Thursday, March 30, 2017

JEWELS From The GOSPEL Of JOHN: The ENCOUNTER with CHRIST - JOHN 4:1-6

 The following is a series of short exhortations, brief commentary and writings to convey thoughtful meditation on God's Word. I have chosen the Gospel of John as the subject. These articles will not run contiguously on this blog but peppered throughout and in the midst of other articles (though some might be posted consecutively). I pray that these will be a blessing and an edification for the saints.

JOHN 4:1-6
1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.
4 And he must needs go through Samaria.
5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.

See now how the LORD is a meek and lowly LORD - though He is LORD of all, Creator God and the Word Incarnate - He conducts Himself in such humble fashion. He understood that because His fame was quickly outgrowing that of His predecessor, John the Baptist, He didn't capitalize on it. Instead, He left Judea and returned to Galilee, far away.

Yet no matter where He went, the LORD was always making disciples - and we dare not forget who we are: we are NOT disciples of a church, we are NOT disciples of our pastors, we are NOT disciples of elder saints who have known the LORD far longer than we . . .
We are disciples, followers, students of the LORD Jesus Christ.
We follow Him to His cross where we learn of His supreme sacrifice.

We follow Him where He leads us to our own crosses and learn to deny self.
We follow Him where He lays upon us His yoke which He bears Himself, and we learn of Him the King of Kings, the Supreme Servant, the I AM That I AM, the LORD and Redeemer.

The LORD's objective was never to acquire fame, or prestige. He was on a mission from the Father and was intent on fulfilling His will. We must always bear this in mind, should the LORD prosper our ministry and we begin to gain a following whose numbers begin to swell to an incalculable degree. Followers in those kinds of numbers can potentially sway us - intentionally or not - in directions that are not the Father's will. This is in essence the difference between those who please God and those who become people-pleasers.


And besides all of that potential drama that the LORD left behind, He had an appointment in Samaria.

This entire scenario is being staged beforehand by the LORD; He prepared the way for the encounter, first of all, with this Samaritan woman, and then with the entire village.


Long before we knew Christ our LORD, before we had any desire for Him or inclination towards repentance, He prepared the way for us, because He had foreknown us: there is nothing our Sovereign God does not know about us: every trait in us, every habit, every decision and choice, every path and tributary we take, every response and reaction.

He knows already who will receive Him, and who will not, based upon their response to the beckoning of the Holy Spirit of sinners to come unto Jesus for salvation.

He travels with inspired intent towards the city of Sychar - a place whose name many have identified as meaning, "abode of liars or idolaters and drunks".
See the Holy, sinless, spotless Lamb of God intentionally zeroing in on this city of Sychar. He would no doubt say to anyone who would be indignant at such a meeting, the same thing He said to the Pharisees who found fault with Him because He kept company with sinners:

MARK 2:17
When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance
.


It was imperative for Jesus to get to Sychar - and meet with this people group that the Jews (His own people) despised - and that feeling was mutual among the Samaritans as well!
Yet the LORD was breaking down social and cultural barriers and doing the unthinkable - reaching out with His message to those that most Jews would never have bothered to give the time of day to!
There have been many that I have known personally who either live in their own 'Sychar' or worse, once tasted of the good things of the LORD, but then turned back to that sin-city. And I have prayed earnestly that the LORD "must needs" go to their 'Sychar' and have an encounter with them, bringing to them the "living water" that only He can provide!

And now the LORD is at the end of this long journey - He finally arrives and finds Himself weary with His travels. He sits down at the well that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph and rests. Here is God, weary in His humanity, needing rest and refreshment from that well. I can well imagine the noon-time sun beating down upon His sweat drenched brow - when a Samaritan woman approaches.

Divine appointments indeed! We shall continue this next time, and in the meanwhile, let us pray for some divine appointments of those loved ones who are still lost in this world of sin and in dire need of an encounter with the Messiah of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, Whom God has made "...both LORD and Christ..."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A LETTER To The CHURCH-WOUNDED In “EXILE”

A Special and Timely Message by Gregory Reid: This is a very sensitive message, one I hope to convey with a heart of humility and grace, one I pray will bring a little healing to those who are hurting for reasons beyond your control or choosing. 

There are many who have passed through the fires of being “wounded in the house of a friend,” of being on the receiving end of rejection, misunderstanding and sometimes even dismissal or exile due to rancorous and painful church circumstances and dealings.

Few dare to speak of it, for fear of being viewed as a malcontent, a bitter soul, a troublemaker or worse. But truth be known, there are multitudes, both people and pastors, sheep and shepherds, who have been mangled by the machinery of church professional business dealings and decisions, especially in our purpose-driven and megachurch age.  

For both leader and member, nothing stings more than realizing you have suddenly lost your place, your purpose, your “church family.” Yet for the sake of unity, God requires that you bear the pain of it and say not a word, though you be wronged, though your heart cries for understanding, though your flesh longs to lash out and wound those who have wounded you. 

