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RESISTING TEMPTATION

“…Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve.” – Matt. 4:10

 

For me, the passage of Christ‘s temptation in the wilderness is one of the most inspiring stories in the entire Bible. It highlights our Lord’s humanity, while at the same time sharply defining His divinity. How? Because, though Jesus is the Son of God, He was also the Son of Man: and as such, He was subject to man’s weaknesses and infallibility…the weaknesses of the flesh. So, was He tempted? Well, of course He was! But, the Spirit within Him, that sustained Him, and that gave Him power to overcome the devil is that same Holy Spirit that sustains the body of Christ today…and that Spirit is divine. One of the reasons He came to this world, was, in fact, to show us that such things could and can be done! “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto My Father.” (John 14:12). This goes for resisting and rebuking Satan, as well.

 

We are told, “Neither give place to the devil,” (Eph. 4:27), and to “abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good,” (Rom. 12:9), and to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them,” (Eph. 5:11). Because the more we allow evil into our lives, the more power we give it to control us. The more we fall to temptation, the easier it is to keep continually falling. Now, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 4:23), but we have determine to what extent. So, what do we do to keep sin from our lives? How do we manage to overcome the devil and resist temptation when he is so good at hitting us just the right way with it? Because, bad things don’t ‘just happen’; as children of God, we are the continual targets of spiritual attack – for what would the devil want more than a child of the King in his clutches? How do we beat such a bombardment? Well, Christ lived and died to supply the answer to that question.

 

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God!‘” (Matt. 4:4). This is the answer: the Word of God. By being knowledgeable in His Word – by studying and meditating on it – then we are able to avoid situations in which we are tempted in the first place. And, by being washed clean by the blood of the Lamb who died upon that Cross, we are able to rebuke Satan when he does appear in our lives with the Word. Think: when tempted, what did Jesus use to resist the devil – to rebuke and overcome him? He used the scriptures…He used God’s Word. There is power – true power – in the Blood, and in the Word: these are the weapons that Christ died to provide; these are the tools that were purchased with His mercy and His grace. It depends on us, however, to use them effectively.

 

So, remember this today: that the key to withstanding any assault of evil, of darkness, is to be washed in the Blood and armed with the Word: the enemy cannot withstand these, for they are what make us strong, clean, and untouchable. “For though we walk after the flesh we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” (II Cor. 10:3-4)

 

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:12-13

Be blessed,

Joshua

 

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The Light of the World

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” – Matt. 5:14

What is the difference between the believer that works diligently for the increase of God‘s Kingdom and the one who works only half-heartedly? At the end of the day, I believe, what separates the former from the latter is the strength of their conviction! This, I am convinced, is something we desperately need as we move forward into the new year: strength and conviction. We need the rock-solid certainty that we labor for an Almighty and all-Merciful God; that we can help to change things, people, and the world. We need to believe in our mission with all of our hearts, standing firm in our determination to plant seeds, to sow and to reap, to bear fruit…to touch hearts, and to help change lives. “But”, you might say, “only God can do the actual changing. We are only human”…and you’d be right. But we are told that “we are ambassadors for Christ,” (II Cor. 5:20), and that we stand here in His stead, to carry out His ministry. We are His representatives; we are meant to be His reflection here in this world. So, how can the world know of Him but that which we tell them, especially in an age when so many have forgotten? “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). And remember, that ‘preacher’ here means all those who minister for Christ…which is the entire body, one and all. While God determines the outcome of all things, we are His hands and feet: we are the workers of His Will in this world. For, “ye are the light of the world!”

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing…” (Matt. 5:13). As God’s children, much depends on us. We each have a part to play, and a cross to bear. When we lose strength, lose faith, and loose conviction, we are that ‘savourless salt’, and we become useless to others, to ourselves, and to our Lord. We are told that when “thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:16). We have to believe in what we do! We have to have faith in God, and to take responsibility for our part in His plan, or we will be unable to accomplish our mission. If nothing depended on our effort, our determination, and our faith, then why would the Word of God so stress these things? Why would we have been given power and authority if not to exercise them? “Ye are the light of the world!” We need to embrace this fact, and to strive to be that city on the hill: to stand openly and strongly for our God. We need to be salt with savour: to be filled with fire, conviction, and faith in our Lord.

