Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mary, Mary, Mary OR Martha

During the hustle 'n' bustle of preparing for celebrating JESUS' birthday, i want to practice being a "Mary" rather than being a "Martha." But which Mary?

In my opinion, the most important Mary in all human history is the virgin Mary, the mother of JESUS, the CHRIST. She was the vessel blessed indeed by GOD and chosen by Him to supernaturally bring into the world the Word -- to manifest His only begotten Son into human flesh. And there could only be one such Mary for one such ultimate miracle of bringing the infinite One into the finite body of a tiny vulnerable baby...and young Mary was one that had such great faith that though she couldn't understand the how of it, she believed that with GOD, anything was possible.

This Mary was quite young, a virgin betrothed to Joseph -- she knew what great consequence would befall her when she was found pregnant outside of wedlock, and with a baby not even Joseph's. Yet her answer to the angel's announcement was, "i am the LORD's servant, may it be to me as You have said." (Luke 1:38) Her faith was such that she received the honor of being chosen to be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah with a fully trusting heart --obeying GOD and trusting that GOD will deal with all the consequences.

Can i follow Mary's example of being this trusting...of saying Yes! to anything and everything that GOD wants to accomplish through my life, no matter the havoc it may wreak to my own plans? Can i say, like Mary did, "My soul glorifies the LORD and my spirit rejoices in GOD my SAVIOR" (Luke 1:46-47) when GOD tells me to let go my agenda and instead get in step with His own -- never mind where or when or how He wants me to follow Him...to just go for GOD no matter the cost? Do i have the inner strength, the great faith, and glad obedience that Mary exemplified? Only GOD knows...the time will come when He will clearly show me the direction He wants me to take. And that's when i'll know if my faith is such that i will say Yes! -- no matter what His directive may be.

Another Mary is Mary of Magda, who was a fully devoted follower of JESUS. He healed her by driving out her seven demons. How can she not surrender her life to Him after that? She followed Him...all the way to the agony of the cross at Calvary...she watched Him die. Mary Magdalene had the courage to watch her LORD die -- she didn't run away as almost all the other apostles did. During the worst time of her life (seeing her LORD crucified), she remained resolutely faithful to JESUS...and He honored her unwavering loyalty by allowing her, a woman, to be the first witness to His glorious resurrection.

Can i stand...just stand, in the midst of life's turmoil, waiting patiently on the LORD, steadfast and determined to keep my focus on JESUS and not the circumstance which is trying to cloud Him from my vision? Will my faith cave in, making me run away to escape from the pain of GOD's process? Or will i allow the Holy SPIRIT to fight my battles, trusting that with Him, "i can do all things through CHRIST Who strengthens me"? (Philippians 4:13)

And during this busy time of family get-togethers, shopping for unique gifts at The ShoppE at Rose's, tying loose ends with Bible studies, painting projects -- can i just sit still, like Mary, at the feet of my LORD JESUS? Or will i be like Martha, frustrated with all the busyness of the season's festivities -- being overwhelmed with too many good works for CHRIST that i neglect to make time for one-on-one fellowship with the most important, utterly precious Person of my life?

JESUS knew what was best -- not just the good enough -- for the household of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Martha did good things for JESUS -- she made Him comfortable and feel welcomed in their house (which i think was probably very clean and organized), served him good meals, and ran around Him in circles -- busily doing good works for Him.

"But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, "LORD, don't You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" (Luke 10:40) For she saw her sister Mary just sitting at JESUS' feet, listening to Him, in rapt attention. And JESUS said (and i wonder what tone He used when He said her name twice) --

"Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

During the busyness of my everyday life, will i choose to sit at JESUS' feet -- being nourished by His Word, being at one with Him through unceasing prayers and steadfast focus on His Person, being led by Him to do what He desires to have me do rather what i am expected to do as a CHRISTian?

Will i choose to be a Mary or a Martha?
Today, i have chosen to do what JESUS, my LORD, said was the better thing...which is the best for me. i will not allow the hectic busyness of celebrating CHRISTmas time take away my celebrating CHRIST Himself. JESUS is the bottom-line reason for CHRISTmas...

