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Born of Water and Spirit

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'” Matthew 3:16-17

Image result for flying doveOne of the amazing things about Jesus is that he never walked into a situation and announced, HeyI’m God’s Son, I’ll handle this; or, I’m in charge now, do what I say; or, Bow to me my servants or be crushed. Neither did he start spouting his resume, touting all of the messianic prophecies that he’d personally fulfilled.

On the contrary, God the Father announced the birth of His Son through the star, the angels and the kings, perfectly harmonizing every prophecy in its fulfillment. And, here again, God announces Jesus’ Sonship through a dove and a voice from the opening heavens [Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 17:5; John 12:28; 2 Peter 1:17-18].

John also attested to Jesus’ Godhood.

As for Jesus’ testimony about himself, he simply lived the life that perfectly accorded with the will of God the Father. He didn’t have to study the prophetic scriptures to know how to live, he just lived–everything about his humanity synced to God despite having complete freewill just as we all do.

The Spirit of the Lord was on him and reigned in him [Isaiah 11:2]. And this pleased God.

Here Jesus models to the world what it is to be born again of God. Not a physical rebirth, but a spiritual one.

We too can be born of God–born again of water, aka baptism, and the Holy Spirit [John 3:3-6]. Then we are adopted as His children [Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-7; Ephesians 1:8] and, living by the Spirit, please God.

Are you born again? Have you found new life–passing through the water of baptism and the fire of the Holy Spirit? Is your will syncing to God’s?

KCS

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From Promise to Promise

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.” Matthew 1:1-6a

Image result for family treeThe Israelites kept meticulous genealogies throughout their history. Family lineage was extremely important for earthly reasons, but God also determined an accurate recording of the direct line through whom Jesus would come.

At the outset of Matthew’s genealogical recalling, Jesus is named the Messiah–the promised deliverer of the Jewish nation. First, the author notes, in backwards order, the two most important men in Jesus’ line. He is the promised son of King David who will reign forever on the throne [2 Samuel 7:16; 1 Kings 9:5; Jeremiah 33:17; et al]. He is also the promised seed of the patriarch Abraham through whom the whole world will be blessed [Genesis 12:2-3, 18:18 & 22:18; Galatians 3:8].

Then the genealogy follows forward from the first notable ancestor. [Although, just like the rest of us, Jesus line can be traced all the way back to Noah and Adam. So we truly are brothers and sisters of Christ!] All three patriarchs make the list–Abraham, Isaac and Jacob–the three men with whom God identifies Himself to Moses at the burning bush [Exodus 3:6]. Jacob was later called Israel and the Jewish nation took this name from him [Genesis 32:28].

Jacob’s son Judah, meaning praise, is mentioned next as are his sons by Tamar [Genesis 38]. Tamar is one of the few women mentioned in the genealogy of Christ, she kept Judah accountable to his duties. And on down to Salmon the father of Boaz before another woman is mentioned. In fact, Boaz is tied to two notable women in Jesus’ lineage. His mother, Rahab, was the woman who aided the Canaanite spies when the Israelites were scouting out the Promised Land [Joshua 2 & 6]. And his wife, Ruth, was the Moabitess who accompanied her mother-in-law Naomi back to her homeland [Ruth 1:6-22].

From these came King David, the man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22]. Jesus is the fulfillment of promise after promise. He is the son of Eve that will crush the serpent’s head [Genesis 3:15]. He is the seed of Abraham through whom the whole world–Jew and Gentile alike–will be blessed. And He is the son of David, the righteous one, who will always sit on the throne.

Do you understand the significance of Jesus’ genealogy? Are you ready to give an answer about Jesus’ lineage? More importantly, have you accepted Abraham’s seed with mustard-like faith and become a co-heir with Christ?

KCS

Rudimentary Holiness

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” Exodus 15:13

Image result for potter's handsGod is holy. Therefore His dwelling is holy too, and anyone who would live eternally with Him must also be made holy [Hebrews 2:11, 10:10 & 14].

