Authority in the Kingdom!

Mark 1:21-22- “ Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” NKJV

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Mark has shared a lot with his readers thus far about Jesus in just a few verses. Jesus has been baptized in water, the Holy Spirit has rested on Him, God has affirmed that Jesus is His Son, He has been tempted of the devil, and He has begun His public ministry.

Jesus and His disciples have now entered Capernaum, and it is the Sabbath! Jesus enters the synagogue, which is a normal practice of His life.  It seems as if time has passed, but if you read with an understanding of Jewish culture, you can see how it could be the same day that He entered Capernaum. The evening and the morning was how the Jews looked at a day, meaning Thursday evening came before Thursday morning.  Therefore, they could have been walking on Thursday afternoon, and as soon as the Sabbath started, after 6 pm, they were in a new day, Friday evening. The important thing to note is that Jesus went into the synagogue and taught.  

To us, it might seem strange that Jesus would just walk out of the streets into the synagogue and start teaching. It always seemed a little odd to me.  Then I read in a commentary that it was Jewish custom that they had no assigned teachers to teach in the synagogue. Their tradition was called “the freedom of the synagogue,” and learned guests could preach on the day’s scripture. Jesus therefore walks into the synagogue before things get started, and He began teaching. 

Mark speaks of the people’s reaction to Jesus’ teaching by stating that they were astonished for He taught with authority. They may or may not have known Jesus, the carpenter, but they certainly didn’t know Jesus, the Teacher.  And as a result, they were pleasantly surprised by the depth of knowledge He possessed of the scriptures and the way He expounded on those Scriptures. So much so that they said He did a better job than the scribes!

They did not realize that they were about to experience that authority in action.

Now, there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, sayings, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

Mark 1:23-24 NKJV

Before Jesus comes on the ministry scene, we see minimal reference to the devil. The devil didn’t just show up when Jesus started His ministry; he had been operating since the Garden. He was present in the book of Job and again when David went to play for Saul, but not as the perpetrator of man’s ills.  Jesus is in the synagogue, and a man with an unclean spirit, a demon, starts yelling at Him: leave us alone, did you come to destroy us? We know who you are!

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him.

Mark 1:25-26 NKJV

Jesus rebuked that spirit, telling him to shut up and come out of him! Just that simple. For us, we have complicated the matter.  We try rebuking the demonic spirits out of people, and it takes us hours of wrestling with demons.  I think the demons enjoy the game. But Jesus had so much authority that when He spoke, demons trembled and obeyed! Now He has the people’s attention, and they are amazed, wondering what new teachings they were hearing!

This teaching was the kingdom of God in operation! Before Jesus came, we didn’t have the knowledge or the power to overcome the demonic forces of darkness, but with Jesus, we have been given authority over demons. Demonic activity didn’t begin during Jesus’ time, nor exorcisms; it just means that before Jesus began His ministry, humanity was powerless against the devil.

After they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.

Mark 1:29-31 NKJV

Jesus leaves the synagogue and visits with Simon and Andrew in their home, with John and James. When He arrives, they tell Jesus that she is sick with a fever.  It’s interesting to me that they even told Jesus that she was ill. I believe someone wanted to see if the same Jesus who exercised authority over demons would heal the sick. He heals her, exercising His authority in the kingdom.

As word began to spread around the city of the things that Jesus had done, people started looking for Jesus, and they found Him at Simon’s home.

At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.

Mark 1: 32-34 NKJV

Jesus had a healing service at the disciples’ home.  Mark lets us know that it was at the end of the Sabbath.  This timing would be Saturday evening by the Roman calendar, but the beginning of the first day/evening of the week for the Jewish calendar. Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons, all as an illustration of His authority.

The following morning, Sunday morning, Jesus arises early, finds a quiet place, and spends time in prayer. By example, Jesus is teaching His disciples that time alone with the Father is a source of strength and power. 

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”

Mark 1:35-37 NKJV

Although the people are looking for Jesus, He continues on His journey to spread the good news.

But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also because for this purpose I have come forth.”

Mark 1:38 NKJV

Jesus and the disciples continue their travel throughout the cities of Galilee, and he continues preaching and casting out demons.  The last miracle in this chapter is the healing of the leper.

Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Mark 1: 40 NKJV

What I want to refer to is the phrase, “If you are willing, You can make me whole.”  Jesus was willing then, and He is willing now.  That isn’t the requirement for healing.  The condition is what we can believe. Can we believe that Jesus wants to heal us? Do we believe that Jesus will heal us? Or have we been taught to think that it depends on Him?

After this, Jesus couldn’t go into the cities to preach anymore.  The man healed of leprosy was so excited that he told everyone, even when Jesus told him not to. I’m not sure about the reason behind Jesus’ request, but Mark states that He could no longer openly enter the city from this point on.  Wonderful Jesus!

The Reign of God!

Mark 1:14-15- “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” NKJV

The Kingdom of God!

Mark not only uses words like “immediately” and “straightway”, he seems to write in a hurry, getting straight to the point, so I will do likewise!

In our text, Mark states that John has gone to prison. He doesn’t tell us why John the Baptist is in prison, just that he is. Later on in this book we will get more details, but for now, this is all that he tells us. Mark is giving us a timeframe to help us to understand what is happening in his narrative. It is also interesting to note that Jesus did not begin His ministry until John was completely off the scene.

After John is put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee. I learned a little more about Galilee in my readings. Galilee was an area ruled by the Romans at the time of Jesus. Prior to the Romans, the Greeks controlled the area and left its mark on the region. If you ever wondered why the New Testament was written in Greek and not Hebrew, it is because of the Greek influence.

Demographically, Galilee had Jews and Gentiles living in the area. The Gentiles were a diverse group of people with Grecian, Roman, and other backgrounds. In this environment was a mixture of Jews, those who considered themselves to be Orthodox Jews, and those who had embraced the culture of the day. The Jews were struggling to maintain their identity in this environment.

