Hidden and Revealed

Colossians 3: 1 – 4

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

We talked about seeking on Monday. Here Paul tells us what else we should seek. So far this year, we have seen that we are to seek the Lord, His strength and His face continually (Psalm 105: 4), His Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6: 33), and now the things which are above. The shorthand is, fix your eyes on Jesus. Keep looking at him because in him is all that matters. All the universe is in him because he is the light, the life and the way.

Seeking is a very important scriptural and spiritual concept and I wouldn’t minimize it in any fashion. Reading this passage, though, one surely is gripped by our death in Jesus, which brings us to the next thought. We need to be resurrection conscious. By this I mean that by now we should have died to ourselves, died with Christ and been raised up with him in a resurrected life. If, then, you have been raised up with Christ, don’t keep looking back at or longing for the old, dead man. Leave the things of the earth to the dirt they are born of and set your heart on the things above. Does that mean you cannot enjoy any of the good things on the earth? No, absolutely not. God has given us all good things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6: 17).

At some level this is about our values. I think of saints I have studied or known about and the over-arching similarity is their devotion to Christ. They buried the old self with its desires and arose with a new value system. It is just fine to enjoy a new car, a new house or a nice vacation. We know that God gives us those things to enjoy. Dying to self means those things no longer occupy the space they once did. In the resurrection life, God is the center of the universe. If our life is truly hidden in God with Christ, we will have made some choices about what is most important to us. These are choices made with the heart. The lover of God could not choose earthly desires over His longing for God because his heart compels him to seek the face of God. This is about loving God above all else. Some of those old saints I have read about would more likely forget to eat than to miss a single day spending time with God. They needed it, craved it.

We love God too but perhaps our zeal is not as vibrant as that of some of the people we read about. However, we can be as impassioned as anyone. We can have such zeal for God that nothing stands in our way when it comes to our devotionals. We too can have an unquenchable passion for the one who loved us first. I know I want more of that passion in my life. I am sure you do too. As we focus our attention on the thing we want, we draw ourselves towards it. Discipline helps too. The use of discipline helps us to develop a lifestyle that later becomes a part of us. As we discipline ourselves to do what we choose, we begin to enjoy the fruit of those disciplines so that we come to desire the thing we had to almost force ourselves to do previously.

Still, it begins with a decision born out of love for our Father. We choose to die to self and the passions of self and instead live to Christ. This is really some heady stuff, very idealistic and not too common. The modern church certainly is not known for its disciplined devotion to Christ. None the less, we are true believers with a love for Christ and we are finding our way into deeper and deeper ways with him. We are products of the past and the teachings of our time. We have journeyed through many aspects of knowledge and balance. I believe we are beginning to long for more of Jesus and Father. We need more of them in our lives, in our very breath and we are leaning forward into them where the life we live is a product of their lives; us in them, them in us. The great news is, they are leaning toward us too. They are calling for us to come into the deep water, water which is over our heads. As scary as that can be, it is a wonderful place to be. With Christ, hidden in God is our life, our old life having been buried.

Where is your heart? What do you want? Tell the Lord and ask him to lead you. This is a new level in Christ and a very safe place.

Death and Taxes

Acts 1: 2 – 3

[U]ntil the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.

There was a period of forty days between when Jesus was resurrected and when He ascended to heaven when He made several appearances to his disciples. He had his body and was alive. He ate with them and they touched His body. This is the period of time when Thomas, whom we like to call doubting Thomas, pressed his finger into the wound in Jesus’ side. When Mary, who was the first to encounter the risen Jesus, pressed into Him, He told her not to “cling” to Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father.

