Archives For Discipleship

Welcome back to the new series, Livin’ the ‘Tudes here on ZachMalott.com! I am excited about this series that will also be developed into a book and Bible study. I hope that you will discover great meaning that you have never before seen in Jesus’ first recorded sermon in the New Testament. If you are just now discovering this series, here is a link to PART 1 that I hope you will take the time to read. The beatitudes are sequential. We will spend some time in each beatitude and relish the many facets of this finely-cut diamond that was cut by the trusting and faithful hand of Jesus Christ Himself and found in God’s word beginning at Matthew 5:3-10.

“Do you have a clear picture of the beatitudes and what they represent?  You CAN!”

We left off last week with the question of, “Why?” Why does mankind, in varying degrees, seem to gravitate towards the things that the Holy Bible, the word of God, calls sin? From a true, Christian worldview, the answer is simple. Mankind is fallen, meaning he has fell from grace, he turned away from his creator to follow his own ways. The Christian knows that this first occurred in the Garden of Eden when Eve, then Adam, first sinned (putting themselves first above God) and brought all mankind into the position of an enemy against God Himself. There it is. This is the answer of why: disobedience and lost fellowship with God.

Enter Jesus.

We can look at Jeremiah 31:31-34 and see where the new covenant was prophesied. We can then look at Hebrews 8. Click on the link and read it. Let God’s own words tell you about the new covenant that replaces the old. Let God’s word allow you understand who Jesus is. Then let us proceed to discover the path called The Way. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). If you are not a Christian, if you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, the Son of God, and you want to know Him and live for eternity with Him, CLICK HERE.

If you are a Christian and have a personal relationship with Jesus, you know that you have eternal life. Is your life being lived in obedience to God? Are you putting God first in your life? Do you know you CAN live out the Christian life that Jesus first described in the beatitudes? You CAN walk the walk that He modeled for us as he walked about during the 3 ½ years of His earthly ministry!  Do you have a clear picture of the beatitudes and what they represent?  You CAN!

Be here next week and find out!

Next week, we will delve into the first of the beatitudes. We will examine it and delve into the true meaning and context of the original language to see what the words really mean. We will pray together before we begin for Holy Spirit guidance and we will pray again after we end our study. In fellowship and love we will begin a journey that was granted us in Scripture in the first century by Jesus Christ, the living Son of Almighty God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

“Father God, please bless this study of your word and let the Holy Spirit reveal the truths of your word and plant the seeds that lead to a righteous walk of an obedient and faithful servant of Christ Jesus.  It is in the name of Jesus Christ we pray, amen.”

Will you join me?

Blessings,

Zach

Hello and welcome back!

I’m excited today! I want to share that excitement with YOU! Share what, you ask? I was reading in 2 Kings this morning and I had just turned to 2 Kings 6 and began reading about the floating axe head.

If you are not familiar with this passage of Scripture, please read it HERE.

If you remember, Elisha took on Elijah’s position after he had been taken up to heaven in a chariot. Elisha was then blessed with a double portion of the Holy Spirit.

In 2 Kings 6, Elisha was busily training new profits in prophet school when one of his students mentioned the fact that the quarters they were training and living in was just too crowded.

The student suggested the he and the rest of the prophets-in-training go to the river and each cut a beam from which a new dwelling place could be constructed for them to live and train.

Elisha said, “Sounds like a plan, go to it!”

We all know what happens next. One student’s iron axe head flies off the handle and lands in the river. It rapidly sinks to the bottom as iron has a tendency to do when it falls into water.

“Do You Examine Your Spiritual Walk With Christ Daily?”

What happens next is what God gave to me this morning to give to you!

What do we do when we lose our cutting edge in serving Jesus?

Let’s look at three things in 2 Kings 6:1-6 for a solution:

The young prophet student lost his ax head making him unable to complete God’s work. Have you ever lost something that made you unable to carry on with your normal routine? I have. I once lost my car keys. It took me over 3 hours to get another one made and get on with my routine. I also once lost my wallet. Not only did I lose the money and credit cards, I had to take the time to cancel the cards and send off for another SS card, driver’s license, etc. I also had to borrow $20 from a close friend until I could get to the bank for more cash. When we lose our cutting edge for carrying out our obligations to God’s kingdom, we become worthless in pursuing God’s work.

We must identify the exact spot where we lost our cutting edge. Pray in Jesus’ name for help in remembering when you first list the cutting edge and what was happening. Elisha asked the young student, “Where did it fall?” The best way to find something is to remember where you last had it. Did I begin to lose my cutting edge when I quit attending Sunday School? Did I lose it when I started missing church? Maybe I lost it when I thought I didn’t have time to read my Bible daily? Could it be I have allowed sin to dilute my relationship with God? Have I become complacent in my Christian walk?

When we pray and God points out where we lost our cutting edge, we must do our part to retrieve it! Elisha raised the iron axe head through the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t put it back on the handle. He told the young student to reach out and get it. We must do the same when the Holy Spirit answers our prayer and points out where it was that we lost our cutting edge. God wants you, like the young prophet student, to do your part in recovering your cutting edge for kingdom work!

What if the young student had regularly checked the security of his axe head to the handle?

Do you self-inspect your spiritual walk with Christ regularly?

We are told to do a self-examination to discover our spiritual “fitness” when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Why not do it at the end of each day? If we discover our axe head getting loose, we can tighten it before it falls off and we will not have gaps in our obedience to Christ.

