Monday, August 19, 2013

Ishmael - The Unwanted Child

Breaking the Generation Chain

Studies show that children from broken homes generally experience lower achievement than the children of intact families. There are exceptions. It is surprising how many broken homes, and even abusive homes, produce achievers. It is as if the struggles of youth develop a drive for some to achieve against all odds. Bill Clinton's step-father was an abusive alcoholic, and Barack Obama's father abandoned him at a young age. His mother was absent much of the time, and he was raised by his grandparents.

It is true that our upbringing has a profound effect on our behavior. Alcoholics tend to have children who are alcoholics. Sexually abused children often become abusers as well. But we do not have to accept  these inherited flaws. We can break these generational chains. With God's help we can break away from our past. We are new creations in Christ Jesus (II Corinthians 5:17). The gospel is about restoration of the mind and spirit.

The Hindus have what is called the "caste system." This system breaks population into hereditary group called jatis. In some rural parts of India this system is radially followed. A person cannot move from his or her cultural stratum. This is bondage and discrimination. We are all children of God, equal in His sight. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16, emphasis mine). All of us are Gods wanted children.

by Gary Erickson

Circumstances Preceding the birth of Ishmael
God had promised Abraham a homeland and an heir, a son by Sarah (Genesis 13:16;15:4). The promise of a homeland had been followed immediately by a sign of sacrifice and prophecy (Genesis 15:7-14), but this promise of a son include neither a sign of sacrifice nor a definite prophecy. Abraham and Sarah had to take the promise on faith. They probably talked and dreamed of the arrival of their son, but their disappointment mounted month after month, no sign of fulfillment materialized. Sarah's patience snapped as she realized she was too old to bear a child. Instead, she conceived a plan for Abraham to get his son of promise.

Sarah's Plan and Abraham's Mistake
Sarah's solution to the problem was legal and not uncommon in their day. A favorite slave girl became a concubine, or surrogate mother, to bear a son who would then be adopted by the matriarch as her own. During their sojourn into Egypt the aging couple had acquired a slave girl named Hagar. Instead of waiting on God to fulfill His promise, Sarah persuaded Abraham to obtain the child by her Egyptian maid.

Human efforts to assist in the fulfilling of divine promise only complicate matters.  

The Grieving Father
Ishmael had been in Abraham's home for fourteen years before the birth of Isaac, and was almost grown. Abraham had once regarded Ishmael as the answer to his prayer for a Heaven-appointed heir of the promise (Genesis 17:18). He loved his son Ishmael, and Sarah's demand to case him out caused him much distress. It was like sentencing Ishmael and his mother to die in the wilderness hundreds of miles away from Hagar's home in Egypt.

God did not approve of what Sarah and Abraham had done, and Ishmael, though a descendant of Abraham, could never be accepted as the heir of promise. In Paul's allegory, he represented the flesh under bonded of law, which must be done away with in order for the spiritual man to have liberty.

When our vision is dimmed by disappointment, rejection, doubt, fear; anxiety, or broken dreams, we need to open spiritual eyes and look for the hand of God at work. 

Works of the flesh are always unwanted, and they war against the spiritual life and the spiritual inheritance. God's mercy and compassion can turn our mistakes into blessings when we come to Him with a repentant heart. 

Created by: Jocelyn Jones

References: Davis, Richard. Lessons from History for Christian Living. Summer 2012. Hazelwood: Word Aflame Publications, 2011. 12-18. Print.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Coming King of the Universe

The Holy Scriptures, commonly known as the Bible has always foretold of a coming Conqueror. From the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15), to the highly descriptive lines of the book of Revelation (Rev19:11-21), this Conquerer is none other than the One True God of the Jewish people and believing Gentiles. In 1Samuel12:12, the Lord is called the King of Israel, and we later find that He also called the King of all the earth (Ps 47:1-2). In Jewish understanding, the Bible being written entirely by Jews, from the Old Testament to the New, the term earth can not only denote the planet on which we live, but also the whole of the universe (Socino Press Pentateuch, Dr. J H Hertz), hence the God assumed existing within the pages of the Scriptures is the King of the whole earth, or the whole universe. As time passes God reveals more of His plan for mankind to us as well as His personal character. We find in the Scriptures various passages about God coming to the earth as well as a Messiah (anointed one) who comes to reign on the throne of David to rule the earth (2Sam7:12-16, Zech14:3-4). This Messiah is said to be of ancient or everlasting origins, making Him as endless as God Himself, but also being identified as God Himself (Mic 5:2, Is 9:6). As we move to New Testament times, we find that this King of Israel, the King of all the earth is none other than the Messiah Himself, Jesus (Jn 1:49). Jesus, as well as the prophets told of the signs and seasons of which the Lord Jesus would return in His Second coming, His first coming being to save mankind from the sin which Adam had placed us in. As we look around us and read the news, the signs of His coming are all around us, from the increase in knowledge over the passed century (Dan 12:4), the abundance of wickedness (Matt 24:12), the many people deceived into false teachings (Matt 244-5,11), the constant state of war (Matt 24:6-7), Israel being reestablished as it's own nation (Matt 24:32), to the love of self that this generation has (1Tim3:1-9). But for the Saint (set apart one) of  the Lord Jesus, these are all signs to rejoice, because that means our sojourn here is almost over. The Lord Jesus was definitely about having love and compassion, but He also stood for the righteousness of God against sin, and it's in Jesus that God Almighty will be the Judge of all the earth (Rom 2:16). So if we have not prepared ourselves for His coming, let us get ready. For those of us who have been born again as the Lord Jesus instructed (Jn3:1-8)  as well as living a set apart (holy) life from the ways of this world, let us stay prepared, for He is near, even at the doors (Matt 24:33).

