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Widening our Gaze

The Scope Of Christs Eternal Accomplishment Is Limited Only By How Intently We Are Willing To Fix Our Eyes Upon It

And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the kings palace anymore than all the other Jews. ( Esther 4:13 NKJV ) As we focus our study in the Book of Esther the scriptural time frame we find ourself in is prior to the Jews return to their homeland. Esther, a young Jewish women and adopted daughter of another Jew named Mordecai, a servant in the court of the king, successfully uses his influence to make the beautiful Esther queen to the king. A position that’s significance ultimately hinges on the favor the Persian king is willing to show his new queen.
In Esther chapter 2 and verse 21 after having become aware of a conspiracy to do harm to the king Mordecai informs Esther and the guilty are hanged, but Mordecais refusal to pay homage to an individual ( Haman ) promoted by the king in the wake of the uncovered conspiracy fills Haman with wrath for Mordecai. So much so that Haman manipulates the king into signing off on a decree that all Jews within the kingdom be destroyed. Our opening verse is Mordecais reaction to the new queen when in verse 11 of chapter 4 Esther understandably voices her concern to approaching and informing the king of this crisis to the fact that the penalty for anyone approaching the king without having first been called to do so was death. Nevertheless, in verse 2 of chapter 5, Esther, despite such lawful strictness, approaches the king and finds ” favor ” in his sight. In chapter 7 Esther indeed informs the king of Hamans evil deeds and he is hanged in verse 10 and the decree to destroy the Jews is reversed.
In Hebrews. 4:16 the word of God says, ” Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need “. As genuine believers still in this world and due to our depravity within it is not uncommon for one to experience hesitancy, spiritually speaking, in approaching the throne of grace. Proverbs 16:2 says, ” All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits “. As those who have believed in Christ we must remember because His righteous blood now speaks for us we can at all times approach God through Christ. When we therefore see ourselves through our own eyes as Proverbs 16:2 says it will at some point gives us a heavy spirit whether we realize it or not. Heavy because even in our best ( Adamic ) state it is still unacceptable to God. Consequently, a spirit that is light and without burden is a spirit that as a mindful habit attaches itself to what Christ has already victoriously accomplished as opposed to one who feels the burden that results from viewing this life outside of faith. None of this lessens the importance of repentance when it applies though we as christians and especially those who teach the word of God need to understand not only the magnitude of Christs victory over the sin nature, but because of the favor given to us not only can we stand we can even approach the throne of God.
As I conclude this installment of my studies in both the Old and New Testament I have unmistakably and unashamedly leaned towards ( as well as personally upon ) a gracefilled victoriously positional word of God mindset. And though there are those who believe preaching and teaching to much grace gives one a license to sin one has to have been in a ministry with such a doctrinal emphasis ( of which I was blessed to be a part of ) under a pastor ( who has since gone on to be with the Lord ) that taught in such a manner: the end result being a regularly overflowing sanctuary coupled with a higher than usual percentage of believers motivated and willing even on their own time to propigate such a message. An experience that I have not encountered since though one that obviously has left an indelible impression upon me.

O.N.RIDER is seminary educated and living in Baltimore MD

Scriptural Refuge

It Is Easy To Find Scriptural Refuge For Our Soul When We Willingly Come Under The Doctrinal Covering Of The One Who Has Given Us His Victory

