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Growing Spiritually

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-26)

Translation: “May you be pure, able to distinguish good from bad, may you know God is faithful and (be able to) love one another. Oh, and please pray for me.” This is Paul’s closing sentiment to the Thessalonians. Not that they would be blessed with deep theological knowledge. Just that God would keep them. This tells us something about Paul, and something about what God wants for us:

Paul wanted them to be pure: Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Because Paul knew that when they were pure, they would be able to distinguish good from bad; because they wouldn’t be corrupted by ‘the bad’ if they were pure.

Paul wanted them to be able to distinguish right from wrong: Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.

Paul wanted them to know right from wrong in prophecy, because they would then see what God had kept them from. They would also be encouraged by that which was good, but that’s a side-point now. – Paul realized that once they realized what God had kept them from, they would see his faithfulness and be encouraged that he would continue keeping them safe from Satan.

Paul wanted them to know God’s faithfulness: He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Paul wanted them to know God’s faithfulness, because out of the thankfulness to the father comes love to his sons and daughters… If you love God, by extension, you’re loving every single true Christian, because each Christian is a son/daughter of God. Paul knew this, thus he wanted them to have faithfulness in God, because that would produce love for each other.

Paul wanted them to greet each other with a Holy Kiss (love each other Spiritually): Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

If they loved each other, they would no doubt love Paul as he was the one who’s writing to them and imparting this ‘wisdom’, which would lead them to pray for him and those with him. This may seem just slightly selfish on Paul’s part, but frankly, when you’re talking about talking to God, nothing is too much.

Paul wanted them to pray for him and those with him: Brothers, pray for us. 

He wanted this for two reasons: 1) it would build their personal relationship with God up, and 2) He actually did want the prayer.

And what do we learn from all this of what God wants us to do? That He wants us to pray to him. That He wants us to love each other. And that He wants us to “abstain from evil”. You see, everything Paul asked the Thessalonians to do, we should do. Possibly with the exception of praying for Paul and his companions, as that is impossible just now. However, we should still pray to God to keep us pure in Jesus (something we can only do because Jesus died for us). Recognize God’s faithfulness (as in: He’s so faithful, he would even send his only son to fulfill a promise he made), love each other with a Spiritual love (only possible because Jesus loved us first), and so forth. Because when we do, we will grow Spiritually.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

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Aspirations

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. (1 Thessalonians 9-12)

Have you, I wonder, ever heard before of debt? It’s this really cool thing where you are “given” money! but then have to pay it back plus a certain percentage. And if you happen to default on your payment that percentage is raised. Here’s a hint for all those who don’t have debt: It would be best for you if it was kept that way.

This is the definition of debt:

The state of owing money: “the firm is heavily in debt.”. (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/debt)

Paul says explicitly here not to be dependent on anyone. “Anyone” includes debt companies, credit companies (pretty much the same thing), or banks in general. Look at one of the causes of the great depression: the banks went out, millions lost their money, thus the depression. With that little economic lesson finished… He says something else here:

and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

There are three things there we are told to aspire to do: living quietly, minding our own affairs, and working with our hands. Or in modern terms: You don’t have to be president. Don’t be snoopy (the action or the dog). And be willing to work. If we’re those three things, we can walk properly before outsiders and won’t have to be dependent on anyone; emotionally or financially.

The point being: it’s a good testimony for a Christian to be debt-free and a hard worker. The sub-point being: It’s better not to ever get into debt. The sub-sub-point being: If you can’t get a job as a technician, get one as a farmer. Maybe not literally, but you get the (sub-sub) point; don’t be afraid to work with your hands.

Breaking free from debt is not something you (or I) want to do. May Jesus keep us from having to. Because the only way to break out, is by having the bars broken for us by… Jesus. Otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to create a budget (we would always end up spending more than we promised our self). And it wouldn’t be possible to do whatever else it is that you do when you try to get out of debt, pornography, swearing, or anything else that you’re trying to get out of. – By the way, that’s the sub-sub-sub point.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Debt, Delivered Through Love

 

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Living Sacrifices

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

Paul’s asking me to offer my body as a living sacrifice?! What is Paul talking about, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice,”? What does that even mean?

First, what does it mean to offer our bodies as living sacrifices…

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Please put all Hollywood depictions of what this (the verse about, “offering ourselves as living sacrifices”) might mean out of your head now, thank you… Being a “living sacrifice” mean’s “sacrificing” or “giving” your life to God. We do this by discerning what the will of God is. In other words, by discerning what exactly is good, acceptable, and perfect, then doing it. I’ve found discerning what is right is considerably easier than doing what is right sometimes. How can, we, in our mortality, do everything that is good, acceptable, and perfect?

And speaking of which, there’s another question I think pops up, “do we have to offer ourselves as living sacrifices? Wasn’t Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf enough, or do, in reality, we have to build our own stairway to Heaven?”

Second, let’s answer some questions… “Was Jesus’ sacrifice enough?”And, “How can we do everything perfectly?”

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; (Romans 12:3-6)

It’s not that Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf wasn’t enough, if that were true, then we’d be “offering” our bodies as “living sacrifices” in order to gain salvation.  How can we do everything perfectly? We don’t, we use the gift God has given us to the best of our God given ability, we ask God to give us the ability to use it better and that’s it. It’s not something that will effect our eternal life in the least, instead, it’s our (in some translations it says this), “reasonable act of worship”.

We’ve all been given some sort of “gift” from God and Paul is telling us to use it. But it’s slightly more than just that, it’s actually giving our lives as living sacrifices to God, being a wholehearted servant to and of God.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Upholding the Law?

