Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Beauty in Dying

There is, in nature, a natural phenomenon that occurs every year.  Yes, the seasons change from winter to spring, spring to summer, summer to autumn, and so on cyclically.  But it's the transition from summer to autumn that somehow strikes me as nothing short of miraculous.  The leaves of the trees, as they are painted in a myriad of colors, ranging from bright red, to auburn, to burnt orange to soft brown, are actually in the process of dying.  The leaves that so beautifully arrayed the trees were actually preparing themselves for death, and to fall to the ground. We are styled as trees, are we not?  And though the tree itself is not dying, it does shed some of it’s adornments to make way for new life to be produced.  It is not for the leaf to stubbornly refuse to leave the tree, nor for the tree to hold on to the previous springs foliage, it is in the trees best interest to shed the old, and prepare to make room for the new.  

My encouragement today, first to myself, and hopefully to you is that there is a beauty in dying out to yourself, and letting Christ reign in your life.  There is a benefit, and in some way even a pleasure when you truly allow yourself to die and let Christ live.  And the beauty of this death, will be/should be evident to those around you.  So much so that they’ll look on your life, and remark at the beauty that Christ is working in it, although you may very well be in the process of dying. Philipians 3:7-14 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Secondly, death will produce new life.  Our own potential, those things, dreams, goals and desires that God has placed in us to achieve, for his glory and his purposes can be revealed, I daresay can ONLY be revealed, when we allow ourselves to die. Death is, in fact, a requirement for releasing spiritual potential.  Just as the leaves of the tree die from the branch to make room for new life in the spring, so we are to allow old things to die from our life and make room for new gifts, talents, callings, grace, new places in God, greater soul burdens and blessings. John 12: 23-25 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

Lastly, new growth, development, increase, and the glory of God in and resting on our lives can be produced only as we decrease and mortify.  In order to have God’s anointing, his favor, naturally and most definitely spiritually, we HAVE to suffer and die the death of the righteous.  In other words as we decrease and mortify, Christ is increased and glorified, and that is where the real beauty lies.  We find this opportunity to die to self in our test and trials, in our sufferings from day to day, in relinquishing our will to God, and in keeping an excellent spirit regardless of persecutions, hardships and disappointments.  
I Peter 4:1-2 & 12-14 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

In Christ, our perfect example, abides the miracle of the resurrection.  John 11:25-26 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Death always precedes life.  If I want life, increase, abundance, something must die first.  My way, my will, my thoughts, opinions have to die to make room for Christ.  The beauty, the glory in it all is that I am taking part in the suffering that Christ underwent.  Therefore, when the Father looks from heaven to earth, he sees not me, but his son, whom he loves so much.  It makes the suffering, and the dying, worth it. Be blessed! -JAL

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Hear the Sound of Abundance of Rain: There Shall be Showers of Blessings

I hear the sound of abundance of rain.  We all have expectations to receive blessings from the only one that can bless, the true and living God.  My attitude today is that it’s time to stretch my faith like never before.   So, I’m digging ditches, making preparation for the rain.  Ecclesiastes tells us that if we regard the wind or the clouds, we may not sow or reap. Ecclesiastes 11:3-6 If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be. He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.  And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. 
So, what shall we do then?  We trust the promises of God.  God promised and so according to his word, I believe that there shall be showers of blessings!  And with these showers of blessings, there is increase.
Ezekiel 24: 26-27 And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.  And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them.
Using what I have in my hand and trusting God that for every deficiency he is all of my sufficiency, I’m digging.  Do I think God will disappoint? NO! Am I anxious about his timing? No!  No matter how long it takes for the showers to arrive, the exercise of building faith in him is worth it all as it proves my love and commitment to him, and his towards me.   Lack of faith produces lack of preparation and lethargy, renewed faith will produce diligent activity and productivity.  But while I prepare what am I to do?  I find it fascinating that before the man of God told the King to fill the valley full of ditches, he called first for a minstrel.  It makes me think that God is looking for me to be singing and praising and worshiping as I make preparation, and before the shower of blessing arrives.  2 Kings 3:15-17 & 20 But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him. 16 And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches. 17For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. 20And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.
So with today’s offering I’ll say, “Get up! Prepare! Make Ready! Dig Ditches! The rain is coming!”  I Kings 18:41 And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. Be blessed! -JAL
There Shall Be Showers of Blessing
By Daniel W. Whittle

There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

There shall be showers of blessing,
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.

There shall be showers of blessing;
Send them upon us, O Lord;
Grant to us now a refreshing,
Come, and now honor Thy Word.

There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!