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses in whom you trust. For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if you believe not his writings how shall you believe my words ? ( John 5:45-47 KJV ) Having been accused by the Jews because of His willingness to heal on the Sabbath the above response by Christ not only indites the Judaizers concerning their hypocrisy, but His words also speak to us today as to how much we internalize this blood bought gift of grace, in contrast to the condemnation that results from our inability to fulfill the Law, and or our attempts through works to earn Gods favor apart from Christ.
Earlier on in this same chapter of our opening verse take note that despite having healed the impotent man in verse 12 Christ gives credit to the Father. In verse 19 He says that, ” The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do”. In verse 30 He states how He seeks not His will, but the will of the Father”. With regard to the witness that John the Baptist bore concerning the Christ the Lord says in verse 36 that He had a greater witness in the Father who is the One who sent Him to Finish the work. And in verse 43 Christ goes on to say, ” I have come in My Fathers name, and you receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him you will receive”. Just as it is our Adamic inclination to interpret and receive the word of God lawfully and legalistically so to is it our religious inclination to seek credit and even attention for the works that God may allow us to be a part of. And with the verses just mentioned being our example it was always Christs intention to defer such credit to His Father in heaven. Such a mindset goes to great lengths to not only keep the cross that Christ bore in proper perspective but our own as well. And of course we to should defer credit regarding this greatest of work ( Christs finished work victory at Calvary ) of which we as blood bought believers in Christ have become both the eternal and practical beneficiaries. For there is no advantageous reason why we as christians should seek the credit that is only God the Fathers to give for a victorious work that we on even our best day could not have attained.
In II Corinthians 2: 14-17 the word of God says, ” Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things ? For we are not as so many peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ”.
As we conclude our studies in the Book of Nehemiah we find ourself in chapter 13 where the Law is read concerning people guilty of ” idol worship “. After having heard this taught in verse 3 the congregation thus ” seperated all the mixxed multitudes from Israel “. Hearkening back to chapter 10 of the Book of Ezra the issue of Jews taking pagans for wives is addressed. In verse 11 of this same chapter the word of God says, ” Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your father, and do His will ; seperate yourselves from the people of the land and from pagan wives. Depending upon where one is looking as well as how one interprets what they find it is easy for an individual to be tossed to and fro by scripture. ( Ephesians 4:14 ) Consequently, it is thus of the utmost importance as a christian to know the difference between how the Law can accuse one and how grace does not.It is also important to know whereas legalism divides and even exposes us the victorious work of Christ is always our refuge.

O.N.RIDER is seminary educated and living in Baltimore MD

Times of Trouble

In Times Of Spiritual Trouble That Which Delivers Us Is That Which Our Souls Can Find Scriptural Refuge In

God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble ( Psalm 46:1 NKJV ) I dare say it’s not unusual for christians to believe that the times that they lived in were the most troubling ( and or the generation closest to Christs return ) ,and I think this generation could safely say the same. The latter being infinitely more plausible as we are either closer to the end times, or in finding ourself presently within them we are aware of a distinct loss of spiritual and moral direction within our modern society as well as obviously the souls that encompass it.
As we continue on in the Book of Nehemiah the enemies of the Jews persist in their opposition to the work of God going on including plots against Nehemiahs life. Consequently, while the Jews remain physically on guard we see in chapter 8 of Nehemiah that Ezra is called to strengthen the souls of the people by teaching them the word of God and thus laying a foundation for their spiritual life. And in verse 13 of chapter 8 on the second day of this seven day ritual once again Ezra gathers people that they would ” understand ” the words of the Law. The Hebrew word translated as ” understand ” in this verse is ” sekhel ” which has at its source the Hebrew word ” sakhal ” which can also be translated to ” turn the mind “. Thus Ezra and his helpers begin the process of persuading the people as to the faithfulness of God and His word in their lives. In chapter 9 and verse 6 Ezra once again teaches the people as he reviews some of the Jews history not only emphasizing the failures of the past ,but most importantly the faithfulness of the Lord towards His people. In verse 19 he reminds them that even while in the wilderness the Lord did not forsake His people. In verse 27 they are reminded that in a time of suffering when they cried out to God that God in His abundant mercy gave them deliverers who saved them from their enemies. In verses 30-31 Ezra tells the people that despite the circumstances that resulted from an unwillingness to heed the Lords prophets God in His great mercy did not utterly consume or forsake His people. And most interesting they are reminded in verse 37 that despite the large and rich land that they have presently been returned to by God because of sin they remain slaves to the kings whom God has set over them. A true and seemingly timely statement and ultimately proven capable of striking a cord in its hearers.
In Romans 8:36-39 the word of God says, ” As it is written : For your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to seperate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord “. As preachers and teachers of Gods word we must realize that those whom we teach are extremely vulnerable to misinterpreting the word of God. And though we should not hesitate to teach the full counsel of Gods word we can increase a believers capacity to trust the Lord more not by lawful do’s and don’ts but by grace filled positional scriptural facts that can strengthen a christian to deny ungodliness ( Titus 2:11 ). In other words what we want a believer to understand is that they can unfortunately cause a troubling spiritual crack to the foundation of their christian faith when they as a habit believe they can or continually need to earn the favor that God in Christ has already given them as a result of the spiritual victory He has already achieved on their behalf.

