"Belief & Unbelief"
Paul exhorted his young protege, Timothy, to "fight the good fight of faith." Paul wasn't just spouting hyperbole when he called the Christian experience a "fight". In 1 Peter 5:8 we are told that we have an adversary, who is the Devil. An adversary is simply an opponent in a struggle, or contest. In Ephesians the sixth chapter Paul tells us that we are engaged in warfare.
Satan wants everything that belongs to God; all Praise, Glory, Honor, Authority and Power. God wants us to put our Faith (trust) in Him; it's one of the things most important to God;
"But without Faith it is impossible to please God..." Hebrews 11:6
If God longs for our faith to be placed in Him, one thing you know for sure is that Satan is working hard to get you to put your faith in Him. God's Word or Satan's; where do you put your faith?
That being said, as a Christian, having a need and knowing that the Bible says that we are to make our needs known to Him in prayer, you pray in faith believing in God's desire and ability to answer your prayer while at the same time experiencing some doubt and uncertainty about whether or not God will answer you? You are not alone! Every believer experiences this duality. Our sinful nature (the flesh) bears the nature of Satan himself, and like Satan, hates God and agrees with Satan. Paul testifies of his struggle against this duality within him:
"I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me." Romans 7:21
It's not unusual to have faith in God and His promises and at the same time experience feelings of doubt. The problem emerges when we believe the lie from Satan which says that this duality means that God won't answer our prayer, so we stop praying, or we utter empty words filled with unbelief.
In the Gospel of Mark, the ninth chapter, we see such an example of this duality. Jesus, with Peter and James, descends the mount of transfiguration to see His disciples being questioned by the Scribes. These Scribes are among those Jesus said were of their father Satan. In other words they were always throwing fuel on the flames of doubt in regards to the claims of Christ.
A man among the crowd had brought his son to Jesus' disciples asking them to deliver his son from the demons which possessed him, but they could not. Jesus chided his disciples for their unbelief, and then asked for the father to bring the boy to Him. The father brought his son saying to Jesus "if you can do anything for my son, have compassion on us and help us." Jesus replied saying that "if You can believe all things are possible to him who believes." The father of the boy then said something that I can really relate to "Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief."
Here in the father of the you demon possessed boy we again see this duality of belief and unbelief. Both are present as this prays for Jesus to heal his son. Now if the lie that Satan would have us believe were true (that God won't answer a prayer where unbelief is present), then Jesus couldn't have helped the boy. His hands would have be, as it were, tied. But this is NOT what happened. Jesus healed the boy, answering the prayer of the boy's father.
What happened here? Why did Jesus heal the boy in response to the father's prayer? First, it was prophesied of Jesus that He came to set at liberty those who were captive; the father's prayer agreed with the revealed will of God in Christ. Second, the father acknowledged the presence of unbelief but did not focus on his unbelief, instead he focused on his belief in the ability of Christ to answer his prayer.
Here's the application; acknowledge that unbelief is present, right along with your faith and belief in God and His Word. Know that this is normal, and that your to fight to keep your focus on God's promises and His desire and ability to respond to your requests of Him. When don't do this we have then placed our faith (belief) in Satan and his words; and he wins the battle for your faith.
Satan can't win unless we let him. Focus on your belief in Jesus and His desire to what is good for you, and in His ability and power.
Fight the Good fight! The band Journey released a song in 1981 that is still being played today because it resonates with people; it's called "Don't Stop Believing". Good advice.
"Give To Caesar What Belongs To Caesar..."- (For The Tax Season)
"Money makes the world go round..." is not just a song from "Cabaret", it's a reality of the world we live in. In Matthew 22 Jesus enemies wanted to trap Him, get Him to say something that could get Him arrested. Money and power are two things the world really values, and because it was their passion, they thought it was Jesus' passion too. But Jesus has a different set of values.
The Jews hated their Roman oppressors and were passionate in their loathing of having to submit themselves and their money to them. Jesus is passionate about people, money was only a tool to Him. He reveals this when He says "Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give unto God what belongs to God." Just before He said this, he had one them give him a coin; He then asked "Whose image is on this coin?" Jesus said let the world have what belongs to it, as indicated by the image imprinted on it. It's what Jesus said next that is so wonderful; He said "Give unto God what is God's".
Jesus said that whatever is stamped with His image is what He loves and is what belongs to Him. People are created with the image of God imprinted on them. We are what, who, He loves; we are His priority, we are what He values most.
So as you see how much money Uncle Sam is taking from you, just remember how greatly loved you are by your Father in Heaven; it won't hurt as much that way!
Bigger Than Us--
"We are the Church" is a mantra that has made its way through the Body of Christ, to its benefit. It has corrected the error in thinking that the Church is a building, or an organization. This is a healthy and important distinction reflecting the truth from God's Word. While this clarification has had a positive impact on the Church, we need to go a little further.
Now, when we read where Jesus said in Matthew's Gospel "...I will build My Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it " we understand that Jesus is promising that WE are the work of His hand, and that any evil that the Devil, or man would do to harm us, can never succeed.
Equally important to understand is that the Church is everyone, everywhere, who have put their faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross for their salvation. The times we live in are those where there is a growing intolerance for the Christian Gospel which says that there is only way to right standing with God, and that is through Jesus Christ His only begotten Son. While we in America have lived under a sense of security afforded us, not only through our Constitution, but from the Judeo-Christian foundation upon which our great nation was built, there has been a turning of the tide.
In his keynote speech at the "Building A Covenant for a New America" conference in 2006, then Senator Obama did say that America is no longer a Christian nation. His comment reflects a growing anti-Christian sentiment that has become bolder and more militant in recent years. This is accompanied by some of the greatest political polarization our country has ever known. It is not the only time in our nation's history that we have experienced political polarization, but the lack of respect for the right of others to have a contrary opinion, along with a fierceness that not only borders on physical attacks but has, from time to time, crossed that line, we have devolved into an alarming period in our nation's history. Christians suffering physical harm for their faith may be a new threat for the Church in America, but it is NOT for the rest of the world.
We may once have thought of ourselves as being in the majority, as Christians in America, and felt secure within the walls of our own church fellowships, but this illusion has been shattered. We may know that WE are the Church, but we have been content to function aware only of the Church as it exists within our individual fellowships. This perspective must change.
Bigger Than Us
I attend a church in our town, and I love my church, and that's the problem; when I only see "My church". It's Bigger than Us; Christ's Church is all around my city, my state, my nation, my world.
The failure to correctly view "Our church" as the collective of believers everywhere limits the range of our effectiveness.
Strength In Numbers
I need my brothers and sisters, all those whose faith is Christ and Christ alone for salvation. Regardless of denomination, worship style, location, or any demographic, we need to see ourselves as something far more expansive than just those in our own little fellowships.
Think about it. What might be possible if we began to see the outworking of the great commission collectively rather than individually? The Bible teaches the concept of agreement and its ability to release God's power.
"Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:19-20
We Need Each Other
I need you, and like it or not, you need me too. Let's Think, Work, and Pray from the understanding that the church is much bigger than us, and from the hope of what may be possible if we all prayed for, and work together with, each other to fulfill the great commission.
I like to tell everybody that I’m God’s favorite. When I first said this a few years back I could feel the push back. So I explained that God has been SO Good to me that I could not imagine that he could love somebody else more, therefore, I must be His favorite. I know it’s imperfect logic, but it works for me.
The truth is we have all been favored by God;
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 -
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
But was does the favor of God on a life mean? In Luke’s Gospel the first chapter the angel Gabriel, sent from God, tells Mary that she is “highly favored”. Now those of us who know the story know that Mary’s life was about to upset because of this “favor” that had come upon her.
To truly understand the extent to which her life would be disrupted by this favor we must consider the times and the culture she lived in. She was already engaged to a man, which was as binding as if they had already been married. They just didn’t live together, and had not had sexual relations. If a woman became pregnant out of wedlock in those times she likely would have been drug out of city and stoned to death. This favor meant that she would be that woman, a teenager by all accounts, pregnant out of wedlock.
"It's Not A Happily Ever After Story"
God’s favor on her life didn’t lead to a quiet and comfortable happily ever after. So what does the favor of God on a person mean? Well the phrase “highly favored” is translated from the original Greek word “” which means “made accepted”.
The commonly recited definition of grace is “unmerited, or unearned favor”, which is true, but I’ve heard Grace defined as “the power to be what we on our own could never be”;
“For by Grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
Our salvation is completely outside of the ability or power of any person, it can only be accomplished through the power of another; and that is/was Jesus Christ the righteous.
We Are Favored By God
So I will now say that we have received the favor of God, but that does not necessarily produce that happily ever after that we so long for. It does mean that God has “Made us able” to become what He had in mind for us since before He spoke creation into existence.
To follow Christ does not mean that we get a pass on troubles in this life; it does mean that God has made us able not just to survive them, but to flourish through them. Paul taught;
"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." Romans 5:3-5
We are doubly blessed, because not only has God promised to develop us through our troubles, nothing that our adversary, Satan, would try to do to destroy us can succeed, according to God’s promise;
"But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD; their vindication will come from me. I, the LORD, have spoken!" Isaiah 54:17 NLT
You are Favored by God. If haven’t already, start focusing on what God has done and is doing for you. When you do maybe like me, you too will begin to believe that you are God’s favorite, because you live aware of how much He loves you.
Blessings, from God’s Favorite!
“LEARNING TO DROWN”
"Be still, and know that I [am] God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10
Like a once gentle whirlwind on the plain, the pace of life has evolved, grown into a tornado, all consuming, sweeping up everything in its path and leaving behind a trail of stressed out, over committed people living lifeless lives.
Believers are not exempt from this phenomenon, yet, Jesus said that He came that we might have super abundant life.
In the 46th Psalm, we learn one of the most important principles revealed to us by God through His Word; “Be Still, and know that I am God.” The word translated to “Be Still” means to sink down, relax, let drop.
This conjures an image in my mind of a person in the water flailing, kicking, stroking at the water, doing all they can not to sink, to stay on top of the water. This is a picture of what a believer goes through as they are being transformed in the the image of Christ. The person is the believer, the water is God, and the instinct to live is the flesh (sinful nature).
Ultimately we must stop resisting, sink down, let ourselves drop and be overcome with God and His kingdom. We must drown, learn how to receive life from this new source, not the world and the things in it as we have done until we accepted Christ as our Savior.
Be still, let God overtake you, breath Him in and receive His life and go deeper with Him.
Depending on the source, approximately 80%-90% of Americans believe in God. Though all sources vary in their findings on how many believe in God, all agree that the numbers of those who still proclaim belief in God are slowly declining over the past 60 to 70 years.
As a Christian I absolutely believe in God, that He exists, that He is sovereign, and all powerful, all knowing, is present in all places at the same time. Both the Bible and creation reveal Him (God) like this.
While so many profess belief in God, the God they believe in is more a product of their own design. The God they believe in lines up with what they want to be true of Him, not exactly as He has revealed Himself.
To be true a thing must be accurate. According to the dictionary; “in accordance with fact, or reality.” So when our belief about God is not in accordance with How He reveals Himself, then we are believing a lie.
Why would anyone, on such an important subject, be willing to believe a lie. If there is a God, the sovereign creator of all things, He is worth seeking out, and understanding, according to the truth.
For thousands of years mankind has created gods from wood, or stone, or metal, the products of their own imaginations and the fabrication of their own hands. What possible good is that!
If there is a God, and I believe that there is, then we must know Him as He is, in accordance with fact, or reality, without deceiving ourselves by calling our own creations god.
It is reasonable to assume that if there is a God that He would provide a basis for revealing Himself to us; and the one true God has. Through His creation He reveals Himself, and the through the Holy Bible, His Word, He reveals Himself, and how we can come into relationship with Him.
Don’t redefine God and settle for a cheap imitation. If you’re going to believe in God, then do so according to facts and reality.
"Practicing 'View-Do' In the Church!"
Pardon the pun. In a book by Alex Absalom, called "Discipleship That Fits" he says; "Discipleship is more about Imitation than Information." I believe that he's right.
Jesus said; "The things that I do, you'll do, and greater things than these shall you do in my name..." (John 14:12) In other words Jesus is saying, "Imitate Me!" (By the way, notice that Jesus didn't say that we might, or we may do these things; but that we "will" do these things.)
Paul, in Ephesians 5:1, also tells us to "Imitate God." In 1 Corinthians 11:1, again, Paul says "imitate me as I imitate Christ."
It's pretty clear from the Bible that we are to be imitators of Christ and the people in our lives who imitate Him.
In the Gospels Jesus showed us what He did; and has so shown us what He wants us to do by His example. Through the scriptures we can view the works of Christ. But it doesn't end there; James says that we are to be "doers" of what we see in the word.
It isn't going to just occur to a rational human being to lay hands on a blind person so that their vision will be restored. Neither would one think that life could be restored to a dead person by doing the same; but, in the scriptures we have "seen" it, in the works of Christ, and the disciples He sent out.
Being a disciple is viewing the works of another (Jesus) and then trying (doing) it ourselves. As disciple makers we are commanded to model the works of Christ in front of others, so that they can follow our example.
"View", then "Do"; it's a simple formula. We get stuck in the "viewing" room with endless Bible studies, and discipleship training. Remember, "It's more about Imitation (doing), than Information (viewing)."
We need to practice "View-Do" in the Church!
