New Year’s Resolution: To Be Heaven Here On Earth

You are given the option for immortality. Do you take it or do you decline?

Mom eagerly shared with me this thought from the writer’s app called 1000+ Writing Prompts.  “This is the question we face every day.  God has given us the option for immortality, and it’s up to us to take it.”

It’s a good thought to begin the new year with.  You are given the option for immortality.  To choose Jesus Christ is to choose eternal life.  To deny Him is to decline the option for immortality.  Or more accurately, to accept a harsh damnation as your eternal fate.

“But because of your callous stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are [deliberately] storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will pay back to each person according to his deeds [justly, as his deeds deserve]: to those who by persistence in doing good seek [unseen but certain heavenly] glory, honor, and immortality, [He will give the gift of] eternal life. But for those who are selfishly ambitious and self-seeking and disobedient to the truth but responsive to wickedness, [there will be] wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and anguish [torturing confinement] for every human soul who does [or permits] evil, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, but glory and honor and inner peace [will be given] to everyone who habitually does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For God shows no partiality [no arbitrary favoritism; with Him one person is not more important than another]… on that day when, as my gospel proclaims, God will judge the secrets [all the hidden thoughts and concealed sins] of men through Christ Jesus.” Romans 2:5-11, 16 (AMP)

Eternal life is a mystery to a mortal’s mind.  Humans are born, they live, and they die.  It’s common knowledge that people can only dream of defying.  It is impossible to accurately imagine what eternity will be like.

“Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.

“You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning. Just as there are different kinds of seeds, there are different kinds of bodies—humans, animals, birds, fish—each unprecedented in its form. You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies—sun, moon, stars—all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection “seeds”—who can imagine what the resurrection “plants” will be like!

“This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body—but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural—same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!

“…I need to emphasize, friends, that our natural, earthy lives don’t in themselves lead us by their very nature into the kingdom of God. Their very “nature” is to die, so how could they “naturally” end up in the Life kingdom?” 1 Corinthians 15:35-44, 50 (MSG)

Like a seed planted into the ground, the seed dies and is shed away as the plant begins to grow; that is how Paul describes our mortal bodies.  After we die, our spirit will be given a new heavenly body.  Our new selves will shine with splendor possibly even greater than the sun, moon, and stars.    And definitely much greater than our own weak and sinful earthly bodies.

“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” 2 Corinthians 1-10 (NLT)

In a common belief among many Christians, heaven is explained in the last chapters of the book of Revelation (chapters 21 & 22), but allow me to correct that belief with an awesome thought.  Or maybe I’m not correcting; more just expounding on the idea.  Try to imagine it like this…

WE are the description of heaven. Christ’s church is the Holy City, New Jerusalem.

Let me try to explain it for you:

When the book of Revelation (chapter 21) explains the new heaven and earth, it says “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”  (vs. 2-4, NIV)  The description of the new heaven and new earth that John saw sounds exactly like something that Paul wrote to the letter to the church in Corinth, when he wrote “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.  I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” (2 Corinthians 11:2, NIV)  As Christians we-the church-are the bride of Christ, brought to Him in godly splendor because of the blood that He has shed for us.  And now, because we have the Holy Spirit, God can dwell in us and give us peace and comfort.  We no longer have to fear the destructive nature of death, because Jesus has redeemed us and reconciled us to God.

The explanation of New Jerusalem, found in Revelation 21, also points to our salvation through Jesus Christ.  The city is described with the language of the prophets: 12 gates, which the number 12 symbolizes God’s people, like the 12 tribes of Israel; the walls of the city has 12 foundations, each with the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb, broadening God’s holy people to not only the Israelites, but also the children of the new covenant, which is everyone who accepts Christ as Savior. Each of the four walls of the Holy City has 3 gates on it- 3 is the number of God, the Trinity, and explains that there is no obstacle stopping anyone from entering into God’s presence. An angel measures the city and finds it to be 12,000 stadia in length, width and height- 12,000 is a multiplier of both 12 and 10.  The number 10 is, like the number of fingers and toes you have, the number of completion.   So by putting 12 and 10 together, it means that the city is made up of all of God’s people, not just some of them.  No one is left out.  The wall of the city was also measured and found to be 144 cubits thick, which is another use of the number of God’s people, since 144 squared is 12.  The measurements, the gates, and the brilliantly shining stones of the Holy City explains to us how precious Christ’s church is.  The church is literally heaven on Earth.  All people are welcomed into it, and once a citizen of God’s Holy City, New Jerusalem, we will inherit God’s promise.

In chapter 22 John tells “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down to the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse…” (v.1-3, NIV)  The city’s street leads to the tree of life, which brings healing for the nations and bears fruit all year round.  That’s what we as Christ’s church, the Lamb’s  bride, the Holy City needs to be doing. We need to be healing the nations.  We need to be bearing the fruits of the Spirit.  We need to be examples of God to the people around us so that they can see His glory: wiping the tears of the mournful and ministering to those suffering from pain.  That’s what God does.  It’s also what we should be doing.

We are also told that in the Holy City, “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”  (v.5, NIV) Talk about being the city on a hill!  That’s exactly what Jesus called us when He spoke in the sermon on the mount: “You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (AMP)

The explanation of the new heaven and new earth, the New Jerusalem, and the new Eden that’s explained in the final pages of the Bible is not describing how heaven will look like.  There’s no way we can fathom the greatness of God’s dwelling.  Much like the royal Priesthood spoken of in Hebrews,  we are meant to think of the description as a shadow of what heaven will be like.  In fact, we as Christians are called to be the foreshadow of Heaven.