Summary:

Admit you have lost your cutting edge.
Pray for guidance to discover the exact place you lost it (and what was happening at the time.
When God raises it up, reach out and put your cutting edge (axe head) back on the handle and serve Christ!

The 1st Beatitude holds the answer to the question, “Do you examine (self-inspect) your walk with Christ regularly? I’m beginning a series on the beatitudes on my blog beginning next week.

The beatitudes are the key to Walking in the Way of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Until next time!

Zach

QUESTION:ARE YOU LIVIN’ THE ‘TUDES?

PLEASE SHARE DANGER! WHEN DID YOU LAST EXAMINE YOURSELF? (All Christians need a refresher course from time to time)

Hello and welcome back!

It’s always good to have the opportunity to share with you!

I hope your Christmas was all that you had hoped it would be and that this New Year will present you with a prosperous 365 days in the Lord!

Today’s topic revolves around the 1st century church and the Western church today.  How close is Western Christianity to the 1st century church?

Let’s take a look at some of the stand out differences.

Community

When we consider Acts 2:26-27, we see that they worshiped in the temple complex daily, met in houses to pray, study, and eat together and spent time in fellowship on a daily basis.  People were being saved daily and joined the Christian ranks.

This tells me that the early church took community and assembling themselves together very seriously.

Tolerance

In today’s post-modern world, tolerance and political correctness has become the order of the day.  I may be wrong, but it just appears to me that the 21st century church is more tolerant to open sin and unrepentant sinning that it was in the 1st century church.  Do you see it that way?

I mean, Paul was pretty plain in I Cor. 5:1-7 and there should be no interpretation problem in what those 7 verses state.

Discipleship

The Bible tells us in Matthew 10:25 25 It is sufficient for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant or slave like his master. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub [master of the dwelling], how much more will they speak evil of those of His household.

We also read in Matthew 10:42 42  And whoever gives to one of these little ones [in rank or influence] even a cup of cold water because he is My disciple, surely I declare to you, he shall not lose his reward.

Matthew 16:24 (AMP) 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].

There it is.  A 1st century view of discipleship.  Read the three verses above and ask yourself: “Am I doing this?”  If not, why not?

 Love

 The Bible tells us this about love: Romans 12:9-10 (NIV)  9  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

We also read in the Bible at Romans 12:9-13 (NIV)
9  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13  Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Just look at what the bible teaches us in Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)
8  Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
9  The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
10  Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

“Finally, search yourself…”

There it is.  1st century truth written by the Holy Spirit through man.  This is the commandment that fulfills all of the other commandments in the Old Testament.

How close is Western Christianity in following the above Scriptures?  How close is your church in living out these Scriptures?

Finally, search yourself for it is between you and God.  You are not out to please man, but to please God.  Are you comfortable with how you are living out the above Scriptures?

Until next time,

Zach

QUESTION:  What is your opinion of this article?

Hello and welcome back!

January 1st lies just up ahead and 2013 reflects already in my rearview mirror and disappears into the past behind me.  Somewhere, even further in that river of time flowing past me, lies a memory that has not faded, even in the passage of decades.

“What is it that has stood on the periphery of your thoughts all those many years,” you may ask?

Physical Growth Pains

Back in the early ‘60’s, my younger brother became ill with rheumatic fever.  I remember through the mists of time – a whole school year passed when he had to stay in bed, take aspirin, and rest.

Bed rest.

Something we think of elderly persons in nursing homes doing, not eight year old boys with freckles, red hair, and a mischievous smile on his face as he slips out of bed and sits on the floor to play marbles with me on the brown, oval rug on the floor between our twin beds.

“I’m gonna win yer big ol’ cleary, Zach,” he would shout with evil glee as he took bead and let ‘er fly.

It wouldn’t be long until one or the other of us would shout or giggle loud enough to draw mom’s attention and it was back in the sack for ‘lil’ bro.

Yep, it’s hard to keep an 8 year old boy in bed for a year but looking back on it all – he was actually the model patient!  I can also remember the worried look in mom’s eyes as she and dad would discuss Mark after he had been seen by his doctor who, yes, made house calls.

One of the main things I remember was how my brother would moan and cry when his legs hurt.  I didn’t know it then but my brother Mark had a condition that created sharp and pulling pains in his legs from thigh to ankle.  This problem was exacerbated due to his having to remain immobile for long periods of time.

Mom would hear his anguish and always come with the lotion and oil mixture that the doctor left for the purpose.  Many days she would massage and lotion his legs five or six times.  That was quite a dedicated mission.  I didn’t have the empathy to understand back then.

I can still hear Mom saying to my brother as he whimpered while tears rolled down his cheeks,

“Baby, I know it hurts but they are just growing pains.  Just remember that when you hurt you are growing more and more.  You will keep on growing and growing and getting better and better!”

The years passed, Mark kept growing and the pains became less severe as well as less frequent.  Over six years, his symptoms diminished and finally disappeared.  He likes to say,

“Yep, I suffered with pain for many years, but it got easier as I grew up.”

He and I are walking on the other side of youth these days: less days ahead than have already passed.  Being a preacher, I have an eye for illustration.  When I consider the pain my brother suffered and how it has created a person who is thankful for good health today, I can’t help but visualize the connection between his physical growth pains and the growth pains of young Christians.

“Self was the downfall in the Garden when Satan tempted Eve.”

