Thursday, September 11, 2014

Are You a Disciple of Jesus Christ?

I've had something on my mind for quite awhile.  What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ?  Most folks believe a disciple is anyone who has faith in the Lord Jesus.  I think in a broad sense, they're right.  However not every "disciple" is being "discipled".

I think there's a huge gap between calling yourself a disciple and actually being discipled.  A "disciple" is what you are - a noun that implies you're sitting under the lordship of a Master.  "Being discipled", on the other hand, is a verb, an action, a daily pursuit to learn from that Master.


To give an example, it's safe to say every child in a classroom is a student.  But not every child studies.  You might have the slacker, the class clown, or the one who's always asleep in the same class as the child who actively seeks to excel. 

There are so many people in this world who profess Christ and claim to be disciples.  Perhaps they are true believers, only God can read their hearts.  However, it's not too hard to discern they aren't making an effort to disciple themselves by the Word of God.  Famous singers and actors profess Christ, yet their music is laced with profanity and their movies are morally ambiguous. 

I realize there's a disconnect between real life and fiction.  I used to write fiction, after all.  But I cannot for the life of me picture the Apostle Paul writing erotica, singing songs with foul or suggestive language, or acting in questionable movies.  If the Lord Jesus Christ Himself wouldn't do these things, then why do His followers?  It might boost one's career, but it does nothing for one's relationship with Christ, and in fact, these types of behaviors actually harm that relationship.

I'm not just talking about famous people, but everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus.  As disciples of Christ, we represent Him here on earth.  Scripture calls us ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).  That means our citizenship is in another world and we're representing our homeland here on earth -- the Kingdom of God.

If you were an ambassador for the United States, how would you act to represent this country?  It is no different as an ambassador for Christ.  We are His Body here on earth.  If someone knows you're a believer, yet witnesses your half-hearted commitment to our Lord, what does that say about you, about your salvation, and about your love for Jesus?


God made it clear through Christ's Two Great Commandments what true discipleship looks like.  We love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.  This isn't some passing fancy.  This isn't lip-service.  We don't love God in the same way we might "love" our roommate.  Think about the measure of devotion one must have to love another with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Think about how difficult it is to be selfless rather than selfish.  But that's what God calls us to do.  He wants us to love Him with every last atom of our existence and pour ourselves out for others.

That means all affection, adoration, and devotion belong to God.  Heart.
All your prayers, worship, and eternity belong to God.  Soul.
All your thoughts, studies, and entertainment belong to God.  Mind.
All your willpower, all your perseverance, and all your ability to follow belong to God.  Strength.

All of these are accomplished when we earnestly seek God.  He promises over and over that if we seek Him, He will be found (Deuteronomy 4:29, Matthew 7:7).  No one can do this on their own.  We need to pray for God's help to love Him in this way, as we cannot make ourselves do something that is foreign to us.  Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we're bound to fail.


For myself, I asked God to help me love Him like the Apostles.  It was a genuine prayer, from my heart, and God granted it because it is His will for every child of God to know Him as the Twelve knew Him.  In fact, you can be sure any genuine prayer you pray to better yourself for the Kingdom of God will be heard and answered.  The Apostle John told us if we pray according to the will of God, we have what we've asked of Him (1 John 5:14-15).

We might not know God's will for our lives in the day-to-day, but I'm confident in this, that God's will for each of His children is to know Him.  If we point our prayers in that direction, for God to reveal Himself to us, to give us a love for His Word, to fan the flames of our hearts, to learn more about Jesus, to do good works for His Kingdom, to love others, to be a light for Him, to equip us with knowledge and wisdom in Him, then He will honor these prayers and by His will, the Holy Spirit shall begin discipling you.

Being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is not easy.  Likely that's why many don't disciple themselves.  I used to write erotic romance.  When I decided to disciple myself, I retired.  And it was a joy to do so.  Remember, I had prayed for God to help me in this.  When I laid down my writing for Jesus, I knew I was doing so for His glory, and not my own.  I no longer wanted my mind to be filled with such thoughts.  I no longer wanted to be an accomplice of filling the minds of my readers with such thoughts.

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul talks about food that's been offered to idols and whether or not it should be eaten.  My issue wasn't with food, but the concept was sound -- don't live so as to make your weaker brother or sister stumble.  I saw the vanity in what I was doing, that the Kingdom wasn't advancing through me, that Christ wasn't glorified through me, that others couldn't see Him in me.

As a Christian, I quite literally disgusted myself. 

But the Lord takes what the enemy means for evil and works it for good.  I'm still a writer, but now I write for God.  And pretty much everyone who knew me before knows what I do now.  If I had retired quietly, God wouldn't have been given the glory.

The point I'm trying to make here is that Christians need to be discipled.  We have it in our heads that we need to do it in groups, have a mentor, or have an older Christian to guide us.  While those are wonderful resources to have, I have learned the Holy Spirit is quite capable of discipling a child of God all on His own.  Everything you read on my blog I've learned under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit.  I retired from writing romance in 2011 and these past few years have rushed by like a hurricane - God has restored the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25) and used me to reach you.


