Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Did You Miss Out On Yesterday's Blessings?

I hope you had an excellent start to your work/school week yesterday. We are a blessed people with a Father who constantly watches over us and desires to give us good things. Often all we have to do is receive those blessings from him. However, on occasion, we miss those blessings because we have become distracted by things from the world. I don't necessarily mean pleasurable things, although that happens as well, but more the challenges and difficulties of life. There are plenty of them and perhaps yesterday was one of those days when you missed the blessings due to the distractions.

I am not saying that we live in some kind of bubble where nothing from this world touches us. There were followers of Jesus who lost their lives in the recent rash of tornadoes in the United States. Christians lost all that they owned. Believers have been inundated by flood waters along the Mississippi, in Manitoba and Quebec. Disciples of Jesus die every day from accidents and diseases. These are all part of the tragic world we live in, a world run a muck because of the fall of Man.

It isn't just the disasters and diseases that can prove to be a distraction but the results of man's sin can also be overwhelming. Jealousy, hatred, pride can all take away from the joy of our living. An inconsiderate neighbour who parties until 2 AM is a very selfish person. A co-worker who stirs up trouble and starts rumours because she is jealous of your recent promotion. A friend who was not really a friend, who walked away over a simple misunderstanding. A child who lies, cheats and steals even though they have been taught and trained differently. Any of these things could have ended up as a distraction that caused us to miss the blessings of our Father yesterday.

We do not live in a bubble of protection from these things but we live in a place of unnatural peace as we stand on the promises of Jesus Christ. We can never lose sight that our God, the Creator of the heavens and earth, the giver and taker of life, the ruler of all things is greater than all the circumstances of our life. Jesus encourages us with this promise:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

This is the reason the Apostle Paul was able to write by the Spirit:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

It is because Jesus has overcome this world that we are more than conquerors through him. It isn't that we live in a bubble but more that we possess a peace that goes beyond reason, that goes beyond understanding, that goes beyond what is natural in these situations. Sometimes it takes moments like these to wake us up from our slumber, to cause us to open our eyes, that help us realize what true treasures we possess. Sometimes we are distracted by what looks attractive in this world only to find out how ugly it truly is but in that moment Jesus is with us showing us his beauty. When reason, tradition, opinions, and people fail us, Jesus is there to take our hand.

If you missed the Father's blessings yesterday the good news is that you have another opportunity today. Don't allow yesterday's troubles to follow you into today but instead trust Jesus. Perhaps you lost everything in a flood or tornado but it is no reason to lose your joy or your peace. If you love the Lord then the Father loves you and he has his way of restoring all things. Trust him and sing his praises instead of falling into despair. The World is watching and wanting to know if your faith is authentic or fake. Realize there are bigger things than your current problems and realize that your treasure is found in a place that no flood, wind or person can touch. Make sure your eyes are fixed on Jesus today and you will be amazed by what the Father will do in you, through you and for you today. Jesus has overcome this world which makes us more than conquerors. Act like it, act upon it, walk in his mercy and grace and allow the Father's blessings to flow through you today so that your light shines in the darkness.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Monday Morning Boost Of Praise

Another Monday morning. They seem to come more and more often these days but that is good because it means that summer is also quickly approaching. This Monday morning let us all step into our birthright and claim the promises and blessings that our Father has given us. We fail to do that a lot because we don't know these promises and we fail to understand the significance of the blessings. We also often believe that we do not deserve them.

The truth is that we don't deserve them but they are ours anyway. We have to get past this guilt complex. Yes, we have sinned and we occasionally still do sin but as long as we are honest with God he keeps us preserved in his mercy and grace. We must accept that we exist in this relationship of love which begins in a place of great immaturity but I pray we are seeing much growth. We are intended to grow so the things we tripped over last year are not the challenges of today. So we need to move on from this place of "I don't deserve it" to a place of thanksgiving and acceptance. Our attitude should be thanksgiving for the great and awesome Father we have who desires to bless and equip his children. We possess a birthright. We have a right to be in the presence of God, to receive his blessings and to stand on his promises. This became our right when we were reborn in Christ Jesus. We are now children of the LORD God Almighty, and that means something.

