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Most treasure that’s hidden is never then openly and freely given away. Treasure maps weren’t reproduced for the masses, but only for a select few. However, the Lord’s economy is completely contrary to the selfish, prideful heart of man and praise God for that! 

The Word of God, both written and living, is our complete and sufficient treasure. And although we must hide God’s Word in our hearts, we then are compelled by the Spirit of God to freely give it all away. Why? Two reasons come to mind. 

First, it is because of the God of love Who now resides within born again believers. Love is not selfish. The Lord compels and convicts us to open our hearts and fully share that which was fully shared with us. Once hidden in our hearts, the Word of God grows the peaceable fruit of righteousness, renewing and transforming our hearts and minds to think as the Lord thinks and to love as the Lord loves. We simply begin to desire that which our wonderful Savior and Lord desires. It really is more blessed to give than to receive!

Secondly, we understand our treasure never ends. God’s Word is not like a limited chest full of gold and silver. No, it’s a limitless, flowing stream of living water that flows from His throne. We never have to worry about running out… EVER! God’s Word is an endless supply of eternal and untarnished treasure. In fact, the more we give away, the more we receive. Truly, there is no treasure that can compare!

“Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11

“I have not hid Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation: I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation. Withhold not Your tender mercies from me, O LORD: let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.” Psalm 40:10-11

Pokémon Go- Where is it Taking You?

untitledThe new Pokémon app- Pokémon Go has truly captured the hearts and minds of millions across the globe. Launched in the US on July 6, 2016, the Pokémon Go app has quickly become a full-fledged phenomenon. In case you’re not familiar with Pokémon Go, you can click “HERE” to read Wikipedia’s explanation. Some news websites claim it is currently the most repeatedly frequented app throughout the day, more so than Facebook or Instagram. According to at least one site, Nintendo’s stock went up 30% upon its release. Many are already speculating as to its wild and rapid popularity. Some suggest nostalgia along with the general escapist mentality flooding today’s society have combined to make an almost perfect breeding ground for Nintendo’s first augmented reality game.

Although augmented reality is not a new concept for today’s culture, Pokémon Go has definitely captivated the imagination of the masses and undoubtedly opened the flood gates for many more games to come. Clearly, there’s a place for careful and biblical examination and discussion of the challenges of embracing technology which allows people to mentally and emotionally escape while still feeling somewhat physically connected to the real world. This article, however, will not be that platform. This post will mainly address a third area of escape; one I believe is even deeper than anything emotional or mental. This area is the spiritual component and it is this author’s conclusion that the spiritual component is truly the heart of the matter.

There are plenty of physical concerns already being reported as well. For example, two men died in Southern California Thursday by falling off a bluff while trying to capture digital Pokémon creatures. Two men were rescued the day before after falling 50-100 feet off a crumbling sandstone bluff. One of the men was found unconscious by the fire fighters who saved them. Other people have been robbed, found wandering into traffic and straying into dangerous locations, at least one person was stabbed, and the stories continue to roll in.

Most articles I found claim Pokémon Go is a good thing because it gets people outside and exercising (mostly walking). It also helps players explore some of their local and historic landmarks. There’s even been one recent report of someone playing the game who witnessed a child pass out from heat exhaustion after being bullied by two boys. The article concludes if it weren’t for playing the game, that child may have never been rescued. Understandably, there have been some practical benefits, but those of us who have been born again by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ are no longer pragmatic in our beliefs and practices. Pragmatism says if it works, then do it. But born again believers should not hold to this philosophy. We should exclusively cling to God’s Word and often God’s Word does not “work” in this dark and dying world. Even though we still fall to the flesh, we don’t run to the world and its vain ideas for the answers. Born again believers are being sanctified and growing day by day by the power and Word of God. No, we are not practically perfect or completely mature yet, but our desire should be nothing less. Our heart should always recognize that Jesus plus nothing equals everything. And when it comes to things like games, video games, movies, and entertainment, it should be no different.

Arguably, our world has undeniably and unashamedly become completely infatuated with pleasure and amusement, ever increasingly blurring the lines between what’s real and make believe. And arguably this same desire has infected much of today’s church. We all desperately need a strong, daily dose of God’s Word and self-denial, no matter how long we’ve been Christians. The lusts and pride of this world will always pull on the old man, causing us to lose sight of eternity. Sadly, many do not seem to notice how many are being caught up in the wake of this world’s folly.

