A Page From My Journals # 2

In some of my journals, I draw or paint something that relates to the meditations and truths the Lord is sharing with me that day. I did that for this particular entry.


GOD'S TREE

The Gospel In A Tree

A tree was the instrument man used to rebel against God and cast the whole human race into a cursed state of enmity with its Creator.

So a tree was the instrument the Father chose to use to provide the means by which Jesus carried out His sacrifice to redeem His creation from its sin and the curse.

And a tree — of life — will grow eternally in the city of God, with health and life for everyone who will receive: an everlasting testimony to the victory of the Father’s tree.


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Movin’ On Up From the Manger

Exif JPEG“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.”  Everyone knows the song, and nearly everyone acquaints Christmas and Jesus Christ with that lowly  manger on the night of His birth as a human being. But, beloved, we must make sure that we do not continue to acquaint Jesus Christ with a little baby lying in a manger — helpless and dependent on mommy and daddy to feed, change, clothe, and protect Him. In fact, if we would bring pleasure to the heart of God, we would actually give very little attention to that lowly feeding trough, and we would focus our attention on where Jesus went from there. Because, in actual fact, where He went from there is exactly where we have gone. He took us with Him every step of the way.

Before His lowly birth into the human race, the person we know as Jesus Christ was the second person of the Godhead. He is described in the first chapter of the Gospel of John as “the only-begotten son” of the Father. The Greek term that is translated “only begotten son” actually means a being that never had a time of beginning. And because Jesus was part of the triune Godhead, He had existed for all time just as much as the Father and the Holy Spirit. It’s interesting to note that only before His redeeming work on earth is Jesus referred to by this term. Once He became a human being, suffered and died and rose again, He is never referred to by that particular term again. He is referred to only as the first-born from the dead, or the head of the church. Because He is no longer just God — but is now God and man together, His whole identity has changed.

But in the old covenant, while still the “only begotten son”, He was also the person of the Godhead who would reveal Himself in physical form to man whenever there was a need for that. Every time we see the old covenant fathers receiving a visit from what many Bible translations call “the angel of the Lord,” the men themselves recognized that they were actually in the presence of the Lord Himself. They all recognized that this person who was visiting them was part of the Godhead and, therefore, they addressed Him as Lord or they named the place where they had received Him in honor of having come face to face with their God. Jacob wrestled with that “angel of the Lord,” but when the battle was over, and that “angel” had blessed him with a new name and a new identity, Jacob named the place, “I have seen the face of God”

During the old covenant, those visits by the second person of the Godhead were very short and for very specific reasons, but the Word of God says that “when the time was fully come,” God sent forth His son, born of a woman. In other words, there was a set time at which that person of the Godhead would no longer fleetingly come and go to help man a little bit here and there along the way — but would come and stay as a man so that He could live the life of perfect obedience that a holy God demanded, and then he could give His life to pay for the disobedience of every other man, thereby satisfying God’s justice, His holiness, and His merciful love for His wayward creation.

So when the time was fully come, Jesus obediently got up from His throne, laid aside all the privileges of being part of the Godhead (Philippians 2: 6-7), and took on the same flesh that every other human being had to live in on this earth. Why did He do that?  In order to live a life on this earth as a human being, facing everything we face in a world cursed because of sin and terrorized by satan and his hordes of demons. Jesus had to live life as a real man — obedient to God’s covenant — anointed by the Holy Spirit with power for ministry — and He had to do it perfectly. He did it, and the Word of God says He did it for you and me.

But then He willingly allowed the Father to lay onto Him all the sin, all the rebellion, all the hatefulness that we had perpetrated — as well as all the curse for breaking God’s laws. He was beaten with stripes beyond recognition for our healing, and He hung on the cross until He had given up every ounce of His blood for our sin. The Word says He died for all, and so in God’s mind, we all died with Him. (Romans 6:3-9, Galatians 2: 20).

So let’s leave the manger and go on to the cross. We hung there in Jesus until the price was paid. But when His body came down from that cross and was put into the grave, that act too was simply one more step in the journey. It was not a stopping place. Because three days later, when God the Father was able to proclaim the price was paid and He could then justly give eternal life to the human race because of what Jesus had done on our behalf, Jesus rose from that grave. The Word says (Ephesians 2: 1-7) that God brought us up out of that grave with Jesus — in Him, to be exact. But that’s still just one step in the journey. There’s more, and it’s the most exciting part of all.