Jesus explained to his disciples that things were about to change for them. With his arrest and subsequent death and then resurrection, they would be ushered into a relationship with our Father that they would find astounding:

Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (John 16:25-27)

We ask in the authority we have through our relationship with Jesus. The Father loves us because we love his Son. He loves us so much that he has adopted us as his children. So understand that everything we have and everything we are is due because of our relationship with Jesus. We have a birthright because of Jesus. We have the right to ask our Father for things because of our relationship with Jesus. Monday morning is a time of blessing and thanksgiving because of Jesus. We are loved by the Father this morning, we are immersed in his love, flowing over us like a great waterfall, because of Jesus.

We are right to realize that we don't deserve this. It is only ours because of the will of the Father and the work of Jesus Christ. Perhaps my children don't deserve what I give them either but as their father it is my joy to give and it is their right by birth to receive from me. I don't give to other children as I give to my children. They receive more of my time and resources than any other person and I take real pleasure in being with them. I am also very proud of what they accomplish. So if I am like this, as an imperfect dad, why would we expect less of our perfect Father?

No, we are a blessed people as we begin this Monday morning. Set the complaining aside as well as your low expectations for this day. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it. Allow your hearts to be filled with thanksgiving and praise. Allow your attitude to be one of gratitude as you stand in your birthright today. Expect the blessings of our Father and receive them with open arms. Claim the promises of God because they have been issued for you. Allow this day and this week to be filled with miracles, power and praise because it is the Father's will and it is your birthright.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

In This Day Of Worship Allow Jesus To Set You Free From Your Prison

The best friend you will ever have is Jesus and until we reach that understanding we will continue to struggle in our relationship with him. We have this image in our mind that we have to be china-doll perfect before we can be ushered into God's presence or have fellowship with the Son of God. We consider all our faults, failures, defeats and sin as preventing this relationship with Jesus, and they did before the cross. We need to remember:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

It is not the fact that we often fail God that is the problem, it is the unconfessed stuff that winds up getting us in trouble. That is when we refuse to be honest with Jesus and fail to tell him about our failures, defeats and sin. What we try to keep to ourself we will be accountable for on the day we physically stand before him. The things we decide to be honest about will be forgiven and forgotten as if they had never happened. This is the kind of relationship we have with God, where he is willing to have an open and honest relationship with us so he can strengthen us against our weaknesses. He wants us to come in when we are covered in filth and ugliness so he can help clean us up but he can't do this if we aren't talking with him. The psalmist of Psalm 142 had an understanding of this relationship:

I cry aloud to the LORD; 
   I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. 
I pour out my complaint before him; 
   before him I tell my trouble. (Psalm 142:1-2)

Doesn't this sound like something you would do with a father or a big brother. We go to him with our complaints and our trouble because we need someone who will listen. But more than that, we need someone who will listen who also has the ability to help us out. Sometimes these things can get us down to the point where we start losing our way.

Let's face it, there are some things that we just want to hide from. We would rather pull the mountains down on top of us and stay out of sight until it passes. There are some things that paralyse us and we really don't know the next step to take, but if we have cultivated this relationship with Jesus properly we would agree with the psalmist:

When my spirit grows faint within me, 
   it is you who know my way. (Psalm 142:3)

You see, God has to be more than someone you worship on Sunday; he has to become the best friend you have ever had. Jesus is more than someone who died on the cross; he is your big brother, your protector, your strength, your source of wisdom and power. He is also your constant companion through the Holy Spirit in you. The psalmist did not even have the Holy Spirit and yet he understood the importance of this relationship:

I cry to you, O LORD; 
   I say, “You are my refuge, 
   my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5)

I have no clue what you are facing today or how you are feeling because I don't know you and you don't know me. To you I am only a bunch of words on your computer screen and you are nothing more to me than a number in the "read" column. But there is one who knows you intimately and he invites you to know him intimately. He wants to set you free today from your prison of doubt, worry, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, depression and what ever other dark place you find yourself in. There is no sense going to worship a God you do not believe can set you free from your prison. However, don't stay home, instead change your thinking. Get your thoughts off your troubles and look to the promises of God. Trust him! Put the full weight of your trust in God this morning; pour out your complaints; tell him your troubles; declare him as your strength and your hope. Pray with the psalmist:

Set me free from my prison, 
   that I may praise your name. (Psalm 142:7)

It doesn't matter what the prison is; perhaps it is marriage problems, addiction to something, simply hopelessness or even loneliness. There are lots of different prisons but Jesus has the key to all of them. Make the decision that if Jesus has said it you believe it, throw yourself into his arms and be set free today:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How To Avoid Defeat As A Follower Of Jesus