Yes, Pokémon is just one of many of today’s entertainments vying for our attention and adoration, but hopefully by briefly examining its methods and message, readers might grow in their understanding and discernment, helping them correctly weigh out other avenues of today’s amusement as well.

The Heart of the Matter is Spiritual

Spiritually speaking, there are three dangerous deceptions specific to Pokémon and its underlying message briefly examined below. (Note: There are several other issues worth investigating, but for the sake of brevity, this article includes only a few of the main concerns.)  

First, consider the pattern of Pokémon. The pattern is essentially for each trainer to catch as many Pokémon (which incidentally comes from two words: “Pocket” and “Monster”) as possible. “Gotta Catch Em All” is the slogan oft repeated in Pokémon. To catch the creatures which live in an alternate Pokémon universe/reality, the owner must have one of his monsters battle the monster he seeks to capture. If the monster he possesses defeats the “wild” one, the trainer gets to keep it. This makes the winning monster and trainer more powerful and eventually the trainer can become a master.  This pattern is the same basic one practiced within much of the occult throughout time. In the occult, much time is devoted to capturing both spirits and knowledge to help one ascend to higher levels. Here some might argue that none of this was the intent of Pokémon’s inventor, Satoshi Tajiri. Frankly, it’s irrelevant what the inventor of Pokémon says was his inspiration. The spirit world has its own doctrines and is happy to disseminate its false teachings and practices through any and all means available, regardless of the spiritually-blinded human host’s intended inspiration.

Secondly, consider its message of evolution. Evolution was taught and embraced way before Charles Darwin or Charles Lyell attempted to sanitize and popularize it by falsely calling it science. Evolution has been the foundation for ALL spiritual mysticism and occultism since Satan introduced his lie to Adam and Eve in the Garden. After all, how can a human become a god without evolution? Pokémon undeniably depends on evolution. Each creature can evolve, making it more powerful than before. This, of course, is essential if the owner/trainer is to win more battles and collect more and more monsters. At one point, Wizards.com explained it this way, But what is a Pokémon, you ask. ‘Pokémon are incredible creatures that share the world with humans,’ says Professor Oak, the leading authority on these monster. ‘There are currently 150 documented species of Pokémon. . . . Each Pokémon has its own special fighting abilities. . . . Some grow, or evolve, into even more powerful creatures.. . . Carry your Pokémon with you, and you’re ready for anything! You’ve got the power in your hands, so use it!’” 

On Wikipedia’s Pokémon site, it says,If a Pokémon fully defeats an opponent in battle so that the opponent is knocked out (i.e., “faints”), the winning Pokémon gains experience points and may level up. When leveling up, the Pokémon’s statistics (“stats”) of battling aptitude increase, such as Attack and Speed. From time to time the Pokémon may also learn new moves, which are techniques used in battle. In addition, many species of Pokémon can undergo a form of metamorphosis and transform into a similar but stronger species of Pokémon, a process called evolution.” [Emphasis added.]

Lastly, consider its message of witchcraft. Most of the monsters in Pokémon are essentially categorized into the same four basic elements embraced in witchcraft and the occult: Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire. Also consider this basic explanation from Wikipedia’s Pokémon site, In most incarnations of the fictional Pokémon universe, a Trainer that encounters a wild Pokémon is able to capture that Pokémon by throwing a specially designed, mass-producible spherical tool called a Poké Ball at it. If the Pokémon is unable to escape the confines of the Poké Ball, it is officially considered to be under the ownership of that Trainer. Afterwards, it will obey whatever its new master commands, unless the Trainer demonstrates such a lack of experience that the Pokémon would rather act on its own accord.” [Emphasis added.] The same is readily understood in shamanism and new age/occult practices. In occultism, those seeking to tap into the “spirit world” are repeatedly warned not to take it lightly because spirits can recognize one’s power or lack thereof and choose whether or not they will be subject to that practitioner (at least for a time).

The ultimate focus is not merely on training and collecting pocket monsters with the intent of making them become more powerful. The major goal is to skillfully use your evolving monsters to assist in making you the most powerful person in the entire world/universe. Attaining power through subjected, spiritual monsters for the goal of ultimate ascension is the actual message of Pokémon. The intro song to the Pokémon show starts out with, “I will travel across the land, searching far and wide, Each Pokémon to understand the power that’s inside. Gotta catch them all!”  Witchcraft/ occultism is essentially focused on using the physical world to assist in attaining spiritual power and so it is with Pokémon.

