Friday, November 30, 2012

God In A Earthsuit

There's a lot contained in a word.

It may be more weighty when it is a proper noun.

When that proper noun is Word, and it pertains to Jesus' pre-incarnate status as the Logos (Greek for Word), then it reigns supreme as the most important Word in the universe.

That might be a little heady for a morning devotional, and that's even trying to keep it bare bones minimally simple.

The average Christian doesn't contemplate the subject much. It falls under the category of "Christology", which is one of the many, arguably the most important, branches of theological study.

Basically it explores the question, "Who is Jesus?". Not just the cradle to the empty tomb Jesus, but the Jesus of eternity past, present, and forever.

Where did He come from? When and how did He appear? 

The Bible answers those questions adequately I believe.

While Matthew and Luke were content to offer the much needed earthly beginning, John introduces us to the Jesus before the Incarnation, and how He became incarnate.

First, John makes a statement of fact, much like Moses did in Genesis 1:1 (In the beginning...).

John 1:1 - "IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself."

There you have it. The quintessential and most definitive statement in all the Word of God about the Deity of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is God.

John goes on to say that Jesus is the Creator of everything in the universe, that there is nothing that exists in this vast expanse that He did not create.

Then John moves on to explain how this ever existing God of the universe named Jesus introduced Himself to our planet and the entire human race.

John 1:14 - "And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth."

I like that expansion on the word "tabernacle". Jesus pitched His earth tent (His body) among us for just enough time so that we would get to know God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The complete and total God.

That my friends is a miracle. The miracle of Christmas.

It's a little deeper than the no room at the inn, swaddling clothes stuff most get to hear at Christmas, but after all, it's a deep event.

Jesus has earned the right to minister to us, to require our love and dedication to Him.

He experienced what it is like to be us for 33 years, and packed in a lot of pain, suffering and controversy in between. 

In the end He loved us enough to suffer the final cruelties of the cross, defeated death, and now sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven interceding for us day by day.

Where would we be without Jesus?

Many of you know the answer to that. Some have an inkling. Some haven't a clue.

Simply put, we would be lost in our selfish, self-righteous, pathetic existence. And we would be that way eternally.

Eternity is a long time to be lost.

Give Jesus some thought today, would you? Explore who He is.

He is right there. He is as near as your skin.

Just say, "Jesus, I'd like to have a little talk with you today if you don't mind."

He won't mind at all. In fact, you will find Him to be most engaging.

Merry CHRISTmas!

Pastor Kevin <><

Thursday, November 29, 2012

In Your Stubborn Refusal

Mark's gospel gives us the account of when Jesus went back to his hometown of Nazareth and was rejected by all of the people who knew Him when he was a boy and a young man.

They just couldn't get past the fact of who he used to be as a carpenter.

They couldn't accept Him in His present role as Messiah.

The Word says that Jesus "marveled" at their unbelief.

The tragic part of the passage is contained in Mark 6:3 - "And they took offense at Him and were hurt [that is, they disapproved of Him, and it hindered them from acknowledging His authority] and they were caused to stumble and fall."

It says they were hurt and hindered. They disapproved of Him. They were offended by Him.

They couldn't put away the image of perhaps a runny nosed little kid trampling over their rose bushes.

They couldn't get past the fact that the guy who once fashioned their tables and chairs was now claiming to be the Son of God.

Can you identify?

How about when you get saved and in your exuberance evangelize your family and friends and co-workers only to be met with a lesser exuberance than your own?

How about when they start to avoid you because you are just going to start talking that "God stuff" again?

How about under you own roof when you hear Sunday after Sunday, "You go to church honey, I'm just not really into that religious stuff".

Jesus relates.

I hope you do. Because there is only one way to go if you don't, and that is to join the ranks of the marginal believer. Or worse.

Jesus doesn't like being limited, which is what He was as a result of unbelief.

Mark says that Jesus could only do a few minor acts of healing at Nazareth because the level of unbelief was so high.