CHRIST JESUS is my bottom-line reason for living every day. He is The ROCK, the sure and only Foundation of my season on earth. \o/

Thursday, November 19, 2009

my CHURCH

In one of my Bible studies (this one with Faith Bible Institute, and John Yates as via-satellite instructor), during the study of The Book of Revelation -- on the chapters about the seven churches, i was convicted to look at my own "church" -- the church that i am today.

The Church is the body of CHRIST, which He is the Head and Owner, and i (and all born again believers -- no matter the denomination, nationality or country) as His follower, is a member of the whole body. The Holy SPIRIT Who abides within, in His still small voice, asked me: rln, how is your "church"? Are you SPIRIT filled? Are you a beacon of light to those around you, to the community in which you live? Are you zealous for CHRIST as He was (and is) for the Father? Does His SPIRIT control you...does His Presence enliven your "church"?

In Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, there were seven churches with certain characteristics which i could apply to my own "church" today -- a checklist, so to speak, to gauge my own inner spiritual condition. Which of these churches describe the inner me today?

The church at Ephesus -- the loveless church.

JESUS commended this church as hard working (evangelistic), patient (longsuffering and enduring all for Him without quitting), separated from the world (discerning of the truth, not tolerating evil people or wickedness, agreeing with Him in repudiating the deeds of the immoral Nicolaitans), persistent in their faith though persecuted. Yet He condemned this church for leaving its first love -- love for CHRIST Himself and fellow believers. This church had many good works, yet it neglected its first love -- communion with GOD and fellowship with His family. His counsel -- repent!

The church at Smyrna -- the persecuted church.

JESUS commended this church for suffering persecution (and slander from the synagogue of satan) and poverty for His sake (GOD saw this church as spiritually rich). He had no condemnation for this church. His counsel -- be fearless, remain faithful -- even when facing death, for those who are victorious will receive the crown of life and will not be hurt by the second death.

The church at Pergamos -- the compromising church.

JESUS commended this church for holding fast to their faith in Him amidst satanic influence (the city's populace worshipped many idols and objects) and martyrdom. He condemned this church because some members practiced the doctrine of Balaam (sexual immorality and idolatry); and some practiced the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (sexual immorality, perversions, self-indulgence). His counsel -- repent!

The church at Thyatira -- the corrupt church.

JESUS commended this church for their good works -- their constant improvement in love, service, faithfulness, patience and endurance. Yet He condemned them for allowing Jezebel to corrupt the church, to teach and seduce the members to commit sexual immorality, heresy and idolatry. His counsel to those who remained undefiled by Jezebel's corruption -- hold fast to their faith in Him until His return.

The church at Sardis -- the dead church.

JESUS commended this church for having a few who were not defiled, who were still a GODly remnant of the true faith in CHRIST. He condemned this church for being dead though it had a reputation for being alive -- for going through the motions like a walking zombie, but actually spiritually dead, for their deeds were far from right in the sight of GOD. His counsel -- watch, strengthen (that which remains and is about to die); remember what they have received (salvation, the Gospel), hold fast and repent!

The church at Philadelphia -- the faithful church.

JESUS commended this church that though it had little strength, it obeyed His Word and not denied His name...it obeyed His command to persevere. This church openly confessed to the inspiration of the Word of GOD, and openly confessed to the incarnation of JESUS, the Son of GOD. He had no condemnation for this church. His counsel -- hold fast to what they have so that no one may take their crown.

The church at Laodicea -- the lukewarm church.

JESUS had no commendations for this church! He had nothing good to say whatsoever. He condemned this church for its arrogance and pride -- for saying, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing." He condemned them for their ignorance of their true state -- "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." His counsel -- replace their material riches (wealth derived from the city's commercial industries -- banking, wool, medicine...eye salve, in particular) with the true spiritual riches which lead to genuine salvation: faith (gold purified by fire), works blessed by GOD (white raiment for their nakedness), forgiveness (spiritual eye salve, that they may see).