What does God’s Word say about witchcraft and practicing magic? “There shall not be found among you any one that makes his son or daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or observer of times, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.  For all these things are an abomination unto the Lord…” Deuteronomy 18:10-14

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft…” 1 Samuel 15:23a

This article is not meant to be extensive or exhaustive, but hopefully encourages the saints to keep from getting caught up in escapism, nostalgia, or blindly following steps that might lead to spiritual deception. I completely understand that most kids and adults, regardless of whether or not they’re Christian, are not playing Pokémon to intentionally practice sorcery or get in touch with demons. (Although some do.) But we must understand that our intentions do not negate the dangerous and deceptive inventions devised by the enemy of our souls. Even thistle seeds appear small and quite harmless until they take root and begin to grow. Satan knows this. His goal is to keep us shortsighted and completely fixated on our feelings and flesh.

***For more details on specific Pokémon creatures and some of their deceptive and dangerous Shintoist/Buddhist and mystical characteristics, go to this very well researched article:

A Christian’s Mission: ‘Gotta Know, Gotta Learn, Gotta Discern, Gotta Go!’ into the Pokemon World with Truth

Remember, to play Pokémon correctly, children need to not only know, but understand the “power” inside each Pocket Monster. (Note: After 20 years, there are now over 750 of these creatures!) What are some of the powers involved? How about the power of hypnosis, the power of catching and destroying dreams (eating dreams), casting evil spells (hexes), levitation, and incantations. Some of the other practices well recognized and understood in Pokémon culture – The power of the aura, spiritual evolution, eastern meditation, and even the practice of yoga. These are just a few of the spiritual philosophies and practices taught in this “game”.

Where will you “GO”?  

Games like Pokémon are designed to take their followers somewhere. They have seeds, seeds which once allowed to take root in our hearts and minds, can potentially have long-lasting and very ill effects. If fed and watered, they will grow into weeds that can consistently rob us of the true Light and Food necessary for our spirit to grow closer to our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There is a very real danger of being led away from the Lord. 

Perhaps you disagree. Or perhaps you believe this to be such a minor concern that it’s not worth examining any further. But before you simply dismiss this as unimportant or foolishness, please prayerfully go the Lord and search His Word to see if these things be so. I would also recommend the articles below. This world is only temporal, but while we’re here, we must recognize there are many things beyond this physical universe that seek to draw us away from our marvelous Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ!

May we sincerely seek the only One who bought us with His blood, loving and serving Jesus with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength each and every day! That’s where the Lord wants to take us! May we be willing to go His way, not our own!

“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.” Matthew 16:24

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:1-3, 5

“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” 2 Corinthians 2:11

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1 John 2:16-17

Jesus said, “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in Me.” John 15:3-4

 

A Few Other Helpful Links:

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So often the Heavenly Father is thought of as menacing and distant… uncaring and harsh… irrational and inconsistent, but nothing could be further from the truth. “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

Many have perhaps unwittingly used their poor fatherly examples as a way to keep from really learning the truth about the Lord. Others have chosen to use their earthly fathers as an excuse for not drawing near to Jesus. May it never be! “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.” Psalm 27:10

May we never stumble over the earthly as we seek to know the heavenly. Yes, earthly fathers have a tremendous privilege and responsibility to reflect the Heavenly Father to their children, families, and the world around them, however not all fathers are born again believers. And others are still young in the Lord. And not to excuse sin, but we all fall short at times. It’s easy for us to forget that in order to know the truth of the Father, we must focus on the Son!

As fathers, may we first and foremost humble ourselves under the might hand of God. May we be willing to show our children that the best thing in life really is free, yet comes with a tremendous cost! May we demonstrate the importance of God’s Word and absolute necessity of praying for one another. May we be willing to show how awesome God is in blessing us with the privilege to share the Gospel with others. Our children need to see our daily dependence upon our Lord and Savior. They need to witness the complete and total integration of Jesus as our life! He’s not simply part of our lives. Jesus doesn’t just come into our lives. We must make Him our life. Only then will the love and truth of God and His Word begin to radiate as it should.

Our children, both young and adult, need to hear us pray and talk about the Word. They need to see our faithful feet sharing the Gospel and showing the love of Christ in this dark and deadly world. They need to see us stand up for the truth of Jesus and His Word and joyfully turn away from the enticements of this passing planet. They need to see our hearts fixed on our Heavenly home. In a world filled with examples, earthly speaking, the father’s has the potential to speak louder than all.

