Friday, September 27, 2013

Ba char - Chay

The two Hebrew words ... "ba char" and "chay" ... are two very important words.

The Hebrew word "ba char" ... pronounced (baw-khar') means, choose; while the word "chay" ... pronounced (khah'ee) means, life

I have chosen these two words to look at today from Deuteronomy 30:19-20 ...

"I have set before you life and death ... choose life ... that thou mayest love the Lord thy God ... and that thou mayest cleave unto Him ..."

In the fortieth year of the wandering of Israel in the wilderness, God instructed Moses to tell the people He was giving them two choices, and that it is a commandment ... they must choose one of them.  God put it this way in Deuteronomy 30:11-15 ...

"This commandment is not hidden from you; it's not in heaven, nor is it beyond the sea.  But the word is in thy mouth, and in thy heart.  See, I have set before thee this day, life and good, and death and evil ..."  (edited)

Which brings me back to verses 19-20 ... "choose life."

It sounds like the choice left up to God's people back then is still the same choice we have today.  But is it still a commandment today?  Yes, it is.  And if you decide not to choose ... you are choosing ... but you will find out it's the wrong choice.

Proverbs 18:21 ... "Death and life are in the power of the tongue ..."

Look again at what Moses told his people ... "the word (the choice you make) is in thy mouth, and in thy heart."

What's in your mouth?  Words that come from the thoughts and intents of the heart.  They just keep coming out because most of us find it hard to keep our mouth shut.

Most people, including me, say things that are negative which can breed the opposite of the truth of God's Word and His plan for your life ... like walking by faith and walking in love.  What's in your heart?  What comes out of your mouth if you accidentally hit your finger with a hammer?  

In Matthew 12:34 Jesus said ... "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

Albert Barnes, the old 19th century American Presbyterian biblical scholar and theologian made this comment ... "Thy words are the indication of the true principles of the heart.  By thy words the heart shall be known, as the tree is by it's fruit."

Here are some words out of the mouth of Jesus that just maybe we should pay attention to.  Matthew 12:35-37 ...  

"A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.  But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  For by thy words thou shall be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."

Vincent's Word Studies states that the term ... "every idle word" ... is a good rendering.  An idle word is a non-working word ... an inoperative word.  It has no legitimate work, or business, but is instead, morally useless and unprofitable.

As far as giving an account for idle words spoken if you stand in judgment before God ... remember Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees who were well known for making judgmental speeches full of useless and unprofitable idle words.

The Apostle Paul once said ... "Let a man examine himself" ... and it should be done occasionally.  This examination should be not only of the heart, but also of the soul, the thoughts and feelings, as well as our conduct and speech.  Are your words always uplifting and kind?  Are they profitable?  Are they useful and beneficial to those who hear them?

My 19 year old grand-daughter Morgan spent 10 weeks of her college summer vacation this year in a Christian Ministry project witnessing about Jesus on the beaches of Tampa, Florida where she learned this excellent ... life rule.

"Build up or shut up."

So, if you aren't edifying, encouraging, building up or loving people ... keep your mouth shut.  But I must confess, for me, it's easier said then done.

Words are powerful ... and once spoken ... they can't be recalled.  Let's make sure that the words we choose to speak ... come out of a heart ... filled with the love of God.

Life and death ... the two choices God has set before us.   

"Ba char - Chay" ... Choose life.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Because You Can

I knew a man who loved to worship God in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit.  And he still does yet today.  But some things have changed in his life that have affected his outward style of worship.

Physical symptoms indicating there was a problem with the movements of his arms appeared.  Various tests indicated an undesirable situation ... a nerve condition affecting the muscles.  He was told as the condition worsened, he would lose strength and have limited movement of his limbs.  He was slowly becoming physically handicapped.  

Ten years ago in a worship service, he would do exactly what Psalms 134:2 says ... "Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord."

My brother in Christ loved to praise his Savior and Lord.  It is scriptural you know.  The Apostle Paul said in 1st Timothy 2:8, that ... "men everywhere should lift up holy hands" ... speaking of prayer.  So why not during worship as well?

The teaching and preaching of the Word involves the mind of man; but true worship comes from the heart.  Lamentations 3:41 ... "Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens."     

Jeremiah alludes to the lifting up of the heart by the hands ... not merely the hands only.  By doing so, it is as if you take your heart in your hands, and raise it in praise and worship to God.  It is with the heart that we believe and worship.

No one could articulate praise like David.  Here in Psalms 143:6, he presents another picture of worship when he says ... "I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land."

When David says, I "stretch forth" my hands, the original meaning is to ... "break apart, to open up, spread out and stretch forth" ... arms wide open ready to receive and soak up spiritual water from the Lord.

King David's son, also used this same gesture when he dedicated the new Temple unto God in 1st Kings 8:22-23 ... "And Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven: and said ..."

