Who Are You Teamed With?

yoked-oxenBe ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2Co 6:14-18 KJV)

We often think of being unequally yoked as having to do with externals. And yes, the scripture above does lead us to that conclusion. But if we are able to go down deep we will see that external connections always start with internal values. In light of this, I have identified three oxen that we can find ourselves teamed up with. All are strong, all are going in a direction, and all want us to come along with them. The difference is the result we will accomplish being teamed to each one.

The first ox is our self-will. As believers, we still find times when that old nature kicks in and we are determined to go and do in our own way and time. When we agree, or team ourselves, with that old nature we can get a lot of plowing done. But the result is edifying or building up that part of us that is self-absorbed, self-serving, and self-destructive. That ox needs to be brought to the altar of the cross and slain as a holy, acceptable sacrifice to the Lord.

The second ox is man’s will. When we team ourselves with an ox that demands we please it in all that we do, we end up as man pleasers instead of God pleasers. We want to be liked, we want to be admired, we want to be honored. We want to be part of something larger than ourselves. And the ox of man’s will is more than ready to do that for us in ever increasing ways as long as we are participating in its agenda. The result is a field full of furrows of man made rules, ambitions, and ideologies, and the soil is poor. The scripture exhorts us to come out from among them.

The third ox is God’s will. This is the teaming that will produce the results that God wants and therefore what we should be seeking after. When we are teamed with God’s will, there is a dying of that old nature as well as a separation from the world with all of its trappings. The result is a life filled with purpose and free from the oppressive demands that come from our own flesh or others’ expectations of us.

By slowing down long enough to ask “Who’s yoke am I walking in today?” and waiting quietly for the answer, we can know the motivation behind our actions. Is that course of action I’m considering self-serving, man-serving, or God-serving? Are we asking God to bless something we’ve already decided we’re going to do, or are we asking God for the direction He desires for us? Are we willing to get rid of one teammate and embrace the ultimate Teammate who will assure our victory in life? Who are you teamed with?

 

Turning a Blind Corner

blind cornerI’ve been quiet for quite a while now. When deep things are happening in my life, I tend to withdrawal to my own little corner of the world and talk to myself a lot. It may not be the best place to go, but it feels the safest to me.

God is writing a new chapter in our lives. Not sure what the final draft will be but I know it will involve a new setting, a new plot, new characters, all on a timeline only God knows.

Our apartment is within a couple hours of being completely packed. That was the instruction we both heard the Holy Spirit give us on the same morning as we awakened. So we got to it. Kitchen is left with a few odds and ends, but the boxes lining one wall in the living room attest to the fact that we are seriously doing what we heard the Lord say. We’ve given some things away and sorted and disposed of a bunch of other “stuff.”

Our destination is unsure at this time, although we have applied for housing in a little town in another state. It is not where we thought we might go, but where we both decided we want to go. Small town with a little larger town nearby with a larger city not far away. Lots of snow in the winter but more temperate summers, which we both long for. Lots of fun activities in the summer within walking distance of our hoped for 600 square foot apartment. Simple is really starting to sound attractive to us.

Jan started an online Prophetic Teaching and Mentoring ministry about 4 months ago which has continued to grow with good response from around the globe. I’ve kept busy doing the editing and production work on that as well as handling a few of the weekly podcasts myself. I also continue my studies and deeply think and dream about our next phase of life and ministry.

It feels a lot like turning a blind corner. Sure glad I know who is there to meet us on the other side.

More on The Glory of the Latter House

living stones 2Last week we looked at the book of Haggai. Remember Haggai had a recorded public ministry that consisted of four short messages to two leaders of the returning exiles from Babylon over a period of four months. His messages center on encouragement to these leaders, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, regarding God’s desire for his people to rebuilt the temple, the house of God, which had been destroyed 70 years earlier when King Nebuchadnezzar overtook Jerusalem.

In chapter 2 verse 3 God asks a question to the people through Haggai: “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” This of course is a rhetorical question. The place was in shambles. And then in verses 7-9 God makes a promise: “And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill  this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.”

