White Stones – 179

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Today we are finishing up the letter to Pergamum, found in Rev 2:12-17.

We have a picture of Jesus with the sword of the Word of God coming from His mouth – the sword – a symbol of absolute power these Pergamumians would have understood!

The church was under deceptive attack by the Nicolatians. They would tell Christians that God’s wonderful grace is truly a license to sin. Usually in the form of sexual immorality. Jesus had a word for the Nicolatians and those being mislead: repent! If they did not repent, Jesus said I’m coming to you – the church, to make war against them – the Nicolatians. What Good News for believers! Not judgment upon the church, but against those who are deceiving His people.

The Nicolatians could repent or they could leave, but things had to change, for Jesus had spoken. Will Jesus kill them? The sword is the Word of God – which speaks of truth demolishing lying strongholds.

What is the hidden hidden manna? In the wilderness of Moses’ day, it was called the bread of heaven – which pointed to Jesus. I believe it is the same here. And the white stone? Many possibilities, but likely in line with the ancient Roman custom of awarding white stones to the victors of athletic games, engraved with their names – that granted them admission to the celebrations to follow. 

Our new name? Our new identity in Christ. In the new covenant all things become new. The moment we were put in Christ, His life and His name became ours. The name which no one knows but he who receives it speaks of intimacy rather than secrecy. The adventure of our lives is figuring out all we are in Christ – of discovering the person God has made us to be! 

These blessings come to every believer through grace alone. Not only to overcomers – because all who believe in Jesus have been made overcomers.

Sometime we have to make difficult choices. Do we become all things to all men or do we take a stand? When sin is involved and people are getting hurt and lives destroyed, I think you know the answer. Shine my friend, and have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness. Shine – and COME ALIVE! 

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Living near satan’s throne? – 178

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We are looking at the love letters of Jesus to the 7 churches in Revelation.

Today we look at Pergamum, Rev 2:12-17. Lots of excitement here: a sharp two-edged sword, satan’s throne, the evil teachings of the Nicolatians, clear instructions to repent – and the promises of hidden manna, a white stone, and a secret new name!

Pergamum was a royal and ancient city, the capital and head of the Roman province of Asia. It was full of temples to idols. 

Some Roman governors had swords. Those with swords held the power of life and death – it was the symbol of absolute authority. No surprise then that the letter to Pergamum, head of Roman authority, pictures Jesus with the sword.

A group called the Nicolatians had introduced an evil teaching, believers were being led astray, so Jesus comes with the sword of truth to set things right.

Why Satan’s throne? It was a reference to Rome, for in persecuting Christians Rome was the tool of Satan, enforced in Pergamum more than any other city. Violent murders were entertained. Jesus compliments the believers there for not denying His faith. No wonder!

Jesus warns the Nicolatians. They were holding to the teaching of Balaam, who said it was OK to participate in idol worship and commit acts of immorality. Many in Pergamum participated in the pagan sacrifices or sacrifices to Caesar because it was good for business; greed controlled them, just like Balaam.

They taught grace as a license to sin. They were not confused Christians. They were evil-doers introducing heresies into the church. They promised freedom but were themselves slaves of wickedness. 2 Pe 2:19. 

Rather than encourage people to put their faith in God, the Nicolatians actually encouraged Christians to participate in idol orgies. ‘Secure your future by worshiping demons,’ they proclaimed. So instead of idol worshipers coming to church to find grace and freedom, the Christians were going to the temples and bowing down to demons.

More next time my friend. In the meantime, reject the words of those who promote behavior in direct conflict with the word of God. Hold fast to your total faith in Jesus – and Come Alive! 

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Crown of Life – 177

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We are looking at the love letters of Jesus to the 7 churches in Revelation. Love letters – although on the surface it seems like Jesus has changed the terms of the covenant in His blood to one of “Produce or be punished.”

Dear friend, remember Ro 5:8-10, if “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” We were reconciled to God while we were His enemies — now we shall be saved by His life. There is nothing to fear in these letters!

We are looking at the letter to Smyrna, Rev 2:8-11. Smyrna was a prosperous city but the Christians there were poor and suffering because the very religious Jews caused them much distress. Some were about to die for their faith. The good news is that Jesus has been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale.

Jesus refers to those Jews as being of the synagogue of Satan.  Why? These ultra-religious Jews were murdering people: they were of their father the devil – hence the synagogue of Satan. The emperor Domitian had ascended to the throne. He referred to himself as lord and god. Acknowledge him as such – or face death. Jews could pay money and escape death, but not the Christians and numbers were killed. And the Jews would accuse the Christians to the Romans.

Thus Jesus saying, “do not fear,” gave them needed encouragement. 

10 days? It means the time of testing will be short. How about the promise, “be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life?” Smyrna was faithful to Rome before Rome was a world power. The Roman statesman Cicero described it as “our most faithful and most ancient ally.” Being faithful was their motto.

And the crown of life? The crown referred to Mt Pagos outside the city and the buildings surrounding it. Again, Jesus is using pictures and promises which the citizens of the time would have understood readily. He will give His followers the True Crown – of life!

The crown of life is given to those who love the Lord regardless of what trials we face and how well we face them. Why? Because eternal life is a gift by grace. Ro 6:23.