A young Christian, regardless of physical age, must face the growth pains of walking with Christ.  There are many growth pains that cause hurt and anguish for the babe in Christ.  Like my mother used to soothe my brother as she crooned and massaged the lotion into his muscles,

“I know it hurts baby, but pain is gain.  The pain shows that you are growing up!”

3 Common Spiritual Growth Pains

There are three common growth pains that all new Christians will face when growing to maturity.  If your roots are planted in good soil, these Christians will persevere to maturity:

  • Persecution – whenever a new Christian begins to walk a new life in Christ, he or she will run into opposition to that walk.  Old friends, family, fellow employees at work, etc. will not appreciate the change.  Sometimes a person’s career is threatened because of the morality changes apparent in the newly converted.  The bottom line here is that persecution, regardless of the origin, puts pressure on the new Jesus follower to return to the old lifestyle.  The cure is discipleship.

 

  • Old Temptations – the new Christian returns to the world he experienced before his conversion.   He may not realize that the flesh and  temptations of the flesh will still influence his body and senses.  The conversion was for his spirit, not his body.  These temptations can cause a new Christian to slip back into a previous pattern of behavior that produces guilt, doubt, and a falling away from church attendance, worship, and Bible study.  This can produce a downward spiral if not addressed.The cure is discipleship.

 

  • Self – this is the biggest danger of all.  Self was the downfall in the Garden when Satan tempted Eve.  The ultimate sin is self-will rather than submitting to God’s will.  The sin of self is the father of all sin because it is the opposite of loving others.  Obedience to one’s own human desires is sin and the great destroyer of fellowship with God.  Christians must be taught how to defend against this insidious enemy. The cure is discipleship.

 

There they are, three main causes for new Christians to fall away from the church.  These are by no means the only causes, but they are at the top of the list.

We see that the cure for all three revolves around discipleship.  Besides salvation, discipleship is the single most important step in the lives of new Christians.

Taking Inventory

Like my brother’s leg pains, when a Christian is discipled (had his spiritual legs lotioned into a disciplined, mature Christian), he becomes able to feed himself from the word and not be completely dependent on others.  He still needs the fellowship of the Christian community but can study God’s word alone also.  The pain brought gain.

Does your church have ongoing discipleship for all new Christians?  Are mature Christians in the church working with new Christians on a one on one basis to help guide these new sheep along the path that Jesus trod?  Pray for your church’s discipleship programs.  If there are no such programs in effect, pray for them to be initiated.  Volunteer to start a discipleship class.

Discipleship is key.  Spread the word.

 

Blessings,

Zach

QUESTION:  Are you a discipler?

Hello and welcome back!

As many of you know, I have been under the weather (is that another lightning bolt getting ready to strike?) and passed through a murky fog throughout the Christmas holidays.  I am getting past it all but still remain very weak and tire easily.

However, I am looking forward to the New Year.

Before you say,

“Here it comes.  Another article casting hype about New Year’s resolutions and about doing better this year than last!”

 What’s that?  Did I accidently hit a nerve?  I’m here to tell you that no, it won’t get better.  Not just from making a resolution to do so.  New Year’s Resolutions?  Bah! Humbug!

Surprised?  Wasn’t expecting me to say that?

Here’s the deal.  Nothing changes because you write it down.  Nothing.  Sure, it is good to have written goals but just what is a goal?  Is it a plan?  Nope.

A goal is something that you wish to accomplish.  A plan is a blueprint for getting that goal accomplished.  So, you ask,

“Is the plan what it takes to do better in accomplishing things this year?”

Nope.

I don’t care if you have a battery of assistants that you dictate goals to and formulate plans with for a month, you will not be one step closer to accomplishing even one of the goals you planned to accomplish.  Was your time spent in planning a total waste then?  Of course not.

“No one is happy about every little thing in their life constantly.”

Here’s another part of the deal.  Most people spend either too much time planning or they don’t spend enough time on planning.  What do I mean by that?

I mean, if you are an overly compulsive planner, when and where do you stop planning and start doing?

How long do you plan before you start to take action steps that the plan calls for?  If you don’t plan enough, in other words, don’t get an action plan down on paper in detail – how will you know how to logically go about accomplishing it?

Where is that golden mean?  That sweet spot?  Where is that motivation and perseverance to accomplish your goals?

Here is the last part of the deal.  If you are following Jesus, you have an advantage that those in the world who don’t are lacking in.  That advantage you have is the vertical aspect.  The God factor.  The Bible tells us that with God, all things are possible.

It is a truism.

As true as it is, however, it is only true – don’t miss this – if what you are trying to accomplish is in the will of God for your life.  In other words, it is God’s will not yours that happens.  It has always been this way and it will continue to be this way.  In the Garden where Jesus prayed for the cup to be removed he prayed,

“Father, not my will but yours be done!”

What is the secret for success? To know the will of God for your life and then to follow the path He sets for you.  How does one discover the will of God for their lives?  If you need to ask that question, perhaps you are not in the will of God for your life at the moment.

Why do I say that?  I say it because if you are in God’s will for your life, you wouldn’t have to ask it.  You would be in God’s perfect will already.

You might probably think,

“Zach, you don’t know a think about my life.  How can you say that if I am not happy that I might be out of the will of God?”

First, I didn’t mention being happy.  I said content.  No one is happy about every little thing in their life constantly.  But they can still be content.  Content means satisfied with your life not happy over every little part of it.

