THE NEW YEAR IS UPON US…


Spiritual Blog - New Year

Jeremiah 29:11-14 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  NIV

The context of this passage was the LORD speaking to Israel about their return from Babylonian captivity and that after 70 years there would be an awakening and God’s plan would be put into play.  Israel would seek Him and find Him as they sought Him with their whole heart.  As we come to the last day of 2018 my heart cries out for us to Look Forward rather than Backward.

God has plans for us individually and collectively and those plans include a Hope and Future.   In any situation or time when people truly begin to seek the LORD with a whole heart He demonstrates His power and reveals Himself to them.  He has promised that if we Seek Him we will Find Him.  He is not trying to hide from us or make knowing His will, plan, or purpose difficult or impossible to discern.  It is in God’s interest for us to Know what He wants and then to Do what He directsHiding that from us would not serve the purposes of the Kingdom.

Rather than looking back on the disappointments, struggles, unrest, or bitterness exposed and expressed in 2018 let’s look toward the possibilities of 2019.  Rather than lamenting over the failures of the past let’s look toward the victories of the future.  Tomorrow or tonight at 12:01 AM the year 2019 will have fully begun and God will still be God and His plan and purpose for our lives will still be real and possible.  Nothing anyone or any power can do will change that.  The devil may try and will try to get you to lose focus on the prime objective and discourage you but resist his temptations and Fix or Affix your focus squarely on the Throne of Heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Take these words in Jeremiah as your personal word from the Lord for 2019 and enter this New Year with Hope, Faith, Enthusiasm, and Confidence.

I dare say that none of us saw, in totality, what we wanted to see although we may have seen some significant and wonderful things.  The New Year affords us somewhat of a ‘clean slate’ and we have the opportunity to begin on January 1, 2019, a journey of faith that will be the most exciting and productive year of our lives.

May God be with you as you go through your day!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

SCHISMS AND DIVISIONS…


Spiritual Blog - church

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 – “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.”  NASU

Most of the time I do not have a significant problem with people following different elements within the Body of Christ as their primary worship center or foundation of faith and practice!  That being said, sometimes I wonder how the heart of God is grieved when we separate, alienate, and seek to annihilate others from differing denominations over schisms and points of faith because we believe that we and we alone are right and they are not only wrong but heretical in their beliefs.

I do not expect everyone to believe exactly what I believe but I do ask that we seek to believe what the Bible teaches and allow the Word of God to be the true and final interpreter of God’s Tenets and Truths.  Paul exhorted the Church in Corinth along these lines urging them to settle or move away from divisions and schisms which were not only points of disagreement but points of separation doing damage to the efforts of the fledgling Church of Jesus Christ.  He went through his list of people identifying with a particular personality, as their argument and basis for their rightness.  That is no different than the hordes of people who not just proudly but divisively declare, “I’m this or that” regarding a particular denomination or non-denominational denomination.

A number of years ago the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “You are being too exclusive and not open to some outside your group and I want to use them to speak to you.”  I attended some conferences and meetings where men and women were speaking that in the past I had severely criticized as being in gross error.  The Holy Spirit instructed me to Listen and that in doing so I would find more to applaud than to criticize.  One of the main speakers preached a message that so stirred my heart I developed several series from his message because God had used him to speak truth to my heart that in a very real way changed my outlook on many things.  The church he was leading was putting the principles of the gospel in practice and while I still do not agree with all he taught or teaches I will allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me through whatever means He chooses.

I realize that some will say that I am compromising my faith and I hope that is incorrect.  I do not excuse or wink at sin nor will I sit silently when I hear what I believe to be heresy taught, at least not silent with those whom I have any influence or responsibility.  I try to separate the message from the messenger and identify what I believe the Bible says while refusing to focus on the personality.  If that is compromise, then I guess I am guilty but in my desire to do what the Spirit of God instructed me I will follow this practice and ask you to disagree disagreeably if you choose.

May God be with you as you go through your day!

DEAD MEN DON’T REACT AND AREN’T TEMPTED…


Spiritual Blog - Sin

Romans 6:1-7 – “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also being the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.”  NASU

I had a fellow preacher say to me recently, “I’m dead to sin.”  In the course of the conversation, he began to complain about how some situation was troubling him with the temptation to sin and how another situation was causing him grief and offense.  I waited until the conversation had continued a bit more and said to him, “You said you are dead to sin, right?”  He very piously shouted, “ABSOLUTELY!”  I asked, “How many dead people have you seen tempted, offended, or grieved?”  He looked stunned and I continued, “If you are truly Dead to Sin then temptation should have no impact on you nor should things offend.” 