The brother I am speaking about, used to do this very same thing before he lost the ability to do so.  Most of us still have that ability don't we.

Today, if he could he would gladly follow what it says in Psalms 63:4 ... "Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name."

Only he can't.  He tries.  Unless God heals him, there will be no more of the lifting of the hands on this side of Heaven.  But that can't stop him from worshiping with what he has left.  His heart.

Psalms 104:33 ... "I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being."

Psalms 145:2 ... "Everyday will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name forever and ever."

Psalms 146:1-2 ... "Praise ye the Lord.  Praise the Lord, O my soul.  While I live will I praise the lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being."

Sometimes I get a little emotional.  I've wept watching him.  It broke my heart to watch my brother struggle trying to raise his hands in worship to the Lord.  It was because of sheer willpower that he was able to do so, for as long as he did.

It was about three years ago one Sunday morning during worship service that the Lord asked me this question.  "Why aren't you raising your hands like you usually do?"

"I don't know" ... was my hearts response.  "I don't feel like it I guess."

And then Jesus drove it home ... "Do you know why you should?"


Enough said.  Those three words have never left me.

It's ... arms wide open for me now.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Could It Be

It looks to me, that very slowly with each generation further away from Jesus ... there seems to be fewer and fewer observed miracles.

The disciples of Jesus, the ones who walked closest to Him during the three and a half years of His public ministry, seem to have displayed a greater power and spiritual authority than the average believer has today.  Miracles of healing were seen as almost common place to them as they proclaimed their faith in, and the authority given them through the name of Jesus

Could it be that walking with Jesus during this time had a special effect on them that we today can't receive since we were not in physical contact with Him as they were?  Did something rub off on them?  According to John 20:22, He even breathed on the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit the evening of His resurrection as they were gathered together in fear of the Jews behind closed doors.   

But the disciples didn't receive the Holy Spirit until 50 days later on the day of Pentecost ...  or did they?  Could it be the disciples were filled when He breathed on them, and the other 120 followers of Jesus were then filled later in the upper room.  If you read Acts 2:1-14, you will notice that the disciples are not mentioned until Peter stands to speak about what is happening.

The breath of Jesus.  I'm pausing here a moment thinking, what would it be like to have Jesus ... breath on me?  Would I be different?   

As the creator, He also breathed on Adam and he became a living soul.  We should not ever forget that our breath is from Him and it's just on loan to us.  Oh, and when God chooses to take it back, we will have to relinquish it back to Him, won't we?  We won't have a say in the matter either.   

Could it be ... that the disciples, walking with Jesus daily, hearing His words, feeling His touch, eating their meals with Him, as well as His breathing on them ... did any of these things contribute to their boldness and authority in proclaiming the name of Jesus as they started the first century church.  Something happened to these men by being with Jesus ... and miracles were the results.

In my August 12th, 2011 post, I wrote about the Disciple John ... as I saw him in my mind's eye, "Covered in Blood" as he helped take the body of Jesus down from the cross.  In it I asked this question; because of having the physical blood of Jesus smeared upon John's back and shoulder as he carried the body of Jesus, could it be that is the reason he lived to be an old man?  He was the only disciple that died a natural death around A.D. 100 and was most likely in his late nineties when he died.

It seems to me that John was different then the others, closer to Jesus, taken under His wing so to speak.  Jesus even gave the care of His mother to him.  He's the only disciple who didn't run away from the crucifixion of Jesus.  Oh well ... these are just my random thoughts.  Pay no mind to them.  I don't either some times.

We know that the disciples of Jesus had many miracles in their ministries within the 1st century; John being the last of the twelve to die.  History also records that men like Polycarp (A.D.65-155) who was a friend, student, and disciple of John, also had many miracles in his ministry as did his contemporaries like Clement and Ignatius

The label, "Apostolic Fathers" has been applied to them to indicate they were the generation that had personal contact with the twelve disciples.  They provide a link between the disciples ... who had personal contact with Jesus ... and the later generations of Christians who came after the 1st century.

So what am I getting at?  From what I have read about miracles in church history, it reads something like this.  Jesus had hundreds, even thousands of miracles during His ministry.  Each of the disciples, those who had personal contact with Jesus, had perhaps hundreds of miracles themselves.  No one kept count. 

The Apostolic Fathers, those who had personal contact with the disciples, (the ones who had personal contact with Jesus) also had many miracles ... but fewer than the disciples of Jesus had.  Notice the downward progression ... from thousands to hundreds to many fewer today.

Could it be ... Jesus gave a special anointing to His disciples, that over time, from generation to generation seemed to dissipate and disappear from believers?

Could it be ... the anointing faded like it did with Moses?  The Apostle Paul explains in 2nd Corinthians 3:13 the reason why Moses, after receiving the Law and then coming down from the mountain placed a vail over his face.  After being in the presence of God, the face of Moses shone with the glory of God still upon it.  (Exodus 34:29-35)  The vail prevented the children of Israel from observing the glory fading slowly from his face

So I ask, why couldn't the glory, the anointing, and the power of Jesus ... given to the disciples and church fathers likewise have faded slowly away. 