Trusting in God, Against All Odds
2 Chonicles 13:14-16 & 18 NLT
“When Judah realized that they were being attacked from the front and the rear, they cried out to the LORD for help. Then the priests blew the trumpets, and the men of Judah began to shout. At the sound of their battle cry, God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel and routed them before Abijah and the army of Judah. The Israelite army fled from Judah, and God handed them over to Judah in defeat…So Judah defeated Israel on that occasion because they trusted in the LORD, the God of their ancestors..”
What’s In A Name?
Abijah means; “Jehovah is my Father”
Jeroboam means; “The people will contend”
Abijah’s parents carefully named their son giving him a name that would constantly remind him of who, and whose he is. “Jehovah is My Father” is what he heard every time someone said his name.
How wonderful it is when we know who we are, because we know who our Father is. A good father provides for, protects, and promotes their children. There is strength in knowing this.
This knowledge gave Abijah the confidence to stand up to the evil in his generation even though outnumbered, two to one.
Jeroboam exalted himself to his position rather than trusting God to direct his path; he contended for what he wanted on his own, apart from faith and trust in God. When he attacked Abijah and Judah, it was solely of the power of man with no trust or dependence on God; they contended against Abijah and Judah solely by their own power.
Trusting in God Evens the Odds
Jereboam and Israel had an army of select soldiers numbering 800,000. Abijah and Judah had an army of only 400,000 select soldiers. Judah, and Abijah prevailed against the overwhelming odds, because they place their trust in God.
Trusting in God still works today!
"Breakfast With Jesus"
They’d been fishing all night but had caught nothing. It was a long, dark night of toil and struggle, right on the heels of losing their master and friend, Jesus. Stunned and confused, they’d gone back to fishing; it was all that they knew, and it felt like they couldn’t even do that right anymore.
Then, at dawn, exhausted and discouraged, they heard someone calling out to them from the shore asking how the fishing had gone; they didn’t recognize His voice. This unfamiliar person offered what seems like a foolish suggestion; “Cast your net on the right side of the boat!” I’m not sure what was more surprising, the suggestion, or that the disciples actually did it. But when they did, wow, they had incredible results. They caught 153 large fish, so great a catch they marveled that their net didn’t break. I think they were so desperate, and hungry they were open to anything.
Have you ever gone through a long, dark season of toil and struggle; where it seemed like Jesus was nowhere to be found? Maybe you’re there right now. You’re not exactly sure what to do, so you just do what you know, like these guys did. You may also feel that you’re not doing that very well either. Be encouraged! Dawn is coming, and Jesus will be there calling out to you too.
I think that the dawn comes when it finally “dawns” on us that doing things our way isn’t working; when we are finally desperate enough to trust God and simply take Him at His Word. When we do, we too will experience supernatural results in our lives. So be ready, your breakthrough may hinge on your radical obedience to God's will for you.
Let’s not forget about Breakfast. When the long, dark night was over and the disciples had their breakthrough, Jesus was waiting on shore with breakfast; a sweet time of communion and reunion. Face time with Jesus.
There's always a purpose in our struggles; they are always accomplishing God's vision, and plan for our lives. The pain is the fire that purifies our faith. And a life lived by faith pleases God while experiencing supernatural results.
There’s an old song with these lyrics;
“Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood
Would you o'er evil a victory win?
There's wonderful power in the blood
There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the blood of the Lamb
There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb”
Blood isn’t something that most people choose as a topic of conversation. It’s not something we like to think about, or talk about as a rule. But as Christians, blood, specifically the shed blood of Jesus Christ, is something we need both to think and talk about.
In Leviticus 17:11 God tells Noah that the Life of the Flesh is in the blood, and that under the old covenant He gave us blood on the altar to purify us and to make us right with Him. The blood of animals was only pointing forward to when Jesus’ blood would be shed, providing the final answer for sin.
As our blood is the source of life for our bodies, the blood of Jesus is the source of life for all who were once dead in their sin and trespass, and whose sins were washed clean by the powerful blood of Jesus Christ.
When the Church doesn’t preach and teach about the blood of Jesus we are ignorant of this life giving source. There IS power in the blood of Jesus.
Just as the Human body loses its life when it loses its blood, so too the body of Christ if we lose the blood of Jesus Christ from our liturgy. We need to talk about, sing about, teach and preach about the blood of Jesus.
We may not like talking about blood shed, but God makes it perfectly clear in His Word (Hebrews 9:22)
“In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.”
Let’s not let the Body of Christ suffer due to “Blood Loss”.
"Here's the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home."
Luke 16:9 (NLT)
There's a famous Broadway musical from the 1960's called "Caberet". One of the songs from that musical is titled "Money Makes The World Go Round". Money represents the power to get what we want; the ability to satisfy and gratify ourselves. The illusion is that money can buy happiness. How we use it shows what is important to us.
As expressed before, the sin that we struggle with has an origin, a progenitor, and that is Satan. God created everything, including humans sinless, perfect; sin came into the world through Satan, and our interaction with him. What was Satan's ultimate sin? Pride! He cared only about himself and what he wanted, not willing to submit to the Father's plan for him. The sin of self is Satan's sin, and now it is a the heart of all that we struggle against. Proverbs 16:18 tells us that Pride (self) is what leads to all the destruction in our lives.
Jesus' teaching reminds us that true happiness comes in giving not in getting. The passage in Luke 16:9 expresses the moral of Jesus parable of the Unjust Steward. This steward was shrewd about how to use money to form alliances and get things done. Jesus said in the previous verse 8;
"The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light."
This verse can be more than a little confusing to understand. Those who have not accepted Christ, operate according to their sinful nature, use their time, talent, and treasure to enrich themselves, and create favorable relationships that work to that same end.
I believe that Jesus is teaching us to develop a new way of thinking that focuses on building up others, the people in our lives, with the same drive and motivation we used to have in pleasing ourselves.
Using our Time, Talent, and Treasure to build relationships blessing, and leading others to Christ is the way to eternal life.
When We Don’t Know What To Pray
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Have you ever been confronted by a need, either your own, or someone else's, and didn’t even know how to pray? Don't worry, you've got and internal assistant.
While we know that we are encouraged to come to the Father to make our wants and petitions known, perhaps we should be less interested in convincing God of what we want Him to do, and more interested in finding out what He wants to do in our situation.
Jesus teaches (Matthew 6:8) that the Father knows the things that we have NEED of before we ask Him. "Need" here in this text refers to “Necessities”; “Essentials”. This is where things get tricky; one person’s necessity is another person’s luxury. We can agree that oxygen and food and water would be universally considered as necessities. After that it can get pretty subjective.
Jesus said that the Father knows our true necessities. I’ve learned that what I have often thought of as a necessity, God has not. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy asking the Father things I considered essential that, as it turns out, he considered to be non-essential. God won’t clutter our lives with non-essentials.
Prayer’s purpose is not to influence the Father to change His mind, but for us to submit to the Father’s will and align our mind with His.
We tell God what we’d like to happen, but we know that He is Good, and that what He wants is not only good for us individually, but is good for everyone collectively. We must be willing to trust the Father's heart toward us and to let go of our opinion of what is needed.
When we feel the weight of our need and we don't know what to say, sometimes all that is left is the utterance of groaning, or sighs, often with tears, as we pour our heart to the Father, praying until the weight is lifted.
Instead of being bothered by the lack of certainty of what to pray, let's just give thanks to the Father that He has given us Holy Spirit who knows our heart and what the Father has put in there, and He will pray to the Father on our behalf, and will always pray in agreement with the Father’s will.
Where Do You Call Home?
Many years ago a man, who owned a large piece of property, developed it into a multi-parcel subdivision. Initially the land was a single 10 acre piece of open land. After developing it he ended up with 18 buildable lots with a road and curbs with gutters. He sold all but one of the 18 parcels, keeping one for himself, where he planned to build a house. The seventeen people who bought the other lots didn’t have any immediate plans to build, so it looked like a 10 acre piece of ground with a road in the middle of it. A blank canvas.
The man was the first to build his house. He drew the plans, bought the materials and had them delivered to the site. He’d planned to build the house by himself, from the ground up; and that’s what he did. For two years he would go out to the site, after work, and on weekends, until, finally, the house was complete.
There was a great sense of accomplishment, and relief, having completed such an undertaking. So much time, effort, and energy invested. There was one problem; he’d built his house on the wrong lot. Needless to say, all the relief and sense of accomplishment, was replaced by anxiety and overwhelming disappointment.
2 Peter 3:11
"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,"
Peter is trying to keep his readers, us, from a similar mistake, building our lives in the wrong place. He reminds us that this world is depraved and sinful, and will ultimately be destroyed by fire.
He asks the pivotal question, since we know this world is going to be destroyed, “What manner of people ought ye to be?” Interestingly, the phrase “What manner” means “from what country”.
As Christ followers our citizenship is no longer of this world; we are citizens of Heaven now. Peter is reminding us that we should take care to build in the right place. It would be terrible to leave this life and find that we’ve spent it building in the wrong spot. This will be disappointment of the eternal sort
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:"
Matthew 16:17-18, 22-23 KJV - "17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ...
22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
From Hero to Zero
Jesus had just commended Peter for the insight he'd received, He even changed his name from Simon to Peter, the Rock. Then, a very short time later Jesus turns and basically calls Peter Satan! Wow! What just happened?
Jesus said Peter's problem was that he didn't "Savor" the things of God. Because Peter didn't savor the things of God he went from speaking in agreement with Christ to becoming the enemy of Christ. So it would seem that this "Savoring the Things of God" thing is pretty important for those who follow Christ.
This means "to exercise the mind, i.e. entertain or have a sentiment or opinion about." There are people who are "Sommolier's", which is simply defined as a wine steward. There job is to become expert on wine in every aspect of the subject; from viticulture, to tasting and knowing how to combine the perfect wine with a food choice.
There are levels of Sommoliers, with the most skilled being able to identify, from seeing, smelling and tasting, the grape, and what region of the world the grape came from. How are they able to do this?
Well, there is the education, learning about grapes, wine making, wine makers et al. Perhaps you've seen people who are, or who aspire to be, connoisseurs of wine. They don't just pop open the bottle and drink the wine, no, they open the bottle and let the wine "breathe"; they look carefully at the wine examing its color and clarity etc. After pouring the wine into the proper wine glass they swirl the wine in the cup, checking the wine's "legs" (viscosity), releasing the bouquet, then they smell the wine. Then after all that, they drink the wine; but they don't just pour it down their throat, no, they let it sit on their tongue, swishing it around in their mouth so that they can fully appreciate the flavor.
They don't just drink the wine, they spend time with the wine, getting to know the details of the wine using as many senses as they can. They Savor wine, not just drink it.
Though Peter had followed Jesus, spending time with Him day and night, Peter had not gotten to know WHO Jesus was. Many Christians today relate to Christ in that same way; we know about Him, but we don't really know what His heart is; what makes Him tick.
It's About Time...
As committed as Sommoliers are to knowing everything there is to know about wine by learning, tasting and spending the time necessary to achieve their goal, we even more need to Savor the things of God. Remember how quickly Peter went from the Commendation of Christ to the Condemnation of Christ; all because He had not taken the time to really know the Christ he was following.
God has given us His Word, the Holy Bible, and Prayer (Communior with God); and in addition to that He has given us His Holy Spirit who lives in us, whose function is teach us all things about God. Holy Spirit is faithful to His mission of teaching us about the things of God; the problem isn't with Him. We must "Be Still and know that He is God"; allow the Holy Spirit time to teach us, show us, the things of God.
Blessings In Christ Jesus our Lord!
P.S. - The writer is not at all knowledgeable about wine. So if the information in this post on the subject is incorrect; I blame the internet! ;-)
What Do I Do With This Rock?!
A boy went to his father because he was hungry and wanted some bread. When he asked his dad for some bread his dad gave him a large and heavy round shaped stone. The boy didn’t understand this and was frustrated with his dad, believing that his dad didn’t understand at all what he needed.
The father had a plan that in the short term did not seem to provide what the boy needed. The father, responding to his son's frustrations, explained saying “Son, I’m not always going to be around to make bread for you. What will you do when I am not? This is why I gave you this stone; it’s time for you to learn how to make your own bread.”
The father explained the long and involved process of making bread, beginning with sowing the seed, and cultivating the seed through harvest of the wheat. The father said “The stone I gave you is a Millstone, and it's what you will need to grind the wheat kernels you harvest into flour from which you will bake the bread you need.”
“If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone?..” Luke 11a
At a recent Season of Prayer meeting, the moderator started things with a reading of Luke 11.
She told of a very difficult period of her life where she and her family suffered the loss of a loved one, even after they had prayed and believed and trusted God to heal and restore the health of their loved one. They had seen God heal and restore other people, why not do that for us? The honesty and transparency was truly moving. But when their loved one passed, it felt like God HAD given them a rock instead of bread.
As in the story above, eventually she’s come to realize that the rock that God gave her was for her long term good, though it didn’t seem to help in the moment of her need. This is one of the good things that came from that rock she had to bear, she was able to encourage us to believe that God has a plan in the rough seasons of our lives.
Take a second look at the rocks in your life. If it appears that God has handed you rock when you need bread, just trust that He has a plan. Remember He knows what a good gift is, and that good gifts are the only kind of gifts He gives.
Trust God, and His peace will carry through hard times where understanding is nowhere to be found. One day God's wisdom in giving you that rock may appear; but in the meantime, Trust in the character of your Heavenly Father, and His perfect Love for you.