It is interesting to note that there was this period of forty days when Jesus appeared to his disciples. He had arisen from the dead with his body but He had not yet ascended to heaven. He used this time to minister to his disciples and to teach and instruct them. I imagine that this was very special time to the disciples. From this we get an understanding of resurrection and that Jesus’ body did not just evaporate in that tomb but that it was raised up. We gain insight into our own day of resurrection and that we also will be alive just as Jesus is now alive. He is alive and this message was truly born in that forty-day period between the resurrection and Jesus’ ascension to His Father when the disciples saw Him, spoke with Him and touched Him. Their experiences with Him during that period strongly influence our message today. He is alive! And we will live with Him for all eternity and the power and glory of His victory. He is most assuredly alive. He lives. And it is for us that He lives. Truly this is a message worth shouting from the rooftops. Our Jesus defeated the bonds of death. He overcame a world of destruction and decay so that we all might live and not die. He conquered death and taxes, the two things that we think cannot be overcome. He had fish paying His tax for Him after all. When we get a real deep revelation of His victory over the things that seem impossibilities to us then we are going to gain our own freedom. We will be truly alive, then, in him.

Killer God

1 Kings 17: 18

So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!”

What is that expression, the more things change, the more they stay the same? This might well have been said yesterday rather than long ago. There are two implications in the verse. The first one is that God punishes us for our iniquity by making bad things happen to us. The second is that it is God who takes life from people.

God answered this widow’s prayer when she was at the end of her rope with nothing to feed herself or her child. Elijah showed up, sent by God, and blessed her flour bowl and jar of oil such that neither ever ran empty. She received supernatural provision from God through Elijah. However, when her son died she immediately turned on Elijah and God blaming them for her son’s sickness and subsequent death.

Isn’t that about how we are today? When someone dies we say, “Well, God took them home.” Other people are even worse. When something bad happens they not only blame God, but they say He is punishing them for their sins. Hello!! That is a person who understands nothing about the message of the cross. Jesus took your sin and God said He doesn’t even remember it anymore. So, how is God going to punish you for something He doesn’t remember and that Jesus already paid for?

Elijah took the woman’s son to the upper room and prayed to God for the boy’s life to return to him and the boy was restored. Now, unless God is schizophrenic, it makes no sense to suggest he killed the boy. If He wanted the boy dead, He wouldn’t have brought him back to life. Or is God just a puppet master who sits in heaven playing games with us. “Hey, watch what happens when I kill this widow’s son!” You can’t know God and believe something like that. He is love and further, He doesn’t play silly games with people’s lives.

We forget, I guess, that there is a devil in the world. John 10: 10 teaches that Satan’s aim is to steal, kill and destroy. The verse does not say that God comes to kill. In fact, Jesus was speaking and said that he came to bring us abundant life. That is kind of the opposite of kill, steal and destroy.

It is amazing how twisted around we get but that is why it is called deception. God is a life giver. Blessing comes from the Father. He doesn’t even need to bring you trials. There is already plenty of that in the world. Is there anyone you love? I mean really love. Is there someone you love more than you love yourself? Do you wish to be a blessing to them or do you want to make their life a hardship? What does love do? Trust your Father to be the source of blessing. He is goodness and mercy. He will restore what the devil steals from you just like he did for the widow of Zarephath.

It’s Your Choice

Deuteronomy 30: 19           NOG

I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.

Are you familiar with this verse? I want you to be. It is so very powerful and can change your life. In fact, this is a great one for you to meditate on. The piece of it I wish to highlight today is the word “choose.”

God has offered us life. He has offered us blessings. Death and the curse entered the earth in the Garden of Eden. So, both life and death and blessing and the curse are out there for the choosing. The interesting aspect is that we get to choose. I always smile when I read this verse because I hear it this way, “I have given you the choice between life and death, the blessing and the curse. Let me give you a hint. Choose life and blessing.” It is like God is trying to clue us in on which one to choose. It seems ridiculous at one level. We should be smart enough that He does not need to give us a hint and yet, it is a forebearer of a truth. We often make the wrong choice. We choose death instead of life and the curse instead of the blessing. Why would we do that?

Let me ask you a different question. Supposing you rather have life and blessing, how do you make that choice? What mechanism is in place for choosing? That is the main issue, I believe. Do folks know how to choose life? In how many ways do we choose the curse instead of the blessing? I believe most Christians do not realize there is a choice, how to make the choice, or how they are making the wrong choice daily.

