Imitating Jesus – Where is he going?

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John 3: 8

In his book The Cross and the Switchblade, David Wilkerson tells how he was led by the spirit to meet with seven defendants. He was never given the chance to meet them, but he was able to lead Nickie Cruse to Christ. I was being transferred to a navy ship to start sea duty but when the orders came in they were to a patrol squadron instead. It was at this duty station I met and later married my wife over thirty years ago. I can write a book on how God has led me all through my life. Many times that the Holy Spirit led me was in a way that I would never have guest. Stories like these can be repeated many times over, you may have your own story.

Jesus tells us how this happens in John 3: 18. The wind blows and we see where it is going but not where it came from. The weather forecasters can try to explain where the wind came from but even their attempts are not right. They can only tell us the path it has taken. The Holy Spirit acts much the same way. We see the results of his moving. We can also see where the Spirit is going but not where it came from.

Consider the day the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. The people heard and saw the wind but did not know where it came from. We can trace the movement of the Spirit through the book of Acts. The followers of Christ were scattered throughout the world and did not know where he would lead them.

By now you may be asking what does this have to do with imitating Christ? I’m glad you asked. As Jesus started his ministry many wondered where he came from but no one knew. Jesus started at the beginning, when the bible said there was God. God thought about what was to happen, he moved by the spirit, and then he spoke all things into being. God’s voice then became a man. As a man he to was moved by the spirit of God. No one fully knew who Jesus was when he walked among us. It is his spirit that lives with us now, and all we can see is how he moves among us.

As we imitate Christ we too are led by his spirit. We are led to come closer to him, to do his will, go where he wants us to go. Our lives are given over to him that we might live with him in heaven.. As we live by his spirit we will draw others to Christ. Some of us will plant the seed, some will water it and some will reap the harvest. Never forget that it is God who gives the increase.

God bless you as you imitate him.

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Imitating Christ – A Misunderstanding

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John 3: 3

Have you ever heard something that got your attention and you wanted to find out more? The time may have not been right for you to ask questions then, so you can back later. I remember one college class that more time was spent in the professors office than in the class room. He never turned me away even though my final grade was only a “c”. This must have been how Nicodemus was with Jesus.

In this conversation there must have been a lot more said than was recorded. Nicodemus accepts Jesus as a person sent by God and therefore has much more knowledge then he has. He may have asked how do we know we will see God in heaven? This would lead Jesus into teaching about being born again. The words that Jesus used had two meanings. The one recorded for us was to be “born again”, the other was “from above” with the connotation of being spiritual. Nicodemus took it to mean the physical rebirth.

Jesus is not trying to manipulate the conversation to bring out a new doctrine, rather he is bringing an old teaching to remembrance. Jesus is reminding Nicodemus that the spirit of God comes from above – or heaven. Isaiah 44: 3 Tells us that God will pour out his spirit upon the offspring of God’s people. The Spirit of God also comes in many forms including the wind. In Ezekiel 37: 9 the wind is called from the four corners and brings life into the dry bones. Proverbs 30: 5 continues this theme by stating that God is a refuge for those who trust in him.

Jesus is aware of how much of the word of God you know and have accepted. When we come to him, he will start from there and teach us what we need to know. The more we understand the more he will teach us. This is important for us to remember.

As we Imitate Christ we are to teach others from the spiritual condition they are in. I have seen preachers have services where people came to the alter and without talking to them say they were there for salvation. They may have also told those these same people that they need to ask God for salvation when they came to pray for someone else. There are also some that will try to manipulate the conversation rather than to lead the conversation toward spiritual matters. There is often a very fine line between manipulating and leading a conversation. Another pitfall we often encounter is that words may have a different meaning to others. To avoid these obstetrical we will need to ask questions of the other person and allow the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation.

Imitating Christ – The Temple

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John 2: 18 – 22

In our busy world today we want to have things done fast. We really do not want to wait for anything. In our scripture today even the Jews wanted to have an answer and not wait for a response

In John, the Jews asked Jesus for a sign that would give him the authority to cast out the money changers. They thought that Jesus would perform some type of miracle for them that only God could do like the prophets of old. The answer Jesus gave was unexpected and impossible for them to understand. They were thinking of the temple built with hands which took years to build. However the concept of a person being the temple was never considered.