The Miracle of Easter
Let’s start with a story;
“One Easter Sunday a boy joined his father after Sunday School at church. Usually the boy would come from class with a paper in hand, something he had drawn or colored relating to that Sunday’s lesson. This Sunday was no exception. Also, as usual, the father asked his son “Whatcha’ got there?”, the boy excitedly said “a picture of Jesus”. With equal excitement the father asked “Well, can I see it?”, to which the boy happily responded “Sure” while handing him his artful achievement. To the father’s surprise as he looked at his son’s drawing he saw a picture of a flower, more specifically, a rose. Confused the father asked his son “This looks like a drawing of a flower son. I thought you said you drew a picture of Jesus?” The boy adamantly responded it IS a picture of Jesus. “Well how can a drawing of a flower be a drawing of Jesus?” the puzzled father asked. The boy explained that in Sunday School they learned about the “Miracle of Easter”. The boy continued saying that the teacher taught them that the miracle of Easter was when “Jesus died and was put in a grave and three days later he was AROSE!”
No Greater Love
In the Gospel of John the 15th chapter and the 13th verse, while teaching his disciples that His desire was that they would love each other in the same way that He loved them He told them “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” (NLT) Jesus would ultimately and powerfully demonstrate this kind of love when He was beaten, abused, and crucified on the cross.
Do you struggle feeling unloved and unworthy of love? Do you feel that you have little or no value in the world? Well, consider this.
Estimating Your Value
How can the value of a thing be determined? Basically the economic value of something is the minimum amount a consumer is willing to pay for something in a free market.
Bill Gates is one of the richest men of our time. According to CNN Money he is worth 90 billion dollars. What would be of greater value, however, to Mr. Gates; his money or his children? I believe that Mr. Gates is a normal parent who loves his children. I also believe that if it came down to it, and the situation required it, he would give his fortune to save the lives of his children. We would say that in Mr. Gates eyes his children are really valuable then, right? But is that the best that Mr. Gates could give to save his kids? I don’t think so. The thing of greatest value that Mr. Gates could give to save his kids isn’t his money, it’s his own life. And I believe that Mr. Gates, as a normal, loving parent would do just that. So then how valuable are his kids to Him? They’re worth everything; priceless.
Value can be estimated from the negative perspective as well. Let’s say you had an enemy who hated you with vile, visceral hatred, and wanted to inflict maximum suffering and pain on you; how might he (she) do that? They might steal or kill whatever is of most value to you. So if I were kidnapped, in the minds of my abductor’s I would be the thing of greatest value to my parents.
How Valuable Are You?
God became human in the person of Jesus Christ, who the Bible refers to as God’s “only begotten Son”. You and I are have a common enemy whose name is Satan. He is not just wicked and evil, he is the source of all the wickedness and evil that exists in the world. Jesus said that his sole mission is to “kill, steal, and destroy”. Satan rebelled against God, unrepentantly rejecting God’s love, and as such is judged to eternal damnation.
In his bitterness Satan now seeks to bring pain to God by stealing from, killing and destroying the lives of those most precious to God; you and I. Satan deceived Adam and Eve and in their ignorance they chose the lie that Satan offered them over the truth they heard from their Heavenly Father, God. And as the Father warned them at the moment of their choice (their sin) death became a part of their (our) existence. Not just the death of these mortal bodies, but eternal death as well. The disease of sin that we now carry has no earthly cure; in ourselves we had no hope and were in deed destined for eternal death.
Now , every time you are attacked by Satan, be encouraged because it's evidence that, to him you, are of the greatest value to God. Satan knows this because he saw what the Father gave to save you.
God calls Himself our Father; and He’s not just any father he is a Good Father, who loves us with unending, unconditional love. So He did what any Father would do. Knowing that we couldn’t not help ourselves and were going to eternal death He stepped in a paid our ransom; dying in our place, redeeming us from sin’s captivity.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in Him would not perish (suffer eternal death) but have Everlasting Life.” John 3:16
You Are Priceless
If you measure your value by what God, our Heavenly Father, was willing to give in exchange for you, you would have to say that you are of infinite worth; Priceless to our Father. The Father gave His Son to save you, and there is only one thing of comparable worth to the Father, and that is YOU!
The Miracle of Easter
The miracle of Easter is not the fact that Christ arose, it is in the reason why He did. The miracle of Easter is the revelation of just how valuable to, and how loved by, God you and I are.
If you want to experience true, unconditional Love, and maybe for the first time know that you are important, and irreplaceable to someone, then come to the Father, God, by believing in Jesus His Son. Discover the Miracle of Easter in a very Real, and very Personal way. Happy Easter!
Embracing Holy Spirit
Based on the sermon series "Magnifying Holy Spirit"
When it comes to God a lot of believers don’t mind the idea of dealing with the Father and the Son; but when it comes to the idea of dealing with Holy Spirit they often shy away. Why is that?
Satan has successfully infiltrated the church with campaign of propaganda and misinformation regarding Holy Spirit, using strategies that cause divisions, broken fellowship and disrupted unity. He has effectively created enough uncertainty and fear in the minds of believers to prevent them from being able to effectively partner with Holy Spirit in ways that would cause them to look and behave like Jesus did when He was on the earth in bodily form.
The Devil knows that if He can distort our understanding of Holy Spirit he can cause enough doubt to deprive us of experiencing much of the benefit that His presence is intended to bring.
STRATEGY 1: Depersonalize Holy Spirit
The Bible refers to the Father, a familiar and, for the most part good, meaningful and familiar reference to our earthly fathers. Then there are His names; Yahweh, Jehovah just to name a couple; He has a name like a person. Then there is the Son, again a familiar reference; something we can relate to. He has a name too; Jesus Christ. Jesus is maybe even more relatable to us because He became a man too. So relating to the Father and the Son is not so difficult a concept.
But how does one deal with a Spirit? Satan’s strategy is to keep us locked in thinking that Holy Spirit is just a Force, or Energy in the earth; an “it”, and not a “Him”.
Bible translators even refer to Him as THE Holy Spirit; making Him sound like a thing, or an “it”. I do not believe the intent was to objectify Holy Spirit, but language being imperfect as it is, the use of “The” in conjunction with His name tends to do just that.
Holy Spirit is a person NOT an “It”; with a mind, and a will.
STRATEGY 2: Mystify Holy Spirit
He is a Person, and “Holy Spirit” is His name. Fathers and Sons are part of our normal existence in the earth, but spirits, are spooky, malevolent and something to be avoided. The Devil has worked to cause Holy Spirit to be lumped in with all of the lore and legend of the world regarding ghosts, and hauntings and other such things that most people don’t want anything to do with.
Many within the Christian faith who have whole-heartedly embraced Holy Spirit have also allowed weird, carnal practices that they have accredited to Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit is not strange or weird. He is the coolest, most wonderful being we will ever know; because He is God. People are weird, Holy Spirit is not.
Embrace Holy Spirit
We need to understand who Holy Spirit is; that He is a person and He is not weird or mysterious. We need to Embrace Him and His work in our lives.
It’s not possible to have a relationship with inanimate objects, no matter how much we like them. We can only relate to other persons. We must see and understand Holy Spirit correctly, as the reasonable, loving person that He is in order to benefit from the relationship that Jesus had in mind for us when He promised to send Him to help us.
In future posts we will explore Who Holy Spirit is, What He Does and Doesn’t do, Why we need Him, and How to Relate to Him.
What’s The Point?
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!”
Are we missing the point? Is it possible to love Bible study, Preaching, Teaching, Fellowship, Singing, our Pastors, our Churches etc. and miss Jesus entirely?
The religious leaders of Jesus day did. Something had happened; they’d missed the point. They loved dressing up in their robes, going to the tabernacle, and being honored by others. Many of them were required to commit the Torah to memory; they knew the scriptures, but missed the point of the scriptures.
Everything that God has said and done, and that the Holy Spirit is doing today points to Jesus. He is the way to the Father; to Heaven.
How much of our passion is for the things listed above? If there were no churches to go to, and people to fellowship with, bands to play the songs we get pleasure from singing, and Jesus was all that remained; would we still be passionate about our Faith?
It’s all about Jesus. Like the song says “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you Jesus…”
One Point, One Focus in all that we do. Jesus!
“Heaven Over Present Earth”
I’ve written about this before, but it seems appropriate, amid the division and unrest raging around the world, again to speak about hope.
The dictionary defines hope as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” So hope is about looking and waiting expectantly for something good to happen; the anticipation of the fulfillment of some desire.
Hope implicitly speaks of anticipating something better than what is currently being experienced.
It is also true that we choose what to hope for, or to be hopeful about. We are the ones who get to choose the target, the object of our hope. But what target should we choose? What is good?
WHAT IS GOOD?
Remember, we are the ones responsible for deciding what we will define as “good” in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that “Good” is relative, and whatever we choose is ultimately true. I am saying that among the many, many possibilities to choose from, the choice is ultimately ours to make. We choose the targets of hope for our lives.
I don’t know about you but I’ve lived long enough, and made enough bad decisions to know that, left to myself, I really don’t know what good is. I need help. This is true for everyone alive, or who has ever lived; we need help knowing what is good.
God refers to Himself as our Father and thereby our provider and protector. He IS good, and everything that comes from Him is good (James 1:17), for both time and eternity. Further, when we don’t know what is right or good, we are instructed to ask the Father who, when asked, will liberally tell us what is good or right.
WHAT DOES GOD’S WORD SAY?
In Romans chapter fifteen Paul said “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” As believers this seems to be an obvious thing to say, still for many of us most of what we hope for are things in this world with little thought of the world (Kingdom) to come.
To me what is good is that which will not disappoint, and will produce that longest benefit or pleasure. Hoping for things of this world does not meet this criteria on a couple of levels. We are told in 1 John 2:15,17 to “15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” Further, Jesus said in Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
I have been shortsighted in planning before and had to deal with repercussions of that to my extreme displeasure. When it comes to eternity I don’t want to make the same mistake. The Bible says the things that will endure forever are those things from God's Word.
Here’s an acronym that helps me to remember a hope that is eternally satisfying and enduring. It goes like this “Heaven Over Present Earth”. This is to remind me to think and dream about Heaven, and eternal life. To live and plan for eternity (Heaven) with more intentionality and deliberation than I do for ANYTHING in this world.
As physical beings living in a physical universe it’s not easy to relate to things that are eternal, or of the Kingdom of Heaven. Still, Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, says “For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” God's Word says that the reality of Heaven, and the life to come should be our hope.
It’s great to build houses, buy cars, get married, build businesses, etc., but all of these things will pass away. Say we were going to build a house that will last forever (if there were such a thing); would we build that forever house on a temporary foundation? That wouldn’t make any sense at all, yet many of us are doing this very thing; only with something or far greater consequence than a house, our eternal soul. Let us plan for, and dream about, eternity.
THINK ABOUT IT
Is there anything more appealing on this sin riddled planet earth than anything in Heaven? Not for me! I’m looking forward to life without sin and the death it brings. I’m looking forward to seeing Jesus who loved and gave His life for me; THAT'S MY HOPE!
Does the idea of Christ’s imminent return trouble you? Is the idea that Christ may return at any moment an inconvenience, interrupting your plans? If you answered yes to either of these questions, your hope is not an enduring hope; but a temporal one, destined to fade away.
Let’s train our hope on the reality of our eternal well-being, and let our source of HOPE be Heaven Over (this) Present Earth.
There’s an old song whose lyrics I love.
“What a day that will be, When my Jesus I shall see, When I look upon His face, The one who saved me by His grace, When He takes me by the hand and leads me through that promised land, What a day, glorious day that will be.”
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think..." Ephesians 3:20a
Can humans understand infinity? There are many opinions out there, it seems that the majority believe that the concept of infinity is something that the human mind cannot really comprehend. There are some who debate the existence of infinity at all.
The world we relate to everyday appears, at least on the surface, to have limits. Time, maybe more than any other concept, teaches us, in sometimes harsh ways, that life has limits. Next, and maybe as powerful a teacher about the reality of limits, is money (wealth, resources). We never seem to have enough of either Time or money. Then there are speed limits, height limits, weight limits, term limits, occupancy limits, limits to our patience and the list goes on.
We are limited physical creatures living in a limited physical world. As a result the paradigm within which we think, imagine, and dream is limited. There’s a popular phrase which says “Think outside of the box.” This recognizes that while our world may have limits, we should not be bound by limitations in our imagination or dreams.
This is especially important for Christians because we serve an Infinite God, who delights in breaking through the limitations of this world that confront those who believe in Him.
Jesus teaches us that the faith the He has given us can overcome the most impossible limitations that confront us in this world.
“If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you..” Luke 17:6
It would never have occurred to us to move a mountain, much less by only speaking to it, because that idea goes way beyond the limits of our ability, and maybe even our imagination. But this is the point that Jesus made by both what He said and did;
“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
THE WORLD IS ROUND!
A great example of the limitations of believing only what you can see comes from the history of Christopher Columbus.
In his time, most people believed that the world was flat; after all, that’s how it appeared. Especially staring out across the ocean where you see the horizon line; it looks like that we are seeing the edge of the world.
Columbus had a different perspective, and he didn’t let the limitations of popular, accepted belief about the world stop him. He was willing to sail to the edge of the world, if there was one, and risk going over if he was wrong. But he wasn’t.