One of the most poignant events in the Bible is found in the book of Joshua. As the book opens, Moses has just died. He, who was the liberator of Israel, who led them for years through their long sojourn, who importuned God for them, prayed for them, taught them, and cared for them, is dead. Now what? Shall the nation of Israel fall apart right there, having never crossed over into the promised land? It is a climactic moment is Judeo-Christian history. It could have all ended right there, on the wrong side of the Jordan. Instead, God appointed Joshua to be the leader of His people. How would you like that job, following in Moses’ footsteps? It must have been pretty frightening for Joshua. God took him aside, though, to give him the secret of success, to be his coach and mentor. God told Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” (Joshua 1: 7 – 9).

I know that was a long quote but you need to see it all. Right here God gave Joshua the choice to fail or succeed. He even gave him the crib notes for the test. In other words, God didn’t make success a mystery. Success or failure lay at Joshua’s feet so God showed him the path to success. He gave him all the secrets. That is what God does.

Here is my point. Father wants us to succeed so He has given us the cheat sheet. “Here are all the answers,” He says. All we have to do is use them. How many points do you find in the quote from the book of Joshua? I counted seven. The real question is, how many of them are we doing. This is how we choose life and blessing. Joshua didn’t have to take God’s advice. We know he did because he enjoyed success and led the nation of Israel into the promised land. He chose blessing. He chose life.

Here are two of the big seven. One, do not fear. If we live in fear, we fertilize death and curse. Second, and this is a really big one, meditate in this Word day and night. When we meditate in the Word, we are actively choosing life and blessing.

This passage from Joshua teaches how to choose to live in the blessing. We need to follow where the Lord is leading. We need to communicate with him so that we see his ways generally and the specific path he points out for us. We can choose to be blessed. We can choose the abundant life Jesus said he came here to give us. I think if you will follow the advice God gave Joshua, if you will learn how to commune with Jesus and actually do it, that you will find yourself in overflow of everything good. Please, choose life, choose the blessing. It’s your choice.

Ripe

1 Chronicles 29: 28

Then he died in a ripe old age, full of days, riches and honor and his son Solomon reigned in his place.

Well, if you are following the story this week, our friend, David has died passing, on the mantle of leadership to Solomon. What I find interesting in this passage is that he died at a ripe old age, full of days, full of riches and full of honor. My interest is especially piqued by the fullness of days. There is another passage in the twenty-third chapter that goes along with this. Verse 1 of that chapter reads, “Now when David reached old age, he made his son Solomon king over Israel.” There is a footnote at “reached old age” which tells us that he literally was “sated with days.” He was full of days, satisfied. Of course, that brings to mind Psalm 91: 16, “With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.”

You should live on planet earth healthy and prosperous until you are fully satisfied. You aren’t supposed to die because you are sick. You are supposed to lay down your body and move to heaven because you are well satisfied. David was ready to turn over the running of Israel to his son and did. Everything was in place, his work done, his life full and satisfied. He left having fulfilled his mission in life.

Christians need a brain washing and this scripture is good for it. We have been coaxed by the world into sickness and death but Jesus is the life so we must adjust our thinking. Right now, each of us already has eternal life. The only difference will be that we will move to heaven at some point. However, for all we know, we may be back on earth someday. The point is, though, that we have begun to think like the world instead of like God and that is a problem. When people ask what you are going to die of you ought to say of satisfaction. When I am full of what this world holds, I will move on and it won’t be because I am sick or diseased. We’ll just lay down these bodies.

Get this mindset working in you that God has promised to satisfy you and don’t quit, don’t lay down until you are full and satisfied.

Judgment Day

John 5: 24

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

I have already had my judgment day. How about you? Do you hear Jesus’ word? Do you believe He who sent him, i.e. God, do you believe God? Jesus said if you hear his word and believe God then you have passed out of death. You have passed into life. You have eternal life. You have it now. There is another part of this verse, though, and something we need to hear. All you hear Jesus’ word and believe God have already passed into eternal life and do not come into judgment. That is a big statement and a momentous idea. You will not face judgment. Jesus has already paid your way with his blood. Hallelujah!