This is not a work that we ourselves can undertake.

As a result of sin, and the fact that we are not God–despite Satan’s lie [Genesis 3:15]–no one can make themselves holy, just as no cancerous cell can heal itself or multiply into whole cells. Just as no lump of clay can turn itself into a usable pot. And as long as we choose to cling to this world, sinning against God under the influence of the prince of this world [John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2], we refuse God’s wholeness–holiness–in our lives.

But it’s our choice. God infinitely loves every human being ever and, in His mercy and grace, made the way to redeem us–that is to regain our heavenly citizenship in exchange for the payment of Jesus’ shed blood.

And it is His strength alone that leads, His wisdom alone that guides, as we walk the straight and narrow way to His holy dwelling [Psalm 15; Matthew 7:13-14]. How can our walk be blameless in God’s sight unless we are instructed by Him and obey? How can we speak the truth from our heart unless we first hide God–who is truth–in our heart? Who of us can perfectly keep our tongues or our actions from hurting others, even inadvertently, at all times? How can we despise the vile while honoring those who fear the Lord if we don’t first know God’s holy law? Why would anyone keep an inexpedient oath if not for God’s moral standard to guide? Is there anyone, besides the Lord, who hasn’t changed their mind–regardless of whether the matter seems great or small? Why would anyone know how to please God with their finances if they’ve never sought His holy counsel?

No, it is only by the grace of God’s strength in our lives that we begin to learn such rudimentary holiness. And again, it is His loving grace in our lives that exchanges our filthy rag righteousness for the spotless robe righteousness of Christ [Isaiah 64:6; Galatians 3:27].

When we repent–rethink ourselves and recognize our own sinfulness in the light of who God is–we are set apart for holy purposes [2 Timothy 2:21]. We then become useful in God’s kingdom. He can work His love and mercy and grace and justice and holiness and wisdom and all that He is through us in the world. He can make us salt and light [Matthew 5:13-16].

Are you a redeemed instrument of God’s character and power in this lost and dying world?

KCS

Holy Fire

“When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then He said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.” Exodus 3:5-6

Image result for holy fireGod is holy. Where He is, sin cannot be also [Isaiah 59:2]. His presence is infinitely pure and whole.

We can see in the story of the burning bush, that fire–without sin–does not consume. Sin is like oxygen licking up the branches under a flame, but God’s fire purifies the place it inhabits. The place where Moses sees God’s fire is holy because, in God’s presence, sinful damages are restored to wholeness and purity, restored to that good and perfect–complete–life that God designed.

And God cautions Moses not to approach purity and wholeness as if it were any other commonplace occurrence.

Don’t come any closer in your present state. Don’t walk in my presence with the same shoes where you walked to go to the bathroom, stand before pharaoh or herd sheep. Don’t come with coverings to protect the soft skin of your soles from Me. Bare your feet to stand before Me as Adam did when I first created him whole, sinless, perfect. Venerate my presence. Treat Me with the honored respect that I–your loving Creator–alone am due.

While sin cannot be where God is, God can certainly be in our sinful presence. His loving mercy and grace bring us face to face with Him whenever we seek Him [Isaiah 55:6]. He inhabits the praises of His people [Psalm 22:3]. Where two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, there He is with us [Matthew 18:20].

But sin cannot abide in His presence. When God comes into our hearts, the sin must go out. It cannot remain in the presence of holiness. Sin that remains becomes like a consuming fire, the oxygen burning branches that reduce our days to rubble [Matthew 7:19; John 15:6]. But when sin is relinquished God’s holy fire burns in us without consuming. We are made holy–whole and pure–just as our heavenly Father, for whom we are set apart, is holy [Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-16].

When we come to God’s presence–His Word, His sanctuary–to learn from Him, to pray with Him, to offer praise and sacrifice, we must remember who He truly is–Holy. We must remember that we are all sinners, even if we are saved by grace [Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8]. And we cannot come into God’s holy presence like we’re running out to recess, joining a ball game, watching a movie, sitting to dinner with family or texting with friends.