Mark tells us why Jesus went to Galilee:

Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God

Mark 1:14b NKJV

Remember that Mark writes in the beginning that this “book” was about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mark stated that Jesus went to Galilee for the express purpose of preaching to the Galileans. His message was simple: the gospel of the kingdom of God. And yet, somehow, we have managed to complicate the message!

In the Young’s Literal Translation, the kingdom of God is translated, the reign of God. Jesus, knowing that the Jewish nation is under the rule of Rome, starts His ministry preaching about a new rule, the rule of God! When you think about it, this was a serious situation that demonstrated the absolute boldness of Jesus. The Roman rulership has been established, and everything and everyone must adhere to it, but Jesus announces a rulership by God, to the people, in this occupied land!

Jesus said to them:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:15 NKJV

Let’s look at that first phrase, “the time is fulfilled”. The word for “time” in this verse is “kairos” and it means “a fixed and definite period of time”, or the season. What Jesus was saying is the time had come for the kingdom of God to be made manifest. It was a fixed time in the plan of God, an undeniably, unstoppable time, and He was there to fulfill that assignment. With Him came the kingdom of God!

This was not to be a natural kingdom as some supposed it would be. Those of the Jewish nation knew that in previous times, they had conquered their enemies and ruled the land God had given them. However, after many years of disobedience and assimilating to the cultures around them, instead of being true to God, they lost the land and they lost their hunger for the true and living God. Actually, many of the Jews that Jesus encountered were indoctrinated in the Hellenistic/Roman culture of the day which included polytheism and a love for self. Therefore, Jesus announced that the time had come for a change of rulership!

`Fulfilled hath been the time, and the reign of God hath come nigh, reform ye, and believe in the good news.’

Mark 1:15 YLT

The reign of God has come near, reform! Change! Repent! Jesus was preaching that it was time for a change! We think, repent, but often times we think of it in terms of godly sorrow. That’s not what Jesus is saying here! Jesus is saying, change, reform, turn away from the kingdom you are in and come into the kingdom of God! You’ve been under the wrong rulership, it’s time to change!

It is also important to remember that the region of Galilee is where the kingdom was to be established, according to Isaiah:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.

Isaiah 9:2 NKJV

Galilee was a land of the shadow of death, with a people who walked in darkness! But the Light of the world entered this city of darkness, exposed the darkness, and brought life to the inhabitants!

Believe the Good News! Jesus declared that this was good news! God has returned His affection to His people and has come to establish His kingdom, or His rule over the earth! This is exciting news, Jesus tells them! Believe it! It’s true! It’s for real! No longer do you have to be subject to the rulership of the worldly government, because there is a new government. God’s government! Get excited! Believe!

Immediately Jesus tells His listeners how this kingdom operates! It operates on faith! You have to believe in this kingdom, and believe what is shared about this kingdom, in order to experience this kingdom. Faith in the God of the kingdom, and His way of doing things! That’s what the kingdom of God is all about!

His rulership! His rules! And to be in this kingdom all you need to do is change and believe! It takes an absolute trust in God, trusting His word, trusting the relationship! And as we get into learning about the kingdom of God, we come to terms with the truth that things are different in this kingdom, different from the Roman kingdom, different from the Hellenistic kingdom, and most certainly different from the kingdoms of the world!

Jesus doesn’t stop to do an altar call! He has preached His message! He has encouraged His listeners to believe! And now, Mark tells us, He goes and recruit some workers for the kingdom!

And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

Mark 1:16-18 NKJV

Mark writes that after preaching His first sermon, He calls four of His disciples: Simon and his brother Andrew, and James and John, sons of Zebedee; all natural fishermen. Jesus told them that He would make them fishers of men!

Although Mark doesn’t make mention of these disciples outside of their trade, there are some things we can infer as truth. Simon and Andrew were on their boats working, as were James and John. Quite possibly they were coming in for the day. The Zebedees obviously had a larger boat with more people on it because they left their father and the hired servants on the boat. At least, Mark felt that it was necessary to mention this. I believe that Simon and Andrew had someone else on the boat because they would have lost the boat to looters if they would have just abandoned it. Later, we know that Peter was in his boat fishing because Jesus got on the boat and told him to launch out into the deep.

Another thing about the disciples is that this isn’t their first meeting of Jesus. John tells us about their meeting Jesus in a different way. But this is when Jesus calls them to be partakers of the kingdom with Him, and they follow Him during His earthly ministry, learning of Him and from Him!

In my next blog, we will look at Jesus demonstrating the kingdom of God! Wonderful Jesus!

Jesus, Our Example!

Mark 1:9 – “It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan” NKJV

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Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God! I may repeat that frequently, but it’s important for us to know and declare that He was no ordinary man. He was both man and deity, and as such, was God in the flesh!

As we go through the book of Mark, we will see Him as the suffering Servant, the One who went through much on our behalf. As the suffering Servant, He suffered in His physical body, as a human being, on behalf of mankind. As we go through Mark, we will see Jesus in both His humanity and His divinity!

Mark tells us that Jesus came from Galilee. Although he makes on a brief reference to this fact, Matthew points on that Jesus being in Galilee was a fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah:

But those who have suffered will no longer be in pain. The territories of Zebulun and Naphtali in Galilee were once hated. But this land of the Gentiles across the Jordan River and along the Mediterranean Sea will be greatly respected.

Isaiah 9:1 CEV

Jesus lived on purpose, for purpose, and because of that, there were things that He had to do. Getting baptized in the Jordan, was one of those things. He tells John that He must be baptized by him to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15).

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan [River], to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him [vigorously protesting], saying, “It is I who need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus replied to him, “Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John permitted [it and baptized] Him

Matthew 3: 13-15 AMP

Before Jesus begins His public ministry He is baptized in water. Baptism is symbolic of our identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. Jesus had no such need to make this public declaration of faith as we do, but He felt it necessary. He said that John had to baptize Him to fulfill all righteousness! In other words, there are some things that everyone is going to need to do, and He came to demonstrate it all in the flesh!

