Friday, November 29, 2019

The Names of God - Faithful Witness

Faithful Witness

Revelation 1:4-6 (ESV)
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

If you have ever been in a courtroom or watched a court proceeding on television you are familiar with the process known as “swearing in” a witness. When someone is called to give testimony in a trial they must swear “to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” The reason is quite simple. A purpose of a trial is to determine exactly what happened and then have a judge or jury decide which party is right in the eyes of the law.

Look at what Jesus had to say about why He came to earth:

John 6:38-40 (ESV)
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 12:46-49 (ESV)
I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

John 14:8-11 (ESV)
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Jesus came to show us the Father. He came to be a Faithful Witness of all He had seen in heaven. He came to reveal God’s plan of redemption that had begun in the Garden of Eden. He came to bear witness of the character and nature of the Father that had been terribly miscommunicated through the years by those who twisted the Truth for their own purposes. Jesus is The Truth!

The Disciples were given some instruction about how to act if taken to trial for their faith.

Mark 13:11 (ESV)
And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

By allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them in what to say, they would also be Faithful Witnesses of the New Covenant. This is one reason Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to abide in the Believers forever. The Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth.

If you are a Christian, you also are to speak only that which is true. In The Names of God – Volume 1 I explained the meaning of the commandment: “Do not take the name of the Lord God in vain.” This does not mean, “No cussin’” as some have proposed. If you look at the meaning of the Hebrew word for “vain” it simply means, “to speak wrongly.” God gave Moses the command to “not speak wrongly of the Lord God.” I believe this is why the Father chose to send His own Son, Jesus, to tell us the truth about God’s character and nature. Jesus is a Faithful Witness.

John 5:19 (ESV)
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

John 8:28 (ESV)
So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.

This is what God now asks of us. Only speak that which is true about our Father and the Covenant that He established with us through Jesus. This is the Good News that will save the world!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Let Us Give Thanks!

Let Us Give Thanks!

Thanksgiving is one of the purest holidays we celebrate in the U.S. Its purpose is simple – take time to give thanks to God. There is a psalm that gives us a great example to follow.

Psalm 136:1-3 (ESV)
1  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
2  Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.
3  Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; …

Verse three ends in a semicolon because the writer continues for eighteen more verses detailing all the things for which he is thankful. It reminds me of the hymn we sing, “Count Your Blessings.” The song declares that regardless of where we find ourselves we should give thanks. This is healthy, and even more so, biblical.

Paul worded it this way: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 ESV)

I encourage you, especially this week, to be aware of being thankful. Be intentional. I think you will be surprised at how this will change your heart and attitude toward life, and even more so, open doors of opportunity to share the love of God with others.

Let’s join the psalmist and declare, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” I challenge you to do as the psalmist did. Write a list of things for which you are thankful. Take some time with it. I hope you wind up with a long list. The Lord truly is Good!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Names of God - Faithful Creator

Faithful Creator

1 Peter 4:19 (ESV)
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

The name of God, Faithful Creator, used by Peter comes amid a subject that seems to be contradictory to the Creator’s plans and purpose for us. Peter is describing how the Believer should respond to suffering. Jesus promised that in this world we will have tribulation (for the gospel’s sake), “But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33) Jesus spoke these words to give His disciples hope that the life they would experience under the New Covenant would far exceed anything they could ever hope or imagine.

Through His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and seating at the right hand of God, Jesus conquered everything that would keep us from enjoying fellowship with our God. He removed sin and its requirement of death from us forever. He gave us the Holy Spirit to fill us, empowering us to be witnesses to our world, to guide us and teach us in the way we should live.

Peter then gives us this encouragement. If you suffer for the sake of the gospel keep your trust in the One who loves you most: our Faithful Creator. These two words, when used together like this, speak of eternity past (creator) and eternity future (faithful). We were “conceived” in the mind of God before we were ever placed in the womb. We were given purpose and a destiny before our mother ever felt the quickening in her belly. Our God is well able to take care of us regardless of what we may face.

Look at a couple of other statements regarding the faithfulness of God.

Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)
… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

And speaking specifically to suffering (for the gospel) you may experience, we have this promise.

Psalm 30:1-12 (ESV)
I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.

To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

This is a psalm of David, who certainly understood suffering because of the call of God on his life. Even though David did not have the Holy Spirit within as we do under the New Covenant, he describes the Faithful Creator in this psalm of praise. You turned my mourning into dancing, joy comes in the morning, His favor is for a lifetime.

One of my favorite songs from the group The Imperials was “He Didn’t Lift Us Up to Let Us Down.” The chorus said,

He didn’t bring us this far to leave us.
He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown.
He didn’t build His home in us just to move away.
He didn’t lift us up to let us down.

Suffering always brings an opportunity for discouragement. Heed Peter’s words for us and “entrust our souls to a Faithful Creator.”

2 Timothy 1:8-12 (ESV)
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

Paul knew where to place his confidence. Develop your knowledge of God to know His ways. Learn to trust Him so when trouble comes your reflexive response is to run to Him. He is a Faithful Creator.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Names of God - Ensign of the People

Ensign of the People /
Ensign for the Nations

Isaiah 11:10 (KJV)
And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

Ensign is not a word you hear every day, unless you are in the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard. The Hebrew word translated as ensign is a simple word, nes, which means, “a flag; also a sail; by implication a flagstaff; generally a signal; figurative a token.” In the Old Testament it is used as a type (prophetic symbol) of Jesus.

It comes from the root word nasas which means, “a primitive root; to gleam from afar, i.e. to be conspicuous as a signal.”

In conversations with both friends and strangers you can mention “God” and most people are not bothered. God is a very neutral word that can mean just about anything. However, when you mention Jesus there is a definite change in the tone of the conversation. Jesus is referred to in scripture as a Stone of Offense.

Isaiah 8:14 (ESV)
And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Jesus is never neutral. He requires that every person make a decision about the relationship they choose to have with Him. Jesus is either a sanctuary (a place of refuge, safety) or a stumbling block. He came to be beacon that would draw mankind back to God, their Creator. He said of Himself before He died on the cross, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32 ESV) He is speaking here of being crucified on the cross.

The focus of evangelism is not trying to nail people to the cross, but instead show them the One that was nailed to it on Calvary. Lift Him up in our conversations so that everyone will be drawn to Him.

I prefer the term “revealing the Kingdom” instead of evangelism, primarily for the bad press the word has received through the politically active “Evangelicals” that we hear in the news so often. Just because a word is on the label does not mean it is actually part of the contents. I believe we should share our faith by telling of the One, Jesus, who made a way for us to once again have fellowship with our Creator, God.

We do this by speaking the truth about who God is and sharing the love that He showed us through His Son, Jesus. It’s not hard. We are always sharing the news about good things in our lives. Jesus is the best thing!

When others learn that this Ensign of the People is a sign of hope and safety they will be drawn to Him in the same way you and I were. There is no struggle in sharing your faith. Speak of it as you would your beloved hometown (if you came from one.) We as Believers are residents of a different Kingdom. We must now seek to show others this wonderful place of communion with the Father that we have found.

Simple conversations. No high pressure. No yelling in the streets. Shining light to your world and seasoning your relationships with salt. This is New Testament evangelism.