As people living in a natural world, filled with limitations, God is developing our faith by taking us to Our Limits. When we reach the end of our ability that’s where God steps in. The Bible says it this way;
“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient (enough) for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities (limitations), that the power of Christ may rest upon me…for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10b
Steven Curtis Chapman penned these lyrics in a song that he wrote; "His strength in us begins when ours comes to an end."
God is NOT offended by people who ask for more. In fact I believe that he would rather have us asking for more than asking within the limits of our understanding, or for nothing at all. He is an infinite, unlimited God, who wants to bless His people. This means that there is no end to His blessings for us, and when we believe that enough to ask for more He is pleased by our faith. (for without faith it is impossible to please God.)
DARE TO BELIEVE & ASK FOR MORE
If we are asking for more just to get for ourselves then we are missing the point, but as we pursue the knowledge of God, surrendering our lives in service to Him and others there is no limit to what He Can do in our lives.
But first we need to remember to ask, even when we don’t know what to ask for. It is enough to know that even though our situation seems impossible to us, our infinite, unlimited God is a God of possibilities. One more scripture to this point;
“…ye have not because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” James 4:2b-3
In our first scripture Paul is sharing with us the God that he had come to know; a God of More. He wants us to grow in our knowledge of God and His power and ability so that when we are in need we will know that we can Ask, and that we should not restrict our requests to those things we see as possible. Ask and keep on asking for those impossible things.
Go Large, dream big, and see what He will do.
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Eph. 6:12
Coming out of this contentious election cycle our country seems to be more strongly divided than ever. Regardless of our political leanings it's easy to hold those who don't agree with us in dishonor, to regard them as our enemy.
The truth is we are ALL on the same team, we are in the same family, with the same enemy. We are NOT each other's enemy. Having different points of view does not make us enemies; no matter how strongly we feel about them.
What family never disagrees? Such a family doesn't exist. Just because we disagree doesn't mean we cease being family. Liberals/Conservatives, Democrats/Republicans, are not our enemies; Satan is our enemy. People who practice other religions are not our enemies. We don't oppose Muslims, they are God's children just as we are. They may see us, and treat us as enemies, but we cannot allow ourselves to fall into that mindset.
We oppose ideas and practices that are contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, not the people who espouse those ideas and practices. It's hard, but we must always remember that people are not the enemy, but that the Devil and the lies he's released into the world are.
I've seen brother's go to blows with each other with ferocity like I'd never seen. It looked like they wanted the other dead. However, if an outsider would jump in to attack his brother, his rage turned immediately onto his would be ally, the outsider.
We are the human race, a family, and God is our Father. It is the only human distinction that matters. Like those brothers, we need to remember that blood is thicker than water, and no matter how much we annoy each other we are not each other's enemy, we are family. We are all created in the Father's likeness and image, we bleed the same red blood, and breathe the same air.
Our family has one enemy, and his joy is turning us against each other. He is the accuser, divider, of the the brethren. He knows that his Undoing comes in our Unity.
"(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)" 2 Corinthians 10:4
Satan hates us, with a cold, bitter, brutal passionate disdain. There are many who we strongly disagree with politically, or even religiously, but we should love and defend passionately against our true enemy.
Our weapons are Prayer and Love; love like Jesus' love. Jesus loved the sinner and then gave Himself sacrificially to take care of the sin problem. God is not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to Repentance. Repentance is where we change our beliefs and actions. This requires time and patience.
As it says in our pledge of allegiance we are "One nation, under God, INDIVISIBLE..." Why has our enemy fought so hard to get those words, "under God", out of our pledge; it's because it is only under the Father's care that this unity can be preserved.
You may not like me, but you need me, and I need you.
"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Ephesians 4:4-6
Calm your mind - Open Your Heart - Meditate on Jesus - Embrace His Presence
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world."
"And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.."
In Revelation 4:11 we learn that everything God created He created for His pleasure, and we are the pinnacle of His creation, the apple of His eye. God loves people; He loves Us; He loves you; and wants for us to come to know Him.
In the beginning of creation God would come in the cool of the day and hang out with Adam and Eve. And when it looked like sin would keep us separated from God forever, Jesus, the Son of God came and bridged the gap so that WE could come to Him, freely, confidently, boldly.
A Standing Invitation
God has made the way for us to come to Him, and there is a standing invitation for His children to come. Sin has been conquered and the way has been made so that we can draw near to Him.
Calm Your Mind
In Psalm 46:10 we are told that to know God, we must be still. Busyness is one of the enemies most subtle tactics he uses to rob us of truly knowing God. In Hebrews 12:1 we are exhorted to lay aside the weight and the sin that so easily besets us. Most Christians are careful to avoid sin knowing how it can separate us from our Heavenly Father; but in this verse we learn that there is something just as dangerous as sin, and that is weights.
Weights are the cares of this life that wrap themselves around us, preoccupy us so that we do not perceive the presence of God. So the first thing to do in order to Come to the Father is to develop the discipline of being still, calming ourselves, our minds before the Lord. Jesus says go into your closet and pray. This is the picture of a place separated from self-consciousness and other distractions.
There's an old notion that used to be constantly spoken of by the elder saints in church when I was a child; it was that of "Praying Through". This notion seems, for the most part, to have been lost on believers today. It refers to praying through the barrage of warring thoughts of the cares of this life, and the physical reflex to leave our place of prayer to attend to something else. To connect with God begins with the discipline of stilling our minds before Him.
Open Your Heart
This is a very important step in the process of coming to God. This is where we deal with the things that close our heart to God; things such as bitterness, unforgiveness and offense with others and with God. It's so important, in fact, that as much as God wants us to come to Him, He says that before we even try to come to Him we must deal with offenses we have with our fellow man. Sometimes the offense is buried so deeply within us that we don't even recognize it's there, and this requires the help of the Lord to dig out.
One area of offense that many don't think of is offense against God born out of disappointment from unanswered prayers, or disillusionment over the circumstances of life. This offense undermines our faith in the character of God. One of our verses above says that whoever would come to Him must believe that He exists as the person His Word portrays Him to be. Offense , disillusionment with God skews our perspective of Him, making it hard for us to see Him as always doing good for us.
The Psalmist David dealt with this by asking God to create in him a clean heart and renew a right spirit within him. Perhaps we should pray the same prayer before God.
Meditate On Jesus
Now that we've cleared our mind and our heart we must fill them. The Bible tells us that when the strong man is bound and cast out of the house he goes away and then returns. When he returns, yes, the house is clean, but if he finds it empty too, he goes and gets seven more powerful than himself and returns to occupy the house again.
After opening our heart and mind we must be sure to fill them rightly. We must deliberately and intentionally, fill our mind with thoughts of Jesus. Open the Bible and read and meditate on it. Think about Jesus and His goodness, and all that He has done for you. Think of His promises of blessing, not only for this life, but for the life to come. As we learn in Colossians, Paul says that since our lives are now hidden with Christ in God, we now should fix our minds on Him, where He is.
As our focus and attention is locked on Him our awareness shifts from earthly things and our spirit is able to perceive His presence. If we do not endure this process we will likely live unaware of His presence.
Embrace His Presence-The Point of Beginning
Earlier we talked about the notion of "praying through". When we've prayed through, becoming aware of His presence, that is NOT the time to quit. This is the moment where things begin. Don't be in a hurry to get back to the Status Quo. Embrace His presence, linger, tarry , wait. Be sure He has as imparted all that HE has for you.
The place of Presence is where He transforms us into His image, more and more.
God is always with us, but the busyness of life preoccupies our senses and even though He is there, we live as though He isn't.
So just COME.
Emptiness & Opportunity: We Have What We Need (Pt. 2)
Our Emptiness is God's Opportunity
2 Kings 4:1-6 NLT
“One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, ‘My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.’
‘What can I do to help you?’ Elisha asked. ‘Tell me, WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR HOUSE?’
Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,’ she replied.
And Elisha said, ‘Borrow as many EMPTY jars as you can from your friend and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.’
So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. Soon every container was full to the brim!
‘Bring me another jar,’ she said to one of her sons.
‘There aren’t any more!’ he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing.”
A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE: See What You Have, Not What You Don’t!
With this question the prophet forced this poor widow to stop thinking about what she Didn’t have and to realize that no matter how bad her circumstances were she was not without substance, and therefore, she was not without hope.
There’s a saying; “Little is much when God is in it!” Like this widow, when the circumstances of our lives seem heavily tilted toward the bad it’s easy to fall into a “Victim’s”, or a “Poverty” mindset.
Like this widow, I believe that a reason for our sliding from a “Can Do” attitude, into a “Can’t Do” attitude, is because we’ve gotten into the habit of living our life by our own power, not submitted to, or depending upon the power of God in our lives. When things are going well we tend to walk day to day without even turning to God, much less living by His power.
If we live each day dealing with that day’s problems by our own wit and power, then when we face extraordinary, unusually bad circumstances that exceed our wit and ability, then naturally we will slip into these negative mindsets; because we can’t see how things can get better.
Living life from God’s power takes practice, a commitment to depend upon God’s ability, and not on our own. Having developed the habit of self-sufficiency naturally leaves feeling helpless whenever situations arise that go beyond our power or ability. It’s easy to feel desperate and helpless.
LITTLE IS MUCH WHEN GOD IS IN IT!
From a human perspective, a few ounces of oil isn’t going to be enough for the need we are facing; but not to God, the creator of all things. It may not have been much, but when God gets involved it grows to meet and even exceed the need that we are facing.
How many examples of this do we see in the Bible? Consider the loaves and the fishes. Thousands of people followed Jesus out into the wilderness to here Him teach. Evening was quick approaching and the disciples realized that the people needed food, and they didn’t have anything to give them.
What did Jesus say to the disciples when they pointed this out to Him? He said “You feed them!” This totally offended his disciples because they didn’t have enough to feed themselves, much less thousands of people. Their first thought was “We can’t do it!” They saw only what was possible from their wit and ability; then Jesus said “Bring them here.”
Once Jesus gets His hands on our problems He uses whatever it is we have in our possession (in our house); He doesn’t require something that we DON’T have.
WE HAVE WHAT WE NEED
In 1 Corinthians 10 we are told that “He (God) will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” This means that we already have what we need for the answer to our situation, all we need to do is let Jesus get His hands on the little bit we bring to Him.
Like the oil and the loaves and the fishes, after He gets through with it there will not only be enough for our need, but there we some left over for good measure.
When we embrace our weakness, lack, or inability, and Cry Out to God He will take what little wit and ability we have and use to do something miraculous. Remember 2 Corinthians 12:9 where we are taught that God's Strength is at Peak, when our strength is all but gone.
Be strong and of good courage, God is faithful and is working out His plan for your life to its completion.
Emptiness & Opportunity: Cry Out (Pt. 1)
Our Emptiness is God's Opportunity
2 Kings 4:1-6 NLT
“One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, ‘My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.’
‘What can I do to help you?’ Elisha asked. ‘Tell me, WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR HOUSE?’
Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,’ she replied.
And Elisha said, ‘Borrow as many EMPTY jars as you can from your friend and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.’
So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. Soon every container was full to the brim!
‘Bring me another jar,’ she said to one of her sons.
‘There aren’t any more!’ he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing.”
The passage doesn’t tell us how much time had passed since the widow’s husband had died, but it would seem that some time had passed; enough time for debt to accumulate and go unpaid. It would appear that she and her sons were barely making it trying to get by on their own. It wasn’t until the creditors threatened to take her sons that she reached out for help.
How often do we do the same thing? Bearing burdens alone, walking this walk of faith alone. Hiding our emptiness and need. This is not God’s design. God created us for fellowship, not only with him, but with each other as well. God never intended for us to stand on our own.
We all know someone whose desire was to stand on his own, apart from God and God’s design for his life. He didn’t want to depend on God or anyone else. He wanted to BE God. The sinful nature that we carry comes from this one who introduced sin into God’s perfect creation; Satan.
Our sinful nature also wants to be independent, self-sufficient, and able to stand on our own without the aid or assistance of God or anyone else; but this is NOT God’s design.
God’s Design in Creation
The first place we see that God never intended for us to stand alone is in the creation account in the second chapter of Genesis;
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’” Genesis 2:18
God did not create us to stand alone! This isn’t exclusive to marriage, it extends to all areas of our life.
God's Design for His Church
Consider Paul’s teaching to the Galatians in the sixth chapter of his letter to them;
“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2 NLT
What is the law of Christ? It is commonly believed that this is a reference to an answer Jesus gave when asked by a Scribe "Which is the most important commandment of all?" Here is Jesus answer;
"Jesus replied, 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is EQUALLY important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40
It doesn't get any clearer than that. God wants us to Love Him and Each Other; to stand with and fight for each other.
Also, in his letter to the Philippian church Paul exhorts;
“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, THINKING OF OTHERS AS BETTER THAN YOURSELVES. Don’t look out ONLY FOR YOUR OWN INTERESTS, but take an interest in others too.” Philippians 2:1-4
Then, in the book of James we are exhorted;
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest
prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16
Many cry out to the Father for help and this is right to do, but, sometimes the answers or the healing that we need won’t manifest until we cry out to each other, confessing our need and agreeing with others before God for our answers.
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:19-20
Don't be a hero! Cry Out! Don't stand alone frozen in fear and shame. You're not alone. The Bible tells us that there's nothing that any of us face and fail in that isn't common to everyone in the human condition. We don't all fail in the same areas, but we all fail; and we all need help to get back on the right track again. Remember, James tells that it's when we "Confess" our sins, weaknesses, and pray together that we find healing.
