Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Most Powerful Christmas Story

Each year, as Christmas rolls around, I find new and exciting details about the coming of the Messiah to earth. In other words, Christmas just gets more and more wonderful to me. I have especially been drawn to the account recorded in Matthew chapter one.

It begins, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” It struck me, as I read this sentence, that it was Jesus who was the promised son of David (not Solomon), and the promised son of Abraham (not Isaac). I remembered that Genesis 3:15 was the promise of the coming “seed of the woman” who would totally defeat Satan who had misguided Eve in the garden.

Then I reviewed Acts 2:30, “Therefore, (David) being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne…” It was Jesus, not Solomon, whom God promised would sit on David’s throne.

Further, I returned to Galatians 3:16 to remind myself of the promise to Abraham, “Now to Abraham and his Seed, were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.” So truly, the Holy Spirit speaks through Matthew to inform the whole world that Jesus, born of a virgin in Bethlehem, is the true Son of David, the true Son of Abraham. And this truth begins the whole New Testament, verse one of chapter one of Matthew.

The genealogies, beginning with verse two, are given for many reasons; but one special reason stood out to me in view of the first verse and the eighteenth verse. The coming of Jesus was quite different from the coming of all other people into this world. All people’s lineages are made up of men marrying women, men cohabiting with women – good women, bad women, good men, bad men. But not so, the birth of Jesus. And the Greek language especially points to this fact.

After having identified Jesus as the Promised Seed of Genesis 3:15 (Matthew 1:1), the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, Matthew finishes His genealogy with these words in Matthew 1:18. “Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise.” Or to translate the Greek more literally, “On the contrary, the birth of Jesus was like this.” The Holy Spirit specifically draws attention to the stark difference in the conception/birth of others and the conception/birth of Jesus. He was born of a virgin, before her marriage, and of the Holy Spirit’s impregnation. So verse eighteen becomes the centerpiece of the entire New Testament. Jesus was truly the only begotten Son of God!

People throughout the last 2,000 years have doubted and disbelieved this fact. But the fact still stands true, unwavering, and withstanding all contradiction. Jesus is the Son of God. And remember this truth; the Word of God trumps all other theories, ideas or experiences. It has stood the test of time.

So this Christmas, I pray for you, that you will see in a deeper way the beauty of the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. Christmas is more than the gift we give, it is all about – and only, ever, all about – the gift of Jesus to the world. And His coming the first time assures us that He will surely come again!

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Have a Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The New Testament - Jesus' Letters in Red?

One whole shelf in my office library is full of Bibles of many different versions. The one I use the most, the New King James version, has the words of Jesus in red.

One theologian I read said that this is a travesty. By raising the words of Jesus above all other scripture, you naturally lower the value of the other words, he says. All scripture is inspired by God; therefore, all the words are of equal value because they are all God's words.

I don't know how you feel about that. You probably take the more common position that it is nice to separate the words of Jesus for identification purposes.

But here is my personal take on the matter. When I try to follow what Jesus taught, I find that I am woefully inadequate and powerless for the task! I mean, who can truly forgive his enemy, let alone love him? The good news is that through His death and resurrection, he accomplished for me what I could not accomplish for myself - on my best day!

So, His words are in red, because they leave me owing; i.e., in the red.
Then comes his sacrifice for me, and now I have all I need, in Him, to overcome and be successful; i.e., in the black.

In the Gospels, He removed my debt - the red; and in the Epistles, I am on victory ground - in the black.

What do you think about that?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

This Tree Is A Testimony

This beautiful tree with its gorgeous limbs and the light through it leaves has a dynamic story. Let me tell you about it, and the man who's confession never wavered and eventually came true.

In April of 1979, 34 years ago, Doyle and Marlene Turley and 13 other families bought a huge tract of land near Lake Tenkiller, outside of Tahlequah, OK. All of these families grew up on the west side of Tulsa, or were family members of someone from the west side. They created the Westside Country Club on this purchased land. As often as they could, they would come from Tulsa for the weekend to this heavenly piece of property, until they eventually were able to retire here. 