As children, may we never use our insufficient earthly examples as an excuse to serve ourselves. Instead, let us follow the Lord, daily spending time with Him. I had the privilege of seeing my own dad come to Jesus several years after me, so in many ways I was the one setting the example for him.

Growing up, we all have so many expectations of our dads, but all the what ifs, should haves, would haves and could haves just don’t matter in light of the Lord. 1 Corinthians reminds us, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11. After being saved we are finally free to focus on understanding and loving our Heavenly Father. Only then can we truly love our earthly dads as we should, often in spite of themselves.

And to those men who are older in the Lord, don’t grow weary in doing well! Continue shining the light of Jesus to those younger in the faith. My dad wasn’t a godly example when I was saved, but I praise the Lord for bringing someone in my life at just the right time, someone who took the time to encourage, correct, and instruct me in the Word. He was truly a father in the Lord. Again, in 1 Corinthians, the Lord, through Paul says, “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be followers of me.” 1 Corinthians 4:14-16.

God is not some sort of mean, distant ogre in the sky, but He’s also not likened to a permissive grandfather who spoils us with soda and candy. To understand and know the truth about the Father, we must keep our eyes on the Son, studying His Word with humble hearts and ready minds. Jesus reminds us in John 14, “Philip said unto Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it should be sufficient. Jesus said unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known Me, Philip? He that has seen Me had seen the Father…” John 14:8-9a.

For fathers seeking to point their children to the Lord and for children seeking to point their fathers to the Lord, may we truly make it all about Jesus, not us! If we want to know the truth about our Heavenly Father, then we must seek to understand and know the One who knows Him perfectly. Jesus really is the key to Father’s Day, turning every day into a day of worship to our Heavenly Father! What an awesome God indeed!

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD executes righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear Him.” Psalm 103:2-13

TRUE LOVE

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True love is so much more than a feeling! It is not governed, as many would have us believe, by the basest and most vile of our emotional faculties. Sadly, what most call love should more accurately be categorized as lust.

True love is selfless and committed, regardless of one’s fickle and foolish feelings. True love isn’t blind. Rather it seeks knowledge and judgment, carefully weighing everything against the truth. (1 Corinthians 13) True love isn’t ignorant. It doesn’t look the other way in the midst of error or adversity. It holds high as its banners integrity and righteousness.

True love is greater than any emotion. Feelings are fleeting. True love is eternal. And in reality, only a born again believer can ever really know true love, for the Bible has correctly declared, “God is love” 1 John 4.

Don’t let the world’s lies cloud the truth. True love is intelligent, committed, and discerning! Jesus truly is our true love. Abide in Him today!

“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;  That you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ…”
Philippians 1:9‭-‬10.

Above It All

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This Mother’s Day…

As believers, let us never forget we can rejoice and praise the Lord in both the good times and in the bad.

We all have so many hopes and dreams, especially for our lives and our children’s lives, yet often this world sends storms beyond our control and we can do nothing but simply watch as our course and the courses of those we deeply love are altered. Sometimes these changes are, in part, due to decisions we have made. Other times, they are just the result of living in a broken and fallen world.

Special days like Mother’s Day can be so exciting, a time to thank our mothers and be thanked as mothers, yet it’s also a time when sorrow can quickly invade. There are many circumstances, some of which I understand first hand, that have affected families, ones that cause days like today to be quite difficult. Regardless of time, wounds are often still present. But dare we never forget that even in the worst of storms, the sun still shines above it all.

Praise Jesus, because for the born again believer, there’s eternal hope beyond the temporal storms and successes, above the peaks and valleys of this world. Regardless of the tragedies, trials, broken hearts and even beyond the earthly successes, there’s a wonderful kingdom above it all. This heavenly kingdom is eternal and available for any and all who choose to receive the full and free forgiveness of Jesus Christ. “Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believes on Me should not abide in darkness.” John 12:46.

Despite what we’ve been told, true life is not the sum total of all our expectations, experiences, hopes, and desires. Life is so much more than us. True life is Jesus Christ and no matter what storms come across our course, as Christians, we can still know victory because our God is outside and above it all. Jesus endured it all and laid down it all. He became sin for us, so we could finally be brought above it all to know what life’s really all about.