God loves unity and agreement between His Children, around Him and His Word; He always shows up and good things always happen when we dwell together under these conditions.
"I Got A Name"
There's a song by this title that goes back to the 1970's; sung by Jim Croce. It's about how "that name" follows him through life, and how he's going to keep going along so that life won't pass him by.
Well, there’s the name our parents give us, and then there’s the name that God has for us.
Peter was born Simon, which in the Hebrew means “heard”, or as some commentators expand it to mean “heard favorably”. His parents dream for their son was that he would be one who would find favor with men and God. To the Greek’s, who seemed to represent “The World”, Simon means “flat nosed”.
Peter, an impulsive, passionate individual, seemed to be living up to “The World’s” definition of who he was. The image of a flat nose evokes the image of a person who runs into a rock wall, over and over again, not learning from previous experience. He always meant well, but it wouldn’t be long before “Wham!!” he’d run into the rock wall again; his flat nose the evidence of his weakness.
But then Simon met Jesus! Jesus saw Him according to the Father’s vision for his life. Jesus said that he would now be called Peter, the rock. God saw him differently than “The World”, and when Simon met Jesus, he began to be reformed into God’s vision for his life. Instead of smashing into the rock, Peter would Become the rock; solid, dependable and faithful.
God has a name for us that is different than the name this world has for us. Thank God that in Jesus we are more than we were before.
Empty Womb to Empty Tomb
"God Is Glorified Through Emptiness"
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is commonly believed to have been in her early teens, when she was confronted by the Angel. Common, unmarried, with nothing to offer, she seemed an unlikely candidate to be the mother of the Savior of the world.
Not letting her lack stop her, she submitted herself to the Father and the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and conceived in her empty womb, the Son of God.
All God needed from Mary was her “Yes!" That’s all he needs from us too. Achievements from our own wit and wisdom can bring glory to Him, but that glory pales in comparison to that which He receives when He by His power through us is allowed to work.
Nothing we do can compare to what God can, and will do, through a person who simply says “Yes”, while putting their trust in Him.
Ultimately, Jesus died a brutal death by Roman crucifixion, and was buried. But it didn’t end with His death and burial.
The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, just as Jesus had promised, leaving an empty tomb. The victory was not in the death of Jesus, but in His death AND His resurrection. The empty tomb standing as a symbol of the power of God overcoming the death that had us all trapped.
From Mary’s empty womb to Joseph’s (of Arimathea) empty tomb God was, and still is, glorified.
God is somehow glorified through empty things.
Our Lack In Jesus Hands
Mark chapter 6
Am I the only one who hears Jesus say things like "and the things that I did, you'll do, and greater things than these will do in my name..." (John 14:12-14) and think "that's a nice thought, but I know me, and that isn't happening!"
The problem with thinking this way is that for it to be true Jesus has to be a liar, or at the very least just a little confused in making such an outrageous statement. But we know that Jesus is NEVER wrong.
Why does this seem so impossible? Because it IS impossible; we can't do anything that Jesus did. We are completely insufficient to do anything that Jesus commands us to do on our own. Jesus saying this really puts in a spot doesn't it?
In the Gospel of Mark chapter 6, Jesus put his disciples in the same spot. 5,000 men, not counting women and children had followed him and were in need of food. The disciples were sensitive to the need of the multitude and suggested that Jesus should send the multitude of people away, soon, so that they would be able to get food before they wouldn't have the energy to do so. But, to their surprise, Jesus said that there was no need for them to be sent away, and said to the disciples, "you feed them!"
This is just as ridiculous a command, and the disciples intended to prove it. They gathered up all of the ability they possessed and showed it to Jesus (5 loaves of bread, and 2 fish, for over 5,000 people), proving that they did NOT have what it takes to obey His command. Somebody was wrong here, and it wasn't Jesus. This what we do in order to excuse ourselves from obeying His clear commands; we speak about our insufficiency in negative terms. They spoke negatively about what they had, in fact Jesus making such a ridiculous demand only made them feel more insufficient.
Jesus said bring it (their insufficiency) to Him; and they did. Jesus took what they had to offer, lifted His eyes to Heaven, and blessed it. That literally means that He spoke good things about their lack; the very thing they spoke of in negative terms Jesus had good things to say about.
Remember Paul learned to celebrate his weakness, because our weakness is God's Opportunity. So Jesus sees our insufficiency as Possibility. All He is waiting for if for us to Trust Him and bring Him our lack.
Now when they brought Him their tiny little bit, He broke it down even further. Sometimes when we try to step out in faith to act like Jesus it seems like we only get knocked down, and broken. It's often at this point that we withdraw feeling like failures. But Jesus is breaking down any last vestiges of our self sufficiency.
After He blessed and broke their insufficiency, He gave it back to them. Suddenly what was once Insufficient, had become Sufficient because they trusted Jesus with it. When we trust Jesus with our insufficiency He touches it, blesses, breaks and gives it back, only now it has been anointed with His power and sufficiency, and the impossible suddenly becomes possible.
When confronted with impossible situations, don't withdraw, bring the reasons you think disqualify you from fulfilling your calling to Jesus, trusting that He loves you and wants the best for you.
Thankful: Posting A Guard At Our Heart
“Do not be Anxious About Anything, but in Every Situation, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the Peace of God which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
I recently read an article on Forbes website by Amy Morin, called, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round”. (click here to go to the article) The title really says it all, as the author lays out seven real benefits of Being thankful. Here’s what she says.
Gratitude Opens the Door To More Relationships:
Gratitude Improves Physical Health:
Gratitude Improves Psychological Health:
Gratitude Enhances Empathy and Reduces Aggression:
Grateful People Sleep Better:
Gratitude Improves Self-Esteem:
Gratitude Increases Mental Strength:
It is an observable reality that Gratitude, or being Thankful, is important to good Mental and Physical health.
Our verse in Philippians tells us that Prayer, or turning to God with our needs and our pain, when Combined with Thanksgiving, or, really, living in a state of Gratitude, releases Peace that Guards our Hearts and Minds in Christ Jesus.
Hidden Springs of Life
According to the “Facts & Statistics” page of the “Anxiety and Depression Association of America” (ADAA): “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” Other studies show that anxiety and depression are on the rise, and have been consistently so for a generations. Something is stealing our peace. (John 10:10 "Satan comes but to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life...")
According to Paul, in his letter to the church at Philippi, turning to God in prayer combined with Thanksgiving, releases God's Peace to guard our hearts and minds; why is that so important? Vine’s Expository Dictionary on the word Heart (G2588-kardia), says; “the heart is used figuratively for the Hidden Springs of the personal life.” Of the Mind Vine’s says “denotes ‘thought that which is thought out’; really the thought life."
There is a Hidden Spring of Life within us that we must make sure is protected from attack and destruction.
Proverbs 4:23 says “Keep (guard) your heart with all diligence; for out of it [are] the issues of life”. More clearly stated “Guard or Protect your heart, as a prison guard watches over his prisoner, because this is our source of Life, regeneration, renewal.”
To this day wars are still fought over water rights, access to water, because without access to water people will die. We are exhorted to be every bit as passionate about making sure our hearts and minds are guarded/protected. As water is the source of life to our bodies, our hearts and minds are the source of life to every part of our existence.
God's Peace, Our Guard
So how do we guard our hearts and minds? We don't. Look at what Paul said; Prayer to the Father combined with living in Gratitude will post God’s sentry of “Peace” to Guard our hearts and minds, the source, or well-spring of life within us. God's Peace is what guards our hearts and minds. Prayer and thankfulness are how we give His peace access to them.
“Enter into His gates with Thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: BE THANKFUL unto Him, and bless His name.” Psalm 100:4
“And let the peace of God rule in your Hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and BE YE THANKFUL.” Colossians 3:15
A "Peace" of Fruit
We are told that peace is one of the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22: so peace is born in our lives by Holy Spirit's work in us through prayer and obedience to His leading.
“So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” 1 Corinthians 14:15
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18
"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” Jude 20
Spirit directed Prayer With Thanksgiving: try it, and God will protect and restore His life in you.
Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!
"But You Shall Receive Power..."
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” Luke 24:48
"And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they[b] will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18
It's The Great COmmission
The familiar English prefix "Co" means "together, with, mutually, in common". To "cooperate" with someone is to operate alongside them. To "Co-own" is to own something together with someone else. CO means with.
What's the difference between a Commission and a Mission? Both assign a task, but only one sends you on on the mission WITH what you need to complete the mission. According to Answers.com "a Commission carries with it the idea of being authorized and empowered on a mission, whereas one might create their own mission without the legitimacy and power of authority behind it."
We've not just been given a mission, but we have been commissioned; given the power and ability to complete our mission. We've been sent with what we need.
Whom He Calls, He Qualifies
We would not send our soldiers right into battle without training and arming them first; neither has our Heavenly Father done this to we, His people.
When we deny that God demonstrates the veracity of the Gospel with powerful signs we remove the "Co" in the Great Commission. We cannot preach with absolute authority the Great Commission in Mark 16:15&16 while denying the power He has given us to complete it in verses 17 & 18.
In the Gospel of Luke 24:48 Jesus tells His disciples to wait until they are clothed with power from on high; but to wait before doing what? In verse 47 he just told them that His Gospel must be preached. He has provided the Holy Spirit so that we an preach with power; like Peter on the day of Pentecost.
As it was then so it is now; God wants us to receive His power before we go into the mission field.
If You Have to Ask...
If you have to ask whether or not you have been clothed with power, then you haven't. When the power of God (the promise of the Father) comes upon you you won't have to wonder whether He has or not. The power of Holy Spirit is all consuming, like a fire consuming all that it touches. It is cleansing, healing, refreshing, purging; there is nothing like it in all the world. We all respond differently, but the power is the same.
This Promise of the Father is His legacy to His children; "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Acts 2:39
What better way for our adversary to level the playing field than to convince the Father's kids that HE has left them powerless to complete their mission. But this is the lie of lies; His promise is for as many as the Lord will call.
Power is available to us through Holy Spirit. Ask, seek and Find.
Honoring the Anointing
"So he (David) said to his men, "Far be it from me because of the LORD
that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD'S anointed, to stretch out
my hand against him, since he is the LORD'S anointed." 1 Samuel 24:6
"Then David said to Abishai, "Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand
against the LORD'S anointed and be without guilt?" 1 Samuel 26:9
"But YOU have an unction (Anointing) from the Holy One..." 1 John 2:20a
A Heart After God's Own Heart
When the Kingdom was taken away from Saul by God through the prophet Samuel, speaking of David, the prophet Samuel said that God had found Him "a man after His own heart." This is recorded in 1 Samuel 13:14, and recounted in Acts 13:22. Saul had a habit of doing what seemed right in his own heart. His obedience was that of convenience; he would obey God as long as it was convenient. He was very much like the people he reigned over.
The first human king God gave the Israelites was the one the people wanted; that didn't end well. So when God rejected Saul as king (1 Samuel 13:14) God said that He had sought a man with a heart after His own heart.
There are several qualities that could be pointed to that explain what it was about David that caused him to fit that bill. At the center of it all the single most important aspect of David's character that enabled him to be called a man after God's own heart was that he honored God. What does that look like in David's life? he made the things that mattered to God the things that mattered to him. David wanted what God wanted; that's what it is to honor God.
Though he had his moments, David was obedient to God, and when he strayed from God's will he was quick to repent, and return to the road of submission. If God honored something, or someone, then David honored that person or that thing.
This word carries different meanings for different people. Strictly speaking anointing was a ritual that identified someone according to title or affiliation. A king's rule began after he was anointed by the priests, or prophets. The king was just a man like those over which he had the rule, until the hands of the holy man poured the holy oil over his head and rubbed it in. Once he was anointed his identity and authority changed because he was no longer an ordinary man, he had been anointed, marked, identified as a king.
With the anointing came Authority, or power (in the new testament the Greek word is exousia). Now he needed to be careful what he said, because his words carried with them authority. When he spoke, those around the king would jump into action to carry out his every word. A flippant word could lead to great tragedy. He had greater value than the ordinary man around him. For example, in war the king was the prize target for an enemy, of much more value than the ordinary foot soldier.
The anointing changes everything. Still the same human being, with the same DNA, but so very different; his value went up. And all of this happened because he was chosen and anointed to be king.
David honored God's anointing and those who carried it.
No Longer Common
The first two kings of Israel were men from common, ordinary backgrounds, chosen by God and anointed by the prophet. But once they were anointed everything changed. They deserved honor not because of their pedigree, but because God had honored them by calling them and anointing them. What a change the anointing makes in a persons life. What an honor to be chosen and anointed by God.
Many as we read this would shake our head affirming that last statement and wondering what it must be like. Most believers would think that it would be great if they could experience God's anointing on their lives too. But we have an anointing too.
You Have An Anointing
In the passage cited above, in 1 John 2:20, John is writing to ordinary believers there. He is dealing with the problem of division among Christian brothers, and the false believers (antichrists) that started out with them and then left. He said that they ultimately left the their fellowship to continue on in their form religion; and this was the proof that they were not of them. It was about Identity.
There was something different about the true believers that made them genuine believers. In verse twenty John identifies the difference; they were Anointed. Now the King James version Bible uses the word Unction, but the word Unction means to anoint. So what this is saying is that true believers have an anointing; or they have been anointed. True believers have been chosen and anointed by God, just the same as Saul and David.