His counsel -- repent! Be diligent and turn from indifference. He is at the door, knocking -- calling (the Son of GOD asking to be allowed in!!!)...open the door of your heart.

(The above are basically from John Yates' commentary of the seven churches, as derived from Willmington's Guide to the Bible.)

So which church do i most resemble today? What will JESUS commend me for, and what will He find in me to rebuke? Do i do good works for self-aggrandisement rather than simply out of love for Him? Do i compromise His Word by not standing firm to His Truth? Do i obey GOD's commands or do i still conform myself to the world? Do i worship Him by rote rather than with passionate gratefulness? Do i still value the riches of this world rather than setting my sights on the true riches of His heavenly Kingdom? What is the condition of my inner church today?

Here's another guide which helped me in gauging my walk in CHRIST:

According to Pastor Charles Stanley, a church is healthy and effective when it is founded on these eight doctrines:

The Bible -- as the inerrant Word of GOD.
The Deity of CHRIST -- that JESUS CHRIST is not only the Son of GOD, but that He is GOD.
The Virgin Birth of JESUS CHRIST -- that the Holy SPIRIT supernaturally placed Him in the womb of the virgin Mary.
The Bodily Resurrection of CHRIST -- JESUS fully conquered death and rose on the third day.
The Second Coming -- that JESUS is going to return.
The Judgment -- that there is a time for each person to stand before almighty GOD and give an account.
Heaven and Hell -- that CHRIST's judgment will result in different eternal destinations for people.
Salvation -- that JESUS CHRIST went to the cross and died a sacrificial, atoning death, and that His sacrifice is the only way to be saved.

Okay, so far so good...i believe all the above and live intentionally (as enabled by the Holy SPIRIT), according to these foundational beliefs in CHRIST. (Midway Church teaches the above as well.)

Pastor Stanley states further that a healthy and effective church "builds faith and disciples... strengthens a believer's relationship with GOD, and helps him/her understand the Bible and scriptural principles for living... also provides avenues through which to serve... concerned about people around the world who have never heard the gospel... and should make an impact in its community, as well as globally."

How is my "church" -- my own inner spiritual process as a fully devoted follower of CHRIST? Am i applying GODly principles in my life? Am i walking the Life of JESUS by serving, by sharing the gospel? Am i impacting my family, my community...wherever GOD may choose to place me, even globally?

This i can say, with firm conviction --i am a saint being sanctified, one day at a time... that CHRIST has made me a new creature altogether, that i am His workmanship, that He is the author and finisher of rln, and that He is Faithful and True and will not leave any part of me undone!

All things i can do through CHRIST who strengthens me... without Him, i can do nothing... and without His Love, i am nothing -- nothing at all.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fully Devoted FOLLOWer of -- ?

Every person on earth is a fully devoted follower of some one or some thing -- some idea or some cause...some addiction or some passion.
Every person lives according to what he (or she) believes in his deepest core, according to what he values intrinsically -- to what he loves, to what he's attracted, to what he is physically, emotionally, mentally, soulfully attached. And if a person thinks he is beyond being attached to (or ruled by) anyone or anything, then that person may be ruled by his non-attachment (the Eastern delusion of reaching nirvana by striving to be non-striving, non-attached to anything). Or if a person is living a seemingly "good" life, materially satisfied, not committing any "major" acts of moral wrongs (believing that lying, stealing, gossiping, blaspheming, coveting are not "real" sins), living according to the laws of the country he lives in, and is, in his own conscience, free of the sins that he perceives as morally wrong in those around him -- he may be a devotee (fully devoted follower) of this lifestyle of ease and spiritual deception.