 “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’  He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.  Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.” Revelations 21:5-8

Returning to the writing prompt, we are offered a choice of immortality. Will you accept or decline the offer? If  you choose to accept, then you must, in turn, share the offer to others as well.  For 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 says:

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (NLT)

As we begin 2018, let’s consider our role here in the physical life.  Why not make a new year’s resolution to be heaven on earth to all the people around you?  You may even snatch a life from the fiery fate of Hell.

"But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!" 1 Corinthians 15: 51-57 (MSG)
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Erna Lee’s Wisdom

It is close to the day the world is full of yuletide and cheer, when all the stockings get stuffed and Santa’s sleigh bells are near, but instead of breaking into full-length poem, I want to give everyone a message of peace that I read from Hebrews. First, let me tell you about an experience I had with a church whose members were mostly anti-Christmas:

There was a church I went to years ago, 12 years to be exact, named Nolanville. The majority of members there were 70 or over, sometimes into their 80’s, and some visitors left thinking the church too strict or too rule-based, but to the open-hearted it felt like a love gathering; you really can find love in unexpected places.

At Nolanville, every Sunday, I would be greeted with a “Good morning!” smile and hugs from various members, friendly eye contact from the one peer of mine (besides Kat), and compliments about a job well done with the church bulletin, which we wrote for about a year. Then there was the goodbye after service: everyone gathered at the door and lined up for hugs and warm fellowship, and you literally could see the entire church there at the door talking to each other, no more than 40 Christians. The laughter and conversation would carry on for 15-20 minutes before we’d, one by one, separate to our cars.

The warmth of the handshakes, the happy faces, and the love: I often miss. I think back to the people frequently, understanding that many of those members may not even be on this earth today.

Most of the members who went to Nolanville didn’t celebrate Christmas, despite their love. They held the opinion, “You got to love Jesus all year around and never allow His spirit to be felt only in December. If you do, everyone will think it is the holiday that makes them feel joy and peace, and that is idolatry…” The woman who told me passionately this viewpoint, Erna Lee, was the oldest member there. She always asked me to come up real close to her, so she could whisper her words with labored breath, but her words were always full of meaning and gentle wisdom.

The idea of not celebrating Christmas may be a bit depressing if you enjoy the season, like me, and for those who find solace in the good tidings, the cards, the gifts, the tree – Nolanville could be labeled as a group of Puritans who still hold onto the 17th century belief that Christmas should be illegal, because of its pagan roots, like worshipping the tree, and having a winter festival.

Personally, I believe Christmas can be celebrated by individuals and can also not be celebrated, too, depending on their attitude. But I agree with Erna Lee that a sense of discernment is never bad and that serving Christ only at Christmas is not God’s will for our lives.

Whether you do or don’t, the message from Hebrews 4:1-13 is a reminder to us that we can and will experience God’s rest if we hold true to our faith. That place God experienced rest, on the 7th day of Creation, is the same place we and our faithful loved ones will go upon leaving this earth. It is the peace we feel when we sing Silent Night; the peace of fireside cocoa; the peace of snow as it falls to earth, making it white. Except so much more, and not reserved for December!

Read the passage (Hebrews 4:1-13) first in American Standard Version, and again in The Message:

Let us fear therefore, lest haply, a promise being left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good tidings preached unto us, even as also they: but the word of hearing did not profit them, because it was not united by faith with them that heard. For we who have believed do enter into that rest; even as he hath said,

As I sware in my wrath,
They shall not enter into my rest:

although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he hath said somewhere of the seventh day on this wise, And God rested on the seventh day from all his works; and in this place again,

They shall not enter into my rest.

Seeing therefore it remaineth that some should enter thereinto, and they to whom the good tidings were before preached failed to enter in because of disobedience, he again defineth a certain day, To-day, saying in David so long a time afterward (even as hath been said before),

To-day if ye shall hear his voice,
Harden not your hearts.

For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day. There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience.  For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

Again in The Message:

For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God’s goal for us, we need to be careful that we’re not disqualified. We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith. If we believe, though, we’ll experience that state of resting. But not if we don’t have faith. Remember that God said,

Exasperated, I vowed,
“They’ll never get where they’re going,
never be able to sit down and rest.”

God made that vow, even though he’d finished his part before the foundation of the world. Somewhere it’s written, “God rested the seventh day, having completed his work,” but in this other text he says, “They’ll never be able to sit down and rest.” So this promise has not yet been fulfilled. Those earlier ones never did get to the place of rest because they were disobedient. God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David’s psalm, centuries later than the original invitation:

Today, please listen,
don’t turn a deaf ear . . .

And so this is still a live promise. It wasn’t canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn’t keep renewing the appointment for “today.” The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience.

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.

 

 

Why does God allow persecution?

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  -2 Timothy 3:12

We can see in so many places in the Bible where God’s people were persecuted and even killed!  It causes many to wonder why God would allow persecution to happen.  It doesn’t seem like a very loving thing to do.

The truth behind the persecution of the Christian churches can also be found within the pages of the Bible.  In Genesis 3:15, God’s curse against Satan is this: “From now on you and the woman will be enemies, as will your offspring and hers.  You will strike his heel but he will crush your head.” (TLB)

Satan caused Adam and Eve to bring sin into the world because of the great hatred and animosity that he felt against God.  The truth is, Satan hates God!  And so he also hates humans, because we are loved by God and have His protection.