The problem is that this is a goal, prize or dream that we should shoot for and attain but much of the time, for most of us, it is just that, a dream or a hope.  We are ‘pressing toward the mark’ but we have not arrived or my experience in my own life and with others is that we are aiming for it, striving for it, working toward it but too often we find that it is not a fulfilled reality in our lives at least on some level.

Maybe we need to rethink our understanding of salvation and begin to ask the Holy Spirit for discipline and determination to actually walk out in life what the Bible declares about us.  Once we come to Christ and have our sins forgiven we enter into the newness of life.  We are not, at that point, perfect but find that our spiritual life is a progression and growth experience.  We mature, we develop, we encounter, we overcome, we fail, we succeed, and we become more like Christ as we move through this dimension called time.

We should not now or in the future be ‘slaves to sin’ because we have been set free from its bondage and chains through the Blood of Jesus.  When we find that we are not quite as dead as we professed it is time to head to the prayer closet, shut the door, and cry out to God for His help.  It is time to allow the Holy Spirit to identify those areas of our life that need to have radical spiritual surgery done on and those areas in which we are anything but dead so we can through death to sin rise to newness of life in Jesus.

May God be with you as you go through your day!

REASONABLE SERVICE?


Spiritual Blog - Living

Romans 12:1-2 – “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” NASU

The New American Standard Updated Version renders this ‘spiritual service of worship’.  The KJV and NKJV – – ‘reasonable service.’  I believe both are correct in the translation of the verbiage and are applicable.

The idea presented by the apostle Paul is that we Present to God our bodies or these temples of clay that house our spirits as Living and Holy sacrifices of service.  We are also instructed to reject Conformation with the world and receive Transformation by the ‘renewing of our minds’ and thereby prove or demonstrate the Will of God for our lives in our present world.

If we are to fulfill what we call The Great Commission and take the Gospel message to the world we must realize that we are living stones in the Body of Christ.  Those Living Stones must be ‘fitly framed’ into a Spiritual House for God’s service and purposes.  That makes it imperative that we seek to allow Paul’s instructions to become practical and daily realities in our lives.  We are told in Scripture that ‘we are not our own but have been bought with a price’ thus identifying that we belong to God and His purpose, will, and desire is to be paramount in our lives.

When we present these temples of clay to the Lord we are to be mindful that defiling these temples is not an acceptable option.  We are to be mindful that while, as Paul declared, bodily exercise profits little he did not say it profited nothing and seeking to be fit and healthy should be a reasonable objective physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  We need to be whole to be the best we can be for the Kingdom of God.

I am not a fitness freak so don’t think that this is my focus but I have learned after years of neglect and lack of discipline that when I discipline my physical body I am better able to walk in spiritual discipline.  I have made a lifestyle choice that includes a desire and effort to walk in health.  Yes, I still battle sickness from time to time but my desire and effort are to present God with the best temple of clay I can give Him and expect Him to develop in me the best spiritual man that can be viewed from this temple.  I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ.  I have not arrived but see the goal and I am looking for a city whose builder and maker is God.  I want what the angels declared in the field to the shepherds the night of Jesus’ birth – – “Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men.”

May God be with you as you go through your day!

THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS…


Spiritual Blog - Day After

Hebrews 13:15-16 – “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  NASU

Each year on Christmas Day it has been my heart’s desire and practice to set aside some time to reflect on God’s Gift to mankind and His goodness to me and my family during the course of the year.  I’ve had numerous ask me to participate in a specific time to pause all festivities and engage in a time of Thanksgiving and Praise to the Lord on this special day.  All that is good and worthy of involvement and consideration yet I have one more thing to suggest.

On this day, the Day after Christmas called ‘Boxing Day’ in many parts of the world and celebrated in various forms including the giving to the poor and needy.  I would suggest that after you have opened all your presents, enjoyed the festivities with family and/or friends that you take a moment to evaluate your own blessings and determine to share something with those less fortunate.  I hope that you have already done this prior to Christmas Day but if you have not then I would encourage you to give consideration to an endeavor that the Bible makes clear is pleasing to God and something that He routinely blesses – – Giving to the Needy.

Maybe you received something that you simply do not need.  Rather than return or exchange it for something for yourself consider taking it or the refund for it and doing something for those who did not have the wherewithal to celebrate this day with gifts for their children or family.  Maybe they need food, clothing, or shelter and your contribution regardless of how small would make a meaningful difference in their lives today.  Maybe you simply do not know of anyone in that condition or situation but I would suggest that your church does some of the local charities that are worthy and honorable do or maybe friends, family, or neighbors do.  Ask and you just might be surprised how near to your physical local the needy are.