There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

God's Favor Leads to Promotion

Joseph found favor in God's sight and in the sight of men.
With his father, Joseph had favor. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. (Genesis 37:3 KJV)  
When he was in the house of Potiphar, he had favor.  And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured. (Genesis 39:3-6 KJV)  
When he was wrongfully condemned and imprisoned, he had favor.  And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper. (Genesis 39:20-23 KJV)
Finally, when he was elevated to #2 in the kingdom, he had favor.  And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:38-41, 44 KJV)
Be encouraged that, regardless of your surroundings and present condition, God's favor still abounds.  Joseph's imprisonment set the stage for his greatest promotion.  It took the events of just one day to raise Joseph from the pit to the palace.  We've heard before that what looks like a setback, is only just a setup to receive honor and promotion from God.  What appears to be your breaking point may be, in fact, your greatest breakthrough.  Remember, when you feel that you have reached your lowest point, LOOK OUT and get ready to rise.  God is working and moving beyond what we can even ask or think.  

If I am allowed to make one final point, before closing this thought, it would be on the remarkable spirit of Joseph and his willingness to allow God's gift to work through him.  God gave Joseph a gift of interpreting dreams.  It was that very gift that caused him to be despised by his brothers and set off a series of events that forever altered his life.  Because of his "dreams" he was abused and sold into slavery.  And yet, if Joseph had begun himself to despise the gift, and see the gift as a curse perhaps he would have missed the opportunity of his greatest deliverance.  What if he had refused to interpret the dream of the baker and the butler?  He'd never had been in a position to interpret the dream of the King/Pharaoh.  In short, what looks like a curse, or a useless endeavour can be the very thing to deliver you at the right time.  My encouragement, to myself and others, continue to let God use the gifts he put in me.  Though it looks like the gift may, in fact, be causing me pain, I'm convinced that through faithfulness, submission and a willingness to be used, God will wrought a GREAT deliverance, greater even than I've ever seen. Be blessed!- JAL

Psalm 75:6-7 For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

Romans 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Romans 18:16 A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Living Sacrifice

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2) The most prominent component of the Christian experience is the requirement of self-denial and the mortification of the members of our own flesh.  There are times when God will deny us things, for our own good, and we are take this with joy.  But, my charge, our charge as Christians, is to daily take up our cross and follow Christ.  To REALLY claim that we are Christ-like and to really bear his name, his mark and share in his glory, we must bear the cross he bore. Matthew 16:24  Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  This mortification, or purging of our own deeds, is not just for the older, experienced saint, but for anyone, and everyone that would carry the name of a "Christ"ian, young and old alike.   2 Timothy 2:19-21 encourages us, Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.  Colossians 3:5 lays out some of the things and ways of the flesh, that must die, Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. It's not so much the "outward" sacrifices of worship that gains the attention and favor of God, but it is the part that "no one sees and no one knows".  It's seldom seen and seldom shown acts of sacrifice and labor, where we conform our mind and spirit to the image of Christ, that pleases God and makes us worthy to wear his name, and to be called a "Christ"ian. Philippians 3:7-10  But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. Be blessed. - JAL

A Living Sacrifice
by Lucena C. Byrum

  1. I love the Christ, the Son of God,
    Who died that I might live;
    I would my gratitude express,
    A gift unto Him give.
    • Refrain:
      My gift is small, it is my all,
      Accept it, Lord, I pray;
      Let self be slain, let Jesus reign
      Within my heart alway.
  2. I fail to find a sacrifice,
    Or fitting gift to bring;
    Earth’s treasures have too little worth
    To offer to my King.
  3. No gift, however grand or great,
    Could pay the debt I owe;
    I bring myself, my life, my all,
    A living gift bestow.
  4. My members all I gladly yield
    For service, Lord, to Thee;
    To bear the blessed gospel light,
    That others Christ may see.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Counting the Cost

Today I was working on a "cost analysis" for a personal business plan, itemizing initial costs, labor and comparing against potential incoming revenue.  In our natural lives we have to weigh out costs to see if it is indeed "worth it" to embark on particular business ventures.  We ask questions like, "For what I am putting in, is it worth it?  For what I receive, is it worth it?  If I forsake all, to pursue this endeavor/goal, will the thing I receive in return be of more value?  Will I just break even, or will there be increase?"  How we answer these questions, will be key in our motivation to continue on.  It will impact our desire and ambition to either relentlessly pursue or abandon the project or idea all together.  It is, indeed, the same way spiritually.  Luke 14:27-30 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. From time to time, we take stock and say, "God, for what you're requiring of me, is it worth it?  For what I receive in this life, and in the life to come, is it worth it?"  And what is he requiring?  In Micah 6:8 the word says, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"  And even further, Christ said, "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." (Luke 9:23-24)  What are we asked to "put into" this thing?  Everything we have.  As one songwriter penned, "He wants it all."  So, when it's all said and done and I have taken full stock of what I'm investing against what I'm hoping to it worth it?  I'll offer a resounding, YES! It is so worth it.  Because God's word is true and because the promises of God are yea and amen, I believe it is, and shall be worth it all! Luke 18:28-30 Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.  And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.  Be Blessed. -J.A.L.

