Posted by: arieliondotcom | December 31, 2013

The Beginning and the End (Revelation. 22:13)

The Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13)

Today is the beginning of one year and the end of another. And not realizing that the end has come can hurt. Try continuing to write checks with last year’s date and driving with documents dated from the year that has ended and you’ll soon realize there are painful consequences to ignoring endings.

That simple statement is actually very profound because JESUS calls Himself the Beginning and the End, the A and Z or Alpha and Omega. Everything that ever was except GOD Himself had a beginning. And JESUS, Second Person of the Trinity of the Godhead was the means used for all beginnings. And He will be the means to decide the end of everything He literally had a Hand in creating.

Notice that JESUS says He is the beginning and the end. The end isn’t necessary for the Beginning to start, but it is always a result of the Beginning. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. It is not necessary that we stop sinning before we ask JESUS to forgive and cleanse us with new Life, His Life. But the end of sin will eventually be the consequence, if not completely in this Life most certainly in the Life to come.

There is a reason the Holy Spirit is symbolized as fire and wind in the Bible. Once fire has begun its work, it’s nearly impossible to know what will remain. It goes in its own power and its effects will depend on the character of what it acts upon. A tornado’s damage and its effects are in itself but the end will show what an object is “made of.” The Holy Spirit will do as He wills in the lives of those He inhabits to give the Life of Christ. We cannot control His will, but we can control the gifts He gives and our willingness to accept or quench His actions. There will be a beginning of eternal life, but there will also be an end to much of the old life. We will never be sin free but we will be completely free from sin, even if we don’t act like it at times.

They say “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish”, and that is true. It’s even Scriptural. Ecclesiastes says so and gives the example that the effects of time, such as making the stubborn patient, shows this. But Isaiah explains that GOD has an end for us we may not understand. He began His plan before we lived and His plans will continue when we are beyond the grave. We have a beginning and an end but JESUS is the “be all and end all” because He has no beginning and no end.

Peter mentions that the only exception to the end being better than the beginning are those who refuse to accept the end. They profess Christ but continue to sin and are worse off than when they hadn’t because the Holy Spirit will continue burning and blowing on that sin spot until it ends. We do not need to stop sinning to ask Christ for forgiveness and new Life. But we must accept that GOD will set to work purifying us of those sins. His intent in giving us new Life is to make us more like Christ. And Christ only resurrected after He was crucified. We must be crucified with Christ as well. The beginning of new Life means the old life must end, as easily or painfully as our character and willingness allow.

JESUS is the Beginning of Life and End of Death. If we are wise we will accept gladly the death of what He is not and ask Him to begin all He wants us to be, leaving the past behind. It is done and we need only accept it. We need only begin drinking Christ’s Living Water to relieve our thirst. But that Living Water is His Blood from His death for us. It means the end of the things of this world we thirst for and death to ourselves once His Life begins in us.

Posted by: arieliondotcom | December 30, 2013

The Priority of Pruning

The Priority of Pruning (John 15)

I heard some great illustrations yesterday in Sunday School by a horticulturalist for the vine and pruning and fruit illustrations in John 15. He said that pruning fruit-bearing trees looks vicious, as if they’re being cut to stumps, but it’s actually the only way to get the tree to bear more fruit. In fact, he says it is ironic because his customers will say “We need this tree to bear as much fruit as possible! We must use the fruit to pay taxes!” But as he starts to cut one branch the customer stops him and says, “Not that branch! It’s shading the mailbox!” Or “Not that branch! We’re going to put up a swing!” They lose sight that fruit is the priority, as much fruit as possible, and that calls for extreme measures. In fact, stress always produces more fruit. In Hawaii they burn the pineapple fields to get more fruit. A bombsite where a tree had grown incinerated the tree but it grew back with more fruit than ever. And cashew plantation owners actually drive nails into cashew trees for the purpose of stressing the tree’s resources which causes it to bear more fruit (cashews grow from). It’s easy to see this gardener’s point and connection to the words of JESUS in John 15 about GOD pruning us to bear as much fruit as possible, no matter what we must lose, what stress we endure or what we look like in the process. It will be worth it all at Harvest.