So, today, as we move forward, let us pray for strength and faith to carry us on. Let us pray for fire and conviction to give our ministries substance and truth. Because, though we might not be able to change the world, the fact is that there is no excuse not to try our best to do so anyways. For, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, and we are the light of that world we wish to save; so, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

“…as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of Peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!'” – Romans 10:15

Be blessed,

Joshua

A KING IS BORN Part II

“…behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying ‘Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His Star in the East, and are come to worship Him’.” – Matthew 2:1-2

 

The recorded history of this world stretches back some 6,000 years, beginning with the invention of the first written language: the cunieform of ancient Sumer in Mesopotamia. Other forms of writing would be invented later: Mesoamerican, Egyptian, Chinese, etc; all evolving into the languages of the modern world. Down throughout the ages, these languages have documented all the events, wars, disasters, victories, defeats, evils, and goodness that have shaped our history into the present. But the simple truth is that none of these records carried as much importance as these words: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:12)

 

From that moment in time everything changed. Everything. I’ve often wondered: can you imagine standing there the night that Star burned in the Eastern sky above Bethlehem? To know what it portended? To realize, in your heart of hearts that the King is here! What joy, what peace did those wise men and shepherds feel when they gazed upon the Lord of Lords? What sorrow at the knowledge of the sacrifice He must bear? Yet, with what joy in the knowledge of victory that sacrifice would purchase? Honestly, I imagine that it must have felt much the same as that which any Child of God feels when they accept Christ into their hearts: that speechless awe you feel in His Presence – the thrill of victory you feel when you can finally proclaim in your life that the King is here! “Saying, ‘Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest’.” (Luke 19:38)

 

When you celebrate Christmas, what is it exactly that you are celebrating? You know, you see all sorts of movies and TV shows and books that expound on the ‘true meaning of Christmas’; usually with exhortation on family, charity, or peace. And while these are all truly wonderful things, the true meaning of Christmas as I see it, is this: that on that night some 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh, was born into this world; and with Him was born the beginning of my salvation. That night the promise of healing in my life was born; my promise of peace, of prosperity, and of victory. You might say, ‘but you weren’t even alive!’…and you’d be right. But even though I wasn’t, all my hopes and promises were: the birth of Christ laid the foundation that all the grace in my life was built upon, “for other foundation can no man lay than is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 3:11)

 

Because that is what we celebrate when we celebrate Christmas: we are rejoicing that God loved us so much that – centuries before we were even born – He made sure that our lives would be blessed; that we would have the assurance of His mercy and grace…and that we would have the promise of His salvation. Realize how personal it is: realize that not only was the Savior born, but that your Savior was born. That joy you felt when you were saved, that peace you feel when you pray, the comfort and power that fills you alongside the Holy Spirit…all these things were born that first Christmas night. From the manger to the cross, He was born, lived, died, and risen again all for you! “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that we might not perish, but have everlasting life!” (John 3:16).

 

And if, this Christmas, you do not know Christ, then please take the opportunity to open your heart to Him; to take the free gift that He offers – the gift which He has been offering to you thousands of years before you even existed. Realize that the child born that night was born to die…so that we might live eternally. This Christmas, let us honor His sacrifice; let us bow our heads, open our hearts, and praise our Lord Jesus Christ for His wonderful mercy and grace. Happy Birthday, Jesus, and thank you for everything!

 

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2:13-14

 

Be blessed,

Joshua

A KING IS BORN (Part 1)

“And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” – Luke 2:10

 

The verses from Luke are famous; almost every Christian I’ve ever known is able to recite at least some part of the passages of the Nativity. Why? Because the Christmas story is special to God‘s children: it is the moving, triumphant tale of the birth of our Savior. And now, as I read over these words once again, knowing what this event means to us, I can’t help but think about what it meant for all those who lived at that particular point in time.

 

See, there was 400 years of silence between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. And before that, their history was – since the death of King Solomon some five-hundred years earlier – a story of one long fall from glory and power. The northern Kingdom of Israel, made up of ten of the twelve tribes, had been destroyed by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC, its survivors carted off and enslaved; their identity lost, and their history forgotten. All that was left was the southern Kingdom of Judah, which two centuries later would fall into its own captivity, the people relocated to Babylon in exile for almost 50 years until freed by Cyrus the Great.

 

This was the history of the Jews: one of shame and loss, robbed of their glorious history and punished for their faithlessness. Yet they were still God’s Covenant people, and they were promised a coming Messiah – a Savior, Redeemer, and Deliverer – One who would free God’s children and create a Kingdom like no other. To think, for those who were there, to have waited so long for His coming; to finally see it happen, and to believe! To finally possess that hope for salvation, for truth, and eternal peace. After all that time, to see God’s promise begin to come to pass with the birth of Jesus Christ!

 

But how much more fortunate are we, that we don’t have to wait for anything! For we are not awaiting God’s promise, because His promise has already been fulfilled! That promise has been born, crucified, and resurrected, and His salvation, grace, and righteousness isn’t coming…it’s already here. For us, everything has already been done; it was done those two-thousand years ago at Calvary. Our King of Kings has already set up that Kingdom in the hearts of all His children; and our Prince of Peace reigns in our lives if we only allow Him to do so.

