Archive for December, 2014

December 29, 2014

A Very Interesting Dream…

by Lester Young

Generally, I’m a rather private person. I don’t retell or speak very much at all about my dreams. But the one I had a couple of weeks ago was markedly different, and it seemed like it would be good for me to share it with you. Now before we start, I should mention that the night before the dream I was sitting around thinking, and I’d made a firm decision to “not fear” – that is, to not shy away from or attempt to deflect – a particular confrontation I thought might be coming my way (by nature I’m very non-confrontational, regardless of what some of you who know me well might think. But I digress…). So I went to sleep with that “I will not fear!” decision floating around in my brain. (And as a sidebar, let me also say that the Scripture references you find in the narrative did not come as actual parts of the dream. I added them later as I was putting this whole thing together and writing it down because they seem to lend Biblical support to the ideas that were going on at the time. Okay, I think we’re ready now…)

As dreams often do, the first half of it – which seemingly had absolutely nothing to do with anything I’m about to tell you (and has subsequently been forgotten anyway) – instantaneously morphed into the second part, where I and two other people were attempting to escape a multilevel parking garage by crawling slowly on our hands and knees. Long story short: we didn’t make it. The gang that controlled the garage caught sight of us and stopped us before we could reach the ground level, and its leader began to question one of the guys with me. This went on for a brief period of time in a language I didn’t understand. Eventually, however, the leader seemed satisfied with the answers he’d received and appeared he might be ready to let us go. But then he looked squarely at me and decided I wasn’t going anywhere. My two friends were helpless to do anything about it, and I fully understood that. They remorsefully continued on to freedom, while I remained with my captors.

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December 22, 2014

Savior AND Lord?

by Lester Young

Have you ever noticed that, when referring to Jesus, many Christians seem to use those two titles as though they’re fully integrated and interchangeable, or as though the citing of one automatically implies the presence of the other? While some people might jump on me for splitting hairs here, the truth of the matter is that although Jesus is indeed both Lord and Savior, the difference between the two – and certainly from a personal standpoint for those who believe in Him – is as wide as all outdoors (2 Peter 1:11).

What am I referring to? Well, let’s consider Jesus’ ‘Savior’ mantle first. Simply put, it’s the reason He came here in bodily form to begin with. We needed saving – you, me, the whole world – and He was the only One qualified to do it (Psalm 40:6-7; John 3:16-17; 1 John 4:14). And everybody who looks to Jesus for salvation will be accepted: none will ever be turned away – no questions asked (John 6:37; Romans 10:9-13). In other words, just like His love, God’s salvation is unconditional (1 Corinthians 13:7-8). The work’s completely done, all that needed doing. Jesus took care of it and finished it – everything! (John 5:36, 17:4, 19:30) And it’s free to anybody who wants it; good, bad or otherwise: all we have to do is come to Him and accept the open Invitation (Isaiah 55:1-3; Matthew 11:28, 22:4, 9-10).

Now as far as the other is concerned, there’s certainly no real question about the overall ‘Lordship’ of Jesus Christ. The word lord means ‘supreme in authority’ and ‘controller,’ and I have to say that latter one I find particularly interesting. We acknowledge that Jesus is the incarnate “Word of God” (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 1:1-2). But in the Person of the Word we also know He was with the Father in the very beginning and indeed made all things (Proverbs 8:22-31; John 1:1-3). Going further, Colossians 1:15-17 reminds us that all things – all things, whether visible or not – were not only made by Him, they were also made for Him; and He’s the Power holding everything together in operational order. So if that’s not de facto “Lordship,” I don’t know what is.

But being Lord over all Creation is one thing; being Lord in an individual person’s life is quite another. How can that be? Well, it’s all because of that little “right” we humans have been given called ‘free choice’. We have the freedom to choose whether or not we’ll come to Jesus and accept the salvation He bought for us. Certainly, if we don’t take that initial, most important first step toward Him, He can’t ever be our Lord, because we’ve already disobeyed and disregarded right out of the gate the Authority given to Him by God to be our Leader (Acts 5:31).

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December 15, 2014

The Word of Faith, the Faith of Words

by Lester Young

You’ve probably heard the terms faith people and Word people thrown around – typically with unflattering or even hostile overtones – to identify some Christians. And other Christians are quite often the ones doing the throwing. (No wonder the rest of the world walks away from the Church shaking their collective heads… but I digress.) But why? Is there something wrong with being a “faith-” or “Word” person? What do the two terms mean, anyway?

Well, the meanings are ridiculously straightforward. A faith person is someone who regularly uses faith in his or her life. A Word person is someone who – I think you can guess where this is going – regularly use the Word of God in his or her life. But it’s not really the meanings that are at issue: it’s actually the perceived implications, which have become disparagingly twisted as those names have been hurled. For instance: “You don’t wanna go over to that church across town; it’s full of those ‘faith people’.” Or, “He’s one of those ‘Word people’ now, just going around quotin’ the Word 24/7 – it’s all he ever talks about anymore!” Do you hear the negative connotations? Makes it sound as though they think they’ve tripped and fallen into some cult or other, doesn’t it? In their opinion, such folk have just “gone too far – lost their grip on ‘reality’.” (And for my thoughts on that particular subject, please feel free to click here… but I digress again.)

But you know what’s interesting? If we want to experience God’s Blessing in our lives, we’re told we have to meditate in His Word day and night, all day long, and consult it for every step we take (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:97, 105). And if you dig into the meaning of that word ‘meditate,’ you’ll find it goes beyond just thinking deeply about God’s Word; it additionally includes murmuring, muttering and speaking it.