Posted by: arieliondotcom | December 30, 2013

Perfect Parenting (Matthew 1, Luke 1-2)

Perfect Parenting (Matthew 1, Luke 1-2)

Joseph and Mary were perfect parents for JESUS, the Savior, specifically because they recognized they were in need of Him as their Savior themselves.
That is especially humbling as we recognize that they were at the same time far superior to us, though they’d never say so.

Gabriel specifically tells Mary she was chosen to carry the baby JESUS in her womb. And her very reaction to the angel shows some of the reason why. Here is what was probably a young girl. Even if Gabriel appeared as a man he would be a stranger. A woman in that culture would never be alone with a strange man. But rather than being terrified at this (possibly strange looking) stranger, she’s only confused by what he says, not by his appearance.

Mary’s response reminds us of the response of Deborah, the female judge in the Old Testament who had courage enough, when ordered by the king to go with him to war, to call him out as a coward. Mary, when told by a stranger that she will bear GOD’s Son, blurts out that she’s no fool. She’s a virgin and will be staying that way until she marries Joseph. We get the feeling that she’s telling this stranger if he plans anything untoward she will hit him in the head with the wooden shaft of her loom. When told she will keep her virginity until after the child is born she concedes that she trusts GOD can do anything, and she is GOD’s servant to do as He wills.

What’s more, Mary says that she needs her Son to be her Savior as much as anyone does. She never puts herself as equal or deserving but acknowledges with Gabriel that she will always be seen as uniquely blessed and favored by GOD’s Grace.

After receiving the message, she goes on a fact-finding mission to see her cousin Elisabeth, an old woman and well-known to be barren. And Elisabeth’s confirmation of the miraculous visit she and her husband have had, and her child by him in old age, plus her knowledge that their mutual Savior was in Mary’s womb, confirmed Gabriel’s visit was real.The Savior of the World would be born to a young woman afraid of no man and no man’s inferior in faith to the will and obedience to serve GOD.

What about Joseph? Most young boys today, and their parents, know about the TV character Bob the Builder. Joseph was Joe the Builder. He was the sort of independent contractor, carpenter and stone mason who could build anything given the time and materials. It’s easy to see where JESUS got the example He would use with His disciples of counting the cost for a building project before starting it. But having the girl he was engaged to marry become pregnant before he touched her wasn’t in the blueprint of life Joseph had for them.

Mary showed in her response to Gabriel that she knew her Scriptures. And so did Joseph. We don’t know whether Mary had begun to show that she was pregnant or if she simply told Joseph. Whether he thought she was insane or had truly betrayed him, he decided to do the most honorable thing and free her from their marriage contract as the Law allowed. But it was breaking his heart.

An angel in a dream convinced Joseph that Mary was faithful to him, but more importantly, to GOD. And roused from his sleep by this wonderful news, he immediately married Mary. What’s more, he remained sensitive to GOD’s leading. The fellow who had a plan for everything suddenly learned to live day by day in faith according to GOD’s leading by dreams and circumstance.

When He was 12 years old, JESUS stayed behind in the Temple when His parents went home. Sensing His absence, they retraced their steps until they found Him again. But when they did, they found a change in Him as well. He was now acting in authority under GOD. Rather than Him being wrong, He taught them that they were wrong for not realizing where He was and why. His true Father is GOD the Father. And all earthly parents, including Mary and Joseph, must learn that lesson for their children as well. Those children who die in infancy and youth always belong to GOD the Father Who gave them first.