Have you ever thrown a stone into a quiet lake and watched as the initial impact of that stone caused a ripple of circles across the surface of the water? The writings of the prophets are often like that. When they first spoke the word is like when the stone hits the water. That first circle radiating out from that impact is how and why that word is spoken in its contemporary context; how God was directing the prophet through inspiration to speak words of encouragement, exhortation, direction, or correction. The next circle represents what that word might say to future generations or peoples, sometimes separated by many years, cultural changes, and political upheaval and uncertainty. Each successive circle radiating out will fall on new ears and be interpreted in new ways; not so much the meaning, but the application of the word.

I want to share with you an idea I found today on line that will further help us in our understanding of how the prophetic works. An article I came across says this: “There is a saying that a poet is a prophet, and this saying has great significance and hidden meaning. There is no doubt that although poetry is not necessarily prophecy, prophecy is born in poetry. If one were to say that poetry is a body that is adopted by the spirit of prophecy, it would not be wrong. Wagner has said that noise is not necessarily music, and the same thing can be said about poetry. A verse written in rhyme and meter is not necessarily true poetry. Poetry is an art, a music expressed in the beauty and harmony of words. No doubt much of the poetry one reads is meant either as a pastime or for amusement; but real poetry comes from the dancing of the soul. No one can make the soul dance unless the soul itself is inclined to dance. Also, no soul can dance which is not alive.”

With that thought in mind, I want to look at the word glory. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts. What is God talking about when He says glory. In the Hebrew, glory means a variety of things. It can be used to mean weight, honor, esteem, majesty, abundance, and wealth. But poetically it means a soul or person.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that when Haggai uttered, under the prophetic anointing, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts,” I’m not sure he was aware of the impact of these words for the future. He was speaking to a select group of people about a particular thing at a particular time, and I don’t know that he was looking past the immediate. I’m not sure that he knew that as his words rippled out from the immediate, the meaning of glory would expand to its full poetic meaning, that the complete fullness of God’s words would come at a much later time. It’s these ripples of fullness that have reached us in our time that I want us to look at.

There’s a wonderful statement of hope in Romans 8:26-31: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Let’s unpack this passage a little bit and really ponder what Paul has to say here. Verse 27: “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” So we see here that when Jesus prays for us, knowing the mind of the Spirit, He prays according to God’s will for us. There is no division in the Godhead.

Verse 28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” God’s call and purpose for us is His will. They are one in the same and God works all things to accomplish His will in our lives.

What is that will? Verse 29: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” His will is that we be conformed to the image of Jesus, in other words, that we be made to fit the mold of Jesus. As Ephesians 4:13 says, in describing the timeframe for the fivefold ministry, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” This is the mold in which we are to be fitted. His is God’s will for us. This is His purpose for us.

Back to Romans 8:30: “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” He gave us a living soul in which the fullness of what is in our spirit is to dwell. We have the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ in our spirit by the Holy Spirit already. God’s will and purpose is that our soul come under full submission to our spirit and manifest the fullness of Christ.

Later in Romans 12:1-2 Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The good, acceptable, and perfect will of God is that we not fit the mold of the world, but submit ourselves to the sanctifying work of the Spirit to be fitted to the mold of Christ. Our minds have a bent toward fitting in with the wrong things. That is why our minds must be renewed, that is why our thinking must change. That is why repentance, a change of mind that brings about a change of heart and action, must be a continuous action in our lives.

A computer, as well as many types of systems, has background programs running all the time in order that the outward manifestation of the system runs properly. Repentance is a background program in us that needs to be continuously bringing us back to the purpose of God for our lives.

Nest we’ll turn to Ephesians 2:18-22: “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”  And I say to you tonight that “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace.”

In Colossians 1:25-28 Paul says, “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:”

You see this ripple didn’t begin with Haggai, but Haggai spoke that which the Lord God had in His heart from before the foundations of the world. As Haggai spoke to the exiles, Paul spoke to the Colossians and to us, that the word of the Lord be fulfilled, that every man be made perfect in Christ. That he be made mature, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That he fit the mold of Jesus. This is the will of God for you: “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace.”

