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I wanted to share one from the archives today. It was from the middle of my series on the Lord's prayer. It goes all the way back to August 9, 2012 when i was a brand new blogger, but the message is still strong in my heart.

Enjoy:

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As the 3rd installment in my look at “Thy will be done” (Matt 6:10) I wanted to run one more idea past you. Many time I hear Christians talk as though the fact that you are in a circumstance means that what is going on is God’s will for your life.

This is actually a form of fatalism that can completely disable your ability to get out of your current situation. How so you ask?

Think about this for a minute. If you think you are in your current place because God has fore-ordained it, you are much less likely to fight for a way out.

We have to stop getting our theology from Doris Day! [Tweet This]
[Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) – more accurately Ray Evans who wrote the lyrics to this song Doris Day was famous for singing in the late 50’s.]

Christianity is not a system of fatalism, where God orchestrates every detail. Everything that ever happens does not happen for a reason, and is not necessarily intended for your long-term benefit. That is not what Romans 8:28 says, nor does 1 Thessalonians say be thankful for everything. Let’s look at what these verses actually say:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)

The promise above has to do with God’s ability to take everything that life throws at you and mold those crazy ingredients into an amazing package. (like an amazing cosmic episode of “Chopped”)

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)

Here again, the exhortation is not to be thankful for everything, but in everything.

I heard a preacher say once (I don’t know the name of the preacher, but what he said helped me a lot understanding God’s foreknowledge) that God knows the outcome of every possible choice you could ever make. This is why nothing ever takes Him by surprise, and yet you still have choice, and still have the ability to get outside of God’s will.

It is clear in scripture that not everything that happens is the will of God. Adam and Eve sinned – not God’s will – in fact it was exactly the opposite of God’s will. God had a plan in place, and solved the sin problem brilliantly. In fact, the outcome of the New Covenant is a better life for us than what Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden. [Tweet This]

Let that sink in for a minute. Do you realize that God’s intention for a born again, blood bought child of God is actually better than that of Adam and Eve. God is no longer meeting us in the cool of the day, He is living inside! This new covenant ROCKS!!!!!

I am starting to ramble – Back to the point.

Don’t live and pray like the crappy circumstances you are in are God’s plan for your life. Here are 3 steps to a better life for you.

  1. Get up close to God through His word, Prayer and Worship.
  2. Let Him set fresh desires in your heart.
  3. Start doing everything in your power to coöperate with what God shows you.

That’s it. Don’t just live with the circumstance you are in. Cooperate with God and connect with His will for your life. You may not find your circumstances change, but it sure will be better with God engaged.

Thanks for reading today.

Ben

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Don't forget Encounters With Jesus when planning your holiday shopping. It might be just the thing to draw someone on the edge of faith in. And I've heard from some who have been in the faith before I was born that this book has helped them connect with Jesus in a new way. So consider adding Encounters to your Christmas shopping list.

Available in Paperback, Kindle, and Nook versions.

Learn more about Encounters with Jesus here.

There's power in singing scripture. It reinforces truth, and implants it in your soul.

Walk in truth today, and join me in this prayer:

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

6

Jesus said:

The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23 NASB)

You see, Jesus contrasted a clear eye and an evil eye, and that having a clear eye has to with having a singular focus, and the evil eye, may glance at Jesus from time to time, but is not fixed on Him.

Let’s take a little field trip today over to one of the greatest landmarks of the Word of God, Romans chapter 8.

Paul here contrasts the spiritual mind and the carnal mind.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8 NKJV)

When our eyes are fixed on Jesus – when they are single, or clear – we are spiritually minded, which is pleasing to God.

However

When our eyes flit back and forth between the things God has promised, and that which the world imposes on our mind, we are at enmity against God. Enmity means active hostility. When we allow the worlds lies to have any place in our consciousness, we subvert the Lords efforts in to create the image of Christ in us.

Paul tells the church at Ephesus:

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, (Ephesians 3:20 NASB)

I was so glad he did, because my mind likes to process circumstances, and ponder impossibilities. Thanks be to God who gets right in my face and says “I am able to do exceeding abundantly beyond any solution you can even dream up.”

My attempt to figure my way out of trouble undermines the Lord's ability to save me. My attempts are religion, which militates against spiritual mind.

When I use the words “I can’t” it is an act of hostility toward my Rescuer because He told me “You Can.”

When I think “I’m worthless” it is an act of hostility toward the Lover of my soul who shed His own blood as a worthy sacrifice to buy me.

I beg you today - put down your weapons of warfare against God - Fix you eyes on Jesus and on Him alone. Don't allow mixture to undermine your help. In the belly of the whale Jonah prayed: They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. (Jonah 2:8 KJV) Don't forsake your own mercy!

I hope this makes sense. It is a big deal!