Mary and Joseph were perfect parents, for JESUS even though Joseph was stepfather, because they show us how to face issues with our children. Raise them in an atmosphere where we trust GOD for everything, including His guidance of them. Trust them, as they mature, to trust in GOD themselves as we’ve taught them by example. And allow the Holy Spirit to use our introduction of our children to JESUS as the key to open their hearts to Him. Mary and Joseph were human, as we are, and yet in their flaws they yearned for JESUS to live with them and craved His Presence. They searched for Him when they couldn’t sense His Presence. And they remained open to GOD’s guidance in the relationship every moment, even when most confused. And that is the type of parenting GOD calls each of us to have.

Posted by: arieliondotcom | December 23, 2013

Silence isn’t Deafness (Luke 1:57-66)

Silence isn’t Deafness (Luke 1:57-66)

There is probably no greater disappointment in the world than being a young boy opening a Christmas gift you have been imagining is GI Joe, the soldier ACTION FIGURE, (not a doll!) and discovering it to be a pack of underwear instead. Admittedly it’s probably more traumatic because I was that boy. But still.

It was then that I wondered whether these old people I lived with called Mom and Dad were deaf or an impolite word for mentally challenged. I had begged, left clues and hints around, and had asked direct questions for weeks about how the only way to save the free world was for me to get GI Joe for Christmas. And they get me underwear! Was this some kind of sick joke?

In today’s Scripture we’re told about Elizabeth, cousin of the Virgin Mary, mother of JESUS. Elizabeth and her husband, Zecharias, were unable to have children until they were both very old and GOD sent an angel to announce they would have the baby who would grow to be John the Baptist. And John the Baptist was to be the prophet to announce the beginning of the ministry of his cousin, JESUS.

But Zecharias didn’t believe the angel who told him that he and Elizabeth would have a baby in old age, so the angel made Zecharias unable to speak.

This chapter is actually an example of how GOD uses humor in the Bible. Zecharias couldn’t speak, but the people around him acted like he was also deaf. He could hear them perfectly well but because he didn’t respond they jumped around and made signs at him as if he were deaf.

When it was time to choose a name for Elizabeth’s baby, she told the people his name was to be John, as the angel who had announced the miracle of her pregnancy had said to name him. John means “GOD gives Grace.” The people thought Elizabeth was crazy or playing some kind of sick joke. A first son should be named after his father, Zecharias. So they jumped around and made signs at Zecharias asking what the baby’s name should be. He motioned for a writing tablet and wrote that the baby’s name was John. As soon as he did, he could speak again and praised GOD.

We act like GOD is deaf, sometimes, just because He doesn’t answer us in the timeframe or way we want or expect Him to answer.

My parents weren’t deaf. They heard me loud and clear and I got my GI Joe ACTION FIGURE that Christmas. (Including the Navy SEAL scuba outfit that came in handy when my mother forced me to play with my sister and my sister insisted that Joe and Barbie go on a date and Barbie was rapelled into a brook…But that’s another story…) My parents simply waited until they knew what I wanted the most would have the most impact. I just hadn’t finished unwrapping everything yet.

Zecharias heard the people fine. Just because he didn’t speak didn’t mean he didn’t hear. GOD didn’t name John “the one God remembers.” That was Zecharias, whom GOD remembered to make into a father as a miracle in old age. John was the one to announce to the people “GOD gives Grace!” At just the right time, as Galatians. 4 puts it, GOD sent JESUS to save us by His Grace from the death the Law says we deserve. And John announced that.

GOD isn’t deaf to us either. His Grace in JESUS is more than we realize we want and everything we need. We just haven’t finished unwrapping yet.

Posted by: arieliondotcom | December 22, 2013

Expecting a King (Matthew 1-2, Luke 2)

Expecting a King (Matthew 1-2, Luke 2)

What are you expecting in the future? What are you expecting after death? Or, a better way to put it might be: WHO are you expecting in the future? WHO are you expecting after death?