He became the lowest of all and then raised up to highest of all to provide the only way for mankind to receive Him as our All in All! Only because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection can we have true life, ETERNAL life! In John 17, Jesus reminds us, “And this is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”  John 17:3. The Christian life is not easy. In fact, it’s frankly impossible. Only Jesus lived it perfectly and only Jesus can live His life in us. True life is only discovered when we once and for all give Jesus the reins, letting Him lead us Home to our Heavenly Father.

But the old life I chose to mortify still knocks on the door of my heart and mind. It still wants to be appreciated, noticed, and coddled. It becomes jealous when anyone else gets the attention, most of all Jesus.The world, the flesh, and the devil will often remind us of the tragedies and fleshly triumphs, desiring nothing less than for us to lose sight of the Son above, all together forgetting about our risen Lord and Savior.  And days like today can sometimes become grand opportunities for the flesh to come knocking.

Instead of opening the door, may I embrace the true Comforter, the Savior and sanctifier of my soul. May I take my eyes off myself and instead look intently at the only One I truly cannot live without. May I learn to embrace the difficulties this planet offers as opportunities to steadfastly grow closer to my Rock and Refuge.

The Lord has called us to so much more than we can ever comprehend this side of Heaven. May we take time to love Jesus today, worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. And then let us simply continue serving Him, letting Him take care of every outcome. There are perhaps many tragedies filling your heart today. May the Lord bring us above them all, empowering us to continue running the heavenly race He has set before us with joy and grace in our hearts!

May we simply abide in Christ, continually feasting on His wonderful Word. Then let us continue faithfully planting and watering His Word in all those He puts in our path. We cannot truly change the course of anyone, but we can point them to the only One who can. His light will shine, even piercing through the darkest of storms, and with it comes true life. What an absolute privilege and blessing to wholeheartedly love and follow Jesus, knowing He truly is above it all!

“Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12

“Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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It’s often been said, but definitely bares repeating…

As born again believers, may we always embrace our faith in Christ as a child. Lest there be any confusion, being childlike is never to be mistaken for being childish. They are most assuredly a world apart.

Childlike faith recognizes and embraced complete and utter dependence upon the Heavenly Father. Childish faith continues to ignore this fact, instead attempting to accomplish the unattainable in his own power. Childlike faith is care free. Childish faith is careless. Childlike faith is trusting, yet testing all things according to God’s Word. Childish faith is ignorant and foolish, often trusting in feelings, not in the Lord who bought him. Childlike faith is always attentive to the Father. Childish faith is directed by his flesh, often tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.

Childlike faith is selfless. Childish faith is consumed with self. Childlike faith is innocent regarding evil, yet not ignorant of the enemy’s devices. Childish faith is ignorant to Satan’s devices which often leads into areas loaded with spiritual and doctrinal landminds. Childlike faith happily receives from the Lord to then gladly give away. Childish faith is content to consume, rarely offering anything to anyone.

Childlike faith joyfully receives daily food from Heaven. Childish faith cares little for heavenly manna and is often ruled by foolish and fleshly appetites. Childlike faith is always inquiring of the Lord, always thinking, always desiring to grow in the knowledge and understanding of His Savior. Childish faith is always arguing with the Lord, questioning and complaining every step of the way. Childlike faith is humble, slow to speak and quick to listen. Childish faith abundant in pride, ever willing to cloak his ignorance in the abundance of words.

There’s a very good reason Jesus brought a little child in the midst of the disciples and said, “Verily I say unto you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3-4

The Only Way

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I wonder if perhaps one reason the Lord created the earth to orbit in such a way that it never gets anywhere new is to help us remember to stop trusting in the same old, man-centred habits we’ve repeatedly embraced and performed for so many years.

There is a tree firmly rooted in this sin-soaked soil, one that every prideful heart pledges to protect at all cost. This tree is watered and fertilized with every vain philosophy and false religious system formed and followed by the first Adam’s fallen race. Sadly, the fallen nature in each of us delights in its temporary beauty, food, and shelter.

Ever since sin came in, the mantra of man has been onward and upward by whatever earthly means possible. No matter how many times mankind’s failures reveal his own futility, he stubbornly refuses to switch directions. Our persistent pride is truly deplorable! We have repeatedly fulfilled Proverbs 16:25, “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

There’s only way to get off this earthly orbit. If we desire to truly be free, to truly live, our heart must move, not only off this planet, but out of the universe. Creation is fallen so it can do nothing but cause us to fall back to this world. We must move past all of creation and instead wholeheartedly fix our full and undivided attention upon the Creator. Only by turning to the One True God, the Creator and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, will we pass from death to life.

