rise

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Rise, take up your mat, and walkIn the Gospel of John chapter five there is the story of a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. He thought he knew what he needed to do to get healed, but he surely could not do it himself, and nobody would or could help him. Thus, he remained in his pitiful condition. The text indicates that his impotency was due to sin (v.14), and further, we find that actually this man was dead in his sin (v.25), for death is the ultimate consummation of sin. Actually, this man represents all mankind—all of us (for we all begin as dead in our sins and offenses which we inherited from the fall of that first man Adam). At this juncture, the Lord Jesus came to him and asked one question: “Do you want to get well?” Although only a simple yes or no was required to answer the question, the man began instead to explain his situation and how he could not do what he thought he needed to do in order to get well. Before the man could finish, the Lord Jesus spoke one word that changed this man for the rest of his life and into eternity—“Rise, take up your mat and walk.” That one word from the Lord actually enlivened and energized the man. Verse 25 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, An hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Indeed, one word from the Lord is worth more than a million words of advice from anyone else. His one word is full of life supply! His words are spirit and they are life (John 6:63).

The Bible is the Word of the Lord. It was breathed out from Him (2 Tim. 3:16). When we exercise to breath in His word through prayerful reading, we experience the same supply of divine life experienced by that sick man back in John chapter 5. Besides pray-reading the Word of God to get life, we can also listen to the other believers of Christ, who are members of Christ. When they speak for the Lord and speak forth the Lord, again, life is supplied to us, even imparted into us, through the speaking of the saints. May we all position ourselves in front of the Word of God and in the midst of the believers in Christ where we can have the speaking of the Lord imparting life into us!

inadvertent

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accidentMy uncle used to work for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) as a civil engineer. Before he retired he moved into a position of public relations, doing things like holding town meetings to convince the citizens why a new highway should be built in their back yards, and testifying for the State in lawsuits pertaining to motor vehicle accidents on the roads and highways of Pennsylvania. I learned from him that the word “inadvertent” is a word that should never be used when taking a defensive position in a court of law, for that word carries the meaning of negligence. And for PennDOT to admit negligence nullifies their whole defense—they lose the case and fork over millions of dollars in settlement. As a defendant, PennDOT may have constructed some roads, or bridges, or intersections, etc., in such a way that the design attributed to an accident, but nothing about their design is ever done inadvertently! Thus, be careful in the words you choose, for one word can change everthing!

Question: Did God inadvertently place Adam in the Garden of Eden where the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil happened to be?

Answer: Absolutely not! Satan fell for the bait, got himself trapped in the flesh of man, and that flesh was taken to the cross by the Lord Jesus and judged by God, thus initiating the end of God’s enemy forever!

Hebrews 2:14—Since therefore the children have shared in blood and flesh, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same, that through death He might destroy him who has the might of death, that is, the devil,

no

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Years ago there was aGod says non anti-drug campaign whose slogan was “just say no!” Kids who are offered drugs were encouraged to just say “no.” “No” is a word that we all understand. Even a dog understands the word “no.” It should not be surprising, then, that “no” is a word that the Lord often speaks to us as He is leading us in our daily life to express Him. The word “no” can make us feel uncomfortable and uneasy inside. In 2 Corinthians 2:12-14 the Apostle Paul was headed in a certain direction to preach the gospel when, all of a sudden, he had no rest in his spirit. In verse 14 he attributed that uneasy feeling in his spirit to God’s leading. Although there was nothing inherently wrong with Paul’s original plan to preach the gospel in Troas, that “no” from the Lord in his spirit changed everything. At that juncture the spreading of the Lord’s kingdom made a turn to another continent—Europe.

play

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I was recently flying on Southwest Airlines, and the caption of an article on the front cover of their “Spirit” magazine (April 2012) caught my attention—“The Art and Science of Play.” According to the article entitled “It’s Called Play,” science has proven that not only children but also adults need play. As part of play, laughing causes the release of endorphin chemicals in our brains that make us feel good. In addition, stress hormones are suppressed by laughing, and, moreover, the immune system is strengthened. Other benefits of certain kinds of play include an improvement in blood flow and, thus, cardiovascular health, improvement in balance and reaction time, gaining fresh insights in our work, building teamwork skills, increasing hand-eye coordination, and reducing the likelihood of depression, just to name a few. Apparently, a little play can change a person’s whole outlook on life!