Even Christians sometimes think that “do not worry about tomorrow” is the same as not preparing for tomorrow. But that’s not true. In fact, Jesus tells us several times to count the cost and prepare before something happens. Christmas is all about preparing and expecting.

As you read or hear this, you are preparing for, or expecting, company. You are preparing for Christmas day and expecting how people will react to your presence and presents or gifts.

We read in Luke and Matthew how God is preparing Joseph and Mary for the arrival of Jesus. Most of us have the story memorized of how they prepared for Jesus, the baby born in a manger. We may even know enough to tell how he was King of Kings yet born in a barn.

But are you expecting Jesus? Are you expecting a king in your life? Because the Christmas story is really about you expecting a king.

We will all meet King Jesus. It won’t be the sentimental meeting of a baby in a barn. Either it will be the realization of our need of Him as Savior which sends us crashing to our knees in repentance in this life or it will be the horror of condemnation by King Jesus at Judgment after this life is done.

You can’t plan for it but you can prepare for it. Planning means you have details that we don’t have but you can prepare without details.

Look at the preparations that went on before the birth of King Jesus. Matthew points out that King Jesus was expected since at least the time of King David who was promised a descendent Who would reign forever. But that even that promise was the fulfillment of an expectation planted in Abraham’s heart for the King of the Promise.

Joseph and Mary were told to expect their child to also be their Savior, and their GOD. The three wise men from the East didn’t appear out of nowhere. They’d prepared two years earlier when their journey began in order to worship the GOD born King of the Jews. And the chief priests reminded Herod that GOD had told His people generations ago to expect their Messiah King to be born in Bethlehem.

Luke explains that even the civil authorities had been influenced for the arrival of King Jesus. Tax laws required people to go to the place of their birth to pay taxes. This is what put in motion having Joseph, rightful king of Israel, a descendent of David, go back to Bethlehem, city of David, with Mary.

Angels told shepherds in the field to expect their Savior, Messiah and King born in a stable. Simeon had been expecting for years to see his King Messiah before he died and did. And Anna had spent most of her life expecting the blessing that only came when she was a very old woman, but came as expected.

Are we expecting to meet King JESUS?
We should, because we will. How differently would we live expecting a king? How differently would we meet the death that brings us into His Presence? How much of your life would you offer and possessions would you expect to give to the King of Kings and LORD of Lords? And how much more when He saves you from certain pain and death?

Like the wise men and others, we may not know where the circumstances we face today will lead us tomorrow. But every word, action and event is meant to lead us to expect King Jesus. We can prepare by letting His Life be born in us today and live as His complete servants in gratitude. Or we can expect terrible consequences as a result of not expecting and preparing for judgment after death.

May this Christmas find us expecting King Jesus with joy and loving Him in gratitude until He comes or until we go to Him. Because He is the ultimate Christmas gift, and Christmas means “Christ is sent.” Let us expect to meet Him gladly.

Posted by: arieliondotcom | December 9, 2013

House Work (Psalm 61)

House Work (Psalm 61)

What does GOD’s house look like to you? Is it a little country church? Is it a cathedral? And what do you do there?

In Psalm 61, David describes the place he spends alone with GOD as a rock, a tower and a tent.

Perhaps most importantly, David first realizes that he needs to be with GOD, alone with GOD and protected by GOD but that only GOD can bring him there. He can’t bring himself into GOD’s Presence.

Next, David acknowledges that GOD is higher than himself. We must acknowledge GOD’s call which leads us above and beyond ourselves. That is where our protection from weakness is found, and our greatest weakness is our mortality. The only rescue from death is found above in the One Who Transcends Death.

Sometimes GOD calls us to live on top of a mountain. We feel His Presence but we feel the elements, too. Life stings us like sleet or burns us like the sun, but we work on empowered by GOD.

Sometimes life with GOD is like living in a war zone. We’re in a tower fortress of GOD’s protection but He is all we have. That doesn’t mean the enemies aren’t still attacking.