“Jesus said… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me.” John 14:6

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” John 5:24

Robber or Redeemer

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“Now at that feast the governor was accustomed to releasing unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will you that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?” Matthew 27:15-17

Pilate said, “But you have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the Passover: will you therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.” John 18:39-40

From the cereal isle at the grocery store to the food court at the mall, there’s no doubt this world is inundated with an almost endless amount of choices. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements featuring the “latest and greatest” of everything. It’s no wonder we’ve almost become completely desensitized to the daunting amount of decisions staring at us day after day. Yet, in spite of this mountainous menagerie, our choices really don’t have to be that complicated. You see, when it’s all said and done, we are left with only two simple, but absolutely crucial decisions in all that we believe, do, say, and think – the robber or the Redeemer.

When Christ was led before the people, Pilate gave them a choice, Barabbas or Jesus.  The people had arguably made hundreds of thousands of choices in their life times, yet all those decisions could all be boiled down into one of these two categories, the robber or the Redeemer.  The same can be said for all of mankind throughout time. Although material is not necessarily good or bad, our hearts, being stubbornly self-willed, tend to allow us to become completely distracted by the lusts, pleasures, and pain of this planet. In a very real sense, we are often more than willing to be robbed of the joy and peace and wonderful knowledge of Christ for what is, at best, a measly bowl of stew. (Genesis 25:29-34). When examining the presence and power of the robber and the glorious reality of the Redeemer, there are definitely some things worth carefully considering. Here are just a few.

The Robber: Destroying the Foundation
This sin-soaked world, comprised of the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, only has one goal, one aim… to steal all the glory from God!  Jesus called Satan a thief and a murderer and reminds us that he comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.  Even though he is the thief of all thieves, the devil obviously cannot actually steal the Lord. Nor can he kill the truth. And he most certainly cannot destroy the Word of God.  Some might wonder about Psalm 11:3… If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? Doesn’t this verse teach that the foundations can be destroyed?

There are two vantage points to consider when examining this verse, man’s and the Lord’s. Considering the Lord, we know there is nothing that can stand against Him, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Since this is the case, we can logically and biblically conclude that this verse is not saying that God’s Word can actually be destroyed. However, mankind’s love for and access to God’s Word can most definitely be rotted, replaced, and ruined.  I have absolutely no power to actually destroy God, but I most certainly have the capacity to infect and influence the hearts and minds of myself and others, causing a lost desire and direction for the truth, in essence, stealing away the one true foundation. So although the foundation, that is to say, God’s Word, endures forever, we do know that our appropriation, understanding, and application of that foundation can assuredly be robbed from us.

One example of this is found in the parable of the soils (Luke 8). The “birds” (the devil) snatched the Word from the hardened heart, therefore removing the only foundation that will endure forever. Did the Word actually get destroy? No. But the Word was robbed from taking root in the hardened heart.  So, it might be better to say the robber’s strategy is an attack of the heart, an attack designed to prevent us from seeking and being satisfied in the Lord and the truth of His everlasting Word. This attack often involves offering us deceptive distractions and distorted doctrines in an effort to keep our hearts calloused and “dull of hearing”. (Matthew 13:15-16, Hebrews 5:11)

The Redeemer: All Things New
So many have said that we all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only Jesus can fill, and while this is true, it is not completely the case. Jesus does not come to simply fill the hole in our old, selfish hearts. No, He comes to remove the stony heart and transplant a new and living heart, His love and life, in its place.  God’s Word calls this the new birth. (John 3) Jesus does not simply fill our old, prideful, flesh-driven and glory-gleaning hearts. He does something much more amazing! He gives a total and spiritual heart transplant. God’s promise to Israel through Ezekiel is also a promise to all who desire to receive His full and free forgiveness in Jesus –  “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” Ezekiel 36:26.