Many Christians have their eyes focused on judgment day. That is not where our focus ought to be. Our focus is to be on Jesus’ word. Will there be a judgment day? Truthfully, judgment is already in the world which is why Jesus came, to save us from the judgment that was upon the world, but you have passed into life.

The thing which is most troubling about Christians who worry about their result on judgment day, is that they work to earn a good judgment. They believe that on judgment day their deeds will render them either a good judgment or a bad one. Here is the unabashed truth of that. They are hardly Christians because they are not wearing the mantle of Christ. They are actually humanists because they are trying to win God’s favor by their good works rather than the sacrifice of Jesus. They believe there is something they can do to woo God and it is, in reality, a stench in God’s nose.

The only thing that makes any of us worthy of gaining heaven is the blood sacrifice of our beloved. There is nothing you can do to make yourself one bit more saved than you are now. You will not face the judgment seat because you have already been judged and passed onto eternal life. You made a choice. You chose Jesus and that choice is the dividing line. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil,” (John 3: 19). A negative judgment is on those who love and choose the darkness. For those who choose the light, they are saved and passed on into eternal life. So, you have reason to celebrate and praise the Lord for you have been spared judgment.

There is one other thing of note in this verse. It is interesting that Jesus did not say this good news is for those who have “heard” his word. He said it is for those who hear his word. Think about that for a moment. What is the difference. Also, Jesus did not say that eternal life is for those who believe “in” God. That is what we read but not what Jesus said. Jesus said heaven is for those who “believe Him who sent me.”

I believe Jesus is communicating a dynamic relationship to us. He wants us to hear, and continue hearing, his word, the word that he is speaking today. Then we are supposed to believe it. We are supposed to believe what God is saying and believe what He has said. Satan believes “in” God. That is no big thing. We are called believers because we are supposed to believe God. We are to believe His Word and even act on it. We believe He is faithful, kind and that He is present right now in our own environment. We believe He is alive and active. We are believers in all Jesus’ words. That separates us, especially when our actions show our belief. We act on our beliefs. Everyone does, so when we act on Jesus’ words, our belief system shows.

If you believe Jesus and hear his words. If you believe God and all He has said throughout the centuries, then you have already passed out of death and into life. You are already living in eternity. Eternal life is yours. That is some good news and perhaps encouragement too.

Riding Fire Horses

2 Kings 2: 11             Tree of Life

As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.

We have developed what, to me, is a perverted way of thinking about death. Truth be told, even using the word “death” is an admission that we do not understand or do not believe in the eternal life. I say that because we are living our eternal life now. You will never die but you are going to change addresses. There will be a transition from here to heaven. Okay sure, your body will give up its life but your spirit is eternal. Anyway, what bothers me about our concept of death is that we will die of a disease. Not me brother. That is not God’s will for me so I don’t accept it. Neither should you.

Why don’t we just ride out of here on a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire the way Elijah did? We actually see that happening in scripture, therefore, it is scriptural and you cannot say it isn’t. We didn’t see it happen often, in fact this is the only example exactly like this, but that is not to say it didn’t happen more than once. Whatsmore, Enoch went up to heaven without “dying.” “And Enoch continually walked with God—then he was not there, because God took him (Genesis 5: 24 TLV). So, who is to say this isn’t God’s preferred way of moving us from earth to heaven? Personally I would rather ride in a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire than to get sick to the point of death.

If God is the great healer, why are we all expecting to get sick and die? Does that really make any sense at all? What a lack of faith we demonstrate when it comes to life and death. We have been so molded by an unbelieving generation that we no longer think as Godly people in this area. Today is a new day though. Let’s shake up our thinking.

You should intend and expect to live a long life and be strong and able bodied for the entirety of it. Then, at a ripe old age, 120 or more, just walk out of this body and into heaven. I am not using my faith to believe for you or myself to be sick one single day of our lives. Does it happen sometimes? Yes, sometimes it does but that is the anomaly. Every once in a while the world sneaks up on us, doesn’t it, but we are people of faith, believers in the God of power and righteousness. We need to shift our minds to where our hearts reside and get our mouths in line with the Word. Then we will live a different existence here on earth and go out riding on God’s glory. That is His will for you.