I'm Glad I Counted the Cost
by William J. Henry

1.   When first I started to seek the Lord,
I’m glad I counted the cost;
I fully measured to Jesus’ Word;
I’m glad I counted the cost.
o    Refrain:
I’ve paid the price and obtained the prize,
He saved my soul that was lost;
And now my treasures are in the skies,
I’m glad I counted the cost.
2.   I laid my sorrows at Jesus’ feet,
I’m glad I counted the cost;
And now I’ve pleasures so pure and sweet,
I’m glad I counted the cost.
3.   I’ve bid farewell to this world of sin,
I’m glad I counted the cost;
And now my Jesus abides within,
I’m glad I counted the cost.
4.   I cast on Jesus my every care,
I’m glad I counted the cost;
And all my burdens He helps to bear,
I’m glad I counted the cost.
5.   ’Twill not be long till the Lord shall come,
I’m glad I counted the cost;
And bear my soul to that heav’nly home,
I’m glad I counted the cost.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Loving God's Way: Part 1

We have so many ideas & opinions of what "Love" is. “Love” is one of the most common, yet misused and misunderstood words in the English language. On the bookshelf, “love” is synonymous with “romance” and seldom used without a sexual connotation. In our society, love is depicted by programs on television to pattern one’s life by. Commercials tempt the audience to try ehormony and other single search sites to find true love or your soulmate, where companions can be matched. Some of us even have a very fuzzy grasp of the meaning of love. The lyrics of all too many contemporary Christian songs use the word love in a way that falls far short of that which the Bible defines and describes. Some of these contemporary songs have no mention made of God Himself, of who He is. There is no mention of the chastening of the Lord as a manifestation of His love for us (see Heb. 12:3-13). There is no mention of our subordination or service, to God or to others.

Love is a subject of vital importance, not only because of our ideas about what love really is, but because love is a matter of highest priority: “But now abide faith, hope, and Charity, these three; but the greatest of these is Charity”. (1st Cor. 13:13) For a number of reasons, Paul regards love as greater even than faith and hope. To show the magnitude of the importance of defining what God's love is, allow me to summarize these:

(1) Love is greater than faith and hope because love is eternal, while faith and hope are temporal (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-13). Because that which God has promised cannot presently be seen, faith and hope are necessary in this life. But when the perfect comes, when our Lord returns and we are living eternally in His presence, we will no longer need faith, for we shall see Him and experience all that He has promised. Our hope will be fulfilled. Our love for Him, however, will last for all eternity, inspiring our worship and service in His presence.

(2) Love is the appropriate response to God’s love and grace, in Christ (see Luke 7:42, 47).

(3) Love is the great commandment and one of the distinguishing marks of a true disciple of our Lord (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:33; Luke 6:27-36; John 13:35; 15:12-13).

(4) Love facilitates and contributes to Christian unity (John 17:20-26; Colossians 2:2; 3:14).

(5) Love is the lubricant which greatly reduces the friction which can build up between us and others (Ephesians 4:2; 1 Peter 4:8).

(6) Love is a key motive for our obedience to our Lord’s commands (John 14:15, 21, 23, 24; 15:10; 21:15-17; 1 John 5:2; 2 John 1:16).

(7) Love is a stabilizing factor in our lives (Ephesians 3:17).

(8) Love is the goal of Paul’s teaching as it should be the goal of all Christian teaching (1 Timothy 1:5).

(9) Love is the one command which encompasses all aspects of our Christian life (Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 16:14).

(10) Love makes our service more profitable to others and to us (1 Corinthians 8:1; 13:1-13).

(11) Love is a key element in our defenses against Satan’s attacks and devices (1 Thessalonians 5:8).

(12) Our love can and should be constantly growing (Philippians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; Hebrews 10:24; 2 Peter 1:7).

(13) Our love can grow cold, especially in difficult times (Matthew 24:12; Revelation 2:4).

The vital role love must play in our Christian experience, and the concept of love prevalent today, makes this topic of great urgency and importance. We will show you according to the Bible what love is and how love behaves itself.

Pastor Hodges

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Redeeming the Time

In Ephesians 5:15-17 we read, “See then that ye
walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”

At the end of the year we are reminded of events of the past, and there are those who profess to know what the future holds, not only in temporal affairs, but in religious matters as well. Regardless of our present age, we are not promised another day. So our time on this earth is valuable because it is very limited, and it should be spent in serving the Lord. Paul has told us in the verse given above, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.”

Paul said in Rom. 13:11,“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed”. How many of us “know the times”? “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Have you ever known a time when the world was so filled with evil as it is today? One sad thing about the evil in the world today is, so much of it is condoned by false religion! In fact, false religion is helping spread the evil. Adam Clarke, in commenting on Paul’s words in Romans 13:11, said, “Considering the nature and shortness of the present season of life, will convince us that it is now high time to rouse and shake off sleep, and apply with vigilance and vigor to the duties of our Christian life for that eternal salvation, which is the object of our Christian faith and hope.” Let each of us this year redeem the time & walk circumspectly & let’s prove what the will of the Lord is for our lives.

We would like to thank each and every one of you for your love & support of the ministry & the Church of God down through the years. It is our desire to be all that God is calling for in these last days. Continue to pray for the ministry of the Church of God everywhere. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love
of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen” (II Corinthians13:14).

Happy New Year Love & Blessing for a victorious, prosperous & miraculous Year!

Pastor Hodges