At the beginning, the piece of property around this tree was the only open space on the entire tract of land, all the rest was forest. So they would come and camp around this tree and plot out and clear the rest of the land. They sectioned off the land among the 14 families, created roads, and a covenant. 

This tree was somewhat sickly. It was about 10-feet tall, split into two parts, and had an ugly, deep hole about 3-feet long on one side. Everyone would say, "This tree will die." "Let's cut it down." "This tree isn't going to make it.", etc. But Doyle Turley would always say, "This tree won't die. It's going to live."

So Doyle filled the hole with that expandable foam that comes out of spray cans for filling up cracks, etc., in walls and house trim. (It took a lot of the foam.) Then he sealed it over, and sprayed it every year. All the time, the others would say, "This tree won't make it."

The picture at the bottom of this article is the tree 34 years later. It is in the middle of the property, and the pride of the whole Country Club. (My own granddaughters would love to climb it, but are too small.) And never once has Doyle ever said, "I told you so." The picture also includes in it my wife, Judy, so you can see how big it is.

There is something to say about the importance of confession, and sticking with it. It may take months for your life to show the results of the confession, but if you hang in there, it will. I am thankful that God gives us such a powerful tool as confession. I am alive today because of it. I believe what God says about me, and I continually speak it out. My circumstances eventually catch up. 

Paul says, in Hebrews 4:14, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession." And again, in Hebrews 10:23, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

We have a Better Hope!

"18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God." (Hebrews 7:18, 19 NKJV)

People place their hope in others all the time, and often are disappointed. This is especially true with government. With every new leader elected - locally, statewide, nationally - we have hope that things will get better. It is natural to hope, and it almost seems just as natural to have our hope dashed. But it doesn't have to be that way, and here is why.

When we place our hope in men, we set ourselves up for failure for two reasons. First, all men are human and destined for failure. The Apostle Paul says, "They (boasters and those who commend themselves), measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." (2 Corinthians 10:12) Eventually, the greatest person with the most commendable record will fail because all men are fallen, since the fall of Adam. They may not mean to, but they will. Second, all men die; and when they do our hope for what they can do for us dies. And we are back to square one, looking for someone else to be our hope.

But Christians have a better hope! Why? Jesus came as a man, and was tempted; but, he did not fall to sin. And, though he did die, he rose again, and now lives forever in heaven. He sits next to God continually making intercession for us. Since he did not fail, and rose from the dead, when we place our hope in him, we have done a great thing. We have a better hope!

And the greatest of all hopes is that one day our Deliverer will come and rescue us from our present situation. He will take us to a better place! Everyone wants that, and all who place their hope in Jesus have it!

Have you placed your hope in Him! It only takes about 30 seconds to do so. Then just begin to walk with your head up, your eyes open, and a big smile on your face - because you have Hope!

Dear reader, if you have Jesus in your heart, then you have the Greater One in you; you can do greater works; you have a greater witness; you have better promises; and you have a better hope. So start living like it!

(Fifth in a 5-day, 5-part blog on Greater and Better Things.)

Friday, May 17, 2013

We have Better Promises!

"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises." (Hebrews 8:6 NKJV)

There are lots of promises being made all around us every day. We often find ourselves thinking, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." And we have become very skeptical of what government, businesses and people promise us. But there is One Who has made great and precious promises to us, and they are just as good today as when he first made them. Time and wars and cultures and philosophies have not erased them, or made them ineffective. And they never will.

Jesus has given us a better contract (covenant) than anyone else ever could. And it has better promises. There are lots of religions floating around that make promises. But the covenant that Jesus made with you when you asked him into your life is so full of such great promises that it causes all other religious promises to fade - if you check out his promises. He said that he would die for us and rise again on the third day so that all the promises of heaven would become ours. And he did just that. History has tried with all their might to disprove his death, burial, and resurrection. But they have yet to do it. And since no one has - and can't - disprove him and his promises, it would be worthwhile to search out his promises and place our trust in them.

