​February 12, 2016.

Valentine's Day - Really!

Like many calender holidays, Valentine's Day has Christian connotations in its origin and intent. Going far back to the early church, where love for others meant sacrifice, even to the point of death. 

Today, we celebrate and share this day with both sincerity of the heart, and ulterior motives. Without its history as a guide for us, it has become just another day that has been corrupted, to distract us from God. Valentine's Day is bombarded with advertising; taunting us to spend and indulge in a carnal (lower) love, rather than a spiritual expression. Sure, many of these expressions are genuine and in the spirit of things, we are forced to participate or risk being labeled as a prune. This carnal love is usually shown by some physical expression; an item and/or a pre-set of words on a bright red greeting card. There is no originality, and as with most things now in our society, it's the quick, convenient, and unconscious way of showing our affection, with very few giving any personal thoughts to others. The original intent and nature of sacrificial love is gone.

Jesus gave us the real, meaningful Valentine; with no other match to this day. When on Earth, He displayed many different roles. He was a priest, a leader/teacher, and a servant and in every interaction His role(s) are apparent. Consider this, if Jesus could only do one thing, before ascending to the Father, what would it be and which role would He be in. Many saw Jesus as a servant, healing and casting out demons;  others as a teacher or leader. Yet, even though these roles demonstrated His persona and Faith the bible is very clear, from the beginning to the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus was foremost a priest (Ps. 110:4).  

Beginning from the Old Testament, the priest was responsible to not only be chaste, and dedicated but also his main role or responsibility was to appease God, by sacrificing animals for the continued redemption of sins. Fast forward to the New Testament, with the new covenant; the appeasing and sacrificing for the redemption of sin was, and is, completed now and accomplished by Jesus. He became the one and only sacrifice required. The one thing that had to be done and truly needed was this sacrifice. Without it, salvation and all the promises could not be fulfilled because we would still be under the curse. When Jesus did this, He gave the ultimate Valentine's Day gift; the sacrifice of love by offering Himself for us - Jn 15:13, "no greater love than to give your self for others". He took the 'bullet', so we did not have to.

It is this sacrificial love that motivated and created Valentine's Day; setting the example, for many in the early church, as a way to imitate Jesus. For those who want to show their love for Christ by blood sacrifice - if we really think about it - they make Christ's crucifixion of no effect, and label God as being sadistic. God required one final blood sacrifice, and He does not need another. God sacrificed for us, with Jesus in love.

It is no coincidence, that of the three most requirements of hope, faith and love; love cannot be dismissed, and is the driving force for all other Godly principles (1 Corth. 13:13). God is love. And He demands our total love for Him, so that His complete expression of love for us, our life, can be possible. Too often, many of us, without reflection, dismiss how deep God's love is for us, especially with the holidays, like Easter, and Christmas, and the ritualism of ashes, standardized prayer, and music. For God, sending the Word to become flesh and blood was in itself a spiritual sacrifice for His love for us.

As with Valentine's Day, God's demonstration of His love is to bind and strengthen our relationship with Him. This is why love has different sides and degrees to it. For most of us, we shudder and shake at tough love. This love makes us uncomfortable and can be confrontational; resulting in misunderstandings and harsh results. Often, we walk away thinking "they don't really love me" but given enough time and honest reflection, come to realize, "they really do love me and had no choice but to use this tough love method". Today, some call it "an intervention".

To know the love that supersedes any man-made creation, like Valentine's Day, we just need to read the Word and place ourselves standing beside God, as He makes decisions, and get an appreciation as to why His love can either be fearsome or compassionate. Jesus also demonstrated this with all, whether to a jew, a pharisee, a non-believer, or a roman. We also must realize in His public ministry, when speaking directly to a sect of people, was also speaking to every other sect present; for none at that time and today are perfect (Ecc. 7:20, Acts 10:34). In every action, deed, and word, Jesus expressed compassion, mercy, sacrifice, protection, and even anger in love. His purpose was to offer by sacrifice, His Father's love for all, because He desires all to be saved (Ez. 18:32, 1 Tim. 2:4). This is why red is used to symbolize love; from the heart, the blood, the irretrievable sacrifice, loss of oneself and giving for others; so that we may live, and live knowing, understanding and remembering the sacrifice Jesus gave.