To what thing can a person be a fully devoted follower? The world has millions of fully devoted followers whose prime goal in life is to be rich and famous -- money, fame and power; to look like 20-year olds even though pushing 60s -- the illusive fountain of youth; or to have that ideal happily-ever-after relationship, whether married or just shacking up -- Cinderella and the Prince Charming come to life.
To whom can a person be a fully devoted follower? god. The god of self...me, myself and i -- what feels good to me, what is best for myself, what i will. The god of self-seeking, self-realization, self-aggrandisement. Even if a person is an atheist -- one who chooses not to believe in GOD as First Cause, and all Creation as the caused effect of the Creator's divine will -- he by his choice is a fully devoted follower of god...the god of himself.

Or others may be fully devoted followers and worshipers of these "gods"... Mary... Buddha... Mohammed... Joseph Smith... Confucius... spirit-in-all... higher power... the force...

But those who profess to be true CHRISTians, born again of the SPIRIT of GOD, whether this or that denomination, what does it really mean to be a fully devoted follower of CHRIST?

(Since i have no formal Bible college training, nor am i a church-authorized Bible teacher, nor even a "mature" CHRISTian, i can only draw insight from who i am In CHRIST and what discernment i have been given, as shaped thus far by the indwelling SPIRIT of GOD.)

What is fully? To me, fully is all i am and all i have -- my whole life -- as expressed through my heart, will, mind, body, finances/ possessions, and hopes for the future. Fully means to surrender all, not grudgingly or unwillingly or fearfully, but in loving, joyful obedience -- all of my heart -- by loving CHRIST more than any relationship, activity, achievement, or possession...by making Him the sole focus of my emotions, desires, and passions...by allowing Him to reign over my soul.

will -- by committing myself completely to Him...by emptying myself of all desire to exercise my rights to my rights...by denying personal self-will...by bowing down to the Truth that GOD's will for me is allways best -- joyous, interesting, vital GODventurez...so much better than i could ever imagine...by stopping my striving against His almighty will, and instead resting in the confidence that i am His child and that He loves me to the infinite power.

mind -- by seeking to know the Person of CHRIST and His Word, so His principles and values become the foundation for all i think, say and do; by setting aside my old learned habits of thought, views and prejudices...and instead accepting GOD's view point on all things as the right view. i will lean not on my own understanding, but trust in GOD with all my heart. (Proverbs 3:5)

body -- by acknowledging that my physical body with all its strengths, talents, and sexuality are given to me from GOD; and as a new creation In CHRIST, a dwelling place for His SPIRIT, to be used by GOD to accomplish that which He desires to accomplish through me, according to His rules, not mine. My part is to cooperate by keeping this GOD-given body as healthy and fit as i am able so that i may be that vessel, fit for His intended work.
finances/possessions -- by recognizing that money and all my possessions are gifts from GOD. He is the Source of all good things in my life, and i am to be a good steward of all the possessions He has given me. It means seeing money and possessions (whether material things, or abilities and talents, or what's most precious to me -- my time) as blessings GOD has given me to be used to also bless others through me. i am not to hoard or keep any of these possessions to myself, but to share them with those in need around me.
future -- by giving my dreams and desires to GOD, trusting the outcome to be His perfect and loving will; by deciding to be a servant like CHRIST...by practicing JESUS' ultimate command, Love one another as i have loved you; by putting Love in action...which is serving others.

Fully devoted is total surrender, absorption, attention, to the Person of CHRIST JESUS Himself -- not to any particular doctrine, or cause, or good works, or church, or denomination. It's crucifying the old nature in me -- cutting out anything and everything that stands in the way of becoming one with CHRIST. It's getting rid of "stuff" -- hindrances, stumbling blocks -- such as confidence in my own self, my own judgment; traditions or beliefs that are safe and familiar, but contrary to GOD's view point; spiritual pride, born of personal accomplishments or "higher" education; habits or lifestyles not pleasing to GOD; fear of ridicule or rejection for declaring JESUS as Lord of my life; love for self-glorification or honor; love for worldly "stuff" -- material or otherwise -- stuff that satisfy but for a brief time.
Being a fully devoted follower of CHRIST is putting into action all i've professed as a child of GOD, as a born again believer. As a passionate follower of JESUS, it is believing and trusting in Him completely; it is declaring His Truth (the Good News) to all, and by the enabling power of the abiding Holy SPIRIT of GOD -- it is acting and living out the abundant Life which i received in 2003 when i said yes! to JESUS as my Lord. In short, it is walking the talk, one day at a time.