When Jesus had finished His redeeming work and was resurrected — carrying us with Him — He then moved back into Heaven — right into the throne room from which He had begun His journey. But this time, according to the Word of God, He did not enter that throne room as an individual person. He entered it as the Head of His new Body — the body of believers — who died, were buried, and were resurrected in Him. Let’s refer once more to that passage in Ephesians 2, which says clearly that God seated us– in Jesus — at His very right hand — to reign there forever.And what do we reign over? Why everything in life. Romans 5:17 says, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one Jesus Christ.”

So, beloved, this Christmas do not linger at the manger too long. Observe it, yes, as the symbol of the fact that the Lord of the universe willingly came to this cursed planet to accomplish God’s purpose of salvation. Move on to the cross, but do not linger there too long either. Move on to the grave and experience the glorious, exhilarating reality of having been brought up out of death into eternal life. But go on further. Go forward from the open grave to the throne. That’s where we have our reality now. We are seated in Jesus at the right hand of the Father.

And the next time you find yourself in serious trouble — in circumstances that look impossible — remember that you are not supposed to be looking at those circumstances from  a world point of view. You need to look at them from where you are actually seated.. Look down on those problems and those circumstances, and when you pray about them, don’t grovel and whine and beg. You’re praying from your position at the right hand of the God of the universe. Let His faith, his joy, and His vision be your own and take authority over those circumstances. Proclaim God’s Word to them and over them.

You’re in a royal position now because the Lord you serve and worship is no longer lying in a manger — no longer hanging on a cross — no longer lying in a grave.  He’s reigning at the right hand of the Father God — and so are  you. Making us righteous enough to take that position, beloved, is the whole reason Jesus came to the manger in Bethlehem. Putting us in our legal position on the throne at the right hand of God is what Christmas is all about.

 

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The Most Important Novel I Ever Wrote — Now Available For E-Readers

REPAIRED COVER FOR FB FINAL - smallerSometimes people ask me which of the nine novels I’ve written so far is my favorite. And I have to answer that I feel like a parent with nine children, in that I can honestly say all of them are my favorites. They were born out of me. They are literally part of me. Every single one of them carries something of me out into the world and into the heart of every person who picks it up and reads it. And not one of them can supersede the others in my own heart.

Each one, of course has it’s own special strengths — as far as I’m concerned. (Of course, there are probably a few people out there who don’t think any of them have “strengths,” because, let’s face it: no one ever writes a book that everybody will like. It’s just a fact of life.  But not to worry: we don’t write for those people. A true writer writes for himself first — and secondly for all those people who will find great pleasure in reading his work.)

So back to my point: each book has its own set of strengths. When I look at the list of titles, I’m reminded of certain people who received help or encouragement or a good laugh when they read certain stories from that list. And I see each novel as offering its own specific gift to the readers.

However, sometimes we find ourselves writing a story that carries so much more potential for touching and changing lives than the average book does. Somehow, we just know that one particular story has an extra special gift to give the readers, and when we’ve finally written the words “The End,” we sit back and say, “Wow, this is an important book.”

That sense of importance — of special significance — came to me when I finished Repaired By Love, the third book in The Smoky Mountain Series. I truly believe this book is the most important book I’ve ever written. The reason is simple: This story has so much to say about the way of salvation and a joyous relationship with the Lord that it could easily be the only tool necessary to lead someone to make a decision to turn his heart over to Jesus Christ. I make that statement, not because I’m the author, but because I sincerely believe that the Lord Himself orchestrated that book to accomplish just that purpose.

Of course, I pray and believe the Lord to lead me in writing what He wants written in every inspirational novel I create. And the main focus in all of those novels is to help people come to know the Lord better and see that He wants to be involved in our everyday lives — helping, guiding, healing, and protecting us. I hope I’ve been faithful to Him in every book I’ve turned out. But in this one particular book, I sense a special anointing from Him to touch hearts that have never  yet opened up to Him at all. I am still in awe of how the Lord led certain people into my life and then used them to plant the seeds of so many of the characters in this book — and how He carried me along with the plot that I didn’t even have a plan for in the beginning.

When I wrote Repaired By Love, back in 2004, I said to a number of people: “If I could have written only one book in my whole life, this is the book I would want to have written.” Eleven years later — and having written five other novels since then — I still feel the same.