I can be content in my place in God’s will and still not be happy if a dog bites me on the leg.  Right?

In the beatitudes, Jesus says, “Blessed are…”  Blessed in the Greek means happily content, satisfied, and filled. This is the opposite of being hopeless and bereft.  If you are feeling bereft, hopeless, and cast adrift in life, you are surely not feeling blessed, are you?

To be blessed, is to be in alignment with God’s word.

This is not to say that people who do not follow Christ do not have happiness.  They do.  Sometimes, they have happiness in much more abundance than a Christ follower does.  This fact does not defeat the formula for being blessed by God.  Happiness is temporal and fleeting.

You can be quite happy with a thing or a situation, only to become tired, bored, and just plain disillusioned with it over time.  Not so with the things of God.  Knowing the complete peace of Christ and to be found Him satisfies that place deep inside of you that nothing else in the universe can satisfy.

That is what being blessed accomplishes.  That is what that walk in the perfect will of God accomplishes.

         

With this scenario, your plans will not just get shoved to the back of your desk before you can follow them to completion.  When happiness fades, the intense benefit of contentment in Christ provides you with hope.  Hope is born in the love that Christ has for you and the grace that God has extended to you because of what Christ did on the cross and the gift His unselfish act bestowed on you.  The gift of eternal life with Him.

Jesus died for your sin.  He suffered so you could have abundant life.

Your sin was paid for when you first believed upon the name of Christ for your salvation.  When you confessed Him as your savior, because you could not save yourself, that is when the miracle of God’s blessings were materialized in your life.  Only you can restrict those blessings.

How?

You hamper the work of the Holy Spirit in your Christian life by falling into disobedience.  To disobey God is sin.  Sin separates you from God and His blessings.  The answer?  If you have sinned against God, repent.

Yes, repent.

Confess your sins, clear and make straight the path back into fellowship with God, and drop whatever ungodly willful thing that you are doing – and follow Christ!  Confession destroys the restriction and allows the blessings to flow in your life from God once again.

That opens the door for prayer for guidance in following your god-led plan.  This allows you to accomplish goals within His perfect will for your life.  True life change occurs in your Christian life as you count your blessings, persevere, take the necessary steps in contentment and watch those accomplishments happen!  They will happen because they glorify God, not self!

God bless you until we meet again,

Zach

QUESTION:  Where are you in your relationship with God?

Hello and welcome back!

It’s great to see you again!  Merry Christmas!

It’s snowing again.  I just looked out of the window of my office and it appears to be going to hang around for a while.  That’s ok.  It’s almost Christmas!  Looking out the window again, I remember a Christmas past.

I was 12.  Christmas was just ‘round the corner and everyone I saw was joyous.  Looking out the picture window that night with Christmas only 10 days away, I was fascinated by the falling snow reflected by the street light on the corner.

Snow was falling!  Jolly ol’ St. Nick would be arriving on our roof in 10 days and all of the presents I had asked for would finally be mine!  I kept looking into the snow as it continued to fall and enjoyed trying to follow individual snowflakes to the ground.

“Hey son,” dad called, “Come here a minute, Mom and I have something we need to tell you.”

I followed one more snowflake to the ground then turned and went over to where my mom and dad was sitting.  He looked up at me as my mom began to cry.

“What’s wrong, Mom?”  I questioned while watching as she dried her eyes on her apron.

Dad reached out and took me on his lap and then told me the facts.  He had been laid off from his job that day and would have to leave the next day with some other men who were also laid off to take a job in another state.  Dad was an electrician and there was an overtime job that was hiring electricians and dad couldn’t turn it down if we were to survive.

In those days, credit was something people just didn’t have much of.  These were days before credit cards, easy home equity loans, etc.  This was basically a cash and carry world that we lived in and if a man got without work he went to where he could find it.

“No son, I don’t take charity, never have and never will,” he stated while shaking his head vehemently.

Since I was in school, mom and dad decided that we would stay behind and she and dad would decide what to do about things when summer came.  My younger brother was eight years younger than I was so that made him 4 years old that Christmas.

Well, I remember thinking that the end of the world had come.  Dad was going to go away and here it was only 10 days until Christmas!

Mom asked dad if he would run to the store before it closed for bread and milk.  He said that he and I would go get it.  That’s when dad handed me the envelope.

“Here son, this is the best we can do this Christmas what with me having to go to a job out of town.”

“I understand,” I managed to say.  I thought about the list I had written to Santa but I was old enough to know that he didn’t really exist.  I looked in the envelope and found a $20 bill.

“If you wait until after Christmas, you can get twice as much for that $20,” dad said trying to make me feel better.  I took the $20 out of the envelope and put it in my pocket.  “Yeah,” I muttered, “prolly so.”

We drove to the store that evening – both lost in our own thoughts.  I was going to miss my dad, especially on Christmas day.  We were a very close family and this was the first Christmas that my dad wouldn’t be with us.  Not very pleasant thoughts were crossing my mind as we arrived at Thompson’s Grocery Mart.  I remember feeling distinctively bitter that my Christmas was ruined as we entered the store that evening.

I looked at people laughing and talking, people greeting friends and neighbors with hearty, “Merry Christmas!”  I felt jealous as we sought out the bread and milk, found a check out isle that wasn’t too crowded and I was feeling about as low as a 12 year old kid can feel, I guess.

As we were preparing to leave, dad noticed a family preparing to leave at the same time.