As believers we have been chosen by God (John 15:16). So we too have been chosen and anointed by God.
Honoring the Anointing
Now we spoke earlier of the fact that God rejected Saul as king because of his disobedience. Even though God had rejected Saul as king God did not remove Saul from his throne. While Saul was still on his throne God instructed Samuel the prophet to go to the house of Jesse and anoint the next king God had chosen for Israel. It was there that David, a "ruddy youth" was anointed king. This is where things go bad..
After God had rejected Saul as king he went off the deep end, to a very dark place in his life. As a youth David was chosen to serve in Saul's court by playing the harp and singing. When Saul was vexed by spirits and went into these dark places, David's playing had a calming effect on him. Still, Saul grew to hate David, once throwing a spear at David while he played and sang. Saul's jealousy and anger towards David grew and grew until Saul's prime occupation was hunting David so that he could kill him. David had never done anything wrong or in any way dishonored Saul. David served loyally even when Saul was trying to kill him.
Anyone in the world would have said that David had every right, and in fact, should kill Saul at the first possible opportunity. Saul was wrong, and David had already been anointed as king by the prophet. There was even an occasion when Saul went into a cave to relieve himself, where David and his men of valor were hiding. The men around David told David that God had delivered Saul into his hand so that David could kill him. David, as he had done on several occasions, refused to touch, or even speak evil of Saul, because Saul had been anointed by God.
David honored the anointing on Saul's life.
Honoring YOUR Anointing
As a believer you are anointed by God; chosen, marked by God as special, with a significant purpose in His plan. Most believers don't think of themselves in this way; and that's just fine with our enemy Satan. Like Saul, Satan has been rejected because of his rebellion and disobedience, and he is jealous of us and our anointing, and doesn't want us to ascend to the office, or purpose, that God has put us on the planet for. If he could he would kill us; but he can't.
He didn't anoint us, so he can't take our anointing away; so he does the next best thing. Satan works to cause us to see our selves as menial, small, and insignificant; of little value or purpose. He mounts his propaganda campaigns, the war of words in our minds working to convince us that we have little or no meaning to God or anyone else.
I've heard it said, that when you believe the lie you empower the liar. Satan comes and sits on our shoulders telling us that we're nothing, and never will amount to anything. Well, like Steve Brown says "It's a lie from the pit of Hell, and it smells like smoke". When we allow those lies to stand by agreeing with them we dishonor our status as the anointed of God, and we dishonor the God who anointed us.
We must honor, guard, protect the anointing God has given us with the same passion as David did the anointing on Saul's life.
Developing A Heart After God
We need a heart like David that honors what God honors; loves what God loves; and hates what God hates. Well, God Loves us, so much that He gave His only begotten Son to save us. We must refuse to speak or do violence against those whom God has anointed. There is more than physical violence involved here.
This surely does apply to our pastors, teachers, evangelists, and prophets, but it doesn't end there. We must honor the anointing on one another, refusing to think, act, or speak in a way that dishonors the anointing on each others lives. And yet a step further; we must not EVER partner with the liar, Satan, by agreeing with, thinking, or speaking in anyway that belittles, minimizes, or dishonors OUR anointing from God.
We Have an Anointing. We are called out and marked by God as significant. Satan hates us for it, and has committed his existence to the destruction of it. But Jesus overcame Satan at the cross and then three days later when He raised from the dead. Hallelujah, we are more than conquerors through Christ: Called, Anointed, and Appointed, by God to do good works.
Don’t Fear, Just Believe
He was the temple administrator, a religious man whose daughter was slowly dying, and there was nothing that he or anyone else could do. It was the epitome of desperation. His story is found in the Gospel of Luke the eighth chapter, his name was Jairus.
Working in the temple he was surrounded by religious people who wanted to see Jesus dead. Religious people usually don't trust Jesus; they didn't in Jesus day, and still don't today. Religion is the enemy of Relationship; Relationship is how we come to Know Jesus; knowing Jesus is how we come to trust Him. Religion is rooted in trusting self, not God.
I’m sure he’d heard the stories of Jesus but it seems fair to say that most of what he heard was through the bias of those who hated Jesus, and only encouraged Jairus to keep his distance. Still, amid all the lies he did hear about miracles He had done.
His desperate circumstances forced him to overcome any reason NOT to approach Jesus.
If you are in desperate circumstances there’s no need to wait until you’ve got no other options, but even then, call on Jesus. Sometimes it’s only when all other options are gone that we commit to that one remaining shred of hope that can only be found in Jesus.
When his daughter had died, people told Jairus that it was too late, that he didn’t have to bother Jesus anymore. But with Jesus, it is NEVER too late; he is not bound by circumstances or time.
When it appeared that all reason for hope was gone Jesus appealed to the God given faith inside of Jairus when He said “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith, and she will be healed.” (NLT)
If you are in this place right now, it may seem like the most unreasonable thing to ask of you, but Jesus is still asking you to NOT fear, but rather to instead to believe.
He is still appealing to the God given faith within us, asking us to believe that He will help in what seems to be an impossible situation.
Don’t Fear, Just Believe. It isn’t easy, but it is doable.
Take It Easy
“Then Jesus said ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
This world can be a hard and even dangerous place to live. Fear and stress caused by concerns over money, health, and safety, among other issues, bare down on us like the weight of the world.
Uncertainty due to polarization in the political arena and the widespread fear of things that are frankly outside of human control add to this modern phenomenon of stressful living.
But Jesus came as a counterpoint to the status quo of this present evil world. When Isaiah prophesied of the coming Christ, quickened by Holy Spirit, He was called the “Prince of Peace”. This means that His kingdom and rule would be a kingdom and rule of peace, as opposed to stress and fear.
Jesus said “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) Part of the benefits of following Christ is the state of Peace we are entitled and empowered to live in. This is not to say that our lives are going to problem free, quite the contrary; despite our circumstances, however, we can still live in the rule of peace.
When our faith is strong enough to totally and unconditionally trust God through Jesus Christ His Son, peace will rule not matter how difficult the circumstances in our lives are.
Jesus has come to give us life, and not just ordinary life, but super-abundant life; while Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy the promises we receive in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Satan is very good at what he does, but developing a strong, and vital faith in The Father, and Jesus His Son, gives us the ability to live in His promises regardless of life’s circumstances.
Living by faith takes practice; life provides us with daily opportunities to exercise our faith allowing it to become stronger with practice.
Sometimes it seems like the onslaught of our enemy is too much, but this is when we choose to believe His Word over this World.
As people who have already chosen to follow Christ, we are in what Paul calls the “good fight of faith”; resisting the enemy’s attempts to steal our peace. For people who have not already chosen to follow Christ this promise and peace and rest is waiting for you. So, Come!
Without A Doubt
Doubt is Satan’s favorite weapon. He’s a master at leading people from Belief to Doubt. It began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan introduced doubt with a simple question; “Did God Say…?”
THE BATTLEFIED OF FAITH
Undermining our faith is our enemy’s primary goal; why is this so important to him? Well, the Bible says;
Without Faith it is Impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6)
That we are saved by grace through Faith (Eph. 2:8)
Our Purification is by faith (Acts 15:9)
Sanctification is by faith (Acts 26:18)
God’s Righteousness in us is by faith (Romans 1:17)
Our Justification is by faith (Romans 3:28)
Access into His Grace is by faith (Romans 5:2)
We Stand by faith (Romans 11:20 & 2 Corinthians 1:24)
We Walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7)
We Live by faith (Galatians 3:11)
We are His Children by faith (Galatians 3:26).
What pleases God? That “none should perish…”(2 Peter 3:9). In order for that to happen, people must put their faith in Jesus, God’s only begotten Son. If Satan can undermine one’s faith he can undermine their salvation. The Bible further says that “if you believe in your HEART, and confess with your mouth, you will be saved.” To believe in the heart is a deeply rooted belief, more than just head knowledge.
In Luke 9:23 Jesus said that to follow Him we must deny ourselves, take up our cross each day, and follow Him. How about in Luke 14:26 when Jesus said “If you want to be My disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else – your father, mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even your own life.
Otherwise you cannot be my disciple”(NLT). To belong to Christ requires this kind of “All In” commitment.
This kind of “All In” commitment requires strong faith. Satan wants to destroy our faith so that we don’t trust God enough to go “All In”.
THE CERTAINTY OF THE STRUGGLE
As a follower of Christ you have battled doubt. If you haven’t yet it’s only a matter of time.
Paul called Christianity the “good fight of faith”. This is the nature of the fight; it is a fight for our faith. You see, when we believe Satan’s lies we are taking the faith that God gave us and using it to believe Satan’s lies over God’s Word.
There’s no need to worry because we battle doubt, we just need to keep getting up when doubt knocks us down.
Along with the doubt Satan tries to attach a healthy dose of guilt and shame for good measure; but there is no need for guilt or shame because Jesus understands our struggles. Our faith grows deeper and stronger through the struggles, as long as we keep getting up again (Proverbs 24:16).
JESUS UNDERSTANDS OUR DOUBT
Look at what Jesus did for His disciples and Thomas; He showed up so that they could see that He had risen. Jesus didn’t chastise Thomas for doubting, he did what was necessary to help Thomas believe.
When Isaiah prophesied about Jesus he described Him as “a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief…” Jesus understands our doubt, but He does want us to grow past it.
JESUS BLESSES OUR BELIEF
In John 20:29 Jesus said “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (NLT) He said that people who overcome doubt and believe even when there is little or no physical evidence are “blessed”. The word “blessed” means “Happy”.
From our scripture text we see that while God understands our doubt, He blesses our belief. It is a fight, but it’s a fight that we are assured to win if we don’t give up. We have the Lord and each other; we are not alone in the fight.
“Hug The Wall”
“Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. 4 I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 3
WE ARE NOT IGNORANT…
“When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, 11 so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11
It started in the Garden of Eden; God told Adam and Eve what His expectations were (His Word to them), after which the serpent showed up putting a question mark where God had put a period. To this day the enemy of our souls, Satan, is still using this tactic to destroy God’s people.
The Gospel of Salvation is simple; we are sinners who were bound helplessly in our sin. We needed someone, a champion, to do what we could not do for ourselves; Jesus is that champion. The punishment for sin is death, but the death of a guilty person would only be the just payment for that sin. Only the blood of a guiltless, perfect person could not only pay the penalty of sin, but remove it from one’s record entirely.
“Go And Sin No More”
The story of the woman caught in adultery embodies what the Gospel of Salvation is all about. The woman was caught dead to rights, red-handed, in the very act of adultery; she was guilty sinner. We too were guilty sinners. She needed a champion, a savior; we needed a champion, a savior. Jesus, both for the woman and for us, stood between we and our accusers and saved us from the judgment that was rightfully ours to endure.
With none of the accusers remaining Jesus asked the woman “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” She replied “No man, Lord”. In one of the greatest acts of mercy and grace ever, Jesus replied “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” In other words, change your way of living.
Jesus not only rescued her from the rightful punishment for her sin, he instructed her to “sin no more”. The sloppy grace that is so prevalent in our day is a perversion of the purpose of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
The Sloppy Grace message rightly says that our faith in the finished work of Christ saves us, removes the enmity between man and God; but many take the grace of God as permission to go back and do things they did when they were slaves to this world and its sin.
Jesus came not only to deliver us from the penalty of sin, but from sin itself. This world system, over which God has given Satan temporary authority, is a system of sin; completely opposed to God. In the second chapter of Ephesians, Paul says "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:" It is clear that walking according to, or like the world is to return to sin and death.
This is a world of sin; hence the multiple warnings against participation in it. In 1 John 2:15 it says, without apology or hesitation; “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Jesus made it clear that neither He nor those who belong to Him are to have any part in this world; "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." John 17:14
THE MESSAGE OF THE UNGODLY
The influence that Jude was writing to counteract was that of “ungodly people(NLT)” who preach that “God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives.” The perversion of the Gospel of Salvation that Jude was warring against is the same one we must war against today.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:23 says “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” The un-submitted heart focuses in on the first part of Paul’s statement to justify their carnal lust for the things that God saved them from in the first place. This is all that they want to hear. Paul said in his second letter to Timothy that there would many preachers out there preaching this delusion for them because they have itching ears. For profit these “ungodly people” put the eternal welfare of men in peril. How terrible the judgment will be for those who do this.
Paul's point was not that all things are permissible, or righteous, only that the law was no longer the restraining influence; now the restraining influence is our Love for our Father who Loves us. "...the goodness of God leads us to repentance (change)." Romans 2:4b
The motivation of the heart of one who truly belongs to Christ, is to return the love He showed to us by searching out, and doing those things that please Him; not asking what we can do to please ourselves and still make it to Heaven. "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings (we are kings Rev. 1:6a) to search a matter out" Proverbs 25:2. We are to pursue the heart of God; discover what it is that He loves and then out of love offer that to Him. It is our self-centeredness that separates us from Him; it is our self-denial that separates us TO Him.
How did Holiness become an outdated concept in so much of the Christian Church? When the clear instruction of the Lord (1 Peter 1:16) is “Be ye holy, for I am holy”. As far as I know most Christian churches do not deny sanctification as part of the Christian experience. What is sanctification? It is being separate UNTO God.