I hope my readers will be blessed by it as much as I have been.

Readers can find the digital Repaired By Love at the Kindle Store at a special price for the next two weeks. From today through October 16th, the novel will be on sale for only $1.99.  After that date it goes back to the same price as all the other books in the series ( 3.99).

To read an excerpt from Chapter One click HERE.

(And don’t forget, if you don’t have an e-reader, Amazon has a free app you can download in just a few minutes that will let you read all e-books right on your own computer. Just follow the link to the book page, and you’ll see the notification about the free Kindle App.)

 

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What Is This Thing Called ‘Salvation’?

CROSS - PLAIN, THICK - QUESTS.Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature (Greek: new species); the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. … Therefore, we … beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

What’s it all about? This “being saved”? This being “born again”? What’s it all about? I just don’t understand it. And I could never get my life straightened out enough and cleaned up enough to fit in with Jesus Christ anyway.”

Ever felt that way? Have you ever felt that you might really like to turn your life over to someone stronger and wiser, who could get it straightened out and make some real sense out of it – give it some lasting purpose and value? But you just don’t think you measure up to God’s standards enough to come to Him?

Well, the good news – shouted loud and strong – in the scripture passage above is that you do not have to measure up to God’s standards – or anyone else’s. You don’t even have to get one little thing about yourself or your life made right before you come to God.

That’s right. I mean what I said. And I can say it with absolute confidence, because God Himself said it first. And He said it over and over again. The passage at the top of this article is just one instance, but, to me, it is one of the most important of those instances. I have two other favorite passages like it in importance: Romans 5:6: “Christ died for the ungodly.” 1 Tim. 1:15: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Now, of course, if you don’t think you need a savior – if you believe you are holy enough to live in the presence of the holy God of the universe, nose to nose, eye to eye, breathing the same air He breathes for all eternity, without being cleaned up at all – then I’m not talking to you. But if you realize that you are not on the level of that holy God – that you are not righteous and pure enough by your own merit to live with Him – then I am talking to you – and so is He!

The simple truth is that the work has already been done for you. Jesus did it all. He gave up the privileges of being on the throne of Heaven, came to this earth as a man, and lived a perfect life for you. Then God laid all of the sinful nature (to which you are heir) and all of the rebellion, disobedience, ugliness, and hatefulness of all the sin in the human race on Jesus (2 Cor. 5 21), and put all the punishment for that sin on Him as well. He bore it all for you, and after His death on your behalf, He came up out of the grave – also on your behalf – with eternal life and the right to bestow that new life on you. We have “been crucified with Christ,” (Gal. 2: 19-20) and “even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ … and raised us up with Him.” (Eph. 2:5-6).

But when we decide we’d like to have that salvation and that new relationship with our Creator, we often hold back because we feel powerless to separate ourselves from sin or the world’s way of life – or even from our own selfish nature. We feel powerless to make ourselves “worthy” of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Well, if you feel that way, rejoice! Because that means you know the truth: We are powerless! But that is okay. Because the work of saving us is His  and His alone! And it’s already been done.

That’s what our beginning scripture is telling us. When God raised Jesus from the dead, He raised Him up as the head of a body – which would be made up of believers – everyone who would believe in that finished work. That’s what the verse in Ephesians means when it says He “raised us up with Him.” And that’s what the passage in 2 Corinthians means when it says that God was – in Christ – reconciling the world to Himself. That word reconcile means to bring back into original or proper position and make the relationship right again. That’s what the Word says God was doing when He crucified Jesus Christ and raised Him up again and seated Him in power and authority forever. He was bringing “the world” back into right relationship with Himself.

Now look at the rest of that verse: “not counting their sins against them.” Who is the pronoun “their” referring to in this verse? The church? The “good” people? The people who call themselves Christians? NO! The only plural noun in that whole verse that the pronoun “their” can refer to is the word world.” Do you get it? God was – in Christ – not counting the world’s sins against them any longer. God was – in Christ (only in Christ) – forgiving all the people in the whole world for every sin counted against them. Can you grasp that exciting truth? In the mind and heart of God, it is already done. In the mind and heart of God, all of your sins are already forgiven – in Christ!