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)

No one can be saved? It actually is all useless? Well if that’s the case, and no one can be saved, then… What? Should we all just lay down and die?

First, we have to look at context… In order to be able to know for sure this is what Paul is actually referring to:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Romans 3:21-24)

Paul isn’t referring to it being impossible for anyone to be saved, he’s reminding them that it’s just the law that can’t save them; he’s reminding them they can’t do anything to save themselves, and that’s it’s only by the gift of grace (given by Jesus) that can save them.

Second, we have to actually get the point of what Paul is saying… What’s Paul getting at here? The Romans (and us) are saved by grace and not by works, we understand that now, but what’s the point? So what?

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one–who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:27-31)

Paul’s point is that God is a both a God of Jew’s and of Gentiles. OK, but he also seems to be talking in circles. – We uphold the law? I thought you just said it didn’t matter! Which is it Paul, are we saved by the law or by faith, do we uphold one or the other?

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)

Paul isn’t saying we should uphold and attempt(/fail) to obey the law… He’s saying we should live by faith but remember the law, but why? To understand that, we have to re-look at what the whole point of what is being said is: We can not save our self, only by Jesus’ grace can we be saved. And what, pray tell, is it that Paul says in verse 20? – That knowledge of sin comes through the law! We must realize, as Paul was trying to get the Romans to do, that we don’t deserve to be let into Heaven, on the contrary, we deserve a one way ticket to Hell. We need to realize that, before we also realize how much we need Christ’s grace!

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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The Power of God

Hello again!

Today we start the book of Romans! – This is what God gave me today in his word:

and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, (Romans 1:4)

Wait a minute, “Jesus was declared to be the son of God in power,”? What power is Paul referring to here? Well let’s look at one specific part of the above verse:

according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead,

But, surely, there can’t be any power in Jesus’ death and Resurrection! Yes, someone raising from the dead is absolutely extraordinary, but what real power is in it?

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

The “power” Paul is referring to, is Christ’s resurrection from the dead; which is God’s power for salvation. – In fact, it’s the power that not only can declare Jesus to be a son of God, but it can also declare us to be one as well.

The point, quite simply, is that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and  in doing so that  he saved us from eternity in Hell! More than that in fact, he made us co-heirs with himself!



You are loved!

Joshua Cleveland
 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Wrath of God Is Coming?!

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (Colossians 3:3-8)

Wait a minute here Paul, what happened to Jesus’ death on the cross? I thought that all God’s wrath was poured out on his son for me, yet now you seem to be saying I need to shape up and live up to my new life in Christ, or God’s wrath will come and get me?

First, we need to understand what exactly Paul is referring to here. He’s not so much referring to God’s wrath coming and getting you if you don’t shape up now, he’s instead simply stating a fact.

Second, we need to understand what Paul is talking about. And as was afore-mentioned Paul isn’t talking about something that will happen now, he’s referring to when this Earth and Heaven is destroyed and replaced with the new Heaven and the new Earth.

 15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us[f] from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their[g] wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (Revelation 6:15-17)

Third, we need to understand how it is that there can be any wrath left for us. Well I personally believe I understand how much wrath is left for me quite well, there is none. Hence the obvious question: “How can what Paul’s saying be true, then?” It can be true, because there is no more wrath left for us, I didn’t say anything about slaves, generals, etc. But now, there’s a new issue to address, as I’m sure everyone reading this is already gleefully picturing the comments they’re going to leave about how, therefore, God must be a cruel God if he will destroy everyone but only a select few.

Fourth, we have to understand who God is. God hates sin with a righteous fury, he hates it in the worst possible way, he even sent his son to die for us to cleanse us of it and make us sons of himself, co-heirs with Christ.

I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.'” (Hosea 2:23)

God will have mercy on who he will have mercy. The select few who will be saved, are saved through faith in Jesus, as anyone can be. It’s a very confusing topic, but I’ll put it this way:

You choose to follow God, yet all along it’s actually God choosing you to follow him. – God isn’t a cruel God, in fact, instead he’s an extremely unjust God, in that instead of destroying us, he gives us a means of salvation. Yet people who turn down that salvation, can’t really say God is cruel God.

Fifth and finally, we must understand how it’s possible for us to put to death all the things Paul mentioned. It is possible because God has made us to be a new creation in Christ; circumcised of the fleshy body and made new in Christ. Now Christ enables us to do all the things that Paul mentioned. Namely:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

You are loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Philippians – Made Sons and Brothers by God’s Grace

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. (Philippians 1:6-7)

One main thing springs to (my) mind here; what did Paul mean that we are partakers with him of grace, both in his imprisonment and in the defense of and confirmation of the gospel (of Jesus). I’m fairly sure when he talks about us being partakers with him in grace, he’s talking about the grace we were(/are/will be) given when Christ died for our sins. But how can we be partakers with Paul if we’re in prison? That sure doesn’t seem to me like having the grace of God on us!

5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:5-6)

Having God’s grace on us, as Paul inferred in this part of his letter, having God’s grace doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll live a happy little life. In fact, it pretty much promises hardship! Having God’s grace, means to be a child of God. Children of God, aren’t children of “the world”.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)

In short; Paul’s mini-point was, simply put, having God’s grace doesn’t mean having easy life, it means you believe Jesus Christ died and rose again for you, so that you may have eternal life and become a child of God! And as a child of God, defend and confirm the Gospel (of Jesus). – And in doing that, we get a brotherly and sisterly sort of bond to other believers, as Paul said in the above verse in Philippians:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,

All in all, we have, through God’s giving us grace on the cross, we have become sons of God, and brothers with other Christians, and even Christ (Romans 8:17)!

You are loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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