“Merry Christmas,” dad offered as he held the door for them.  That’s when I noticed something.  The lady was sobbing and the man had a look on his face I couldn’t identify when I was 12.  It was the look of a man totally void of hope I discovered after I had some years on me and had experienced some of the highs and lows in this life.

“Is there anything I can do to help you out?” dad offered as we all exited the store.

“Not much anyone can do,” the man said in a hollow, ethereal tone, “they took the house today.  All’s we have to our name is in the car.  Three kids in the car and it’s Christmas.  Nothing anyone can do,” he repeated as he and his wife walked towards a dilapidated old Chevrolet sedan like people twice their ages.

As we walked up beside of them, I saw three kids in the back seat.  The hollow, haunted eyes stared back at me.  I felt something within my chest that I had never felt before in the 12 years of my young life.

Something inside of me guided me up to that window as the man started the engine.  I remember the look on his face as he noticed me standing outside his window on that cold, snowy, winter night. That look touched my heart.  He rolled down his window and bent out the window.

“What is it, son,” he asked as I just stood there shivering in that dreamlike moment as snow landed on my eyelids.

I reached into my coat pocket and found that folded up $20 bill my dad had given to me less than an hour before.

“Here sir, please take this,” I offered as he just sat there staring at me.

“No son, I don’t take charity, never have and never will,” he stated while shaking his head vehemently.

“No it’s not for you, sir, it’s for your kids – a Christmas present from me to them,” I stated as I offered that $20 through the window again.

He stared at me a moment then said, “Son, you sure?”

“I’m sure, sir,” I smiled as I handed the $20 into his halting hand.  “Thank you for taking it sir, I want them to have it for presents.”

He sat there looking from the $20 in his hand to me as I stood there grinning broadly and trying hard not to shiver from the cold seeping through my coat.  His expression changed from one of stubborn pride to one of understanding.  He looked me in the eyes and I sensed he realized that this was as much for me as it was for his kids.  He reached out and took it.

Clearing his throat, he managed to croak out a guttural thank you as he started the car.  He looked from me to my dad standing next to our car and nodded.

“That’s a fine boy you have there, mister.  You’re bringin’ him up right.  I thank you both from the bottom of my heart.”  They both nodded at one another.  He started that old car and pulled off.  I just stood there watching until I could no longer see the taillights.  I then turned and walked over to my dad and we hugged.

“Proud of you son,” dad whispered.  We got into the car and rode home.  I remember that ride like it was yesterday.  We didn’t say a word.  Dad was lost in his thoughts and I was lost in mine.  I remember thinking, “This is what Christmas is all about.  It’s all about the giving.”

Looking back upon my 12 year old memories, I think that was when I began to grow up.  I never thought of Christmas in the same way after that day.  I remember the Christmas Eve sermon Pastor Hinton preached.  It has stuck within my mind and heart through all these years.  That was a half century ago.

He preached on Acts 20:35:

“I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I knew when I heard Pastor Hinton’s message that Christmas Eve that had I heard the same message the Sunday before I would not have understood it at all.  I felt humbled sitting there on that pew as a 12 year old boy.  Christmas would never be the same.

I smiled.

Until next time!  Merry Christmas!

Zach

QUESTION:  I would enjoy your comments about when you first remember experiencing the blessing of giving over receiving! 

Hello and welcome back!

It’s good to see you and I hope you are enjoying the site!  This will be part 4 in this series of posts.  If this is your first visit to the site, you may benefit by reading the first three posts of this series.  You will find them in the sidebar to the right under recent posts!

Last post, we left when God places the cherubim to guard and keep Adam and Eve from returning to the Garden and eating from the tree of life.  Let’s return, shall we, and see what happens next?  Yes?

Ok!  Here we go!

“Well,” Adam sighs as both Eve and he look back towards the entrance to the Garden, which is slowly disappearing in the distance, “Looks like we messed up bad, huh?”  He hitches his load and begins to slowly make his way up the incline and through the barren, rocky terrain they find themselves entering.

“I suppose so,” Eve responds, in a breathless expulsion of air, as she struggles with her smaller but necessary load of fruit and berries.  “Do you think God will ever speak to us again?” she questions as they both trudge onward.

“No idea, but I hope so. We best find someplace to settle and build shelter because it’s gettin’ late,” he suggests, as the sweat begins to run down his forehead and into his eyes for the first time in his life, “The animals seem different somehow, and I feel that they are looking at us in a way that is discomforting to me.”  They continue onward as the sun begins to get closer to the horizon.

“Yeah,” Cain mutters when they are deep into his field, “and just for making me look bad in front of God, I’m going to kill you!”

They keep up their pace for several hours until they are fearful to go any further.  Darkness begins to cover the land and the chill in the air begins to seep more deeply into their bones.

“Let’s camp over there under that tree, build a fire, and eat some of that fruit before we try to sleep, I’m starving!” Adam suggests while Eve continues on towards the tree he had pointed to. She slowly and  with unaccustomed stiffness — lowers her leather skin pouch — made from the leftover skins from which God had fashioned their first real garments.  The next morning, they set out again and finally settle into a nice area beside a stream that appears large enough to be flowing year around.