Not only do we receive a new heart, we also receive a renewed mind. The Bible calls this the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16) Jesus does not desire to fill a portion of our self-centered, “me, myself, and I” preoccupied mind. No, He instead gives us a renewed mind. Being born again means we receive a new heart and a new mind.  This is the truth of the new birth only made possible by the righteous Redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

The Reality: Being Born Again is Just the Beginning
Jesus represented all of humanity and as that perfect representation, the Last Adam walked the walk mankind (the first Adam’s race) was always supposed to walk. Just as Jesus fully and freely laid down His life to the will of His Heavenly Father, so too are we to do the same. Jesus does not steal our old nature. He is no robber! He truly is the remarkable Redeemer! He paid our sinful price in full, offering all who are willing to come to Him. He purchased us from the slave market of sin, self, and Satan and in its place, He offers us new life in Him. Jesus freely offers His Spirit, His nature, as the great exchange for all who are willing to turn to Him, all who choose to be redeemed. But this exchange is not the end. Actually, it’s just the beginning. Just as in all births, being born again means there’s a lot of growth to come.

Even though those who have been born again have passed from death to life, having received a new heart and new mind, there is still the presence of the old man and of this broken, sinful world. That is why, for our good and His glory, the Lord requires us to bury the old man by daily turning from ourselves and this rebellious world to the True and Living God, Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever and ever, amen!

My Reasonable Responsibility: Wearing the Redeemer’s Clothes
Although the old, selfish, and rebellious man has been dethroned, he will not be completely eradicated until the rapture or in death. Oh, what a day that will be, to see without the fleshly veil, my great and glorious King! Oh, what a day that will be!!! So, in order to keep myself from being robbed by the riches and cares of this world; if I am to prevent myself from having my love of Jesus and His Word stolen through subtlety, then burying the old man daily is a must! (1 Corinthians 15:31, Colossians 3:4-11)

Great, but what are practical means necessary to keep from being robbed of the depth and beauty and glory of the Lord? “Just give me a list,” says the baby Christian. “Tell me the things of this world that Satan will use to rob me of the knowledge of Christ. Then I will be prepared.” The Bible definitely gives us some broad and sometimes even detailed lists of what we should “take off/mortify”, however it is interesting to note that God’s Word does not account for every single, specific danger we will face in the world. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but arguably one of the main reasons has to do with our hearts.

I’m sure we’d all agree that even good, godly things have the potential of robbing the throne of the new heart, the throne only Jesus deserves to sit upon.  So, it’s not necessarily just about following a list of do’s and don’ts. It’s more about diligently guarding our hearts daily. (Proverbs 4:23) It’s about putting on the full armor of God so we can daily stand against the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11-24) Mortify the old man, yes!  Make no provision to the flesh, yes! But we have the privilege and responsibility of putting on the new man by clothing ourselves everyday with Christ. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” Romans 13:14.

Get to know the Good Shepherd’s voice by reading His Word often, praying fervently, knowing our righteousness is in Christ, and obeying our Heavenly Father willingly and wholeheartedly.  Then, and only then, will we be able to prevent our hearts from being robbed of the amazing beauty and joy found solely in Jesus Christ, our great and glorious Redeemer!

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth.” Job 19:25

Jesus said, “All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” John 10:8-11

Rugged Cross“The choice we face is not, as many imagine, between heaven and hell. Rather, the choice is between heaven and this world. Even a fool would exchange hell for heaven; but only the wise will exchange this world for heaven.” -Dave Hunt, An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The King’s Garden

God-Write-the-BibleEven those of us who might boldly declare our status (by God’s grace) as born again believers have a tendency to forget that we have been literally and spiritually transported out of the old kingdom and into the new one (Colossians 1:13), one where often the old worldly economy, tools, and techniques simply won’t suffice.  Although we might readily understand and openly acknowledge the forgiveness of our sins, we still need to be regularly reminded of our utter dependence upon the power of God and His glorious Word and the absolute necessity of rejecting the impotent inventions and dangerous devices of this world!

In Colossians 3, the Lord reminds us of the vital importance of not only knowing where we now live, but also of mortifying all that accompanied us from the old kingdom. We are instructed to take off (mortify) the old man and instead put on the new man who is being renewed in Christ. (Colossians 3:9-11) This is our daily duty and joy as believers, one we must perform with diligence and one that can only be accomplished by the power of the Lord Himself.

We must cease from returning to the flesh if we truly desire a victorious walk and abundant race in the strength of our Heavenly Father. I pray this simple story encourages and reminds us all to truly turn to Jesus Christ, our King, walking in the Spirit rather than the flesh.