Everything I do on my blog, I do out of love for my brethren in Christ.  I truly feel as if the Lord is moving through the candlesticks of His Church and fanning the flames in the hearts of every true believer.  I have an intense desire to urge His Bride to wake up, stand up, and look up for their Bridegroom and know Him as I do.  I meet a lot of disciples of Christ.  But it is rare to find those who are actively being discipled.

If you are a Christian, you must grow in the Lord.  Don't be content to be a withered little sproutling in a dark corner of the Lord's garden.  Endeavor to become a mighty oak, planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither (Psalm 1:3).  Ask God to make you a Christian who abides in Vine, one who has the Word of Christ dwelling in them richly.  Ask the Lord to make rivers of Living Water flow from your heart.  Ask God to mold you and shape you into a mature Christian who actively seeks Him in both prayer and study.  

If you do this, then Christ can and will use you mightily for the Kingdom of God.  And at the end of the day, that's all that really matters.


~~Becka

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Son of God - The Love of My Life

For everyone who's reading this, I wanted to give you a glimpse into my heart.  I have prayed often to God that He's the only One who truly knows the extent of my love for Him.  I rarely talk about Jesus among friends, as sadly I don't have many close, godly, Christian friends--at least ones who have a desire to talk about deep theology and the things of God.

So, like Mary, the mother of Jesus, I hide these things in my heart (Luke 2:19).


Upon reading a journal entry of mine that's about six months old now, I felt the nudge of the Lord that it was time to share it, that perhaps by my example, others can know there are more Christians out there like them.  Perhaps they can know they're not alone, that there are Christians who, like King David, pant after and long for the heart of their God.  There are those who aren't blinded by the emotional outbursts of some, or the false pretenses of others.  There are those with discernment and the gift of faith, who stand tall upon the Rock of their salvation--who see Christ high and lifted up, and magnify His holy name.

Or perhaps this can be an example to others who don't know Christ in this way, who have never considered loving Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.  Maybe they've stumbled upon this blog by accident, maybe they're a Christian, and yet have never beheld a mature believer who's not simply "on fire for Jesus", like many a charismatic may claim, but rather, has surrendered their life unto Him in total and complete trust and devotion.


Therefore, without further adieu, here is my own personal journal entry from March 20th, 2014:

After reading the account of Sarah Edwards and her love affair with the Lord God, I was inspired to write down my own thoughts and feelings regarding the Treasure of Heaven.

~*~
Yeshua Messiah is everything to me.  He is my all-in-all.  In Him, there is nothing I lack; I have all I need.  I see His beauty everywhere - the sky, the birds, the flowers.  He speaks to me in gentle, lilting ways, igniting my heart as well as my mind.  The angels speak true - the whole earth is full of His glory!  

The depth of my closeness to Him is as an ocean, bottomless and vast.  No matter how deep I go, there is more depth to plunder.  No matter how far I go, the far shore is never sighted.  And yet I know my finite brain has only seen God as through a key hole, just a glimpse of His majesty, just a taste of His sweetness.

But that is all it takes to make me hunger for more, a famine for the Word of the Lord.

The Bible is a feast - the Word is bread; it is the table that God has prepared before me in the presence of my enemies.  Every page, every word, a glittering gem, a thread, a rabbit hole of deeper and fuller understanding of the character of God - through Yeshua our Lord.

God's truths have been made manifest to me - no longer written in a Book, but upon my heart, real and everlasting.  And through these promises and knowledge of His character, I spend so much time in prayer, adoring my Maker, my Husband, the God of the whole earth.  The Lord of Hosts is His name!

The sky is His tabernacle; my heart is His Holy of holies.  He dwells before me, beside me, within me, closer than my very breath.  There isn't an atom in my body which does not adore Christ.  He is my daily pursuit, my magnificent obsession, the Lover of my soul.  No book is more precious to me than the Song of Solomon, of knowing Yeshua so thoroughly that I can say with confidence -- "He is my Beloved and my Friend, the Chiefest among ten thousand!"

And yet He condescends to love me unconditionally, the chiefest among sinners.

How can I not be fascinated by such devotion?  How can I not be moved to know that God Himself did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, that He counted it all as loss in order to win His Bride - to win ME?

God's love is better than life - now the psalmist speaks true.  To live is Christ, but to die is gain for we shall ever be with the Lord.  What sweeter reality is there?  What earthly promise can compare?

Communing with Christ brings Heaven to earth.  Entering His presence is both weighty and wonderful.  His love is tender, it is true, it is so fulfilling to heart and soul.  A saddened heart becomes joyous, an agitated heart becomes at peace, an offended heart melts with love.

Christ has saved the best of my walk with Him for now, when I can know and appreciate Him as my Bridegroom and not just as my Father, Brother, or Friend.  He has brought me into His chambers and His banner over me is love.  He has clothed me with the gold of Ophir and tells me that one glance from my eye ravishes His heart.