As Jesus is coming out of the water, several things take place all at once:

And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:10-11 NKJV

First, He sees the heavens part! I believe that God was so excited that the time had come to reveal His Son and to see Him in operation that He pulled back the curtains of heaven to let Jesus see Him!

As the curtains parted, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. The Bible clearly uses a simile at this point by saying that His Spirit descended like a dove. Many think that He descended in the form of a dove, but I believe this was a figurative statement, and not literal. Then God speaks from heaven validating that Jesus is His beloved Son, and He is well pleased with Him! What a wonderful experience! And what a glimpse at the Trinity, as both the Father, and the Holy Spirit, bears witness to Jesus to the Son!

The Holy Spirit not only bears witness of Jesus, but He empowers Jesus to do ministry. Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 11:2, that the Spirit of God would rest upon Him, which He did when Jesus came out of the water. But we also know that the Spirit of God empowered Him to do ministry. Let’s look at what Jesus said to the disciples:

 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

Luke 24:49 NKJV

We can infer that if the disciples needed the power from on high, which is through His Holy Spirit, then that is where Jesus’ power came from, the Holy Spirit. And as Jesus was headed into His earthly ministry, it was needful for Him to be endued with power from on high!

Mark doesn’t give us a lot of details about these events, so I had to go to the other gospels for clarification. Such is the case in the temptation of Jesus. Mark wrote:

Right away God’s Spirit made Jesus go into the desert. He stayed there for forty days while Satan tested him. Jesus was with the wild animals, but angels took care of him.

Mark 1:12 -13 CEV

Mark penned that the Spirit of God made Jesus go into the desert. Other versions say Jesus was led or driven into the wilderness. In any case, it was a part of the plan for Him to experience the wilderness. While in the wilderness we know that Jesus was on a fast. Mark doesn’t mention it, but other gospel accounts let us know that for forty days and night, He fasted. While He was in the wilderness, on this supernatural fast, Satan tempted Him. (See Matthew 4, for details)

We know from other gospels that Satan tried to get Jesus to bow down to him, to prove that He couldn’t die because He was the Son of God, and to use His power to turn stones into bread. Jesus refused to participate with Satan’s games, using the Word of God on him, and then rebuking Him. All keys to us getting the victory over the devil! But that blog has been written already!

After Jesus overcomes His temptations at the hand of the devil himself, angels minister to Him. In the CEV it gives the impression that the angels protected Jesus from the wild animals; but most versions state that the angels ministered to Him.

As we look at the life of Jesus, let’s glean all that we can from Him. Jesus was baptized in the water as an example to fulfill all righteousness. In order for us to make sure that we have done the same, we need to be baptized. If you have not been baptized yet, I encourage you to do so! You will be fulfilling all righteousness! If you did it, but don’t remember it because you were so young, do it again, so that you’ll have a marked experience of identifying with the Savior!

Jesus was immersed in the Holy Spirit as He rested on Jesus! Immersion is another word for baptism. If you have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit, I also encourage you to be baptized. Jesus didn’t even face the devil until He was baptized in the Holy Spirit! Once He was filled with the Spirit of God, He was empowered to deal with the devil! Not just demons, but the devil himself!

Jesus fasted for forty days and nights! This is a supernatural fast, so if the Spirit of God doesn’t lead you to do it, don’t! But we should all find ourselves spending time fasting and praying. Jesus did it, so we should do it! As we continue in Mark, let’s make a new commitment to be more like Him! Wonderful Jesus!

The Starting Point!

Mark 1: 1 – “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” NKJV

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As we begin our study in the book of Mark, I believe it will be helpful to look at the author of the book. Since traditionally the author of this book is John Mark, then that is how we will flow with it.

John Mark is first mentioned in Acts 12, where Peter had been rescued from prison by an angel:

And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.” So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.

Acts 12:11-12 NKJV

The saints had gathered to pray at John Mark’s house because Peter had been placed in prison. Mary, his mother, probably opened her home for some type of church gathering to new believers, or maybe just for prayer in this instance. Whatever the reason, they were all gathered at her home. Peter knew to go there when he was released from prison to share his testimony lending to the thought that he visited there frequently. In the first epistle bearing his name, he referred to Mark as his son (1 Peter 5:13).

At the end of chapter 12 in the book of Acts, Mark travels with Paul and Barnabas for ministry:

And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.

Acts 12:25 NKJV

In chapter 13, John Mark was referred to as their assistant (4), but when they arrived in Antioch, John returns to Jerusalem (13). In Acts 14, Barnabas wants John Mark to return to traveling with them, but Paul is against it. As a result Paul takes on Silas, and Barnabas takes Mark as they head in different directions to share the gospel. This is easy to understand, when we realize that Barnabas and Mark are cousins:

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him)

Colossians 4:10 NKJV

In the gospel of Mark, we see the word “immediately” appearing frequently. That’s because Mark focuses in on the works of Jesus and His quick response of compassion to those around Him. Mark presents Jesus as the Servant of God, who responds quickly to the will of the Father. Mark also shows Jesus in constant motion as He displays His power and authority over the devil; which also demonstrates and proves He is the Son of God!

Let’s look again at our key text:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God

Mark 1:1 NKJV

Mark begins this book with the ministry of Jesus. In these simple words he says a lot:

  • He is starting at the beginning of the gospel
  • Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One
  • Jesus is the Son of God

It is believed that the gospel of Mark was written to Gentiles and therefore has little references to the things that were important to the Jews; the genealogy of the Christ, the prophecies that were fulfilled by Him, or the traditions and customs that were important to them. It is also believed that this was the first written account of the gospels and as such, is a collection of things that John Mark heard from Peter and others. So the focus in this book, is the gospel of Jesus Christ! The good news about Him and the good news that He brings!

Mark begins his narrative by introducing us to John the Baptist and he tells us several things about John:

As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.”  “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’ ”

Mark 1:2-3 NKJV
  • John the Baptist was a special messenger of God
  • He was sent to prepare the way before Jesus
  • He would be in the wilderness crying out to the people
  • John fulfilled this prophetic declaration as prophesied

Mark then explains what this prophecy looked like in reality, how John made the way for Jesus:

John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

Mark 1:4 -5 NKJV

John’s ministry consisted of getting people to realize that they were in a sinful state and they needed to repent. Even though they realized that they were sinners, even though they realized they needed to confess their sins and be baptized for the remission of their sins, these people had yet to meet Jesus, and had yet to hear the good news that He came to give them! But they are being prepared to know that the Day of Atonement, the once a year sacrifice for their sins, wasn’t giving them the assurance that they needed or desired for peace in their souls! But it was coming!

Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:6-9 NKJV

Mark describes John as a prophet who was clothed in a garment made of camel’s hair and he ate locust and wild honey. John the Baptist was in essence identifying as an Old Testament prophet while ending the tenure of Old Testament prophets. Things were changing, and Mark is showing how John’s ministry catapulted the way for the ministry of Jesus!

John said this about Jesus:

  • He was coming after John
  • He was more powerful than John
  • John felt unworthy to untie His shoestrings; so John was submitting himself to the One who was coming
  • John said that while he was baptizing with water, the One coming would baptize them with the Holy Spirit!

As we go into this study of Mark, my plan is to share more of the big picture, the events; not necessarily the verse by verse movement of Jesus. Mark is the shortest gospel, but it contains 18 of the 30 plus miracles of Jesus. I want to focus more on Him, His messages, His accomplishments, and what it means for us as His followers!

This is the starting point of the gospel of Mark! Stay tuned as we revisit the life and service of our Savior, Jesus, the Son of God! So get ready, get set, let’s go! Wonderful Jesus!

Overcoming Evil

 Romans 12:21- “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” NKJV

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing! Anonymous

I’m ending my study on the book of Romans. My spirit is feeling a tug for the message of the gospel and the Savior. I trust you have been blessed by this study and stick around for the new one.

Before I leave Romans, I want to at least close this chapter and discuss the behavior of the Christian when things are going on around us that are just not right! The Bible calls it evil!

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Romans 12:14 NKJV

I just finished the autobiography of Melba Patillo, a participant in the desegregation of the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. She was one of the nine students who came to be known as the Little Rock Nine. All of these students were chosen from Black schools in the area based on their academics and personal bearing. Against the hostility of their governor, the whites in the South, not just Little Rock, and even some of their neighbors, they started school three weeks after school began.

It was a horrible experience. Daily they were physically and verbally attacked. They kept hoping that it would get better, and it never did. At first they had military protection, but the President who had sent the military protection, took them away. The adults in the building rarely assisted them, the NAACP who set it up was powerless to help them, and the government was against them, so for the entire school year they were constantly mistreated and abused by segregationists in the building.

What was interesting to note is that all of these teenagers came from godly homes. Melba’s grandmother was a no nonsense woman of God. One day Melba told her that she wished she was dead! Her grandmother asked her how would she make it happen, and what did she think the papers would say? She gave her a few suggestions! Melba didn’t like any of it, and decided that she needed to continue to live. Her grandmother told her that they would be devastated if she took her life and reminded her that she was a warrior. Grandmother India then told her to turn the tables on her persecutors and to thank them for what they were doing. When they slapped her, say thank you! When they poured liquids on her clothes, say she liked the new look! In doing so, she would take the sting out of what they were doing. As she began to do this she realized something powerful, she no longer felt like a victim being controlled by them, but that she was taking control of how she felt and responded. Melba came as close to blessing those who cursed her as she could come.

It’s hard not to want to retaliate. During the Civil Rights movement, the thinking was to resist evil without being evil, like our text. When the dogs were set on the people, or they were being hosed, or beaten, they refused to retaliate against the evil! It sounds contrary to our sense of survival, but the Word tells us to overcome evil with good. It’s God’s nature! We don’t repay evil, with evil, we trust God to take care of it!

But how do we act when we see evil? There is a saying, “see no evil, hear no evil, do no evil”! But the truth of the matter is that evil rarely stays in the dark! It may begin there, but it doesn’t stay there! Eventually you can’t hide from the truth of it and you can’t help but to see it!

During the Holocaust, the Germans relentlessly attacked the Jews. There were people who said they didn’t know what was happening; although trains loaded with people were coming and those same trains were leaving empty. Or they smelled the burning but wasn’t sure what was going on! I don’t see it therefore it doesn’t exist! But there were some good people, who couldn’t sleep at night while their neighbors were under attack, so they got in the fight by hiding them and helping them to escape! They didn’t ignore the evil around them, they did something about it!

During slavery, when atrocities were being carried out against Africans, and then the slaves, people ignored what was happening or justified it. They are under the curse of Ham, or the Bible tells slaves to honor their master. But evil was raising its ugly head in our countries, and people fought to keep it going! However, there were some good people who saw the evil around them, and they could not continue to ignore it. The Underground Railroad was created as abolitionists began to cry out against the evil and to support slaves in getting to freedom! They did something about it!

All over the world, bad things happen to good people, and to God’s people! It’s sad! But what is even sadder is when people know it is happening, see it, hear it, and ignore it, because it isn’t happening to them!

As Christians, we cannot afford to stick our head in the sand and act like what happens around us is not our problem. It is our problem, if it happens around us!

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

James 4:17 NKJV

Paul warns us about being overcome by evil:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!

Romans 12:21 NKJV

He said, don’t be overcome! Fear can be a powerful weapon! It can keep us silent at the best of times, and paralyzed at the worst of times. But when we allow evil to continue on its destructive path, we are overcome by evil! It took a while, as a young person to understand the proverb:

I shall assume that your silence gives consent.

Plato

I understood it as time went on! When we keep silent about evil, we in essence give it a place to flourish. In my classroom, if I allow someone to be called stupid, I essence agree that in my mind, that person is stupid! But if I rebuke the comment, then it is understood that I don’t agree with the comment! Paul said that we are not to allow evil to overcome us, but we are to overcome evil with our good!

As we end this chapter on how we are to behave as Christians, I believe Paul is encouraging us to demonstrate love, honor and respect to our brothers and sisters in Christ! But I also believe, from scripture, that we have a responsibility to humanity; to stand against the evil that wants to surround us.

One last thought:

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord

Romans 12:19 NKJV

We don’t get into physical fights, or fights with weapons! Paul is just encouraging us to be upstanders and not bystanders! Why? Because vengeance belongs to the Lord and He will repay! But we don’t turn our heads and say, “Let God handle it, then!” We fight against the evil in our land that God’s favor may rest upon it and upon us! Wonderful Jesus!

Being Christlike!

Romans 12:9- “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” NKJV

Image by Alexey Hulsov from Pixabay

Paul is strategic in his thinking. He appears to be rambling, but as he is led by God’s Spirit, he addresses an issue, then a counter-issue, all without losing focus. He started this portion of his letter that we call chapter 12, by telling us how to live for God. It appears that he switches to the topic of gifts, but he hasn’t switched at all. In fact, he is really letting us know that God has gifted us to function as one body, what these gifts are, and how we should function in them.

First, Paul states that we are to love without hypocrisy or deceit. No one likes to be deceived, least of all someone who trusts you. As Christians, when we intermingle in the world in which we live, we are to demonstrate the love of God, at all times, without hypocrisy. I like how Jesus said it in John 13:34-35:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 NKJV

Previously, Jesus had told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. For some, this is not a good role model because they don’t like themselves very much. But if you are like me, I’m kinda crazy about myself! I can understand that message! Jesus took it to a whole new dimension when He said that He was giving us a new commandment, for us to love one another as He has loved us! I hope you notice the bold and italicized words? I have definitely placed emphasis on the words in this verse! He told us! All of us! To love one another, every single Christian that is part of the Body of Christ, as He has loved us!

When I was in the military I had to move to several different locations. I distinctly remember when I was on the plane headed for Italy. It felt like an adventure, but I also felt all alone. When I got to the base, and met some fellow Christians, my heart was able to handle the separation from friends and family a lot better. They loved me, and I loved them, for that time we were together, as if we had known each other all of our lives. I would like to think that I could go anywhere in the world, meet a fellow believer and be safe! That’s the kind of love Jesus was speaking of! In Him, we are safe, and so should we be with one another!

Now what if they had a different kind of love? A love full of hypocrisy? That would not have been a safe environment for me. I would have thought that I was going to be cared for when in actuality they had something more sinister on their mind! Terrible thought!

Jesus made it clear that when we love others like He loves us, people would know that we are His disciples! I don’t know about you, but I would rather be known as a disciple of Jesus, than to be the most famous person on earth!

Paul is encouraging us that as we serve the Father, serve with love that has no deceit in it! Teachers, love your students, don’t mistreat them! Don’t lead them astray! Teach them the truth in love; care for them like Jesus cares for you! Pastors, exhorters, love the people! All of the people. Shepherd all the flock that He sends you, the same way you were shepherded, or should have been shepherded. Don’t deceive them by telling them they are loved when you have a hidden agenda that has nothing to do with love. Love the sheep! Each gift can be singled out and looked at through the lens of love and how it is so important as we serve in the kingdom of God.

Hate evil! Not just the evil in the world, and the evil in others, but the evil in your own life. Don’t let it come near you! Remember Paul’s words from chapter 2:

You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?  You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?  For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.

Romans 2:21-25 NKJV

People are watching Christians all the time. Some of those people are watching because they are wanting to see if this is for real, something that would make them whole! Some are watching because they are naysayers. But all are watching and when we don’t hate the evil in our lives, or the lives of those we cater to, or our family and friends, then we blaspheme the name of our God amongst the people of the world! Let’s not be like that! We are to be different from the people who don’t know Jesus!

Cling to what is good! The sons of Korah sang this in a psalm:

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the Lord God of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Hosea 5:15 NKJV

Were these words only for the people who Hosea was speaking to? I don’t think so! They ring just as true today that we are to seek good, to love good, to establish justice in our cities; while we hate evil, and trust God to be with us!

Paul gives us a list of behaviors that we as Christians should exhibit. I have introduced the first three to you, and I encourage you to look into the others. They are things that should be very much a part of our lives and how we serve! I won’t write on them all, but in my next post I will pull out a couple others that speak to me. Until next time, Wonderful Jesus!

What Colors Your Vision?

Romans 12: 6-8- “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” NKJV

The Bible mentions three major areas of giftings: ministry gifts, motivational gifts, and manifestation gifts. I have some blogs that cover the ministry and manifestation gifts in my archives, so today we will look briefly at the motivational gifts.

Paul gives us an analogy of the body. We can all picture the body because we have one. Each part of our body is an individual part that makes up a whole. The whole suffers when one part is out of commission or in pain because the body is interconnected with each part. The same is true for the church, the Body of Christ. We are all members individually, but together we make up the Body, His Church.

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 

Romans 12:4-5 NKJV

The gifts mentioned in Romans are called the Romans gifts, or the motivational gifts; while they could easily be called gifts of grace. The Greek word for gifts in Romans is charisma and it means a gift of grace. These gifts are found in both sinners and believers, and therefore are aptly named gifts of grace. We tend to refer to them as motivational gifts because they are ingrained in us in such a way that they are the motives behind our actions and colors all that we see. One of my favorite books on the subject is “Discover Your God-Given Gifts” by Don and Katie Fortune. If you want to really understand more of these gifts, I highly recommend that you get a book, or look for some teachings on Youtube!