My friend, He who has conquered death – is the Lord – and He has approved you – you have nothing left to prove. Rest in this reality – you’ll COME ALIVE! 

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Tree of Life – 176

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We’re concluding Jesus’ letter to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2. Our takeaway thus far: stop trying to get it right for Jesus, stop our toils FOR Him, but let us remember that place of grace we lived in when we began our walk with Him, receiving the love of God freely.

How about the promise at the end of the letter? “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.” In today’s world it sounds mysterious, puzzling to be sure. We have learned that Jesus is THE Overcomer, in us, and us in Him, making us Overcomer — believe it!

How about that “tree of life?” No puzzle for the Ephesians. The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was built on the site of an ancient tree shrine. A date palm tree. It was known as a refuge – as a place of salvation. There were even coins in Ephesus that had a date palm tree, their tree of life and salvation, stamped on them.

So Jesus gives them a promise – using what was very familiar. Beside the sacred tree they all knew, there now grew a new, true, tree of life for the believer. Jesus is giving them a wonderful affirmation of their position in Christ. He is saying that they – as Overcomers – have the right to eat from the REAL tree of life. What an awesome promise!

Let’s move on to the next letter, written to the church at Smyrna, Rev 2:8-11. The picture Jesus gives them of Himself is, “The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life.” Smyrna worshiped Dionysus, the Greek god of wine – who supposedly was killed and was brought back to life by his father Zeus. So when Jesus presents Himself as the Resurrected One, He is saying, ‘I am the reality to your myth.’

The city itself had been sacked by the Lydians, but 300 years later was rebuilt better than ever. She was a city that was dead and had come back to life. Thus Jesus’ picture is letting them know – HE knows them, very well indeed!

More next time – till then: be encouraged – for Jesus knows YOU very well indeed. Be encouraged – and COME ALIVE! 

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Overcoming Like An Ephesian – 175

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We have been looking at Jesus’ letter to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2. The Ephesians were working really hard to do all the right things, to get it right for Jesus. And they were doing this because they had left their first love. They had forgotten how they were saved, who did the saving, who does the keeping!

Jesus gave them the remedy: Remember – Repent – Do. Remember the love of God for them. Repent, turn from toiling to exhaustion for Him and do their first deeds. Those first deeds? Sitting at the feet of Jesus, like Mary – and receiving His unconditional love.

If they did not heed His instructions, Jesus said He would come and move them to a new place. Move their candlestick. Well, if you are in a place of loveless exhaustion, Jesus moving you to another place would be a much better thing than it sounds on the surface.

What does it mean “to him who overcomes?” Jesus says this in all 7 letters. Many people define overcoming as a list of things you must do – prevailing in life’s trials – victory over spiritual enemies – conquering every sin –  resisting temptation – walking in daily victory. Try to keep a list like that and you’ll get stressed out. And you will fail – it’s the law in disguise. The truth: Jesus has overcome. Past tense. The Overcomer now lives in us. 1 Jn 4:4. As He is so are we in this world. 1 Jn 4:17. We are overcomers because of Jesus. Unless we forget who we are. And think we have to earn the title and position.

We are in Jesus – Jesus is in us – we stand in His victory. We are more than conquerors. Read again Romans 8, those last few verses. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. 

These Ephesians had forgotten His unconditional, gracious love and were working to earn what they had been freely given. My dear friend, please don’t forget how much God loves you. At the end of this video, I urge you to take a moment, and remember when Jesus was your everything. Enter again – His rest. Stay there, you will COME ALIVE! 

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Toiling Like An Ephesian – 174

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We are looking at Jesus’ letter to the Ephesians,  Rev 2:1-7. They were working really hard to do all the right things, to get it right for Jesus. But their toils has worn them out. And Jesus told them why: they had left their first love.

Their first love? That’s God’s love for us, not our love for God. The Ephesians had somehow lost sight of His gracious love for them.“This is agape love, not that we loved God but that He loved us.” 1 Jn 4:10. Abiding in this agape love is how we are meant to live. But in a world that has always stressed performance and achievement, our personal best every time; it is not easy. 

If you were to ask the Ephesians if they loved Jesus, they would say, “Of course. Look at all we are doing for Him. Look at our labors – our toil – our perservance – our zero tolerance policy for bad doctrine.” Do you see, my friend? They were trying to PROVE their love for God, when all the while God simply wanted them to receive HIS LOVE. They had forgotten.… If it happened to them it can happen to any of us. So Jesus helps them with direct words.

“Remember!” He says. Remember the love of God that we experienced when we first met Jesus. Remember the Lord and His love for us, His grace, His mercies. Then repent. CHANGE direction: do what we did at first. And what was that? Sit at the feet of Jesus and receive His love.

That is not to say we should not work. There are two kinds of work. One is like the apostle Paul’s work.  Paul’s labor was a response to the love of God. 2 Cor 5:14. The other is the Ephesians’ work that wears a person out. The church might tell us through hard work we prove our love to God, prove our obedience, our willingness to sacrifice and in doing so we maintain our good standing with God, but that is not true; that is a Grace-less message!

Jesus is not pushing us to perform more, He wants us to rest – in him. Can you see that? Today, how about we trade in our performance for Jesus – to rest in Jesus. Make the trade – and COME ALIVE!

