Father.

For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. (1 Cor. 11:18)

You see, there have been divisions and abuses and heresies in the churches of God from the start,  but it has always been allowed to happen for a purpose. It’s so that those who want to be children of their Father can rise above it and be made in the image of Christ.

And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34)

The first words He spoke after the scourging, and after the excruciating pain of being actually nailed to the stake were, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Brethren, in the midst of the turmoil and conflict that exists in the end-time churches of God, God is offering us an opportunity to distinguish ourselves as his children by answering a simple ‘prayer request’ from Jesus Christ: “Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” The reward for doing so is very great indeed … that we may be the children of our Father in heaven.

The Things That Be Of God

Self reflection is such a big part of the Christian life, it can come to actually dominate our lives at times. Especially during the Passover season, we all are admonished every year to examine ourselves with the intent of taking the symbols of the Passover in a “worthy manner”. Then during the days that follow the Passover, I always wonder if I took the Passover seriously enough. Because I always could have taken even more time to study and pray … even to fast.

This year seemed to be an even more intense time of reflection because this winter and spring marks the 20 year anniversary of the events that took place in 1995, when those of us in the Worldwide Church of God were faced with some really serious life-altering spiritual choices, and not just passive choices you can make between yourself and God in your prayer closet, but open public choices that effected friendships and family.

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods” (Joshua 24:15-16)

Joshua himself is quoted as making this very public choice in the hearing of the children of Israel. The people agreed to follow his lead in this and they did … until Joshua died. Then they forsook the Lord and began to serve false Gods.

Two Choices

In Matthew 16, Jesus, the Christ of God, drew a very sharp contrast between two mindsets, and two very divergent ways of life for the disciple Peter. Let’s begin with a question Christ put to His disciples.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:13-19)

Peter must have been on top of the world at this moment. He may have briefly been the first believer in the “Primacy of Peter” doctrine, because he had been praised and exalted by the Master Himself here. But that’s not the end of the narrative here. We’re in the middle of the story.

Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt. 16:20-23)

Peter, fresh off the experience of identifying the Christ of God, under the verified inspiration of God Himself … was pretty self-confident. The word “rebuke” here is a pretty strong word, epitemao in the Greek. It means to censure, admonish, forbid, to straightly charge. Not something you’d expect a student to do with his Master. Then in verse 23, Christ lowers the boom. So much for the “primacy of Peter” doctrine.

BaptismForLife.wordpress.comThere are two distinct directional attitudes, or mind sets evident here that are as different as the east is from the west. And we’ve all heard messages based on the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken”. “Two paths diverged in a yellow wood … I took the one less traveled by … and that made all the difference!

I like the wording of verse 23 in the King James version: “you SAVOR not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” The word “savor” is phroneo in the Greek, and means, to exercise the mind, to intensely interest oneself in with concern for obedience. In this case, “the “things that be of GOD” were coming to Peter directly from the mouth of Messiah God, but he had his own thoughts on the matter.

Brethren, I don’t know if there has ever been a time in church history when it’s been more difficult to be sure what we savor. It just seems like there are distractions everywhere. The pace of life is becoming more and more frantic. There’s economic pressure, social pressure, societal dysfunction, increasing violence, and persecution as we’ve never seen before. I read an article last week on the most persecuted religion on earth today, and this author concluded it was Christianity! Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have thought it likely that there would be this level of active persecution in this country.

What Do You Savor?

So how can you and I be sure we are “savoring” the things that be of God? Peter was after all saying something here that we would all have agreed with. It was not his will that his Messiah would die — “I don’t want that to happen to you, Lord!” The innocent Messiah of God having to die for the guilty? That didn’t make sense to Peter, and it probably wouldn’t have to us if we were in his shoes. But really, what Peter wanted was for his own human will to be done.

Sentiments like that , even if they make perfect sense to us, are “the things that be of men” if they aren’t in line with the will and plan of God. The only way I know of to be “savoring” the things that be of God in times of increasing persecution is to have our noses in His Holy Book every day with an attitude of submission to GODS will.

Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. (Rev. 3:10

These words in Christ’s letter to the Philadelphians are easy to savor, aren’t they?  It is very easy to submit to God’s words when they align with our own will. As Peter found out though, it isn’t always that easy.

So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”

And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. (Rev. 13:4-10)

These too are the words, the things, that be of God. Do we savor them? Do we savor all the words of God, even the ones that are hard to hear? If we keep reading in Matthew 16, we see that Christ knew savoring God’s way of life isn’t always easy, but He assures us it is well worth it. We will receive a positive reward.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matt. 16:24-27)