You can see Satan’s bitterness against God and His beloved creation in the story of Job.

“One day as the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan, the Accuser, came with them. 

“‘Where have you come from?’ the Lord asked Satan. 

“And Satan replied, ‘From earth, where I’ve been watching everything that’s going on.’

“Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth-a good man who fears God and will have nothing to do with evil.’

“‘Why shouldn’t he when you pay him so well?’ Satan scoffed. ‘You have always protected him and his home and his property from all harm. You have prospered everything he does-look how rich he is! No wonder he ‘worships’ you! But just take away his wealth, and you will see him curse you to your face!’

“And the Lord replied to Satan, ‘You may do anything you like with his wealth, but don’t harm him physically.’

So Satan went away and sure enough, not long afterwards when Job’s sons and daughters were dining at the oldest brother’s house, tragedy struck.” Job 1:6-13 (TLB)

Satan comes to God again in chapter 2 of Job and acts the same way. What hatred Satan presents to God!

We are also warned in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be careful-watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart.” (TLB)

There are many stories in the Bible about God’s people being persecuted. Next time you read about them, remember the one who is doing the persecuting; Satan, who is our enemy.

IDOP-StoriesOfPersecution

We can read more about Satan’s animosity in Revelation 12:7-13.

“Then there was war in heaven; Michael and the angels under his command fought the Dragon and his hosts of fallen angels. And the Dragon lost the battle and was forced from heaven. This great Dragon-the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world-was thrown down onto the earth with all his army.  

“Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, ‘It has happened at last! God’s salvation and the power and the rule, and the authority of his Christ are finally here; for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth-he accuses them day and night before our God. They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony; for they did not love their lives but laid them down for him. Rejoice, O heavens! You citizens of heaven, rejoice! Be glad! But woe to you people of the world, for the devil has come down to you in great anger knowing that he has little time.’

“And when the Dragon found himself cast down to earth, he persecuted the woman who had given birth to the child…” (TLB)

So Satan resents God for exiling him, and he takes out his resentment by persecuting God’s people on earth.   You could say it’s Satan’s way of getting God back for punishing him.

IDOP-TypesOfPersecution

But that doesn’t explain why God would allow us to be persecuted.  After all, if He’s a loving God, wouldn’t he have the power to stop Satan from persecuting His people that He loves?

But here’s some news that may seem unbelievable…

We are actually blessed by our persecution.

Yes, it’s true.  When we are persecuted, we can count our blessings and feel joy in these truths:

  • We are identified through Christ Jesus.
"At one time you were separate from God. You were God's enemies in your minds because the evil deeds you did were against God. But now Christ has made you God's friends again. He did this by his death while he was in the body, that he might bring you into God's presence. He brings you before God as people who are holy, with no wrong in you, and with nothing that God can judge you guilty of. And Christ will do this if you continue to believe in the Good News you heard. You must continue strong and sure in your faith. You must not be moved away from the hope that Good News gave you. That same Good News has been told to everyone in the world. I, Paul, help in preaching that Good News. I am happy in my sufferings for you.  There are many things that Christ must still suffer through his body, the church. I am accepting my part of these things that must be suffered. I accept these sufferings in my body. I suffer for his body, the church." Colossians 1:21-24 (ICB)
  • The world is paying us tribute because we belong to Christ.
"But you should be happy that you are sharing in Christ's sufferings. You will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory. When people insult you because you follow Christ, then you are blessed. You are blessed because the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is with you." 1 Peter 4:13-14 (ICB)
  • God compliments us over our service to Him.
"Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you noticed  my servant Job? No one else on earth is like him.  He is an honest man, innocent of any wrong. He honors God and stays away from evil. You caused me to ruin him for no good reason. But he continues to be without blame.'" Job 2:3 (ICB)
  • God is weaning us off of our love for the world by letting us see where our trouble actually comes from.
"Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.  

"You've already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it's time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don't understand why you don't join in with the old gang anymore. But you don't have to give an account to them. They're the ones who will be called on the carpet-and before God himself." 1 Peter 4:1-5 (MSG)
  • God is perfecting patience through our persecution.
"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. 

"If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open." James 1:2-8 (MSG)
  • We are being identified with great saints of the past.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
  • We are waiting to receive God’s great promise to us.
"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won't last very long.  Yet this short time of distress will result in God's richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (TLB)

 

IDOP-OvercomingPersecution

We typically think that in Jesus’ resurrection, He destroyed Satan’s power which is death. But that’s not true! Jesus actually destroyed Satan’s power and plans with His death, not rising from the dead.  He was sinless- our passover lamb.  His innocent blood washes us clean.

“Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15 (MSG)

“We have this treasure from God. But we are only like clay jars that hold the treasure.  This shows that this great power is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us.  We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. . We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies, so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death. This is so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die. So death is working in us, but life is working in you.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (ICB)

Hymn of the Day: Blessed Assurance

Blessed assurance!  We are given a promise of redemption and salvation!

Isaiah 43:16-21 says: I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a path right through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses, to lie beneath the waves, dead, their lives snuffed out like candlewicks.

But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert! The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and ostriches too, for giving them water in the wilderness, yes, springs in the desert, so that my people, my chosen ones, can be refreshed. I have made Israel for myself, and these my people will some day honor me before the world.” (TLB)

God will give us new life.  We are His new creation.

Hebrews 6:10-12 says: “For God is not unfair. How can he forget your hard work for him, or forget the way you used to show your love for him—and still do—by helping his children? And we are anxious that you keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, so that you will get your full reward.