 

Today, we need to realize that none of us are waiting on our blessings, because we’ve already been blessed. We are not waiting on our healing because we’ve already been healed. We are not waiting for victory, because we have already won! Our King has already been born, died, and has risen again so that we might “have life, and have it more abundantly!” (John 10:10) When we celebrate Christmas, let our hearts honor Him in every way for the sacrifice that beautiful child, born in a manger, was born to make. Made so that you and I might live that abundant life, both here and in Heaven, in peace eternally. Claim the blessings and promises your King has provided today; because unlike the Jews living two thousand years ago, you have not been waiting on these things…they have been waiting on you. With Jesus Christ, we do not have to wait on anything! That’s our King today, folks, “who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” I Tim. 6:15-16)

 

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

 

Be blessed,

Joshua

Useful Talents

“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.” – Matt. 25:14-15

 

The ‘talent’, in the ancient world, was a unit of measurement – as are ‘pounds’, ‘ounces’, ‘grams’, etc., in our modern one – used to describe the mass of certain commodities: ie, gold, silver, wine, and other valuable trade items. It was only after this parables impact on the world that ‘talent’ began to mean something else: the inherent gifts which are given to us by God.

 

The Lord here, is – naturally – Christ, leaving on His long journey from which we await His return; the silver talents the Lord here gave His servants – by no means a paltry sum of money, either; rather, it was a veritable fortune – are in the same way the ‘talents’ that God gives to each one of us.

 

The first servant “went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents,” (v.16), just as the second “that had received two, he also gained other two,” (v.17). Both of these men, doubling their portion, are the Christians who use what God has given them – whether it be intelligence, strength, money, or abilities – to serve their Lord; to make increase in His kingdom, to touch hearts, change lives, and to strive to spread His Word where ever they might go. Because I truly believe that when we use our gifts for God – which God has given to us for that purpose to begin with – He will show us an increase in our portions: we will see His blessings rain down upon us and find our gifts doubled. Use your fortune to serve His kingdom, and it will be doubled. Use your mind to serve His kingdom, and you will grow in intellect and wisdom. Use your voice to sing His praises and you will sing like the very angels. Our efforts do not go unrewarded, so long as those efforts are made on His behalf. So long as we seek to bear fruit for Him, believing, we will bear it in abundance.

 

Or, like so many, we can choose to be like the third servant, who “digged it in the earth, and hid his Lord’s money.” (v.18) We can be the miser who hoards his wealth, the hard-hearted who shows no compassion, the intelligent who use their mind for their own gain, the strong who use their strength to intimidate and do the same….because so many of us are exactly these things. And when looking at it, you see why the Lord gifted that third man with the least amount of all: because why is God going to waste such riches on one who will only throw them away? Something to think about, if you ever wonder why God hasn’t gifted you with more than you think you deserve. Something I, at one time, had experience in, myself.

 

So today, use what He has given you for His glory, not letting it go to waste; remembering that talents being used for anything other than His purpose is a waste. Like the third servant, the talent we throw away or hoard will itself be taken away from us if not used for Him – no matter how small we might have thought it to have been. But if we will magnify His Word and Will, then He will magnify our blessings; so that one day, He might welcome us into that kingdom, saying “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matt. 25:21).

 

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matt. 25:29-30

Be blessed,

Joshua

Captured Thoughts

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” – II Cor. 10:5

 

What does that mean, exactly, to take your thoughts captive? While I’ve heard several interpretations of this particular verse, I personally believe that what Paul is advising here is to spiritually nip evil in the bud: to stop it before it even starts. Some people, I know, see thoughts themselves as harmless – that only deeds matter: so, in their minds an evil or harmful thought is completely different from an evil or harmful deed. Because we all have those bad thoughts occasionally, don’t we? But the only real difference is that a deed is just a thought that has been acted upon…and it’s a relatively small step in most cases from thought to action, isn’t it? Especially the more we tend to dwell on some of those thoughts. I’d like you to take a moment and imagine your thoughts as seeds, and your mind as the ground those seeds are planted in. Depending on which thoughts you feed and nurture – and how fertile the ground you plant them in – are which will eventually ‘bloom’ into actions. And the fruit of your actions reflects the fruit of your mind…and by our fruits we are known. So, which thoughts are we feeding most? Which find the most fertile ground within us? Do our minds dwell in sin, or in Christ? “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)

 

This is why, I believe, we are advised to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ!” We need to grow spiritually; to come to a place where we can stop those bad thoughts before they can grow into something else. We need to make the soil of our minds fertile only to the fruit of the Spirit, rather than the unfruitful works of darkness. Again: depending on which thoughts we entertain are the ones the devil knows he can whisper subtly in our ears, urging us to consider them, and all the while they grow deeper and deeper roots within us until we finally act on them! This is what Satan wants! This is his most successful tool: to use our minds as breeding grounds for the thoughts that will destroy us. He doesn’t make us do anything: I imagine he takes more pleasure in sitting back and watching us do it to ourselves! A few whispers on his part and then we do all the work for him!

