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Archive for February, 2016

I’m a Florida gal. Eastern seaboard. Grew up less than twenty minutes from Jacksonville Beach. And ‘til we were transplanted to Texas, I roamed the Florida seashores—Just love the ocean. Ocean anywhere. Wish I had a nickel for every mile I’ve walked along those beaches. So imagine my dismay when I read:


“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1 NKJV).

No more sea? Really, God? Why? I was troubled and I asked why on more than one occasion. Then last week, during some extended windshield time, I listened to a radio program where a distinguished biblical scholar was asked, “Why does God say there will be no more sea in the new heaven and earth?”

                                                                           
I listened for several minutes as this smarter-and-more-educated-than-me prof stumbled all over himself. “I don’t know,” he finally said. “Maybe because the sea is chaotic and scary.” He attempted, yet never found biblical truth to give the caller.

While I’m driving down the highway pumping my hand in the air, shouting, “I know. I know!” Because the Bible tells me why.

Jesus instructs us:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV).

And I’ve always taken Him at His word. So when things trouble me, I ask. Don’t you? It’s okay to ask, you know. But fifteen years ago, when our daughter suddenly died I pounded heaven with my pleas of why. God answered, through His Spirit and His word—not in words I wanted to hear, but with words that satisfied and wrapped me in His peace.

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29 NKJV).

He let me know He had it under control. Her death was one of those secret things and asked me to trust Him.

So I preface my prayers. “Lord, if this is one of those secret things I don’t need to know. I’m okay with your not answering. ‘Cause You know my heart and know I’m not trying to be a smart-alack. I love the ocean and it bothers me there won’t be any more sea.”

                                             
Precept Bible Study teaches us the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. And so a few years ago, while studying about a totally unrelated subject, I read:

“I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh, the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth” (Genesis 9:13-16 NKJV).

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Gracious God, I didn’t know You needed to be reminded. Silly me. So I went to my Strong’s Concordance and looked up the Hebrew word for remember—zakar—to mark, record, to recall. And the notes said: “Remember means more than ‘to recall.’ It means to retain in thought so as to take action.”

I recalled other scriptures where Isaiah said:

“But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption. For you have cast all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17b NKJV).

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake. And I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25 NKJV).

And in Micah:

“Who is a God like You. Pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever. Because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us. And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19 NKJV).

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And it clicked in my mind. Think of the gargantuan garbage dumps of transgressions and sins God has pitched into the depths of the sea since the beginning of creation. Every sin you and I have committed—sins of all believers for all times, cast behind His back, into the depths of the sea. And covered with the blood of Jesus.

But wait, there’s so much more! And it’s all here, recorded in the pages of His Wonderful Words.

Revelation 8:8-9 tells us what God is going to do “In That Day” that will involve the sea.

“Then the second angel sounded. And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”

And in Revelation 16:3:

“Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man, and every living creature in the sea died.”

“The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:13-15 NKJV).

To be sure of the word sea I consulted my Strongs Concordance again and found the Greek word used there for sea is Thalassa meaning actual seas.

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And I said, “Thank you, Lord. You had already answered my question in the pages of Your Word, but now I understand. No wonder the sea can’t be part of the new heaven and earth. Nothing impure or unrighteous can be there. The sea is putrefied and defiled from all our sins and death. So as you told John over two thousand years ago, the sea indeed must go.

The problems in churches today could largely be resolved if those who claim the name of Jesus would take the time to develop a ravenous appetite for the Word of God. Each day—every day. The only reminder of the price Christ paid for you and me in eternity will be imprinted on our King’s hands, in His side, and on His feet—forever.

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But if you, like me, have loved the ocean, don’t be dismayed. God leaves us with these words:

“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there. They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:1-5 NKJV).

“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book…And behold, I am coming quickly and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

“I, Jesus have sent my angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Off-Spring of David. The Bright and Morning Star…Surely I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:7, 12-13, 16, 20b NKJV).

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NO CHEESE, PLEASE!

Source: NO CHEESE, PLEASE!

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I glanced at my watch, fifteen minutes to spare. Super. I whipped off I30 and pulled into the local McDonalds to quiet the gnawing of my stomach on my backbone. The line was long, but I had a margin of fifteen minutes. No problem—

When the cars finally moved enough for me to place my order I was committed. “I’d like a ham and egg McMuffin with no cheese, please.” She repeated the order and I confirmed, “That’s right. No cheese.” I pulled forward and waited. And waited.