Many so called spiritual giants of the church over the past 800 years or so have suggested the same thing.  I certainly don't know ... but it looks as though that might explain what has happened to the church.

If one were to look at what John was instructed to write in the Book of Revelation in Chapters II and III concerning the seven churches ... which alludes to seven different periods of church history ... we read the words of Jesus as He begins telling the first church, "you have left your first love."  And then it goes downhill from there as He addresses all seven.

To the last church (or dispensation of time in church history ... perhaps ours) Jesus says, "because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth."

Could it be ... that the Church the disciples started in the first century has fallen so far away from what the church was intended to be, that the same power and anointing of the Holy Spirit has very few places or people to work with anymore?  Is that why it seems as though God doesn't work miracles as often in this present church age?

Have we, including myself ... lost our first love and become lukewarm?

Could it be?

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Firmly Established Fact

If I were to say ... "healing is no longer a promise" ... would you believe it?  I read these exact words today in a book written by a Christian pastor. 

Well, that statement is a little misleading.  I only gave you the first half of his sentence.  Here's the whole thing as he wrote it.

"Healing is no longer a promise ... it's a firmly established fact."   

Chapter 53 in the book of Isaiah is a prophetic look at the coming Jewish Messiah.    Isaiah paints a not too flattering picture of the Messiah that we now know fits Jesus exactly and what He would suffer as the lamb of God.  As Christians, we believe Jesus was the Messiah, but the Jews rejected Him because He didn't deliver them from Roman rule or set up His kingdom.

Isaiah starts this chapter off by saying ... "Who hath believed our report?"  The report Isaiah is talking about is in the preceding chapter where he says that Jerusalem is going to rise up out of the dust and the whole earth will see the salvation of the Lord.  That last part will also become an established fact someday.

The problem was that Israel as a whole did not believe the first report the angel gave the shepherds the night Jesus was born, nor did they believe His own words even with all of the miracles of healing He performed for them thirty years later.

The prophet Isaiah's description of the coming Messiah, described Jesus in perfect detail, 700 years before His birth, including all He suffered as though he had been there observing Jesus when He was ... "brought as a lamb to the slaughter."

It is as if Isaiah actually saw Jesus the man.  He says there was nothing special looking about Him ... "He hath no form (special appearance) nor comeliness (magnificence) and when we see Him, there is ... no beauty that we should desire Him."

As he writes, Isaiah places himself with the rest of his people ... "He is despised and rejected of men ... and we hid our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed (valued and regarded) Him not."

This cannot be describing the one all of Israel was waiting on ... their conquering Messiah.  That's why they rejected Him.  But it describes Jesus, the son of God who Isaiah says ... "hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."

Jesus ... "hath borne (lifted) and carried our griefs and sorrows" ... both of which mean, the pain of sickness and disease.

Isaiah writes that it ... "pleased the LORD to bruise Him ... and make His soul an offering for sin."

God was not pleased or happy that Jesus was made to suffer and die for sin.  Being "pleased" means that God was "inclined" to do something to fix the sin and sickness problem man had.  It means God was "willing or disposed toward an action" that would sacrifice His own Son.  There was no other way.
"Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him ..."

And then we come to the main point of this study ... "with His stripes we are healed."

If healing is not the will of God for us, then what does ... "with His stripes we are healed" mean?  Why did God place sickness and disease upon Jesus as He hung on the cross the same way He did with the sin of the world?  Jesus bore the sin and disease of the world, for us ... in place of us.

The Apostle Peter wrote in his first letter speaking of Jesus ... "by whose stripes ye were healed."  

"Healing is no longer a promise ... it's a firmly established fact."

All through the Gospels, we find Jesus doing the "will" of God.  So what did He do more than anything else?  Jesus healed people.  

When the Apostle John in 3rd John 2 said ... "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" ... it wasn't just John saying that; it was the Holy Spirit speaking through him.

In Young's Literal Translation of John 14:12, Jesus is saying ... "He who is believing in Me, the works that I do; that one shall also do ..."

Should we consider healing as part of the works that Jesus did?  If so ... then is not Jesus saying He expects believers to also have healing as part of their works? 

Unless I'm mistaken, isn't one of the nine ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the church in 1st Corinthians 12:9 ... gifts of healing?

Just as the Lord's Prayer is an example of how we are to pray to God the Father ... so likewise the Apostle James gives the church the steps to be taken when we pray for the sick.  These are not rules to follow, but rather inspired guidelines.

James 5:14-16 ... "Is any sick among you?  Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

If healing wasn't purchased for us on the cross, why are we told to pray for the sick?  Why did James say ... the Lord shall raise him up.

Healing is no longer a promise ... it's a firmly established fact.