Authored by:
Min. Christopher Bateman
Last Days Ministries Apostolic Church

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Strength of God

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith."
Romans 1:16-17

After carefully pondering on this portion of scripture one can not help but to ask. What is it about the gospel that made the Apostle Paul so unashamed and to what manner or extent did it affect his life?

What is the gospel
Def: Gospel (Greek:euaggelion) - Good tidings or Good news

How good is this good news? 
1) The angel of the Lord speaking the shepherds declared this good news saying "behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" after this a multitude of heavenly hosts praised God saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will toward men". The Gospel is for all People. Luke 2:10-14 

2) King Solomon put it ever so beautifully saying "as cold water to a thirty soul, so is good news from a far country". The gospel is Refreshing. Proverbs 25:25

3) Paul wrote that the "goodness of God leadeth thee unto repentance". The gospel has eternal purpose attached to it. Romans 2:4

The Affects of the Gospel
What could make a man endure persecution, heartache, pain, abandonment, beatings, imprisonment, trials, and ultimately beheading. What could make a person so bold? Apostle Paul endured all these thing and more and he revealed to us how he did it, he wrote it is "the Power of God".

Paul's character was that of a pharisee, these people were leaders in the Jewish synagogues. They were the traditional teachers of jewish law. They also held to deeply rooted traditions passed down through "oral law". Jesus Christ would reprove them for esteeming this oral law as much as the commandments of God, at times they would even go as far as neglecting the commandments of God for the traditions of men (Mark 7:1-13). Before his conversion, Paul was more zealous then the rest of the pharisees, the scriptures show that he fervently persecuted the church thinking that it was the will of God. One day he had an encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:4) and three days later he was converted (Acts 22:16). 

Paul's Suffering
"Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness". 2 Corinthians 11:23-27

Could you imagine this happening to you today? Being stoned almost unto death? (Acts 14:19-20)

In spite of these things Paul boldly declared, "none of these things moved me" Acts 20:24 How did he endure it? It was the Power of the Gospel! This word power literally means strength or might. It is the strength that propels one unto salvation. It is a literal force, who's author is Jesus Christ. What he did for us is life changing if you apply the gospel to your own life. Paul had a real encounter with the Savior and his gospel and he used his faith to apply it.

Application of the Gospel
A vehicle frame is useless without an engine, and an engine is useless without a vehicle frame. Alone they serve no real purpose, but when you install the engine into the vehicle it can accomplish its intended purpose. The Gospel works in the same manner with humanity. It must be applied to our life in order to be effective because the gospel was accomplished by Jesus for humanity.  

The Gospel (good news) is the publishing of what Jesus did to redeem us. It is the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We apply the same principle through the plan of salvation. We Die to self (Repentance), get Baptized by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ (Burial), and we rise in the newness of life by the power of the Holy Ghost (Resurrection) (Romans 6:3-5). Peter made it plain, giving instruction on how to be saved he said to "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost". Acts 2:38

Paul experienced this same plan of salvation and preached it as well (Acts 9:17 18) and (Acts 22:16). Every New Testament church had the gospel applied (Repentance, Water Baptism, and Holy Ghost), thus qualifying them to be called saints (Romans 1:7), brethren (Colossians 1:2) and churches (Galatians 1:2). 

Daily application
After our Christian conversion the principles of what Jesus did for us are also vital aspects to holiness living. The love that Jesus displayed for us in his death is so tremendous and life changing, how could we overlook it and not love our neighbors? The forgiveness he showed toward the very people that were crucifying him is the model for us today, we should not even hesitate to forgive others and love our enemies.

Gospel Power Houses
Truly the gospel is the "Strength of God" unto salvation. Like Paul, it will literally transform your life, making you into a gospel Power House. The power of God will flow through you and it will touch others; its contagious, its electrifying!  This Gospel has an eternal purpose attacked to it, it is not temporal nor will it leave you weary in well doing but it will position and project you into salvation and an eternal inheritance with Jesus Christ. Although we endure various trial and tribulations, the strength of God will leave us also with the very same testimony as the Apostle Paul, "None of these things move me" Acts 20:24

Authored by:
Min. John W Jenkins