Then, knowing what lies ahead for you, you won’t become bored with being a Christian nor become spiritually dull and indifferent, but you will be anxious to follow the example of those who receive all that God has promised them because of their strong faith and patience.” (TLB)

God will not forget all that we do in His name!  We are blessed with the assurance of His promises.

Hebrews 6:13-20 says: “For instance, there was God’s promise to Abraham: God took an oath in his own name, since there was no one greater to swear by, that he would bless Abraham again and again, and give him a son and make him the father of a great nation of people. Then Abraham waited patiently until finally God gave him a son, Isaac, just as he had promised.

When a man takes an oath, he is calling upon someone greater than himself to force him to do what he has promised or to punish him if he later refuses to do it; the oath ends all argument about it. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those he promised to help would be perfectly sure and never need to wonder whether he might change his plans.

He has given us both his promise and his oath, two things we can completely count on, for it is impossible for God to tell a lie. Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.

This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself behind the sacred curtains of heaven, where Christ has gone ahead to plead for us from his position as our High Priest, with the honor and rank of Melchizedek.” (TLB)

Since God is the righteous judge, we can be assured that His promises will be kept. 

Mark 5:35-36 says: ”While he was still talking to her, messengers arrived from Jairus’s home with the news that it was too late—his daughter was dead and there was no point in Jesus’ coming now. But Jesus ignored their comments and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me.” (TLB)

 

2 Samuel 7:22  “How great you are, Lord God! We have never heard of any other God like you. And there is no other God.” (TLB)

Multifaceted Mercy

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Matthew 5:7 (NIV)

The world is full of people who are self-driven: as long as they aren’t in pain or in some sort of discomfort, their lives are just fine.  Their own happiness, reputation, and enjoyment are what’s important. They would rather watch and laugh at other people’s misfortunes instead of lending a hand.

"The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy; teach me Your statutes." Psalm 119:64 (MEV)
"This is what the Lord Almighty says... show mercy and compassion to one another..." Zechariah 7:9 (NIV)

We are to show mercy… but what is mercy? It’s surely not something that comes naturally for us, because it’s a trait of God Almighty, but it’s a trait that all Christians must learn to imitate.  It’s part of God’s statutes.

"So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For he who has shown no mercy will have judgment without mercy, for mercy triumphs over judgment." James 2:12-13 (MEV)

Showing mercy is… being able to cry in another person’s skin; it’s feeling their pain, being concerned about their wellbeing, and having a strong desire to do something to help out.  We were put on this earth to show God’s mercy to the people around us.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

Showing mercy is… realizing that we are no different than our neighbor, and reaching out to show kindness to them.  Before receiving God’s grace, we were the same as those who aren’t saved.  It’s only by God’s mercy (the same mercy that we are required to imitate) that we are set apart.

"...you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the age of this world and according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among them we all also once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)," Ephesians 2:1-5 (MEV)
"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:3-7 (NIV)
"If your brother sins against you, rebuke him. And if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turns to you, saying, "I repent," you must forgive him." Luke 17:3-4 (MEV)

It has been said that the difference between grace and mercy is that grace is giving us what we don’t deserve, while mercy is not giving us what we do deserve. That’s true, but only partially true.  Actually, the difference is that grace takes away our faults, while mercy takes away our pain.

Showing mercy is… knowing when to rebuke a person who is wrong and when to allow the person to have the final word; it’s also knowing how stern or soft to make the rebuke, when you are called to give one.

"But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned." Titus 3:9-11 (NIV)
"Brothers, if a man is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, watching yourselves, lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galations 6:1-2 (MEV)

Showing mercy does NOT… always follow the moral standards of the rest of the world. Worldly common sense would tell you to give a homeless man a 20 dollar bill to pay for his meal. But mercy would tell you not to buy him a meal. Rather, teach a man how to work and then he can feed himself.

"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'  

"We hear that some  among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.  

"Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer." 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 (NIV)

Sometimes showing mercy must take an extreme stance: it may require to dis-fellowship a brother or sister in Christ who does not try to follow God’s laws.

"Now if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, then take with you one or two others, that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every word may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile [or pagan] and a tax collector." Matthew 18:15-17 (MEV)
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father's wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.  So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

"Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch - as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 

"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case  you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. 

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked person from among you.' " 1 Corinthians 5:2-23 (NIV)

Most of all, showing mercy calls us to… pray for those who we see living in sin, because “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. So if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have whatever we asked of Him.” 1 John 5:13-15 (MEV)  

As long as we continue to pray for the people we know, God won’t give up trying to reach them to save and to grant them eternal life.

Today’s Hymn: Immortal, Invisible God

I was doing a Youtube search for the hymn “Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise” and my favorites I will share with you, but something about the lyrics struck a chord in my heart. The lyrics are old; the meaning is magnificent.

First, the lyrics:

Verse 1
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

Verse 2
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

Verse 3
To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small,
in all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish, but naught changeth Thee.

Verse 4
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
all praise we would render, O help us to see
’tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!