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The Ephesians Rejoiced – 173

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To most people the letters to the 7 churches in the book of Revelation seem… threatening. Peter writes in 1 Pe 1:13, “…fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Where’s the GRACE Peter’s referring to?

Jesus gives John these letters. To be read in each church. Each letter opens with a picture of Jesus and closes with a promise. Pictures and promises – to build their faith – and ours, for the letters are written to all who have an ear to hear. And they are Good News!

The first letter, found in Rev 2:1-7, is to the church at Ephesus. The picture? Jesus holding seven stars in his right hand, walking among seven Golden lampstands. He holds us firmly in His grip no matter how dysfunctional we might be, and walks among us – that’s comforting!

He knows their toil and perseverance. They do not tolerate evil men, false apostles and Nicolatians. They have their perseverance and their endurance. BUT, there is a problem.

Remember He says, from where they have fallen. Repent – Turn; make a change of direction. Do the deeds they did at first. Remember – repent – do. Or He will remove their lamp stand. Hmmm.

We are in His Kingdom by His blood, by His grace, not our works or our performance! Same with those Ephesians. So why is Jesus referring to their labors and toiling several times? I suggest it is because they were working too hard. To prove themselves worthy? 

well their efforts were wearing them out. 

Jesus saw THEIR perseverance – there’s nothing wrong with perseverance if we are talking about the kind that comes from Jesus that bears good fruit. But the toilsome perseverance of the Ephesians was THEIRS, not His. So Jesus just says, “I see you.” He doesn’t complement their perseverance.

Those burnt out Ephesians – exhausted. Wondering what’s wrong. Aren’t they doing all the right things, touching all the bases, ticking off all the boxes – and it’s just not working. Sound familiar perhaps? 

“What is wrong?” they cry – and Jesus tells them: they have left their first love. 

What’s that about? We’ll find out – next time. Until then, remember, we are kept by grace, not performance. Dwell on that – and COME ALIVE! 

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Revelation Fears – 172

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John 1:18 reads, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made him known.” The “Father’s side” actually reads in the Greek, “in the bosom, the heart, of the Father.”

Jesus came – and has revealed the Father’s heart toward us. He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, corrected the religious lawyers, Pharisees, Sadducees, and gave true meaning to God’s words. He revealed God – being merciful and full of compassion: always.

When John is an old man, he receives a revelation from Jesus. It’s the last book of the Bible. Jesus identifies Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” White hair like snow, eyes a burning fire, feet like burnished bronze, His voice like the roar of many waters. From His mouth a sharp two-edged sword, His face like the sun shining in full strength. Who holds the keys of death and hell. Almighty!

JESUS – revealed as Lord of Lords, King of Kings – who rules the universe. He then instructs John to write letters to 7 churches, to be read in each one. The letters have a common thread: He knows, really knows, each church. And it sounds like for most that He is not pleased with them. That they had better straighten up and do the right things, start producing for the Kingdom, or He will flush them down the, uh, tubes.

Where’s the kindly merciful, gracious Jesus of the Gospels? My dear friend I submit to you, for your consideration, that the 7 churches are actually receiving love letters from Jesus, but our mindset, and that of most theologians, and commentators and denominations, has been to continue to mix old and new covenants and read into Jesus’ words what He is NOT saying, namely rebukes and threats and ‘good works Christianity.’

We’ll take a look at these love letters and find that our Jesus of love, grace, and mercy has not changed. He is forever the God who loved you so much that He was willing to die for you rather than live without you. It’s time to throw off your Revelation fears – and COME ALIVE! 

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God, not evolution – 171

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A children’s song begins with the phrase, “My God is so BIG! So strong and so mighty.…” It’s true! Out of nothing, in a moment of time – no wait – there was no time and there was not even “nothing” before Creation.

In 6 days He created the heavens, the earth, living plants and creatures – and then said, “Let us make man in our image.” Gen 1:26.

Most atheists embrace a popular theory called the Big Bang. Instantly, the stuff of the universe sprang into being from a single point – all of it – including space and time. How? “We can’t say,” they say. Then, over a great period of time life began on planet earth. By chance? Ha!

Molecular biologists (modern science increasingly supports Creationism) have looked into the ‘random chance’ required to form a single protein molecule from the 150 amino acids required – supposing a primordial ocean full of amino acids under perfect conditions. They calculate there would be one chance in 10 to the 164th power – assuming 6 thousand million billion trillion trillion trillion connection attempts per minute (perfect conditions).

That’s a big number! How much time is that? After all our universe is 4.6 Billion years old according to unbelievers. Well, the biologists ask us to consider an amoeba, moving a 1 foot/year, crossing the entire observable universe of 90 billion light years, carrying 1 atom from planet earth and back. You can see we have already passed the supposed age of the universe. Well, suppose that amoeba keeps going until all the earth is transported across the universe.

Then add our entire solar system including the sun. Then add the entire Milky Way galaxy. Don’t stop there, but add the entire universe being transported 90 billion light years, one atom at a time. Is that enough time for ‘chance’ to create a protein molecule? No! Do this 56 million more times!

That gives you an idea of how long it would take for a single protein to randomly form. And the simplest cell has over 300 proteins. And they all have to form, then come together, and work together, in a protective membrane (where did that come from?), simultaneously, to form a living cell.

By the way, for evolution to create a human – that’s chance over time, has been calculated as 1 in 10 to the 2,825,000 power. As Albert Einstein has said, “God does not play dice!” There is NO CHANCE of that having happened.