Unfortunately, for many, Valentine's Day is just that; a day to celebrate love and show affection. A day which starts and ends but does not continuously express love. It's just another day event, once indulged, forgotten until the next scheduled date. In some ways it is just like the weekly church ministry or sermons. It is treated no different than a birthday; this day comes and goes as quickly as advertisers and retailers change their storefronts and marketing.

The love of God has no end and is not conditional; nor can be compared with carnal love. His love for us is all encompassing, and continues regardless of any external force, condition or failure on our part; agape. So this Valentine's Day, when you share a red card, flowers,  or a gift, remember the One, who came and gave the very best Valentine's Day gift, with His blood; stained on His body, garments, cross and tomb and continues everyday, sacrificing because He first loved us.

Flush it Out! - Never barter God's love for man's.

spiritual awakening

The Empowered Christian

February 17, 2016

Just Right of Salvation!

You ever come across friends or acquaintances who say they love the Lord, but still want all the world has to offer. They want to indulge their fleshly desires so that they can experience, enjoy and revel in it; thinking they are in control and are ready to jump back over the line that makes them a Christian when things on the other side become too intense. Before you know it; they gradually assimilate  back into the norm of familiarities and backslide or get lost as before. Thinking it's acceptable, because God knows our background, and use this as an excuse to dip back into the cookie jar once we have been commanded not to, - 2 Pet. 2:22, "like a dog returning to its vomit".  Salvation is meant to be a separation onto righteousness, as defined and declared by God. Worldly indulgences are satan's hunting ground, and we become prime targets by putting ourselves into the enemy's territory. When we flippantly part-take in anything where Godly values are compromised, consciously or unconsciously, we are just right of salvation in our daily walk.

We  are living in a world where Jesus gave us back the authority; making satan's influences subjected to us. But if we don't demonstrate to him (satan) our righteousness, he won't take us seriously and will seize opportunities to exploit our indecisiveness. Some say it is not easy, and with all the constant bombardment of temptations and pressure, you can't help but to indulge. This is only a challenge because we still have not made that quality decision to walk, talk and have the mind of Christ, so that our Faith is not compromised and willingly burning all remnants of the former life, redefining  ourselves. One cannot serve two masters, - Matt. 6:24.

The bible clearly states we are to endeavor to grow up; maturing as Christ, and encourage all to do the same - Eph. 4:14-15. We cannot expect to be on the right side of salvation by religious attitudes and transient professions; thinking we can take time to get all things under the Word. This is a dangerous game to play, exposing oneself to satanic deceptions and facades. We cannot maintain control of our salvation without the Word, its precepts and commands. Some religious attitudes and thinking that try to justify being just right of salvation include:

* Give's opportunities to influence the unsaved because we are not seen better than they are.
* Have to keep my networks and demonstrate I am a team player.
* We must be practical on how we reach others for Jesus.
* We need to learn how the other side live before we spread the good news.
* Christians are still part of the world system and should take advantage of it.

We can provide endless justification as to why it's important to be participants and indulge in worldly things, thinking we are doing God's work. The truth is, God will decide by His justice not ours. His court is not like our Earthly ones, where a defense lawyer can present our case, arguing temporary insanity or some misguided notion of spreading salvation. God's judgments will be without defense, and is final. I am not saying we are to find a cave and become hermits until Jesus comes. Every decision we make will draw us closer to or take us away from God. What is more important is we recognize the spirit and conditions that guide us in these types of decisions. The Word is our first reference point for deciding if indulgences are acceptable or even recommended, and as we mature, the Holy Spirit is constantly available for anything not clearly covered in the bible. Other reference points would be spiritual mentors (not necessarily the oldest or longest serving member of the church), but someone who is obviously both physically and spiritually fruitful; someone where trust is undeniable - Matt. 7:20-21.  I remember, at an early age, I was invited to spend a few days with a classmate at his home and family. He was a nice guy, and genuine, as far as I could tell. He showed me some local sites, then with another person decided to go on the town for some fun. Having seen enough of his lifestyle, gave me enough to trust him in accepting his invite. But before I could even recognize what was happening, we ended up in a nameless building, dark, and loud, and I found myself surrounded by mostly naked women. I was totally unprepared for this, and without any means of escape, I sat there until it was time to go home. I was not angry or disappointed with my friend, but I realized in all our many times together, I never clearly stated my faith and walk as a Christian. I was the one who deceived him, not the other way around.