It moves me to tears to know I mean so much to the Starbreather.  That I reside within the heart of my God just as He lives in mine.  He is my Fortress, I am His temple.

I feel Him all around me - at all times - wherever I go.  He is my garment and my fragrance.  He has visited me in dreams, and He is glorious.  The longer I sit in His presence, the more aware I am of His holiness compared to my sinful nature.  I feel the divide between us, how far I am from Him in righteousness, and yet, He says, "Look at Me."

But I say, "No, Lord, do not look upon me, for I am black with sin."

He answers, "My dove, there is no stain upon you."

He has blessed me far beyond all I could ask or think - I am the object of His affection and at times feel Him very close to me.  He loves me, and while I know I do not deserve Him, He has given Himself to me and for me, so I may be with Him where He is.

I was created for Him.  I was created to worship and adore Him.  And I do, wholeheartedly.

He is the object of MY affection, and may it never be otherwise.  I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine.  I have found the One whom my soul loves.

Yeshua Messiah, Son of God, Lord of Hosts, King of Kings, Ancient of Days.

Words are not adequate to describe my devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.  I praise Him that He can read my heart, for He is the strength of my heart, and my portion... FOREVER.


~~Becka

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Did Love Become Unconsuming?

In borrowing a lyric from the Sidewalk Prophets, I wanted to share with you a topic that's been on my heart lately.  When did love become unconsuming?  I'm sure you've heard people groaning about those who post endlessly about Christ on social media.  I certainly have, likely because I am one of those who endlessly posts about Christ on social media.  My Facebook, my Twitter, my blog...  I glorify Jesus all the time, and all the time, I glorify Jesus.


I'm not too worried about unbelievers who groan.  That is to be expected.  But since when has it become okay for believers to groan at the Word of the Lord?  I have noticed a few people who profess Christ on the one hand are jaded when it comes to glorifying Him outwardly.  Like I mentioned in my previous post, it's almost a "keep it to yourself" mentality.

Is there even such a thing as "too much Jesus" for a Christian?  Is that even possible?  My short answer is no.  Let's lay aside social media for a moment and talk about lifestyle.  Does Jesus mean everything to you, or is He just an accessory to your life, like the fish on your car?  Is He the center of your life or the cherry on top?

Many Christians would say, "Oh, He's the center, absolutely."  But their lives don't reflect this.  They're like people who look at their face in a mirror but when they walk away, they forget what they look like (James 1:23-24).  For all God has done for the sinner, He became flesh, lived a perfect life, taught us how to follow Him, died for our sins, conquered death, rose again and ascended back to Glory, is our contribution to His epic, awe-inspiring Love to merely say, "Yeah, I'm a Christian", or is it to live like one?

Do you not know that the true Christian is born again (John 3:3)?  He has new desires, new longings.  His gaze is now heavenward, not worldward.  He lives and breathes for Christ, his life revolves around Him, and it's obvious to one and all.  This isn't lip service.  This is true service.  Where is our zeal for the things of Christ, brethren?  Look around you.  The Church has lost her zeal.  Read the book of Acts and ask yourself if the Church of the 21st century looks anything like the Church of the 1st century.  Why not?

I read a LOT of books.  Some of my favorites are the Puritans of old, as well as a few preachers from the 19th century.  Their view of God was so high, it's like climbing Mt. Everest just to witness the same view.  These men had a singular focus, a song in their hearts, and an all-consuming love for Christ.  Men like Edwards, Brooks, Whitefield, Watts, and Watson.  Owen, Sibbes, Baxter, Goodwin, Brainerd, and McCheyne.  Spurgeon, Ryle, Moody, and Lloyd-Jones.

Where are folks such as these in today's pulpit?  What makes these men stand out when compared to our own preachers?  They were stoic men of prayer, devoted to studying the Bible, committed to the cause of Christ.  One doesn't have to be a pastor in order to have such zeal for the Living God.  Where is the congregation's zeal?  Why are people content to hear a message and go on their merry way as if this life is all there is?

Examine yourself and ask the question, "Does my life glorify God?"

"That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless wishes, raising us but a little above a state of indifference: God, in His Word, greatly insists upon it, that we be in good earnest, 'fervent in spirit', and our hearts vigorously engaged in religion."  Romans 12:11, Deuteronomy 6:4-5
~~Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections

Examine yourself and ask the question, "Does the love of Christ ignite my passion for Him?"

"Christ's love in us, is as the loadstone to the iron.  Our hearts are heavy and downwards of themselves.  We may especially know His love by this, that it draws us upwards, and makes us heavenly minded.  It makes us desire further and further communion with Him.  Still there is a magnetical attractive force in Christ's love.  Wheresoever it is, it draws the hearts and affections after it." 
~~Richard Sibbes, The Love of Christ

If not, why not?

Do you find Jesus boring?  Then you don't know Him.
Do you find His Word dull?  Then it is not manna to you.
Do you find those who love Christ with their heart and soul annoying?  They are not your brethren.
Do you think there's a time for Jesus, just as there's a time for chores, for work, and for play?  Then you are not fit for the Kingdom of God. 