I am not trying to shame anyone into doing something but simply suggest that you count your blessings and then consider the possibility of giving a blessing to someone who is not as fortunate or blessed as you today.  I believe that it will prove to be an excellent catalyst into the coming year and propel you to even greater heights in your spiritual journey and may even be a significant factor in your financial development in the coming year.

Jesus said that we would have the poor with us always so we are not going to stamp out poverty and need but we can be aware of it and minister to it when it is revealed to us and within our ability to do so.

May God bless you and provide you with a joyous and happy New Year!

HE WAS BORN – – When Is Not The Issue…


Spiritual Blog - Born

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Matthew 1:18-2:1 (NIV) This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” –which means, “God with us.” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem

Luke 1:26-35 (NIV) In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

I find myself being challenged from time to time over celebrating Christmas and recognizing the birth of Jesus using the date of December 25th.  Those who chastise or question me want Chapter and Verse for this in the Bible and my canned answer for years has been, “He was born, the exact date is not the issue.”  I don’t really care what day Jesus was born to Mary, a virgin who had conceived of the Holy Spirit and brought for the “Son of God” who would be the Savior of the world or the one who brought the “Hope of Salvation” to WHOSOEVER WILL!

If you find that you cannot celebrate on December 25th I have no problem with that and if you find that you can I honor that too.  I choose to do so.  I strive to make this day not about the material but about the spiritual.  I strive to make it about Jesus and God’s Gift to mankind through the life of Jesus rather than about the commercial side of the holidays.  I choose to focus on Love rather than “what’s in it for me.”  I Always take time aside to worship Him and often find that the best way to do that is through ministering to those who are less fortunate than I.  Although, I do not have a lot of this world’s silver or gold, as Peter & John said, “Such as I have I give.”  My greatest contribution has often been my faith and the encouraging of a downtrodden heart.  Christmas would not be Christmas to me if we could not focus on JESUS!

Traditionally we have set aside this date as the date on which we seek to honor the Lord.  We give no mention of any pagan celebrations, we refuse to focus on what the devil and his crowd might or might not do on this date.  Rather, we focus on our Lord of Lords and King of Kings and Celebrate His Life, Love, and Gift to Us!  The greatest gift mankind could ever hope to receive, “The Mercy of God through Forgiveness!” 

So, I hope that you are able to have a time and even many times throughout the year in which you make that day or moment Christmas by demonstrating the Love and Character of the Lord Jesus to those whom you come in contact with.  I hope that you have a most blessed and happy time of fellowship with family & friends during this season and find that the coming New Year brings you great health, hope, and happiness.  May it be a prosperous year in ever dimension, spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and economically.  My Christmas wish to you is that you are blessed of the Lord richly every day of your life for the rest of your days here on earth!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!  God bless you and may you know and taste the great Love, Grace, and Mercy of the Lord during these holidays!  Be blessed and know that you are Loved and Loved greatly!

THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM – – Jesus’ Star.


Spiritual Blog - Star

Matthew 2:1-12 – “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3. When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 

5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'” 

 7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”  9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.” NKJV

 Here we are on Christmas Eve and I’ve been thinking about the “Star” that the wise men saw that led them to Jesus.I am not suggesting that December 25th is the exact date of Jesus’ birth only that because this is Christmas Eve I have been thinking.  The question that comes to my mind is, “What was it about this star that caused the Magi to leave their home country and travel to Israel and ultimately to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Messiah?”  It could not have been an ordinary occurrence for that would not have compelled them to take this action.  It had to be something out of the ordinary and possibly something they had been watching for over the years.  Although we cannot fully answer that question there are some things that we do know and can say with regard to this star.

Who these three men were is not fully known but they must have been impressive for they were given an audience with Herod very quickly, something not afforded to ordinary travelers.  They caught Herod’s attention in their reference to this star for Herod knew of the prophecies about Jesus and viewed this birth as a threat to his kingdom and power.  This causes one to wonder about the star.  It had to be subtle in its appearance for Herod had to ask when it appeared. If it had been some great spectacular occurrence it would seem that Herod, a controlling despot ruler would have known about it, but he didn’t.  One has to wonder why these men from the East came to worship a newborn Jewish King.

I believe that it is quite possible that they were of Jewish descent themselves and possibly have lineage dating back to the time of Daniel and the captivity in Babylon.  It is also likely that they were skilled astronomers.  I did not say astrologist for that was a capital offense in those times but astronomers.  I would suggest that they were schooled in the Biblical prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah as well.  The star did not follow the normal pattern of planetary rotation for it continued or stayed over Jerusalem & Bethlehem the entire time of their travels.