God created the heavens and earth. God placed LIFE upon the earth. His crowning achievement: making man in His image. You are precious, amazing, in His image, and so loved by God Himself that He was willing to die for YOU rather than live without you – think about that – rejoice – and COME ALIVE!

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He is RISEN! – 170

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Easter Sunday. We celebrate with great joy, for Christ is Risen, He has risen indeed! Just 3 days earlier, Jesus, upon Calvary’s Cross, declared, “It is finished.” “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” John 19:30, Lu 23:46. Although the Jews and Romans were instruments of Jesus death – in truth He surrendered His life to the Father, dying for the sins of humanity.

Sunday morning the women go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body – but Jesus is not there! He has RISEN! This resurrection from the dead is proof that we have been justified, reconciled to God. Hallelujah!

Lu 24:5-8 records some women terrified at the sight of angels at the tomb who asked, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? …He is not here, but He has risen. Remember He told you He would rise again on the 3rd day.” They thought someone had stolen Jesus’ body. We would have too.

As the women leave, Jesus makes a special appearance to Mary. She hugs Him like crazy! Jesus says, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, `I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’  Jn 20:17.

To fully accomplish redemption Jesus had to ascend – to sprinkle the genuine Mercy Seat in heaven with His own blood – MERCY. How unlike the blood of Able that cried out for vengeance from the earth. 

“My Father and your Father.” Whoa! Islam has no Father God. Buddhists don’t. Hindus don’t. But you do!

“… God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace we have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace we have been saved through faith – it is the gift of God” Eph 2:4-9.  

GO, in the grace of God, let others know Christ is Risen – help them COME ALIVE!

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God’s Will – 169

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We’ve been talking about “knowing the will of God” – “doing God’s will” or, “being obedient to His will.” Last time we found in Hebrews 8:11 that God said “I will be their God, And they shall be My people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ For all will know Me.” 

The word ‘know’ used here conveys the same intimacy as between a husband and wife. My friend, that’s God’s desire for us – to know Him that well! Is that awesome or what? It totally flies in the face of all that religious talk that places God far away in heaven somewhere and us so weak, feeble, insignificant, and certainly unworthy of notice by the Almighty.

We are sons of God! In union with Jesus. Sealed with the Spirit. His blood has cleansed us from all unrighteousness. We are forever accepted in the beloved.

So desire to be in His will, for God has purposed GOOD for you. Don’t be afraid! And God is well able to cause you to be in His will – smile.

Things still a little cloudy you say? I understand. There’s enough junk in the world coming at us all the time seeking to distract us from Jesus, get us drawn away. Well, there is something you can do about it. PRAY  ABOUT  IT. Not any old way. But like Paul did for the Colossians..

In Col 1:9 Paul writes, “… we (he and timothy) have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” There you go! Pray you be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

The next verse tells us what happens: we will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, we will please Him in all respects, we will bear fruit in every good work and we will increase in the knowledge of God….” Pretty good, eh?

TODAY — PRAY that for yourself – it’s God’s word to you – and COME ALIVE!

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God’s Will: no mystery – 168

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Knowing God’s will, knowing what He desires for us and from us – we all want to know that, right? Yet most Christians over “doing God’s will” or simply “be obedient.” And the BIG part of these struggles is finding out just what IS God’s will.

Little do they, and perhaps you too, know that the BIG part is really the LITTLE part! Check out Hebrews 8:10-11 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel (that’s the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood), After those days, (when the Old Covenant has been superseded) says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people. “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ For all will know Me.” 

Whoa – this is HUGE. Under the New Covenant, everyone will know the Lord. God has placed ‘laws of living’ – in our minds. He has written it here – upon our hearts. It is saying we have understanding of His will; and a heart of obedience. Our performance or lack thereof cannot change it.

You say you have no idea of His will from day to day? Not so! Just this morning for example, as Mary and I were getting up, I gently massaged her forehead and head. She exclaimed, “That feels so good! How did you know that it was hurting? I didn’t even know it was hurting until you put you hand on my head.” It’s Spring here in Texas and all the pollens in the air can make heads pretty stuffy. 

 Well, I didn’t know her head hurt. She didn’t know her head hurt. But the Spirit knew. I didn’t have a vision about it, no angels appeared, no thunderous voice from heaven. Without thinking, without praying, without meditating on a Scripture, I just stretched out my hand to the woman I love so much, and touched her. 

Walking in the Spirit, walking in the will of God, is like this example. So be confident today my friend. Want to be in the will of God? Then you ARE in the will of God. Just walk it out – and COME ALIVE!

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Roar – 167

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Last time we looked at 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all our cares upon Him for He cares for you.” Everything that steals our peace of mind – even the little things in our day to day life, matters very much to our Father!

Then we looked at the preceding verses, 5 & 6, and heard Peter telling us to put on humility, for God is opposed to the proud but gives GRACE to the humble. Let us humble ourselves – like the children of Israel in the Exodus from Egypt. At the proper time, God exalted them. They went out victorious and although some things went wrong in the desert (unbelief), Israel made it through by God’s hand, conquering over 30 kings in the process and possessing their Promised Land.