Thanks a bunch for taking time to read today.

See you again soon.

Ben

Knight photo credit: One lucky guy via photopin cc

Originally posted November 23, 2012

Related Posts:

Of Lights and Eyes

Clear Eyes

The Evil Eye

 

5

My Wonderful Bride and I
My Wonderful Bride and I in 1979

... for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other.(Matthew 6:24 NASB)

I am having one of those chicken – egg moments (and no I don’t mean that I am pondering the wonderful bird that you can eat both before it’s born and after it’s dead.)

Riddle me this.

Does serving God lead to loving God?

Or

Does loving God lead to serving Him?

As I work through the Song of Songs on Saturdays, I am finding that if I love Him well, it better prepares me to serve Him without holding back.

But then again, verse almost feels like it's saying you fall in love with the one you serve.

So here is a tip for every day life – get ready – it's a bit off topic – but should help somebody out there.

If you are having relationship troubles – perhaps with your spouse or your parents, or your kids, or your neighbors, or your boss, or your (ok – you're thinking of someone – stick a word here that describes your relationship and goes with the flow of my rant)_____________, try serving them.

First act of service – pray for them. Do it now – they're  already stuck in your brain.

Next, do something you know they will appreciate without being asked.

Hey – I know it won’t fix every relationship, but as a Jewish sitcom mom from the 1960’s might say – ‘It couldn’t hoit!’

IMG_0252Picture this with me – when a relationship goes from good to bad, it does not happen in one fell swoop (usually – I do get that there are exceptions.) Often it is more like a wall built one brick at a time, over time, until you can no longer see the face of the one that you love, only the ‘dead or alive’ wanted poster on the brick wall of offence.

So, if today, you take down one brick of offense you have turned your relationship around. You've turned the momentum in the opposite direction.

Oh – and you know I am not talking about allowing them to become your Master (with a capital ‘M’ – there is only room for one of those, and that needs to be Jesus. We will get back to that – but for today just a little slice of Dear Abby.

BenThanks for stopping in.

Ben

 

Post Script - I am on vacation this week, and working on other things. I thought I would pull up this favorite of mine from December 5, 2012. Hope it blesses you today.

Ben

Check out this related post from my new friend Sue at pen2paper: Building Walls

12

Shine!

We all know that Jesus is the Light of the World. But once Jesus set His light in you, He says:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; - Matthew 5:14 NASB

I guess I always have thought that being light meant not doing bad things or perhaps doing good things that Jesus did and told us to do.

Then I started to consider Matthew 5:16:

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (NASB)

Check it out:

You are the Light of the world

Your Light Shines

Your good works are illuminated

The Father is glorified.

You see? The light is shining on your good works. The works are not the light, but they are in the light.

I started looking at the other references where Jesus said He was the Light of the World, and I saw the same thing. Check this out from John 3:19:

And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. (NASB)

Men loved darkness because their deeds were evil. They did not love darkness because darkness was evil deeds, but because darkness hid their evil deeds.

This is why in the Old Testament men would leave the towns and fields and hide in groves to worship their false gods. They loved the darkness and cover that the groves provided for their evil deeds.

Our life shines in such a way as to expose our good works.

Does that sound like pride to you? Check out this little tidbit from brother Paul:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NASB)

You have been saved (Lit up) by grace (not works, no reason to boast.) Once saved by grace (not works) you are equipped by God to do good works that He planned and equipped you for.

The fact is, these good works you are doing in the light that Jesus has placed on, in and through you, are so good, no one will ever think it was your natural talent that produced such amazing fruit. It could only be God, and so He is glorified when your light shines on the works you do.

Was that too much for one thought?  It is leaking out of my brain even as I type it. (LOL) This makes me crazy happy. I am so excited that God has such an extraordinary plan for me that He will be glorified by stuff I do, and I can expose His amazing grace to me. And how will I do that. I will Arise and shine in this gross darkness, and let every man see what a miniChrist looks like.

If you are a letter written to this world, turn on the light so they don’t have to strain their eyes! [Tweet This]

Don’t cover up the stuff God giving you to do. Let it rip so He can get the glory He deserves.

Tell me what you think? Does this help you, or does it just bring up more questions?

Thanks for reading today.

Ben

photo credit: gigi 62 via photo pin cc

Originally published in September of 2012

Words in Red Gospel of Matthew (4)
Words in Red Gospel of Matthew (4) (Photo credit: Lex Photographic)

It's hard to believe i have actually come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount. It has been a year now. I started blogging on June 9th 2012, and started with the Beatitudes. I did take a few detours along the way, but I have been living in this wonderful sermon for a full year now.

Before I move on, someone once pointed out to me a verse in Matthew 4 just preceding this wonderful sermon, where Matthew lays out his plan.

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. ~ Matthew 4:23

My friend pointed out to me that this verse acts as an outline to the next five chapters.

For three chapters we will see His teaching ministry in full swing. I believe that Jesus taught the sermon on the mount in one time and in one place, but I also think it was more or less His 'manifesto' so to speak. It sums up much of what He will teach over the course of His ministry.

The following two chapters, 8 and 9, focus on HIs ministry around Galilee healing, delivering, and just saving in general. There are some thrilling and profound miracles we see in these next two chapters.

Matthew uses this pattern of teaching and healing ministry as his outline, but we will find that Jesus used it as his main M.O. Not always but often he would teach and then heal. The teaching ministry makes a place for the healing ministry.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. ~ Romans 10:17

In fact, my favorite pattern for ministry is Worship, which draws the presence of God (a greater manifestation of the presence of God - I get that the Spirit is always with the believer) ministry in the word, and then interactive hands on ministry with those with specific needs. I am totally OK if you want to mix it up a bit though.

BenThanks for coming by.

See you soon.

Ben

photo credit: Pop Culture Geek via photopin cc
photo credit: Pop Culture Geek via photopin cc     

As we tie up our time in the Sermon on the Mount, I want to take two giant steps back and notice a couple of things from the top down.

Back in chapter 4 there was a bit of foreshadowing about Jesus’ preaching;

And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. ~ Matthew 4:23

Then Jesus began teaching with:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ~ Matthew 5:3

As He closes this wonderful teaching He says:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; ~ Matthew 7:21

This gospel, good news, that Jesus brought is all about the kingdom of heaven. So what is this kingdom?

When Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven, He is not simply talking about you getting through the pearly gates. He is talking about the government of your life.

When I step back and see this sermon declaring the good news of the kingdom of heaven, I see a description of a life under the reign of a King, not just a future in a mansion taking harp lessons.

This life is marked by humility, giving, caring for others, letting go of rights, and generally living a selfless life. Jesus takes the priorities that our world presses upon us, and turns them upside down.

And this is expressed perfectly in our bookends. Those who are entering the kingdom – demonstrating their allegiance to the reign of Christ in their life, are poor in spirit. Those who are denied entry actually stand before the one they called Savior and say “What about ME!”

Any attempt to enter the kingdom, or should I say, any delusion of being a Christian, that is centered on self, is just that – delusion.

Do you remember Paul’s heart?

For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, ~ Romans 9:3

These we see at the gate of heaven as it were, cared for nothing but their own access to heaven. Paul, a good picture of transformed man, is more interested in the souls of others that of himself.

You see, it is a kingdom of love, agape love, self-sacrificing love. Love that is willing to lay down it’s own rights, priorities, dreams, hopes, and even calling to serve the one who gave up heaven and took up hell for … well … you and me.

The big reason those folks are on the outside looking in, is that they always have been on the outside looking in. Even the wonderful works they do in the name of Jesus don’t change who is boss, master, ruler of their life.

Even standing before Jesus in His glory their hearts are crying out “what about me?”

How is it with you today, friend? Is it about you?

If so, simply ask the Lord to give you a new heart and to remove the stony heart, that monument erected to you in your chest, and replace it with a heart of flesh that beats for others, that beats for Him. [Tweet This]

BenThanks for coming by today

See you again soon.

Ben

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. ~ Matthew 7:28-29

Jesus spoke with authority. The teachers of His day would sit around and discuss the scriptures, and sprinkle in some of the writings of earlier generations, what is known as the Talmud, and pose ideas or objections and observations.

Talmud
A complete set of the Babylonian Talmud - Photo Credit: Reuvenk, Source: Wikipedia
  • Moses says…
  • David says …
  • Hillel says …
  • Charlie says…

Jesus comes along and completely breaks this pattern. Rather than telling the crowds what generations of historians and philosophers have said across the ages, Jesus brings clarity.

For instance, back in Chapter 5 Jesus said:

You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ ~ Matthew 5:21

The thinkers who came before Jesus suggested that the natural end of this command was for the murderer to answer to a court of man, the government.

But Jesus applies it to their own hearts. He teaches us that the Word of God was not given so we could find the faults of others and know how to punish them. It was intended as a mirror. When we see the root of anger, or even the hint of careless insults, we should judge ourselves, and guard our hearts with diligence.

This is what was amazing.

And it is still amazing today.

So much of preaching today is men either pointing fingers at someone or parroting what they have read. Sadly I am guilty often, when pressed to preach or teach, to run quickly to find something someone said and borrow some fruit to put on the table, rather than to run to the secret place and come out with my heart crying:

A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy? ~ Amos 3:8

I am not saying we throw out our history, and the wisdom that has been handed down to us. I believe in reading, and hearing what others say. It checks us, and keeps us from going of the deep end, it inspires us and pushes us deeper.