There is Biblical precedence for noting the heavenly constellations for information about supernatural events.  David wrote Psalms 19:1-6 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. 2 Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.  In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, 5 Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. 6 Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.” NKJV  Jesus declared in Luke 21:25-26 – “”And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;  26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” NKJV

Some historians suggest that the magi were from Babylon, which is East of Jerusalem about sixty miles from where Baghdad is today.  They suggest that in September of 3 B.C. the magi would have looked into the Western sky and observed a planet named Regulus.  Regulus was known by the Babylonians as Charu, which is interpreted, King.  The Romans called it Rex, which is also interpreted, King.  Thus we have Regulus which was known as the King Star.  The planet Jupiter was in close proximity to Regulus and passed it moving toward the South on the horizon.  Then Jupiter seemed to change its course in the sky and move back Northward toward Regulus.

Jupiter passed Regulus three times.  This is called a triple conjunction, which is very rare among those two stars.  This motion is referred to as retrograde motion.  If you tracked the path of Jupiter on paper it would look like three circles over Regulus, or possibly a better description, a halo or a crown.  In simple terms, what the magi observed would have seemed to them that Jupiter was crowning the King Star, Regulus.

An Interesting side note:  Jesus came from the tribe of Judah.  The symbol of the tribe of Judah is the lion. (See Genesis 49:9-10)  Regulus happens to be one of the stars in the constellation Leo.  It is the lower right star of Leo, or better yet the paw of Leo.  Jupiter circled the paw of Leo, which is a lion and a king’s scepter would be held symbolically by the lion’s paw.

In the Book of Revelation we find in verses 1-5 the following:  “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. 2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. 5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” NKJV

The Book of Revelation was written by the apostle John and what he was describing here could have been the birth of Jesus as it is shown to him being played out in the heavens.  If that is accurate then the child here would be fulfilling the prophecy of Genesis 49.  The woman would be Mary.  The dragon would be the devil in the spiritual, but in the natural Herod the Great.  The magi actually saw this develop in the sky to the west of them and would elect to seek its source and find this prophetic king being born.

To make this more or less complicated the magi would have also observed the next constellation rising in the sky after Leo, which was Virgo, or the virgin.  Mary was a virgin about to give birth to the Messiah.  Virgo was a constellation rising in the western sky and she was clothed in the sun means that the sun was behind Virgo and shining brightly through the constellation.  The magi would have seen all this and with their knowledge of Biblical prophecy and astronomy, they would have deduced that this was incredibly significant thus inspiring their journey.

In June of 2 BC, the magi would probably have still been in Babylon and watching the developments in the heavens contemplating them.  They would be focusing on Jupiter and Venus.  Jupiter is known as the king planet and Venus is the brightest star in the sky with Jupiter being the second brightest.  In June 2 BC these two planets joined together to form a figure eight.  They sat side by side creating the illusion that they were one incredibly bright star.  Viewed with the naked eye it would have appeared that they were one star and the brightest that anyone had ever seen!  This is likely when the magi began their trek to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem. I submit that they did not arrive on the night Jesus was born but months or years later for in Matthew it says they came to the house, not the stable where the young child, not the baby was.

What is my point in all this?  Simply that through the study of history and events in the heavens among the stars, planets, and constellations we have evidence of something incredible happening that corresponds with the time of Jesus’ birth.  I say this to show that true science helps to validate the Biblical report, though I need no further validation for I know He lives because He lives in my heart and I know the change that transpired in my life when I received Him as my Lord and Savior!  Yet, on this Christmas Eve, I believe it is good for us to consider the incredible events that took place surrounding the miraculous birth of Jesus the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  The fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and the Hope of mankind!

So as you look up to the heavens tonight think about that star and what it meant to the magi, the shepherds in the field, the angels who rejoiced, and the untold millions who have lived since that event.  This event is of Eternal Consequence and without it, we would have no hope!  It is important because without it we would not have the sinless life of Jesus, the sacrificial death on the Cross, the resurrection, and the promised return of our Lord!  So as you prepare to celebrate Christmas please REMEMBER THE REASON FOR THE SEASON and CELEBRATE JESUS on this night and tomorrow!  Set aside some time in your festivities to recognize what Christmas is really all about!

May God bless you richly is my prayer and may you have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and an incredibly HAPPY & PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!  Looking forward to 2019 and beyond should the Lord tarry His coming!  We are living in exciting times and the time of the End!