Hard words, I know.  But I am hard-pressed to call nominal Christians "Christians" at all.  If you're not all in with your heart, soul, mind, and strength, then why are you "in" at all?  Christ said He will one day spew the lukewarm out of His mouth in disgust (Revelation 3:16).  This assumes those who are "lukewarm" aren't truly Christians at all, because Christ loses NONE of His sheep (John 6:37, John 10:14).

 "There is within each of us a terrible tendency to become neglectful, indifferent, and lukewarm towards the Lord Jesus Christ.  This common, sinful tendency of our nature must be marked, acknowledged, and avoided." 
~~Don Fortner, Discovering Christ in the Song of Solomon

So let me ask you again.  When did love become unconsuming?  Has your love for Jesus grown cold?  Redeem the time and stoke those embers while He may be found.  Ask the Lord to breathe upon you and ignite that fire again.  Don't be the one to hear the Lord say that you've abandoned your First Love (Revelation 2:4)  Rededicate your life to Him and seek the Lord Jesus Christ.  Follow in the tracks of the flock and pasture yourself beside the tents of His shepherds (Songs 1:8).  Go back to the rock from which you were hewn (Isaiah 51:1) and drink deeply from the wells of those who have gone before you. 

In Jesus' name.







~~Becka

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It is Impossible to Keep Faith in Christ Private

Recently I have heard people say online and in articles that they don't have a problem with Christianity, as long as believers keep their beliefs private and to themselves.  A particularly graphic article compared sharing one's faith with publicly exposing themselves.  In one sense, I can understand the sentiment, that those of the secular world don't wish to have Christian ideals forced upon them.  Christianity should never be forced on anyone.  In fact, it cannot be forced, as each individual must come to Christ by their own accord. 

However, by stating Christianity should be a private faith seems to impose the same "rule" society has about one's sex life.  "Don't tell me about it, I don't want to know.  That's between you and Him.  Keep it in your bedroom."  Going back to the article mentioned above, public belief is likened to be no better than a pervert flashing the populace.

But keeping things quiet between you and God is not what the Lord Jesus Christ had in mind.  In fact, keeping a private faith is not being true to His teachings.  True Christianity is about going into the world and making disciples (Matthew 28:19).  True Christianity is living the abundant life.


There is no such thing as a "private" abundant life.  What does it mean to have an "abundant" life?  Well, let's start with a life sold out for Jesus Christ.  When one loves another, how easy is it to keep that love private?  Doesn't it become quite obvious when someone falls in love?  The object of their affection is all they can talk about, think about, wonder about, learn about.  It is no different with Jesus.  Christians don't merely "believe" in Jesus like I "believe" the sky is blue.  Christians adore Jesus.  Their minds are staid on Him.  

The abundant life also stems from having a Christian world view.  It is impossible to keep one's Christianity private when their entire world view is shaped by their beliefs.  Everything they do will be affected by this world view.  

In other words, the true Christian cannot merely blend in.  If they claim Christianity and yet look no different than the world, something is very wrong.

 

In fact, we are called by our Lord to shine (Matthew 5:16). One cannot "shine" privately.  What happens when you turn on a lamp?  Do other people in the room know you've done so?  Is it even possible not to know when a lamp is turned on in a darkened room?  Christ told us that no one lights a lamp and hides it under a basket (Matthew 5:15).  And yet that's exactly what some are calling us to do!



Now, this is not to say we should beat people on the head with the Bible.  We simply shine.  The idea of being a light isn't to condemn your fellow man, but to live in the grace and truth of God and be a fisher of men.  It's to live in such a way that people cannot help but know there's something different about you.  Christ told us our hearts would overflow with rivers of Living Water (John 7:38).  How can THAT be kept private?  Simple - it can't.

The overflow stems from our love for God.  We cannot help but praise His holy name.  We cannot help but thank Him.  We look to Him for help, for peace, for grace, for love, for joy.  In fact, God is to be so much the center of our lives, that we would be willing to give up our families, even our very lives for Him (Luke 14:26).  We are instructed to deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Him (Matthew 16:24).  That cannot be done within the privacy of our own hearts.  

The whole point is to put our lives on display for the glory of God!

Another reason we cannot keep our faith to ourselves is the intense joy loving and following Christ gives us.  The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).  It's undeniable, and likely the very light by which we shine.  How can we find our strength and peace in times of trial?  It's the joy of the Lord.  

Have you ever tried to hide pure joy?  

What do you do when you're joyous?  You crank the music.  You dance.  You laugh.  You whoop and holler.  You call your friends.  You scream and shout.  You jump up and down.  You hug people.  You smile, and most of the time, your joy is infectious.  Others want to be happy with you.  You bring joy into their hearts.  This is what the abundant life means.  This is what shining means.  This is the fruit of a life lived for God's glory.

That is not to say only Christians can be full of joy.  Obviously anyone can feel joy.  However, our joy is not dependent upon our circumstance, but upon Christ - and therein lies the difference.  