 

Next, how it touched me:

In worship, there was a reading of the lyrics before singing the hymn, so we could better understand the old song’s message. What I interpret from it is this:

  • Verse 1 tells of the unsearchable quality of God, how he is light and yet his light we are not aware, even as we praise him. “Too vague a God” skeptics say, and too big a concept for any of us to fathom, really, but Jesus Christ gives us reason to believe (recommended reading: “A Case for Christ”  by Lee Strobel)
  • Verse 2 expresses the simile “silent as light” which my brain wants to replace the word light with night, due to the popular song “Silent Night”. But then I actually think about it, and how much more silent can anything be, than light? God’s mighty presence is all around us, his handiwork in the sky and mountain peaks.  His plan is carefully brought about by his perfect love. Even in the hurricane, his love never ceases.
  • Verse 3 strengthens the point he is ruler, unchanged by fleeting lives and seasons. Even when the hurricane comes and goes, and the flowers bloom and the grass grows for months on end afterwards, once it is all over, God still remains.
  • Verse 4 finishes the point with the majestic request for God, the invisible, to not let our lack of sight be a hindrance in our faith. God and the angels are there, but our hearts pray, please don’t let our eyes hinder us from seeing the light and believing God is within it.

Last, the spotlight videos from international sources:
Sang by American music group Out of Eden (live performance), along with the song Meditate

Sang by African worship group Soul Winners Worship, an African worship group

Sang by American artist Fernando Ortego

Piano Solo by a member of Singapore church, Life Missions Church

 

Puppet Skit: “Finding the Characterprints of Jesus” Part 3

COCOA: Detective Snowy, Detective Snowy, where are you?  (sniff, sniff) I smell trouble.  (sniff, sniff) Something is wrong.

(HAPPY and FABLE enter)

COCOA: Has anyone seen Detective Snowy? We need to make tracks and find the last clue. I can’t find my detective.

HAPPY: No, Cocoa. I haven’t seen her anywhere.  It’s not like Snowball to be late for VBS. Something must have happened.

FABLE: She was going to the mouse alley earlier this morning to visit her friends.  But she should be back by now.

COCOA: Detective Snowy is not here. I’ve sniffed everywhere. I’ve got to get busy and find her.

HAPPY: I’ll help you find Snowball. She might need some help.

FABLE: Yes. Let’s go to the mouse alley and find her.

(SNOWBALL enters “mewing”, without her spy glass and hat.)

COCOA: Detective Snowy. There you are! But, what happened to you? You look like you’ve been in a cat fight!

SNOWBALL: Cocoa, don’t call me Detective Snowy. I’m just plain old Snowball.

COCOA: Snowball, what happened?

SNOWBALL: I went to the mouse alley this morning. I was with my friends Stuart and Fival, telling them about VBS, when the mean cats showed up.  The cats started chasing all the mice in the alley.

FABLE: It’s not nice to bother the little guys.

SNOWBALL: Those mean cats hurt Stuart and Fival. I got really mad. I tried to hold on to my temper like Jesus would, but I got so mad.  I started yelling at those other cats.  They had no reason to be mean to my friends. And I got madder because they wouldn’t stop it when I told them to. They started calling me names and THAT did it! I started throwing things around. I scared all the ugly old cats away, and I don’t think they’ll be coming back; but I broke my spyglass and lost my cap.

COCOA: Wow, you’ve had a rough time!

HAPPY: We should have been there to help you defend the mice.

FABLE: Are you okay, Snowball?

AllFour

SNOWBALL: I’m okay, Fable.  You all are such great friends.  You are loving and caring, and so faithful. You’ve got the characterprints of Jesus. I wish I had found the last characterprint before I got so angry. I don’t feel like I’m very much like Jesus. I didn’t find anybody who was brave and courageous.

COCOA: Snowball, Jesus did act like that in the temple. You missed our Bible story today. The Bible says that Jesus got angry with the ones who were being mean to others.  God doesn’t like it when someone hurts others. Jesus showed us how mad God gets.  He threw the table down and ran the mean people out of the temple.

HAPPY: That’s right. God gets very angry at evil.

SNOWBALL: Yeah. But I still didn’t find the last character print. I’m not good enough to be a detective.  I needed to find someone who is brave and courageous.

FABLE: Snowball, I think we know who is brave and courageous.

SNOWBALL: Really? Who? Please tell me. Who is it?

HAPPY: It’s you, Snowball. You defended those poor little mice from the mean old cats, even when they insulted you.

FABLE: Jesus did the same thing.

COCOA: You are very brave, Snowball. Just like Jesus.

SNOWBALL: You guys can’t be serious! I can’t believe this. I have a characterprint like Jesus? Are you guys playing a joke on me?

HAPPY: No, Snowball. We really mean it.

SNOWBALL: Wow! I never thought I’d find any characterprints in me. I was surprised to find Cocoa was humble and loving, but me!? This is more than I ever expected! Are you guys positive I’m like Jesus?

FABLE: Yes, Snowball. We’re positive.

COCOA: So, Snowball. How do you feel now that you’ve found all the characterprints of Jesus? Are you proud of yourself?

SNOWBALL: Well, yeah. But not as much as I thought I would be. You all get the credit, too. A little. I did do most of it myself.

COCOA: What!?

SNOWBALL: Let’s review the character prints we found. Cocoa, you were humble when you took a flea bath, and you were loving when you let me change your name. Okay, it was ridiculous to change our names.

FABLE: Happy was faithful. He didn’t stop liking you when  you changed your names. He didn’t make fun of you either.

HAPPY: Fable was forgiving. He forgave Cocoa for what Cocoa said to him.

COCOA: You don’t have to  bring that up, do you?

FABLE: Don’t worry, Cocoa. I forgive you.

SNOWBALL: And I was brave and courageous. I saved the poor lSnowball-ENDittle mice from the mean cats.

COCOA: Yeah! You’re not Detective Snowy – you’re Catgirl, champion of mice!

SNOWBALL: Catgirl?