The one place where perhaps He wanted His greatest triumph became the place of His greatest failure: His own hometown.

"A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown."

From what I can ascertain from that passage the culprit really is stubborn unwillingness to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ. The limitation is not in the capability of Jesus. It is in the stubborn refusal to allow Him to do His Work!

It's typical, but not insurmountable.

Those of us who are His disciples today have done it.

We are healed and assisted instead of hurt and hindered.

Many are puzzled by our testimonies of miracles and God's providence in our lives.

It confounds the stubborn who refuse to yield.

The Rock of Offense becomes a tripping stone instead of a place of refuge.

I would like to say this is all about "the others".

However, I have seen it right in the very place one would least expect.

I have seen it in the churches.

Time and time again. Under my very nose.

There are people in the pews who have never submitted it all to Jesus.

Not in 5 years. Not in 10 years. Not in 50 years.

The rising tide of problems and difficulties always sits just below the nostrils, not quite consuming and drowning them, but never allowing for deliverance into the full flow of grace.

Some will bounce like a pinball back and forth. Something new and "better" will always drain them. What Jesus gets left with is basically the Shadow People. "Believers" running on half empty. Starving the Church of vital resources while they feed stupid and inane fantasy "shadow" lives. Eventually they become absorbed into mundane captivity.

I call it treading water.

Jesus wants us to swim, not merely tread water.

So how about yourself today?

Fully submitted? 

It might cause some rejection from your own household, but Jesus has disallowed any excuse for not following Him fully.

Become all of His. Every fiber. Sold out lock, stock, and barrel.  THAT is the believer people are waiting to see. THAT is the believer people will respect.

The decision carries eternal benefits.

Be blessed today!

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Stuff

The soul and spirit of man lives eternally. The body dies relatively soon after it is born (in comparison to living eternally).

It makes perfect sense to me that we should direct some of our concern toward our soul.

Instead, many live their lives in the world of unimportant pettiness.

I think we would be aghast at how much energy in living our short lives is expended toward maintaining our stuff. Our "in today, obsolete tomorrow", stuff.

Someone asked Jesus once if He would make sure his brother divided up his stuff with him. Jesus essentially replied, "What do I look like? Your lawyer?"

We are so filled with the false importance of our stuff, that we will start to look at others stuff enviously, and  actually think Jesus will help us! We'll even pray for more stuff, for God to protect our stuff, for our stuff not to go to a relative we didn't like when we die, for us to get more stuff from a rich aunt, for us to get a favorite painting or piece of jewelry from an inheritance.

Entire families feud over stuff. Churches have split over stuff.

The bible calls that "coveting".  Jesus is against it.

Luke 12:15 (AMP)  - And He said to them, Guard yourselves and keep free from all covetousness (the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more); for a man's life does not consist in and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance orthat which is over and above his needs.

Imagine that. Life is not about possessions. 

Acting contrary to that principle can kill your soul.

It can lead to greed, backsliding, poverty, deception, and even violence and murder.

It can separate a person from God.

The Word of God promotes giving, not hoarding and accumulating. Helping others over helping ourselves.

Life does not consist in the abundance of our stuff.

Life consists in the abundance of Jesus Christ.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Word Coming Down

Jesus came to live among us as one of us. Not as a King demanding homage be paid to Him, but as a servant willing to die for those He created.

As a reward for His compassion and mercy He was crucified.

He didn't just walk among the people. The Word says He "tabernacled" with us.

This means He fixed His tent, His tent of protection and love over each of us.

If you are born-again today you have the Living Christ as a tent pitched over you life. He IS the Tent.

John 1:14 (AMP) - "And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth."

There's the true Christmas Story. Not saying that the Luke account isn't truthful or unimportant, but those are the physical details.

This passage is the Mystery of it all. Word Incarnate. Only Begotten Son. The stuff that gets skipped over at morning devotionals because folks don't feel reading the bible should be a brain buster.

These are the passages worthy of meditation. This is the stuff we need Holy Spirit intervention on. These are the Mysteries once revealed that become life changing.