You see, that’s why there is no other way to salvation and eternity with God. There is no other religion, dogma, or program that has inherent within it the forgiveness of all sin and the eternal life granted by God. That forgiveness and that life are only in Christ – because He’s the only one who paid the horrible price of suffering and separation from God that was complete enough and perfect enough to buy freedom for the whole human race.

So, your next question is probably going to be, “Well if it’s already done, then what is my part?” Our part is believing and receiving. Even before Jesus’ crucifixion, when His disciples asked Him, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus told them, “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (John 6:28-29).

Now, I do need to explain that the word “believe” from the original language means much more than mental assent. It means yielding or surrendering to and obeying.” To truly “believe” means that you give yourself to it completely. But that is the beauty of it all. We do not have to do the work of salvation. We just have to surrender to that work and let it produce its fruit in us. How do we surrender? We simply pour out our hearts to this great, loving Jesus, who has done all the work. We simply tell him in our own words that we know we need what He offers and gladly give Him control in our hearts and our lives. (That’s what it means to make Him our “Lord.”)

Once we totally surrender, Jesus comes to reign on the throne of our hearts. From that position, He can begin to clean up everything else about us that needs cleaning up. You need never fear. Once He has the position of authority, willingly given to him by you, He knows how – and is well able – to do the rest of the work.

So what about that term “born again”? Well to start with, we must remember that man was created by a spirit God and therefore is primarily a spirit being, having a soul and living in a body. Now go back to our original verse: “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature (Greek: new species).” When Jesus Christ comes in, our real man – the spirit man — is literally born again. A brand new species (the God-man species of Jesus Christ) comes in and generates its life in our spirit. Therefore, the Word tells us again and again that, once this happens, we are to be aware of the fact that we are now “children of God.” (Romans 8:16, 1 John 3:2).

Now all of this work is done – finished. In God’s heart and mind it’s a “done deal.” But remember: it is done ONLY IN CHRIST. Therefore, it is only when we make the decision to yield ourselves to Jesus Christ and receive Him into ourselves and our lives that we get the benefit of this finished work. Although it is done, if we choose not to access it, we get no results from it in our personal lives.

You might compare it to the process of getting data from the Internet. You know there is data out there covering the subject about which you need information. But that data will do you absolutely no good at all unless you sit down, turn on your computer, take yourself to that site, open up the channel, and deliberately download that information. So — you must open up yourself to Jesus Christ and all He has done for you, and by believing (yielding, surrendering) download every single bit of it. It’s all yours. It has your name on it. But you have to hit the download (I Believe) button to receive.

So what is salvation? It is the free gift of a loving Father who has paid the deepest, truest, most sacrificial price to restore His rebellious children to Himself. It is the free gift of the brother Jesus, who has given Himself in our place and paid the full price, receiving brand new life to pass on to each one of us. The work of salvation has absolutely nothing to do with us. Our only work is to believe what He has done and surrender to it.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17).

Prophecies, Panic, and God’s Covenant of Peace — Part 1

(Part 1) The Time Of The Singing Of Birds

BLUE-GREEN-BIRD - ENLARGED

For lo, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come …” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12 Amp). When I was a child, I was much troubled by fears of various kinds, and as a result I often had trouble sleeping at night. Thank God, He delivered me from all fear many years ago, so I am no longer tormented by those experiences. But I can still remember very vividly how they affected my life and what few things gave me relief from them.

When I was wakeful in the dark hours of night and those eerie wee hours of the morning, I alternated, from night to night, in my methods of dealing with my fears. Once in a great while, they were so tormenting that I ended up sleeping with my parents. But most nights I used other alternatives. Some nights I spent the time pulling the covers around me as tightly as I could, squeezing my eyes shut, and straining my ears to hear every sound. Other nights, I concentrated on staying alert to every corner of the room, the doorway to the hall, and the area beneath my bed – to make sure nothing that just might be lurking there could get to me.

I couldn’t have told you what I thought might be lurking around my bedroom. I wasn’t afraid of any particular kind of person or monster. I just knew I was afraid. During some of those nights – my most sensible nights – I tried to calm my fears by reciting all the lessons from my catechism or singing “Silent Night.” Those strategies generally gave me enough relief that I sometimes even drifted back to sleep.