O.N.RIDER is seminary educated and living in Baltimore MD

The Potter and The Clay

Though God Uses The Details Of Life To Shape A Christians Character In Gods Eyes The Work Has Already Been Eternally Completed By Christs Victorious Cross At Calvary

Truly I am as your spokesman before God; I also have been formed out of clay. ( Job 33:6 NKJV ) The context of this verse where Elihu ( considered here a type of Christ ) is speaking to Job ( translated as the hated or persecuted one ) is Elihus emphasis that despite being Gods representative in this situation he remained on equal footing with Job. A fact that not only denotes who Christ is to us and what He has accomplished on our eternal behalf, but His intercessory role as well in the present.
As preachers and teachers of Gods word it is our hope through the Holy Spirit to bring to practical fruition in those we teach the eternal reality of Christs faithfilled overcoming victory. An endeavor that not only seeks to equip the saints through Gods word to think the right way and as a result make the right choices in their christian walk, but to also understand the sovereignty the Lord as the potter has over His clay vessels which includes shaping us through circumstances both good and bad. Such thinking is best begun from the premise of what God in Christ has achieved on our behalf. Psalm 40:2 says, ” He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock. And established my steps”. In the Hebrew the word translated as ” established ” here is ” Kun ” which can also be translated ” to stand firm “. Taking nothing from the practicality that teaching the full counsel of Gods word avails us one should also understand that in order for one to truly ” stand firm ” it will not neccessarily take place as a result of a behavior altering teaching emphasis ( works ), but by an internal consistent creative shoring up, if you will, of a soul ever the more convinced of what Christ has already done on their behalf and how such scriptural truth is an unchanging fact for every blood bought believer in Christ. Again that does not dismiss the need to teach each doctrine the bible includes, but to wholeheartedly realize the faith strengthening spiritual quality that unchanging positional truth gives us.
In Jeremiah 18 verses 2-4 the Lord in speaking to the prophet says, ” Arise and go down to the potters house, and there I will cause you to hear My words. Then I went down to the potters house, and there he was making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter”. As we continue on in the book of Nehemiah we find in his prayer of chapter 4 that indeed Nehemiahs mission of building the walls of Jerusalem is a near done deal. . Nevertheless, there were other issues for him to deal with as we find in chapter 5 that many of the poorer Jews had become victims of the monetary lending practices of their wealthier Jewish bretheran. In fact such practices not only included having to sell their material belongings to pay their debts, but even sentence their children into slavery much to the displeasure of Nehemiah once he found out. As if these returning Jews had not been through enough they become mere financial pawns to of all people their Jewish bretheran. A predicament that could cause any sincere believer in the Lord to begin questioning their faith. Yet as our verses in Jeremiah speak to us it is the Lord, our potter, who shapes us, even using circumstances that potentially marr us and can cause our faith to either be strengthened, or shipwrecked because of a lack of spiritual understanding. So it is our responsibility to not only internalize Gods word to the point that it corrects us and gives us definition, but to most importantly believe in the positional absolutes found therein; that is through the blood Christ has shed on our behalf realize that we indeed have been brought up out of a horrible pit and are presently standing upon the rock that is higher than the clay of which we are made, and thus capable of establishing our walk even upon this earth.

O.N.RIDER is seminary educated and living in Baltimore MD

The Soul and Bible Doctrine

The Spiritual Strength Of Bible Doctrine Within A Soul Can Be As Distinct In Quality As Teaching About Grace Is Versus Teaching About Legalism

Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls. ( Proverbs 25:28 NKJV ) Having completed our study in the Book of Ezra we continue our Old Testament journey in the Book of Nehemiah. Appointed as the governor of Judea Nehemiah led the last group recorded in scripture back to Jerusalem in 444 B.C. to finally rebuild the walls of the city in. And among the many things that undoubtedly were accomplished since that first group arrived in 536 B.C. ( including the rebuilding of the temple ) the fact that the rebuilding of the walls was not one of them probably speaks less of the difficulty of the task ( which I’m sure it was ) as much as once built the city and its occupants would then be better protected from their intrusive enemies ( invisible and otherwise ) thus potentially making Jerusalem once again the center of Judean life.
In Nehemiah 4: 7-8 the word of God says, ” Now it happened when Sanballet, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were begining to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion “. One thing that is for sure in the life of any individual truly following God is Satans opposition. Concerning these Jews returning from captivity and the persecution they faced it would be wrong to to disregard what they externally went through. Nevertheless. my emphasis for every believer, and whatever it is the Lord has ordained for them to go through, is more internal and therefore begins in the mind of ones soul. Ephesians 6:14-15 says, ” Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with preparation of the gospel of peace “. To all living souls peace in the soul means so much. An unsaved person unfortunately cannot begin to comprehend such a reality because they remain an enemy of God. On the other hand a christian is no longer Gods enemy because of what Christ has done on their eternal behalf. On a daily and practical basis that’s where it gets dicey for a believer because of the to and fro ( sparring if you will ) of the spiritual warfare coming at them from this worlds atmosphere. As I have stated before all to often genuine born again christians get caught up in the subtle game of works versus grace in their soul for the simple reason that it is not always easy to be reconciled to the fact that as believers in Christ we have Gods favor 24/7; especially in the light of realizing that all to often we see in our own lifes how undeserved we are. At the same time if my interpretation of Gods word is a legalistic one then I will put my souls energy (physical or emotional ) in to making sure I do the right things to please God when the fact is the blood of Christ is what the Father sees when He looks upon us and nothing pleases Him more. Consequently, it is then my responsibility to simply by grace through faith ” walk ” in this eternal position that I have been gifted with. For in fact Christ has finished the work and it then becomes a question of how I relate to such a personal eternal fact. In verse 15 of Ephesians 6 the greek work for ” shod ” is ” hupodeo ” which means to bind under ones feet, ie. put on shoes or sandals, bind on “. As a christian the best defense ( doctrinal wall, if you will ) against the warfare that will come at our mind is, like the Jews returning to Jerusalem from captivity, building, or even in some cases rebuilding the doctrinal walls of our soul. And such is done not with our religious inability to alter our behaviour or world, but strengthening our walk with God by binding tightly the scriptural mindset of a life lived by grace through faith in Christs redemptive victory that we as believers would not only rule over our own spirit ,but withstand in that day when our enemies attempt to stop us from walking with the Lord.

O.N.RIDER is seminary educated and living in Baltimore MD

Shining through Darkness

An Enlightened Christian Mind Is Not One Where Grace Is Used As A License To Sin As Much As It Is That Moment When A Christian Realizes That They Cannot Out-sin The Grace Of God

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. ( John 1:4-5 NKJV ) In the greek the translation for the word ” comprehend ” in verse 5 is ” katalambano ” which is to , ” receive, or admit ” meaning that ” the darkness did not admit or receive the light”. ( Zodhiates). At any given time the choice of an individual to deny and even turn away from Christ as the true light of life can have ever so subtle, nevertheless, devastating consequences which can manifest themselves in the form of doubts, confusion, as well as even selfrightousness ( let alone eternal damnation for the non-believer ). And ultimately such consequences have less to do with the availability and effectiveness of the grace filled love of Christ as much as with the spiritual darkness that seeks to keep a soul turned away and therefore unable to comprehend such eternal truth. Another form by which the darkness of this world can be manifested can come from a soul that simply seeks and believes that Gods eternal favor can be earned based on their works in the present. Such thinking does not dismiss the potential sincerity that can come from someone wanting to do works of rightousness, rather the need for clarity with regard to ones biblical understanding. In Romans 5:9 the word of God says, ” Much more then, having now been justified by His ( Christs ) blood we shall be saved from wrath through Him “. As important as teaching a christian the do’s and don’ts of scripture it is of greater importance to impart into every blood bought believers soul the positional facts that not only is there no wrath waiting for them eternally but they also have God in Christs favor available to them in the present. This is the light of truth that not only shines through every form of darkness, but a doctrinal voice that can bring spiritual revelation and comprehension if taught enough. And with regard to the importance of repetition in these teaching matters it cannot be overstated because Adamic forgetfulness is a genuine plague that places the christians mind in the devils crosshairs. ( Luke 8:5 )
In Philipians 4:6-7 the word of God says, ” Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”. If as a believer my soul is encumbered by darkness my thoughts toward God will probably be fearful or even unfulfillably lawful. Consequently, I will be less inclined to bring my concerns to God. Therefore, what is my scriptural frame of reference at such a moment in time. What have I been internalizing ( if anything ) with regard to Gods word as well as those I have allowed to teach me. Is my unchanging victorious eternal position easily brought back to my remembrance, or is it fear, and or even a fear that prevents me from repenting if need be. And concerning the likeminded issues of worry and anxiety and found in two of my personal favorite portions of scripture ( Mattew 6:25-34, Luke 12: 22-32 ) the Lord in His love for us reminds us in Luke 12:32, ” Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the kingdom”. In its simplicity it is almost something to be solely directed at a Sunday school class. Yet at its heart it is our Lord at His finest.
Not long after his arrival in Jerusalem it is brought to Ezras attention that despite the words of God from Israels historic past ( Exodus 34:16 ) many of the Jews who had previously returned from captivity had married and or ” mixxed their holy seed with the people of the land “. ( Ezra 9:2 ) The next verse found in this book that we are presently studying tells us that this news had a ” stunning” effect on Ezra. And as much as I am in awe of Ezra and the convictions by which he was guided such thinking is ultimately one more reason why God sent forth His Son to offer salvation to all people. For though a Gentile could be converted to Judaism its lawful expectations was fodder for a selfrightous way of thinking that in the hands of fallen men could do more harm than good. Such is the reason we should not be darkened in our understanding because of the ” sins ” of others; rather by turning to the Lord and the word of His mercy and letting this light shine in our hearts we can then spiritually comprehend the difference between the Law we cannot fulfill and the gift of grace that we cannot out-sin !