I am hoping to help reveal some of the deeper meanings to Christmas as we quickly approach December 25th.

Maybe we will even dispel a few rumors and urban legends along the way which get in the way of the Glorious Truth (Reality).

Above all we must remember, it is really ALL about HIM!

Keepin' it Real (Truthful),  

Pastor Kevin <><

Monday, November 26, 2012

Are You Wrapped Tightly?

No, I am not inquiring about your mental state of being.

I am merely staying within the parameters of the festive Christmas spirit.

Luke 2:7 - "And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes...".

One doesn't hear the term "swaddling" much anymore.

It refers to an infant being tightly wrapped as to restrict their movement.

It was a common practice in the ancient days, was subsequently done away with over the centuries, but oddly enough, has experienced a resurgence in modern times.

Why the comeback? Well, it appears that medical science has found that wrapping your infant tightly in a blanket in preparation for bed and napping has benefits, and not the least being the prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (S.I.D.S.).

What I don't think Mary had envisioned at that time was the fact that a mere 30 or so years later, she would be witness to her beloved child being wrapped in swaddling clothes once again.

This time it would be for burial.

When they took Jesus down from the cross they began to prepare him for entombment. They tightly wrapped His body in linen grave clothes.

This time they laid Him in a tomb, not a manger.

It was finished. It had come full circle. From the cradle to the grave. Mary saw it all.

Fortunately the story doesn't end there.

No amount of swaddling clothing could restrict Him. It wasn't enough to prevent Jesus from leaving the nest of His mothereventually. It wasn't enough to keep Him locked inside a tomb.

He arose! He arose so that we could be born...again.

And it dawned on me this dawned on me that as sure as the infant Jesus was bound in His tightly wrapped protective linens and blankets as a Child, so are we tightly wrapped and protected in a spiritual sense when we accept Him as our Savior.

So, it's back to my question this morning.

Are you wrapped tightly?

Has the comforting and protective Holy Spirit surrounded you with the swaddling love of Christ and all the benefits that come with being a child of the King?

Maybe you are and you haven't looked at it that way.

Maybe you're not and need to be.

There are only those two options.

You're either living loosely or tightly according to the Kingdom perception.

In or out. No gray area.

Jesus didn't stutter. "In order to see the Kingdom of God, you MUST be born-again."

What a great time of year to give your heart to Christ. What a great time to "tighten up" your relationship with Him.

That my friends is a Christmas to remember!

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Friday, November 23, 2012

Such A Deal

Today is "Black Friday". The day when all of your area stores will offer deals on merchandise that is hard to resist.

It has become known as the "kickoff" of the Christmas season.

What a way to start Christmas, huh?

Talk about jumping off on the wrong foot.

I participated once many years ago.

Once. That's all it took.

I witnessed the behavior of people transformed by greed treating each other rudely, literally bordering upon physical confrontation, all for the almighty "deal".

What is the old, now politically incorrect term again? Oh yeah, Merry Christmas.

Not me. I made up my mind after being horrified by the rampant, even violent commercialization of Christmas, that I would never subject myself to that again.

The exchange rate is too high. I don't care how much of a deal I might think I'm getting. It doesn't balance out with feeding the beast of "faux X-mas".

Of course it's not just the one day. It's the entire season commencing with "Christmas light" which we celebrated yesterday. 

I think the word "consumer" has taken on an entirely different connotation. 

Who (or what) is consuming who?

I conjure up a vision of approaching two people having a hairpulling contest over the last Transformer toy on the shelf, and calmly asking, "So, what does Christmas mean to you?".

Or maybe stand at the business end of a very long checkout line, reading the faces of frustration and shouting out, "Everybody who is born-again raise your hands!".

Even though yesterday is a secular national holiday, it is good to use the premise of thankfulness to launch us off into the next phase.

Christmas. Not "X-mas", not "Happy Holidays". It's Christmas.

It means something real.