More than that, as Christians, God’s presence goes with us. So everywhere we are, in all we do and in all we say we need to honor God. Our culture doesn’t model a right reverence of God. It mocks Him and scorns us [2 Chronicles 36:16; Psalm 74:10 & 22; Galatians 6:7]. But we are a peculiar people and a holy nation belonging to the One True God [1 Peter 2:9].

Do you approach God with reverence and awe? Or do you treat the Most Holy as if He were an everyday ordinary and impure thing? Is His holy fire purifying your heart?

KCS

Patterned After Love

“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10

Image result for heart on woodGod’s goodwill toward us is infinite. Even while we were still sinners [Romans 5:8]–therefore rebellious enemies standing in opposition to everything that He is [Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21]–He willed our eternal good, faithfully extending His mercy and graciously sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. So that we could be redeemed from death to life [Galatians 3:13].

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down his life for his friend [John 15:13]. Truly we are God’s friends and God the Son, Jesus Christ, loved us with the greatest love that there is in this life.

God is the pattern of love, the greatest commandment that He commanded us to fulfill with our whole life. Love the Lord your God with every facet of who you are [Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28]. We show our love to God when, while we are still sinners, we will to lay down our lives to follow Him, to be remade in His image in heart and mind and soul and strength [Matthew 10:38 & 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23 & 14:27; Romans 12:2; Galatians 5:22-26].

Love your neighbor as your self [Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28]. Why self? Because self is the one that we sinful-naturally most care about. We’re always looking out for our own heart, mind, strength and soul regardless of how our hording of advantages affects anyone and everyone around us. Self is the one that we have promoted to the status of God, thanks to Satan’s lie in the Garden [Genesis 3:5].

But God wants to heal our vain notions of self and our desire to increase self while we debase others. God wants us to understand the leveled playing field of His transcendence. He wants us to realize that His love for us is not greater or less than His love for every other person in the history of the planet.

Only when we realize that the truth of who we and the rest of Creation are in God’s love can we learn to discern good, love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with God [Micah 6:8]. Only when we learn to defer self for the good of all–which includes self–do we truly learn to love as God has commanded. Only when we lay down the finite understanding in our heart, mind, strength and soul and take on the mind of Christ can we truly see the pattern of God’s love for this world [1 Corinthians 2:16].

Are you patterning your heart and mind after God’s love through prayer, praise and Bible study? Have you dedicated your strength and soul to extending God’s love to a lost and dying world?

KCS

Rooted in Love

“Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

Image result for plant graftDictionaries fail to offer a Godly definition of love. Love is more than an intense feeling of deep affection–fondness or liking–and it is nothing at all to do with physical attraction. Love is the constant, unwavering will for the good of the one loved.

God so loved the world–all the people who have ever, do now and will ever walk on the earth–that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus, to sacrifice Himself to pay the wages of all of our sins so that we could be reconciled to God and have eternal life [John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 7:27 & 10:10].

And His love for us is constant. It never fails [1 Corinthians 13:8]. It never forsakes us [Hebrews 13:5]. It never flinches in embarrassment at what we say or do. It never looks on our outward appearance aghast or ashamed to be seen with us [1 Samuel 16:7; Hebrews 4:12]. It never prefers another [1 Corinthians 13:4-7]. It never wavers in good will for us in any way.

God’s love for us is infinitely faithful and perfect in every way. He infinitely-faithfully wills for our good [Deuteronomy 7:9].

Since God is infinitely wise and all-knowing we should joyfully and eagerly trust ourselves to His definition of goodness [Deuteronomy 23:5], rather than choosing to be our own god [Genesis 3:5] and stand in judgment on His goodness and love in our lives. When we will to define goodness and sinfulness our own way; when we will to choose ourselves alone rather than to love God and our fellow human being–even in the small selfish and white lie moments–we give sin a foothold in our hearts [Ephesians 4:27]. Sin that, when fully grown, births our own death [James 1:15].

