R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and we got to talking about respect and the current culture. He made a statement to me that it was important to respect people’s beliefs. I had to think about that for a moment. In my own mind, I think it is important to respect others as people but not necessarily to respect their beliefs. We respect people’s right to choose what they believe as long as it doesn’t violate the welfare and freedom of another person.

The word ‘respect’ is composed of two sub-words ‘re’ and ‘spect’ or ‘to look back on’. ‘Giving consideration’ can be another shade of meaning. In relationships and in our conversations, we are never alone or ever without effect on one another. Wonderful loving conversations are thoughtful and respectful and hopefully not selfish.  We are all too human at times,   but that doesn’t mean that that we never stand up for what we believe in and speak truthfully and openly. Often that can be the most loving (love is the key) thing to do for another person. Words have power and we should use them wisely.

The Corinthian culture at the time of the New Testament had a lot of similarities to our culture today especially in philosophy of life and social issues. Paul, in writing to them about the beautiful concept of grace, was clear in enlightening his readers on the love of God and true freedom.

12 All things are lawful (allowed, permitted) unto me, but all things are not expedient (beneficial, profitable): all things are lawful for me, but (emphatic ‘but’) I will not be brought under the power of any. 1 Corinthians 6:12

We can become slaves to the culture and the philosophies of the day.  We can even be enslaved by our own appetites, emotions and thinking.  The point Paul is making is that God’s heart is that we are free from things unprofitable and that do not benefit us if we so choose. He cannot control those things that are set in our path to enslave us. He does however gives us a lot of resources to help us and then he leaves the choice up to us.

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Strong In The Grace

Grace is not such a difficult concept when one looks at how it is used in the Gospels, Acts and the New Testament. In Luke 1:30, it is translated as ‘favor’ in regards to Mary when an angel tells her to ‘fear not’ about the task God was asking of her in bringing forth and raising his son. Having a normal child involves much work and is sometimes tough, but this was the son of God! I’m sure she was blessed to know God had her back. How else could any human handle that!

Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 12 men were sitting in the temple when the gift of holy spirit was given first to the apostles. Peter rose up and shared what had happened. He encouraged the community of believers that were  there also to receive the gift.

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Acts 2:38

Three thousand people standing by received the gift. As they all celebrated this great event of God’s divine favor, they were:

47 Praising God, and having (sharing) favour (grace) with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:47

They all shared in the grace. God had their backs too. In the epistles, that is written to these believers and ‘all that were afar off’, the apostle Paul further further illuminated about the gift of holy spirit. This is for us today! The grace of God is available to all who choose to believe and our reception of favor from God is dependent on our humility towards God and in utilization of what he has given us. (James 4:6). 

In II Timothy 2:1-2 the understanding of what we are to do with this grace is spelled out to Timothy:

2 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

Timothy was a servant of Jesus Christ and God encouraged him be strong in the favor of the risen Christ as the receipt of salvation and to teach ‘others’ so that they can teach ‘others’.  Those ‘others’ will teach ‘others’, and those ‘others’ will teach ‘others’………….

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Jesus Christ and The Gift of Holy Spirit

Jesus Christ was/is an amazing man.  He was/is the son of God. In I John 3:8b, the Word of God says:

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

As recorded in Genesis, evil got a foothold in this world. It grew, influenced and expanded into people’s lives. God’s original creation suffered for its intrusion. The devil has influenced where ever he could get a foothold. The manifestations of his handiwork are everywhere. He moves with ideas, thinking, confusion and chaos. Often evil is very obvious, but in order for it to really succeed, it must mask itself and hide behind facades that will deceive unwary targets.

Specifically, the adversary nips away at the word of God in people’s lives. Religion is one of evil’s greatest disguises. The devil knows God’s word and he knows how to misuse it.  That is how people get turned off to the truth. The truth gets twisted and people get confused. Then they blame God. If they don’t blame God, they sometimes water down the truth to make it palatable with today’s trends. The beauty of the word is that it is relevant throughout time.

Other disguises and twists center on marriage and family, finances and economy, government, idols in our culture, health and nutrition and many more categories. God-inspired people have contributed immensely to our culture in godly ways. Evil inspiration does just the opposite.

It was God’s plan in his son that was to save those that are affected by the tentacles of darkness. Jesus Christ came and his purpose was/is to expose light on the dreadful works of the adversary. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone in the foundation of the living church. He is alive and well. He directs and guides to build up the church in the right direction.

When Jesus Christ walked this earth with the 12 apostles, he gave them power and authority to use that power:

Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. Luke 9:1

He then did the same to seventy others as recorded in Luke 10:17. On the day of Pentecost, the power of God was poured out to an even larger group composed of some 3000 souls ( Acts 2:38-41) as promised by Jesus Christ just before he ascended:

4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the holy spirit not many days hence. Acts 1:4-5

If you continue to read the book of Acts, more people, including the Gentiles, were brought into an access to the power of God. This is spelled out to us in the Romans through Thessalonians so that we too may walk in the same power.

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Grace is the Power of God

‘Grace’ is a much talked about word in the Bible.  This is a big concept and I dare say no one will ever know all there is to know about it, it is that big!

Honestly, I’m not sure that many people who are talking about grace really understand it. I have to admit that I haven’t completely understood what it fully means. At times I get confused when I read articles about grace. We hear a lot of words about hyper-grace, forgiveness grace, grace myths, grace truth, grace vs law, grace

vs works and so many others. What people say before they eat is called ‘grace’. When I look at how God uses the word, things start to clear up. When you get grace straight, peace in your heart follows!