Maybe I am not as patient as I used to be but come on, when are we going to get a clue? Do we really think that Jesus intended us to live such weak and wishy-washy lives? Not at all. He gave us the Holy Spirit and he laid down the foundation so that we would be more than conquerors in our lives. Life does not dictate to us, we dictate to life. Our flesh does not control us, we have control over our flesh. We are victorious because Jesus Christ is in us through the Holy Spirit and there is no greater power or authority in heaven or on earth. Yet we live and act as if we have no spiritual muscle at all. The problem is actually quite simple: we have wondering eyes.

Christianity is not for the faint of heart but instead for those who are willing to remain submitted to Jesus Christ at all times; good and bad. We read:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

That is one of the basic Kingdom principles we have been reborn into. What we were is gone and forgotten. As a new creation we understand that our only source of strength is Jesus Christ. This world has nothing to offer us and nothing to sustain us. The dark cannot offer support to the light. In hard times we do not run away from Jesus but we run even closer to him. He has promised us strength and power to overcome everything, even temptation but, we must keep our eyes fixed on him:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Fix your eyes. Come on now, let's be honest; the times we have been defeated and overcome in the past are the times we took our eyes off of Jesus Christ. We allow anxiety, fear, worry to become bigger than him. We become so busy trying to find our own solutions we lose sight of the one who holds all the solutions. We cannot see any possible escape in the natural world and we let go of the supernatural. Yet we belong to the supernatural. We belong to the God of miracles. We belong to the author and perfecter of our faith. But how can he perfect it in us if we can't keep our eyes on him long enough to persevere? We have to stop babying each other and instead encourage each other with fervency to remain in Christ with great joy and anticipation. We need to be a people who renew their expectancy in our God of promises.

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 141 did not have the advantage we do of being possessed by the Holy Spirit yet he still understood the importance of staying focused on God:

But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; 
   in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death. (Psalm 141:8)

And his desire was not a difficult one; he simply wanted to live a holy life so that his enemies would be put to shame by their evil deeds:

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; 
   keep watch over the door of my lips. 
Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, 
   to take part in wicked deeds 
with men who are evildoers; 
   let me not eat of their delicacies. (Psalm 141:3-4)

What he had to ask for is ours naturally if we are keeping in step with the Spirit. The Spirit is building this character into us so it is a natural product of our relationship with Christ. You cannot hang out with Jesus and stay the same; he rubs off on us. As we keep ourselves focused on him, relying on him for everything, obeying his commands, we discover muscles we never knew we had. Honey comes from our lips instead of death. Our heart is revolted by evil instead of drawn to it. We only desire the delicacies of the Lord. But when we lose our focus, when our eyes begin to wonder, we become weak. Our strength leaves us and we find ourselves again filled with jealousy, anger, bitterness, hatred. We seem to be off balance all the time and we can't get anything done.

There is only one solution. It doesn't matter how disciplined you become in other areas of your life, if you are not disciplined in your relationship with Jesus it will all end up in a mess. Lose sight of Jesus Christ and you lose sight of life. Focused on Jesus Christ and you will be more than a conqueror; you will have victory over everything in your life, including your body and its many desires. When you don't feel like praying, pray twice as hard. When you don't feel like worshipping, shout even louder. When you don't feel like studying the Word, search even deeper. Whatever your flesh is telling you, do the opposite, run to Jesus and receive the strength of a warrior. Push yourself and you will be amazed at what the Lord does through you. To God be the glory!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Church Is Supernatural; You Are Supernatural

I hope we understand that the Church is supernatural. It is amazing how many Christians don't. The Church is not man made but Holy Spirit born. She was given life when the Holy Spirit was given to man. Her establishment took place through super natural methods; people speaking in languages they did not know, healings, signs and wonders. And let us not forget about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Why do we keep forgetting about the gifts of the Spirit? Let's just refresh our memory on what some of these gifts are.

First the Apostle Paul stated that he did not want anyone to be ignorant of these gifts:

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. (1 Corinthians 12:1)

Then he stated that there is a great purpose for these gifts:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7)

And then Paul names off some of those gifts:

To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)

And just to make sure we understand the source of these gifts and how they are determined:

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:11)

If you read the whole passage you will discover that if is by these gifts that the Church functions as it should. The Church is not established by man, cannot operate properly according to the systems of man, is not directed by man, is not empowered by man and is not limited by the limits of man.

Some people, trying to be helpful, developed a Spiritual Gifts survey that acts more like an interest survey than anything else. That survey almost killed me spiritually. At the time I was fascinated by missionaries and the spiritual lessons they learned n their service. I admired their sacrifice and determination to serve the Lord no matter the cost. So it should be no surprise that when I took that survey it came out that I had the gift of missions. I went into missions but I had no gift and without the Holy Spirit to sustain me it nearly killed me. Since that time I have learned that the only way to discover your gifts is by walking in Christ, obeying the Spirit, and doing what he tells you to do no matter how ridiculous it sounds. Spiritual gifts are revealed by the laying on of hands which simply confirms what is already on our heart.

Yet, we are a lazy bunch, or at least our flesh is. It takes time and effort to walk in the Spirit. It takes determination to remain in a solid relationship with Jesus Christ. It requires every day that we study the Word, are in constant prayer, take the time to worship and see ourselves in service to the King. It takes a life that is focused on Jesus Christ, where Jesus is the purpose for everything. It takes more than passion. Passion without reason is a dangerous thing. Passion is fantastic when it is rooted in the Word. For example, how could we rely on the promises of God, call upon God according to these promises if we don't even know what those promises are? No, if you want to operate in your spiritual gifting you must have a vibrant and growing relationship with Jesus Christ and you must give the Spirit his place. He is your guide, teacher, comforter and source of everything from Jesus.

The Church must operate in the spiritual gifts if it is to function properly. The World needs to see the Church as supernatural, serving the God of "all things are possible" instead of seeing it as another great humanitarian organization. The Church is more than good works, it embodies the power of God to transform. Right now we are busy applying band-aids instead of administering healing. The gifts are not for a chosen few, "Now to each one..." Paul wrote.

We need to get serious about what we are doing with Jesus Christ. A World is dying and they need to be convinced that there is a God who loves them. They need to be convinced that Jesus is real, is present and is able to transform them completely. They need to know that Jesus has the power to save them. Words are not enough. We have been equipped for action, we must be a people of action and that action must be supernatural. Let's stop limiting what God is doing by our limits and allow the Spirit to work through us. Draw close, listen and obey.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Understanding That Joy Always Comes In The Morning

I think women are the most wonderful creatures in all of God's creation and they are due a lot of respect for many reasons. Just one of the things that impresses me about women is childbirth. For nine months their body goes through huge changes as organs get displaced, lung capacity diminishes, extra energy is produced, levels of everything in the body increases. For the last bit they have to carry around this living being in them who kicks, punches and rolls around any time he feels like it. Then there is the incredible moment of birth.

Having experienced this sight eight times I am still in awe of that moment. Those great pains that announce the approaching deliverance from that creature inside, the amount of pain involved in the actually delivery are gut wrenching for a man to helplessly look on. I remember all those moments of crying out, the screaming, grunting, forced breathing. It's hard to forget just one experience let alone eight. But the most amazing thing is when the baby is laid on the mother's breast. There is an entire transformation in that woman who has just become a new mom. What was a raving, screaming  creature suffering great pain only a moment ago becomes a loving, soothing, cooing, gaga-ing mother beaming at this beautiful new child. It is like everything has been forgotten. Amazing.

Jesus used this phenomena to explain to his disciples the process they were about to go through. They were about to experience great pain but this pain would lead to great joy:

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:20-22)

This is our Christian hope. Not a hope that is wishful thinking but a promise we are longing to possess. We should be able to face any storms, painful or not, with great joy and expectation because of the promises we have received from God. It is described elsewhere in the Word:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

You should do a word study on hope in the New Testament and you may be surprised by the strength and importance of it. This is what two simple verses have to say to us about it:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Any Christian who has lost hope has also lost Christ, having taken his eyes off of him and allowed himself to be overwhelmed by the storm. There is no excuse for a joyless Christian because such a state only comes from a lack of faith, a lack of trust. No matter what we are facing, experiencing, or suffering the spiritual principle of the matter is straightforward:

Weeping may remain for a night, 
   but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Take Jesus at his word. Trust his promises. Stand by him. Allow him to maintain that peace he promises to you and to overwhelm you with his joy. He will sustain you in everything and you will be glad for it. Do not rob him of his glory by robbing yourself of the testimony he is giving you. Allow the world to look on you in wonder, that you could have such peace and joy in the midst of so much turmoil. Allow them to look on and give all the glory to God that they would see and believe. There is purpose in everything he does, in everything he allows and he has promised the result will give us great joy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Mission Of Jesus Christ Is Not A DIY Project

There are times that it appears people feel God has given us our orders and sent us out to do what we can. We study his Word like an instruction manual and then move out to do a DIY project, trying to figure it out on our own, hoping for the best. I would say that we spend 95% of our day doing what we think we should and only 5%, if that, actually asking God for direction. I have heard people say that for most things we do not need to seek direction because the Word tells us what God expects but I think this is partially correct and partially wrong.

My real concern is that we keep leaving the Spirit out of our relationship with God. We are not including him in every part of our lives which includes understanding the Word of God. I believe the Bible is more than an instruction manual; it is a guide to understanding God's heart language so that when he speaks we can understand. The Word allows us to see God's heart so that we can see the world as he does, our lives as he does and so we can understand the voice of the Spirit as he speaks to us. The Word tells us what God has done, how it affects us and then the Spirit gives us the power to live it.

In his final instructions to his disciples Jesus gave a lot of teaching on the Holy Spirit. He told them:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13)

You see, not left on our own, not sent out on our own, not involved with a DIY project but instead guided by the Holy Spirit. The Lord has given us people like myself who teach through the Spirit, who expound upon the Word of God, who share revelations of God's Word as revealed by the Holy Spirit, but these people cannot cause the Word to be applied to our heart, cannot cause the Word to shape us and mould us. This is what the Spirit does, when we surrender to him. At one point the Word explains:

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:27)

That anointing is the Holy Spirit who teaches us about all things; he is real, he is present, he is speaking to us all day long and one of his goal is to get us to remain in Christ.

Jesus continued to explain:

He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)

Having the Holy Spirit with us is the same as having the Lord Jesus Christ with us. Just as we are not to act on our own, doing what we think is best, the Holy Spirit does nothing on his own but only what comes from Jesus. If we are willing to listen he shows us many things, allowing us to see through lies, giving us words of knowledge into people's lives, even telling us what is to come. Jesus continued:

He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. (John 16:14)

How many times do we rob Jesus of his glory by doing what we think is best instead of listening to the Spirit? Jesus hasn't sent us off on our own to do the best we can. He has sent us out so that he can reveal his glory through us, filled by the Spirit so that we can be guided throughout the day. It is not a matter of studying the Word and then moving out with instructions. We bury the Word in our heart, in fact we are told that by the Spirit the Word is written on our heart, so that when the Spirit speaks he does so by bringing the Word to our thoughts. When we speak he fills our mouths with that same Word. He gives us wisdom by that Word. Not a wisdom that comes from our own understanding but that comes from the heart of God through the revelation of his Word as taught to us by the Holy Spirit.

All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:15)

We operate in a state of spiritual poverty when we carry the great riches of God around with us every single day of our life. Everything that belongs to the Father belongs to Jesus and the Spirit takes from Jesus and gives it to us. Why would we be so foolish to act as if we are on our own when all the resources, wealth, wisdom, and power of God is ours through the Holy Spirit?

It is our lack of faith in Jesus Christ, our lack of trust in what he taught that is killing the world today. We have a job to do, a mission to complete and we have been given all the tools that we need. We are not based on the principles of commerce. We are not out to market Jesus Christ. We are not out to build a family oriented church. We are not out to build a church at all. We are the Church, forming the Body of Christ and each of us has our role to fulfil through the Holy Spirit. We have been sent out that Jesus would be glorified through us, pumped with the Holy Spirit, filled with the power of God, to act according to his wisdom and direction. We are more than soldiers of the cross. We are also soldiers of the resurrection, of the ascended Lord. We are the workers of Jesus Christ, filled by the Spirit, to do the impossible because we serve the God of all possibilities. We are Kingdom builders and we do our work through the power and direction of the Holy Spirit all day long. Not on our own but in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit.Now don't you forget it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

God's Great Weapon In Our Battle To Save Souls

We are nothing and have nothing without the Holy Spirit. The only connection we have with Jesus is by the Holy Spirit. The only way that we receive from God is by the Holy Spirit. The only way we can sense God's presence, know his will, and love with his love is by the Holy Spirit. Every blessing we receive comes by the Holy Spirit. The only confirmation we have that we are the Children of God is by the Holy Spirit. The only sin that will not be forgiven is the one against the Holy Spirit. Considering how important he is to us you would think people would know more about him.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)

Wow, without the Spirit we don't even belong to Jesus. I remember as a boy hearing a lot about the Spirit and even then I would get upset when people would refer to him as "it". Open our eyes Lord to the essential truth of the importance of the Councillor you have sent to us so that we would not be like orphans. Without the Spirit we cannot receive the multitude blessings from God:

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:5)

I could go on all day sharing various Scripture because I enjoy talking about the Spirit but I want to focus on John 16 for a moment. Jesus said that it was good for us that he was going away because in his going the Holy Spirit would be sent to us by the Father. He said that when the Spirit came he would bring conviction of guilt to the world about three things:

When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. (John 16:8)

We are in the last days and in these days hearts are growing harder, people are completely rejecting even the idea of God, and sharing the Good News has become a more difficult thing. However, until the Spirit of God is removed from this earth people will always be convicted of these three things, even if they choose to reject that conviction.

In regard to sin, because men do not believe in me. (John 16:9)

People are not listening to the teachings of Jesus Christ but the Holy Spirit will not relent in convicting people of their sin. There is absolute good and absolute evil even if the world wants to fudge the lines. The current teaching in all the movies and television shows is that there is a little bit of good and evil in each of us, creating a grey area where we hope the good would balance off the evil. That is a lie from the devil himself and the Holy Spirit is here to convict people of such nonsense. There is a thing called sin that we are born to and only one can remove it from us. The Spirit has to convict before their hearts go totally hard and they lose all sight of the truth of sin and our rebellion against God. We need to share the truth of God's Word while the Spirit is still here to convict people of that truth. Without the Spirit our words and Scripture would be meaningless.

In regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer. (John 16:10)

As long as Jesus was present there was a physical demonstration of God's righteousness. With his departure there would no longer be an example so the Spirit would need to convict us of this righteousness. There is a right and wrong in the Kingdom and the Spirit is here to teach it to us. It's one thing to know that our actions are wrong, it is another to know the right actions to take. The Holy Spirit convicts us of the righteousness of God, teaching us, showing us, helping us, guiding us in that pathway. As a follower of Jesus you cannot do whatever you want, there is a code to live by and it starts by loving God with your entire being , followed up by loving others as yourself. The Spirit helps with this.

In regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:11)

We can see with our own eyes how hard people have become to the Good News and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. They live as if they will never have to give an account for their decisions, as if they will never be held responsible for their actions. People laugh at Pastor Harold Camping who predicted the Rapture of the Church this past weekend. The man is wrong in this doctrine and he has been a source of ridicule against the Church but I wonder how many of us would have been ready if he had been right? How many people are even willing to consider that a day is quickly approaching when they will have to give an account for their decision to reject Jesus as Lord?

Time is growing short; hearts are growing harder and colder; the Spirit will not be with man for much longer; we need to take advantage of the conviction of the Spirit while we can. If it is this hard for people to believe with the Spirit how much harder will it be when the Spirit and the Church are gone? Each Follower of Jesus must live with the urgency of believing that "today is the day of salvation" and don't rely on tomorrow because tomorrow may not arrive. We used to be able to rely on tomorrow but those days are quickly slipping away. We need to live in such a way that when we stand before Jesus we can honestly say, perhaps with tears in our eyes, "I did everything I could".

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Secret To A Blessed Life Is A Simple Thing

Here it is Monday morning and I wonder how much we remember from Sunday. It was probably excellent worship at your church; so good you felt the move of the Holy Spirit. With such great worship your heart was probably open to receive the Word that was preached. You probably felt moved, challenged, maybe even convicted. Most likely you came away with new determination to live a better life for Christ. Maybe you thought you would do more, be more or at least be better at what you do for Jesus. Then Monday hit and much of it was lost as you became immersed in "reality".