O.N.RIDER is seminary educated and living in Baltimore MD.

Manifesting the Truth

Manifesting Eternal Truth Begins With A Practical Embrace Of The Redemptive Victory That Christs Shed Blood Positionally Gives Us

But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every mans conscience in the sight of God. ( II Corinthians 4:2 NKJV ) All to often misguided pawns associated with the fallen realm the ill motives of depraved politicians place the interest of the Adamic nature above true political solutions that at times are shockingly obvious as well as laughingly easy to implement. In contrast when political leaders of a true ilk do emerge, considering the invisible warfare that is assuredly coming at them, not only should prayers be lifted to heaven on their behalf but that God would also give them continued boldness amidst such darkness.
In Romans 3:23. The word of God says , ” All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God “. The great conspiracy of this human life is despite the personal knowledge of ones own sin to deny such truth. And whereas the Law was created to convict mankind of sin ( Romans 3:20 ) Christ fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law through the shedding of His righteous blood. For as in Exodus 12 where the blood of a blemish free lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts of Jewish homes that they would be protected from the Lords judgement upon Egypt Christs blood is an eternal covering for christians today . This is positional truth of the most important kind that should not only be taught in Holy Spirit inspired ways but internalized as well. And in order to manifest such truth in an impacting way it should have at its core a practical word of God grace through faith mindset that one would not find themselves shrinking back because of a works oriented selfrighteousness, but simply standing firm because of ones secure spiritual position that is a result of Christs righteousness.
In Ezra 4 of our Old Testament studies the Jews who have returned to their homeland continue to rebuild yet are now being opposed by their neighbors who even terrorize them in an attempt to undermine their singleminded work. In fact such opposition continued beyond the reign of Cyrus of Persia as the Jews presence provokes their neighbors to lobby the Persian King Artaxerxes and in him they find a responsive ear as the Jews are forced to cease building. (Ezra 4:24 ) Despite the effectiveness of the opposition the original decree of Cyrus allowing the Jews return and rebuild is found and the project is officially recognized once again. In due time Ezra arrives ( Ch. 8 ) with a second group and receives the same favor from the present King of Persia as did the original group from Cyrus. Overwhelmed by the favor shown him and Gods people Ezra says in verses 27- 28 a of chapter 7, ” Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who have put such a thing as this in the kings heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem, and has extended mercy to me before the king and his counselors”. As Gods people it is important to think in such terms and of course never place what we hope to do for God above what He because of Christ has already done for us. Ezra knew that he was not responsible for the blessings mentioned, but the Lord who’s plan that he was fortunate enough to be a part of. For the foundation of each incredible event in the Book of Ezra is the Lord simply taking care of those willing to give Him the rightful place in their life. And according to the prophetic fullness of the times these Jews were once again free to uplift the Lord through His Law; though even their religious distinctiveness was merely setting the stage for a greater potential awakening for all people especially when one chooses Christ for salvation ,along with the positional freedom that can be victoriously enjoyed and manifested as a result.

O.N.RIDER is seminary educated and living in Baltimore MD

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