Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Spirit of the Living God Does These Things

Shortly after His baptism Jesus entered the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth and opened the scroll to Isaiah 61:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the Day of vengeance of our God; to comfort those who mourn and to provide for all that grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.

According to my count there are 10 acts of goodness represented in the prophet's words:

Preach Good news to the poor (Hope)
Bind up the broken-hearted (Healing)
Freedom to the captives (Deliverance)
The opening of the prison to them that are bound (Grace)
To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (Blessing and Salvation)
To proclaim the day of vengeance of our God (Justice)
To comfort and provide for those who mourn (Counsel)
Give a crown of beauty instead of ashes (Mercy)
Give the oil of joy instead of mourning (Strength)
Give a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Worship)

Believing that all this goodness is intended for us too is one of the great challenges of the faith.  We wonder if we have somehow been disqualified, but God desires no one to be left out.  We can shut ourselves off to God's goodness, but we cannot stop His reckless pursuit of us. The living God is a loving God.

Isaiah 61 is a kind of "marching orders" for us.  The Spirit of the Living God wants to do these things for us and through us. We are proclaimers of life not death; hope not despair; blessing not poverty; strength not weakness; goodness not cruelty; and peace not violence.

Because the Spirit of the Living God Does These Things...

Ex nihilo,



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Overcoming UnForgiveness

Harboring unforgiveness in your heart will keep the fire of anger raging and will ultimately destroy you.  The stakes are high.  Forgiving, or the lack there of, is not to be taken lightly.  There is a reason that Jesus included it in the prayer He taught His disciples:  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Forgiven people forgive people.  One of the outflows of personal repentance is the ability to forgive others, but our ability to do so is not "feeling" based.  Forgiveness is a choice that leads to feelings NOT a feeling that leads to choice.  There is a big difference.  If you are waiting to extend forgiveness until you feel like it, you will be waiting the rest of your life.

I used to have three sets of clothes in my closet sarcastically labeled as the following:   In Shape; Not in Shape but Not Terrible; and Terribly out of shape!  At one point I could only wear a third of my clothes.  Maybe you can relate?

This all changed recently due to some weight loss and getting back into shape.  Sadly, though, I kept wearing the same "one-third" of my clothes because I had grown so accustomed to not fitting into the other clothes.  One day I finally decided to try on one of the "in shape" shirts.  To my surprise it fit perfectly.  I guess I had not realized just how much I had changed.  I was a different person now but was still wearing my old clothes.

I think we sometimes do the same thing with forgiveness.  It didn't "fit us" years ago so we assume the same for today, but you are a different person now.  What at one time was impossible to put on has now become a custom-designed fit for you.  God has a way of doing that.

No one can put the clothing of forgiveness on you.  Everyone must choose for themselves.  For those who courageously choose the path of forgiveness - even to those who do not deserve it or may throw it back in your face - there is freedom and peace.  If it were not so, God would not be modeling and commanding forgiveness.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Spoiled Kids in The King's Presence

God speaks words of royalty over our lives.  Commoners like you and I, born into spiritual poverty, can now be found in The King's Presence.  We are not just visiting; He invites us to live with Him benefitting from all His promises and glory.  To assure us God proclaims in His Word that in Jesus we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession so that we may declare praises to Him who has brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9-10). So we always act like it - right?

About 15 years after those words of God were written and spoken among the early churches, God has to speak words of rebuke in Revelation.  Apparently His royal kids were acting a bit spoiled hanging out in His Presence and needed to repent from losing their first love, following false teaching, immorality, and living a "lukewarm", spiritual existence (Revelation Chs 2 & 3).

How does this happen?  How did they/do we lose sight of the words of royalty declared over us by God?  What is it about longevity in the King's Presence that can sometimes breed complacency, wrong behavior, or casualness?  God brings us from nothingness to greatness in Him, and, yet, we get drawn into lesser things in a short order of time.

In Revelation God spends no time asking why or how this has happened.  He simply gets right to the solution:  Repent.  Turn away from that behavior and go the other direction.  Do not spend another minute acting like a spoiled child.  Act like the royal, privileged person you have become in Jesus and conduct yourself accordingly.

It does not matter who you were Yesterday.  Today you have been engrafted into God's chosen people, His royal priesthood, His holy nation, and His special possession.  So repent and enjoy all His benefits; walk, NOT because you belong there, but because He put you there...Once you did not have mercy but now you have received mercy.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Destroy Barriers

On that day Peter was a man with a heavy heart.  Though he was fishing with the other disciples his mind was elsewhere.  He had forsaken Jesus.  In the moment of pressure he had caved denying Him three times.  Now Jesus was alive again. He had already appeared to the disciples twice, but Peter had yet to make things right.

That day would prove to be different for Peter.  Having caught no fish, a voice from the beach yells, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some (John 21:6)."  Though the voice was correct and an abundant of fish were caught, the powerful moment for Peter would not be about fish.  It was, once again, coming face-to-face with Jesus.  This was now his third opportunity to repent for his wrong doing.

We are not sure of the distance between the shore and the boat.  We know it was close enough for them to hear Jesus' voice but far enough out to be able to fish.  Regardless of the exact distance, Peter's actions are forever recorded in Scripture as epically noteworthy.  Overwhelmed with the conviction of guilt, he jumps in the water, swims to shore at a speed that outpaces the boat, and presents himself dripping wet to Jesus.

Peter destroyed the barrier between himself and repentance.  I can almost see him standing in front of Jesus, water dripping from his beard and out of breath, maybe hands on his knees in exhaustion, repeating the words, "This time, this time...nothing was going to get in the way."

Barrier Christianity is when we spend 90% of the time talking about the barrier and only 10% destroying the barrier.  Peter did the opposite.  He spent about 10% of the moment seeing the barrier and 90% destroying it.  Peter did more than swim that day. He eliminated the gap between himself and repentance with reckless abandon.  He pursued God with equal or more passion than he had previously pursued the things of this world.  It changed his life forever.

Today is the day to destroy barriers.  Now is the time.  Let's not allow another opportunity to escape us.  The Voice from the shore is still calling.  Do you hear Him from your boat?  If so, run full throttle to Him.  He wants to eat with you.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden