Manifold Wisdom of God

Ephesians 3:8-10
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God…

“Grace given (to) preach the gospel”

It’s as though we must be permitted to speak the things of eternal life. In fact, the gospel of Jesus Christ is of such eternal worth, that it took the blood of Christ to bring value and strength to the gospel. Who are we, whom preach the gospel, to take upon ourselves this privilege of speaking the truths of heaven, except that we are called and entrusted with the words of life?

“Fellowship of the mystery”

Intended as a revelation to be revealed only after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, the fellowship of the mystery expresses that God is now available to all men.

The door was closed in Eden, after Adam and Eve disobeyed God they were removed from that paradise and moved into a condition of struggle.

Communication with God was closed as well. Fellowship was put away, because as carnal minds we cannot fellowship with God, because he is a Spirit, he seeks those (John 4:23) who are able to communicate with him.

Now, that fellowship is open to us as well.

“…To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God…”

That which was kept hidden from the knowledge of Satan and all dark powers under his control, are now and have been uncovered, but more importantly, it’s the church who should know and embrace the wisdom of God.

God has spent the history of the old testament to reveal to Israel and to all men the intents of his own heart. He sent us his word so that we could know him.

I am going to go back over the previous verses to express the mystery of which Paul wrote about here.

Please indulge me.

Ephesians 3:1
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles…

The Apostle Paul’s ministry primarily focused on the Gentiles; people of non Jewish blood, or culture, meaning all people, of all languages, and ethnicities.

Paul calls himself…

“…the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles…”

Consider that this letter is to the Ephesians, or to the church in Ephesus, a city of ancient Greece, perhaps Rome’s at that time. Today, Ephesus is in modern Turkey, well away from Paul’s homeland of Israel.

Paul is Christ’s prisoner for the Gentiles, as though he is bound to the gentiles; locked in and engaged to dispense the gospel only to them.

Paul was not opposed to this, this made it inconvenient to live free to pursue his own interests, but I feel that Paul relished this responsibly; it was more than a privilege, or honor; perhaps that feeling of getting to drive your daddy’s Corvette for the first time – Everytime!

Romans 15:16-21
That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.

This is a large portion of scripture to bite off at one time, but a few key phrases here are:

First:
“…For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me…”

It is very near impossible to tell you about Paul’s life and ministry without talking about Paul. His lifetime of ministry is filled about speaking only the gospel and the building of the church wherever he went.

Today, we literally work inside of established ministries, so, it’s not like we can avoid speaking of the things of Christ which has been set up by others.

But, I think the necessity to venture out of the established setting is of great importance, especially when there are those who would not step into an established church for any of a myriad of reasons.

Go where they are.

For Paul it was literally pioneering.

For us, it is the unlovely, the undesirable, and the unchurched (Luke 6:31-36).

That field is still unharvested.

Second:
“…Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation…”

Again, we literally can go no place that the name of Christ is not recognized, and known as the Son of God.

But, there are those who still have not submitted to the power of his name. To them you will be the initiator of the value of his name.

I think that most of us would rather be comfortable in the established setting of the church where it is accepted and understood that it’s all about Christ.

There are a great many testimonies of missionaries who went into barbarous regions of the world, and have died for the gospel and call of God.

One in particular is Nate Saint who’s story can be seen in a movie called “End of the Spear”.

Nate and four others flew into a jungle of Equador to bring the gospel to the people of Auca. They literally were people of less than civilized social structure.

Nate and his companions were killed by these people. But, he knew he was supposed to be there. Although they died, they imprinted on the indigenous people with such a powerful expression of who God is.

Later, missionaries had the opportunity to help the native people through a time of disease, and death. The missionaries were able to reach them for Christ.

Sometimes the only ministry is your own death in the name of Christ.

Ephesians 3:2
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward…

G3622 Dispensation
Strong’s Concordance definition: OIKONOMIA, “…oy-kon-om-ee’-ah; …administration (of a household or estate); specially, a (religious) “economy”:—dispensation, stewardship…”

Like a householder managing his master’s businesses.

Even as a child of God, Paul has come to the age of responsibility to his father’s business, he is delegated the full gospel and committed to the dispensation to the Gentiles.

While the rest of the apostles are committed in their responsibility to God, they also are delegated the responsibility of the gospel, but some will stay in Jerusalem for their ministry, and yet some will be lead by the Spirit where he guides them.

The dispensation, or stewardship of the grace of God is because grace is like an atmosphere in which the world is covered. Most people don’t really know this or understand that it is freely available. We tend to think that we must earn or deserve it, but this is why it is called “grace”, no one can earn it or deserve it (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23).

It also is not on a time limit, once you accept it is your forever, but if it is not accepted it expires with the person.

This is why Paul tells us that the dispensation of grace is given to him for us, so that he can make men know of its availability.

He, and all who preach are the portal, or conduit of the grace of God. God has required that all men should know about grace, and all who have accepted the grace of God have become conduits of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

Ephesians 3:6
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel…

What does it feel like to be shrouded from a mystery only to finally be let in on the big secret, and now there is no more mystery?

When once the world was blanketed under the atmosphere of guilt of sin, though unknown that it was sin, that same blanket was darkness, lack of sight (spiritually), and lack of any kind of direction. It perfectly hid hope.

Paul wrote…

“…In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them…”
2 Corinthians 4:4

This is the effect of the mystery still in effect, even after the mystery has been revealed.

When before the gospel had come, the world was in darkness, it was natural that it was unknown.

But, since the darkness has been lifted, Satan makes so much effort to keep those blinded, who still have not come to revelation.

That’s where we, whom believe come in.

Paul wrote…

“…But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost…”
2 Corinthians 4:3

Who has the power to hide the gospel? You and I are given this authority. We are the wielders of this light; yes, light! If they don’t know, it is our doing.

Paul continued…

“…lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them…”

“…the light of the glorious gospel…”

We believe because we have seen the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. It is in our hands, committed, entrusted to us to let them know, to bring them light.

Once they know and believe, the darkness is past from them.

The mystery of the manifold, or many sided wisdom of God is the light of the gospel, available to all men.

It was a mystery to the Jews, as they did receive the law, they also should have received the gospel, and many have. It is expected that it should have been received by Israel, it’s just that the law was so ingrained in them and their culture that they could not accept the claims of Christ.

Even Paul struggled to reel in the Jewish hearts of the leadership (Acts 13:46; Acts 26:20).

Gentiles, we of non Jewish culture and blood, pray for the Jews, that they will accept the wisdom of God.

Romans 11:12
Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?

You should read chapter 11.

Paul’s economy equals the riches of the world with the diminishing of the Jews with a measure of success; the riches of the world meaning the vast population of humanity, and the diminishing of the Jews meaning the few who do believe.

Paul wants us to see that if all of Israel could believe, how much more the fullness of all mankind?!

I could go on, and on, but let me end here. The wisdom of God is that all men should know and be able to believe in Christ.
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“…The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace…”
Numbers 6:24-26

Pedro Villarreal

Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 13:10
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

Probably my favorite form of painting a picture is the impact of a parable. A parable is a story told to convey a thought, or another way of saying what really needs to be said.

I love parables. Parables give us insight to deeper meanings. Like pictures or paintings that can say 1000 words, parables also give us so many facets to see and understand.

Please don’t be offended, but it’s like telling a story to a child whom has lesser understanding than an adult. We are the child in context to the Word of God. He really cannot just tell us his point without breaking it down into fragments, it’s just way to big for us.

Jesus spoke in parables to the people the majority of the time. They were not educated, as we understand education. Those who knew the law or worked in ministry duties as priests were given a proper education; then, of course, they had their governments as well who were educated.

It would seem reasonable to me, that Jesus would make it as simple as he could to speak to their hearts, their imagination, and give them every effort to see his heart.

His disciples asked him why he spoke to them in parables.

He said…

“…Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given…”

I struggle to think that the disciples could actually understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but they did apparently have some idea what Jesus spoke about.

It’s reasonable that in their personal time with him, that he gave them more personal revelation in moments, in bits and pieces; something he did not have more of with the masses.

However, Jesus asked them once, who they said he was (Matthew 16:13-19), Peter gave the correct answer, to which Jesus said…

“…Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven…”

So, it is reasonable that they could understand those things which Jesus would speak to them.

I like to think, that we might not even consider that Jesus even spoke in parables if the disciples had not asked him. Maybe it was like an unintentional prompt, so that we who follow after will think to give it more thought.

Parables are windows into the hidden mysteries of God’s Word.

Mysteries? You ask. Hidden mysteries in plain sight, meant to shroud the plans of God until it is time to reveal them to the world.

That said, we have both old and new testaments; first to convey a history of the people as well as the law of God. Secondly, it is more of a parable in extensive form, all of which to bring is to the reality of grace and mercy.

If the Lord came straight at us with grace and mercy, without ever building up from the law to the cross of Christ, would we be able to appreciate grace and mercy? Also, the understanding that even Israel’s history is open and honest to express to the rest of the world that they were as messed up as we are, it gives us expectation of acceptance in God’s eyes.

I believe that the Word of God can be expressed on many levels. The most obvious level is that of practical information.

When the laws were given, there was no real attempt at hygiene by most of the world. There was not any knowledge of micro bacteria or of the spread of germs, only the effects could be seen, but only after the contamination had happened.

God gave laws about washing their hands, their food, their clothes and most things we mechanically do. God gave them quarantines to observe, he gave them knowledge of what to look for, and how to treat it.

But, on this side of that knowledge, we can understand spiritual applications. Those things that he spoke to them of natural issues, also speak to spiritual issues in our lives, and the lives of others.

Look at Leviticus chapters 13, and 14.

Leprosy, for example, was one of the biggest issues to watch for. In the flesh, leprosy destroys and breaks down the health of the flesh. Leprosy was also found in homes, on the walls. If it could be treated with success (in the house), the house could remain, but if the leprosy returned, the house would have to be destroyed.

The same way, if a man’s leprosy could be healed, there would be no more problem, but if it festered, the man would be exiled, the purpose was to quarantine him and to keep the people at a safe distance from his leprosy.

***Of course, I’m not a medical expert by any means***

In spiritual terms, leprosy represents the sins of a man. With the crucifixion of Christ the price of sin is accounted for. But if a man returns to his sin, it has a way of overtaking him again.

God was interested in expressing this to the Hebrews with the laws, but the mystery of his intentions could not be addressed without the crucifixion, so they served the people on the natural level until then.

1 Corinthians 2:7-8
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The practical level of information was meant to serve as a clue, or hint; something to point man in the direction of God’s higher purpose. But, it is like walking into a room with no light, and if you had darts in your hand, would you think to throw them, and if you threw them did you think there might be a target?, and if there is a target you can’t see it anyway.

God’s plan of salvation meant that Jesus would die for our sins. But if the devil understood that, there is no way he would have allowed that to happen. Satan might have considered that killing Christ might backfire on him, maybe even the salvation of the people, but not ultimate defeat. This thread would open up a to whole other lesson.

The defeat of Satan is only a perk, it’s not the whole enchilada. Jesus said…

“…And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven…”
Luke 10:18-20

Satan falling from heaven is inconsequential for us, only the advice that he’s only begun to fall in ultimate defeat.

Among all the perks of being a Christ follower, the ultimate prize is the expectation in heaven of our addition and arrival to the kingdom.

Just think, God is expecting you, has a place ready for you, and no one can take that from you.

The hidden wisdom of God is hidden from the wisdom of men, and from those who seek signs for men to approve of.

1 Corinthians 1:18
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

Read verses 18-25

Paul describes the differences between wisdom and signs, and how the preaching of the cross cannot fit in with either side, but stands alone.

Preaching does not make sense to the rational mind, because a rational mind tends to justify an event with a clear purpose, or objective.

How can the death of one man benefit all of mankind?, but it’s not meant to be justified by rational minds, it’s something that primarily speaks of faith and that of a spiritual calling.

Also, signs can be ambiguous. Even if the natural eyes and senses could register signs, or miracles, how will it qualify as faith.

The natural terms say that seeing is believing, but spiritual terms say that if you believe you will see, but deeper than only with eyes.

Sure, it is foolish, we’re all fools whom believe, yes! Who’s fool are you?

Not meant as an insult, but the greater question is, what eternal security do you have, where did it come from, how is it secured, and who is your ultimate authority?

Power! Sure, dynamic in presence, but it’s more like authority. Yet it speaks more of ability, or avenue, because without the cross there would be no other way for salvation. So, dynamite? yes! The cross broke open the path of salvation where God was on the other side; now the way is open.

Ephesians 3:3-4
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)…

Read chapter 3.

Paul writes…

“…my knowledge in the mystery of Christ…”

Paul’s knowledge in the mystery of Christ is revelation, or illumination. It’s the same with all who seek the Lord for understanding (James 1:5).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is light (John 3:18-21). Paul understood that there is more to the Word of God than only the surface of the law; there is a depth and a drawing that is applied to us the more we seek him.

In Ephesians 3, Paul reveals a portion of the mystery, telling us that the opening of the gospel is opened up to the gentiles as well as the Jews.

The law of Moses was given exclusively to the Hebrews of whom are the Jewish rites and ceremony. The rest of the world lived in a form of honor system, and were a law unto themselves. But, the Jews took advantage that the law was their own, excluding the gentiles (non-Israel). It was near animosity between Jews and Gentiles.

We could get into all of the scriptures that tell is the purpose of the law; suffice it to say, the law was given to them that all the world may become guilty before God – telling us that there really is no difference between us (Jews and Gentiles) (Romans 3:19-23).

Paul now expresses that the gospel is for all people.

What’s more? Revelation is for all believers as well.

Ephesians 1:17-18
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints…

The rest of the scripture that follows here is valuable, and needs so much expressing to see all the benefits.

There really is so much here to expound, but let’s just look at…

“…may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him…”

The “spirit” of wisdom and revelation, is what we need to look at.

Verse 13 speaks of the holy Spirit of promise, capital “S”, this means the person of God in the Holy Spirit. But, here in verse 17, it is translated as spirit, lower case “s”.

It hints to me that it is as personal to you as your own spirit. You can know the things of God; his mysteries, his parables, every form of expression of God’s word to you, and to claim it as your own.

Remember that Paul spoke about his knowledge. You’re more than a recipient of God’s mysteries, you’re the owner as well.

When God builds you up to receive it, he captures it in you for you. It’s as simple as your father providing things for you that can belong to no one else.

I like to think of any meal that I will or have eaten. Those morsels of meat, vegetables, or fruit. They were grown, processed and distributed to various places, all to come to one plate, mine!

God knew it even if I didn’t. He brought it to me even though the process and distribution of those morsels was mysterious to me, until the mystery is revealed.

I could go on, and will express more in my next post, but for now let’s consider that you can know and will know the mysteries of kingdom of heaven, even if you need a parable, the Spirit of God will give you as much as you can hold, and he is patient, he is so patient.
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“…The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace…”
Numbers 6:24-26

Pedro Villarreal

Excellency of the Knowledge of Christ Jesus

Philippians 3:8
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…

Counting all things loss; what things?

When you read chapter 3, you will see the Apostle Paul’s personal prospect of his world: of Jewish origin, circumcision, education in the law, a pharisee, and formerly the persecutor of the church.

Paul gave up, and walked away from the world he built and was built for him by those whom had gone before him, to gain Christ, it was a monumental sacrifice if you can understand Jewish custom, tradition, and pride.

Paul said…

“…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ…”

The loss of all things gave him the opportunity to begin afresh. Christ is not only for an ignorant  person (one who knows less), but even the educated can be ignorant of the knowledge of God (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

There is an idea, perhaps an illustration of the glass that is full which cannot hold any more than its limit.

The prospect of learning or relearning something new would require the glass to become empty for the glass to hold something else.

My perspective of the Word of God is that it is as vast as the ocean.

Knowing the shape of the earth and the continents can be the same as knowing the shape of the bible. Knowing that there are books and chapters to the bible can be like a map. The more personal application of the bible is in the study of God’s Word; hands on, tactile until the abstract is revealed.

So, my view of the ocean, in regards to the glass, is that I can only dip into the ocean, and never receive it all.

I have posted 100 of these personal thoughts of mine in the last two years, this post will make 101. Even in my lifetime of study, it’s like seeing the vast ocean in the distance while my feet are barely at the water’s edge.

I will begin to express the length, the width the depth and hight of the Word of God, at least to my limited exposure to it in my own lifetime.

Isaiah 55:9
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

I had an idea once that the heavens are not just the sky or even space alone, but an infinite “higher”.

My thought was that “higher” is up from where ever you are on the earth.

Consider that when God spoke this to Isaiah, that he was speaking to an Israeli man in the land of Israel. From where he was, up is different from where you are.

The earth is round. If it were possible for a person to stand in each and every square inch of the planet, even the oceans, up would point out from the earth in every direction from each and every point.

So up in America, is different from up in Africa, Australia, South America, where ever you are in the world.

Our limited perspective of knowledge is localized (still in personal thought).

God said that his ways and thoughts are higher than our ways or thoughts; higher than the heavens are above the earth.

I like the idea of parables. Simple illustrations, yet deep enough to give us the expression of his thought to us.

The illustration of the heavens being higher than the earth, is a parable of sorts. Given the depths of the mind of God, we can only see in glimpses of fragments of glimpses of fragments (not accidentally doubled [there literally is way too much for us to conceive of knowing]) of what he really wants to say.

We would look a lot like a toddler sitting as a student in the universities with a crayon taking notes from a professor or instructor who speaks in lofty words and highly intelligent speech, and even that is more reasonable than knowing the true depths of God’s mind as prescribed in his Word.

Romans 11:33
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

There was a cartoon some years ago called “Duck Tales” (Disney) the introduction of the show had the main character swimming through his gold like it was water: like a swimming pool.

This verse made me think of that scene when I read about the “depth of the riches”.

It is hidden treasure, and God desires us to have it.

We are the ones who make it less appealing to ourselves.

What would it be like to know that we could have access to God’s vault, and claim the wealth for our own?

Most people don’t ever look past the book into the knowledge. For them it’s like being in front of the vault door without the combination to get inside.

Mind you, it is not money that you can spend at your favorite store or buy your meal at your favorite restaurant; it is not that kind of treasure. It’s not a get rich quick scheme.

But, it is access into eternal life, which money cannot buy, peace of mind and heart, as well as peace with God (Isaiah 55:1-2).

The currency of God is not physical or tactile, it is spiritual and of eternal value and access to him.

“…and his ways past finding out!..”

The reference to his ways, is a multi faceted observation. When you read his Word, there is usually a practical use or personal application to advise you through the situation or through life. But the Word of God is primarily spiritual, it lives on a plain out of physical touch and time. His word is timeless.

If you read the words of Christ, it almost looks like he is speaking directly to you, even though he walked here some 2000 years ago.

His ways are mysterious.

It’s not like God doesn’t want you to know his ways, he does, he gave us his Spirit to teach us his ways. It is just that it would take more than a lifetime to see and understand his ways.

Ecclesiastes 12:12
And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

When I really looked at this verse, it did resonate in me. There is so much to glean from the word of God. If all we ever know are the edges of the mysteries of his word, it would take more than a lifetime to take it in.

Moreover, the body gets tired. At some point we must sleep. Even refreshed after sleep, we will still be a lifetime away from the true depths of God’s knowledge.

“…of making many books there is no end…”

As I said earlier, this is “101” posts for me, and I’m certain there will be more. I will never exhaust his Word, I will die before I get into the true depths.

Eternity will serve for further study in the presence of God, I will not have to sleep then.

In my lifetime of study, I feel that this is the one desire of my life that I have pursued the most. It’s the one thing that has convinced me of digging into to stake my claim for my eternity.

I can learn a job and have the parts to assemble a pump, the tools to use, and the order or process. I can learn how to size a pump with charts and curves for the expectation of the necessity for that pump.

I also like to work with wood, reclaiming used wood, to make tables, chairs, or anything I might consider.

All of that is finite, and does not speak into eternity, but only for the here and now.

God’s Word is eternal, and he wants you to know, but more than only to know; be invested, breathe it, live it, be it.

1 Corinthians 2:10-12
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

I had said, he gave us his Spirit to teach us his ways; who better to teach us than his Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21)?

The Apostle Paul gives us an image of the access we can have to God’s mind.

The same way that only a man knows his own thoughts, his own mind and spirit are the only ones to have access to it, every one else is outside, or separate from his thoughts.

Even if we could speak face to face with God, there will be too much to contain. Having access to God’s mind would be like being able to come back again and again for clarity.

And, it gets better.

John 16:12-13
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

Jesus had been with the disciples for about 3-1/2 years, which leads me to wonder; how long would it have taken, for Jesus to be able to say all he wanted to say, so that the disciples could be fully prepared without the Holy Spirit?

I believe that we could literally study the bible for a lifetime, without the Holy Spirit, and never fully understand just the surface of the scripture.

It would be like only ever looking at a lake, always wanting to drive in, but the surface of the lake was impenetrable.

Jesus said…

“…ye cannot bear them now…”

You cannot bear the words that he wanted to say; the full gospel which he was born to deliver.

Have you ever read a story, or seen a movie, that even though you read it, or saw it from beginning to end, you just didn’t get enough, or you wanted to see what was next?

All of the Word of God is that way, at least to me. But I feel that I have broken the surface, rather, it has been broken for me.

Jesus calls him the Spirit of Truth. When he comes, he will guide you into all truth.

When you find a quiet time, look at these verses:

John 4:7-14
John 7:37-39
John 14:16-18, 26

These are a few of the scriptures that speak of how the Holy Spirit teaches us, but he does not come and go, as much as he is here to stay for my lifetime.

I will continue to write of the mysteries as I have seen and understood them, but in future posts.

One thing yet, I would like to express.

Hebrews 8:10
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people…

The bible always seems like something so difficult for so many people. I get it, it used to be for me as well, but the Word of God is not just the bible, the bible is a copy, it always has been. Jesus is the Word of God whom has been made flesh.

Now, God wants to put his Word in your spirit, so that his Spirit can teach you. This is what Jesus was saying in John 4:7-14; a well of water, springing up into every lasting life.

Seek the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. It will take you a lifetime, and it will take you into eternity.
__________

“…The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace…”
Numbers 6:24-26

Pedro Villarreal

Pentecost

Acts 2:1
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.


Pentecost is the 50th day from the day of Passover.

It would take quite a bit of time to really express passover, but it was initiated in the book of Exodus 12, when God told Moses to have the people to be ready for their “exodus” from Egypt.

The passover itself was on the 14th day of that month, on the 15th day, they were thrust out of Egypt. With the deaths of the first borns of Egypt’s people, Pharaoh’s son also died.

The passover was the final plague with which God judged Egypt. Egypt was in shambles by this point, but Pharaoh was dead set to hold on to the Hebrews regardless. With the death of his firstborn son, Pharaoh thrust out the people of Israel.

Passover is pivotal for several points, but the old testament model of the passover to the fiftieth day are for a purpose.

Before I get into what I really want to express, let me build up to it, if you will indulge me.


Leviticus 23:15-16
And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.


Seven Sabbaths are seven weeks, or seven sevens. There is a spiritual significance to that, but for now let’s looks at the seven weeks which is 49 days.

The “morrow” of the seventh sabbath is 50 days.

I won’t pretend to understand the Jewish calendar, or the significances of each of the feasts.

But, in relation to the passover through Pentecost, there is a period of reflection to which we as believers can take our part.

Exodus 19:1 tells us…


“…In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai…”


There literally are 50 days that can be placed in those three months. It tells us…


“…In the third month…”


It does not say, “three months later”, but in the third month.

We know that Exodus 12 tells us that God told Moses, that on the 10th day they would choose a lamb and keep it up, or separate until the 14th day. On the 14th day, they were to kill it, take the blood and put it on the door posts and overhead board of the door, they were to roast the lamb and eat it in the night.

There is a ton more things to say about that event, but it would digress from where I am going.


Exodus 19 paints us a picture of the very first time that God is about to speak to the people. He has given Moses instruction to give to the people to prepare for this moment.

It is my personal thought that the 3rd day will be the fiftieth day since they left Egypt.

I believe this is significant, because Exodus 20 shows us God’s effort to speak with the people himself.

He gives them the 10 commandments this day.

I have not seen that it actually was 50 days since, just that it is the 3rd month since they left Egypt.

In chapter 20, if you read, you will observe that Moses understood what God was saying, but the people were terrified. They saw lightning and smoke, they heard thunder and trumpet sounds.

They could not hear God, but told Moses that they would hear him (Moses), but that he should speak to God and God to him for them.

It was not a failed attempt, at least not the way I see it. God made his point to Israel, that he is real, and that he is near.

They had to see as much of his glory as they could, and should have been able to remember this event, and be shaken for a lifetime. But, if you keep reading the following chapters, you will see a people who forgot this day, and forgot Moses, and made an idol to worship.

Again, I won’t go into specifics.

That day is a day to remember. God gave them a specific day to set apart 50 days after the passover, I think it was meant to remind them of that day in Sinai at the mountain when they saw a fragment of God (what I think is =$0.02, this one’s for free).

The word Pentecost is mentioned only three times in the bible, and they are all in the new testament.

It is significant enough of an event for the church to take stock in it, though much of the church thinks little of it.

This year, the anniversary of Pentecost is May 23, it will be past by the time of this post, but some of the church will hold to it and reflect on that day when the church was born in the book of Acts chapter 2.


“…And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place…”


Again, pentecost is the 50th day.

In Acts 1:3, Luke writes that Jesus had been with them and had shown himself to them for forty days after his death.

The purpose was to show himself alive.

My thought is that if he had come back to life and gone to heaven without a witness, there would be no church. Also, if they had seen him only once or twice, they might have questioned themselves, whether he actually did come back to life, and maybe he was a ghost and not flesh and blood.

The mind of a man is a fickle thing, he believes now, but later maybe not (John 20:29).

They spoke with him, they ate with him and the walked with him after his resurrection. They spent 40 days with him, more than enough time to lock it in. (Read Luke 24; John 20, & 21).


Acts 2:2-4
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.


Have you ever heard of a Pentecostal? They are a group of the church who freely worship in speaking in tongues; other languages.

I was a member of a Pentecostal church for many years, I also speak in tongues from time to time. I have since left the Pentecostal church for personal reasons. If I had to label myself, I would still be Pentecostal. I am non-denominational, which means there really can be no label to identify as a church.

This chapter of Acts is the birth of the church.

Luke writes…


“…they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance…”


There is a division among the protestant denominations, as though speaking in tongues is, or should not be part of the church identity.

I don’t really think it identifies the church, as much as it identifies those who are filled with the Spirit.

Luke said…


“…the Spirit gave them utterance…”


Speaking in tongues is activated by the Spirit of God in those who speak in other tongues.

We do not understand the words that we are saying, only that the Holy Spirit has made a tool available to our spirit as we pray which lets us freely pour out from our spirit, as he (the Holy Spirit) prays to God through us, since he knows the depths of our hearts (Romans 8:26).

I could go on about the tools available to the church, as much as gifts of the Spirit are within the church, but I think it would draw us from pentecost.

I believe that the events of the morning of Pentecost was to give the church a new level of ministry, authority, and motivation. It was something not seen corporately (as a body of believers) since way back in the old testament in 1 Samuel 10:9-10.

Pentecost day is a day for the church to celebrate in memorial. It should remind us that as people alone without the Spirit of God to move us we could not fill or fulfill a ministry.

Some of the benefits of being filled with the Spirit of God, are boldness to speak the word of God without shame, or fear; we are lead by the Holy Spirit in the direction he sees we must move in ministry.

You would need to read 1 Corinthians 12 to get a more defined purpose of the believer as led by the Holy Spirit.

All to say that we are not able to affect the change in a person’s life for eternal purpose without the Holy Spirit.

Today, there are not many churches that recognize the events of Pentecost as a pivotal point for the church. Not many churches remember or recite the events of the church in the book of acts as something that should still be current in the church today.

Without pentecost, there would be no church. Movements, like the kingdoms of men come and go, and fade away with the passing of time.

Pentecost has forever settled the presence of the church in the world, especially when the church is on trial and persecuted.

I would not be surprised if our sister churches in the rest of the world have experienced a pentecost of their own.

It would not be unlike the Holy Spirit to give them a fresh anointing, for the Word of God and for boldness; tenacity; an uncontainability of the fire that the church should be.

How about your Pentecost. I believe it should be personal as well as corporate.

It was called “filled with the Holy Ghost”, also called baptized in the Holy Ghost.

Though it happened to them in a corporate setting, it was also personal to each of them, as it is for us today.


Acts 19:2
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.


The standard in the church today is first to receive Christ as Lord and savior, and 2nd to be water baptized. But it seems that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is more like an option than a requirement.

Yes, you can be “saved” without being filled by the Holy Spirit, but it is like being a baby in Christ indefinitely. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an equipping for the ministry of the Word of God, it’s like you have a live in teacher.

For most people who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, it usually comes after years of being in the church, though there are some who are baptized in the Holy Spirit when they accept Jesus as Lord and savior.

Is there a formula, is there a set of things to do before the baptism comes?
No; not anything that does not first begin with a desire to go deeper with the Lord.

My personal testimony about my baptism in the Holy Spirit is like this:

At about the age of 23, I met the Lord for the first time. I had been married to a Pentecostal girl, who’s dad was a pastor of a Pentecostal church. I was a sceptic about those things, still, I did not understand.

I knew she was Pentecostal when we met, but I dove in head first. I thought I was a believer when we met (though I did believe, I just did not know the Lord), but at the age of 23 I did meet the Lord.

I was not filled with the Holy Spirit at that point, not until a few years later. At 25, I decided that I wanted to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. I spent half of that year praying for the baptism, but I was still sceptical.

January 1, I committed to seek the Lord for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I prayed and started reading my bible for the specific purpose of the baptism, I was not concerned how long it was going to take.

Later, in February our church had a revival. At the end of the week of revival, the evangelist told us (the church), to begin praying for the church building. We all got up from our seats and laid hands on the pews, the walls and the doors.

I felt like that was a little out of place, but I obeyed.

Then he asked if anyone needed prayer, or had a specific need.

It was like I was watching myself when I began to walk up to the front, I told him that I needed the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He then called for the elders of the church to come lay hands on me.

He told me to start praying with my voice and words I understood.

You need to understand, that for many years since about 11 years old, I stuttered. I would start to speak and I would stutter, but it was not a heavy stutter, but enough to make me take a breath and regather my thoughts.

So, while I was praying, I felt like I started to stutter, I tried to catch myself, but it just moved freely, before I knew it, I was on the floor laying on my back, my arms up and just speaking in tongues.

It was the most free experience of my life. I still did not understand, nor did I know what I was saying, I still don’t know what the words are when I speak in tongues.

But, it wasn’t until some time later, that I realized that my baptism took place the night of February 19; it was 50 days since I committed to seek the Lord.

You don’t have to wait 50 days, but for me, it was very defining.

__________

Maybe you question the validity of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I was a sceptic, as I just said. I grew up in a denomination (I won’t say), where the idea of speaking in tongues was not endorsed.

Maybe you have never been to a church where the people spoke in tongues freely.

When I was about 17-18 years old I went with a friend of mine to a Pentecostal church. He was there to see the girls, and I guess I was too.

What I saw when the people were in worship made me wonder if this was of God. Short of climbing the walls and hanging from the rafters, they were shaking, speaking loudly, some rolling on the floor (hence: holy rollers). I was in shock. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

But I did not understand.

The reality of worshipping in the Spirit is a very true experience. I believe that God accepts this kind of worship. Let him be the judge of their intent, and motives, it’s for him anyway.


John 4:23-24
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.


I won’t go into the scene here, but you should read it, I love this chapter.

One of the most interesting things about worship is that we don’t do it because it’s expected, we do it because we’re moved.

What happened at Pentecost was because God saw their desire to reach him. They only knew Jesus, and had accepted that he is God the Son. The full knowledge of God surely was not known to them, but perhaps it was, most of the church still cannot dial in to who God is.

Jesus said…


“…God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth…”


What does this mean?

To worship God in spirit requires a depth of separation: your spirit from your natural senses.

Our bodies are fitted with senses, five to be exact: touch, sight, audio, smell, taste. We also have a slew of feelings and emotions. We are also made in three parts: body, soul, and spirit.

In our own spirit, we have the ability to engage with the Holy Spirit, and some of our emotions can be engaged as well.

How do you filter through who and what you are to be able to engage with God?

Desire is the primary thing. Knowing the differences between what you can see in the natural sense, and being able to see beyond your natural sight. How does a blind person connect?

Put aside the natural touch, and reach out to him with your arms like a child needing to be held, and loved.

Our bodies are not capable of reaching God, it is a tool for this world, it’s like being the driver of your car, your body is only a vehicle.

Your Pentecost will give you the means to reach out further than you ever could.
That’s not to say that people without a pentecost cannot worship God in spirit, God will still meet them.

Spiritual worship is more about being able to connect with God, knowing that he has met with you, knowing the satisfaction that only he can give.

You can ask him. The people in Acts 2 were told that they would be given power, but to wait on the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:3-8).

Ask him, expecting (James 1:5-6).

He’s waiting for your expectation

__________


“…The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace…”
Numbers 6:24-26


Pedro Villarreal

Burn The Ships

Luke 9:62
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

From verses 57-62, there are people who basically ask what it takes to follow him.

Some people want to live the best part of their lives before a life of going to church for the rest of it. Others want to experiment with the church life before they fully commit. And, still some want to throw in the towel when it gets too tough.

In a post written by Lee Kemp, September 22, 2007, “Burn the Ships”, as a motivational secret to success, Lee writes about Hernando Cortez in 1519, and the way he motivated the conquistadors to push forward with nothing left to fall back to.

He writes about the intention of taking on the Aztecs, and taking their treasures for themselves. It’s the idea to burn the ships; their way back the way they came.

For the whole story, go check out his post:
http://successsecretsatkempskorner.blogspot.com/2007/09/burn-ships.html?m=1

Songs have been written, a few being, one from “For King and County”, and one from “Steven Curtis Chapman”

“Burning the Ships” took on a life of it’s own. What was meant to motivate his men to full commitment was carried forward to give courage and a sense of commitment to any and every form of purpose.

What is your purpose?
__________

Jesus said…

“…No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God…”

It seems pretty harsh, but the reality is a matter of intention, more than a thing to do.

My father in law had been a farmer before he went into the ministry. His view of this verse gave context to the way his rows came out straight when plowing the field for planting.

He would talk about how straight they were, and the way that it mattered about true focus, and not looking back.

Jesus does not only speak of plowing (plough) or making straight rows as a matter of how it should be done, but as a parable about a spiritual life.

What we have always known and done always seems easier.

I saw a sign the other day, that read…

“…Change is inevitable, growth is optional…”

Change comes often, growing either in business or personal growth is up to you.

1 Kings 19:21
And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.

Verses 16-21 introduces Elisha to us. If you have ever heard of Elijah, you will remember Elisha as his student. Elisha was as much notable as Elijah.

God told Elijah to anoint Elisha to take his place as prophet. When he passed by Elisha he put his own mantle on him.

Elisha was working in the field with twelve yoke (24) of oxen. Apparently, Elisha had to stop the oxen to work with the twelfth pair. That was when Elijah passed by him.

Elijah put his cloak on Elisha, it was apparent to Elisha that he was called to ministry. Elisha did not wrestle with the notion, but understood the gravity of the gesture. He understood that there would be no returning to this life, but to follow the call on his life, for the duration of his life.

So, Elisha went back, and butchered a yoke of oxen, and gave his family and friends a goodbye meal, and went after the prophet.

Today, there may be this kind of a calling on a person’s life. For most of us, there is a sense of internal evidence that leads us to follow Christ.

But in reality, what kind of tenacity does it take to follow him in good times and hard times; through trial and persecution like what threatens you physically?

What does resolve look like when the whole world moves in one direction, but you know deep in your heart that it’s not the way to life, but death?

There are very many stories of men and women, who gave all they were to follow Jesus in the face of persecution and death.

The “Voice of the Martyrs” publication has been giving us news of the persecuted church for about 60 years. They tell of the underground church in all parts of the world, where to follow Christ means you will probably have to die for Christ.

I was recently told about a hymn called “I have decided to follow Jesus”.

I won’t go into great detail, except to say, that the kind of faith it takes to follow Jesus, in the face of the death of your family as well as your own for the testimony of Jesus Christ, takes more than a timid christianity, but a tenacity of faith; to hold on through faith in Jesus Christ.

Please see the following link:

https://renewaljournal.com/2017/11/29/the-true-story-behind-the-song-i-have-decided-to-follow-jesus/

When, to follow Christ becomes a choice to live or die, what will your answer look like?

Persecution is synonymous with true Christianity. In the world where the gospel is hated by governments, the reality of faith in Christ comes with violence.

Let believers know that to follow Jesus requires a no turning back, and a losing what is behind expectation.

Philippians 3:7-8
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…

What a statement; for Paul, the ultimate sacrifice.

B.C., Paul was set up for prominence. A young dedicated pharisee, taught by the most respected teacher of their time.

Paul’s was a life of Roman citizenship by birth, and with that he literally knew the front of the line.

Paul had impeccable credentials, as well as the envy of his peers.

But that was before Christ.

Paul has given us much insight in the scriptures; knowledge that being alive in Christ we are dead to the world. The knowledge that the former life is grounded in the constructs of this world, allowing us to part ways with it calling it the “old man” (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9)

Every accolade which Paul could claim, every pomp and circumstance will carry significance in a man’s world, but in God’s eyes it is ultra insignificant.

I am only trying to express the way that a man sees; God does not see the way we do.

God’s respect is the only thing that matters. Even the respect of man has limits. Consider that you can please some of the people some of the time, and never all of the people any time.

Being that guy is false. That guy does not have a strong character.

Not like Paul, who gave up all of his personal worldly value of himself to take up Christ.

Philippians 3:13-14
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.

“The Mark”, your objective, your goal; what is it?

Paul tells us of something as though it is within reach, but in fairness, it takes tenacity.

It’s ok that we do not have all of the answers at this time, we have been given enough to stake our claim.

It will take you understanding that this walk is not for the weary of heart, or for the ones who just want to try it out; see what comes of it?

Again, in fairness, it is answering the call, not making the call. You know that you know your calling. If it’s a question, or lack of being positive then it has not yet called you.

But you probably have already been called, maybe you denied it before, don’t deny it again.

1 Peter 1:13
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ…

“…gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end…”

To gird up, is a phrase that advises a readiness, or being prepared. It calls for a looking out, as if to expect some kind of event.

At this scripture, the expectation is the return of Christ for his church; for you.

The direction is forward, the finish. Behind, there is no expectation, but the experience of those things which we either failed in, or the things that brought us to Christ. Besides, you cannot live in past victories.

There is also an expectation of trial. He says…

“…hope to the end…”

Girding up your mind, is making up your mind. Make up your mind to endure at all costs.

Better an expectation of trial, than a wishing it does not happen. Because, if or when it comes, will you stand your ground?

It’s like knowing that you will pass through a gauntlet, but knowing that the reward is after.

When you read 1 Peter chapter 1, you will see that the direction is forward. Peter does remind us of the past, but builds on the point that the gospel of Jesus has been a light, even for the old testament prophets who understood that there was something better coming, and even angels desire to look into these things.

Now, the gospel is ours, yours, and all people whom will cling to it.

The gospel began 2000 years ago, as we know it, but it is current, and it is future as well as eternal.

John writes in…

1 John 2:24
Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.

“That” is the gospel of Jesus; “that” is the Word of God which was spoken in your spirit by the Spirit of God.

“…If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father…”

Let “that” remain. What remains is that which endures in the face of trial, struggle, or tension. Nothing matters more than personal security, how about spiritual security?

Our problem is that we can only see the moment we are currently in. This is why we settle for the little that we gain, not knowing the greater prize after all.

What is life, if it is only for here and now? No! life is eternal regardless of your destination: heaven or hell. Don’t give in to the temporal gift, don’t accept a cheap trinket. Better the greater cost, than the lesser pain.

Time to take up the cross of Christ.

Luke 9:23
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

From verses 23-26, Jesus speaks about what it takes to follow him, and he speaks about choosing to live your life and lose it, or choosing to lose your life for his sake, and save it.

Again; it’s either the trinkets now, or the eternal blessing. And, again; it is only for the called.

I would really love to say that everyone makes it, and I hope they do. But the reality of what it takes to stand in the face of persecution is something that denies your own self preservation.

Why does Jesus even mention the cross? Why does Jesus even want to prepare a people for trial if it never comes to them?

Jesus knew that his Word would be rejected by the world. He knew that his followers would be persecuted.

So, how do the persecuted hold on to Christ and make the decision to follow Jesus in persecution?

I believe it’s the knowledge that this life is temporal; being able to wrap your mind around the prospect that there is more to life than the mere 80-90 years which some will have.

It’s the concept that God judges sin, and that he has provided a zone of safety for all who believe, and it’s in Christ.

It is knowing the deep personal love of God for you, understanding the price he paid; the lengths he went to, to be able to save your soul.

Your soul belongs to him, it is a part of him as he breathed life into Adam, and Adam became a living soul. It’s God’s breath of life, and he wants it back with all of your uniqueness.

But it is up to you, first to understand the price for you to pay, and to be able to choose to accept whatever comes. Second, to know that you love him more than your own life.

God loves you, he would rather that you knew and that you expect it, than to let you go on living your life unexpected, unsuspecting the trials that should come.

Life is good, Jesus offers eternal life in place of this temporal life, but he is expecting that you will burn the ships, find no reason to return to the old life.

Burn the Ships

__________

“…The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace…”
Numbers 6:24-26

Pedro Villarreal

What Yet Do I Lack?

Matthew 19:21
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

Completion? Perfection? Wholeness?

From vs 16-22 we meet a young man who literally had it all, but still wanted, needed more.

What are the efforts of men like; to have all their heart’s desire, and still be empty of that thing that matters most?

The heart is insatiable, but at the same time it is full. The heart of man is made by God for himself; yet the entire time, it is man whom reaches in futile effort to satisfy himself again and again.

Everything we do leaves evidence that we still have not come close to know what it takes to have true inner peace.

This is because deep in each of us, our own mortality is insecure. The here and now may seem like we have some control of what happens, but our death is out of our hands entirely.

The question of heaven or not is a very real concern, and how to achieve it is a mystery to those who still do not accept the answer of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice.

__________

This scripture has at least two more points to make, but let us focus on the matter of being complete.

“The rich young ruler” was a man of means and prominence. His actual name is unknown. The question he asked is the very stuff of every person’s deepest need to know.

Peace; not the absence of war, violence, or struggle, but inner peace: peace with God, peace with eternity, peace from the choices we have made.

Life; eternal, unending, and expected or unexpected. Deep in each of us there is the question of life after death, a question that even an atheist will have.

Other cultures know terms of after life, or reincarnation. They accept that this temporal life is not enough to their existence.

There literally is something missing.

Matthew 19:20
The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

As I stated, a bit ago, you can read from verse 16 to know what this conversation is about.

This young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus replied that he should obey the commandments, and named some of them. This gave the young man an answer, but still was not satisfied, so he asked…

“…what lack I yet?..”

Jesus said…

“…if thou wilt be perfect…”

It is more a word of being complete, or finished, than a word of being perfect as we consider perfection – without flaws.

This young man understood that there is still something he needed to be whole.

As a young man, my own concerns about how God saw me or judged me was a very real fear.

I knew, even growing up in a church with a doctrine of once saved always saved, that I was incomplete.

I participated in baptism, Sunday school, church choir, and even taught Sunday school and directed music. I gave the appearance of being saved, with no true inner peace in myself.

My fear of God was dread. I spent much of my later youth in search of a peace with which I could be comfortable with.

It didn’t really help, not until I was in a place where I could hear him, but it was more the peace he brought to me, and the knowledge that he loved me deeply.

I sincerely believe that each of us has that draw to know God. It’s the lack of exposure to God and his Word that keeps us in the dark about who God is and the internal evidence (1 John  2:27; Ephesians 1:13-14) of eternal life.

The first clue is to know who God is.

Acts 17:23
For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

Athens, Greece circa AD 60

The usual things people think of in respect to Athens and the time period, is the polytheistic mindset of the world, and the names of those gods whom they worshipped.

Paul noted to them that there were altars for all of their devotions. Some worshipped Zeus, others might have worshipped Athena, Mars or any god they were devoted to: the gods of Greece.

Paul could not let this opportunity pass. It was clearly evident to him that they were not satisfied with all of their different altars or gods.

They (Athenians) were not content with the gods whom they recognized, they knew that there must be someone else; there must be another god, they just did not know who he was or what his strength was.

It is the same in all of the world where man has marked his own internal quest to know God or a god, with the intention of devotion.

Throughout Israel’s history, they met up with enemies who touted the strength of their gods over the God of Israel.

Then there was the effect of influence which Israel accepted of the foreign gods.

Solomon was probably the worst, having some seven hundred wives and the hundred concubines, all for which he spent Israel’s money building shrines and altars for, and bowing down with them (his women) as well.

Israel even made an idol of the golden serpent which God told Moses to make (2 Kings 18:4 [Numbers 21:1-9]).

There are legends of Norse gods, Egyptian gods, the Hindu, and nearly any religion. The indigenous people of America knew of the great spirit. Then there are the Mayan people, and Aztec.

Wherever there is devotion to gods, idols or altars; sacrifices, be it animal or human, there is knowledge of a god.

Deep inside humanity there is that desire to appease God; but how to appease him is a mystery to all. This is because they still do not know who he is.

It is still evident in mankind, especially with comic books of heroes and villains of all sorts. Today, it’s a form of entertainment, at least to most, but possibly worship for some.

Whatever that reach looks like, it seems to manifest itself because deep in the heart of man there is something lacking to be whole or complete, and we know it.

Paul said…

“…Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you…”

Ignorance is not a word of stupidity, it’s a word of lack of knowledge. On their part it is just not knowing who he is, just that he is. How to know him is the point.

It is the same today. People know him, and accept that he is God. It’s the limited way that they know him that they still are out of reach. They speak of him in general terms calling him “the big man upstairs”.

But they know.

Acts 17:27
That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us…

It is evident that man feels God. Connecting is the question.

Paul gave a brief description of all of mankind, scattered throughout the world being given their lands and borders, all of which (men) are made of one blood. That’s right, all of humanity is a brotherhood. And God is our Creator.

God is invisible to our natural eyes, but he has always been close by.

Romans 1:23
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Romans 1:18-23 is Paul’s witness, or observation of mankind and their effort to take hold of God.

This chapter holds some pretty volatile thoughts, depending on where you’re standing.

But here is Romans 1:18-23, Paul does tell us that man knows that God is close by. This is why they make idols and figures to worship.

The form of God is an interest to man. That’s because man is tangible, textile and sensual (of 5 senses). He needs to be able to quantifiably identify God.

This is why man has always had some form of idolatry.

Find some time to read:
Psalm 19:1-6
Isaiah 40:26, 28
Jeremiah 10:10-13

God has made himself evident.

His desire is that men recognize their own emptiness and seek him with their heart, not their hands.

There is a whole lesson we could pursue here, as to why some of God’s 10 commandments actually says…

“…Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me…”
Exodus 20:3-5

“…Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold…”
Exodus 20:23

…and if I pursue that lesson at this time, it will become extremely long.

But my point here is that it takes feeling for him with the heart as a better tool, than to feel him with your hands, or even with your eyes.

God is not an idol, or a trinket to devote yourself to.

He’s not even a list of rules of do’s and don’ts to obey. The first thing to know is to know him.

When it comes to the commandments, there was not a more knowledgeable group than the Jews.

They knew the laws backwards and forwards.

But they stopped at only that.

Romans 10:2-3
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

In their defense, being immersed in the doctrines of the law, they were not open to the righteousness of God apart from the law.

To their understanding, it was in their effort to work out a righteousnesses to please God.

The lack of their righteousness in observation of the law was blindness to the effect of the law. The law assigned was God’s Word to them that they could not ever achieve righteousness on their own (Romans 3:9-20; Isaiah 64:6), because by the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).

Paul said…

“…they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge…”

Paul knows where of he speaks, being also a pharisee in his life before Christ (Philippians 3:4-6).

Zeal is devotion, worship, but it is an eagerness, or a drive in that direction.

They wore the right clothes, they wore a box-like item which held scriptures, and they hung around together apart from the common folk.

None of that meant that they knew God. God was lost on them.

They were not willing to accept the righteousness that comes apart from the law, they were ignorant to it, meaning that they only knew what they only knew, and it was in the law.

We can get so caught up in our rites and ceremonies, that we forget who God is. We can be faithful to attend our church, and even volunteer in the ministries available, and still lose sight of God.

I believe it is in our effort to seek the Lord, in study, in prayer, and in service. Service alone is incomplete.

Why do we serve? Why do we attend church services? Isn’t there a devotion to be had, to know God and to be known of God?

What else is there?

What yet do we lack?

Jesus said…

“…If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me…”

“…if you will be complete…”

“…if you will be whole…”

The first thing to know is that you are still missing something; that there is an emptiness in you to some degree.

Can you say that you know God, and that he IS your God, do you KNOW this, or do you still question this?

Questions are good, they bring you in search of the answer. Only, where do you look for that answer?

God loves you, he is jealous for your devotion, your attention, your love.

He made you for himself. That empty place you are trying to fill, he made for himself, but will not fill it without your invitation, even though he is God he will still respect your choice.
__________

“…The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace…”
Numbers 6:24-26

Pedro Villarreal

Persecution of the Church

Matthew 11:12
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.


Matthew 11:1-15 is Christ’s testimony of John (the) baptist.

John was not your typical man, his life was purposed before birth to declare the coming of Christ.

Your typical man usually has his own aspirations and goals. John’s goal was to complete the ministry committed to him since before birth.

The coming of Christ in the days of Jesus was surely not evident to the people of scriptural education, they were not looking for a meek, humble man, but of influence, and of strong presence.

They conceded that the miracles which he did were evidence that God was with him (John 3:2).

John (the) baptist had both the spiritual calling (Luke 1:13-17; John 1:22-23) and the proof (John 1:29-37), that Jesus was Christ, but even John needed to be verified yet again.

Here in Matthew 11, John had sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one that should come, or do we look for another.

Jesus did not say “Yes, I am”, Jesus quoted scripture to those men, and told them to tell John what they have seen.

John surely would have known that the scriptures were evidence of the Messiah as well as the signs, double proof.

John was in prison at this time. He was needing to be steadied in his faith. Yes, John was a man, but he was also full of the Holy Spirit.

Even those who know their calling will question their walk. Questions are good, they lend support for your foundation. If your questions come back with answers to shake your faith, then you must take hold of scripture and fill in the cracks.

Your faith will be challenged; better that you challenge it first.

I have come through years of study. I no longer stand in the original doctrine I came up in, but that doctrine is both foundational for me, as well as built upon. I have not cast it away completely as I have reinforced it.

Over the years I have brought in new doctrine and put away some of the former doctrine.

That is to say, I have challenged what I believe, because it has to be my anchor through life.

What about your faith?

Jesus said…


“…from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force…”


There are two parts to this violence:
A) the violence of persecution
B) the violence to hold on for dear life.

The violence of persecution (A) is not very evident in democratic nations, but in communist nations, as well as Muslim nations, christianity is persecuted. Their churches have underground meetings or private knowledge gatherings.

Boldness in christianity is met with fierce attack; mutilations, starvation, and killings. If they are allowed to continue, they are considered below human value, and are third world citizens.

The violence; tenacity, aggressiveness to hold on for dear life (B) is resolute in each heart even in the face of death. Those who “take it by force” accept the violence.

I think that the majority of us (believers) will consistently walk in faith, so much as there is no resistance, but in the face of resistance will we be resolute?

“…the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence…”, This is the attack on the church;

And, “…the violent take it by force…” is the reaction of those who will die for it.


Hebrews 12:4
Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.


You will need to read chapter 11:32 on through 12:4

Much of the history of the church has been filled with violence. From the days of christians executed in the Roman coliseums, by gladiators and lions, on through history with the burning at the stake of men like William Tyndale, Jan Hus (John Huss), and John Wycliffe, who’s body was burned after death along with his writings (wikipedia).

The resistance to the gospel and the church has long been a threat to believers. It’s just that here in America, our freedom to worship has virtually no cost.

But when persecution comes to a no-cost religion, will that religion persist?

Christianity at its core is not a religion, it’s not just a relationship either. I like the word “fellowship”, but in the perspective of an established church, it acts more like a social establishment.

The author of the book of Hebrews gives a visual of some of the ways that those righteous people were killed, as well as leading into the way Jesus endured the torture and crucifixion, saying that (to a degree)…


“…Ye have not yet resisted unto blood…”


Basically, your life is the evidence of what your struggle against sin looks like. You have not yet laid down your life for it.

But if it’s just a matter of blood, then take a look at this…


Acts 16:33
And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.


In Acts 16:16-33, we see the Apostle Paul and Silas who were beaten and thrown in jail for casting a divining spirit out of a woman whom was a slave making money for her masters.

Her masters, seeing the loss of their income stirred up the people against Paul. It came up to the city officials whom commanded that Paul and Silas be beaten and thrown in jail.

It would have gotten any one else down. But I’m convinced that something like this only strengthened Paul’s resolve. I mean, listen, a woman bound in demonic power was just liberated. She was free, and Paul paid that price.

Paul paid prices like that often.

In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul writes of his many struggles throughout his ministry. Not many can say that their struggles are identical to Paul’s.

When you read Acts 16, you will see that when in jail, Paul was not silent. Paul and Silas worshipped God and sang. The jail was rocked with an earthquake and all the prison doors were open. Not one prisoner escaped, they were all captivated by Paul and the way God moved.

The jailer seeing the prison doors open, resigned himself that the prisoners were gone, was about to kill himself, but Paul stopped him, and told him they were all still there.

This affected the jailer, he committed himself to the Lord that night, and brought in Paul and Silas to clean their wounds.

There is something about persecution that lights a fire under the believer.


Acts 5:41
And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.


Acts chapter 5 highlights some of the great miracles which began to move the church in the power and Spirit of God.

It was so much of an attraction to the common people of Israel, that they were drawn to the apostles. It was like Jesus was still there, but amplified.

Jesus was such a charismatic person to them that they came looking for the spectacular miracles which he did. (We could literally start a completely new lesson about the power of God, and it would take some time, but) When the apostles worked these new miracles, they came in droves.

This was either a point of envy or fear for the establish religious leadership. They sent soldiers to bring in the apostles. I would think it was Peter and John or James, but it was not specific. I would think that all of the apostles were working in this power.

They were locked up in the jail awaiting a hearing on the next day. But in the night, an angel came in and opened the prison door for them, and told them to go back and preach about this new life.

The next day, the authorities sent for them, and hearing that they were not in jail, but preaching again as the day before, they went and brought them back again.

To the point:
They were beaten and commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus again.

The apostles were not shaken, they were invigorated, it’s as if they were overflowing with a joy and gratitude to be chosen by God for that time in history.

How would we react? Or would we retreat and have us a good old fashioned pity party?

Not the apostles, and not today’s persecuted church in all parts of the world where the gospel is withstood by governments and all authority.

I’ve heard testimony where those in persecution ask for Americans not to pray for their peace and safety, because for them, it’s what fuels their church.


2 Timothy 3:12
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.


In 2 Timothy 3, Paul gives us a glimpse of what will come of the church in the last days.

The “church” will experience a sort of breakdown, or fall of sorts.

Please, stop reading here, and go back to read 2 Timothy chapter 3.

_________


It’s not like there haven’t always been those kind of people in the world, so why would Paul bother telling us that there will be people who love themselves more than God, or even traitorous, high minded, and disobedient to parents?

But it’s in…


“…Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away…”
vs 5


Why would the world even try to imitate the church, to have a form of godliness?

Paul is telling us that this is the outcome of what the church will look like in the last days, our days.

Sure, church today looks like what we think it should look like, but do we really see the power of God moving like it did in the book of acts?

Are our children drawn to the Lord in the way we worship, or are they dissatisfied with church altogether, having no interest in the form we call church?

The the Word of God speaks primarily to the church. It’s the bulletin board of all things spiritual. The world looks at the bible and thinks of the do’s and don’ts. It doesn’t, can’t actually speak to them beyond the practical applications.

Paul tells us that in the last days, perilous times shall come; terrible, difficult, grievous, hard times.

This was not the condition of the church in his time, but the world did resist the gospel of Paul. Paul tells us of some of his trial.

We believe that most of the resistance which he met was because, the gospel is good news, but it challenges the way of the world’s structure; it upsets the way it’s always been.

But most of all, the gospel transforms civilization. With the common way of idolatry, and the cultures of the world, the gospel lights up its destructive tendencies. People love their culture, and traditions

Godliness is a threat to their culture. As it is today, conservativism as opposed to liberalism will clash. Godliness calls for society to direct their affection to God. But, it’s not the puppet type of order that God is looking for, he is looking for the affection of the heart.

This is why the general position of the world is opposed, their heart, or affection has not been converted to know the way of God.

To them, we want to take away all of the things that bring them satisfaction. They truly don’t know that God has something better for them. Our effort to bring them that knowledge or experience is a threat to them.

Keep the faith, be bold.

Believer, remember the trial of our Lord and savior. His work for us cost him everything.


Hebrews 12:2-3
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.


It takes courage to endure.

We could say that if Jesus knew he would go through this trial and suffering, being tortured and crucified, then we can know that it is something we also should expect.

Who wants to have pain? Who would look for it? It is sensible, that the comfort of our body is primary, but the cross of Christ is also meant for us.
__________

There is still so much we could say about this, but let me leave you with some scriptures that tell us to expect that persecution belongs to the church

***

Romans 8:17
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Philippians 1:29
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…

1 Thessalonians 3:4
For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.

2 Thessalonians 1:5
Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer…

2 Timothy 2:12
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us…

Hebrews 13:3
Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

***

Not for fear, but in preparation of that time, be ware, and be aware.


“…The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace…”
Numbers 6:24-26


Pedro Villarreal

The Appearing of the Kingdom

Luke 17:20-21
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

The expectation of Messiah, was that he will bring in the everlasting Kingdom, which would stamp out every enemy, bring down every stronghold and finally liberate Israel.

It seems that perception is actually nothing, because as far as the pharisees were concerned, Jesus did not meet the qualifications for Messiah.

Even the triumphal entry into Jerusalem the day he came riding in on a colt was perceived as that moment when Jesus would bring in his Kingdom.

As it turns out, Jesus, within days would be crucified and buried for dead.

Those who were paying attention would accept that he has been resurrected, and the Kingdom is now active. Those who still did not believe would not accept it, nor would they see the Kingdom.

The Kingdom is the church.

_____

Jesus had just healed 10 lepers, and only one returned to give thanks to him when he was demanded about the coming Kingdom.

Jesus said…

“…The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you…”

Observation is seeing it happen.

The perception of the coming Kingdom looked a lot like something of an invasion, but for their benefit.

They surely did not expect that the Kingdom was already there.

It was certainly lost on them that the Kingdom was here.  It sure did not look like they had been liberated.

Among them was the priesthood, and the Pharisee counsel, but there were also the common people; along with the lowest class of their people, also, at that time they were occupied by Rome: surely not!!!

The Kingdom was supposed to look like an invincible army, imposing and not to be trifled with.

How could they accept the words of Jesus when they had their own impressions of what that kingdom should look like?

As with any Word of God, it comes by revelation to have their eyes opened.

As a young believer, these words were lost on me. I did not understand that I was included in that “…within you…”

But, like the saying goes, “… Not seeing the forest for the trees…”, or, “…walking over dollars for a dime…”

The Kingdom is here, even on earth; where ever the believer(s) is (are), is the appearing of the Kingdom.

Daniel 2:44
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

Daniel chapter 2, tells of the dream that king Nebuchadnezzar had, was terrified by it, forgot it, and still was terrified by it.

I won’t go into extensive detail, you should read it.

Daniel prays that God will show the dream to him; he receives the dream and the interpretation.

Nebuchadnezzar had seen that there was a coming Kingdom which would stand forever.

Daniel said…

“…in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom…”

The dream showed that there was a succession of kings and kingdoms to follow his own, they lead up to the ultimate Kingdom.

The perception is that the Kingdom of God will come in like an invasion, but in reality, the kingdom was set up way before Nebuchadnezzar, even way before the kingdom of David (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

The reality of the Kingdom was only realized for the church in Acts chapter 2, but Jesus had seen it even before his crucifixion.

It was scriptures like this one in Daniel 2:44, that the perception is given rise to. No one would have expected someone as unassuming as Jesus to be that coming King.

Acts 1:6-7
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

Again, perception is nothing. Even his disciples were at a loss about the coming of the kingdom.

They were on the trail of understanding the Kingdom, but still had not arrived.

Jesus did not tell them that the Kingdom was within them, though it was, their question was more like, when will everything be accomplished.

How many people want to know the end of a book before they ever read through it?

The Kingdom had already begun. The disciples were to be the beginning of the building of this Kingdom, this is what they needed to know: the going through, not the end.

How often are we caught up looking ahead? It’s hard sometimes working through the week trying to get to the weekend for rest and distraction from the job.

But, for believers it’s not like looking for the end to come as much as for Jesus to come.

Until that time, the gospel is in our trust, it’s our responsibility.

Luke 16:16
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

“Every man presseth into it”

It’s something of an attraction. People whom have only heard will gain interest, while people whom are invited make every effort to come in.

Some translations say, that they enter eagerly, urgently, violently.

Which ever the case, the gospel has its own voice. The Spirit of God is the one to capture this in their hearts to draws them into interest, he is the inviter.

_____

Before the gospel, there was the law, and there was prophecy.

These are the leaping off point of the gospel.

The law showed man that it was not possible to please God. The law showed man what God’s expectation is for righteousness.

There were the endless sacrifices and burnt offerings, there was a consistent backsliding of Israel and her kings, and there was the constant bondage to other nations.

Then there were the prophets, who mostly spoke of God’s dissatisfaction with his people’s behavior and constant idolatry.

I believe that God’s effort to speak to the people was to bring to them the understanding that their hearts were short of goodness, they were reprehensible – deserving of judgment.

But then, the heart has always been at the root of the problem, hasn’t it (Jeremiah 17:9; Genesis 6:5).

This is why the gospel is good news.

Before, with the liberation of Israel from Egypt, God was not able to liberate their heart.

I think it’s not that he was not able, he only had to let history run its course to show man that his best efforts to obey the law would always come up short.

In fact, the heart and its passion, or direction – desire is all on the individual, God does not interfere with your choice.

To read Romans chapter 3, you will find that the law was given to declare to all men; Jews and Gentiles alike, that they (all the world) are judged guilty of sin.

As well as Romans chapter 7, which declare that the law gave understanding of what sin is.

This is why the gospel is good news. God has already done the work through Jesus.

Man coming to understand that the price has been paid, redemption available, and the acceptance of God has come, it gives man the urgency to come to the kingdom, running.

Many people will cling to the new testament, hoping in grace and mercy, because the old testament is rigid and unbending in the law.

But, without the presence of the law, could you really appreciate grace?  Without the understanding of the law, you might feel entitled to grace. Grace does not come because it has to, grace comes because of God’s mercy upon us whom cannot overcome the requirements of the law.

_____

It only seems that I got off on a tangent. This is why men press into, or urgently, eagerly seek to enter into the Kingdom of heaven, it’s because now the way is open.

Colossians 1:13
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son…

“Translated” is a word that speaks of being transferred or removed from one place to another.

I kind of get a “Star Trek” sense with the “transporter” tech – “beam me up Scotty”

It’s an exchange from a place of guilt and impending judgment, to a place of grace and mercy with the expectation of everlasting life – that’s the atmosphere of the Kingdom of his dear Son, Jesus.

I could get very detailed about the benefits of this “translated” experience.

I’ve written in past posts of baptism. There is water baptism which is a demonstration of the death of the old life, and the rise of the new life. But baptism also represents the way that the Holy Spirit has baptized us into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Before we come to Christ we are alone, separate from the Kingdom. We are citizens of mankind, but the Kingdom is a people of new creatures.

So effectively we were on the outside, with no clue to look in. Now on the inside, we know that God has provided us a place of safety (from judgment), and it is being baptized into Christ.

The appearing is first and foremost for the believer, the world only sees the motions of those who are believers, but not the actual Kingdom.

The observation of the coming Kingdom is elusive to the sight of the natural man, while the spiritual man knows his own inclusion.

One day (for another post, another time) the visual of the coming Kingdom will look like Jesus coming with the clouds of heaven. This does not mean that it is when the Kingdom will appear, that will be the time of the conquering Christ who comes like a lion in fierceness. He will do battle with the armies of men in that infamous Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-21).

That is the expectation of the Jews, but Jesus first had to come as the Lamb of God.

Are you eyes open? Do you recognize the Kingdom? Do you know your own inclusion?

If you know it, then the Kingdom has appeared to you.

One final thought

John 3:3-5
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

The point of this scripture is being born again.

Here in America, as well as in any nation, your citizenship is primarily dependant on your physical birth.

It is not unlike this same perspective. We are born into the Kingdom of God.

In this Kingdom, the is no immigration, and there is no naturalization. To see this Kingdom there is only one way, it is to be born (again) into it.

_____

“…The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace…”
Numbers 6:24-26

Pedro Villarreal

New Identity of the Church

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

For the longest time, this was my favorite verse in the whole bible. It spoke to me of the past being gone; of a new start with a blank slate. How many of us would like to start over?

In fact, this verse is a handoff from the previous verses that speak of the death of Christ in a “one for all, and all for one” kind of sense.

Further, Paul writes that because of the death of Christ, the past sin no longer apply, saying…

“…Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more…”
vs 16

“Know we no man after the flesh”, or in a worldly sense, as it was before we came to Christ.

Paul’s life B.C. was that of a student and teacher of the law of Moses. He was a pharisee. But more notoriously, he was a persecutor of the church with the intention to bring it down.

No one would be more relieved to know that than Paul (aka Saul).

But it wasn’t an escape for him, as much as it was a the illumination of the death of the former life.

Since Christ died for all, in his death he pulled down every man’s former life, whether mild sin, or reckless abandon.

From killers and thieves, people of the worst backgrounds, these are whom Jesus came for.

Most of us would probably stay clear of the “riff-raff” (so to speak), but even one of the greatest men ever to be admired was willing to take them in: David, before he was king (1 Samuel 22:2).

What is the past, but the past. God is not interested in holding our past against us. In fact the blood of Christ is to remove it and to separate it from us, leaving a new creature.

And, the new creature is to be unlike anything the world understands. Peter writes…

“…But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy…”
1 Pete 2:9-10

A peculiar people, oddities, even bizarre. As much as a worldly observation, there is, or should be a notable difference between the saved and unsaved (as of yet).

We are not of this world.

John 18:36
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

Aliens!

Yes, not like extraterrestrial, but the Kingdom of Christ, heaven on earth.

This verse actually is Christ’s response to Pilot, when he said that his own nation has delivered him into Pilot’s hand for crucifixion.

The mention of his Kingdom in tandem with it being not of this world, is the realization that much of the church still has to awake to.

The Jews had Jesus captured and handed over for crucifixion. Pilot’s mention of Jesus’s nation is Pilot’s estimation of a worldly man with worldly observation.

Jesus was in fact Jewish by birth. But the doctrines of Jewish teaching were a point of contention between Jesus and the Jewish rulers.

Jesus was more interested in the condition of a man’s heart than in the actual attempt of observing the laws (of Moses).

The mention of his Kingdom reflects that the Jews were not his Kingdom or nation. Now the bringing in of this new Kingdom is a calling to all whom will be born again into it.

Many believers still don’t know how to be the Kingdom of Christ because of their many worldly affections.

How does one actually acknowledge the Kingdom of Christ? Immersion! Become immersed in his Word, gain knowledge of his ways, and actions. Absorb him, and become absorbed by him.

Paul’s observation of the new creature is that everything in the past has passed away making new all things that remain.

So, what does the new creature look like?

He or she looks like everyone else. The difference in this new creature is the behavior or those things that separate them from worldly attachments, or draws.

Baptism into Christ is our nationalization.