COCOA: Yes, you can be a super hero….and….I’ll be your dog!

SNOWBALL: No, Cocoa. Let’s just be friends.  Let’s help each other be like Jesus. He’s the real super hero. Jesus Christ is the champion of the whole world.

COCOA: That’s right! Jesus loves everyone!

FABLE: And Jesus is forgiving.

HAPPY: Jesus is faithful.

SNOWBALL: Jesus is brave and courageous! He helps everyone who needs his help. He saves us all!

HAPPY: I hope everyone enjoyed VBS.

FABLE: I sure did.

SNOWBALL: So did I. I learned a lot and I hope I can come back next summer!

HAPPY: Well, bye everyone!

SNOWBALL: Yeah, bye everyone!

FABLE: I hope you continue to have the character prints of Jesus all your life.

SNOWBALL: Cocoa, why aren’t you saying goodbye to everyone?

COCOA: I’m thinking about changing my name to Champion.

SNOWBALL: Cocoa, say good-bye to the audience.

COCOA: Good-bye to the audience. Oh! Bye everyone. I hope you will go into all the world and make tracks for Jesus!

SNOWBALL: Hey, Cocoa, Fable, Happy, let’s go eat! I’m starving!

COCOA: Yeah! Let’s make tracks to my house! I’ve got some mice in the freezer!

SNOWBALL: Cocoa! Don’t make me mad!

COCOA: I’m just kidding, Snowball.

(All puppets leave stage.)

(Behind curtain) COCOA: Ow! I’m just kidding Snowball.

THE END

Puppet Skit: “Finding the Characterprints of Jesus” Part 2

(SNOWBALL and COCOA enter)

SNOWBALL: I was thinking, Cocoa. Do you think I should change my name?

COCOA: Uh, I don’t know. Snowball sounds “cool” to me.

SNOWBALL: I think I need to change my name to Detective Snowy.  How does that sound?

COCOA: Snowball, I think your name is just fine like it is. Come on, make tracks! Let’s find some more characterprints!

SNOWBALL: WAIT a minute! I’m the detective! I decide what to do! And I say I’m going to change my name. I’m Detective Snowy. And I’ll change your name to….um….YES! Your name is Sir Chocolate.

CCocoaOCOA: Sir Chocolate?

SNOWBALL: Yes, Sir Chocolate. It’s so much more sophisticated and mature. After all, it’s European.

COCOA: You mean I’m foreign? Do I lose my character prints if I’m foreign?

SNOWBALL: No, Cocoa, uh, I mean, Sir Chocolate.  You’ll be the same no matter what name you have.  Jesus had a human name but he’s still our Lord and Savior.  And he loves the whole world, not only one nation.

COCOA: Well, uh, I don’t want to change my name.

SNOWBALL: Oh, come on. Just for the next two days.  Then you can change it back to Cocoa.

COCOA: Okay. You can call me Sir Chocolate.  But you’re the only one.

SNOWBALL: Okay! Thanks! You’re a good dog.

(HAPPY enters)

HAPPY: Hiya, Snowball. Hey, Cocoa.

SNOWBALL: Hi, Happy.

HAPPY: Fable told me you’re a detective now. Where’s your detective’s coat?  All detectives have cool trench coats.

SNOWBALL: I don’t need a trench coat. I have my own coat of fur, thank you very much.  A beautiful coat of fur if I might add. And my name is Detective Snowy, NOT Snowball.

HAPPY: Oh. Well, Detective Snowy, I still love you no matter what you change your name to. And Jesus loves you, no matter how much you change.

SNOWBALL: How come everyone is being so loving and faithful today?

HAPPY: Well, Snowball, I mean, Detective Snowy, those are two of the characterprints of Jesus.

SNOWBALL: Oh, YES! I forgot all about the clues! What are the next two clues, Sir Chocolate? Get busy and sniff out our next two clues!

COCOA: (sniff, sniff loudly) I smell……sniff, sniff…..um……I smell something.

SNOWBALL: What do you smell, Sir Chocolate?  Tell me.

COCOA: I smell you, Detective Snowy.  You smell sweet.Snowball

SNOWBALL: Oh, Sir Chocolate…..you’re…..you’re so European.

HAPPY: Hey, Snowy and Chocolate, why the new names? I thought you were finding characterprints for VBS?

SNOWBALL: We’re looking for someone who is loving and faithful.

COCOA: Hey, Detective Snowy! I think we’ve found someone. Happy! He is faithful; he’s our friend even when we change our names.

HAPPY: That’s right. You can change your name all you want, and I still like you.  It’s not your name, or your parents, or your friends that makes me like you. It’s who you are. Sure, you have some flaws, but we all do. Jesus doesn’t just look at what you do wrong; he looks at what you do right. And there are lots of things you do right.

SNOWBALL: Absolutely! You’re right, Sir Chocolate. We have found a character print in Happy.  He is very faithful. But, what about loving?  Let’s keep looking….

(SNOWBALL wanders away, looking for clues)

HAPPY: Cocoa, why is she calling you Sir Chocolate?

COCOA: Oh, she wanted me to have a foreign name, but she’s just calling me Sir Chocolate for the next two days.  I finally agreed after I found out I wouldn’t lose my characterprints.

HAPPY: Detective Snowy, I think you need to look a little closer than that.  Cocoa is very loving, and his love for you allows him to be your dog, and lets you change his name.

COCOA: Do you mean I’m humble – and now – I’m also loving?  Bow WOW, I thought I was just being nice to my friend!

