Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's Always Something...

Just thinking today about why individuals put off or relinquish the thought of surrendering their life to Christ to the "someday" file. For many, it's inconvenient to their lifestyle, so becoming a Christian is postponed until whatever that activity is is no longer a part of their life. For others, becoming a follower of Christ isn't an option because they are involved with a person who condemns "Christianity", God and/or salvation. Still, there are others who have something they need to do or accomplish or finish before they can really give attention to God, His Word and following the life examples given to them by Christ.

Wasn't it Roseanne Roseanna-danna who used to say, "It's always something"?

Never were more true words spoken than those when it comes to committing your life to Jesus Christ.

The book of Luke, Chapter 9, verses 57 through 62 relate Jesus' answers to various individuals who gave him the usual excuses for why they couldn't follow Him at that moment:

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."59 To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." 60 And Jesus said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."61 Yet another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home." 62 Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

In verse 57, it's obvious that this person thinks it's no big challenge to follow Jesus because he tells Him that he will follow Him "wherever" He would go. Jesus lets him know that it's not as easy as it looks because Jesus never gets to "veg out" in an easy chair, sleep in late in a cozy bed and that following Him requires people to get out of their places of comfort and go places where you have to do without.

Jesus asked another person to follow Him in verse 59, but that person had other things he had to get done first.

Lastly, in verses 61 and 62, another individual has indicated his desire to follow Christ as soon as he goes to bid farewell to those who are at his home. Jesus' reply to this person indicates that when a person decides to follow Him, there's no looking back at what has been; there's only going forward. Looking back on people or things which have been a part of one's life in the past prohibits one from experiencing the fullness of God's love, grace, mercy and abundance of life in Christ.

So what is your excuse? What's stopping you for giving your life to Christ? It's apparent (if you take the time to stop and consider the facts all around you) that life on this planet is taking decided steps in a negative direction. How people can deal with the many problems that bombard them every day without the love and comfort of God is beyond me. Not only do I have His ear when I need someone to talk to about all of it, He loves me and cares about what is happening in my life, and He knows what the outcome is and how I will benefit from it in the end, and knowing all that is more than comforting; it's life changing and perspective changing.

1Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time; casting all your cares upon Him; for He careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.

Friday, March 23, 2012

...Sorrow and sighing shall flee away

Are you like me in that you feel sorrow for the world all around you? Do you find yourself sighing often? Is it any wonder there are so many on anti-depressants or some other mind numbing drug? Life is filled with pain and then you die. It has always been that way, no doubt; but surely, the trials and tribulations of life today are way beyond those that our ancestors faced. ...or maybe not. Maybe it's just that today with technology we are so able to tell each about our problems without even knowing who it is we are talking to, and so we can tell details that perhaps we would not feel free to disclose to someone with whom we see daily or often and actually have a relationship.

I am personally dealing with family malfunctions and disfunctions, and I can stand with you in saying that sometimes this life is more than I can deal with.

Thank God that when my burden is heavy, I can hand it all off to Jesus who walks beside me every day. That's right! One of the most wonderful things about having Jesus Christ as the Lord of my life and the King of my kingdom is that He lets me exchange my burden for His.
His burden is light (Matthew 11:30) for He has overcome people who persecuted Him, death on a cross, burial in a cave and now sits at a place of highest honor on the throne at the right hand of God. He has conquered all the things most threatening to mankind. So I let Him handle my burdens. All I have to do is acquiesce to the knowledge that He knows better than I do how to handle everything in life and be content in the way that He works things out for me.

That doesn't mean that I never experience fear or worry or apprehension. I do, but I've learned that I just need to tell Him all about it and give it to Him. I continue to pray about the things I give to Him -- every day and many times a day, but in my heart and in my sub-conscious, I know that He has heard my prayer and that He cares about me - a lot, enough to die for me - and that He will work all things out for my good (and that doesn't mean that it always works out the way I want but that they do work out for my good). That's His burden that I take...acquiescence and acceptance of His Will for my life.

So, this morning because I have been struggling with some painful, difficult situations, Isaiah 35 grabbed my heart and played a beautiful melody on its strings and I can feel the burden of my heart roll a way because someday, sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

1The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; 2 it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. 3Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you." 5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 8And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. 10And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Bride of Christ

I am re-printing here, in full, an article I read today at First Fruits Ministry and authored by Lyn Mize. You can visit the web site at: First Fruits Ministry. It is by far the best article I have ever read about who the Bride of Christ really is. I hope you enjoy it, too.

The Bride of Christ

-------------------------------------------------------------------------Lyn Mize

It is a widespread and common misconception among Christians that the bride of Christ and the Church are synonymous. The bride of Christ is not the Church, contrary to popular belief and teaching. It is true that the Church is the body of Christ, and the entire Church has been espoused or engaged to Christ, but every member of the Church will not be the bride of Christ. Faith in Christ is necessary to be in the Church, but faithfulness to Christ is necessary to be the bride of Christ.

The Church and the body of Christ are one and the same (Eph. 1:22-23), but no Scripture equates either one of these groups of Christians with the bride of Christ. Tradition is responsible for this doctrinal error, and tradition is a worthy opponent for anyone attempting to replace it with Scriptural truth.