God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, then prophesy whenever you can—as often as your faith is strong enough to receive a message from God. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If you are a preacher, see to it that your sermons are strong and helpful. If God has given you money, be generous in helping others with it. If God has given you administrative ability and put you in charge of the work of others, take the responsibility seriously. Those who offer comfort to the sorrowing should do so with Christian cheer.

Romans 12:6-8 TLB

Paul stated that God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, bricklayer, or entrepreneur, God has given you that ability to do what you are doing. It’s part of His grace being extended to each of us! So whatever the gift is that God has given you, Paul tells us to get busy doing it!

Prophecy is the first gift listed. Paul said that if God has given you the ability to prophesy, do so whenever you can. I remember my sister-in-law and I were talking years ago. Suddenly she said something like this, “I get it now! You are prophet-motive!” What she was saying is that the color of my lens is that of prophecy because a major characteristic of those with this gifting is that we don’t see gray in life. I’m not necessarily prophetic, but occasionally I see or hear things in my spirit that I believe God is showing me, or saying to me; and when I act on it, people are blessed. Mostly though, I seem to have a strong sense of right and wrong that motivate my actions in life.

If your gift is that of serving, serve well. Each of us may be called to operate in every single one of these areas during the course of our life; however, the major difference between “filling in” and being gifted, is the ease you have in doing something. My older sister is a server! We can easily call her Martha instead of by her given name. Whether hosting an event or just hanging out, she’ll be the one serving others! If you sit down an empty glass she will refill it or wash it. She is always moving and doing things for others and she makes it look easy and she makes others feel welcomed and cared for. She’s a server and she does it well!

If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. While I’m definitely prophet motive, my gift is that of teaching. I’m a school teacher by profession, but I absolutely love teaching the word of God. In any form. At any time. With or without notice. Being paid or not being paid. Five minutes or fifty minutes. I have no greater joy in life than when I am teaching. Although I have struggled in my profession for years, it has only been because I wanted to be teaching the word and not children. Having said that, I do a good job with teaching!

If you are a preacher, see to it that your sermons are strong and helpful. I really like how this passage is written in the Living Bible. If you preach, and that is your gift, you make preaching look like anybody can do it! We know that is not true because everyone hasn’t been gifted like you have! Preachers are charismatic individuals and they tend to have personalities that are like salesmen. The ones who are using their gift for the gospel are encouraging God’s people. Most exhorters are great encouragers in every area of their life. They are the ones full of compliments and words that make you feel good about yourself! It’s a gift!

If God has given you money, be generous! The giver typically is very generous. Bill Gates is a giver! Warren Buffet is a giver! I don’t know their spiritual condition but I know they have been graced with the finances and the ability to give. But I know other givers who aren’t so financially strong, and yet they give and keep on giving. They are blessed beyond measure as they continuously sow into the kingdom and the lives of God’s people.

If God has given you administrative abilities and put you in charge of the work of others, take the responsibility seriously. There is nothing worst than to be working under someone who doesn’t take their leadership of you seriously! But a leader, anointed by God, and surrendered to the anointing, will make you happy to be on their team! Even unsaved leaders, who are gifted, makes things flow well! It’s a joy working with true leaders, but the perpetrators make a day at work seem much longer!

Lastly, Paul mentions the gift of mercy or compassion. He who has the gift of mercy or compassion should do so with cheerfulness! These individuals are gifted with being able to see past a fault to a need. You will find them in fields like nursing, doctors, shelters; because they have a compassion that motivates them to do something for others. It can get to be a little much, but Paul said keep showing compassion with cheerfulness. Don’t let it weigh you down!

I have not touched the surface, but suffice it to say, these gifts have been distributed to us for service to one another. We need them all operating in the body to continue the work of the Savior! What we have to be careful about with the gifts is that we can’t fault others for not “seeing” the things that we “see”, or for not “doing” the thing things that we so easily do. We have to remember that we are all wired differently, and because of that, we won’t all be “motivated” to do the same things in the Body! Wonderful Jesus!

Avoiding Pollution!

Romans 12:3- “For by the grace [of God] given to me I say to everyone of you not to think more highly of himself [and of his importance and ability] than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has apportioned to each a degree of faith [and a purpose designed for service].” AMP

Image by 7998746 from Pixabay

Romans 12 is one of those chapters that is rich with biblical teachings that are applicable to everyone. As we have already seen in the first two verses, Paul has encouraged every believe to yield themselves to God, because it is the least that we can do in response to His goodness!

Now Paul is getting into what that service looks like. He starts off by stating, “don’t think more highly of yourself than you should!” This says to me that I can think highly of myself and my abilities, just not more highly than I should!

The Greek words for the phrase, think more highly, is hyperphroneō para. The English translation of hyperphroneō is “to be overly proud or high-minded”. Para, on the other hand means “with, in the estimation of”. Putting this phrase together, we can see that Paul was saying that we are not to be overly proud or high-minded in regards to our estimation of ourselves.

There are times when we can be pretty tough on our self-image. Most of us have suffered from low self-esteem at one time or another in our life. It’s more common than we think! Self-esteem is our opinion of ourself. Low self-esteem is when we are unhappy or unsatisfied with ourself most of the time. Placing our self esteem in the palm of Jesus is the best way to keep it healthy and in proper perspective!

As Christians we are taught to be humble and meek, and we often misunderstand these words to be words of weakness and not strength. But you can have a healthy self-esteem and still walk in humility and meekness. Jesus did it everyday!

Paul, a man who was confident in his calling and his assignment, a man of great natural intelligence, and a man with deep spiritual convictions saw God do amazing things through him; and yet he said that we are not to think more highly of ourselves than we should!

That says to me that I can think highly of myself, I just can’t have an overestimation of who I am, and in what I do! To do so, is to pollute the gifts and talents that I possess of God, and that is a shame!