This article reminded me of a verse in the Old Testament book of Malachi (4:2)— “But unto you who fear My name will the Sun of righteousness arise with heMalachi 4:2aling in His wings, and you will go forth and leap about like well-fed calves.” Having grown up on a cattle farm, I am very familiar with the playful leaping of well-fed calves. But the leaping, well-fed calves in Malachi 4:2 refer to all who fear the Lord’s name, and the Sun (not Son) of righteousness refers to Christ. Unto those who fear the Lord’s name, Christ will shine as the Sun of righteousness for dispelling of darkness and for growth in the divine life, and Christ will heal of all unrighteousness. Now this is the real reason for us to jump and shout!

I belong to Jesus

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When I moved to Austin to begin graduate school at UT, I was given a cubicle in the midst of 12-15 others. Every Friday my officemates would invite me to join them for “Happy Hour” at some of the bars and clubs downtown. Although I desired to spend time with my new colleagues and befriend them, because Christ livedI am a Christian in me I had no peace to go to the places to which they invited me. So, every Friday for the first several weeks I made various excuses—not feeling well this week, made other plans next week, too much studying to take care of the following week, etc. Eventually, I made known to them that I was a Christian and that I did not feel comfortable to visit the bars and clubs, and amazingly, those few words—“I belong to Jesus”—changed everything: they stopped inviting me to the bars! I did, however, socialize with them in other ways and under more comfortable circumstances. And, do you know what happened? A number of my colleagues came to me privately over the years to inquire about my faith in Christ and to seek advice and help. They knew that I was a person they could confide in and trust, and they knew that I was a person who genuinely cared about them. How much pain and awkward situations we would be saved from if only we who are Christians would “unfurl our flag” from the very beginning of our interactions with people!

gift

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When my kids were younger and I returned home from my many travels abroad, they would always run to the door to greet me, and their first question was, “Did you bring home anything for us?” They were looking for a gift from their daddy. Gifts are very important in a host of circumstances, as you all are well aware. It is big business to sell gifts, and wrap gifts, and deliver gifts. One gift can change a whole atmosphere or relationship by 180 degrees. There’s a proverb that says, “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men” (Proverbs 18:16). Speaking of being brought before great men, when you tour the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, something you’ll see there are all the interesting and costly gifts given to President Johnson by foreign dignitaries. No doubt, their gifts made the way pleasant for them to come before the President of the United States.

Well, the God of the universe who wants to have a relationship with us humans is also well acquainted with giving gifts to the creatures who were made in His image and likeness. He wants to gain our hearts and fill us with Himself. By becoming a man in His incarnation and shedding His own blood to pay the price for our sins, God “gave His only begotten Son, that everyone who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life” (John 3:16). In His resurrection He became the life-giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45) as a drink for us (John 7:37-39; 1 Corinthians 12:13)—the very cup of salvation that King David made reference to in the Psalms. As King David considered all that the Lord had given to him, he asked, “What shall I return to Jehovah for all His benefits toward me?” (Psalms 116:12). He recognized that the most profitable thing he could do for God was to continue to receive what the Lord would give to him: “I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of Jehovah” (Psalms 116:13).

Today, Jesus Christ is this very Jehovah God. The name Jesus literally means Jehovah the Savior, or, the salvation of Jehovah. May we all take God’s gift to us by calling upon His name, because the Lord is rich to all who call upon Him, and, whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:12-13). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). And don’t forget Romans 11:29—“For the gracious gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

“but”—No.3

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Well, I am back from vacation and writing another post on the word “but.” Although there are numerous other “buts” in the Bible, this will be the last one for now. After this I’ll move on to other interesting words that can change everything.

Genesis 6:5-7 says, “And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And Jehovah repented that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him in His heart. And Jehovah said, I will blot out the man whom I have created from the surface of the ground, from man to beast to creeping things to the birds of heaven; for I repent that I have made them.” Then verse 8 begins with the word BUT—“But Noah found grace”! Satan, the evil serpent back in Genesis 3, had corrupted man to the extent that God had determined to utterly destroy the whole inhabited earth, including the very people that He had created in His image for His purpose. “But Noah found favor [(or grace)] in the sight of Jehovah” (v.8). Thus, there was a man whose life and work provided a way for God to gain the victory over Satan and to change the age (the flood terminated one age and inaugurated another). This is huge!