Peter warns that the proud, those who deal with life on their terms, will not have God’s help. And nor will those who worry, for both do not cast life’s cares over to God. He wants to help, is waiting to help, but they are resisting Him.

There’s more to learn about worry and fear. If we look at the following verses 8 & 9, we find Peter urging us to be on the alert for the devil is roaring like a lion! I’ve been to Africa, and there is nothing like a lion roaring to send a shiver up your back, fill your heart with fear and urge you to take action, any action, to get away from there.

In the Garden of Eden the devil suggested to Adam and Eve that God could not be trusted; that He had questionable motives. But if THEY took action – they could become as gods.

No different today, friends. We have mixed up messages all around: God is good, but He is going to beat the daylights out of you. He loves you but might send cancer on you to teach you a lesson. Untruths urging us to distrust God – to discount the precious blood of the Lamb.

We’ve all heard those evil thoughts, “Don’t wait for God – He can’t be trusted – YOU TAKE ACTION – now!”

Don’t listen to those evil words. Humble yourself by rolling your cares onto God’s big big shoulders. Wait patiently for His deliverance – for He is faithful – and COME ALIVE!

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What, Me Worry? – 166

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1 Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all our cares upon Him for He cares for you. This versus has a play on words in the Greek, where your care becomes God’s care. The words care and cares here are two entirely different words. Looking closely at their meanings makes this promise even more precious to us.

In the Greek text this word care is merimna. (Mer’-im-nah) It has to do with anxiety, stress, distractions, insecurities, worries – the kind of thoughts that rob peace of mind. Jesus used the word in Mt 6:25 when He said, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

The second word, translated cares, is melo (mel’-o). It is a verb meaning to be concerned about or interested in. God is not only aware of us, but He is interested in us. Even more, He cares for us with deepest affection, and watches over us very carefully!

We can cast all our worries, insecurities, doubts, concerns – everything that steals our peace of mind – upon Him, for our well-being in day to day life matters very much to Almighty God, our Father!

Now, get this: in the 2 preceding verses Peter tell us to put on humility, for God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. Let us humble ourselves – under God’s Mighty Hand, he says – which is a reference to the Exodus from Egypt. God WILL exalt us at the proper time, he assures us.

However, the proud, the disdainful, the presumptuous, when life comes at them – POW! – DEAL with it themselves. But, did you know that worry is also form of pride because it involves taking concerns upon ourselves instead of entrusting them to God. “I” have to take care of these things, “I” will figure this out, and so on. We get anxious, depressed, and wonder why God is not helping. Now you know!

So today, my friend, it’s time to roll those cares onto God’s shoulders – and COME ALIVE!

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Oil-Water – 165

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The Gospel is good news – always. There is never any bad news in the Good News!

I’ve spoken many times about the pitfalls of mixing the 2 primary covenants found in Scripture: Old Covenant from Mt Sinai – where the LAW was handed down. And the New Covenant, begun at Calvary – where GRACE was rained down upon us, and continues to rain.

Mix them together – and most people do – and it is easy to get confused. Double-minded, says James. The Law made nothing perfect. The Law did not take away sin. The Law did not enable us to overcome sin. Law did not help us do right – not in the very least little bit!

It just told us right from wrong – and commanded us to do ‘right.’ With punishment in store for failure. The Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:17.

Law had a good purpose, described in Gal 2:24-27. To lead us to despair of our own abilities and to place our trust in Christ. With our trust in Christ, we are justified by FAITH. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under that tutor, the Law. We have become sons of God. That’s more than a nice expression: it is the TRUTH!

The Law has expired for we who have clothed ourselves with Christ. So then, why do we all tend to mix them together at times? Well, God leaves us IN the world, which has a 100% total mindset of performance. Perform. Achieve. Attain. The Law at work – driving men to Christ if they will only open their hearts to listen.

Although we are in the world, let us as Gal 5:1 declares, stand firm in the Spirit. Reminding ourselves that we have been crucified with Christ and already risen with Him in new life. We choose to walk by faith and the Spirit, and not by obedient performances to some standard.

Today my friend, may the Spirit of the Living God help you to walk IN this world, by FAITH in Christ Jesus, in His finished work – and COME ALIVE!

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You Ain’t No Olive – 164

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The Gospel is good news – always. Never any bad news in the Good News!

When we see Jesus in the Gospels we see God. We study Jesus in the Gospels, we come to understand the character, nature, of God, for Jesus is the exact representation of God. To see Jesus is the see God. Hebrews 1:3, John 1:18 & 14:9. 

Puzzled over the will of God? Just look at Jesus. Don’t let religious thinking, mixed covenant thinking, worldly or demonic thinking get you confused.

We know sickness is not from God. Ever. How do we know? We look at Jesus! Who did Jesus make sick or refuse to heal? To whom did He say “This sickness is from God teaching you a valuable lesson that God’s grace and mercy and kindness could not.”

What about crushing? You know, the parallel comparing us with an olive – where we are told that just like an olive we need to be squeezed, crushed, before the oil of the Spirit, the good stuff, will be revealed to the world.

Not true! It presumes you are still filled with pride and wickedness and it has to be crushed out of you. My friend, you have died with Jesus and risen with Him. He is in you; you are in Him. A new creation! To whom did Jesus say the terrible stuff they were experiencing was crushing by His father to cleanse them from unrighteousness and sin, stuff His blood could not do. Ridiculous! Who did Jesus advise when they came to Him for help that He had to leave them alone for the crushing to be completed? No one!