1 Peter 2:1-12: “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Let’s, once again, unpack this passage, and pick out some keys for our understanding.

I want to read verses 4 and 6-8 as one thought and then comment on it. “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious… Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”  This is where I want to remind us of what was said last week. Remember a key phrase in Haggai was consider your ways. In his third message, The Call to Holiness, He wanted them to consider, even before they began to lay the stones of the building, that holiness was the foundation on which God wanted to build His habitation, His temple, His house. Christ is that foundation. Christ is a rock of offense, and the holiness that Christ represented in human form is a rock of offense, and the holiness that Christ is working within us is a rock of offense, and many trip over that foundation stone, that word of God, and remain in disobedience. These are those not only in the world, but those in the church who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof to change lives. Paul says in 2 Timothy, from such turn away. Keep your distance. Don’t let their conformity to the world hinder your conformity to holiness as a foundation in your life.

Next let’s look at verses 5-6 and 9-11 as one thought. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul”

You are lively stones, living stones, stones with the purpose and will of God in you, and your are being built both into God’s habitation, but also commissioned as the priesthood whose sacrifice will be accepted by God in Christ. You become not only His dwelling place internally, but the expression of His glory, His soul, through your soul externally. And in this you will not be confounded, or ashamed. But we are chosen, we are royal, we are holy, and we are unique, that we should show forth the praises of Him who has called us into light from darkness, has called us into life from death, has called us from being hard and cold pieces of rock to living stones full of His glory.  For in times past, we were not a people, but now we are the people, the soul, of God. We are the many brethren of which Jesus is the first born.  He laid down His life as a sacrifice, we have received His mercy, that we might have life through Him and show forth that praise to the world.

C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” says, ““Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” And I say to you tonight that “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace.”

Haggai’s call was to restore the vision. He was commissioned by God to speak encouragement into a remnant of returning exiles to follow a particular path. As not all the Jews returned from exile, not all will want to follow on to full measure in Christ. But my message, as was Haggai’s, is to the remnant, those who sense there is more, but as of yet, may not have fully caught the vision. I’m asking the Holy Spirit tonight to help you catch the vision. Only He can do it.

One Flesh in Marriage and Ministry

one fleshIn Genesis 2:24 we read a verse that Moses wrote as he told of the beginnings of man and woman. It’s a verse often used at weddings to reflect the new union that a man and woman are about to enter into as husband and wife. It, in my mind, has to be one of those parenthetical verses; the ones that are outside the narrative but add to the meaning of the story.

The verse reads, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” To look at the context in which it sits, one might think that Adam had said it. In the preceding verse Adam says, “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen 2:23 KJV). Since there were no quotation marks to deal with explaining where Adam had quit speaking, one could keep reading verse 24 assuming Adam was making a prophetic announcement about the future of Eve and himself, or about all future married people. In the next verse Moses goes back to his narrative, telling us they were both naked and not ashamed. (Anyone fluent in Hebrew, please contact me if I’m slaughtering this!)

But a closer look at the context brings to mind that Adam knew nothing of father, mother, wife, or one flesh. He was the first human father, Eve the first mother, but neither knew a thing about being either or the process involved, and leaving and cleaving were not his first thoughts. He had recognized Eve as a part of him, but hardly knew what was next for himself and this being that looked like him in many ways but had distinct differences that intrigued him.

So my thought is that Moses, writing many generations and thousands of years after the fact under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, does us a favor here by inserting a commentary concerning what Adam spoke.

Let me share an illustration in helping us see how this union of “one flesh” really works. And thank the Lord this isn’t a Common Core problem! Two when joined become one. I’ve used play dough in wedding ceremonies to illustrate the joining of two into one. A small clump of blue dough and a small ball of red dough, when kneaded together, create a larger clump where the distinctions of the blue and red are still visible, but it is now one clump. The two clumps were of equal size going into the process and remain so when put together. There is no dominance; no one color has authority over the other. When you take the clump and roll it in your hands, both blue and red respond alike. Blue can’t take control over red and red can’t take control over blue. The two when joined become one.