Sometimes life with GOD is like living in a tent. We are at peace and at rest. He shelters us.

And sometimes life with GOD requires us to be nurtured and cared for, like a baby bird under its mother’s wings kept warm and safe and fed.

David says that all of this, living with GOD in any circumstance or situation, is the result of making a vow to GOD, dedicating ourselves to Him. And that is done when we realize that He has already saved us.

Then David suddenly switches gears and starts asking GOD to bless the King. And this is a mystery. Who is this king? Is it himself? Or his son, king Solomon? Or is it King Messiah, the Promised One?

Perhaps it’s all three. But David makes clear that he can only be empowered to keep his vows by the power of GOD, having been given the desire to please GOD in the first place by the same lovingkindness and mercy he asks never to leave.

JESUS is King of Kings and LORD of LORDS. He said that all power in Heaven and earth had been given to Him. He chooses to use that power to rescue us from death to Life and from hell to Heaven when we believe in Him. But He also uses it to live in us and with us, on the rock, in the tower fortress, in the tent, and keeping us safe and nurturing us under His wings. He is at home with us and wants us to be at home (“abide”) with Him. And He has promised to be with us, always, when we give ourselves to Him.

Wherever our “house” with JESUS is, though, as long as we’re in the house of our human body we have house work to do. We have vows, godly living, to fulfill in Him and for Him, and out of love for Him to others. Then we will have a life of joy, singing praise as we do our “house work” in any circumstance.

Posted by: arieliondotcom | November 30, 2013

Righteousness and Resistance (Psalm 60)

Righteousness and Resistance (Psalm 60)

This psalm is about incidents where those around David fought against him, sometimes without provocation. He won by GOD’s Grace. But David is wondering out loud in this prayer turned worship song why GOD allows enemies to begin with. If we are obedient to GOD, why does He allow others to cause us harm anyway?

The Psalm starts off with David complaining about those who GOD allows to attack his people. He begs for help on the basis of their being GOD’s people so GOD should help them since they’re doing the best they can to obey.
But they are still hurting against resistance.

If you are familiar with physical fitness you already know the answer. It’s called resistance training. The pull against your body’s muscles makes your body stronger. In fact, rather than easier, resistance gets higher and harder the more fit you are.

GOD reveals to David in Psalm 60 that David is undergoing Spiritual resistance training. It’s not always because we’re disobedient that we have trouble. Sometimes it’s simply because we’re obedient. And the stronger we are, the stronger the resistance GOD allows to strengthen us further.

In this Psalm, David repeats what GOD has revealed to him. First, GOD gives an expected answer. He owns the various tribes of Israel. They’re GOD’s possession. But then GOD goes on to say something unusual. The enemy lands are His, too! We sometimes forget that GOD is the GOD of all the earth. There is no other. Just because they don’t recognize Who He is, it doesn’t mean He isn’t in charge. He owns everything. And He uses people to do His will, including as exercise to make or keep His people strong.

This is why JESUS says His yoke is easy and His burden is light and that in the world we will always have troubles, but to cheer up because He has overcome the world. We must take up our cross daily. This is why we’re told to resist the devil. Willingly. Enthusiastically. And we can only do that when we are new creations in Christ. We exchange the weight of our sins for the weight of what JESUS has for us to do. But this is no burden. It is a Spiritual workout with JESUS where He is our “spotter” and only gives us the amount of resistance we can handle.

We might think weight trainers are insane spending hundreds of dollars to purchase equipment or the use of equipment that makes them groan and strain and hurt. But they will tell you it’s a pleasure because the results in growing stronger and healthier are worth much more than the strain.

JESUS is calling us to allow Him to remove the dangerous weights of sin and guilt that only He can remove and are strangling us. Instead, get under the weights of resistance training. He has already overcome them. And, with His Spirit of renewal and forgiveness, we can overcome all resistance, growing stronger under His guidance.