The storms of life REVEAL our faith – they do not build faith. Check out the disciples in the storm on the lake in Mk 4. Jesus said to His disciples, “Where is your faith?” NOT this storm is building your faith, aren’t you glad to be in it? And He immediately stopped it, right?

Faith comes from hearing the word of God concerning Jesus! Ro 10:17.

Yes, in this world we WILL have tribulations – BUT Jesus didn’t say “The Father has sent them to grow us up.” He said, “Take courage for I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33. It’s time to believe the truth, my friend, and COME ALIVE – for the Good News IS Good News!

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Waystations in Glory – 163

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What is heaven like? John 14:1-2 provides a clue – it says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places (mansions in the King James). If it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”

Jesus told His disciples he would go and prepare homes, mansions, places in His Father’s house for us. The Father’s house is heaven, and we each have our own place there, prepared by Jesus.

Out of the economic depression of the 1930’s there arose a ‘mansion mentality.’ God’s people, having lost hope of ever prospering in this life, began to dream of one day living in a lovely mansion in heaven. Numerous songs were written about our mansion just over the hilltop in heaven. I’m sure you’ve heard one or two. 

Is that heaven then, a nice home and people to invite over for choir practice? Is there more to be found with the Creator of the universe?

Ahhh…. The Greek word used for mansion is ‘mone’ – which has a number of possibilities. ‘Mone,’ according to lexicographers – those are the people who put together dictionaries, has the sense of mobility and stability. Stability in your mobility. Thus these ‘mansions’ – can be thought of like stopping places, way stations, along the path of the righteous. 

Carrying this a bit further, we might imagine heaven as a place of unfolding vistas, new horizons, new sights to be seen – from our awesome Father – wonders that never cease, oh hallelujah! 

‘Mone’ also brings with it a sense of rest. Our mansion, this way-station is also solid, stable. Restful. There is rest for us in the midst of the continuous unfolding of God’s eternal purpose.

God’s plans are far beyond what we could ever imagine – the future laid up for us is fantastic. But you don’t have to wait, for Col 1:13 states we have already been translated, like Enoch, into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

So live this earthly life today – as a resident of the Kingdom – with a confident assurance of your future, and COME ALIVE!

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Your Effort – or His? – 162

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This is a place–of GRACE.

Col 1:13-14 For He (the Father) rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We believed – God performed the rescue, the forgiving, the translating into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. That’s GRACE in action.

How about Col 1:27 “to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The fullness of God, living in us, never to leave us, never to forsake us. True! It’s GRACE again! No wait! That’s nothing less than HYPER GRACE and it’s from our Father!

Because of the GRACE of God “… the life which we now live in the flesh we can live by FAITH IN the Son of God.…” Gal 2:20.

By Grace we have been made complete in Him (Col 2:10). And made alive together with Him (Col 2:13). By grace we’ve been raised up with Him and hidden IN HIM (Col 3:3). It’s time for us to throw off the cloak of rejection and unworthiness and darkness and walk in the Light and Love of God, for we are accepted in Him.

Consider a homeless beggar on the streets. Suppose by amazing chance he is chosen to be prince. He did not earn it; it was bestowed upon him. New clothes, new hairstyle, new living quarters: a palace. With attendants for his every need. With authority in the realm. With royal opportunities everywhere. There’s only one thing: he has to believe it and walk in it. If old friends ask him to booze or shoot it up and sleep in the gutters – he could, but in no way should – for he is a new man; time to walk in the truth. The old man has passed away – all things have become new. That formerly homeless individual will need to renew his mind to the truth.

It’s the same for us my friend. Isn’t it time we stopped believing who we once were? It’s time to proudly wear those fancy duds of the Kingdom: righteousness, grace, truth, integrity – and COME ALIVE!

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God Sick Of You? – 161

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I’ve heard people say God made them sick to teach them a lesson. A sickness from God to teach them patience. What? Epilepsy from God? Mental Illness? Auto accidents? Cancer?

Consider: Jn 14:9. Jesus says whoever has seen Him has seen the Father. Jn 10:30. Jesus said the Father and He were one. Heb 1:3 says the Son is the exact representation of God. To see Jesus is to see God. To hear Jesus is the hear God. What Jesus did, and what He did not do, all reveal God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for Col 2:9 says all the fullness of Deity, of God, dwelt in bodily form in Jesus.

By virtue of the incarnation, Jesus is God in the flesh.

Now – look at the Gospels. Who did Jesus make sick? Or refuse to heal? Who did He fail to heal? To whom did He say that God was teaching them a lesson with their sickness? Or that their sin was keeping them from being healed?

Yes, in His hometown they stumbled in unbelief over the carpenter’s son, and only a few were healed. Are we from His hometown? Did we know Him as the carpenter’s son? Nope. So we have no cause to stumble.

In Mt 8:16-17 it says, “When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.””

If Scripture says He came to take them away, and the Gospel accounts record just that – then the concept that God gives sickness – is wrong! Some denominations say God healed then, but not now. Nope. Some think it was only to prove He was the Messiah, not that He cared at all about people. Nope.

Perhaps you prayed and were not healed. And someone told you it was a lack of faith on your part. Or that there was sin in your life. Or that you haven’t done enough with the talents God has given you. Or you are harboring unforgiveness. NO!