I have to say here that my parents did what they knew to alleviate my fears, telling me – quite honestly – that there was nothing to be afraid of. And I had studied the Word of God enough that I had learned about God taking care of little children while they slept. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, I had also learned that faith-destroying prayer that the devil himself must have written to be taught to almost every child who ever lived: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

I actually never prayed that prayer. I think, even at that young age, I knew that a prayer like that was so faithless that it couldn’t do me any good. Moreover, even then, I realized that saying out of my own mouth that I might die during the night was just inviting death to come.

Something deep inside me told me that it couldn’t be the will of God for little children to die so young. But knowing that most adults thought that prayer was a “good” prayer and a “right” prayer for little kids to pray always left me just a little bit fearful that maybe I was wrong. Maybe God did want some of us kids to die and not get a chance to live our lives on the earth. And if I were wrong, and “they” were right, then if I let myself go to sleep, I just might die.

Anyway, none of my parents’ efforts at the time helped me overcome the problem, and it was only years later that I learned the truth about Jesus really being the same today as He was when He walked the earth over 2000 years ago. He truly does offer the same deliverance that He offered then, and when that truth took root in my spirit, Jesus delivered me completely.

But my point here is that there was one thing that always gave me relief when I was suffering those nights of fear. At just about 5:00 in the morning, I heard the birds begin to sing. Now they may start singing at other hours in other parts of the world, but where I lived, they almost always began at the same time. Every time I heard them begin to sing and looked at my clock it was always within a very few minutes of 5:00 a.m.

Eventually, I didn’t even bother to look at the clock because I knew for sure when I heard the singing of the birds, it was then 5:00 in the morning, and daylight would soon be streaming through my window. The night was over. I didn’t have to huddle between the tightly drawn covers or keep watch on every corner of the room any longer.

I can still remember clearly how it felt. As soon as the birds began to sing, I immediately began to breath deeply and easily. Every muscle in my body began to relax. I stretched out, turned over, nestled my head comfortably on my pillow, closed my eyes without tension, and drifted immediately and peacefully to sleep. To this very day, every time I happen to be awake to hear the birds begin to sing (and let me hasten to add that I am never awake because of fear any more), I am reminded of the overwhelming release that came to me with that experience all those other years.

Now, of course, my thoughts immediately turn to the fact that I am permanently released from all the fear and its consequences because of Jesus and His work in my life. I cannot keep a smile from spreading across my face when those birds start to sing, and I always lift my heart to the Lord in sincere gratitude for His amazing deliverance and care.

Recently, I have been called upon to counsel and pray with a number of individuals who, although they are faithful Christians who know God’s Word and power, have found themselves bombarded by the dark circumstances of the world and dark messages from some servants of God. This bombardment has been so intense that these people now find themselves in the middle of a “night” full of confusion and fear.

As I waded with them through these troubling and tormenting circumstances and the subsequent messages that seemed to prophesy disaster, doom, and confusing instructions for “survival” of the same, I realized that each of these people was missing a very important truth. Indeed a large majority of the Body of Christ seems to be missing that same truth: The fact that we are not in the middle of a dark, scary night. We are on the verge of a brilliant day — the day when our manifested redemption is drawing nigh. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28).

If we rightly divide the Word of God as He instructs us to do, we will stop our fearful frenzy of trying to figure out how best to protect ourselves in the “end times,” and we will be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). We will get quiet long enough to hear the singing of the birds and know that, regardless of what the world around us looks like, all is well for the believer who is hidden in Jesus Christ.

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Watch for Part 2 – “Fight for Survival VS Faith in the Savior”

Photo of bird courtesy of beautifulfreepictures.com.

HE IS RISEN!

HE IS RISEN INDEED!!!


And now we are FREE from our sins of the past. We are FREE from the need to sin in the future. We are FREE from sickness and disease. We are FREE from poverty and lack. We are FREE from evil habits and addictions. We are FREE from worry and fear. We are FREE from defeat by our enemies. The Word of God says that all of these things are part of the curse of the broken Law, and that Jesus redeemed us from that curse by His finished work on the cross. (Deuteronomy 28, Galatians 3).

So now we are FREE to break the power of the enemy over us and our families. We are FREE to walk in forgiveness and love. We are FREE to enter the holy presence of God Himself with confidence and joy. We are FREE TO BE JUST LIKE HIM!!!

JESUS!    “… there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” (Acts 3:12).

 

(Artwork courtesy of gospelgifs.com).