Galatians 3:27-28
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

It takes acceptance to be able to be in this Kingdom. Racial divides are not an issue in Christ’s Kingdom. There is no social status in Christ’s Kingdom, bond and free are equally free in Christ.

The difficult one, especially in ministry, is the gender difference, whether male or female. But those who are of a spiritual mind and heart can look past those obvious differences.

It’s like suddenly we are all connected in fellowship and doctrine.

Those of an unspirtual attitude will have blinders about this. Many in the church still hold racial prejudice, and regard those of social status, while still disregarding those of little to no social status.

Not meant for shaming them who still do not see, because this kind of sight is about revelation; illumination; realization about the Kingdom.

Think about it, Jesus said…

“…By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another…”
John 13:35

Real love is unconditional. To be able to love the way God loves takes the Holy Spirit to produce it in us.

Understanding our ties to one another in the kingdom goes way beyond our physical appearance, or even our own personal identity.

The spiritual man is able to connect with the Spirit of God, and we are able to connect with one another in spirit.

Colossians 3:11
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

In terms of racial identity, Jesus was a Jew. He wasn’t a white man, and there is no black Jesus. He had no social standing in the community, his step dad was a carpenter, and not a wealthy man.

Although Jesus had the blood of royalty, because he is descended of king David, he did not put that on his resume, it was for God’s use for the Kingdom of Christ, a Kingdom to surpass and overtake all kingdoms.

Jesus did not pursue social status, it would have been a stumbling block to his purpose.

Now, whether we like it or not, when Paul says…

“…but Christ is all, and in all…”

“Christ is all”, looks like any believer, regardless of physical appearance. If you know any person, man or woman, any nationality, then you may be in contact with Jesus.

That’s not to say that Jesus is somehow taking over that person, but that that person has fully committed to knowing Jesus; his Word, his purpose, and his character.

“And in all”, is the presence of the church in all places.

Physically, Jesus is at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33; Acts 7:55; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22….).

Some of the differences to which Paul may have been referring to could be the highlights between the Jews and everyone else.

The Jews required signs to authenticate the call or ministries of God, while the Greeks needed wisdom of philosophy.

The Jews held circumcision as one of the most important of rituals to be clean, but the uncircumcised were considered unclean.

The Barbarian, and Scythian were people of languages unrecognizable, perhaps of rude speech (G915, G4618). It is also probable that they were people of little to no education.

In Christ, we are all included. It kind of lends to the idea of “the weakest link”, yet in Christ there is no weak link. We are all identified with each other in Christ.

For the Jews, it would have been an insult. Their pride is in the purity of blood from generation to generation. They can trace their family lines for thousands of years.

But there were and are Jews who come to Jesus, they accept Christ and everyone who comes with him.

***

Ephesians 2:11-17
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

***

Ephesians 2:11-17 is full of design. Paul writes that while we were separate, Christ pulled us together to make one new man.

If we were to continue this study, it would only say what I have said through this post. The new creature, the new man are God’s design for the Kingdom of Christ.

Acceptance of one another will be automatic, and it’s his Spirit that binds us together.

Still, there is much to say…

“…The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace…”
Numbers 6:24-26

Pedro Villarreal

Expansion of the Church

Acts 8:1-4
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

Chapter 8 follows on the heels of the stoning of Stephen, perhaps not right after, but the tension is building up between the Jews and those who believe in Jesus Christ.

In the previous chapters, we see that the new church is surging forward with boldness. It is a threat to the Jewish religion which has been established for about 2000 years at that point.

I don’t think I’ve seen just how much the assembly grew since chapter 2, but they surely have grown from more than 3000 initial believers.

If you remember, from my last post, that there were 3000 people who were added to the church in chapter 2, and then continuing scriptures show that God added daily such as should be saved.

The church was growing and surging. In chapter 7, a disciple, also appointed a deacon of the church, named Stephen was stoned to death because his words cut to the hearts of the men he was preaching to.

He was the first martyr of the church.

I really recommend that you read it

In chapter 8, we are told that devout men buried Stephen

But the focus of this chapter is the persecution of the church.

Saul was greatly affected by the spread of the church, that he was angered and incensed to the point of condemning those believers to death.

We know that Saul himself would later submit to Jesus Christ, but not until he was the agent of persecution.

His influence made the church to scatter from Jerusalem where the church was born.

If you remember in chapter 2, that those initial 3000 new believers were from among those from all over the known world, whom had been in Jerusalem since the passover, seven weeks before.

Now, these are among those which were scattered when the persecution begins.

It is written…

“…Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word…”

The book of acts was written by one man whom came on the scene after the birth of the church.

Luke was a doctor, he was not a Jew, but had much clarity of the Word of God, as well as being the author of the gospel of Luke.

That said, there could have been others to record the journeys and ministries of the expanding church, but Luke witnessed the beginning of the church, and at some point followed Paul in his journeys and ministry.

But, if we could have a record of the church as it grew from Jerusalem other than that of Paul’s experiences we might see how much greater the church became for the time.

The initial spread of the gospel went into regions of the land of Judah and Samaria, which is aka former Israel (long story).

I believe that the church went on farther than we might think.

Isaiah 43:18-21
Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.
This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

A short explanation of whom Samaria is, is that they are a people of mixed races of the people of Israel and foreign people introduced during the occupation of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

There was an obvious hostility held between the Jews and Samaritans.

One famous engagement can be found in John 4, where Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well.

I won’t go into it, but they knew of the coming Messiah. They held out, that one was coming to show them the way.

In any case, word and salvation finally did reach them.

In Luke 9:51-56, there was a moment that prevented Jesus from entering a city of Samaria, and the people refused him.

The notable disciples asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to consume them, but Jesus denied them, and good thing too, because…

“…Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did…”
Acts 8:5-6

Although the lost may reject Christ today, tomorrow may present a positive response.

The Samaritans received Christ after the gospel spreads into Samaria.

Isaiah wrote…

“…I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert…”

To read this portion of scripture, without a knowledge of clean and unclean animals, as compared to people of Gentile origin and not of Jewish, or of the circumcision, you might wonder why God is concerned about these wild animals.

Those lands are considered barren or unsuitable for civilized life. With no water source readily available, it will quickly be abandoned.

Yet, those creatures find a way to survive in those types of settings.

But God said…

“…now it shall spring forth…”

Like the well of water that Jesus spoke of in John 4:14, “…springing up into everlasting life…”

Try to imagine portable wells in the wilderness, just gushing water, and overflowing on to dry and thirsty land.

But that’s not really accurate. The true expression is that those wells are actually the sources of the overflowing rivers in the desert.

That’s who we are supposed to be.

We, whom are believers and full of the good news are the life source they have been dying to receive.

It’s like those creatures/people never really experienced living until that moment.

God is sending a life out into the wilderness to people who have never expected more out of life than the current moment.

Death is inevitable, and they accept it, though terrified, but the hope of life gives more than a new lease, more like the deed of ownership of new life.

Like learning to breath. Often a believer takes opportunity for personal revival, and those who come to the knowledge of salvation will drink it up like it’s going out of style.

Then, those people who were once in dire straits, become those wells of living waters in the wilderness.

John 7:38
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

Don’t try to imagine this in too much of a literal sense, because, it’s not the kind of water you drink from a cup, but yes it should flow freely from those who know his Word and his Spirit.

If you can wrap your mind around the idea of a circle in a bigger circle, and yet one more bigger circle; the smaller circle on the inside is your spirit, your heart, the core of you. The next bigger circle is your soul, your mind, your breath of life. The outside circle, the yet bigger circle is your body, that part of you that is the physical you.

Your core, or spirit is where you connect with the Spirit of God. This is who Jesus was talking about, whom would be like the rivers of living water, but the waters are the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit is living part of the Word of God.

He comes to live in you, he speaks for you, and teaches you.

This is the effect of the…

“…out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water…”

The basic language of his Word will move in you, and through you naturally, and freely. To those who hear you, you may sound like a walking bible. It will be an encouragement to some, and some will be annoyed with you.

Some will seek you out, and some will walk the other way when they see you coming, because you have the words of life. It is a joy to some, it is a bain to others; to some it is life, to others it is death (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).

Yet, those who accept it, they will learn to pursue it. Yes, the Word of God is more than a book, it is more than just memorization, it takes on a life of it’s own; it is the life (Hebrews 4:12-13).

We who can see it as more than a tangible, and even more than abstract, have known the one who is life, and he whom brings all lessons and teaching with the true light of life, and it is in our care to declare it in the darkness.

Matthew 4:16
The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.

In Isaiah 9, Isaiah paints a picture of a disheveled Israel, as if there is no more desire nor expectation for joy.

But, when there is no more opportunity to look forward, suddenly they receive light. They will begin to build up in joy when they begin to realize that their nation has been increased.

The awaiting of Messiah was a thing to Jews of salvation, but not in the terms of which Jesus brings about.

Their expectation of Messiah is the liberation of Israel from all occupations, so that there are no more foreign kings to stand against Messiah.

Of course we know that Jesus had a deeper spiritual impact to settle in the hearts of men.

What would you do with freedom once you have been made free? Just look at America, on the outside we are free to do whatever we want to do. That doesn’t mean that your heart is free.

You can be as free as a bird, but if you’re heart is in bondage that freedom doesn’t really give you peace, does it?

Jesus intended to bring freedom to your heart first, and the day is coming when the only kingdom will be his Kingdom.

Remember that Moses lead Israel out of Egypt, but was not able to get Egypt out of them.

When those who are walking in darkness see that great light, they will see it in you, the church which moves like a river in the desert.

The scattering of the church in Jerusalem should be a representation to the church, not to pile up in one place, but to scatter.

It is my assumption, that those Jews of other nations, once given sound doctrine will return to their homes, they will lay the foundations of the church where ever they return.

This is what the church does.

Bring water to the desert.

Bring light to the darkness.

Bring hope to the hopeless.

“…The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace…”
Numbers 6:24-26

Pedro Villarreal