Being a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ is not about ones private life and personal decisions, but about seeing and taking opportunities to present the life of Jesus. We fail to reveal Jesus often as they are presented to us. If we are prepared and open, having our senses tuned into the prompting of the Holy Spirit, then when opportunities are presented, our discussions will flow smoothly, because it is ordained by the Spirit. The more we are on the side of righteousness, the more God coordinates the message of Salvation through us. This was Jesus' last direction to us, - Mk. 16:15-16. We are not required to compromise our salvation, to save others; but only walk and stand for the truth of His life.

Christians are to have fun and have everything the Word promises, but when we compromise for worldly indulgences, we dilute and eventually cloud our spiritual walk, making us immature to receive the physical things God has for us. We can begin to have an identity crisis and second guess what's best for us, within the framework of Christianity. An example of this is being unequally yoked. This is not just about the relationship between a husband and wife, but also where we use our time and talents. When we become obsessive with our desires for worldly pleasures, we become imbalanced and will reap dire results from this. Our spirit starves, while our flesh hungers for more. This is why satan pushes fleshly temptations on us. Our design is set up so that no matter the external influences, we can walk spiritually.  It's been said "as a man thinks, so is he". This is not just some self help saying to be dismissed, but is an actual biblical declaration. God is known as "I Am" and Jesus clearly stated - Jn. 5:30, "I can do nothing without the Father" and Jn. 15:4, "without abiding in me, you can do nothing". We are to be connected spiritually to Jesus to God, so as to establish His Kingdom. By abiding in the Word, meditating on it, it eventually becomes a part of us, and is expressed through us, so much so there is no distinction in our walk as Jesus' walk. This is why for some, life is challenging and for others easy. It is how we see ourselves that we are able to color and build our world according to the Word, - Gal.6:8. To help us to understand the Word we must stop reading it from our language perspective and biases and comprehend it from the original languages, which for the most part is based on images, and a holistic comprehension and not in isolation, as a slice of pie.

To put things in perspective, consider the following, when we try to have both worlds:

* We have compromised God's clear direction to choose life over death.
* We demonstrate to others our lack of commitment to our Faith, leaving doubts about our God and His Word.
* We pay more attention to all the world has to offer rather than God's promises.
* We never truly defeat the enemy (satan) and establish the Kingdom in our lives and families.
* We act like mercenaries, looking for personal gain rather than part-takers in God's divinity.
* We have no real fruit because we are essentially double minded.
* We treasure more physical pleasures rather than spiritual ones.
* We put pressure on God to judge us as we are accused by satan.
*We limit how much God can use us to accomplish His will.
* We take for granted Jesus, by adding worldly shackles, even though He set us free from them.

God will never sacrifice one soul to gain another. Many today are concerned about how to reach the unsaved and uses superficial gimmicks; thinking we can show these persons how much love God has for them by covertly drawing them into our environment. They also claim times are different, and the church and Word need to be progressive in order to spread the Gospel. Essentially, the end justifies the means, where quantity become more important than the quality of salvation. Salvation should never be rushed, but laying the proper foundation to build on, will allow a natural acceptance of salvation, but also go a long way for new Christians, to weather the storms of life. Essential to this is trust. 

For God to be worthy of our dedication, He must be trustworthy. Trustworthiness is based on consistency; impartiality that keeps the bonds of understanding, and is uncompromising, regardless of external forces or personal biases. God is all these things and more, and does not change His ways for anyone, - Rom. 2:11. God is perfect in all His ways and is the standard for trust. When we become more dependent on our efforts rather than God, the Word and His Holy Spirit, we have told God, we don't trust Him anymore. We now, essentially, begin to interfere with His perfect plan for us and others, which complicates salvation for anyone. Jesus proved this by taking the time to pray, meditate, and be led by God. He did not have an itinerary, but allowed the Spirit to lead Him and show Him what needed to be done - Jn. 14:10-12, "it is the Father in me, He does the work". Part of our salvation is to completely trust in Him by Faith, and not put ourselves in places or situations where we compromise the Grace He gives us. It has been said, when we break the speed limit, we have left our angel's (God's) protection behind, because we are now operating in disobedience, exposing ourselves to satan works, - Rom. 13:1-3, "the authorities are by God". God is order, satan is chaos.

We are to judge our walk, not by man's measuring stick, but by God's and the Spirit, - 1 Corth. 2:15-16.

Flush it out! - You will never get what you truly want without vision, focus and self discipline.