Much later, Adam and Eve are intimate and they later have a son from that union whom they name Cain.  Eve turns to Adam and joyfully exclaims, “God has helped me to produce a man!”  After more time passes, she produces another son for Adam and names him — Abel.  As Able grows older, his calling is to become a shepherd of his own flock.   Cain is drawn to the fields and cultivates them.  When the time comes, Cain takes some of the produce that he has cultivated from the soil of his field and presents it to Lord God as an offering.  Abel also presents to God some of his most prized animals from his flock along with their portions of fat.

God is very, very pleased with Abel’s offering to Him and shows his pleasure in it.  Cain’s offering, however, not so much — no, not at all.  Cain becomes infuriated with God over this and becomes very sullen, hostile, bitter,  and morose.

After a time, God speaks to Cain, “Hey, what’s causing you to look so down in the mouth?  Change your attitude and motivations, son, for offering your sacrifices to me and won’t I accept you also?”  Then God continues, “But Cain, listen to me now— if you don’t change that selfish and self-seeking attitude, you are going to fall deeply under the power of the sin that is ready to pounce right on top of you and devour you.”

God continues to look at the prideful and arrogant look on Cain’s features and continues, “Cain, sin would like nothing better than to take complete control over your thinking for that is its purpose and desire.  The choice is completely yours and it’s on your head to master it.”

For some reason this just seems to set and hard-mold Cain’s attitude completely for the worse.

Later, Cain is talking to his brother Able and invites him to follow along into his field.  Able says, “Sure, big brother, I have my flock fed and nothing really to do for the rest of the day so this will be a good time for us to get together!”  Able then continues, “Actually, we need this because you and I haven’t had much fellowship together since we both prepared our sacrifices for God!”

“Yeah,” Cain mutters when they are deep into his field, “and just for making me look bad in front of God, I’m going to kill you!”  Cain promptly overpowers his younger brother and kills him, shedding his blood right then and there.  Later, God calls out to Cain, who isn’t exactly overjoyed to hear His voice.

“Cain…Cain, where is your brother, Able?” God questions when he comes up on him.  Cain feels the all-knowing  gaze of God’s all-seeing eyes upon him as he looks at the ground in absolute dread and replies sarcastically through false bravado, “How would I know, do I look like my brother’s keeper?”

“Cain, what is it that you have done!” God announces with the tone of righteous accusation, “I hear your brother’s blood calling out to me from the very ground beneath your feet!”

Cain can only stand there, frozen in silence and dread but holding onto his sullen arrogance and pride as God continues, “You are now cursed and alienated from this very ground that was soaked with your brother’s blood and that swallowed it up and took it into itself!”  God then points His finger at Cain and finishes the curse, “This land will never produce a crop for you again so you will be forced to become a wanderer, restlessly moving from place to place throughout the world.”

Cain looks up at God, with eyes that plead for mercy — half whispering, half groaning through his still stubborn pride and arrogance — “This is too great a punishment to carry, Lord God!”  He slowly casts a glance around him and continues, “You are banishing me from the land, You are making me hide my presence from You and You are causing me to wander aimlessly from place to place — no place to settle — and anyone who finds me will surely kill me!”

God responds to Cain’s plea for mercy and says, “If anyone kills you, Cain, you will be avenged seven times over.”  God then places a mark to identify Cain — that if anyone finds him they will realize the punishment if they kill him.

Cain leaves the presence of the Lord, wanders until he enters an area east of Eden called the Land of Nod, and begins to wander that area—foraging to make his way.

[The end].

I hope that you have enjoyed my narrative of the Genesis account of the Fall as well as the development of the two, separate lines extending from Adam and Eve. My prayer is that I was able to paint a mental, pictorial portrait of these lines for you.  I also hope that the resulting two lines—the line from the first Adam to the second (the Messiah, Jesus Christ) that proceeds through the righteous line of Seth and the unrighteous line that progresses through the line of Cain will demonstrate the course of obedience and disobedience throughout biblical history.  I am equally hopeful that the shadows of things that follow throughout the Bible until today have been made evident to you as well.

Please join with us by subscribing to this site above and enjoy receiving my free, quarterly newsletter that I will provide you. This newsletter, All Things Christian, will present timely information and links to interesting Christian materials for you!  You will also be qualified to receive free gifts and information that non-subscribers will not eligible to receive.  You have my word that your email is safely kept and will never be given or sold to anyone.  We wish to keep you for ourselves in our Christian community!  🙂

Also, please consider the questions in bold below and respond as your responses help in creating a relevant and interesting experience for all Christians to enjoy and to join along with you here on the Christian site!  Thank you and enjoy this link to my other book blog site, 21st Century Confusion

Until next time!

Zach

QUESTION:  CAN YOU SEE THE SHADOW OF A DISCIPLE’S WALK IN ABEL? CAN YOU SEE SHADOW OF THE UNSAVED BEING CAST INTO OUTER DARKNESS WITHIN THIS NARRATION FROM THE BOOK OF GENESIS?  WHAT OTHER SHADOWS OF THINGS TO COME DO YOU DISCOVER?

Hello and welcome back!  If you haven’t read the first, two installments for this post series, you can read the first post and the second post  before reading on if you wish.

Are you about ready to return to the Garden to the very place we were observing Adam and Eve last as they were making coverings for their bodies. Remember? It was just when we heard God call out to Adam?  Yes? Me too!

Let’s hurry back and get settled in and hear what God has to say about this trespass against Him!

[…continued from 03/16/13]

We were observing both Adam and Eve as they hurriedly prepared coverings out of fig leaves and vines.  Actually, they designed some pretty nice coverings — a little retro for my taste — however, very efficient.