The incarnate Son of God has taken His place in the human race to introduce us to the Kingdom of God.

It would proceed on to the real "Black Friday", and which would culminate with the glory of the Christ we have become familiar with in our life as His disciples.

Be strong out there today my friends. Particularly those of you who have developed a "strategy". Hold onto your soul. Don't exchange what is precious for a deal.

Luke 2:14 - "Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased [men of goodwill, of His favor]."

Be at peace. Be of good will. Be mindful of His glory today.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Be blessed and most of all thankful to the Lord Jesus Christ for all we have in Him today!

Enjoy your day wherever it may bring you, and know that Jesus is there!

Be blessed!

Pastor Kevin <><

Psalms 100:4 (AMP)  - "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name!"

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Appointed Time

The Preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything.

Probably the one that grabs us the most is the "a time to live, and a time to die".

Not being brought up in a bible believing home, I think I first heard those words in the Byrds song, "Turn, Turn, Turn".

A few thousand years after the Preacher's words, a newlywed couple, were settled somewhere in Bethlehem with the wife ready to give birth.

I could add to this with all the common myths and embellishments we have become accustomed to attaching to the story, but I am very conscientious about being true to the Word of God.

For instance, we really don't know if Mary was on the back of mule. We don't know if they arrived in Bethlehem that night, or if they had been there for several weeks. We are not even really sure what kind of an environment Jesus was actually born in. A manger is clearly something he was "laid in" not surrounded by. There is no evidence of ever speaking to an innkeeper, so they may have actually stayed with relatives because the inns were full. 

Shocked? You'll be more shocked in the coming days.

However, these are not the important elements of the story.

What's important is this:

Luke 2:6 - "And while they were there, the time came for her delivery."

The Appointed Time.

The time when God chose to introduce His Only Begotten Son to the world.

The Incarnation.

The God made flesh. The God/Man Jesus Christ.

Emmanuel...God with us.

The Chosen Messiah of the world.

That's what really matters.

The Appointed Time.

The most important event in the history of the world.

Every year we relive it.

If we can squeeze it in between Thanksgiving and New Years.

If we can recover enough from Black Friday to cope.

If we don't succumb to the anxiety and stress caused by the multitudes who secularly keep the "holiday".

If we actually slow down, no, stop to breathe in the Words of God and contemplate them.

Good grief, the "time came". Never before, never to be again.

Jesus was about to be born.

Can you gather up that expectation within yourself again? Can you relive it in your heart?

It would be a good thing, because I sense, really sense in my spirit, that many people have lost it.

Yes friends, lost it.

And if you have lost Christmas in your heart, you have lost everything.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What's All This About "Peace On Earth"?

Ever see the bumper sticker..."Know Jesus, Know Peace...No Jesus, No Peace"?

Very clever play on words actually. Also very correct.

Generally, most people subscribe to the more across the board, generic type application of either getting "the peace that passes all understanding", or, Jesus as being described as the "Prince of Peace".

All are correct and proper, and also very true.

However, few find perhaps one of the most grandiose and exciting references to "peace" wrapped up in the story read umpteen times over the course of a long life every single Christmas.

Here it is:

Luke 2:14 - "Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased [men of goodwill, of His favor]."

To borrow a premise from a well known 1980's hamburger commercial, let me pose a question:

Where's the peace?

People want to know.

They read the gospel account where it says the angels actually made a pronouncement, a declaration of fact, that explicitly states that there would not only be peace on earth, but also good will toward men as a result of the birth of Christ. It was supposed to change everything!

So where is it? Where's this peace? Where's all this good will that's supposed to be oozing from the pores of joyful humanity and extending it to others?

There actually seems to be less peace, joy, and good will on earth than ever in the course of human history.

Has the bible been proven untrue? Is God a liar? Was Luke (a physician) under the influence of some powerful ancient psychedelics and had a drug induced false vision?

No, none of that.

The bible is quite true, and God has not lied. Luke has only recorded the story as it had been told him.