HAPPY: You were, Cocoa. That’s exactly right. When you’re nice to your friends, that shows that you have character prints like Jesus.  You’re loving and humble.

SNOWBALL: I thought you had to be nice to your enemies, and all that stuff, before you could be loving like Jesus.

HAPPY: Well, that’s true, too, Detective Snowy.  Jesus says to be nice to everyone. But if you think about it – Cocoa would be considered as the enemy to most cats! You’re very lucky to have him as your friend.

SNOWBALL: You’re right, Happy! Thanks for helping me see that. Who would have thought? Sir Chocolate is loving! Meow! I solved the next two clues. Happy is faithful, and Sir Chocolate is loving.

HAPPY: Come on, Detective Snowy.  You, too, Sir Chocolate. Let’s go get a banana split.  I’ll make the best one you’ve ever tasted!

COCOA: All right! Make tracks!  Find me some pineapple topping!

SNOWBALL: I get the strawberry topping!

HAPPY: And I like the chocolate! But most of all, I like my friends!

(HAPPY, SNOWBALL and COCOA exit)

 

Puppet Skit: “Finding the Characterprints of Jesus” Part 1

SNOWBALL: Hello, I’m detective Snowball, and I’m here to see if anyone in this room has characterprints like Jesus.

(COCOA enters)

COCOA: Hey Snowball. Whatcha doing?

SNOWBALL: Well, if you weren’t late, you would have heard me the first time.  I’m a detective, and I’m going to find out if anyone in this room has the characterprints like Jesus.

COCOA: Hah! Hah! That’s funny Snowball.  You can’t be a detective.

SNOWBALL: Why not?

COCOA: You can’t even sniff out your own litter box! You can’t find any clues.

SNOWBALL: I can too!

COCOA: Can not!

SNOWBALL: Can too!

COCOA: Can not!

SNOWBALL: Fine. If you really want to help, you can be my dog.

COCOA: All right!  I’ll sniff out any clues there are! I’ll be the best dog detective anyone’s ever seen!

SNOWBALL: Cocoa?

COCOA: Yes?

SNOWBALL: You are NOT a dog detective.  I’m the detective. You are just the detective’s dog. Okay?

COCOA: Oh, okay.  Sorry. What clues do we look for first?

SNOWBALL: First, we’re looking for the meek and humble characterprints.  Also, the forgiving and merciful prints.

COCOA: Oh, yeah!  That should be easy!  Wait! (sniff, sniff loudly) I think I smell something! It’s… it’s… (sniff more, then pause)… IT STINKS! Who’s wearing dirty socks? Yuck!

SNOWBALL: Cocoa?  I think you’re smelling yourself now.  Which reminds me. Before we get started, you need to take a flea bath and get a leash.  After all, I think ALL dogs need to be on leashes.

COCOA: WHAT!?  No way! I can’t do that! That goes against my dog instincts!

SNOWBALL: Cocoa, even your instinct STINKS! If you don’t go get a flea bath right now, I’ll…..

(FABLE-enter-interrupts)

FABLE: Hi Snowball. Hey Cocoa. Um, Snowball, what are you doing?

COCOA: She’s Detective Snowball, and I’m her dog!  We’re trying to find someone with the characterprints of Jesus.  We don’t waste time sitting around writing silly fables!

SNOWBALL: Cocoa! You’re terrible.  Now I’m convinced you don’t have any characterprints.  That was a very rude thing to say to Fable! If you keep that up, I will have to disown you.  I do not want such a stinky animal for MY dog!

FABLE: That’s okay, Snowball. Don’t be mad at Cocoa.  I know he didn’t mean it.  Not everyone enjoys writing stories like I do. To Cocoa, writing fables might be wasting time, and I respect his opinion.  I don’t expect him to like everything I do. After all, none of us are ever exactly alike.  We can be totally different, yet we can still be very good friends.  We can still like each other.  Jesus wants us to be different, and he wants us to be very good friends to everyone.

SNOWBALL: Fable, that was such a forgiving thing to say. After all, Cocoa is only a DOG, and dogs don’t know anything when it comes to being polite.

FABLE: Well, Snowball, that wasn’t a very nice thing to say about Cocoa.  Do you realize that Cocoa is actually very humble by being your dog? He is trying to help you.

SNOWBALL: I guess you’re right, Fable.  Everything I said was true, but I guess I shouldn’t have said it.  Sorry Cocoa. I do thank you for your help.

COCOA: That’s okay! I forgive you, Snowball. Fable, could you do me a favor?

FABLE: What is it, Cocoa?

COCOA: Well, I sorta was just thinking….could you help me, um, take a flea bath?

FABLE: Oh, sure, Cocoa.  Come on. Let’s take a bubble bath!

(COCOA and FABLE leave)

SNOWBALL: Well, I guess I solved the first two clues.  Fable is forgiving. He could have gotten really mad at Cocoa, but he didn’t.  He didn’t yell; he didn’t throw things around, or anything.  Just like Jesus at the cross.  Jesus could have gotten really, really mad, and called the angels to help him get off the cross, but he didn’t.  He died because he loved his friends and his enemies.  And Cocoa, that silly dog, didn’t have to take a flea bath, but he did it for me, so I would be happy.  What a friend!  He’s a good dog.

(COCOA comes back)

COCOA: Okay, let’s make tracks!  I’m ready to find the next two clues! What do we look for next?SnowCocoa

SNOWBALL: Cocoa, we can’t look for any more character prints today.  VBS is over and the kids are going  home.  But we’ll look for more tomorrow.  Come on, let’s go eat lunch.  I’m starving.  Let’s go get some hot dogs!