Throughout history, at this time, the Jews knew that the temple was the place God came to meet with them. When Jesus answered by saying that if they destroyed the temple, he would rebuild it in three days, he was taking the meeting place from a building to a person. For the first time we have the body referred to as a temple. Jesus is moving the temple from a place where people came to meet with God to a place where God goes with the people. Furthermore Jesus is saying it is now possible for God to live in a person and he is the proof of it.

As we follow Jesus we find some interesting points to ponder. One is that we are to be filled with his spirit. We find in the new testament that when we came to Christ he made his home in us so that it is no longer we who live but Christ lives in us. Because Christ lives in us, God can meet with others through us. Finally this makes our bodies the temple of God here on earth. Jesus meet the needs of people in different ways. Likewise we will see God dealing with those we come into contact in many different ways also. Too often we try to limit the way God works by saying that God can only work the way we want him to work. Another way that we limit God is that we only do those things that are comfortable for us not allowing God to lead us in the way we should go.

As we imitate Christ we are to allow God to direct our pathways. Sometime he will lead us where we do not want to go. After we have given in and allowed God to lead us we see miracles happen.

Imitate Christ – The House of Prayer

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John 2: 12 – 19 & Matthew 21:13

In my last post From John 2 we have Jesus chasing the money changers and merchants out of the temple. When he did this he told them that the temple was not to be a house of merchandise but rather a house of prayer.

In Matthew 21: 13 Jesus said that the temple was to be a house of prayer. This is a quote from Isa 56: 7. Here God says that those who joined the Jewish faith would have their sacrifices accepted and would be glad in the house of prayer. The definition that I like for prayer is that it is communication with God. It is how we talk to God and he talks to us. Prayer has many forms and expressions. It can be for the needs of others , our needs, for thanksgiving or praises. Individuals come to pray on their own or with a priest. The priest would also pray for the people. This is leading up to what may have been their worship service.

Each levite was given a task to do in the temple. For the worship service there were some who lead the singing, prayers, teaching and reading of God’s word, and performed the sacrifices. If any aspect of the service was left out the worship to God would be diminished.

Because Jesus would have been the one to instruct the Levites on how to perform the worship service, he would include each aspect as a means to communicate (pray) with God the father. The house of prayer was the starting point. Singing, reading God’s word, preaching, and the sharing of concerns only enhances our prayers and our closeness to God.

As we imitate Christ, we should come into the church in an attitude of prayer. (we are not to stop praying) Jesus tells us that we are to bring our tithe into the church. Our sacrifice will be to present ourselves as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God. Finally, as we continue to worship we will hear God’s word and sing praises to him. Our time of worship will encourage us for the coming week. We may also receive some instructions from God or be given something that will help those we come into contact with.

God bless you as you imitate Christ in you worship time.

Imitate Christ – Selling in church

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John 2: 12 – 19

Has your church struggled with whether or not to let guests sell thing in your church? One group says that we are not to sell anything in the church. Another group says that they need to make a living and so it is alright. And then there are those that will be somewhere in the middle. More often than not John 2: 16 will be brought up to decide if it is proper to sell in the church. Jesus said that the temple was not to be used for merchandise.

I do not want to tell your church how to handle this issue. My purpose will be to give a little background on this matter and use it as an intro to my next post. My church has always tried to put the focus on the service and not on the merchandise. We have refused selling, allowed them to take orders but not sell, and allowed guest to sell on Sundays. I am sure this question can come up again in the future.

At the time of Jesus we find that the Jews were scattered thru out many countries. At the feast days many of them would return to Jerusalem to worship. Part of their act of worship was to bring a sacrifice and an offering to the temple. The priests would not accept any money except the temple coins. There were instructions as to what could be brought for a sacrifice. Exodus and Leviticus are two books that give us instruction for offerings and sacrifices.

The problem that Jesus saw was that those who exchanged non temple money into temple money were not using accurate exchange rates therefore giving less in the exchange than there should have been. As to the sacrifice, the priest would not accept the people bringing in their own animals because they had to certify they were acceptable for the sacrifice. They would keep the animal and then sell the person an acceptable animal at an inflated price.

Now the zeal of the Lord was on Jesus and he drove the money changers and sellers out calling them a din of thieves and robbers. Now comes the part that I say tune in to my next post to see how this unfolds.