Husbands, allow your wives to minister as God as called them to because, in actuality, as she flows in the Spirit it is both of you. The two become one. And wives, allow your husband to minister as God has called him to because, in actuality, as he flows in the Spirit it is both of you. Adam could not recognize all that was within him until it was taken out and presented to him by God. When he saw Eve, he recognized that a special part of his very self was standing before him; “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” Men today need to recognize their wives in the same way. She is the part that you need to be complete in a marriage relationship. To hold her at a distance, to not recognize that she is as much a part of you as you are of her, is diminishing your own capabilities as a married man. Your calling is her calling and her calling is your calling. Just like the play dough, you can’t separate the two. The thought of dominance is self-defeating. If you try that by adding more of you so there is less of her in the mix, the delicate balance that God intended gets skewed. Instead of the sculpted round ball formed by the hands of God you end up with a lumpy mess. The same truth applies to women. Either person can be the lumpy party. And once you knead the two colors together, it is impossible to try and take one color out of the ball. If you try to cut out the blue, you’ll end up with some red. And if you try to cut out the red, you’ll end up with some blue. That means there is self-injury in the process of separation. Either adding to or taking away upsets the balance. The two when joined become one.

Do you think God knew what He was doing in molding Eve from a part of Adam rather than forming another being from the dirt?

Haggai: The Glory of the Latter House

holy spiritThe prophet Haggai, along with Zechariah, ministered in Jerusalem during the time of the restoration. Judah had been in Babylonian captivity for 70 years.  In 539 B.C. Cyrus became King of Persia and a year later allowed all people deported by the Babylonians to return to their homelands; this included the Jews.

The first wave of 42, 360 plus 7, 337 slaves returned under the leadership of Sheshbazzar, the first governor of Judah (See Ezra). After many years in Babylonian captivity the Jews had built homes, planted gardens, started successful businesses, married and raised families. As might be expected, many were reticent to leave a settled way of life and return to their troubled homeland. And so the first wave of returning exiles was relatively small. During the early stages of Sheshbazzar’s administration, the foundations of a new temple were laid. Remember the Babylonians, under King Nebuchadnezzar, had sacked and plundered the temple when they conquered Judah and Jerusalem 70 years earlier. But although the foundations were laid, the project was soon abandoned. The vision of a temple-state given the people by Ezekiel, during their captivity, faded in the reality of Persian domination, drought, and crop failures.

The second wave of people returned in about 522 B.C. under the leadership of a new governor, Zerubbabel, and Joshua, a priest. This is about the same time that King Darius began his reign in Persia.

The prophet Haggai was called to bring four messages to these two leaders, over a four month period. This was his entire recorded public ministry. His call was to restore the vision. The prophet’s four interrelated messages were designed to fulfill that commission by awakening the people of Jerusalem to the responsibilities, obligations, privileges, and promises of their covenant heritage. We will look at these four messages in series and make some contemporary applications for our own times.

The first message, “Haggai’s Challenge to Covenant Renewal,”  is recorded in Chapter 1, verses 1-11: “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,  (2)  Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.  (3)  Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,  (4)  Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?  (5)  Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.  (6)  Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.  (7)  Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.  (8)  Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.  (9)  Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.  (10)  Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.  (11)  And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.”

In this first address, Haggai rebukes the returned exiles for their preoccupation with personal comforts (living in their paneled houses) while the temple lies in a pile of rubble.  A key saying here is “Consider your ways.” Notice that the calamities Haggai lists here are revealed to be God’s hand against the skewed priorities of His people. The exiles that returned came back to hard conditions, for sure. They had high hopes of starting over, but forgot in their zeal to eke out an existence, to put God first. Matthew 6 comes to mind; seek ye first the kingdom and all the rest will be added to you. Well, it seems they sought first all the rest, and therefore the rest was not blessed.

This first message is also a call to repentance. In verses 5 and 7 the Lord says, “Consider your ways.” In other words, “Is the way you are doing things working well for you?” This sounds a lot like Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians: “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:14-17 KJV).  God’s will for the returning exiles, for the Ephesians, and as it is for, is for us to get our priorities straight. To wake up and grasp the vision.