Jesus is the SAME, yesterday, today, and forever. Heb 13:8. Believe it, pray again, receive your healing – and COME ALIVE!

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Not By Might – 160

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You’ve likely read Zech 4:6 “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, `Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”
Might. It’s the strength found in a team, a group of people.
Power. It’s the strength of an individual. God is not impressed with what we can do (Ps 147:10) or the might of a nation, an army, an enemy, or the church. 

It is His Spirit ALONE that accomplishes His purposes, my friend. Let us not boast in our supposed abilities (Ja 4:13-16). Nor struggle with the notion that God expects, demands, we do great things for Him.

Let me tell you a story. Long ago I was helping out in a large conference our church was holding. I had volunteered to help set up rooms, provide water, direct people – little things but necessary things. One morning I prayed, “Lord, show me someone who needs a hug.” Can’t get much more “little” than that, more humble, I thought.

After one session concluded, and I was arranging chairs for the next, in walked — SuperServant! Cape flowing in the breeze. A double “S” on his chest. Eyes twinkling. He grabbed 6 chairs at a time, loudly asked where they should go, made a commotion of helping. All eyes fell upon him.

SuperServant! I knew him. My hands balled into fists, I felt like punching him! And the Lord said, “He needs a hug, he’s doing this because he feels rejected.” I could not do it. I was battling anger. I left the conference. Went home. Fell on my bed. Cried in my pillow: “Lord! I cannot do even one little thing for You!” I sobbed.

“That’s right,” He said. “You need My help in everything.” Quite a lesson, for us all, don’t you think? And me? I arose with a new found understanding of what it means to rely upon the Lord for everything.

Don’t trust yourself, my friend. Don’t condemn yourself either. But as Paul says in Col 1:28-29, “Proclaim Jesus, admonish and teach Him with all wisdom; to present every man complete in Christ. Do this, but strive according to His power, which mightily works within you.”

Today, rely upon the Spirit – and COME ALIVE!

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Stressed! – 159

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Are you stressing out in trying to fulfill your destiny? Trying to accomplish something great (by human standards at least)?

Well, listen, Father has given us the gift of LIFE – to enjoy, and in doing so we shall fulfill our destinies. DON’T STRESS OUT – but CHILL OUT as you ENJOY – THIS – LIFE!

Thanks to JESUS, there is now JOY in LIVING. In living under the New Covenant. Friend, we cannot fail, or come short, for God has already JUSTIFIED us. He has already made us the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. 2 Cor 5:21. He is NOT DISAPPOINTED when He looks at you, dear believer!

We are accepted in the Beloved! We are IN Christ. In order for the Father to judge us, He would have to judge His Son again. He cannot do that.

Although Jesus has given us a COMPLETE SALVATION – religion will say that we have come short and there is something more for us to do. NO! It is a Great Salvation. Heb 2:3. God, having performed such a great salvation, now simply wants us to enjoy it with Him! To plumb its depths and heights and give glory to His Son.

Thanks to religion we find Christians worldwide who believe in salvation by grace, but also believe it is all up to them. They are racked by thoughts of “am I good enough?” Perhaps you are one of them.

Remember Ro 5:17? We’ve been given the GIFT of RIGHTEOUSNESS through which we will reign in this life. Religion, and culture today, stresses performance. Great performance earns the reward, and there are plenty of losers. That is not the KINGDOM message.

So, if you have been caught up in DOING, STRIVING, STRESSING OUT to hear the Master say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” stop! New Covenant life is BEING. BEING IN CHRIST. Being at the feet of Jesus. Just BE in Jesus and allow Him to do it.

Today, let us cease striving, but enter His rest, allow HIS ministry to flow through us, as we COME ALIVE!

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Wrestlemania – 158

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Spiritual warfare  a wrestling match, Paul tells us in Eph 6. By GRACE, we have armor from God with which to gird ourselves: truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, faith – the Word of God. It takes place primarily in the mind, for in 2 Cor 10:5 we are told to take captive evil thoughts. Like depression. Loneliness. Rejection. Grief. Anger. Violence. Sexual vices. Self-pity and more. They don’t belong to us. They are not our thoughts!

By GRACE, we have what it takes – God’s power and authority – to take every ungodly thought captive. Jesus has given us HIS victory. HE has raised us up to sit with Him in heaven, with authority, far above these things. Eph 2:6. Where do these ungodly thoughts come from? 

Demons are the authors of evil twisted thoughts, and conditions, and many sicknesses. All 4 gospels record Jesus casting out many demons. Few Christians cast them out today, few believe they even exist. Why? Well, one of satan’s lies is that they don’t exist! But friend, they do and they are warring against us. Thankfully they are subject to us in Jesus’ name. Lu 10:17.

CONSIDER: have you ever said or done something that you afterward regretted; something that hurt someone, hurt yourself? Maybe you said,
“I don’t know what came over me.”
“I don’t know why I did that.”
“I don’t know why I said that.”
“I couldn’t believe it was me speaking.”
Perhaps someone—someTHING was inspiring you.