One last thought as we Imitate Christ. If we are to have the zeal for the things of God we need to understand the mind of Christ, and I pray that I have helped you toward that goal.

Imitating Christ – turning water into wine

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John 2:5 – 9

I was reading on facebook the other day of a person that had just gone missing and they wanted us to post his information on our page. Before posting this information I checked the internet. It seemed the person did go missing years prior to this and had been found. Incomplete information can be found just about anywhere. News reporters report the news from their point of view, politician tell us what they think we want to hear, ministers preach on how they interpret the bible. With all this information how can we tell what the full story is, or right or wrong? There is not an easy answer to this question. This question goes back to Adam and Eve. So how does Jesus prove that he is God among us

The book of John records a few of the ways Jesus proved he was God among us. John did not record everything Jesus said or did. He did record some of the miracles, teachings, signs, and the “I am” sayings to prove who Jesus was. The signs that John records are miracles that only God can perform. In the Old Testament there are many of these types of miracles performed but they were acts of God done at the request of a prophet. Today we will take a look at the sign of turning water int wine.

Although we have little information about the childhood of Jesus he must have shown some indication that he could perform miracles. When the wedding party was running out of wine Mary knew that Jesus could take care of the situation. As the water was turned into wine, the miracle was attributed to Jesus and not God. Only God could change one thing into something else. This sign proved that Jesus had power over creation and therefore was God among us.

We who follow Christ have already accepted that he is God among us but these signs help us to show our unsaved friends that God does live among us. As followers of Christ we can not perform these miracles but we can, as God seems fit, see these miracles happen today.

For mankind we must decide if Jesus did this or if it was just a trick. Those who follow Jesus will accept this as an act of God working through Jesus. Not only is God working through Jesus but Jesus is God dwelling with man.

Imitate Christ – Timing is everything

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John 2, 1-4

We have often heard that timing is everything. It is the right time to talk to people about an issue, it is time for a child to be born, time to get a job, and the list goes on. Even in the life of Jesus he said there is a right time for things to happen.

For something to be the right time there must be some preparation completed. Let us look at a few of examples. For crops to be harvested the ground must be worked, seeds planted, plants grown to maturity and then the harvest. To build a house, land needs to be purchase, surveyed, tested, plans drawn, and then the work begins. There is also preparations that had to be made for the ministry of Jesus to start.

Before Jesus could start his ministry many things had to happen first. One of the first things we noticed is that man has always tried to distance themselves from God and God has been trying to build a relationship with man. We see the fall of man and God coming to him. We see that God tried to teach mankind how to live, first by talking to man and then by giving us the law of God. God also sent Teachers, prophets, judges and established the church. When the right time came Jesus was born. It would be another thirty years before Jesus would start his ministry.

We have little of the childhood of Jesus but we see a glimpse of it in the request made by the mother of Jesus. She had to have seen Jesus perform many miracles as he was growing up and knew full well what he was capable of doing. Jesus was not ready to start his public ministry at this time but he did preform his first public miracle. This is the transition from a private ministry to his public ministry.

As we imitate Christ we also need to be prepared. Our salvation needs to be sure and our growth needs to continue. Our time to minister may not be according to our plans but the plans of God. My father-in-law was called to his first church before he had finished his studies and it was the right time. It is not what you do for a living but it is that you allow God to guild you. At the right time he will use you. Many times we will not know he has used us until years latter. May you see how God uses you as you continue to imitate Christ.

Imitating Christ – I saw you under the fig tre

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John 1: 43 – 51

Do you have a place that you go and meet with God? While you are there does it sometime feel as if God does not meet with you? Other time you may feel that God is right there in person with you. I am sure that most, if not all, of us have had days like these. After you have left your privet place with God, has God made himself known to you? This is what happened to Nathanael.

Phillip had just started to follow Jesus and wanted to have his brother join him. Phillip knew where Nathanael was having his devotions and whent to et him. Nathanael was persuaded to meet Jesus although he had his doubts that this could be the one they had been looking for.

It was the conversation that he had with Jesus that convinced him. When Jesus said that he had seen him under the fig tree Nathanael knew it was not by sight that he saw him. First the fig tree was where he had spent time alone with God. No one else would be there at the time he was and he had not seen Jesus in the area before. Second it was the way Jesus spoke that said it was while he was meeting with God in his privet time that he saw him. Nathanael knew that God had now come to them in the person of Jesus.