The temple was the place of God’s habitation on the earth. It was where His glory resided and His governmental rule was to come from. It was part of the Old Testament covenantal framework which made Israel the people of God. Haggai prophesied of their calamities, and gave sound reason for them: “Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.” They were laying up treasure for themselves on earth, yet neglecting God’s habitation. King David realized this in his own time and said in 2 Samuel 7:1-2, “And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the LORD had given him rest round about from all his enemies; That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.” Although it was Solomon, David’s son, who actually constructed the first temple, in was in David’s heart to do so.

The temple is a beautiful type of the dwelling place of God that we, as New Covenant believers, are to be. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:9-10, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”  This is where pastor Jan is going to be leading us in her teaching on the Feast of Tabernacles, another Old Testament type of the New Testament reality of God indwelling His people and His glory shining through us to a darkened world. As not all the Jews returned from exile, not all will want to follow on to full measure in Christ. But our message, as was Haggai’s, is to the remnant, who sense there is more, but as of yet, have not fully caught the vision for it.

We next see a response from the people in Haggai 1:12-15; “Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD. Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD. And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king. “ So the people heard the word, were convicted, repented, and acted, and the Lord said, “I am with you.”

Chapter two begins the second message of Haggai to God’s people, “The Promise of Restoration”. “In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying,  (2)  Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying,  (3)  Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?  (4)  Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:  (5)  According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.  (6)  For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;  (7)  And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.  (8)  The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.  (9)  The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:1-9 KJV).

What a beautiful picture of what God can do when His people hear His word and obey His commandments. God is willing to do some awesome things on our behalf when we respond to him in faith. He tells the leaders, yes it looks bleak; not much to work with here. But because of my covenant with you I will do what I set in my heart to do. There is a time coming when God will once again shake all that can be shaken. And it will be those who house His glory that men and women will be drawn to for counsel, help, and comfort.

Haggai’s third message, “The Call to Holiness,” is contained in verses 10-19. “In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,  (11)  Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying,  (12)  If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No.  (13)  Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.  (14)  Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.  (15)  And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD:  (16)  Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty.  (17)  I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD.  (18)  Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it.  (19)  Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.”

God once again reminds them to consider; even before they begin to lay the stones. This speaks to me that holiness is the foundation upon which God desires to build. The temple they are rebuilding was sacked in the first place because of their idolatry and evil ways. The temple became a lucky charm to them before the exile. They thought as long as they had the symbol of God’s glory and God’s approval, and maintained the sacrificial system, that God was pleased. Yet in the midst of the external rites of religiosity they upheld, their hearts were far from Him. This was a reminder again for them to remember their former state and not go back again to a mere form of godliness, denying the power thereof.  2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

America is a great example of how outward signs and maintenance without a heart to match can bring God’s hand against her. God is gracious in His nature, and has been gracious to us as a nation. We know this, not so much because of the prosperity we enjoy as by the fact that the prophet is still sent to warn us. @ Chronicles 36:15-16 says, “And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” God is still speaking through the prophets. God reminded the remnant through Haggai, the church through Paul, and the remnant within the church now through the indwelling Holy Spirit and the prophetic and apostolic offices, do not go back.

Haggai’s fourth address, “Zerubbabel— Davidic Servant and Signet Ring, “ comprises the last four verses of the book; “And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying,  (21)  Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;  (22)  And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.  (23)  In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:20-23 KJV).

God’s promise to set Zerubbabel as a signet ring in Zion rekindled Messianic expectations amongst the Israelites. The words “my servant” and “chosen” one have direct association with the messianic hope seen throughout the Old Testament. The signet was a symbol of royal authority, much like the scepter or crown, and Zerubbabel’s  designation as such cancelled the curse spoken by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 22:24-30) on King Jehoiachin and his descendants, thus restoring a Judahite messianic lineage.