The car in front of me must have been ordering food for a multitude. No joke, ten minutes passed. And I waited some more. When the car pulled away, the McDonald’s lady handed me my sack and a giant coke.

“No cheese, right?”

She smiled and nodded.

My fifteen-minute margin had been gobbled as I pulled back onto the freeway. I unwrapped my McMuffin, anticipating the deliciousness, but noticing the wrappings seemed thinner than usual—there was no egg!

Just a slice of ham and warm muffin slathered in melted, yellow, gooey stuff. So ooey-gooey I couldn’t separate the ingredients from each other.
Now any other time, I would have looped around the restaurant, gone back through the drive-through, and demanded they fix the problem. But I was already headed west on I30, and running late. I took a bite or too, but the greasy processed yuck impersonating cheese coated the roof of my mouth. I stuffed the remains of a breakfast-gone-bad back in the bag and pouted. Gonna be a long time ‘til lunch.

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With every spin of the tires I grumbled about the kitchen staff’s inability to fill a simple order. What’s so hard about leaving off a piece-a-cheese?

And God let me grumble for a mile or so—until He pointed to the comparison between the cheesy sins I served Him each day. with my lack of regard or remorse for not giving Him what He asks.

“But these are incompetent people,” I argued. “… not paying attention or caring what they’re doing.” Silence filled the car and the space in my mind.

“…not paying attention or caring…” circulated in my mind while I recalled my harsh words to my husband the evening before when he hadn’t done something I thought should be done. And the Lord punched the play button on the tape of my incompetent and rebellious moments where He specifically asked me to discard distasteful habits in my life. Habits I had drug home and allowed them to take up residence—worse yet, habits—no let’s call them what they are—sins I paid no attention to as they grew new roots, attaching and renewing themselves to my heart and mind like weeds.

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I won’t even bother to record my list. I’m sure you have your own.

Sins, like melty cheese on my deformed McMuffin, that stick to hearts and minds. Sins we all are either too lazy, too unobservant, or too ignorant or rebellious to scrape off and throw in the trash. But we need to identify and own up to our sins, seek God’s forgiveness and healing, through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Paul tells us in Colossians 3:8-11 we are to put aside:

“anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created Him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”

But Paul doesn’t leave us standing naked and exposed. In Chapter 3:12 of Colossians he tells us what to put on.

“So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

It’s impossible for me to be thankful when I’m gripping. And as if to test what I learned last Saturday, when I pulled through another McDonalds yesterday, one where they never mix up my order, guess what? Yep, I got everything, including cheese. So what was I supposed to do—suck it up and eat it anyway? Oh no. We are to instruct, rebuke, and teach—in a kind manner. I looped around the building and asked them to give me the order I requested—a McMuffin with no cheese.

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And likewise, God requires you and I to take another loop around His Word, so He can instruct, rebuke, and teach us to put to death the unrighteous, cheesy sins that separate us from fellowship with Him and each other.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:16-17 NAS).

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LIVING ON THE BRINK

Like most of America, Sunday night our TV was tuned to the Super Bowl. All the hype, all the work, all of America’s attention lives on the brink of a Super Bowl Champion each February. And for those short two or three hours many lives swing in the balances.


Then it’s over—in a heartbeat the dreams of some become reality, while for others, hopes of fame and fortune are dashed. Sunday night, Peyton Manning engraved his place in the legends of football history. While one of the Carolina Panther players sat on the bench sobbing. Yes, a big ole burly football player, having spent months, years, of his life to end up with nothing. Zero, Zilch. Always to be remembered as Losers of Super Bowl Fifty.

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Living along the brink of whatever consumes you often brings profound sorrow, especially when that consuming force is a vanishing idol that allures, tempts, and teases. A fickle dream, rewarding some. Crushing others. Yet when all is said and done, how will the way you have lived count for eternity?


For good, or for evil? For despair or hope?

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Few of us will ever compete in a super bowl or anything like that here on this earth, but God’s Word tells us of a time when, like the scoreboard clock of the 2016 game ran down, and the game was history, God will say: Time is over, Son. Go get my children.


“And the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord”
(I Thessalonians 4:16-17 NKJV).


But many will be left behind. Left to face the wrath of God that will be poured out on this earth for seven years. Scripture tells us of horrendous judgments for all who’ve scoffed, refused, and denied Jesus—Jesus who died so they might have been redeemed and forgiven because God’s mercy and grace. Yet, they chose death rather than life. Darkness over Light. And God will give them what they chose.