Christianity is a world view.  It is a lifestyle.  It is a conviction, a belief that permeates the core of your soul.  It is a joy, an adoration, an all-consuming fire that is impossible to contain.  How, then, can we keep things quiet?  We can't, bottom line.  

I am well aware there are many out there who give Christianity a bad name.  A lot of these people are the more famous faces of the faith.  But the heart and soul of true Christianity is all about being like Christ and magnifying His name.

And He most certainly did NOT keep to Himself in Judea!



~~Becka

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Song of Solomon: One Chain of Thy Neck

Hello again!  It has been awhile since I've decided to do a study for my blog.  I've been very busy, making sure my kids take their state tests for school, attending Ligonier's West Coast Conference, and the every day dramas of life.  The conference was a blast, and there are more quotes, pictures, and stories from my time in Seattle on my Facebook page if anyone is interested - the dates of the conference were June 5th & 6th, but there are also posts about it dated the 7th and maybe the 8th after I got home.  But without further adieu, let's get started with this new study.

I've had this idea for awhile, to delve into Songs a bit more and bring up another pearl.  A while ago, I asked the Lord about the necklace in Songs and why it's so important.  There is reference to it in Songs 1:10, & Songs 4:9.

We read, "Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck."

I understand why a glance from her eyes would ravish the heart of the Beloved, but her necklace?  What's that all about, Lord?  I know there's no idle word in Scripture, so this is likely more than poetry.


I didn't find the answer right away.  The Lord let me ponder the meaning of the necklace for some time.  It wasn't until I was reading along in another book that an idea started to take root.  At first read, this passage doesn't seem to have anything to do with anything.

The passage is Judges 8:26:

And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks.

In this Scripture, Gideon requested the men of Israel give him the earrings of their prey, likely so that they wouldn't idolize the gold over Yahweh.  They willingly gave the spoils and spread them out upon a garment.  When I read this passage, the Holy Spirit nudged me to remember the necklace in Songs.  But Judges doesn't elaborate further on the chains of the camels.

Besides, who wants to think about the chains of a camel as being attractive to the Beloved?!

But the Spirit kept nudging me to think about it.  The camels' chains were their reins.  Perhaps they were a bit ornate, but they were used to lead the camel and tell it where to go.  Okay, Lord, seed planted.

I just so happened to be reading another passage for leisure one day, not for study, in the book of Proverbs.  When I read it, I sat up and my hair stood on end.  Proverbs 1:8-9:

My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.

I had even written this in my Bible's margin months earlier:

"Instruction and Law are like fine necklaces, or as reins that tell one where to go."

WHAAAT??  Immediately I remembered Songs and Judges, both how the necklace gave the Spouse beauty to the Beloved, yet also how the chains guide the camels.  Here in Proverbs, we see the same idea.  Instruction and law guide the believer.

This idea is further solidified in Proverbs 3:3: "Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart" and Proverbs 3:21-22: "My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck."

Another sister verse to Proverbs 1:8-9 is Proverbs 6:20-21:

My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.
Indeed, this is the true meaning of the Spouse's necklace in Songs.  Let's revisit what these Scriptures say:

"Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold."  ~~Songs 1:10
"Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck."  ~~Songs 4:9

In the context of the supporting Scripture elsewhere in the Bible, the mystery of the golden necklace in Song of Solomon is solved.  The chains that turn the head of the Beloved are instruction, commandment, law, mercy, truth, wisdom, and discretion.

With just one chain, she ravishes His heart.  With just her mercy.  With just her wisdom.  With just her truth.  We see the chains of her neck which lead her through life are actually attributes of God.  She reflects her Beloved by being like Him.  Out of her eyes she reflects Him, because His Spirit indwells her (dove's eyes), and she also reflects Him through her character and the way she lives.  His attributes govern her life.  His attributes are her adornment, as a necklace of fine gold.


Interestingly enough, both Songs and Proverbs were written by King Solomon.  I have found many "keys" to Songs in Proverbs.  Perhaps King Solomon spelled out his wisdom in Proverbs while veiling that same wisdom in the poetry of Songs.  It seems to me these two books decipher each other at times.

Not every secret in Songs is in Proverbs.  But I bet you'll never read Proverbs in the same light again.

Praise God!

~~Becka

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Rich Young Ruler vs. The Blind Old Beggar

In my private study time of the Bible, I came across a familiar story in Mark 10.  It is the story of the rich young ruler.  He is unnamed, but mentioned in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  I'm sure most of us are familiar with this story.  The Lord makes mention that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to Heaven.  This is a powerful statement, prompting the disciples to question, "Who, then, can be saved?"

What I noticed in my study, however, was the contrast between the rich young ruler and the blind beggar outside of Jericho at the end of the chapter.  The beggar is mentioned again in Luke, but not at all in Matthew.  It is only in the Gospel of Mark that he is named: Bartimaeus.

In rereading both of these accounts, we can see the differences between the men right away, and it doesn't take a genius to see why one man is saved and the other is not.

First, let's start with the rich young ruler.  His story is in Mark 10:17-22.