Wait!  Remember last time?  Is that God calling Adam?!

“Adam, Adam — where are you?”  God calls out as He is walking in the cool of the evening.  “You’re supposed to be here like you are every evening for fellowship!”

“Here I am, Lord God, I heard you calling but I really don’t want you to see me and the woman naked so I was busy making some of these really eclectic coverings out of these fig leaves and threading them together with these small vines,” he stuttered, trying to get God’s attention off of the circumstances, “You think these duds will catch on?”

      “You are going to have to work your fingers to the bone and strain your back just to get anything to eat from the ground for the rest of your days.”

“Ok, stop with the pretense already, Adam, who told you that you are naked?  Did you get into the fruit of the only tree in the Garden that I specifically commanded you not to eat from?”

“Not really, it was this woman that you gave me, Lord God,” Adam whines and complains, “She just up and pulled one off that tree, took a big chunk out of it, and then had the audacity to hand it to me to eat.  I really had no choice! You know how a woman can be!” Adam responds as he hangs his head — trying not to make eye contact with his Lord and God — hoping his reasoning will appease Him.

God turns to Eve and asks, “Just what in the Garden do you think you’re doing?” he asked.

“Lord!” she stammers, “It’s that talking snake over there hiding behind the tree,” she answers with a tremble of fear and dread, “he made me do it!  He deceived me and I grabbed it and ate!”

God looks at where the woman is pointing.  He slowly approaches where the serpent is hiding and with a stern voice, he loudly declares, “Ok!   Because you have done this, I am going to curse you more than any livestock or any animal for that matter!” He looks at Satan and says, “You are going to crawl on your belly in the dust and eat it for all your days!”

He then turns and points at the woman and resumes His admonishment, “I’m placing a bitter parting of the ways — a hostility — between you and the woman,” he informed Satan, “and between your seed and hers!”  Then, with a final thrust, He continues, “He will grant you a fatal blow but you will only be able to temporarily slow Him down!”

Then God turns back to the woman and stares deeply into her eyes before saying, “As for you,” he declares in indignation, “you will have such pain when you have children that you will wish you had never been born!”  Letting that sink in, He then continues, “You will hurt for hours in giving sons and daughters to the man but you will always come back in desire for him, regardless of how bad having his children hurts and he will dominate you!”

He then turns to the man, walks over, points His finger at him, and commands, “As for you, it’s because of you that the very ground — that has lovingly begat the plants and trees here in the Garden for you — will be cursed!”  He waits for effect and continues, “You are going to have to work your fingers to the bone and strain your back just to get anything to eat from the ground for the rest of your days!”

God stares long and hard at the man again and resumes his curse, “All you are going to see are thorns and thistles in your way and you will have to fight for every square inch of space in order eat bread as you sweat for everything you grow!”  God then solemnly continues, “You will eventually return to the ground from where you were brought up out of because you are mere dust and to dust you will return because of your disobedience!”

Adam turns to his wife, “Oh man, I’m going to call you Eve — that means the mother of all living!”

God killed some game and made clothes for both of them.  Adam responded, “Lord, I really think our clothing design looks more pleasing to the eye but I recognize the value of the leather since I am going to have to bust my chops to feed all the kids Eve will have to suffer in bringing into the world.”

God then began speaking, “Ok, we have to place cherubim with those fancy swords to guard the Garden so that these two don’t eventually slip back in and eat from the tree of life and live forever!”  They watched the cherubim whirl their flaming swords around and around. God stated matter-of-factly, “Wow, they are a great creation! With these cherubim getting their fancy sword play on — I see no way those two will be able to get back in now!”  [to be continued…].

Until next time!

Zach

QUESTION:  HAVE YOU EVER SUFFERED CONSEQUENCES FOR BEING DISOBEDIENT TO GOD IN YOUR LIFE?

 

 

 

Hello and welcome back!

It’s great to see you!  Remember last time?  We took a little trip back into time to the Garden as Satan planted the seed of disobedience and Eve was being seriously tempted?

Let’s return again to that exact time in creation!

[…continued from 03/14/13]

The last post ended just as Satan had pretty much opened the door to Eve’s ego.  Satan is coiling, flicking his forked tongue, and selfishly gloating over the look of selfishness he had planted in Eve’s eyes.

“Thaaat’s riiight!” Satan whispers to himself in ecstasy as Eve timidly reaches towards the forbidding fruit.  The sun is shining gloriously and it is a beautiful day in Eden.  It is difficult to tell at first because the change is so subtle.  Suddenly, it becomes quite noticeable — it’s too quiet!

Wow!  We already know what happens next!  I’ve read it, you’ve read it, and all of Christianity has read about this creation-changing incident in Genesis.  Doesn’t seeing it, as it happens, cause you to want to shout out, “Noooo!”

Shhhhh!  It’s God’s plan and nothing can stop it.  Be quiet.  Let’s watch.

There is just something unsettling about the first sin ever committed by mankind.  As all of creation waits in suspended horror, Eve’s fingers slowly but surely extend and everything plays out in slow motion.  Her fingers begin to close upon the forbidden fruit that almost seems to shimmer in the mid-afternoon sunlight.

 

“Surely we won’t die!” She whispers, “The serpent told me we would be gods!”

 

“Go ahead, make my daaaay,” Satan continues to whisper over and over as he waits with baited breath.  Eve tightens her grip on the fruit, slowly begins to pull it, and suddenly—the stem suddenly separates from the body of the fruit and—the unbelievable and horrifying deed is completed.