Paul, again, in his second letter to the Corinthians commanded “Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” 2 Corinthians 6:17. The Christian journey is one OUT of the World and it's ways, and into a life lived in the righteousness of Christ our saviour. This is what Paul meant when, in Ephesians 4:1, he says; "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,". He is NOT saying that works are required to save you, but that a truly surrendered heart is the one that lives to please God and not self.
God commands us to come out of the world and its ways, and submit to Him and His ways. Jesus taught plainly that “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:24. In other words There Is No Middle Ground! Either God is your master, or He isn't.
RETURNING TO OUR “VOMIT”
“As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Proverbs 26:11
Jesus, in Luke 4:18 said; "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,"
When Jesus told the woman “Go and sin no more”, He did so because he loved her, and came to deliver her from the death that practicing sin brings.
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen God miraculously save, and deliver a person from their sin; bless their life in every conceivable way, for them to eventually go back to the things from which they were saved, and to the captivity and death from which they had been delivered.
Yes, they do get the things their flesh lusted for, but they also get the death that Jesus had delivered them from. Paul said “be not deceived, God is not mocked; whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For he that sows to the HIS flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption (death)” Galatians 6:7-9
HUG THE WALL
Wells Fargo, famous for their stagecoaches in the mid 1800’s, was looking to hire a new stage coach driver. Many applied for the job and were required to attend an interview with Wells Fargo officials. The interview consisted of one question along with a background explanation to give the question its proper context.
The background was an explanation of the route the prospective driver would be navigating. It was pretty normal for the most part, but one stretch took them through the Sierra Nevada’s along a narrow path carved out of a steep mountainside; on one side was the nearly vertical wall of rock, on the other a drop of several hundred feet to the valley below.
The question they asked each prospective driver was; “How close could you drive our stagecoach to the edge of that precipice without falling to your death?” Candidate, after candidate answered trying to impress the interviewers with the confidence they had in their driving skills. Some said that they could get within eighteen inches, others said twelve inches while one bold soul said he could get to within six inches of the edge without going over. One lone candidate, however, stood out from the rest because of his answer; an answer which landed him the job. He responded saying “Oh no, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the edge. I’d hug that rock wall as tightly as I could and stay as far away from that edge as possible.”
This is good advice for we believers; stay as close to the Rock (Jesus) as possible, and don’t go anywhere near the sin and death of this world.
EMPTY OF EVIL: "Abstain from all appearance of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:22
FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit"
Blessings, in Jesus name.
2 Timothy 4:3
“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.”
2 Timothy 4:3
Who are all Those People in the Bible, like in this passage in 2 Timothy, who are so blind and self-willed? It's "Those People". You know, those people who aren't us, right?!
"No!" Way or "Narrow" Way?
“The Backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways:..”
How good are you at telling yourself “No!”? As children (unless you were raised by very liberal parents) we were told “No!” a lot, and therefore had to live without receiving everything that we wanted. Now that we’re grown up I suspect we don’t hear “No!” from ourselves very often. The personal credit crisis in America is just one indicator of that reality.
According to Money Magazine (online), in an article by Taylor Tepper called “Americans Are Sinking Further Into Credit Card Debt”; The average indebted household (Those People) now carries a revolving balance of $15,355 (according to a study by NerdWallet). The author goes on to report that this debt costs that household about $6,658/year (at an average rate of 18%).
The rise of obesity in American culture is another indicator of our inability or desire to tell ourselves “No!” A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will illustrate this point. The information that follows is from the study named “Prevalence of Overweight, and Extreme Obesity Among Adults: United States, 1960 Through 2011-2012”.
In summary statistics from 2011-2012 show that an estimated 33.9% of U.S. adults aged 20 and over are overweight, 35.1% are obese, and 6.4% are extremely obese. While the percentage of Overweight Americans has remained at about the same levels from 1960 to 2011-2012, the numbers of people classified as Obese and Extremely Obese have increase dramatically. Those classified as Obese in 1960 totaled somewhere between 10% and 15%; while in 2011-2012, that number increased to ~35%; nearly 2.5 to 3 times as many people. For those classified as extremely obese in 1960 the number was around 1% to 2%; for 201-2012 that number jumped to nearly 6.5% of all American over age 20 were Extremely obese; nearly 4.5 times as many people. In summary, just under half (41%) of all Americans are either Obese or Extremely Obese. Sounds to me like we don’t know how to tell ourselves “No!” very well.
What is probably more true is NOT that we don’t tell ourselves “No!”, but that we do and we don’t obey ourselves: We are not in control of our sinful nature.
The "No!" Way and the "Narrow" way are the same way, when we are saying "No!" to our sinful nature.
In the food business we’ve been told that the best foods for us are “Natural” foods. In essence “Natural” foods are those foods that are true to their original nature, as they “spring up” out of the ground; no human intervention. Is natural better? Well that depends on the “Nature” of whatever it is we are talking about.
When we talk about our nature we must be completely honest with ourselves. We know from God’s Word that our nature has been permanently damaged by Sin and it wants only those things that bring death (Galatians 5:17, Romans 6:23).
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
The sinful nature all believers struggle against is in us today because Adam and Eve (Those People) didn’t tell themselves “No!” God lovingly instructed them NOT to eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil; but when the tempter came calling they couldn’t resist doing what they wanted to do instead of what their loving Father had told them NOT to do. The "No!" was in place, but they didn't go on to destroy the works of sin. The gun was loaded but they didn't pull the trigger.
"No!" Is Not Enough
I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me my greatest enemy is myself (NOT Those People). My old nature wants what it wants, and it wants it now. Even the great apostle Paul shared the difficulty he had in doing what is right. Jesus said that loving Him means that we keep, obey His commands. Saying “No!” to ourselves is at the heart of being a Christ follower; Jesus said:
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
But it isn’t enough to simply deny ourselves; we (NOT Those People) must then “take up our cross and follow…” Jesus used the symbolism of the cross intentionally to convey what He was asking us to do. He was the great example, submitting himself to death, even the death of the cross. In the garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion He openly expresses to the Father how strongly He did NOT want to do what the Father was asking of Him; but He did it anyway.
It was a brutal and violent death and painful beyond comprehension. Jesus didn’t pull any punches in depicting true discipleship in this way. For us to follow Christ is as it was for Christ to follow the Father; Painful and Voluntary. This hasn’t, and never will, change. But we (NOT Those People) must be careful to never let down our voluntary commitment to follow Him. Following Him is not agreeing with His teachings/commandments, it is DOING them.
The Devil is wise, he doesn’t come trying to get us to out and out deny Christ; he slowly and patiently and steadily confronts us (NOT Those People) with opportunities to compromise; backslide; to erase the old righteous boundaries we (NOT Those People) had once established and draw new, less painful, or costly ones.
"Deny & Destroy"
Who are those people who don’t endure sound teaching, doing what they want, and finding ungodly men who affirm them in their backsliding? IT’S US! You and Me (NOT Those People), unless we Deny our Natural desires and then Destroy the works of the flesh (Colossians 3:5, 1 John 3:8) by a lifestyle of obedience to the indwelling Holy Spirit.
This word is written to us (NOT Those People) , to believers, in the world we live in today; right now. How do we avoid getting caught up among those people described in 2 Timothy 4:3? Cling to sound teaching; the kind that does not make you feel good about going back to the things you came out of.
Here’s some sound teaching, straight from God’s Word:
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”
1 Thess. 5:6
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he May devour:”
1 Peter 5:8
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”
“And be not drunk on wine, wherein is excess; but BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT;”
“Follow peace with all men, and Holiness (consecration, purification, sanctification of the heart), without which NO man shall see the Lord:”
“Love not the World, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For ALL that is in the World, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
1 John 2:15-17
Emptied of Our Own Ways & Filled With The Spirit
Remember the parable of the ten virgins; five wise and five foolish. The foolish didn’t keep their lamps filled with oil. Throughout scripture oil is a representative type of the person Holy Spirit. They had the lamp, the outward appearance of a light bearer, but on the inside they were not filled with oil (Holy Spirit). Paul encouraged us to be filled with the Spirit, or stay full (Eph. 5:18).
Paul, in Ephesians 5, is writing to Christian believers; people in whom the Holy Spirit had already taken up residence through their faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. So the exhortation to “be filled” appears to be something that we as followers of Christ should be pursuing. In the next verse Paul seems to offer his prescription for being filled with the Spirit:
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
Let’s stay full of the Holy Spirit, and empty ourselves of our own ways (Prov. 14:14), and avoid becoming one of "Those People".
“I Did It My Way” Is Not a Song We’ll Hear in Heaven
“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman
waketh in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so He giveth
His beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:1-2
I’m not sure which is true; whether the man made the song or the song made the man, but, Frank Sinatra sang what may be his signature song, “I Did It My Way”. I believe this song was so famous because the lyric content taps into a core value of our sinful nature; self-rule, self-sufficiency, self promotion. While these qualities are celebrated in this world, they are sin in the kingdom of Heaven.
The Sin of Self
The Bible teaches that “Pride goeth before every fall”; in other words every sin has its origins in pride. An online dictionary defines pride like this:
“A feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of
somebody with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.”
By definition pride is that which brings pleasure to self. Pride, at its heart is self-centeredness, self-will, self-rule. Every sin against God and man has its origin in pleasing, promoting, and protecting self. This is a stong force that exerts its power from within: Right out of our own sinful nature.
Solomon, the writer of the 127th Psalm, spent much of his incredible wealth on the pursuit of pleasure, of doing whatever HE wanted. The record of that experiment is found in the book of Ecclesiastes. Everything he tried led to the same conclusion time after time; it’s all vanity, folly, chasing the wind. A life that is not submitted to God is that; vanity, folly, and chasing the wind.
We must be careful not to walk into the trap of self-rule; doing life without God’s help. Going to church every Sunday, and helping to feed the homeless a few times a year may not equal submission to God. The Bible says that there is a way that seems right to a person, but the end of that way is death (Proverbs 14:12 - paraphrase mine).
The Bible says;
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you…” James 4:7
If we don’t acknowledge that we are predisposed to rebellion against God, we will find ourselves resisting God and not the Devil, wandering further and further away from the heart of the Father and not even realize it.
Jesus, in Matthew 7:21-23, warns that when we stand before God, many will be surprised to find that they don't belong to Him. They did many really great things, all which seem right, God's power even showed up and people were healed and delivered from demonic control. Jesus called these people workers of "iniquity"; which means "unsubmitted"ones. These were those who would not be ruled by another: Specifically the Father. Effective ministry is NOT what God requires, it is SUBMISSION to His rule that makes Him the Lord of our lives. Lordship is what qualifies us to be numbered among those who really belong to Him.
James says that the first order of business is to “Submit to God”. Sounds easy, but this is the essence of the struggle we are all engaged in; the struggle to turn over the control of our lives to God. Our desires, our dreams, our lusts get in the way, but we must do what it takes to let God build our lives.
Do you ever get tired of hearing your pastor say that you need to read and study your Bible, and to pray and listen to God? Well, like my dad used to say “If you’ll start doing it, I’ll stop saying it.” Our sinful flesh knows that the Word of God is the biggest threat it faces to getting what it wants. We must realize that what our flesh desires leads to “corruption” (death) Galatians 6:8.
Like a crucifix to a vampire, so is the Word of God to our flesh. When we draw near to God’s Word our flesh wants to run away, do ANYTHING else in that moment except submit to God’s Word. It knows that the Word of God is the beginning of the end of its rule and reign.
“But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-15
Frank Lloyd Wright was a famous American architect whose work gained world-wide appreciation and recognition. He is credited with building some of the most unique and beautiful buildings in the world. The truth is though, he didn’t actual build the buildings, he only designed them. He created the plans from which they were built. The actual building was left to carpenters and tradesmen.
This is what Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 3. God has designed a plan for our lives, the blueprints for which are found in the Bible, His Word. We are the carpenters and tradesmen; the actual building of the house is left to us. In the Day of Judgment our lives (our building) will be tested by fire. The purpose of the fire is to test our building; whatever is of the flesh is like wood, hay and stubble. When the fire touches it, it will burn away. The fire will test whether or not the material on which we built our lives is from God’s supply (His Word), or from another source.
What a sad day that will be for many of us on the judgment day when our life’s work is tested. Many of us will present elaborate structures to God, but when the fire of God touches it much of the building will be gone. What a solemn thought that standing before Heavenly Father we find that much of what we did in our lives was wasted; of no eternal value. This is what Solomon means when he says “they labor in vain who build it.”
"It Will Be Worth It All"
"I Did It My Way" is not a song we'll hear in Heaven. Letting God have the reins of our lives by studying, knowing, and doing His Word is hard work, going against strong internal desires to do otherwise. There may not be many immediate rewards for following His plan; few pats on the back and commendations for such obedience in this life: In eternity, however, we will hear the joyous words of the Father; “Well done good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of the Lord.” Matthew 25:21
There’s an old song we used to sing in church when I was a child whose lyrics said;
“It will be worth it all, When we see Jesus, Life’s trials will seem so small, When we see Christ, One glimpse of His dear face, All sorrows will erase, So bravely run the race, Till we see Christ.”
In the depths of my heart I do believe that it will be worth it all, but the truth is that right now it’s a struggle. But let us heed the exhortation of scripture that says “let us not become weary in doing good” Galatians 6:9
“If God be for us, who can be against us.” Romans 8:31
March 3, 2016
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him and said Lord dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But ONE THING is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 KJV
It seems like people, Americans anyway, are busier than ever before; but are we really?