In his account, we see him running to Christ, and kneeling before Him.  He says, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"

Christ responds with, "Why do you call me good?  There is none good but God."

First, I believe this was a subtle hint that if He is truly "good", then He is truly God.  However, in studying this further, I believe the Lord was making a point to this wealthy man, that men are not "good" by their works.  He is reminding him that there is none that are good (Psalm 14:3, Psalm 53:3).  With a caveat - except for God.  Why?  I'll get to that.

After the Lord's rebuke, Christ then goes into the Law, and how the young man knows the Ten Commandments.  The man affirms that he has lived by the Law since he was a young lad.  Then, the account says the Lord *loved him*, and told him a very hard truth - to sell all he has and give it to the poor.  Not only that, but take up his cross and follow Him.

The rich man walked away grieved, because he had much wealth.

Notice a few things about this account.  First, he made an assumption that Christ was "good".  He'd heard about the Lord's works, and therefore assumed He was "good".  Christ IS Good.  He's the only man who ever was truly "good", because He is also God.  But in telling the rich man there is none good but God, we can see this person does not believe Jesus is the Son of God.

Next, Christ goes through the Commandments, and the rich man puffs up with pride.  He's kept the Law his whole life!  Surely he, too, is a good man.  Christ's rebuke that no one is "good" but God goes right over his head.  We know this because of his pride, but also because of his original statement to Jesus - "What shall I do...?"  He is probably well-liked.  Loves accolades.  Loves being told how wonderful he is.  Perhaps he's made his wealth single-handedly, being the one who loves to DO things in order to get them done.

Of course, we know in light of the entire Gospel message, it is not by our own works that we are saved, but by the finished work of Christ alone.

In telling this rich man to sell his possessions and take up his cross, Jesus is telling him to become poor, to be looked down upon, and to be a curse - as everyone who hangs upon a tree (a cross) is a curse (Deuteronomy 21:23).  Considering this man's pride, wealth, and love for prestige, this is not an attractive perspective.  Likely the Lord told this man to sell all he had because his wealth had become an idol.  It needed to be cut out of his heart.  Christ isn't saying His followers need to be beggars and dirt poor, but rather, that nothing should remain in our hearts that hinder us from following Christ.  Once this man "cut off his hand" and "gouged out his eye" (figuratively speaking), he would then be freed from his idolatry.  When that idol is gone, he would joyfully take up his cross to follow Christ.

That is why Jesus continued saying it is hard for those who trust in money to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  They are idolaters, and therefore their money is their God.

Now, let's contrast Bartimaeus.  His account is found in Mark 10:46-52.


Bartimaeus was begging on the side of the road outside of Jericho.  When he heard the commotion of the crowds, he asked who was passing by.  The moment he knew it was Jesus, he cried out, "Yeshua, Son of David! Have mercy on me!"  Some told him to be quiet and hold his peace, but he cried out all the louder - "Yeshua!  Son of David!  Have mercy on me!"

Now, notice the difference in what these two men called the Lord?  The rich young ruler called Him "good Master", but Bartimaeus calls Him "Son of David" - he knows Jesus is Messiah.  We also see he cries out for mercy.  He is asking the Lord to be merciful to him, but he does not leave his spot by the side of the road.  Unlike the pomp of the rich man who rudely ran up and intercepted Christ, this blind beggar can do nothing more than cry out for mercy - and wait with hope.

Yeshua stops and calls the man over.  Likely Christ's disciples tell him that the Lord calls to him.  Without hesitation, the man casts away his garment and came to the Lord.

Again, see the difference?  What did this man own?  Likely that garment.  Probably not much else - and he just cast it aside. 

Then, Christ said the very words that first caught my eye.  "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?"

Again, the contrast between this man and the rich man are clearly seen.  The rich man wanted to know what HE could do to gain the Kingdom.  The beggar asks Christ to do a work for him.

The beggar asks not for wealth nor happiness nor revenge on those who've taunted him.  He doesn't ask for any vain thing.  Seriously, what would you ask of the Son of God if you had His rapt attention?  He asks only for his sight.  He does not doubt.  He's likely heard of others who've regained their sight.  I have no doubt old Bartimaeus prayed to Yahweh for the Messiah to come to Jericho.

And so He did.

Christ saw Bartimaeus' great faith, and his faith made him whole.  He says, "Go your way."  Immediately he regained his sight, and the account said he "followed Yeshua in the way."  His way was with Christ!  He had likely become one of the many disciples who followed Him from town to town.  That beggar probably lived by the side of the road.  He had no home to go home to, therefore he would follow the Lord.  Not only did he receive his physical sight, but he gained spiritual sight as well.  He took up his cross and followed Yeshua in the way.

Since he is named in the Gospel of Mark, and not only that, but it is said, "Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus", it is highly likely that the Twelve knew him.  At least Peter did, as Mark followed Peter and wrote down the Apostle's account of the life of Christ.  What a lovely ending for this poor old man who cried out to Jesus and was given mercy.  Since he is specifically named, he was probably well-loved.