God desires us to be a signet ring, a scepter, a crown, representing His glory on the earth. As Zerubbabel’s designation looks forward in lineage, our position in Christ allows us to trace ourauthority back to Him. We are His lineage moving forward in time from the cross with a mandate to be His habitation in the earth. Our path is the same as the remnant of old: Hear His word, receive His conviction when we need it, repent of our sins when we heed it, and act on His word to see it accomplished.

In light of what I’ve just said, I believe we can revisit chapter 2, verse 9, with a renewed sense of vision for ourselves; “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.” The temple built with hands, the former house, was glorious, but, as God stated in chapter 2, verse 3,  it will pale in comparison to what He will do in us; “is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? “

God wants to tabernacle us, reside fully in us and express Himself through us. Let us open our hearts to the truth of His word and be open to hear His voice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

References include A Survey of the Old Testament  Hill, Walton 2000 Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI

Remembering to Remember

rememberHave you ever been in conversation with someone and they tell you something important about an upcoming event and when the time comes to remember what was said you draw a blank? “That’s funny,” you might say, “I don’t remember a word about it!” That happens between married couples sometimes whose familiarity with one another causes a lack of true attention between them. Jan has said to me many times, “Honey, I’m sure I told you about that.” When I’m smart, I just blame my lack of memory on my age, apologize, and try to preserve the honey! But could it be I hear her voice without really listening to what she says? Sometimes…

The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.” It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Nonplussed, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

Our main scripture reading this morning is Luke 24:1-12. See if you can spot where not remembering important words comes into play in this passage.

“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they (the two men who were actually angels) said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass” (Luke 24:1-12 KJV).

The first thing we notice is that the women had heard the words of Jesus because when the angels reminded them what Jesus had said, they did remember. What we next see is the apostles’ thinking the report of the women was idle tales, so they did not believe them. This is a case where they heard the words but couldn’t believe what was being said. Men will sometimes dismiss what a woman says but accept the same words if a man speaks them. As a man, I admit my guilt here as well. Be careful, gentlemen; there is usually no preserving the honey in this case! And then we have Peter, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. This is the statement in the account that seems the most odd in my mind, and makes me think we are more like Peter than we’d like to admit.

In Peter’s case, it would seem impossible for him to wonder at all what had happened. He should not have come away from that empty tomb scratching his head. Let me take you to another scripture that supports my thought on this. Peter had just declared that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God. Let’s pick the story up in Mark 8:31-33: “And he (Jesus) began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. “

This event in Peter’s walk with the Lord must have been something he remembered. One minute he’s a hero of faith, his confession the rock on which Jesus would build His church, and the next minute Jesus rebukes his words as the voice of Satan. I think that would stick in my memory.

Yes, we are a forgetful people. And as we get older it seems we have more and more memory (or lack of memory) “events.” Therefore we come up with all kinds of ways to help us remember; string around finger; post it notes, day planners, memory courses. Eventually, most of us will need a little help to remember.

An older couple had trouble remembering common, day-to-day things. They both decided that they would write down requests the other had, and so try to avoid forgetting. One evening the wife asked if the husband would like anything. He replied, “Yes. I’d like a large ice-cream sundae with chocolate ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry on top.” The wife started off for the kitchen and the husband shouted after her, “Aren’t you going to write it down?” “Don’t be silly,” she hollered back, “I’m going to fix it right now. I won’t forget.”

She was gone for quite some time. When she finally returned, she set down in front of him a large plate of hash browns, eggs, bacon, and a glass of orange juice. He took a look and said “I knew you should have written it down! You forgot the toast!”

Getting back to Jesus’ words, there were others that did remember– perhaps for the wrong reasons– but they did remember His words and acted upon them. “Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Mat 27:62-66 KJV).

As humans, we sometimes remember negative things more easily than positive things. We may get great service and food at a restaurant 99 visits in a row and think nothing about it. But the one time they are understaffed and we have to wait for service or our order gets mixed up, that is the time we will remember and tell others about.  Jesus’ words were negative words as far as the chief priests and Pharisees were concerned. Jesus’ claims that He would rise again on the third day were words they could not forget. And they acted on those words, that claim, hoping perhaps that in a few weeks, after all the hoopla had settled down, that Jesus would be just one more criminal that had met the Roman cross. End of story.