COCOA: Um, Snowball? Can we eat pizza?  I don’t like to eat hot dogs.

SNOWBALL: Okay, Cocoa. Hey! You look great! You’re really a “hot” dog!  And humble too.

(COCOA and SNOWBALL exit)

 

Girls With Swords, Week 2

Imagine yourself with a sword newly polished, ready to be brandished in battle, zealous to fight against the demonic enemy.  Your blade fits your skill, compliments your strength and body structure, and is never too weak or causes you weariness. When the enemy sees you coming, he sinks back in dread, because with your quality as a warrior, you stand victor in every campaign. He doesn’t stand a chance.

That’s how you are, when you’ve got the Holy Spirit equipped.

Your warrior quality, your preparedness for battle, is explained more deeply through the Bible. In Matthew 3, we read about John the Baptist, a prophet who was also the cousin of Jesus Christ, put on earth to declare Christ’s entrance into the world; John speaks words of judgment to a group of alleged holy men, priests, saying,

“Even now the ax is on the root of the trees. Every tree that does not give good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. For sure, I baptize with water those who are sorry for their sins and turn from them. The One Who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is greater than I. I am not good enough to take off His shoes. He comes ready to clean the grain. He will gather the grain in and clean it all. The clean grain He will put into a building. He will burn that which is no good with a fire that cannot be put out.” —–Matthew 3:10-12 (NLV, boldness added)

These priests that came to be baptized by John the Baptist came because it was a phenomenal trend to witness and be part of the prophet’s iconic show, but their hearts were not ready for the Messiah’s coming. Some of these priests may have even aided in the murder of Jesus – I wouldn’t doubt it for a minute. So John warned them judgment was coming. Blade would separate and fire would destroy.

The “One Who comes after me” is Jesus Christ, and Christ has vested us, Christians, with the sacred power of the Holy Spirit, to have, hold, brandish, clash, conquer, defend, rescue, and unite with, in truth.

The truth is given to us by many authors of the Bible. (We use the Bible as our authority because, even after academic study and countless critiques, it has proven to be without error. History backs it up, it backs itself up with eye-witnessing accounts, and no account contradicts the other one.) Jesus gave his disciples the understanding that when the Holy Spirit came, which happened on the Day of Pentecost written about in Acts 2,  the Spirit would teach them, tell them about Jesus, and give them a full understanding of the events that took place in their lives, both past, present, and future. Before the Holy Spirit came to them, they were all very confused and lacking in motivation, but after He came, their lives were transformed. In John 14:15-17, Jesus says,

“If you love me, obey my commands.  I will ask the Father. And he will give you another friend to help you and to be with you forever. That friend is the Spirit of truth. The world can’t accept him. That’s because the world does not see him or know him. But you know him. He lives with you, and he will be in you.” (NIRV)

When one of his apostles asked how he got to be so lucky, Jesus clarified that a person receives the Spirit by loving Jesus, obeying his teachings, and living for him. If he or she does that, the Spirit will come and dwell therein, giving that person wisdom and insight to help prepare for battle, which ultimately, is a battle leading us to eternal life.

Jesus left his followers with one mission, which we (21st century Christians) see from present day they prevailed in doing:

“Go and make followers of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” —- Matthew 28:19 (NLV)

If we believe, are baptized, and follow Jesus Christ, we can experience the same Spirit of Truth the 1st century disciples had. Sure, we can’t tell others we were eyewitnesses of his life, wounds, death, and resurrection like the apostles did, but you can tell others how he changed your life.

And if you feel he has not changed your life, maybe you were baptized in the wrong name, like those innocent believers in Acts 19. There were a few disciples living in Ephesus (modern day Turkey) who heard John the Baptist’s teachings and got baptized because of him, and later Paul arrived and asked them if they had the Holy Spirit. Their response was like “Huh? What are you talking about?” and he inquired,

 “Then what beliefs did you acknowledge at your baptism?”

They answered,

“What John the Baptist taught.”

Oh! That answers the problem, Paul might’ve thought. He helped them realize John’s baptism was only temporary; it was meant to lead them to Jesus Christ, the one who had the ability to give us the Holy Spirit, the Life Sword. So they were baptized again, this time in the name of Jesus Christ, and received the gift of the Spirit.

My prayer for you is that you receive the Holy Spirit and obey Jesus Christ, being able to understand his plan for your life and why you were placed here at this time and place, to serve him in power and truth, delegated to fulfill your piece in salvation’s puzzle.

Since this is ultimately part of the Girls With Swords study, I have continued my video evaluation, and my video activity, which I will share with you here in case you are studying with me. I outline Lisa Bevere’s 3 points from Chapter 2, A Sword is Born.

“We buy our swords when we prepare for war, and that’s why Jesus got his disciples ready. Get the sword ready, ‘cuz we will literally face life and death. I disagree [with Ms. Bevere] that the sword of truth isn’t seen in a duel of death… for some it is [especially in the Middle East, North Korea, and Africa], and Jesus said lose your life and follow me. ‘Take up the cross’.” -quote from Lacy’s Fencing Manual

“Not everyone can be privileged to stand out and do something big enough to make history; I don’t think we’re all called to do something great. Some of us are just meant to be stepping stones, paving the way to someone else’s greatness. But in God’s book, the first shall be last, and the Master washes the feet of his disciples, so it’s ok to just pave the way.” —quote from Kat’s Fencing Manual