Paul encouraged Timothy:

1Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. II Timothy 2:1-2

What does it mean to be strong in grace that is in Christ Jesus? I could look at the Greek words and try to come up with some idea of what it is saying. If you just look at what it says simply, Timothy was encouraged to be strong in the whole concept of a risen Messiah. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, In that one event, the opposition to God took a huge blow. That is how salvation is promised in Romans 10:9-10.

On the day of Pentecost, a recorded in the Book of Acts, 3000 people received the gift of holy spirit which empowered them with strength and their response was:

46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour (grace) with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:46-47

These 3000 believers were sharing grace and they were praising God.  As they received the gift and the spiritual abilities the gift bestowed, they were changed. Timothy was encouraged to teach faithful men who could teach others. Paul, in the church epistles, taught more about what they had received. The whole idea was to spread the word, thus enabling others to have the same power.

God gives grace.  It is evidence of how he loves. He wants to empower those he loves.  In Ephesians, the word ‘grace is used 12 times. Check it out. It is all about God’s salvation and wholeness in our lives.

* Grace rules: Eph 1:2,6,7;  2:5,7,8;  3:2,7,8;  4:7,29; 6:24

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The Fulness of God – Not A Distant God

Jesus Christ contained the complete filling of the Godhead.  ‘Godhead’ was used interchangeably with the word ‘Godhood’ (Some theologians say it is a Middle English variant and some say it is a synonym). The ‘-hood’ suffix as found in manhood, childhood or neighborhood, and personhood, is a word that describes the qualities or state of being (essence) of the entity it is describing. It is about the ‘what’ rather than ‘who’. (Check out Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Colossians 2:9)

For in (Jesus Christ) him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete (Greek = pleroo) in him, which is the head of all principality and power: Colossians 2:9-10

The fulness (pleroma) of the qualities of God flourished in Jesus Christ. He was filled to the brim with God’s goodness and as as result we are complete (pleroo related to the word ‘pleroma’) in him. In Ephesians this same fulness and completeness is described:

19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Ephesians3:19

Verse 19 a pretty interesting statement.  How are we filled with all the fulness of God? God is spirit and we are filled with is His spirit through Jesus Christ. God is not a distant God, He is relational and this is how He set it up.  Jesus Christ was raised and now sits at the right hand of God. God as a spirit (John 4:24) doesn’t have a right hand.  This is an example of a figure of speech that paints a picture to show the authority of Christ. Christ today is alive and active and building the true church. He communicates through the spirit. The spirit is not a person but an essence that does the filling.

What does all this mean? It seems like a really important concept to understand. God is powerful, just and good and desires the best for his kids but he doesn’t violate free-will. It is our choice to to recognize, love and trust God and all that he provides. Our ultimate blessing results in power, love and an inherent soundness that rejects fear.

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Roman 1:God in nature

God is everywhere.  His Word is everywhere in everything he created! Look at the functional design of a leaf as it exists on the branches of a tree, or the beauty of the night stars as they twinkle at us. I love to sit on a beach and look out to where the horizon meets the sky.  It is majestic! Everything God has created in nature is to bless us. We are blessed with sunrises, sunsets, flowers, magnificent birds and animals all intended to remind us of God’s love:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Romans 1:20

The human body is remarkably designed. It is one of God’s greatest works. Its ability to grow, develop, reproduce, repair and heal is unsurpassed by anything man has attempted to design. The human mind has the ability to think and choose; again, another reminder of the love of God.

One of the greatest treats that you can do for yourself is to go out and take a walk through the woods, or stroll on the beach and look at all that has been provided for us. The closer you look at the details of God’s creation, the more perfect it becomes. The opposite is true of man’s work unless it is inspired by God.

When man attempts to redefine life on his own terms, and twists God’s word or even dismisses God entirely, he thumbs his nose at God.  There are other people who have pushed to go beyond God’s word in terms of laws, traditions and requirements.  They seem energetic but are actually presumptuous in the thinking that God can be improved. If a person thinks he can improve upon God, he just hasn’t really seen God. It is through this type of unbelief that people get cheated out of a life free and abundant. We should never consent or go along with the pressure of the world to conform or accept and condone those things that are opposite to what God has provided. When we do it isn’t that God turns his back on us, we turn our backs on God and are not able to see his love clearly.

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Love Between Believers

The more I truly and accurately understand the identity of Jesus Christ and his role in our lives, the simpler the Word of God becomes.  I once thought Romans was an extremely difficult book to understand, but that was because of confusing theology and man-made interpretations of God’s Word. Once the layers of PhD crust are peeled off the solid  beauty and symmetry of God’s undeniable love, the light of truth just absolutely shines through.
Romans Chapter 1 is jammed-packed with  crystal clear truth. The apostle Paul, who recorded Romans, was a unique individual: He had everything in life that people strive for: success, respect, a mission, influence and power. Right in the middle of his success he changed horses or rather fell off his high horse when he met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. Things changed drastically after that. In the heart of his heart he became who he really wanted to be. He was quite a humble man and as an apostle, he brought forth the light of the New Testament grace administration into view. He is a great example of a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The love of God was shed abroad in his heart and he shared that love:

11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Romans 1:11-12

Paul loved fellow believers; he longed to see them. The word ‘see’ is more than just a visual seeing, it involves an experience.  Paul want to give what he had. He wanted to share what he spiritually had to strengthen them and be blessed by them in their mutual faith together. The word comfort (sumparakaleo) is a togetherness of encouragement. They shared the same faith and rejoiced with each other over it. This is an example of the truly satisfying relationships that can develop between believers.

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