The problem lies in a mixture of sloppy hermeneutics, religious tradition, bad theology, etc., etc., etc.

Blame the King James Version if you want. It does not translate the passage correctly.

The one I posted above does. So does virtually every other properly interpreted translation.

The angels never promised peace on earth for everyone who lives on it.

They declared there would peace and good will for those whom God was pleased with.

That changes things.

Since we are talking about a "few good men", let me ask you in my best Jack Nicholson..."Are we clear?"

I hope you respond in your best Tom Cruise..."Crystal."

That's it. There is peace on earth for those who please God, which is accomplished by acknowledging and accepting His Son Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and thereby becoming born-again.

As an added result and by-product, what little actual goodwill that's floating around on this planet is largely on account of those who are pleasing to God. 

The rest are locked into a bitter dog-eat-dog struggle that will eventually consume them lock, stock, and barrel, not only in the here and now, but in the here and after.

"No Jesus, No Peace...Know Jesus, Know Peace".

If you know Him, then you know exactly what I mean. If you don't know Him, you really do know what I mean, but you may not be at the place where you are ready to admit it.

Let me just interject here that Christmas is a great time to get that straightened out.

Get your mind off of Rudolph, Frosty, lights, wreaths, shopping, trees, etc., at least momentarily, but long enough to simply get to a quiet place and contemplate how not submitting to Christ is working out for you.

I hope this Christmas is your best ever!

Be blessed...

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Monday, November 19, 2012

Scenes From A Prison

The earth shook. The prison went dark. Walls and gates collapsed. Chains and shackles were broken apart. Prisoners were free to escape. The jailer was on the verge of killing himself as he believed many surely took full advantage.

Acts 16:28 - "But Paul shouted, Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!"

The jailer, so stunned, and so impressed and thankful for Paul and Silas, and recognizing they represent God, falls at their feet.

He sees something supernatural in them. He senses their rightness in Jesus Christ.

He had been listening to their songs. He had been listening to their preaching to the other prisoners.

The Philippian jailer wanted some of that!

Acts 16:30 - "And he brought them out [of the dungeon] and said, Men, what is it necessary for me to do that I may be saved?"

He was probably thinking there was a great work to be done. Some chores. Some duties. A club to join.

He must have been surprised at the response.

Acts 16:31 - "And they answered, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ [give yourself up to Him, take yourself out of your own keeping and entrust yourself into His keeping] and you will be saved, [and this applies both to] you and your household as well."

A simple task as far as performing goes.

Let go of yourself and trust Jesus Christ.

My, how we've complicated that over the centuries.

Stop trying to do it alone. Put yourself squarely in the hands of your Creator, and not only will it work for you, but your family as well.

The least common denominator? Trust Jesus.

Anything that teaches anything more or less than that is a corrupted gospel.

Acts 16:32 - "And they declared the Word of the Lord [the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] to him and to all who were in his house."

Paul and Silas went to the jailer's home and preached the gospel to his family, and they were all saved as well.

How do we know? Because they submitted. They agreed to be baptized.

Acts 16:33 - "And he took them the same hour of the night and bathed [them because of their bloody] wounds, and he was baptized immediately and all [the members of] his [household]."

We have even turned that into a ritualistic religious endeavor.

Have you ever contemplated why we are to be baptized? Why Jesus commanded that we do that?

Well, there it is.

It's proof that we submitted.

Unless the jailer and his family submitted to be baptized we would not have the proof 2,000 years later that they had actually believed in the first place.

Even today our submission to the waters of baptism is simply an outward sign as to what Jesus has done in our heart.

What's the point of all this today?

Submit and don't complicate it.

This time of the season is a great time to fully submit. It's a great time to share with others what Jesus has done for you as well.

If you blink Christmas will be gone, and another opportunity will have slipped by.

You can choose to grow the Kingdom.

Or you can be religious.

I hope you are meditating every day on what God has done for you in Christ. I pray that this Christmas will be your most meaningful ever.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><