Now if you think that’s funny, this ought to be a scream: We’ve also actually been commanded to live a certain way; because Scripture says, “The just shall live by faith” – by fully believing – in Jesus Christ and the promises of God (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17, 4:19-21; Galatians 2:20, 3:11). Sounds to me like those so-called “faith-” and “Word” people might just be plain old obedient people. So let’s peel back the cover and see just what’s going on under the surface.

What’s really funny is if you take some time to stop, look and listen, you’ll come to the conclusion that we’re all “word-” and “faith” people – in fact, we really don’t have any other choice in the matter. We’re all made in God’s image, Who’s the ultimate “Word-” and “Faith” Person. And as an extension of Him, the universe we live in – all Creation, both seen and unseen – is a faith-based, word-driven System (Genesis 1:26-27; John 1: 1-3; Hebrews 11:1, 3). But not just word-driven, it’s spoken-word-driven – as in, “And God said… and it was so” (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, etc.); “…And upholding all things by the [spoken] word of His power…” (Hebrews 1:3); and, “Bless the LORD, you His angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening to the voice of His Word” (Psalm 103:20); to highlight just a few examples.

Still not convinced we’re all “word-” and “faith” people, whether we like it or not? Okay then, consider this: The Lord Jesus declared, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they’re life” (John 6:63). In that one notable phrase, He very concisely described the fundamental character of words: they’re ‘spirit’ – and even more to the point, they’re ‘spiritual’ containers. Jesus’ words contained the spiritual force known as Life because ‘life’ words were the ones He chose to speak. And that makes perfect sense because Jesus only spoke what His Heavenly Father – the Source of Life – told Him to.

But what we should also glean from that verse is that all words are spiritual containers, not just the ones Jesus spoke. The words you and I choose to say are just as much ‘spirit’ as the Lord’s, because He went on to tell us in Matthew 12:34 that “out of the abundance of the heart (the inner man who’s wholly a spirit being) the mouth speaks.” So we can deduce that what comes from the spirit, even though it proceeds by the physical tongue to enter into this natural realm, is nevertheless still spiritual material. And Romans 10:8 confirms this principle, stating, “The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart, the [spoken] word of faith…”.

And speaking of faith (no pun intended), we often do ourselves a disservice by disregarding its fundamental definition. The word ‘faith’ has typically been stuck with a “religious” tag, but it’s really not a religious word at all. It simply means “to believe” or “believe in” something. You can have faith in your Uncle Seymour just as much as you can have faith in Jesus (though it’s not something I’d personally suggest). You can also “believe” that there is no God. Does that mean you don’t have any faith? No, it simply means you’re using your faith to believe something other than “God exists”. Doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist, it just means you’re believing something other than that. The point is, unless you’re dead, you can’t not be believing something. Why? Because the act of believing (anything) boils down to an either/or choice. After considering the preponderance or lack of evidence to support an issue’s veracity, you choose to believe it – or not believe it, in which case by default you’ve automatically chosen to side with the counter-position (Galatians 1:10; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-16). And it really is just that simple (2 Corinthians 11:3); it’s the way things are.

We’re always using our faith – in some form – whether we realize it or not. Unfortunately, the world – and a majority of Christians, as well – are going through life using a twisted version of faith, more commonly known as fear. Fear, just like faith, is a spiritual force (2 Corinthians 4:13; Galatians 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:7). It has to be because it’s actually the same spiritual force, the difference being that it’s been perverted and is now acting in the opposite direction from faith. Think about it: ‘Fear’ is nothing more than your belief in a snake’s ability and/or intent to harm you. (Feel free to substitute anyone or anything you want in place of the noun snake’s.) Now by following this principle through to its logical conclusion, we can come to understand that fear – all fear, whether large or small – has as its core root the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). Everything bad – sickness, poverty and lack, sin and all the rest – is designed by its maker to diminish you, slowly or quickly, until you’re ultimately destroyed and die off (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; John 10:10).

As a final point to rest my case on, let’s recall what Jesus taught in Mark 11:23: “Truly I say to you, that whoever shall say to this mountain, ‘You be removed and be cast into the sea!’; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things he says shall come to pass; he shall have whatever he says.” Notice that the Lord didn’t say, “If My followers shall say to this mountain…”. No: this pertains to everybody, because He said “whoever… believes in his heart his own words…”. The “words” Jesus is referring to here are the ones that are in your heart in abundance, the same ones that will find their way out your mouth (Matthew 12:34)… and those are the ones that will produce in your life. And that, my friend, is the ‘faith-based, word-driven System’ in action.

We can’t change the System we operate in. We can, however, change the words we use to operate the System. Jesus told us how in Mark 11:22: “Have faith in God” – believe Him and take His Words. Deuteronomy 30:19 puts it this way, and very succinctly: “[God declares:] ‘I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life!‘”

Choose to put God’s Words – His promises to you – in your heart abundantly, because whatever’s in there in abundance is what’s going to come out of your mouth. If it’s not good words filled with the spiritual force of ‘life,’ it’ll be evil words lacking that life-force (Matthew 12:35). If you’re not speaking ‘life’-words, you’re speaking ‘death’-words – words lacking life – by default. Just as the absence of light can only be darkness, the absence of life can only be death. Without the righteousness of God’s Word coming through, “[the] throat is an open grave” (Psalm 5:9; Romans 3:13).

When you use your words, you are using your faith. That can be either a good or bad thing, depending on what you’re habitually saying. If you find that most of what’s coming from the fountain underneath your nose is doubt, fear, sickness or lack, you shouldn’t be too terribly surprised that the conditions around you have followed suit. So watch what you say. In order to change the direction of your life, you have to change the direction of your faith by changing the direction of your words, because faith (or fear)-filled words start the natural course of things in this physical world (Hebrews 11:1, 3; James 3:3-6). Put your ‘believing’ in God, and take His Words as your own. You’ll still have what you say, but it’ll be His promises coming to pass for you.

 

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