The Church consists of all spiritually regenerated people from Pentecost to the end of the Age of Grace, which will end with the Firstfruits Rapture of the bride and her court. John the Baptist was not a member of the Church, since he died before Pentecost. Since the bride comes out of the Church, he could not be a member of the bride, and he even referred to himself as a “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29).

In 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 (KJV) Paul tells the Corinthians that he has “espoused” them to Christ:

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present [you as] a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Espoused means betrothed or engaged, and Paul clarifies his statement by saying that he desires to present them as a chaste (i.e., pure) virgin, but he is afraid that their minds would be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ. This Scripture clearly states that sincere and pure devotion to Christ is a prerequisite for being presented as the chaste bride of Christ.

We know that Mary was betrothed to Joseph, and his intent was to “put her away” when he thought she had been unfaithful. There will be numerous Christians who will be put away or disqualified as the bride of Christ at the Firstfruits Rapture.

Paul compared the Christian life to a race where all run, but only one receives the “prize”. Paul was fearful that he would become a “castaway” so he worked diligently to keep his body in subjection:

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Cor 9:24-27 KJV)

In chapter three of Philippians, Paul talks about losing all things so that he might “gain Christ.” He also says that he wants to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” The resurrection Paul is talking about in this passage of Scripture is something that is earned. The usual transliterated Greek word for resurrection is anastasis. The Greek word used in Philippians 3:11 is exanastasis. The word literally means the out-resurrection from among the dead. This is the only place this Greek word is found in the Bible. It refers to a partial resurrection of Christians who have attained to a certain standard. Hebrews 11:35 calls it the “better resurrection” and it is also related to works. In this passage of Scripture Paul emphasizes that he is working very hard to win the “prize”, which is in Christ Jesus. The prize is clearly the highest reward that a believer can receive for faithful, spirit-filled service in the Lord’s work. The Scriptures are replete with types, parables and doctrinal statements that express the honor and blessing attached to those who attend the wedding of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Scriptures also attach shame and reproof to those Christians who have not prepared for themselves a wedding garment (Mat. 22:1-14). The wedding garment represents the good works that pass through the judgment fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is clear from these Scriptures that being selected as the bride of Christ was Paul’s goal for himself and for as many Christians as Paul could persuade to make the supreme sacrifice of self.

The Church and the Bride are not the same. The Scriptures confirm that the bride of Christ comes out of the body of Christ. They also give the Biblical criteria for being a member of the bride of Christ. As stated above, pure and sincere devotion to Christ is one of the criteria. Preparing for oneself a wedding garment of good works is another criterion. It is also required that a Christian be found watching at the time of the Firstfruits Rapture of the Church. The bride of Christ will come from those Christians that are longing for the Return of Christ. They will be among the Five Wise Virgins that have trimmed their lamps and beckoned for the Lord’s return at the midnight hour. The bride of Christ will be among the watchful and waiting Christians anxious for the Lord to return for them. She has separated herself from the cares of this world, and the riches of this world do not deceive her. The Main Body of the Church does not see her as worthy, and it may even see her as being eccentric, fanatical or even too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.

The first bride in Scripture was Eve and her origin (Gen. 2:22-23) is well known among Christians, but few understand the prophetic significance of her origin. The different methods for the creation of Adam and Eve were for a reason. Adam is a type of Christ, and just as Adam’s bride was taken out of his body, Christ’s bride will be taken out of his body, the Church. Eve was made from a small portion of Adam’s body. She was made out of one rib and the flesh attached to that rib. The type is accurate for the bride of Christ, since the bride of Christ will come from a very small portion of the body of Christ. Adam was put to sleep before his side was opened. Christ was also put to sleep before his side was pierced and blood and water poured out. The blood represents the salvation of the spirit, which is by grace. The water represents the salvation of the life, which is a work and is attained by the washing of water by the Word (Eph. 5:25-27). Thus, the bride of Christ must “be born of water and the spirit.” Many in the Church are not “born of water”, since they do not avail themselves of the cleansing that Jesus is now providing as our High Priest (1 John 1:9), and they do not study the Bible and apply it to their lives. The bride of Christ will come out of those who not only see the kingdom (John 3:3), but those who enter the kingdom (John 3:5). The bride will be at the highest level in reigning and ruling with Jesus Christ. The Four Living Creatures in Revelation represent her. The bride will share the throne of Jesus Christ—unlike the 24 elders that have their own thrones and occupy the second level in the kingdom of the heavens.

The bride of Christ constantly confesses her sin, is filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit and performs righteous deeds that prevent her from being put away because of her unfaithfulness. Just as Ruth (Book of Ruth) did before she met Boaz, the bride washes herself, anoints herself with oil and dresses herself in the wedding garment of good works. The bride has made herself ready, just as the following Scripture confirms:

(Rev 19:7-8 NASB) (7) "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." (8) And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

The bride of Christ remains faithful to Christ until the end, and she has the pure and sincere devotion that qualifies her for the prize of the high calling of God, which is to be presented as the bride of Christ.