The stark contrast between these two men are obvious.  Pride and humility.  Idolatry and belief.  What must I do...what will Christ do?

Mercy was given to Bartimaeus because he recognized Christ as the Messiah.  He called upon the name of the Lord and asked for mercy.  His request wasn't selfish, but it was a request upon which all the Glory would be given to God.  His heart held no idols.  His hope was in God for bringing the Messiah to Jericho.  I think I would have loved to know this Bartimaeus.  One day, I shall meet him in glory.

It is in comparing the rich young ruler with blind Bartimaeus that we come to understand who was truly blind, and who could truly see.

Praise the Lord.  \O/

~~Becka



Saturday, March 1, 2014

Son of God Movie Review


SPOILERS AHEAD!!  DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO HAVE EVENTS OF THE MOVIE SPOILED!!!

For those of you who know me, you know I LOVE Yeshua.  More than anything.  So when I heard a new movie was coming out about Christ, I was... skeptical.  A lot of Christians rejoiced at the news, but for me, I wondered if it would be true to the One I know so well.  Faithful Christians do not have the budget to make a decent Christian movie, and Christian movies made by Hollywood seem to fall short.  Even the epic, The Ten Commandments, which I ADORE, went off the rails with the fictional romance between Moses and Nefertiri.

One of my most favorite, faithful movies to Scripture, that is both accurate and deeply respectful, is the animated Prince of Egypt.  The music, the actors, and the subject matter all came together and coalesced into an amazing spectacle of God's glory (of which I'm STILL waiting for the Blu-ray!)

The Son of God seemed to be nothing more than The Bible miniseries from the History Channel on the big screen, considering it was made by the same people and with the same actors.  But it is not rehashed material we might have seen on TV, as they did go back and reshoot many new scenes for the movie.  So be at peace in knowing this isn't simply the miniseries in theaters, there is new material.

However, because it's not the miniseries, they do not bother retelling some of the events they told previously.  We all know by now they've cut the scenes with Satan.  They also cut scenes of Jesus exorcising demons and healing the blind.  What they did keep was important miracles, feeding the five thousand, raising Lazarus, and healing the paralytic man lowered through the roof.  However, the movie was not in chronological order according to Scripture.

Miracles and events bounced around, as if it was fluid and linear, but anyone worth their Bible stories will know some miracles did not follow others according to the Scripture record.  Some things were even glaringly changed, likely to tell a story rather than be faithful to the Word.  Case in point, Christ told the disciples to leave without Him and He would meet them on the other side of the lake (the famous walking on water to catch up with them story - Matthew 14, Mark 6, John 6).  Then He went to go pray.  Likely He needed to mourn the death of John the Baptist.  However, in the movie, Christ finds out about John the Baptist in Nazareth after He reads the scroll of Isaiah, but Christ was rejected in Nazareth *before* John's death and the episode with the five thousand and walking on water.  I don't understand why they bounced around in the movie and had Nazareth after feeding the five thousand.  That bothered me.

The movie assumes you know Scripture, or have at least a passing knowledge of Christ and His disciples.  They do not explain Mary Magdalene at all, aside from a blanket statement about Christ calling many other disciples who followed Him.  The only disciple He calls specifically is Simon Peter.  Also, the raising of Lazarus is disjointed, because there is no foreshadow, no explaining who Martha and Lazarus are.  And this brings another dig against the movie - they omitted Mary of Bethany.

Mary of Bethany is one of my "Biblical heroes".  You cannot tell the story of Lazarus without the beauty of Mary of Bethany.  She was the one who anointed Christ's feet with her expensive perfume - the only anointing for His burial that He received.  But she doesn't even have an actress to play her, as I only saw Lazarus, Martha, & Mary Magdalene present.  It was almost as if Mary Magdalene had taken her place.  But she is not the same woman.

Another peeve of mine was they used Nicodemus as one of the main antagonists, seemingly against his better judgment, by the orders of the High Priest.  In the movie, it was Nicodemus who challenged Christ about paying taxes to Caesar, for instance.  And Joseph of Arimathea... we'll just have to guess which Pharisee he was - perhaps the one who mentioned that holding court at night with no witnesses was illegal.  He wasn't named at all.

THAT SAID, here is what I loved about the movie.

First of all, it opens with old-man Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos.  The Apostle John is also another of my Biblical heroes, so I was quite excited to see the movie open with Him.  The Son of God was loosely based on John's Gospel, as the first words of the movie are from John 1:1-14.  LOVE that.  The Word became flesh.  YES!!

Secondly, it doesn't begin with the virgin birth, it goes back, way back, and flashes scenes of the Garden, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samson, David, Goliath... and from John's voice talks about how He was *always* with us.  LOVE!!

When we get to the virgin birth, the Star of Bethlehem shines in the shape of a cross.  Nice touch.

When Christ first meets Peter, He picks up a stone, inspects it, then puts it back down.  Unless one is familiar with Peter = Rock = Upon this rock, they might miss the subtle foreshadow.