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Wait a minute, you say. I’ve been told God is love. Where’d this wrath business come from?


Would you be angry if your son was put to death for something he didn’t do and then the real perpetrator kicked you to the curb? Shouted your name in profanity? Did everything they could do to hurt you? We’re talking a major portion of humanity that lives as though God is dead. Are you foolish enough to believe the Sovereign God of the Universe will hold them guiltless just because they refused to trust Jesus to pay for their sin? God left the Book of Revelation to describe for us, in great detail, what the just and righteous punishment will be for those who by rejecting Jesus also rejected God, will be…in that day.


Every football team believes all their Super Bowl hype. All the words flung out by the media and fans. And each team believes their own press. Well, we have a Super Enemy who’s been flinging his deceptive lies at mankind since the beginning. And the sad part is…many have and still believe those lies. And they will be left sobbing on the benches when the multi-dimensional truth of God’s character is suddenly revealed in real time and mind-boggling color.


God has revealed His since truth, through His Word, since the beginning. But those left behind will be forced to face the reality they lived life along the savage brink of deception and lies, purposefully neglecting His Truth.

DSCF5461And tragically, many of those left behind will be church members. Church members who knew in their heads about Jesus, but their hearts were far from Him. Church members busy living on the brink, clinging to their latest obsession. Too busy indulging the lusts of their flesh. Too busy absorbed by the culture around them, rather than reading and learning the truth from the Word of God. That’s not fair! They will scream. I don’t understand all that Bible mumbo-jumbo.

DSCF3164And they’re right, they can’t understand, because they were never changed. Never “circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11 NAS).


In ancient times God instructed all Jewish males to be circumcised when they were eight days old. This was a sign of the covenant God made with Abraham. A covenant where His people were to come apart and be different. But in Deuteronomy 30:6 God told His people about a new circumcision that was to come:


“And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live”
(Deuteronomy 30:6 NKJV).


This is the circumcision Paul was telling the Church at Colossae about. And these were some of Abraham’s descendants God was speaking of in the Book of Deuteronomy. Descendants who had come to understand the mystery of the Church—Gentile and Jew in one body in Christ Jesus. People whose hearts were truly changed by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of His testimony.


But in plain English, many today walk the aisle of a local church, maybe get dunked in the pool, but never experience change. Change that comes only when a heart is truly repentant. Real change brought about by the Holy Spirit living inside you, remodeling, transforming you into the image of Christ.

 

The others? No change—not in this lifetime. Not interested in putting sins to death. No desire to know who God really is. Or surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They don’t want change. They wanted bonfirefire-insurance They’d rather spend time wrapped up with the things of the here and now, rather than studying and abiding in the Word of God. Indulging fleshly lusts rather than being concerned and repentant about what grieves the Spirit of God.


This morning my heart was convicted by Paul’s words as I understood a little more about who God is, and what Jesus accomplished for me.


“For in Him (Jesus) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him (Jesus) you have been made complete, and He (Jesus) is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him (Jesus) you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him (Jesus) in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him (Jesus) through faith in the working of God, who raised Him (Jesus) from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He (God) made you alive with Him (Jesus), having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He (God) has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross”
(Colossians 2:9-14 NAS). Emphasis in parenthesis mine.


Or if you have been saved by grace, through faith, you are:


• Complete in Christ Jesus
• Circumcised with a circumcision without hands
• Buried with Jesus in baptism
• Raised up with Jesus through faith in God
• When you were dead in trespasses and uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with Jesus.
• Forgiven by God of all your trespasses
• The certificate of your debt—God nailed it to the cross

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Where are you walking this morning? On the narrow path that leads to life? Or are you racing along the brink of deception, comfortable with an unchanged life, always grasping yet never receiving His peace? His hope?


Perhaps you’ve been sitting on the sidelines of life, weeping over past failures. God doesn’t want you to remain there. His grace is sufficient to cover any sin. Sufficient to stand you on your feet again and wash you in Jesus’ blood. He will wrap you in His mercy and grace, and redeem and restore you to Himself. That’s why Jesus died. But you must recognize your need, then ask and receive, then trust and obey. He will do the rest.


Perhaps you are walking each day to please Him, bearing the fruit of all He’s done for you with thankful heart? How does this scripture impact your life today?


I’d like to hear from you.

 

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