Many remain church-less, or without a pulpit, afraid to try again. Many have tried other churches – knowing they need to be in fellowship – only to find a church driven by the same machinery and business dealings that broke their lives and their hearts. 
Many, though they would be too proud to admit it, still wait for a call, a text, something from someone in their former fellowship that says,

You still matter. We miss you. We’re sorry if we hurt you.”

But the call rarely if ever comes. It is a desolate thing to be “cut off from the life of the church,” even though you are not cut off from the life of Jesus. One can feel as alone and desolate as Joseph who was sent away by his own family to a house of unfamiliar faces and to obscurity and an unknown future and calling. 

My heart especially hurts for former or current pastors, youth pastors or church leaders and elders who were deemed too old-fashioned, too “Word-based,” not relevant enough, or young enough, exciting enough, etc. and found themselves given the “left foot of fellowship” – often with a smile, a wave and a parting gift (or not!) simply because PROGRESS must be made, and the new paradigm fairly demands that the old guard get off the stage.

After all, we were told by the father of purpose-driven, “What do pillars do? They hold things up…”

The sting when you realize it really is not personal, it is just a business decision “for the sake of the church” can be excruciating, indeed. You realize you were simply a broken cog in an apparatus, easily replaced. As I heard a pastor say after hosting a concert by a formerly sought-after Christian artist who now only saw small crowds, “Look what we have done to our treasures. Shame on us.” 

If you have felt this – experienced this – if you have had to depart from a fellowship because of these changes, or for any reason that you did not foresee or even want – if you are in this Joseph-like place, few words can comfort, though Joseph’s story surely will. Still, this morning, FB Meyer’s words speak deeply: 

“Though stripped of his coat, he had not been stripped of his character. See to it that no one rob you of that! Everything else may be replaced but that!” 

God sees your heart, and your hurt. But as with Joseph, God’s main concern is not what was done to you but HOW YOU RESPOND. Though you may have lost your coat (place) never lose your character! Stay sweet. Refuse bitterness. Love and pray for those you no longer are able to even be with. As in Gene Edward’s A Tale of Three Kings, David said, “In my youth…I was David. In my old age, I will be David still. Even if it costs me a throne, a kingdom.” 

Many have left fellowships under painful circumstances and leave bitter and angry, taking many with them, and starting a new fellowship (which rarely last long.) I do not believe this is God’s way, ever. If you have left, God requires the hardest thing – that you do so quietly and remain in love, in forgiveness, and in Jesus-like character.

That is the coat of character no hard and painful circumstance can take away. Yield that coat and take on the mantle of bitterness, coldness, and anger, and all God was planning for you is at stake. Do not become an Absalom seeking a throne or a Saul seeking to throw spears. Remain a David, even in exile. Does not God surely have an unstoppable plan for you yet? 

Joseph – alone, abandoned by all but God, remained Joseph – a sweet, godly young man even under unbearable grief, rejection, loss, and misunderstanding. And in the end – oh, in the end! God gave Joseph a coat of authority and purpose that only his humble, God-tested character could wear. 

And in the end, even the injuries were made right, because he saw, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good…” (GENESIS 50:20

I write this to those who may have or are feeling the “pain of exile” from a church or even family. God knows your heart. His plan for you has never changed.

May God bless you with a new and precious fellowship with believers for whom the words “church family” are not just words but a way of life. May he grant you grace to forgive those you left behind who may indeed miss you, but who are so caught up in the busy work of church activity that they simply become swept up in the “out of sight, out of mind” way of such things.

Forgive those who injured, especially those who felt it was justified to do so. That may be the hardest. God requires it nonetheless. Wait…heal…trust…

If, after years of faithful service, you find yourself without a place, these words again from A Tale of Three Kings speak:

“But today I shall give ample space for this untelling God of ours to show us His will. I know of no other way to bring about such an extraordinary event except by doing NOTHING! The throne is not mine. Not to have, not to take, not to protect, and not to keep.” 

All things – and you, dear friend, are in His loving care. Wait…pray…heal...and hang on to the character of Jesus through it ALL. God is not through with you yet. The best is yet to be! 

With Jesus’ grace and care, 
Gregory R Gregory Reid

Sunday, March 19, 2017

ONCE A SLAVE, ALWAYS A SLAVE

SLAVERY. The very word produces images of chains, whips, abject conditions of poverty and near starvation.

Our own American history is stained with deplorable treatment of Africans who were brought to our shores and suffered bondage for generations. They were deemed ignorant and inferior and thus, suitable for nothing else but slavery.

We like to think that here in the 21st century that we are more sophisticated and have higher sensibilities, but the fact of the matter is that slavery is still very much a reality. Enlistment into slavery of 'infidels' is still deemed a right by the Quran and the followers of Mohammad. Also, vast networks of illegal human trafficking that induct people into slavery (which according to statistics, as of 2014 included 21 million victims worldwide) is happening all around us!!