Disobedience has gone from a temptation to action.  The first temptation has been acted upon.

“Yesssss!”  Satan hisses, gleefully coiling around and around as Eve takes the first bite.  She then hands it off to Adam who sniffs it and then, slowly raises the fruit to his mouth and takes his portion of the deadly curse that has now fallen upon mankind and all of creation.

Sin and death has now been turned loose in creation!

“Oh yes, oh yessss,” Satan weaves around bobbing his head in time with his chant.  “It’s over, it’s done!  I win, I win, I winnnn!” He hisses loudly!  Eve looks at Adam and Adam returns her gaze, “What have we done!” Adam shrieks.  Adam takes Eve’s hand, dropping the forbidden fruit on the ground and begins running.  He has no idea where he is going, he is just running, running, and running deeper into the trees.  There is no place to run.  There is no place to hide.  Sin—is now in the world.  Everything has changed.  He turns towards Eve, who is looking bewildered and frightened.

“Surely we won’t die!” She whispers, “The serpent told me we would be gods!”

“Well,” Adam glares before responding any further, “I don’t feel like any god, I feel scared and lost!”  Both of them begin looking around.  They then begin gathering the large fig leaves from the branches—threading small vines through them, making coverings for their new-found nakedness.

Can you believe that?  Reading about it is hard enough, but seeing it is mind blowing! They have everything they could possibly want!  They have it all but they trade it for a lie!

They trade eternity and perfection for forbidden knowledge, knowledge that leads to death and separation from their Creator!  Listen!  Do you hear something?

Mid morning turns into afternoon and as the sun begins casting ever elongating shadows upon the ground, a voice is heard softly calling:

“Adam, Adam—where are you?  [To be continued…]

 

Until next time!

 

Zach

 

QUESTION:  WERE BOTH ADAM AND EVE THE FIRST DISCIPLES SINCE THEY WERE THE FIRST TO FOLLOW THE COMMANDS OF GOD?

How to Poison a Disciple!

March 14, 2013

Hello!

I don’t know about you, but I often ponder the mystery of eternal life with Jesus.  I remember when I was young; I had different visuals in my mind’s eye than I do now.  Over the years, I have come to understand the deeper meaning of our permanent, eternal home with Christ and Father God.

What used to appear to be a place longed for by the dying and despondent has now been clarified in my mind to represent the place that true Christians long for regardless of age or how great life on earth is going for them or not.

In other words, I mean that this has been our destination ever since the journey began at creation back in the Garden!  The end goal has always been to arrive at the end of our earthly sojourn to eternal life in the paradise that heaven is and that was promised by Christ himself.

Let’s take a trip!  No, not a journey by automobile or plane!  Let’s take a journey in our minds and discover what it is we, as Christians, need to realize: regardless of what takes place around us in this life.  Are you ready?  Let’s go!

The Portrait of True Discipleship

Here we are!  We have safely arrived in the Garden where it all started for mankind (us).  There is Adam and Eve over there.  Wow!  What a time to arrive!  Eve just wandered off and Adam is following her.  What is she doing?  She is talking with someone!   No, not someone but some-THING!  What is it?  Oh my, it’s a snake — a talking snake!  Let’s sneak up behind that bush there and see if we can hear what they are talking about:

“You will be as smart as God and He just can’t stand the thought of that!”

“Whaaaat!” giggled the snake, “God told you what?”  He then rolled his eyes and let out a belly laugh, “If you believe that, let me sell you a bridge in the far, distant future for a song!” he replied and began to coil slowly down the tree trunk and onto the ground.

“What we got here, missy, is a lack of communication!” he exclaimed with glee as he ran his forked tongue in and out of his mouth with a flicking motion.  “Psssssst,” he whispered to Eve.   Becoming wary,  she slowly approached the Serpent.

“What do you want?” Eve questioned in response to the Serpent’s attempt to gain her attention.  “God told me not to talk to strangers,” she informed.

“Hey!” the Serpent replied.  “I’m no stranger!” he bleated in false anger, “I have been around here longer than you!”

“Oh, Eve responded,” then she offered, “Ok, then what is it you want?”

“Wellll,” the snake replied, “It’s not really about what I want — it’s all about what God wants!  He knows that if you eat of that tree over there you will not surely die but will obtain the knowledge of God and will become a God yourself!” he gleefully shrieked as his eyes darted back and forth, making sure that God was not already walking in the cool of the evening.

“You will be as smart as God and He just can’t stand the thought of that!” he happily informed the confused Eve.  “Go ahead, trust me, why would I lie about something as fantastic as that!” he stated with a look of innocence on his evil countenance.

“Well, God told us not to even touch it, that we would surely die!” she responded, “was he just telling me that to keep me from being smart?” Eve said, looking around at the tree that stood there in the middle of the Garden.

“Exactly!”  Satan said, coming towards her, herding her towards the tree, “Go ahead, eat — become a god!” Satan glowers, offering the poison of deceit.

Eve reaches out, grasps the fruit in her hand, and… (continued)

Until next time!

Zach

QUESTION: IF YOU KNOW HOW THIS SCENE TURNS OUT—THAT’S GOOD—THAT’S VERY, VERY GOOD!    IF YOU WERE IN EVE’S PLACE, WOULD YOU HAVE DISOBEYED GOD’S COMMAND?