But there is a desperate need today for the voice of the Lord from the mouth of the preacher. Oh, and just because you don’t stand in the pulpit on Sunday morning, does not mean you should use these words to judge your least favorite preacher. I am talking to you.

If Jesus is in you, He has a divine itinerary for you. [Tweet This] There are people who will only ever hear the voice of Jesus through your actions, and your words. Maybe it’s your kids and their friends, or maybe it’s a co-worker who will never darken the doors of your church.

You can amaze them when you speak with authority into their darkness and bring the light of the world into focus for them.

BenHey, thanks for taking time to read today.

See you again soon.

Ben

 

photo credit: mandolux via photopin cc
photo credit: mandolux via photopin cc

I am sitting here taking another read through this last paragraph of the Sermon on the Mount, and a phrase jumps out at me.

And the rain descended, and the floods came, ~ Matthew 7:25

These are the words of Jesus in Matthew 7, describing the house built on responding to the words of Jesus, the house built on the Rock. Here is the whole verse:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. ~ Matthew 7:25

But that little chunk carried my mind back to the account of Noah and the Ark he built for the Lord.

It was probably about 20 years ago, and I was reading through the book of Genesis in “Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible” and I learned something truly fascinating. When Noah was told to build an ark, there is one detail that is striking (plenty others too, I am sure, but for today – one detail.)
Noah was told:

Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. ~ Genesis 6:14

The only details we get on the ark are these 2 materials, the overall size (which, by the way because it was in Hebrew is something about cubits, but if it were in American it would be like 1 ½ football fields, our favorite unit of measure) and the fact that it had a door and a window.

Today I want to talk about pitch. What is pitch? I am guessing it is something like tar, which Noah was instructed to smear as a waterproof coating all over the inside and the outside of the vessel.

Here is what is fascinating. The Hebrew word for pitch (Kafer) is a variant for a word you will no doubt recognize – Kippur – or atonement. You have heard this word used today when the Jewish community celebrates Yom Kippur! This word – Kafer – is only translated pitch in this one place in the entire Bible. Most often it is translated “ransom.”

Just as in Noah’s day when the rains came down and the floods came up, the only safe place was in the Ark, so it is today. [Tweet This] The only safe place to be is in the Ark, and that Ark is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God slain before the foundations of the earth.

The only reason you will be able to stand before holy God on the day of judgment is because you are in this Ark, which is covered within and without with perfect pitch, the blood of Jesus.

Today is the day of salvation. Get in the Ark!

Jesus said you do that by acting on what He said. Do not be a hearer of the Words of life, and be left outside the Ark when the flood comes.

Surrender your life to Him today.

BenThanks

Ben

photo credit: spleeness via photopin cc
photo credit: spleeness via photopin cc

Let me just start by saying, I love to talk about happy scriptures, but Jesus said some hard things and some strong things, and to skip them because they are uncomfortable or because they don’t fit our picture of an always smiling Jesus, would be a huge mistake.

That said – here we go:

Friday, I told you that I have a slightly different take on this little parable Jesus uses to close out the Sermon on the Mount.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.

And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall. ~ Matthew 7:24-27

We have seen that building your house is acting on what Jesus said. This is again borne out by the Great Commission:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. ~ Matthew 28:19-20

But today I want to focus on the Storms.

All my life, I have heard that these storms are the trials we walk through in life, and that a life based on Christ and His words would serve me well in the storms of life, the hard times we go through.

That is a great comfort, and very true, but I don't think it is what Jesus was getting at in this parable, or at least it’s not all of it.

[So you are probably saying to yourself at this point – just say it Ben – get to the point!]

Let’s take a second to notice the context of the parable. Jesus is talking about the day you face Him, and many will come expecting to get heaven’s ‘all access pass’ and find they are holding a counterfeit ticket. [Tweet This] This is the day Paul talks about when he says:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:10-11

Here is another description Paul makes of that day:

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

This is the storm Jesus is talking about. The day our works are tested. Paul uses a picture of testing by fire, Jesus uses waves on the shoreline – each parable using the most powerful and destructive forces we can understand.

You can be ready to stand before this onslaught of the Judgment of God, but there is only one way.

Give your life to Jesus, and live for Him.

Jesus is not an add-on to your busy life. He demands to be the center – the hub.

Sounds harsh? Not really since the wheel of your life was created to have this hub. It's a perfect fit, and with Jesus at the center – life just works! Picture a spoked bicycle wheel with a square hub. Life would be an uncomfortable ride – but hey – at least you get your own way right? This is a huge mistake.

You are not designed to be the center of your own universe.

Don’t delay.

BenI am glad you stopped by today.

See you tomorrow.

Ben

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