Because, despite being made in God’s image, no matter how opposite of our Creator we have been and no matter how contrary to our Heavenly Father’s holy standard we have lived, He will always forgive. He will always be gracious and compassionate with us, slow to anger and abounding in love–faithfully willing for our ultimate, eternal good [Nehemiah 9:17].

Jesus is the branch born from the root of God’s love [Isaiah 11:1 & 10]. We were once cut off from the branch because of our sin. But when, by grace through faith, we accept God’s gift of love we are grafted back into the vine–the branch of Christ [John 15:1-17; Romans 11:11-24]. Therefore, the root of our existence is God–His love, His mercy and grace, His goodness, faithfulness, justice and mercy. All that He is flows through us when we are living in Him as a branch grafted to the vine that springs from His root.

How can you know if the graft has taken? Your life will bear the fruit of your root, and, when God is your root, you will bear much good fruit [John 15:8; Galatians 5:22-23].

What is the fruit of your spirit? Do you abound in love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control [Galatians 5:22-23]? Does God’s love flow freely through you into everyone you meet?

KCS

Favor Not Favoritism–Part 1

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8 KJV

Image result for open armsModern Scripture translations have exchanged the word grace for favor. Favor is a more readily understood term in present-day, though it still lends to miscommunication. After all, it is the root word of favoritism.

Favoritism has a negative connotation–giving unfair preferential treatment–while favor is positive–an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual. Favoritism is a corruption of favor because it expends one to elevate another. While favor is an approval or support that any can attain.

Favor is one facet of divine grace. Noah found favor–he proved himself acceptable–in the eyes of the Lord. God tells us that, Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God [Genesis 6:9 & 7:1; Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5]. He proved himself acceptable by living a blameless, morally right life–morally right as defined by God’s standard. That is not to say that Noah did not sin. All of us are sinners [Romans 3:23]. Only Jesus lived a sinless life [2 Corinthians 5:21]. But Noah believed God and lived for Him. And God approved!

Moses found favor in God’s sight. He obeyed God, leading His people out of bondage in Egypt. He sought God’s counsel, leading humbly for God’s glory and honor not his own [Exodus 14:1-31]. He asked God to personally and physically be with him and with the whole nation of Israel as they followed to the promise [Exodus 33:15-17]. Again, it’s not that Moses was without sin–he disobeyed and lost the opportunity to cross into the Promised Land [Numbers 20:12-13]–but He heard God’s voice and obeyed Him. And God approved!

Abraham was God’s friend [2 Chronicles 20:7]. Though he tried to fulfill God’s promise in his own strength, he loved God and believed God would keep His promises no matter what [Hebrews 11:17-19]. And God approved [Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6]!

God considered David a man after His own heart [Acts 13:22]. God approved of Abel’s offering [Genesis 4:4]. God saw Hagar [Genesis 16:13]. God heard Hannah [1 Samuel 1:20]. God spoke audibly to Samuel [1 Samuel 3:10-14]. He sent the Christ child through Mary [Luke 1:26-38].

Throughout scriptures we see God actively bestowing His favor on those who believe that He exists and live Godly lives because of this belief.

But God does not show favoritism [Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11].

He provides everyone with a testimony of Himself [Romans 1:20]. He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross so that everyone had the opportunity to choose eternal life [John 3:16]. He patiently waits, not wanting anyone to perish [2 Peter 3:9].

God is not interested in expending atheists or Hindus, pantheists or Buddhists, mystics or Muslims. He loves everyone. He sent His Son to die so that He might reconcile everyone to Himself. He is preparing a place in heaven for everyone–but only those who believe in Him alone will find this favor. By God’s grace–His infinite favor–we all have the same opportunity to accept or reject the One True God and, thereby, eternal life.

Have you found favor in God’s eyes?

KCS