CLEAN OR UNCLEAN? CALLED OUT OR THE SAME?

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9).

Are we different from the world? If we are indeed called-out, shouldn’t we be different? When the world looks at us, ought it not see something special? Why are our divorce, abortion, and illness statistics the same as the world’s? Why do greed and hypocrisy seem to be the labels the world uses the most against us? What is wrong?

In Mark 7:7-9, 13 KJV, (Jesus) said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, [as] the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. …
13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye
.

Does this seem too harsh or ring of truth today? The Scripture distinguishes between clean and unclean citing which animals are acceptable to eat and which are not (Deuteronomy 17, Leviticus 11). Out of that arose all kinds of ritual concerning the utensils used to eat such animals. 2 sets of dishes, 2 sets of Passover dishes, how to bury the dishes if the milk dishes touched meat, etc, etc, etc. These were all man made regulations that became ritual and religious activities missing the meaning of the law-the separation of the clean from the unclean. We tend to do this often–miss the meaning and intent and develop ritual that makes us feel good. We blindly follow religious activities and traditions simply because it makes us feel good and we seem to want to blend in with the rest of the world.

Yet, we are to be called-out, separated from the world; yes living in it, but not of it. We are to be the head, give direction. Instead we follow. We make ourselves feel good with programs, with attendance, with throwing a little money toward the poor, with building edifices for our own aggrandizement, etc. I find it very troubling. No wonder we are ridiculed. The hypocrisy is stunning (at least in America). We have lost the sense of community and belonging because we are no different. We put God off in the future instead of demonstrating Him here and now.

Jesus summed it up in (v 13 above) “We’ve made the word of God of none effect through (our blind following of religious activities–traditions). Simply because it makes us feel good.

It is my hope and prayer that the called-out people of God, The Church, will take its rightful position as the head and not the tail, as above and not beneath in every area of life on this earth.

THE HEAD AND NOT THE TAIL

The powers of darkness are not meant to be left alone. They are to be confronted. When we see evil wreaking havoc, we are not meant to run from it; but rather, we are meant to run toward it. As Christians we were created to do warfare with the enemy of humankind.

When God led the Israelites into the Promised Land, He left enemies there that his people had to face. Why? He intended his people to do warfare. No human being anywhere on earth is left un-harassed by Satan. And if we’re not engaged in warfare with him, we’re being beaten up by him!

The good news is, we’ve been given weapons for this warfare, and they are not carnal (2 Cor 10:4). Psalms 144:1 states:  Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle. Our weapons are found in Christ—and He won every battle He ever faced. He says we can do the same. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom 8:37).

As Christians, we are in a spiritual battle of some sort on a daily basis. In warfare, battles are fought on different fronts, for different reasons, and with varying degrees of intensity. The same is true in spiritual warfare. Our spiritual battles and warfare are real, even though we cannot physically see the attacker. But, we can educate ourselves on how the battles are fought and how they impact our lives on a daily basis.

Keith Green, a Christian song writer, wrote, “I [Satan] used to have to sneak around. But now they just open their doors. No one’s looking for my tricks because no one believes in me any more.” If we choose to ignore or not believe in the spiritual realm, we will find ourselves confused, frustrated, and quenching the peace that God has promised to each of us. The best defense is a strong offense. Just educating ourselves about the spiritual realm is half the fight and God gives us everything else we need to be victorious with the other half.

Jesus promised us an abundant life that starts here on earth. Until we understand the forces that are against us, and are prepared to fight for what is rightfully ours, we will not be able to receive all that God has for us.

ALL

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” 2Cor9:8

First of all, we need to see that the level of God’s provision is abundance. We also need to note that the key to right giving is grace, which comes only through Jesus, through the cross and is received by faith.

There are two key words in the above quoted verse. They are “all” and “abound.” “All” occurs 5 times, “abound” twice. In no way could the language be more emphatic. In fact, even though most English translations use the phrase “every good deed (or work)” the Greek is “all” good deeds.

If you have all that you need in all things at all times to abound to every (all) good work or deed, there is absolutely no room for unsupplied need anywhere in your life!

Let’s look at the word “abundance.” In the Latin, it’s meaning is “a wave that overflows.” For instance, the Scripture says that “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (or overflows) (Matt 12:34).”

God is not speaking about just enough to get by. He is speaking about providing us with overflowing provisions so that we can overflow in every GOOD deed. If we by faith appropriate His grace, then the level of His provision is abundance. Wow, does it get any better than that?

Please note, however, that the purpose of His abundance is for us to abound in “every good deed.” We are not talking about selfish indulgences. The reason: “It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).”

Receiving has a blessing, but giving has a greater blessing. God has no favorites among His children. He wants all His children to enjoy the greater blessing of giving. God makes His abundance available to us so that we may not be limited to the blessing of receiving, but that we may also be in a position to enjoy the greater blessing of giving.

First we give, then we receive. That is faith. Simple? Yes. Then why is it so difficult for most of us? Perhaps it’s that interval between the sowing and reaping. We in America are so used to wanting and seeing immediate results that we forget what Paul said in Galatians 6:9: And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

THE KINGDOM

imagesOne of the first things Jesus tells us is to repent and believe in the good news because the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15). What is this Kingdom? How do we recognize it?

While some say the Kingdom of God is in the future, others say it is today. Some believe it is allegorical, others see it as literal. Some even see the Kingdom as fulfillment of the promises God made to the Jews, while others believe it has nothing to do with the Jews! Some believe it pertains only to heaven, and yet others believe the Kingdom has an earthly presence. Nevertheless, The Kingdom is the singular most talked about subject by Jesus in His earthly ministry. You’d think we have a clearer picture. Let’s see how the King, Himself, described it in several of His parables.

  • The Kingdom needs to be planted (Mt13:3)
  • There are outside influences that can affect the Kingdom (Mt13:5-7)
  • The Kingdom yields a crop (Mt 13:19)
  • There are enemies to the Kingdom (Mt 13:24-30)
  • The Kingdom grows in the midst of problems (Mt 13:26)
  • There is a time when the enemies of the Kingdom will be destroyed (Mt 13:30)
  • The Kingdom grows and nourishes others (Mt 13:31-32)
  • The Kingdom of God is infectious (Mt13:33)
  • The Kingdom of God is priceless (Mt 13:44-45)
  • The Kingdom of God is joyous (Mt 13:44)
  • There is a time when the fullness of the Kingdom will be revealed (Mt 13:48-50)
  • There are people who labor in the Kingdom (Mt 20:1-16)
  • There is grace and compassion in the Kingdom (Mt 20:1-16)
  • Contracts are made in the Kingdom (Mt 20:13)
  • There is generosity in the Kingdom (Mt 20:15)
  • What one does in the Kingdom is more important than what one says (Mt 21:28-31)
  • Sometimes people do not recognize the Kingdom (Mt 21:33-40)
  • There is a time for punishment in the Kingdom (Mt 21:40)
  • There is celebration in the Kingdom (Mt 22:2)
  • People are invited into the Kingdom (Mt 22:3)
  • Not all people will accept their invitation into the Kingdom (Mt 22:3-8)
  • You have to be dressed a certain way to come into the Kingdom—clothes of righteousness (Mt22:12)
  • In the end, few are really chosen to enter into the Kingdom though many are called (Mt 22:14)

The Church (the people of God) is the visible manifestation of the Kingdom of God. How are we doing? Can those outside the Kingdom recognize us as subjects of The King? You decide.

WHO ME?

Have you asked yourself what you can do for The Kingdom of God but decided you didn’t have anything to offer? Keep the following in mind and then re-ask yourself if God can use you.

  • Noah was a drunk
  • Abraham was too old
  • Isaac was a daydreamer
  • Jacob was a liar
  • Leah was ugly
  • Joseph was abused
  • Moses stuttered
  • Gideon was afraid
  • Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
  • David had an affair and was a murderer
  • Elijah was suicidal
  • Isaiah preached naked
  • Jonah ran from God
  • Naomi was a widow
  • Job went bankrupt
  • Peter denied Christ
  • The disciples fell asleep while praying
  • Martha worried about everything
  • Zacchaeus was too short
  • Paul was too religious
  • Timothy had an ulcer
  • And, Lazarus was DEAD!

Finally, David Ring is a Christian evangelist with cerebral palsey who famously says: “I have cerebal palsy and I serve the Lord with all that is within me, what’s your excuse?”

So the answer is yes, YOU. God wants and needs you. He called you for such a time as this.