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

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THE KING’S GARDEN

Once there was a very talented and creative gardener who lived in a beautiful kingdom. All sorts of wonderful plants thrived throughout his property. He even grew plants on his roof. The gardener had flowers, and vegetables, fruit trees and even several species no one had ever heard of before. The plants were bigger and more lush than many had ever seen. And the fruits and vegetables were more delicious than almost anything anyone had ever tasted, other than the king’s, of course. People from all around the kingdom purposely planned to journey past the gardener’s house just to gaze upon all the amazing florae. He received an abundance of praise from the people and over time grew quite fond of it. Day and night, the gardener could always be seen outside trimming, planting, and planning with a smile on his face and a song in his heart.

One day there was position open at the palace garden. Over the years, many had attempted to care for the king’s plants and unfortunately most had failed. The gardener only lived a few miles down the hill from the palace and was quite confident he would make a superb gardener for the King. He immediately applied and was quickly hired. Upon starting, he was handed a letter written by the king himself, but the gardener was so excited he forgot to even open it. Instead he gathered up all the equipment from his house, loaded it onto a cart and pushed it all the way up to the palace.

As he entered the enormous garden gateway, the guard held out his hand, stopping the gardener dead in Hagi_Castle_Garden,_Western_Honshu,_+Japanhis tracks. The guard explained that there could be no outside tools brought into the king’s garden. The gardener could only use what was supplied to him by the king. For the first time in a very long time, he felt a flood of worry and bewilderment pour over. The king’s garden required tools and techniques that were entirely foreign to the gardener and this was something he was definitely not ready for.

The gardener and his family had not always lived in the beautiful kingdom. He was actually born in a kingdom on the other side of mountains, one that was much different than where he lived now. While still in on the other side, the gardener’s dad handed down to his young son all the tools and techniques he would need in order to grow amazing plants, at least until now. The gardener really thought he had all the knowledge and skills he’d ever need. Unfortunately, none of the ways he had learned from his dad would work properly in the king’s garden and soon the king’s plants began to wither and die. This was also something the gardener had not experienced in a very long time. Those walking by began to murmur and some even laughed at him. Others just looked away, feeling both sad for the plants and for the gardener. He had lost all the praise he was so accustomed to receiving.

Many palace gardeners had come and gone and many had failed. The gardener knew he didn’t want to be numbered among those who had been defeated, but also knew he would need to do something he hadn’t done in a very, very long time. He knew he’d have to ask for help. “Why is the king being so difficult anyway,” he often mumbled to himself? One day he finally humbled himself enough to ask the guard if there were any books in the palace library on tending the king’s plants. The guard explained that the only way to know how to properly care for the king’s garden was to talk with the king himself. The gardener’s heart sank. “Oh, no! Not the king,” he answered with a tone of discouragement in his voice. “How can I possibly ask the king?”

He definitely did not want that. After all, he was supposed to be the best gardener in the whole kingdom. He didn’t want to appear like he didn’t actually know what he was doing, especially to the king. He reasoned within himself that this would only make it seem as though he wasn’t really a good gardener. He strove for weeks attempting to figure out the right way of caring for each of the plants in the king’s garden. He got up early every morning and went home late every night. It wasn’t long before he grew extremely frustrated and terribly exhausted.

Soon many of the plants were dying and inside he felt the same starvation, but he just couldn’t put aside his pride to ask the king for help. So instead, he chose to return to his old house where at least he felt like he belonged. At least he could tend to the familiar plants and begin seeing success again. After a couple weeks, he was back to his old routine, but deep down he knew there was more. There was something missing in it all, but he just couldn’t quite put his finger on it. One thing was for sure, tending to his familiar garden just wasn’t satisfying like it once was.

One day, while trimming back a few bushes, something popped into his mind. “The king’s letter,” he thought to himself. “In all the excitement, I never read his letter.” He wasn’t sure if he should even bother, but curiosity and frankly, the lack of satisfaction got the best of him. After searching a while, he found it. Sitting down in front of his fireplace, he carefully opened the envelope and began reading the king’s message aloud. It simply said,

            Dear Gardener,

            If you are weak; if you are weary, then come to Me. Learn of Me and I will give you rest.

           Love,

                    ~The King

The gardener read the letter several times. Each time it was like a tiny seed was being planted deeper and deeper within his own heart. At first, it was difficult to believe, but after thinking long and hard, he realized it wasn’t the king who was being so difficult. The gardener finally understood that he was the one being so stubborn and prideful.  “How could I have been so foolish,” he wondered to himself. “After all, who could possibly have better tools and knowledge than the king?”  He immediately stood and raced to the king, never looking back, never returning to his old garden again.

“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.” Philippians 3:13-14

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