For me, it is the most precious and amazing privilege, this undeserved grace of GOD -- that i have been allowed to receive the free gift of redemption of CHRIST...that i have Heaven now. i don't have to die to be ushered into the very Presence of GOD. Heaven, the very Presence of GOD, is my Reality today, and forever...all because i said a resounding Yes! to the Father's invitation to make JESUS, His Son, LORD of my life.How could i not rejoice and revel in being a fully devoted follower of JESUS? In Him is the mind of GOD -- infinite wisdom. In Him is everlasting life -- no more limitation, old age or decay, or discord. In Him are Love, Joy, Peace -- the real kind...the kind that surpasses way, way! beyond the world's superficial understanding of these much longed-for realities. In Him is the power and authority of the Father, by the Holy SPIRIT given to all believers. In CHRIST, i have all that i need, all that my heart desires, all that i could ever imagine or hope for in this life and certainly after this life!

To what or to whom are you a fully devoted follower?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Jews and Gentiles -- Children of Almighty GOD

The longing of my heart and my prayer to GOD is that the Jewish people might be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for GOD, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don't understand GOD's way of making people right with Himself. Instead, they are clinging to their own way of getting right with GOD by trying to keep the Law. They won't go along with GOD's way. For CHRIST has accomplished the whole purpose of the Law. All who believe in Him are made right with GOD.

For Moses wrote that the Law's way of making a person right with GOD requires obedience to all of its commands. But the way of getting right with GOD through faith says,
"You don't need to go to heaven" (to find CHRIST and bring Him down to help you). And it says, "You don't need to go to the place of the dead" (to bring CHRIST back to life again). Salvation that comes from trusting CHRIST--which is the message we preach--is already within easy reach. In fact, the Scriptures say, "The message is close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart."

For if you confess with your mouth that JESUS is Lord and believe in your heart that GOD raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with GOD, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, "Anyone who believes in Him will not be disappointed." Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They all have the same Lord, who generously gives His riches to all who ask for them. For "Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, "Lord, who has believed our message?" Yet faith comes from listening to this message of good news--the Good News about CHRIST.

But what about the Jews? Have they actually heard the message? Yes, they have: "The message of GOD's creation has gone out to everyone, and its words to all the world."

But did the people of Israel really understand? Yes, they did, for even in the time of Moses, GOD had said,
"I will rouse your jealousy by blessing other nations. I will make you angry by blessing the foolish Gentiles."

And later Isaiah spoke boldly for GOD:
"I was found by people who were not looking for Me. I showed Myself to those who were not asking for Me."

But regarding Israel, GOD said, "All day long I opened my arms to them, but they kept disobeying Me and arguing with Me."
(Romans 10:1-21)