In a sermon several years ago by Pastor David Henderson titled, “Overcoming Death,” he preached the following illustration. “In 1887, twenty two years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, his coffin was dug up and opened because there were constant rumors that his body was not in the grave. So they dug it up and the body was there. The rumors continued so 14 years later they had to dig it up again. Both times witnesses were present who testified that Lincoln was still in the grave.

Three days after the death of Jesus Christ, similar rumors began to spread throughout the land of Israel. Only this time there were no witnesses who could say that they had seen His body. In fact, to the contrary, many witnesses claimed to have seen him out of His grave and even talked with Him after the resurrection.

As great a man as Lincoln was there were witnesses to prove he was still in the grave. If one of our Presidents or another leader in our government were to cry out today to Lincoln for help, there would be no response. If a scientist were to cry out to Einstein for help today there would only be empty silence. If someone were to call out to Mohammed or Buddha or Gandhi today there would be no help. But if you and I call out to Jesus Christ there is instant power available to us… power to change lives …why? Because He lives!”

I wonder if we are too much like Peter sometimes. We read God’s word. We recognize His voice as well as we can, perhaps even shaking our heads in agreement. But do we listen well enough to really hear what He’s saying? We might respond with, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you,” without ever hearing Him say, “I died that you might live and I live that you might die. Pick up your cross and follow Me.” There could be no resurrection for Jesus unless He first died. And there’s no resurrection power for us unless we die to self and follow Him.

It seems we all need to be reminded sometimes what’s important and should be remembered. I’ve always liked the story of the 3 old widowed sisters who lived together. One sister got up to go to bed, half way up the stairs she stopped and asked “was I going up or was I coming down”

One sister replied with hint of aggravation, “you were going up to bed.”

A second sister headed into the kitchen to make herself a sandwich. Once in the kitchen she hollered back to her sister who was still down stairs; “what did I come in here for”

The sister responded again with a trace of irritation, “you went in to make yourself a sandwich” after which she said; “I’m so glad I am not as forgetful as the both of you are” as she knocked on wood on the coffee table.

And then she got up and walked over to the door and said “Who is it?”

Yes, we all need help to remember. Jesus knew that about us and had a plan in mind. In John 14:26 He says, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

On this resurrection Sunday, let us call on the gift of the Father, the Holy Spirit of God, to help us remember all that Jesus said. In the days ahead, as our faith is tested, it will be His words and their application in our lives that will see us through.

 

Our Search for True Life

crossroadsLord, help us to put into perspective those things we call life. Jesus, you tell us in the scriptures we will read this morning that life, as you see life, is very different than life as we see it. Help us in our search for true life, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We’re going to look at several verses from the Gospel of Matthew this morning as we explore the subject of true life. We’ll start with Matthew 6:25 which says, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Mat 6:25 KJV).

Was Jesus really saying we should not consider at all the necessities of life and how we go about obtaining them? No, I don’t think so. Remember His words coming into this verse were about the futility of trying to serve two masters. You’ll hate the one and love the other, Jesus said, or be devoted to one and despise the other. Jesus was asking us to be sure of our first priority, the Kingdom of God, and who we were serving in the midst of caring for ourselves and our families. After giving glowing examples of God’s care and providence for His creation, and then reminding His hearers that they, as humans,  were of more value to God than nature, ends this section restating His admonition and bringing to the forefront His main point in verses 31-33, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

So it would seem Jesus was saying you can spend your energies in ways that consume your time, or you can prioritize your time and energies in ways that will advance God’s kingdom, and bring you what you need as the benefits of God’s blessing on your choices, with no sorrows of worry and false devotion added to it. What a way to live!