From my research it seems that most agree the average person, on a daily basis, makes between 1,000 and 3,000 decisions. That’s a lot of decisions; a lot of demand for our attention.
Derek Thompson in his article titled “The Myth That Americans are Busier Than Ever” (The Atlantic: www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/the-myth-that-americans-are-busier-than-ever/) reports that between 1950 and 2012 average annual work hours have actually declined by 10.5%.
From an article called “The Busy Trap” by Tim Kreider, June 30, 2012, in The Opinion Pages of The New York Times: Mr. Kreider writes;
“If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So Busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.
Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they are ADDICTED to busyness and DREAD WHAT THEY MIGHT HAVE TO FACE IN ITS ABSENCE.”
Busyness is a choice, just like any other.
If we are working less, meaning that less of our time is subject to the demands of outside forces, then where is this perception and stress coming from? We have more discretionary time than in past generations and yet we feel like we don’t. The new morality says “To be busy is good”.
Understanding the morality of "busyness" and and it's origin is very important. It is this feeling of “busyness” that influences our attitudes and behaviors. We feel that we HAVE NO CHOICE when it comes to how and where we spend our time and energy. THIS IS A LIE! Where does this perception come from?
THE WAY OF THE WORLD
“And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Ephesians 2:1-2
Paul tells us plainly that the world we live in is under the direct influence of Satan, whom he refers to as the Prince of the Power of The Air. He also makes a distinction between those who do and do not follow Christ; that those who DO NOT follow Christ are helplessly ruled by his direction and influence. As Christ followers we are NOT helpless.
Paul teaches that before we started following Christ we lived life “according to the course of this world” which is “according to the prince of the power of the air". The phrase “according to” means “ down from.” So it’s saying that the course of the “Way of The World” comes down from Satan who rules as the Prince of the Power of the Air. When he says “ye walked according to the course of this world” he’s saying that we did what was common in this world, which is the result of Satan’s influence: In other words, we were doing Satan's will.
Hebrews 12:1 exhorts us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us.” One of the key lessons of this scripture is that “weights” are at least as powerful as sin in separating us from God and His plans for us. Satan wants us to believe that it's not a matter of choice, but that our circumstances are in control and do not allow us to choose differently. Being created in the "image" of God our greatest power is our ability to choose; choice is the power God has given us to be able to change our situation.
The Bible teaches that WE ARE in control; Satan wants us to believe that we are not. The phrase “lay aside” means to “cast off, lay aside”; it is up to us. The word “weight” from the Greek is defined as that which is “prominent”. Prominent, in English, is defined as that which is “important, eminent, proud, demanding attention”. The phrase “which does so easily beset” means “skillfully surrounding”. So let’s paraphrase using these definitions: “cast down those things that are fighting to get your attention, skillfully surrounding you until you feel you cannot change.”
NOT IGNORANT OF SATAN’S DEVICES
Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians, in the second chapter and the eleventh verse says “we are not ignorant of his (Satan’s) devices.” There is an old idiom that says “Forewarned is forearmed.” We have been forewarned and therefore armed with what we need to overcome.
Hear Jesus’ warning in Luke 21:34 “But keep watch on yourselves, or your hearts will become dulled by carousing, drunkenness and the worries of everyday living, and that Day will be sprung upon you suddenly like a trap.” CJB (The Complete Jewish Bible)
We have been “forewarned” from God’s Word, beginning with our Savior Himself. He has NOT left us vulnerable to the skillful tactics of our enemy who wants the opposite of what our Father wants for us. The Father created us for “His pleasure” (Rev. 4:11), we are His delight (Psa. 149:4). Through Christ He has restored our ability to relate to Him; which was lost in the garden through sin. In James 4:8 it says “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you…”. If God wants us to be near Him then we can be sure that Satan doesn’t and is working diligently to distract us from that pursuit.
THE “GOOD PART”
Now we return to our original text of the Bible in the Gospel of Luke chapter 10: 38-42. The central characters in this passage are Martha and Mary (and Jesus of course). In Mary and Martha is depicted the struggle that all who would follow Christ will endure. Martha has bought the lie of trying to “have, or Be, it all”, in this world. Mary has tasted and seen that the Lord is good. Martha still feels allegiance to the world’s ways. Mary has laid the world’s ways aside. Mary has focused on One Thing, rather than many.
Mary made the choice to ignore the demands of the culture that said her place was in the kitchen, coming out only long enough to serve their guests. Martha did not made that choice. Mary further disregarded the demands of the culture by sitting at Jesus feet. I’m sure her behavior bothered many others besides Martha.
Jesus saw things differently, however, than Martha, and probably everybody else in the room that day, apart from Mary. Jesus, knowing how Mary’s actions contradicted cultural demands affirms her choice. First, however, Jesus lets Martha know that what is a virtue in the culture (the world) is sin with Him. Martha was “cumbered” about with much “serving”. The word “cumbered” means to draw around (skillfully surround), to draw away, distract. The word “serving” speaks of serving the demands of others.
Martha was a people pleaser; more interested in meeting the expectations of the culture, rather than the expectations of Christ. Jesus said that she was “careful” and “troubled” about Many things. The word “careful” to be anxious, troubled with cares, seeking to promote her interests. Martha was NOT living in peace, but in pieces. Trying to satisfy the demands of this world is like being drawn and quartered; where you get pulled in many different directions till you are left in pieces.
Jesus said that Mary chose the good “part”: In other words Mary had the same multitude of worldly demands pressing on her as Martha did, but she chose to respond to the need of her soul, not the demands of This world. She positioned herself near Jesus; close enough to “hear His words”.
What was so valuable in Mary's choice? the text says that she heard Jesus word. This is still the most valuable ability given to us by God. Jesus said that His words "are Spirit and they are life". This is still where we find life today; sitting at His feet and hearing His words to us.
Like Mary, let’s choose the “Good Part”, the "One Thing". Let’s draw near to Jesus, the source of Purpose, Power, and Peace.
What Do You Think About Troubles?
February 9, 2016
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” James 1:2
Well, it doesn’t take long to figure out that choosing to follow Jesus does not lead to trouble-free living. Jesus didn’t pull any punches. He came right out and said that if we choose to follow Him we’ll suffer persecution, problems and temptations.
Knowing that we are promised our share of troubles and temptations doesn’t make going through them any easier. But, how we think about them just might.
The effective study of scripture requires that we submit our intellect to the Lord so that Holy Spirit can teach us what intellect cannot comprehend. This may be especially true of our selected scripture for today. I mean, really, can the writer be serious? Is he deluded? How can he possibly associate Joy with Troubles and Temptations?
IT’S A TRUST THING
It’s really all about trust, and life has a way of undermining our ability to trust. As an example, I’ve had some bad dentists in my life, starting when I was a little boy. Now, I suffer from what some call “White Coat Syndrome”, fear of the dentist (or doctor). I had a bad experience again in my adult life, and I was really fearful about going to any dentist. I knew that I needed dental care, and I wanted to be able to go without fear, but, life experience had undermined my confidence in dentists. Then we realized that a life-long friend of my wife and her family was a dentist in a nearby town. I knew him a little as well, and found that he was very highly regarded both professionally and personally.
After some discussion and inquiries we decided to go to him for our dental work. It was immediately easier because of what I knew about him. I believed him to be of good character, and integrity, as well as very proficient in his practice of dentistry. I didn’t have to worry about him trying to do unnecessary or poor quality work that would only create problems to be dealt with in the future. Most importantly I believe that his motives for me as his patient are only for MY good. I believe that his overarching motive is for the well-being of my family and myself. I still have some residual anxiety when I sit in that dentist's chair, but I am able to entrust myself to his care because I believe that I can trust him.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GOD?
Do you trust God? O, I know that you want to, but the truth is many believing Christians are not able to progress in their Christian faith because they really don’t trust Him. What I mean is that we trust Him as far as we can, and then the struggle to continue trusting Him begins. Why do we have difficulty trusting Him? It may in part be due to the fact that we haven't examined His motives toward us. So let’s do that.
Often our inability to trust God is because we've been hurt when we've trusted people; so trusting isn't easy for us. It has been said that "hurt people, hurt people." One of the names of God is Jehovah or Yahweh, which means “Self-existent One”. He was not created, He has always existed. There is no one who has greater power than Him, therefore, there is no one who can hurt Him. He never acts out of fear or insecurity, only out of rational, thoughtful action. He is the Father of all things, and perfect in every way.
In 1 John 4:8 we are told that God IS Love; not that God loves, but that He is love. If you want to know what Love is look at God. Everything He does is Love, or of Love. Well then, what has God done? The Bible tells that He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son as the sacrifice for our sin. He loves us so perfectly that He gave His most precious Son to suffer to pay the price for our sin. He didn't wait for us to do the right thing, He initiated the process because of His love for us. Romans 5:8 says it like this; "God commended His love to us, in that while we were sinners Christ died for us."
The cross where Jesus died provides the most compelling evidence of what His motives for us are and just how far He is willing to go to make things better for us. His motives toward us are absolutely pure, and perfect, born of perfect, selfless Love. A true realization of this will make it easy for us to trust Him and His commands and His plans for us.
WHAT DO THINK ABOUT YOUR TROUBLES NOW?
"Couldn’t God have created a life for us that was trouble free?" He did, but then sin entered the picture and fouled everything up. Adam and Eve were the only humans to have ever experienced trouble free living. Thanks a lot you two! (Just kidding! If they hadn't blown it, then I would have.)
We have quickly shown that God’s motives for us are pure and only for our good. We must filter all of life’s experiences through that understanding. We can trust Him! No matter how hard our temptations or troubles may be, we can trust Him.
If God’s motives for us are “for good and not for evil…” (Jeremiah 29:11), and troubles and temptations are left here for us to deal with, then we must believe that they are somehow working for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). This is the foundation that must be laid in our minds in order for us to properly navigate the hard times in our lives.
CHOOSE TO THINK DIFFERENTLY
We are not doomed to gloom when we are in the middle of trials and tribulations. James says that it is possible to be joyful even when in the middle of trouble. We’ve just got to change the way we think about our troubles.
He says to “Count it all Joy when you Fall...". In our text the word "fall" is from the Greek word "peripipto" which means to fall into as to be encompassed; like falling into quicksand. So he isn't referring to some lightweight trouble here, but problems of the nature that totally engulf us. The word "count" means to account, or think about in a certain way. He says when we are engulfed in our troubles that we should think of them in a way that leads to Joy. Chara is the Greek word from which Joy is translated and it refers not only to the feeling of “gladness”, but to it's source: “of persons who are one’s joy”. It speaks of the joy we feel when we think of the special people in our lives.
As I write this I am joyously awaiting the visit of my mother, daughter and nearly two-month old Granddaughter in a few days. They all live in the Midwest, and I miss them terribly. My daughter has been really good about sending us pictures and video of our new bundle of joy, and as any good grandfather, I have her pictures where I can access them at any moment to share with anyone who will look. Her picture is the wall paper on my computer, and on my smartphone. Every time I see that beautiful little smiling face I am absolutely filled with joy. It’s an amazing and powerful surge of joy just looking at, and thinking about her. In fact when the stresses of my life are getting a little too heavy I'll look at a picture of her because when I do the heaviness is replaced by pure joy. I cannot wait to hold her in my arms and kiss her little head.
Anyway, this is what the writer is talking about when he says count it all joy. He's saying that when you think about your problems rather than being depressed, allow them to bring joy to your heart like pictures of your grandchildren. (I guess that only works if you have a grandchild; but you get the idea.)
Is that even possible? Yes, but the ability to do it does not come easy. One must be convinced that God’s motives toward them are for good, and good as He defines good. It’s good with eternal benefits not just temporal ones.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me to lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside the still waters,
He restores my soul,
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake,
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil,
For though art with me,
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,
He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies
You anoint my head with oil,
My cup runs over,
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
IT’S A MINDSET, AND IT'S IN OUR CONTROL
How did the psalmist come to this understanding about His God? Through his troubles, not around them or over them, but through them. Trusting God through his problems is how.
Paul, in Romans 8:18 says it like this; “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Notice Paul say "I consider"; not the Holy Spirit in me considers, but I, Paul consider. How did Paul come to this place of understanding? Trusting God through his problems.
Jesus says “Lay NOT up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break in and steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus tells US to do these things.
Again, the great apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (NLT) Paul also said in his letter to the Philippians "I have learned, in that in whatever state I am, therewith to be content."
If we choose to remain faithful through our troubles, we will see the faithfulness of God to us.
"Life's Troubles - Painful, Costly
God's Faithfulness - Priceless!"
"I CAN'T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE"
This life and it’s pleasures cannot hold a candle to what is waiting for us in the life to come. We must let go of this present evil world and die to ourselves and our lust for pleasure. We must allow our values to change so that we can be filled with joy in the middle of our troubles because we know that they are working in us an eternal benefit for the life to come
You don’t get to this point just by saying the sinner’s prayer. You only get to this point THROUGH troubles while holding onto your faith in the God who loves you. One of the benefits of life's troubles is that they can help us set our eyes on eternity.
There's an old song whose lyrics say;
“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through,
my treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue,
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door,
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore”
We may not be able to control the problems that come into our lives, but we CAN control How we think about them.
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." 1 Corinthians 10:13
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
Our troubles, in His hands, are working for our good.
Blessings in Christ our Saviour.
What Are You Chasing?
January 7, 2016