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WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD

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Some days drag. Some days fly
Some days I think of the day I’ll die
Some days fill me and some days drain
And one day Jesus will call my name

One day Jesus will call my name
As days go by, I hope I don’t stay the same.
I wanna get so close to Him that it’s no big change,
On that day that Jesus calls my name

Most days I pray but some days I curse.
It’s that number of days I put myself first.
But it’s not what I do, the cross made that plain.
And one day Jesus will call my name

One day Jesus will call my name
As days go by, I hope I don’t stay the same.
I wanna get so close to Him that it’s no big change,
On that day that Jesus calls my name

 

Check out these lyrics by Lynda Randall. If this isn’t the truth, I don’t know what is. Some days drag. Indeed they do. And some days fly. For me, it’s the week-end. You say “what?” The week-ends for me mean no work, no real interaction with people, no family around. You see, I’m alone. Most Christians don’t think of people like me. And for obvious reasons. They are wrapped up in their own family and the activities and accoutrements that go with all that. I understand. However, it doesn’t make the week-ends fly even though I understand. And on those draggy, draining days, the mind begins to dwell on the thoughts that I am supposed to take captive, like when I might die.

Growing older brings those thoughts to the forefront. Can’t seem to help it. They come. But then Lynda Randall puts it all in perspective with the next sentence. “And one day Jesus will call my name.” Hallelujah. That makes it all worthwhile! Then I remember, wow, how fortunate I am. Not everyone looks forward to that day. But He called me out of darkness into His marvelous light!

Again the lyrics remind me that putting myself first, which in the US is so “normal,” are the days to curse!!! It means I have forgotten that indeed all will not be called by name by the Lord. And, I share responsibility in that because I have forgotten and/or neglected to share His love.

Oh but wait, I don’t have to beat myself up and claim unworthiness because of my selfishness. Look at that next phrase “the cross made that plain.” In other words, it’s not what I do but who I am. I am a child of God, my life is hidden in Christ. Does this give me license to do whatever I want? Indeed not. It makes me remember what price has been paid for me to have that privilege. And I am renewed just thinking and knowing that one day Jesus will indeed call my name. In the meantime, as the Apostle Paul said in 1Cor2:2: I am determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I do want to draw so close to Him and to have Him live through me so that others see Him. Sometimes it seems impossible but with God, ALL things are possible.

Check out the song, One Day by Lynda Randall on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz58xcJHAJ4&start_radio=1&list=RDQz58xcJHAJ4.  I hope it ministers to you as much as it has to me.

GOD ON THE MOUNTAIN

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Life is easy, when you’re up on the mountain
And you’ve got peace of mind, like you’ve never known
But things change, when you’re down in the valley
Don’t lose faith, for you’re never alone
For the God on the mountain, is the God in the valley
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right
And the God of the good times
Is still God in the bad times
The God of the day is still God in the night
We talk of faith way up on the mountain
Talk comes so easy when life’s at its best
Now down in the valleys, of trials and temptations
That’s where your faith, is really put to the test
For the God on the mountain is the God in the valley
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right
And the God of the good times
Is still God in the bad times
The God of the day, is still God in the night
The God of the day, is still God in the nigh   (Lyrics as sung by Lynda Randal)

In our typical American days and weeks, being bombarded with all sorts of negativity, it is so very easy to be “down.” I don’t know what triggers you, but for me it is loneliness, lack of finances, the feeling of uselessness, and frankly growing older. The devil, being who he is, doesn’t bring these things on us one at a time in order for us to deal with them systematically; but rather, he brings them all at once! When he does, the valleys of life seem so deep and so never-ending that often times we feel despair and that God, Himself, has left us. We begin to think that we alone, abandoned.

Down in that valley is where we need to remember that God is still there with us and has given his rod (discipline) and staff (authority) to comfort us. It is there that the Word is somehow drawn out of us (assuming you put in there in the first place) and we recall that it is not God who has abandoned us but rather the accusations and trials have come from the enemy, an enemy who God said we are to condemn (Is 54:17).

As we rise up to take that authority, we realize God has been with us all along. He was still God in those bad times. And He is, as the above lyrics say, God of the day AND God of the night. When it seems like Friday, we must remember that Sunday is coming, that God has a plan for our lives, and that we have the victory. Hallelujah! Our God reigns.