In REV 18:13 it mentions,
And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.

And also:
REV 13:16
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: (see also REV 6:15).

So Scripture states that even in the last days, slavery will be a fact of life; certainly the aforementioned statistics indicates such an increasing trend.

This post is about the slavery of the worst kind - slavery into sin. Slavery into sin takes on many forms - including various addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling and others.

In AA and similar groups, it is stated that once you develop any such addiction, it is with you for the rest of your life. You can never be free of such things, but always - as long as you don't succumb to it - "in a state of recovery".

Biblically speaking, it is true that a sinner will always be prone to and enslaved by sin. There is no hope that they will be set free of such slavery by any ability of their own. It is an inescapable inherent nature brought to the human race by the fall of Adam. 

ROMANS 6:16a
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death
. . . 


ROMANS 5:12-14
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

But this is not at all to say that we sinners can never be free of the sins and addictions that enslave us. The LORD Jesus said:

LUKE 4:18
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised
,


JOHN 8:36
36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed
.


As saints, born of the Spirit of God, we are free from the law of sin and death:

ROMANS 8:1-2

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

And we are to stand fast in the freedom and liberty that Christ won for us by His own blood and atoning sacrifice on the Cross:

GAL 5:1
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage
 (See also REV 5:9).


As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we need not ever experience bondage to sin and death; this is not to say that as God's children, who bear the nature of Christ within, that we do not still have a sin nature: this is the essence of what our fallen bodies are about.
We are absolutely the redeemed of the LORD, whose hearts are redeemed and sanctified; our minds are likewise in the process of being redeemed and sanctified daily as we renew them by the power of God's grace (ROM 12:1-2). Our bodies have not yet been redeemed (but they will be! ROM 8:22-24) and that is why there is an ongoing war against our flesh and the Spirit of God (GAL 5:16-17).


But we have the comfort of knowing that as long as we are walking in the Spirit (basically that's living our lives in following Christ's example) we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (GAL 5:16), and we are free of getting entangled in any besetting sins.

WE ARE NO LONGER SLAVES - OR ARE WE?

The concept of a slave in one sense is that of a person bound in chains and misery, suffering indignities and oppression. 
Certainly anyone who is bound to sin as its slave (and without the Spirit of Christ) won't see it that way - at least not at first; they can have their fill of "sex and drugs and rock 'n roll" and all the pleasures of this world - and not for a moment think that they are a slave but living 'the high life'.

Until their choice of recreational drug becomes so addictive, that they live only to feed that addiction - even if it means stealing to get it. Until they contract a venereal disease that ruins their lives. Until after years of 'party hearty' it takes its toll on their body. Until their associations and friendships (based on the gang-kind of lifestyle for example) abandon them when serious trouble falls.

ROM 6:23a
The wages of sin is death
. . . 


And that can mean the death of a marriage or other relationship, the death of family ties, the death of financial security, the death of social standing, the death of health - or just plain death. Ultimately it will mean spiritual death (what the Bible calls "the second death" (REV 20:14).) and that is the ultimate fruit of sin.

But there is another kind of slavery, that of servanthood: In the Law given to Israel, anytime someone became indebted to another and had no money to pay the debt, they would lend their services to them. Once they worked long enough, they were freed from service. But there were times when the servant realized that life was better serving their master than it was when they were out on their own. They loved their master, and his family; they were contend with their lodgings and the allotment of food and clothing they were given.

They would commit themselves to their master as a life-long servant. This was known as a bond servant or a doulos. They would pierce their ear and place a gold earring in it, and that was an emblem that everyone understood: this was a person wholly devoted to their master - to ever and always fulfill their will and not their own will (EXOD 21:5-6).

'Slavery in Christ' is nothing like slavery to sin; it is a satisfying, albeit challenging life which is ultimately blessed in both the fruit borne of the Spirit as well as in the relationship of every saint who so pledges themselves to the LORD God and Jesus Christ. We are yoked together with Christ and thereby learn of Him (MATT 11:28-30).


Being a slave of Christ means that I am "dead" to myself: my desires, my objectives, my ambitions and plans, my loves and affections - and I am alive to Christ and find that His desires, objectives, ambitions, plans, loves and affections are growing in my life. And THIS is life more abundant (JOHN 10:10)!

We are in a spiritual sense, "dead men walking - in the Spirit" - dead to self and alive to God, "perfecting holiness" (ROM 6:11; 2 COR 7:1
GAL 2:20).

It's very much like Bob Dylan sang, "Ya gotta serve somebody" - and we will either serve sin, being intent on 'doing our own thing' and thereby denying God as our Creator His purpose for our lives - or serve the LORD.

It's just a matter of determining whose slave you are; but a slave you are and always will be: either Christ's or sin's.
So whose slave are YOU?

For more on this, watch this teaching on ROMANS 6:

DEAD MEN WALKING - IN THE SPIRIT



May the LORD bless you all, the saints of the living God, way too much!!