If we trusted him, and received his love and peace and strength, then we should also trust him for his promises. Why not give it a try today? Find his promises to you, and begin to trust him to bring them to pass. 

Here is one: "God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8) Just work on that one for awhile. Believe him and see what happens.

(Fourth in a 5-day, 5-part blog on Greater and Better Things.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Greater Witness in us!

"9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son."  (1 John 5:9, 10 NKJV)

There are many people in the world that would tell us there is no God, Jesus doesn't love us, Jesus can't help us, Jesus isn't the Son of God, etc. But God says, "I am living inside of you, and my witness of myself is greater than what men say to you." We have a Greater Witness inside of us. Or as someone said, "We have inside information."

Nowadays, people are saying that God is dead. They say that Christianity is old hat, the truth is we can do what we want to. They tell us we are foolish to trust in Someone Whom we have never seen. But if we have asked Jesus into our hearts (remember? the Greater One is in you?), then we have an inside witness. The noise of this world tries to drown it out, but if we will get quiet for a moment...There it is! That inside witness is telling us that God is real, and he lives inside us. 

Once again, it doesn't say that the witness is around us, or behind us, or in front of us. No! This verse says we have "the witness in us!" We just need to develop our inside ears! We need to practice hearing his voice in us. He knows, he understands, he guides. He won't force you to hear him, or make you acknowledge him inside. But if you will listen, he will guide you. 

Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice." He doesn't lie. So if he said we hear, then we can hear. So every once in a while, just get quiet. Shut out the world, and begin to hear that inside witness - I love you, I'm with you, I can do it through you.

(Third in a 5-day, 5-part blog on Greater and Better Things.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Greater Works are ours!

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father."  (John 14:12 - NKJV)

Now here is something to think about: we will (and can) do greater works than Jesus did. Why is that so hard to believe? Jesus said it, and he doesn't lie. Some would argue that greater in this verse means more, not more dynamic. Even so, greater is still greater. There are Christians who have done virtually nothing all their lives, so to do one or two things would be a great thing for them.

But the word greater is a word with no limits. Suppose you could bless three people today with something? A good deed, a kind word, a prayer of help, an encouragement. And don't forget that the word (which is unlimited) would include a healing, a provision, etc. Just suppose...

This verse implies that Jesus has a part to fulfill and so do we. His part is to "go to My Father." He has done his part. Our part is to "believe in Him." Will you do your part?

The devil has done a good job lying to us, telling us that we are unimportant in the church, unimportant to God. We are small fries, not a very big catch. But Jesus just continues to whisper inside of us (remember? the Greater One is in us?) that we are important to him and he will help us do a greater thing(s).

Give it a try today! Push out! Reach out to bless someone! Let Jesus help you.

(Second of a 5-day, 5-part blog on Greater and Better Things.) 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Greater One in You

"You are of God, little children, and have overcome them (the spirit of Antichrist, the evil one), because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."  (1 John 4:4 NKJV)

What a wonderful thing to know - the Greater One lives in us! If we have asked Jesus into our heart, then the Greater One is in us. We are so sin-conscious, so aware of the troubles around us. We allow what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears and feel with our emotions to override the truth that God wants us to know above all truths. Jesus lives in us - the Greater One.

God promises us that we have already overcome our enemies through Jesus living in us. What if we believed that? I mean, what if we put legs to that truth and began to walk and talk and act as though it were true - because it is. What if we said, "This is not going to defeat me because Jesus already defeated it. And Jesus lives in me." That would give us a different perspective on our day and days.

Notice that this verse says he is in us - not around us, or before us, or after us - but in us! So no matter where we are, what we are doing, who is with us, the Greater One is in us. 

He did say to us, "If you love me, I will come in to you and live with you and you with me." And he is true to his word. 

So stand up a little straighter. Put a little bigger smile on your face. Whistle a little happier tune. Because Jesus, the Greater One, is in you and you are an Overcomer! (And if you haven't asked Him into your life, do so right now! Don't waste another minute!)

(First in a 5-part, 5-day blog on Greater and Better Things.)