The November 1992 issue of Our Daily Bread published a list of someone’s calculation of how a typical lifespan of 70 years is spent. Here is the estimate:

 

Sleep…………….23 years………..32.9%

Work……………..16 years………..22.8%

TV………………..8 years………..11.4%

Eating…………….6 years…………8.6%

Travel…………….6 years…………8.6%

Leisure………….4.5 years…………6.5%

Illness……………4 years…………5.7%

Dressing…………..2 years…………2.8%

Religion…………0.5 years…………0.7%

Total…………….70 years…………100%

That was published 24 years ago. I wonder what the numbers would be today? With all the added technologies and entertainment that have come our way since then, I wonder what our percentage for religious pursuits would be in 2016? You know, 100% is all we get. When we’ve spent it, it is spent.

The next scripture we’ll consider is Matthew 7:14: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Jesus precedes these words with a directive and a cause, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:” (Mat 7:13 KJV) Again, Jesus seems to give us a choice, one leading to destruction and one to life. The wide gate and the broad way are appealing to many. It is the non-restrictive path, the road less-traveled, the way with the greatest flexibility and number of options. It is the way of rejoicing and self-will. The trouble with the wide gate and broad way is that while enjoying the journey, few stop to consider the destination. James says in James 4:13-17, “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” James says earlier in chapter 1, verses 13-16, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. “ James continues in chapter 5, verses 1-6 with the destination, where the wide gate and broad way lead to: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.”

Yes, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 and James’ words in his epistle, both offer us choices of how we go about living as we are searching for life and the results of a bad choice. Here is a story that further illustrates the point.

In 1969, in Pass Christian, Mississippi, a group of people were preparing to have a “hurricane party” in the face of a storm named Camille. Were they ignorant of the dangers? Could they have been overconfident? Did they let their egos and pride influence their decision? We will never know.

What we do know is that the wind was howling outside the posh Richelieu Apartments when Police Chief Jerry Peralta pulled up sometime after dark. Facing the Beach less than 250 feet from the surf, the apartments were directly in the line of danger. A man with a drink in his hand came out to the second-floor balcony and waved. Peralta yelled up, “You all need to clear out of here as quickly as you can. The storm’s getting worse.” But as other joined the man on the balcony, they just laughed at Peralta’s order to leave. “This is my land,” one of them yelled back. “If you want me off, you’ll have to arrest me.”

Peralta didn’t arrest anyone, but he wasn’t able to persuade them to leave either. He wrote down the names of the next of kin of the twenty or so people who gathered there to party through the storm. They laughed as he took their names. They had been warned, but they had no intention of leaving.

It was 10:15 p.m. when the front wall of the storm came ashore. Scientists clocked Camille’s wind speed at more than 205 miles-per-hour, the strongest on record. Raindrops hit with the force of bullets, and waves off the Gulf Coast crested between twenty-two and twenty-eight feet high.

News reports later showed that the worst damage came at the little settlement of motels, go-go bars, and gambling houses known as Pass Christian, Mississippi, where some twenty people were killed at a hurricane party in the Richelieu Apartments. Nothing was left of that three-story structure but the foundation; the only survivor was a five-year-old boy found clinging to a mattress the following day. (Christian Values Qs Quarterly, Spring/Summer 1994, p. 10.)

Even though soundly warned, some will not heed and pay dearly for it.

Our third scripture this morning is Matthew 10:39: “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”  This verse is toward the end of the discourse Jesus is having with His disciples as He commissions them and sends them out.  Let’s begin back in verse 16, reading down to verse 42, the end of the chapter. “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

Can we see here that Jesus is speaking of more than eating, drinking, clothing, and shelter? Is it clear that the strait gate and narrow way, the way to life that is harder to find and that few do find, is a way of loss in order to gain? It’s a way contrary to the flesh. It’s a way contrary to our want for all this world has to offer in order to discover and find our need, true life in Jesus Christ. Our friends may not understand us. Our families may not understand us. In fact, our friends and families may turn against us, choosing to travel the wide gate and the broad way. Jesus gets down to the realities here of following Him through the strait gate and narrow way.

All true disciples have choices to make. You have a choice as to how you prioritize your life and what path you choose to walk on. And so do I. The apostle Paul had to make the same choices and tells us in Philippians 3:4-14 of the choice he made and path he chose to follow: “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. “

Have a blessed Lord’s Day my friends, and be always looking for those right choices in your heart and paths that lead to the heavenly prize.