There is a song that goes something like this, Let me see the world through you eyes dear Jesus. It was those eyes that Jesus had seen Nathanael. Jesus sees the event around the world, and yet he sees us as we have our quiet time with God. Through our quiet times Jesus looks beyond the outer and into the heart of his people. This allows him to reveal himself to us when we need him and in the way we need his presence.

Can we have an encounter like this today? The encounters that we have today will not be with Jesus bodily but will be the realization that God is with us. Each one of us will encounter God in different ways and at different times. For Nathanael, he was a follower of God when he had his meeting with Jesus. Later he was filled with the Holy Spirit and he would continue to have other encounters with God. Some of my encounters have been when I have been praying, others have been when talking with others, and some are in those quiet times when nothing is going on.

I pray that you will have many encounters with God during your lifetime. As you have these encounters you will be better able to imitate Christ.

Imitate Christ – Where are you staying?

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John 1: 29: 40

I was reading the book of John the other day and there seemed to be some odd verses. One was that John’s disciple asked Jesus where he was staying but did not continue following him. It is the question that John’s disciples raise that intrigues me the most, “where are you staying?” Although they were talking about the physical place it is the spiritual place that is of the most importance.

As we move to a more spiritual aspect of this question let us first look at the ministry of John. He was baptizing people for the remission of sins. The people that were listening to him fell into three groups. The first group of people were those who would not accept his message. The second were those who were in the process of accepting the message of forgiveness. Finally there were those who were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.

With the ministry of Jesus we see this same types of people around him. Those that rejected him, those who followed him to learn more about living a better life and those who were baptized into the purification of sin. (baptized with fire.) There is also a more spiritual aspect to the ministry of Jesus as well. The ministry of Jesus is focused on leading people to full surrender to God’s will. John 1: 12 says to those who received Jesus were given the power to become the sons of God.

The first group of people are those who do not know God. Of this group there are those who will reject Jesus, and those who will come to know Christ. These are the ones that have Jesus staying outside of their lives.

The second group are those who have accepted Jesus and asked for their sins to be forgive. These people have Jesus staying in their live. This group is also divided. Part of this group will at some point reject Jesus, moving Jesus out of their lives once more. The others will come closer to Christ and desire the baptism with fire. This baptism will remove the desire to sin form them. A look at the parable of the sower may help at this point.

The third group are those that have been baptized by Jesus. It was not until the book of acts that we see the disciples of Jesus receiving this baptism. Even after this baptism they needed to continue to grow spiritually.

It is my desire that we continue to draw closer to Christ to live a more perfect life.

May God Bless you as you imitate Christ.

Imitating Christ – tempting God

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Matthew 4, 1-11

Do we know the difference between proving something is correct and testing to prove it is true? In math we take a formula that we know is true and we use different equations to prove why and how it is true. In science we take an idea and use different methods to test it to prove it true or false. In other words in proving something is true we start with something that has been tested and in a test there is doubt it is true and we test it’s validity.

The only place in scripture that God tells his people to prove him is found in Malachi 3: 10. This is when God tells them to prove he will bless them if they bring all of their tithes into the Church.

Satan takes what God says and interjects some doubt as to his validity. This doubt causes us to have to prove God’s word true. To do this we will have to break his word and see what God will do. In this temptation Satan wants Jesus to doubt God will protect him from harm. Jesus knew that to be the sacrifice for our sins there could not be any blemishes on him, including broken bones. Jesus also knew that God was protecting him from all harm. The answer that Jesus gives Satan comes from Duet. 6: 16, do not tempt God.

We have seen Satan use these same tactics many time before in scripture. Any time the children of God were tempted to go against what God said to do it was because of the doubt that Satan had given them. We have the same temptation today. Does God want us to live without sin? The answer to this is yes. Is this going to be easy? No! With every temptation, God has provided a way to avoid acting on that temptation. The first step that Jesus used was that he knew the scripture. Although I believe that it is very important that we memorize the scripture, it may be more important that we are able to communicate the idea rather than the correct words. The second thing is to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Often God’s spirit will warn us that we are about to do or say something that is not in God’s will. As we grow in our faith, we will hear these warnings better. We will also learn how to avoid many of the temptation we face on a daily basses.

 

God bless you as you Imitate Christ.