God is great, and everything He does, He does well! During creation He looked at His handiwork and approved it:

Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:9-10 NKJV

It’s important to know yourself and to have an honest opinion of yourself and your capabilities. When writing a resume, you have to “know yourself” and your capabilities! When sitting in an interview, you have to know yourself in order to convince the interviewer you are the best candidate for the job! When operating on a patient, you have to be confident that you can handle the procedure for the well-being of your patient. But you are not to have an over estimation of yourself, even when others apply high esteem towards you! It will cause your gifts and talents to become polluted!

It’s also important to know your weaknesses, and things you need to work on. An individual who believes there are no weakness in their life, is an arrogant individual. We all have strengths and weaknesses!

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Proverbs 16:18-19 NKJV

False modesty is when in your heart you think yourself fully capable of a thing, yet you down play it to others, acting as if it is no big deal, but you really believe it is a big deal. To thine own self be true! These are words from the Shakespeare play, “Hamlet”; advice from a father to his son! It has a lot of meanings, but for this blog I am saying, learn how to be true to yourself, how to be honest about you with you!

Paul brings this subject up as a precursor to talking about gifts and the measure of faith. The statement was made:

Spiritual giftedness does not equate spiritual maturity!

David Guzik, Blueletterbible.org

This is so true! A person can be gifted by God to do all sorts of things like singing and preaching, but lack the spiritual maturity to handle the accolades, or even the opportunities that could come with that gift. There is a responsibility that comes with gifts and talents, and Paul is saying that a major responsibility is to not get caught up in pride!

God has given everyone a measure of faith! We all demonstrate our ability to believe when we come to Jesus. Faith will grow and be developed as we exercise it, nurture it, hear the word, and build ourselves up in faith. But when what we do cease to glorify God, it is no longer of faith, but of the flesh! Before we get started into how God has gifted us, I leave us with the words of Jesus:

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Matthew 7:22-23 KJV

Don’t pollute the gifts that God has placed on the inside of you! If you trust Him, He will bless your gifts and expand them; if you trust your gift, you can find yourself being a castaway! I’m looking forward to exploring these gifts together! Wonderful Jesus!

Conformity or Transformation?

Romans 12: 2- “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” NKJV

Don’t be conformed! Be transformed!

Paul continues his thought of how we are to present ourselves to God! He has already shared some key points: God is looking for a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable, commenting that it is our reasonable service to One who has displayed so many mercies before us! He continues by stating that we are not to conform to the world. Maybe when he wrote it, it wasn’t a big deal, but today it is a big deal.

I thank God for this time in which we live. With all of our problems and concerns I would not have wanted to be born in other time in history. But we are not living in a perfect world, nor a world that honors God, and neither did Paul! People don’t want to be told how to live. We see it in the news daily, even in regards to our very health! How a world wide pandemic became a political weapon is beyond me! Yet, here we are!

The world is always looking out for self. What benefits me! What gives me power! What will give me the most views? The most followers? Make me the most money? Me at the center of it all! If we are not careful this will become our mantra as believers. It will become all about me. Therefore, Paul tells us that we are not to conform to the world.

As I researched the Greek words and their meanings, I found an interesting analogy for the word that translates to conform. In the Greek syschēmatizō means to fashion or shape one thing like another. This word has nothing to do with the inward man, or character of a man. It is used to describe the outward form that changes with time.

For example, my outward form on the day I got married was youthful but over thirty years later, not so much! My outward form is continuously changing, from size 4 to 6 to 8 to 12…I think you get the point! So what could Paul mean? William Barclay wrote that Paul was saying, “Don’t try to match your life to all the fashions of this world; don’t be like a chameleon which takes its color from its surroundings.”

In the Strong’s, this word is rendered to “conform to the same pattern, or to fashion self according to”. According to what? According to the world! I believe in financial wealth, and not a vow of poverty, but my life’s goal isn’t to obtain wealth! That’s how the world lives! I believe in having a good name, so does God, but my life’s goal isn’t to make a name for myself, but to exalt the name of Jesus! We live in this world, and as such, we are affected by all that happens in it; but conforming to this world, changing like a chameleon, being who others think we should be, is not high living!

High living, is transformation! Transformation in the Greek is metamorphoō, and is the word used for transfigure! Remember the transfiguration of the Christ?

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.

Matthew 17:1-2 NKJV

To be transformed is to change into another form, like a butterfly from a caterpillar, like a sinner to a child of God! Transformation! God is not calling us to change the outside, but the inside, and transformation is about our inner man! Salvation is supposed to be transformative, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

The heart of stone, becomes a heart of flesh! The guilt is washed away, and we are redeemed! The passions of the flesh gives way to the passions of the Spirit! Because we have been made new! Now my life isn’t conformed to the world, living selfishly; but transformed to Christ, Christ centered!

This is what happens when we are saved! But we maintain this resurrected, transformational existence by the renewing of our mind! The Greek word for renewing is anakainōsis, and it means “the renewing (of your mind),” i.e., the adjustment of the moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God, which is designed to have a transforming effect upon the life; according to the Vine’s.

William Barclay explains further by stating that there are two words in the Greek for our English word “new”; neos and kainos. Neos refers to new in point in time, while kainos refers to new in point of character and nature. A new dress is neos, while being a sinner and then becoming a believer is new in character!

The word of God brings about this change!

  • Your old mind may call you a sinner, but the word of God says you are a new creation!
  • Your old mind says that you can’t be free, but the word says who the Son has made free is free indeed!
  • Your old mind may say that nothing ever works out for you; but the word says that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love the Lord!
  • Your old mind may say that you can never know what God will do; but the word says that the Spirit of God reveals the deep things of God!
  • Your mind may tell you that you are sick, but the word says that by His stripes you are healed.
  • Your mind may tell you that you will never have the victory over this bondage, but the word says that you are an overcomer!

How is this even helpful? Well, if you read it only in this blog, it may only peak your interest! But if you begin to read the Bible as God’s word, and that you trust it, your life will be transformed into a life that even you won’t recognize. You look over your life and think, “My soul looks back and wonder how I got over!”