Upon reading the scroll of Isaiah in Nazareth, Christ doesn't actually "read" it.  He opens the scroll and then... recites it, without looking at the scroll.  I loved that He knew exactly where in the book they were reading AND the words of the prophecy, as He *is* the Word of God.  He wouldn't have had to read it at all.  I loved that little tidbit.

I've often wondered if Christ's parables were based on actual events, actual scenarios, and apparently, I'm not the only one.  Christ tells the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in front of Matthew the tax collector's table, and we are made to believe the humble Publican was likely Matthew, who'd turned his face from Heaven, asking God to have mercy.  LOVE that perspective.  John MacArthur has made mention in his book, "The Jesus You Can't Ignore" that Matthew was likely fed up and convicted about what he was doing.  When Christ called Him to follow, there was no hesitation at all.  The movie also portrayed this about the Apostle Matthew.  It was wonderful to see.

The crucifixion scene was shown, and they pulled no punches with Christ's wounds, however, not to the extent of The Passion of the Christ.  While Gibson's movie focused on the gore, Son of God focused on the determination of Christ to be crucified.  He said the very words assured to send Him to death before the Pharisees - claiming to be God as "I AM", and He didn't mince words with Pilate.  But the scene I ADORED, that I've *never* seen any other film of Jesus Christ do...  The bloodied, wounded Yeshua of Nazareth was hauled to His feet after falling through the streets of Jerusalem - then embraced and kissed His cross.

In that moment, tears.  I couldn't stop them.  Through that cross, I am His.  In effect, by kissing that cross, He was kissing ME.  So poignant, so powerful, and whoever thought of that in the script or even if it was impromptu by the actor, WELL DONE.  With that one, amazing scene, they captured the essence, the grace, and the absolute LOVE of Almighty God to save His children.  Along with that, when the cross was finally upon Golgotha's hill, our Lord *crawled* to it, determined to be nailed upon it.  This reminded me of a musing by Bruce Marchiano (who also played Christ in The Gospel According to Matthew) in his book "In the Footsteps of Jesus", which mentioned the resolve of Jesus to do whatever it took to be crucified.  In that, my heart warmed again for the One I know as my Beloved.

They were faithful to the earthquake that hit after Christ's death, as well as the gathering wind and clouds.  However, the eclipse wasn't shone, and the Temple Veil simply fell rather than being rent.  The movie goes beyond the crucifixion, which I was happy to see, as I always felt let down by The Passion of the Christ that Gibson didn't dive deeper into the Resurrection.  It is the Resurrection, after all, that gave validation to all of Christ's claims.

We do not see the "redemption of Peter", which is a bummer, because I think it would have tied everything together from the beginning to the end of Christ's ministry, telling Peter (and the gang) to (again) toss their nets for a catch.  Jesus asked Peter three times "Do you love Me?" to atone for the three times he denied the Lord.  Considering Peter lamented that the Lord was "gone" and he couldn't ask for forgiveness (before the Resurrection), I'm surprised that scene wasn't there.

What really took me off guard and pleasantly surprised me, is we finally return to the aged Apostle John in his cave upon the Isle of Patmos.  He's contemplating all he'd seen in life, and then we hear... the words of Christ from Revelation 1 speaking behind him.  What?!  We get Revelation goodness in this movie too??  YES!!

It is sweet indeed to see the venerable John reunited with Christ, and you know what's coming, but they stop short of full disclosure on Revelation (obviously), but allude to Christ's return.  YES!  So disappointing, however, that John just says, "Amen" instead of "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"  That would have been the perfect ending to this movie.

While the Son of God has its flaws, I must say I'm pleasantly surprised by this movie.  The Gospel message is presented somewhat, they did mention Christ having authority to forgive sin, that He is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and that those who believe on Him shall never die, HOWEVER, there is no specific talk of repentance, so a glaring omission there.

With it's flaws, it will likely upset purists and theologians, because bouncing from story to story in a disjointed way didn't really need to be done.  Christians have raised brows because it's been endorsed by the likes of Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey, and Roma Downey's questionable ties to the New Age movement made me nervous.  But...  even so...  with these dings against it, there is no doubt in my mind that God will use this movie in a mighty and powerful way to reach those who need to be reached.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, mostly for the "little touches" they included, such as referencing the Old Testament stories and subtle nods to more mature Christians who recognize what that kiss by our Savior upon the wood of the cross actually means. 

All in all, I enjoyed this movie and would see it again.  In fact, I'll likely buy it when it comes out on Blu-ray.  The end credits were shown along with scenes from the miniseries, to CeeLo Green singing, "Mary, Did You Know?"  And while some Christians raised a brow at this music choice, this is actually one of my *favorite* renditions of the song.  CeeLo Green might not be a model Christian, but let us not forget that Christ came to call sinners to repentance.

Never in my life have I experienced what I did in that theater when the final credit rolled.  It was almost... holyNo one spoke.  Everyone was silent and left quietly.  Even my children and I, who had been talking and giggling before the movie, *whispered* on the way out of the theater, even after the house lights had been turned up.  Oh yeah.

God was there.



~~Becka