David ends his Psalm acknowledging that it’s not personal strength or righteousness, but only GOD’s strength that saves and strengthens us, victory by victory, in the process. In JESUS, we with Him are allowed to overcome the resistance to His righteousness in the world, groaning and grinning all the way.

Posted by: arieliondotcom | November 28, 2013

Respiration of Inspiration

GOD breathes Life into mankind that they may breathe out praise to Him once they find eternal Life in Christ. #quote #Thanksgiving

Posted by: arieliondotcom | November 28, 2013

Respiration of Inspiration

GOD breathes Life into mankind that they may breathe out praise to Him once they find eternal Life in Christ. #quote #Thanksgiving

Posted by: arieliondotcom | November 22, 2013

Counterfeit Conviction (Psalm 59)

Counterfeit Conviction (Psalm 59)

It’s an irony of human nature that we won’t feel guilty about what we should, but do feel guilty about things that matter less or not at all. And worse than that, we often listen to humans who accuse us of silly things while ignoring GOD shouting to our hearts to get right with Him.

False guilt. That’s how incompetent politicians get elected and people actually believe they should pay restitution for what people generations before them did.

This psalm is David rejecting false guilt and accusations from liars.

You can read the background to this prayer later turned to a song in 1 Samuel 19:11. There are hints in the introduction. Saul was king of Israel but
GOD was arranging for David to replace him and Saul knew it and hated him for it. So Saul kept trying to find ways to kill David. He allowed his daughter to marry David in order to be popular with the people, who loved David, and to keep David close enough to kill more easily.

This psalm was written when Saul sent messengers to surround David’s house. They were spying on David to try to use any excuse to kill him.

Often, David asks GOD to forgive him just in case he is guilty of something and the LORD is using enemies or trouble to discipline him. But not this time. David knows he’s innocent towards Saul and certainly these men. And he refuses to be falsely accused.

And these are not just ordinary messengers. The word for messenger is more often used for mighty beings or angels. We know from the way it’s used that it means “messenger” here. But David even refers to them (and Saul who sent them) as “mighty.” The point is, how could David prove his innocence if mighty men said he was guilty? That is why David asks GOD to vindicate him.

David describes these guards being like vicious dogs that keep circling his house and howling. They’re like dogs on a hunt trying to scare a rabbit into running so they can eat it. But David asks GOD to rescue him. He asks that GOD not simply kill them. Then other people could still think they died nobly. David asks GOD to have them suffer and be shown to be liars, to have them circle the city howling like dogs begging for food but for no one to feed them, knowing they’re dangerous.

David says GOD laughs at these doglike men because David is innocent. GOD will put Himself in between David and the dogs and confront them. GOD is David’s Defense. David can do nothing and needs to do nothing. GOD’s Mercy and Strength are David’s only weapons against lies and false accusations. Rather than being stuck with false guilt, David is free to write his prayer as a song and prepare to praise GOD publicly when he is rescued.

We are living in a time when Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 5:20 is true and those around us “call evil good and good evil, put darkness for light and light for darkness” and “put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Our own government is accusing those with Christian values of being evil. But this should be no surprise.

We knew this would happen because JESUS warned us it would. The purpose of being Christian is to make us mini-mirrors of Christ. It’s no wonder that, since evil hated Him it will hate His reflection in us.

JESUS Himself was falsely accused. But even when the top religious and political authorities of His day accused Him, JESUS never accepted false guilt. Neither did the Apostle Paul when he was likewise accused. And neither of them sought to attack back.

Like David, and JESUS, and Paul, our reaction to false accusations should be to deny false guilt but trust GOD to vindicate us. David and Paul and we have plenty to be guilty about and confess to JESUS. But don’t get caught in lies from the devil. Pray and ask JESUS to help you be free of whatever is making you feel guilty when others accuse you of something else. Then accept the peace of Christ and let Him deal with confronting the dogs. You concentrate on praising Him for His imminent rescue.

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