Paul says that when we are seeking to have a transformed life, then we will be able to prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God! David Guzik wrote in his commentary that the transformed life is proof positive of the will of God! When you understand from the word of God that you can be healed, and healing manifests in your body, you know it is the will of God that you be healed. When you see anything in the word, and it manifests in your life, than you know that is God’s will for your life! His good, acceptable, and perfect will!

Don’t settle for a life that looks like Christ on the outside because you’ve been going to church! Don’t settle for a life that looks like your friends and family because its easier to play along! Don’t settle for a life that is filled with spiritual disciplines, but lacks joy and passion for the Lord! That’s a waste of a valuable life! It’s time to be transformed by the power of God into a person whose character and very way of life shines from the Spirit of the living God! It’s so possible to have this! Get started today! Wonderful Jesus!

Called to Live!

Romans 12:1 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. NKJV

A Living Sacrifice, holy, and acceptable!

When I read or think of this verse, I always see it in reference to this life we are to live before God. Sometimes I even remember the missionaries of the faith who forsook all the comforts of their home, even leaving family, to share the gospel. I want to share a couple of those stories today!

James Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, served China in a way that became a blueprint for those following him. He realized early in his time in China that the evangelistic outreach was a bust! As he was “learning” from the missionaries already in China, he realized they were ineffective in reaching the Chinese and had basically established a country club environment. So one day he decided that he needed to immerse himself in the Chinese culture to reach them. His colleagues thought he was a bit extreme, but he begin to really reach the people of China with the gospel, especially those in rural areas. Although his first wife, Maria, and their oldest daughter, died in China, he continued his work there. Once when the Chinese people were in an uproar, they set his home on fire with his family inside. They escaped with the clothes on their backs, but even in this, he continued to serve. His life, and those of his family would certainly qualify as a living sacrifice!

Another impressive missionary is Amy Carmichael, the Rescuing Mother of India. She never got married, but spent all of her adult life in India. She tried to go to China to work there, but her health did not allow her to be able to live in that environment. A friend encouraged her to join them in India. She found her life’s calling, rescuing girls and then boys from temple prostitution. Even at the threat of placing her own life in jeopardy, she continued to rescue these children. The first one, just happened, but after that she withstood officials, temple priests, and others to save those children. She provided a safe place for them to live and learn, and she did it for the Lord! She never returned to Europe after arriving in India, and she died there. What a sacrifice!

As I began to write today, I thought of Jesus! Everything about His life was a sacrifice. Yes, He died on the cross for our sins, but He also demonstrated to us what a life of sacrifice would look like. He left His home in glory and took on the form of man for us. He taught the word daily, withstanding religious order and authority, all while meeting whatever needs the people had around Him. He was and is the epitome of a living sacrifice.

Every individual isn’t called to be a missionary in a foreign land, but we are all called to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. What does that mean, if it doesn’t mean a life of missionary work in the kingdom?

Paul wrote:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1 NKJV

The Hebrew word for “beseech” is “parakaleo” and it literally means to call to one’s side, or to call to one’s aid. In this particular verse it means to “admonish, to urge, to exhort one to pursue a particular conduct”. Paul is not trying to force his will on us, as some religious authorities may do, but he encourages us, knowing that we have a free will and a right to choose. So he encourages us to choose this course of action because of all of the mercies that God has shown us. In other words, God has been so absolutely good to us, that our only response really is to live our lives for Him.

The Hebrew word for the phrase, “a living” is “zao” and it simply means to live. The Hebrew word for sacrifice is “thysia” and it also means sacrifice. Paul makes a comparison of our life to a sacrifice. Not a dead one on the altar, but one that is lived as a sacrifice! When others see the life that we are living, they should see that there is a cost to living this life in Christ! Not a “woe is me, and my life is so miserable that you probably don’t want any parts of this life” life; but a life that displays the real decision it is to commit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus! This Hebrew phrase is the same phrase used in Hebrews 13:15,

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 

Hebrews 13:15 NKJV

A sacrifice of praise is something that we can all make! And sometimes, giving of praise is indeed just that, a sacrifice! When we are hurting, or sick, or tired, or frustrated, it can be a challenge to lift up our voice and our hearts in praise, but then, that’s why it is called a sacrifice!

Paul said that our lives should be holy! Here’s a thought: Christians shouldn’t be living like the people in the world! If our lives look exactly like their lives look, something is wrong! I know it is unpopular to address that we must be holy, but it has always been a criteria for living for God:

And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

Exodus 19:6 NKJV

Everything about Him is holy! He is holy! His name is holy! His Spirit is holy! His mountain is holy! His church is holy! His calling is holy! Therefore His people must be holy! That doesn’t mean we walk around covered from head to toe with our heads hung down never speaking above a whisper! But it means that our life, is a life of holiness. We don’t follow the crowd, we follow the Cloud, of His Glory!

Acceptable to God! Isn’t this the bottom line of our life? A life that is acceptable to our God! A life that is well-pleasing before Him is a surrendered life! A life that represents Him well! A life that says, I live to please God, and not man! If in the process man is pleased, that is good; but ultimately His validation is all that I need or want! Cain gave an unacceptable offering to God and had the nerve to be upset with God because He deemed it unacceptable!

Many today feel that whatever they give or do to the Lord should be acceptable. Nothing else matters! Just that they gave it to the Lord! He doesn’t matter! His desires doesn’t matter! Just them, and the fact that they gave it to Him should be the only requirement! But sins lies at their door, just as it did at Cain’s door!

Truly, each of these phrases deserve to be looked at individually, but I will move on. This last phrase, “which is your reasonable service” sums it all up! God isn’t asking us to do anything that we cannot do. He isn’t asking us more than we can provide. He only wants that which is reasonable! But here is the catch: it’s His call! I have to close now, but suffice it to say, we don’t make the call for what our lives should like, God does! And the word is His expressed will for that criteria! Wonderful Jesus!