 

Take for instance: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath: neither give place to the devil.” (Eph. 4:26-27) This is why anger is such a dangerous thing: because while yes, there is such a thing as righteous anger, most times our anger isn’t righteous at all. Instead, it opens our minds to evil of one sort or another; it festers and boils and feeds the darkness within us, and those bad seeds start to bloom all over the place – and before you know it we’re doing exactly what we are warned by Paul not to do: we are giving place to the devil. Best, I think, to take anger captive; best to control it before it controls you. And trust me, I’m an authority on anger issues.

 

Today, let us all work harder on taking our thoughts captive – to turn them to the obedience of Christ, so that we can truly say that we serve Him with body, heart, and mind. Let our thoughts glorify Him, so that our actions might do the same; we just need to start planting the seeds of righteous thoughts, while nipping the evil ones in the bud. Don’t let your mind be poisoned by the enemy: remember that it is a spiritual war we wage against him, and that we need to deprive him of those tools he uses against us so well! If we can but spend time in meditation and study, in prayer and fellowship, keeping our thoughts fixed upon good, Godly things, then we can make our minds fertile for the fruit of the Holy Spirit: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:1-2)

 

Because it is possible to turn our minds into strongholds for God, rather than for sinful weaknesses: it just all starts with our thoughts – with the seeds we plant within, just as the ones we plant without. So, let us turn our thoughts towards Jesus, and plant those seeds for Him, so “That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 15:6)

 

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  – Philipians 4:8

Be blessed,

Joshua

The Living Word

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” – Joshua 1:8

 

Why is the Bible called the Living Word? Because it is alive! Think about this: that from every book, every chapter, and down to the very last verse, that each and every word within was dictated by an Almighty God unto His obedient servants down throughout the ages. Think about the fact that after the names and deeds of great kings and heroes were long forgotten, after powerful world-empires rose and fell, after legendary cities of old crumbled to the ground, and after the men who built them had long passed into dust, that His Word should remain; weathering death, destruction, catastrophe, and Time itself to survive unto this present day. And think about how, though there is a beginning and end to this wonderful Book, that the lessons inside are without end: no matter how many times you might decide to read through its contents, it can speak so differently each and every time! This is because – as the Living Word of God – it adapts to fit our every need, our every trial, our every test; it gives wisdom when we seek wisdom, strength when we seek strength, hope when we need hope, and faith when we so desperately desire faith. It shapes itself to each of our lives – as different and varied as they may be – while at the same time never altering at all. What, but God’s own Word could accomplish such a thing? To be changing yet unchangeable? So much effort was put into its creation; so much time invested in its completion…yet how much time do we invest in learning all that it offers? Because, as the Lord tells Joshua in the verse above, to know God’s word is the path to prosperity; and to understand it is the means to obedience. For how can we abide by what we are ignorant of? And how can we teach what we do not know? Christ said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) That would mean we need to know those commandments – heart and soul – first, wouldn’t it? Otherwise, how could we ever keep them?

 

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:2-3) This is the promise of our God: that to know Him is to be blessed with prosperity and plenty…and our God cannot lie! So, I ask today, do we all have a delight in the word of our Lord? Do we have a desire within us to increase our knowledge of Him and His Son – our Savior Jesus Christ? It brings the old song lyrics to my mind: “I want to know more about my Lord.” Because we all should want to know as much as we possibly can about the God who created us, and the Son who shed His blood upon the cross so that we might be eternally free…”And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Eph. 3:19)

 

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Thy works; I muse on the work of Thy hands.” (Psalm 143:5) Because, brethren, we are given this great gift to meditate upon, and to learn from: this compilation of God’s Word we call the Bible. It is a record of all His mighty works, of all His wonderful servants, and – most importantly – of His great sacrifice. I ask everyone today to take advantage of this gift…not take it for granted. Because it is given to us for a reason: to learn from, to teach from, and to be blessed from. We forfeit so many of those blessings because we fail to take the time to study and meditate upon His word; to gain knowledge, strength, hope, and faith from the Book that we can rightly call God’s own testimony. So use each and every opportunity you are given to get into His Word: find the solution to every puzzle and the answers to all those questions you carry. Its all in there. When you hold the Bible in your hands, you are holding the sum of all Godly wisdom on earth: nothing less. So, read and be guided by the Holy Spirit as you do; watch as His truth and His love are revealed to you, unfolding and coming to life with every turn of the page of His Living Word.

 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” – Col. 3:16

 

Be blessed,

Joshua