Paul, the apostle, wrote the above about A.D. 57 to the CHRISTian church in Rome, which included mostly Jewish followers, but also many Gentiles (people of any nationality other than Jewish). This letter was intended for all believers of the Good News then, but also for everyone today who has ever sinned. For haven't we all sinned by breaking one (or four or five or ALL) of the Laws of GOD? Can any of us truthfully say that he/she has not broken a single one of the Ten Commandments, or any of the 613 mitzvot (commandments, ordinances, rules for life) contained in the Mosaic Law? (The Mosaic law begins with the Ten Commandments and includes the many rules of religious observance given in the first five books of the Old Testament.)
One may argue that since he/she is not of Jewish heritage, he/she is not under obligation to follow the Mosaic Law. True. But we are ALL under GOD, under His authority, for we are all His Creation...and all of us have rebelled against GOD. (Whether you believe in GOD or not, it doesn't alter the fact that there is a Creator of the created; a Designer of the design. Can something come from nothing? Can the gazillion galaxies come about out of thin air? Even "thin air" had to have been created. Can a watch -- taken apart, with all its intricate parts jumbled in a box -- put itself together, even after a million years in the box?)
If a person is Jewish but still an unbeliever (not trusting that JESUS is the Messiah), then that person is a Gentile at heart. And if a person is a Gentile (male or female, black or white or brown or yellow or pink, Bolivian or American, Chinese or Aborigine, Maori or Filipino; whether homosexual "gone straight" or adulterer "gone monogamous" or ex-addict "gone clean" -- raised as Buddhist or Catholic or Baptist or Mormon or Jew or Muslim or atheist or just confused), but has trusted JESUS as Lord of his/her life, repented of his/her sins (true repentance is confessing/agreeing with GOD about his/her sins, asking for forgiveness and turning away from sin and turning to GOD) and made a conscious decision of the will to commit and surrender his/her life to JESUS -- then he/she is "of the circumcision"...a Jew at heart...adopted into the family of GOD's chosen people.
Some of the branches from Abraham's tree, some of the Jews, have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, were grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing GOD has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in GOD's rich nourishment of His special olive tree. But you must be careful not to brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. Remember, you are just a branch, not the root. (Romans 11:17-18.GOD is indeed abundant in grace. To everyone on earth, whether Jew or Gentile, He gives the free gift of salvation... redemption... freedom from sin's wage of death -- out of His infinite store of abundant grace. And what is grace? Unearned, unmerited, undeserved favor or good will of GOD. So that no one may boast of his good works, so that no one may say he/she was good enough. No one ever was, ever is, or ever will be good enough in the sight of GOD. GOD is so beyond our finite concept of what is good -- GOD is holy -- perfectly and infinitely holy! Can we ever measure up to His standard of goodness and holiness? Of course not...and if you are honest with yourself, you'll agree -- not with what i say, but with the Truth, which is written in your heart -- your GOD-given conscience.
GOD only gave us Ten Commandments, us Gentiles, that is. The Jews were given the whole 613, given to Moses to give to the Jewish people. But even with "just" ten laws, we've utterly failed. Who has not stolen (a pen at work, a candy from the store bin, time off the clock at work), or not lied ("white," 99% of the truth, or kept silent about a truth, are all lies in GOD's sight), or not committed adultery in his/her heart (anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart -- Matthew 5:28); or not coveted (his neighbor's wife, or car, or Blackberry); or not cussed or blasphemed; or not honored his/her parents; or not killed in actuality or in our thoughts (abortion; whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment -- the same judgment due a murderer -- Matthew 5:22); or not guilty of idolatry (You shall have no other gods before Me -- the number one commandment of GOD's Top Ten, as written in Exodus 20:3-17 and repeated in Deuteronomy 5:7-21 for all of us slow learners).
Who has not broken the number one commandment? Who has not set up himself or herself as his or her own personal god? Who has not given a tea party for me, myself and i? Who has not allowed husband/wife/lover, job, money, addiction, pride, or personal agenda to become even more important than GOD -- the Source of all that a person is, the Source of all that a person has -- including life itself?
We are all guilty. We are all under the condemnation of our sins. We will all face judgment. Believe it or not. Just as the laws of nature have been set -- that for every action, there is an equal re-action ; that whatever a person plants, that he/she will also harvest. There's a consequence for each choice made...not just in the physical realm, but also in the spiritual.
What then is the answer? The remedy to our man-made dilemma? Read again Romans 10:9-13. For those who are still yearning to be filled with abundant Life! here in the now and in the inevitable hereafter of death; for those who are still searching for that indescribable joy that is far beyond all the fleeting emotional highs of happiness found in the things of this world; for those who long to be loved just as they are, to be accepted as is, in all his/her unsightly warts and scars -- here is the key to peace...peace and security and confidence and joy and contentment and yes...the happily-ever-after ending of your story here on earth.For if you confess with your mouth that JESUS is Lord and believe in your heart that GOD raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with GOD, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, "Anyone who believes in Him will not be disappointed." Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They all have the same Lord, who generously gives His riches to all who ask for them. For "Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord JESUS CHRIST will be saved."