Paul in Gal 5:19-21 speaks of the works of the flesh. Demons will try to rile up your flesh. To get it working evil things. Anger. Violence. Impurity. Whatever! And if you have given place to them before, you may even feel them in your body. Your body may seethe with anger – or burn with desire. Before you know it, you act in the flesh, and suffer the consequences.
 And those demons who inspired you now shout condemnation at you! It’s a LOSE-LOSE if we DON’T challenge them. 

Today, may our Lord Jesus by His grace grant you the gift of discernment of spirits. It’s time to wrestle – and win. Yes, it’s time to COME ALIVE!

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Once I Was Dead – But GOD – 157

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God, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace we have been saved—” Eph 2:5.

Paul tells the Colossians the same thing and more. Beginning with ch 2 vs 13 – “And you, who were dead in your trespasses, God made alive together with him, (sound familiar?) having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This God set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities (those demonic powers who would condemn us and try to control us) and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Jesus.”

I ask you, who is doing the work in these passages? Ourselves – or God? Who is the active one? Ourselves – or God? Who is making us alive? Ourselves – or God? Who is doing the saving? Ourselves – or God? The forgiving? The canceling? The nailing? The disarming?

Dear friend, let’s not be fooled into thinking salvation came our way through our own merits, or that we had a hand in it, or our good works earned it. It’s by grace we have been saved through faith. It’s not our doing; it is the gift of God.” Eph 2:8.

That phrase, “have been saved,” is in the perfect tense, meaning that our salvation is fully secured. It’s done. The whole process of “salvation by grace through faith” is a gift from God – not something that we can accomplish ourselves.

When a person was crucified, there was nailed to the cross the list of accusations, the reasons, why that person was being crucified. In Col, Paul tells us that all of OUR debts, sins, offenses, transgressions, you name it, were written there. All – of – them. Jesus was crucified because of our failures.
And because of the Cross, the devil’s power has been broken. He still tries to accuse us – but wait! That sin, real as it may be, has already been nailed to Calvary’s Cross. There’s Jesus’ blood, pouring down from the Cross in full payment. The accusations, however real, have been paid for. Hallelujah!

It’s time we believe it – and COME ALIVE!

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Faith Shield – 156

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“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one.” Eph 6:16. Fiery darts – from the devil. Roman shields were large, door sized; covered in leather, wet down before battle – a flaming arrow hitting the shield would be extinguished.

Our shield of FAITH extinguishes the devils darts. What are his darts? Thoughts that come zinging at you. Day. Night. From the Internet, media, people, co-workers, bosses, demons. Yes, demons. You didn’t think those fearful condemning thoughts came from you, did you?

Well “Have faith in God.” Mk 11:22. Have faith in God – like Paul in Acts 27:25 when the ship was storm tossed, he says, “So take heart men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”  Don’t trade your faith for fear – have faith, and it will turn our exactly as God has said. Today’s looming disaster will be tomorrow’s awesome God victory — a true Come Alive experience!

Everyone but Paul on that ship feared for their death. Hmmm. Remember Heb 2:14-15 —

“ Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those (us) who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

It’s a big temptation friend, to fear – for safety, for your job, for danger. Immediate death, or slow death from job loss, sickness – whatever. The devil wants us making decisions, taking action – based on fears, not faith. That’s the path to lifelong slavery, even though Jesus has broken the bondage for you. Don’t remain under it!

God has not given us a spirit of fear. 2 Tim 1:7 so we can resist it. Jesus has made the devil, powerless in our lives. But you can choose to believe his lies, make bad decisions, and be enslaved. Don’t! Let’s listen to the Holy Spirit, ok?

“The Lord is my helper; we will not fear….” Heb 13:6. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 Jn 4:18.

So live in the love of God; fear not; stand behind that shield of faith – and COME ALIVE!

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Everlasting Love – 155

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Jer 31:3 – “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness…”

Everlasting love. Eternal. Never vacillating, oscillating, fluctuating. Never dries up under the Summer heat or freezes up in Winter’s cold. Steadfast. Constant and perennial. Out of that love God, it says, draws us to Himself. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in the hearts of all people. 

Everyone wants to be loved. And to love. We talk about it. Write song after song about it. But apart from the Lord, it’s always conditional love. Conditional love is broken love – because someone didn’t measure up. They failed. And with the failure, love disappeared. We soon get the message: “if we want to be loved, we have got to measure up.” Not only that, but conditional love often sets achievement levels that are beyond reach. So people go off looking for love in all the wrong places, places that are full of hurting people. Hurting people who minister rejection out of a fear of rejection.

We may enter into a competition for acceptance, approval, or affection. It generates alienation. One guy wins the girl, one girl wins the guy, and all the rest are losers -coping with rejection as best we can and entering the next competition for love full of the fear of rejection. Many give up.

Consider: the Father has not rejected anyone – Not even Jesus when He became our sin offering at Calvary. But it may have felt that way to Jesus. On the cross He quoted Ps 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The rejection feeling was the worst ever! When it was over, Jesus paraphrased the vs 39 of that Psalm, “He has done it” – or, “It is finished.” Jesus experienced this for us so we could experience God’s unconditional acceptance, His love, forever and ever!

God loves us unconditionally not because we are somebody; He loves us – and we become somebody! He loves us as if there were no one else to love! Nothing we can do can add to God’s love for us. Nothing we can do can lessen that love! 

But we can cooperate with that love. How? By receiving His love today and everyday. 

So today, receive the love of God, and COME ALIVE!

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