Simply put, grace is God coming to us to be our supply. Noah was enabled to walk in that crooked and perverted generation because he found a strength and supply in his relationship with God. The age that we live in today is not that different from the age in which Noah lived. It is an age of immorality, depravity, violence, and darkness. And, concerning His second coming, the Lord Jesus told us, “For just as the days of Noah were, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day in which Noah entered into the ark, And they did not know that judgment was coming until the flood came and took all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:37-39). May we all, in the midst of this dark age, find grace. May we find a strength and supply in our relationship with the Lord that would enable us to be instrumental in changing the age and bringing the Lord back! By the way, one of the most practical places to find this wonderful grace is in the Christian gatherings. There God comes to us to be our supply!

“but”—No.2

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In the New Testament book of Ephesians, chapter two, we catch a glimpse in the first three verses of our fallen condition: dead in our offenses and sins, walking according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, of the spirit which is now operating in the sons of disobedience, conducting ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts, and by nature being children of wrath. This is quite a bleak picture as a background displaying the damage caused by God’s enemy Satan to us, the vessels originally made in the image and likeness of God for His purpose (Genesis 1:26). However, the next two words, which begin verse four, change the entire negative scene into a gloriously positive scene—“But God!” Verses four through nine say, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,/ Even when we were dead in offenses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)/ And raised us up together with Him and seated us together with Him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus,/ That He might display in the ages to come the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus./ For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God;/ Not of works that no one should boast.” Although Satan did step in to damage God’s work (so he thought), his interference only provided more opportunity for God to display His multifarious wisdom. To Satan and to us these two words change everything—But God!

“but”—No.1

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In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter 14, we catch a glimpse of the background of Satan, the fallen angel who is the source and embodiment of all evil. Verses 12-16 read, “How you have fallen from heaven, O Daystar, son of the dawn! How you have been hewn down to earth, You who made nations fall prostrate!/ But you, you said in your heart: I will ascend to heaven; Above the stars of God I will exalt my throne. And I will sit upon the mount of assembly In the uttermost parts of the north./ I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High./ But you will be brought down to Sheol, To the uttermost parts of the pit./ Those who see you will gaze at you; They will ponder concerning you, asking, Is this the man who made the earth tremble, The one who shook kingdoms.” Five times did this Daystar (Lucifer) say “I will,” consummating with “I will make myself like the Most High.” As he intended to highly exalt himself, even to make himself like God, the divine answer sounded out with one word that changed everything—“BUT!” God seemed to say to Lucifer, “You intend to highly exalt yourself and to make yourself like Me, but, I say you will be brought down to Sheol, to the uttermost parts of the pit!” After this statement was made by God, in the course of time He partook of blood and flesh like us “that through death He might destroy him who has the might of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Indeed, the word of the Lord is the determining factor, and His word abides forever!

weed

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Mount LaurelMountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia in the family Ericaceae, is an evergreen shrub that forms a dense thicket on the forest floor and produces beautiful pink and white flowers. My home town of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, holds its annual Laurel Festival in June to celebrate the blooming of this official state flower, which attracts thousands of tourists from the big cities every summer. You can imagine my surprise, then, when one day, while marking timber in the mountains, the forester with whom I was working blurted out that Mountain Laurel was a noxious weed! Well, a weed by definition is any undesirable or troublesome plant, especially one that grows profusely where it is not wanted. Thus, to this forester, who was required to crawl through the thicket of laurel every day, it was a weed. His assessment of the value of Kalmia latifolia was summed up in one word, “weed,” and with that one word, a prized possession was reduced to a worthless shrub.

To many people in the world today Christ is like a noxious weed—undesirable, troublesome, and not wanted. Things weren’t any different 2,000 years ago. Then the apostle Paul was bound in a Roman prison from which he wrote to the church in Philippi, and to Paul’s captors, Jesus Christ was an undesirable, a small speck of a man, and even counted as nothing. But Paul was enjoying and being supplied by the crucified and resurrected Christ who indwelled him to such an extent that he magnified Christ to the whole Pretorian guard. In his letter to the Philippians he wrote, “my bonds have become manifest as being in Christ among the whole Praetorian guard and to all the rest” (v. 1:13). He further explained, “even now Christ will be magnified in my body, whether through life or through death” (v. 1:20b). At the end of his epistle he told the Philippians that all the saints in Rome greeted them, “and especially those of Caesar’s household” (v. 4:22). So much so was his magnification of Christ that some of Caesar’s household even got saved. Thus, those who had considered Christ a mere weed now highly valued Him as a prized possession. May the Christians in this world today express and magnify Christ as the result of their enjoying Christ and being filled with Him to the extent that the people around them, who formerly evaluated Christ very little or not at all, would appreciate Christ and count all other things as refuse (as weeds) in order to gain Christ (the real prize) to the uttermost (Phil. 3:8)!