Unfortunately many of us have the mirror experience that James wrote of:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (James 1:22-24)

Most of us do not want to consider that these words apply to us but they do. Most of us know exactly what we are suppose to do all the time for every situation but in the heat of the moment it is like we forget. Maybe it's a panic thing, I don't know, but I do know that we become mere listeners, students who never put what they learn into practice. Of some of us it can be said, "ever learning but never applying". Apostle Paul described the worse case scenario to Timothy:

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (2 Timothy 3:6-7)

This is not what we want to be but often we end up feeling this way because we treat our relationship with Jesus as a religious thing. Sunday we feel great and all is well with the world but Monday morning is a completely different world because we failed to bring the Sunday relationship with us. James continued:

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:25) 

Look at these words: "looks intently", "continues to do this", "not forgetting", "doing it", "will be blessed". There is no secret to the blessings of the Lord or of being blessed by God: obedience. Jesus said to stay in him so he could stay in us. The secret for the blessing, the doing, the being is to increase your relationship, your fellowship with Jesus Christ. On Monday morning you should be yearning, desiring, longing to be with Jesus, not setting him aside while you get on with your life.

The secret to a blessed life is both simple and complicated, easy and hard. It is both simple and easy because it is all relational. It is based on a strong, vibrant, growing, intense relationship with Jesus Christ. It requires taking delight in studying the Word every day and putting it into practice. It requires an attitude of worship all day long. It requires the discipline of prayer; intense, secluded moments as well as ceaseless praying in the moment as things are happening. It requires that we have the understanding that Jesus is the greatest relationship in our life and the possession of the single desire to honour and intensify this relationship. It is not a weekly activity but a moment by moment reality. It requires discipline.

The thing that makes a blessed life easy is also what makes it hard. A relationship such as this takes effort to maintain; it requires discipline. To be honest, this flesh of ours is pretty lazy. Our spirit may be willing but the battle remains with our flesh. The more you know Jesus the easier it should be because his love is what compels us. Still, we need to learn that our problems do not shove Jesus aside, busyness does not overwhelm us because we allow Jesus to interweave himself into everything in our life. Jesus is not something we do when we find the time; he is part of us and part of everything we do and experience. Jesus isn't shoved aside by our problems because he is involved with our problems. We talk them over with him, asking for his wisdom, expecting his direction and accepting his strength to carry through. Do not make the mistake of thinking it just happens; it requires discipline from you.

You know I am talking to you and you know that I am speaking the truth. The worse moments of your life have been when you have been the most distant from Jesus. Those times when you were almost destroyed, overwhelmed, broken are when you were giving no effort in your relationship with him. Those times when you failed to resist temptation is when Jesus was less of a priority for you. Knowing that this is the problem, the solution becomes obvious. Jesus has to become more to you and you have to become less.

Remembering what you learned yesterday and putting it into practice follows easily after you take care of the "being" with Jesus. Facing Monday morning is a thing of joy when you have a relationship with Jesus that keeps him involved in everything. The blessings of good health, joy, peace, happiness, love, contentment flow out of your constant abiding in Jesus, where you remain in him and he remains in you. Fill your mind with his promises and your heart with his love and your life will start to resemble the blessed life you are supposed to have. Remove yourself from Jesus, separate your "reality" from him and all the blessings stop flowing and you end up facing life alone. Learn to abide in Christ; learn it today and be amazed at the transformation of your mood, your circumstances and your attitude toward your day and your life!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Waking Up With Jesus On My Mind

Praise the LORD.
   Praise the name of the LORD;
   praise him, you servants of the LORD.
(Psalm 135:1)

As we rise this morning I hope that is the first thought that enters our thoughts; Praise the Lord! There is so much that wants to fill our mind and our activities today. There is so much that has crowded itself into our Sundays. There was a time when we understood the purpose of a day of rest, of setting aside our activities for one day, of setting our mind upon the goodness of our God. Now we try to fit in a quick hour for church before we have to run off to kids' sports activities, a few hours in the office, yard work, a thousand different chores. No wonder the concept of our first thought being, "Praise the Lord" is such a novel thing.

Stop for a minute before you rush off to your next task. Stop and take a deep breath. Stop and count ten things that God has done this week that you are grateful for. Just ten. Now thank him. Out loud, go ahead; "Thank you Lord for ..." Worship, adoration, praise is what we owe our God today along with time and reflection on his goodness. He is good you know. The psalmist wrote:

Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; 
   sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant. (Psalm 135:3)

Are we teaching this to our children or are they seeing other things that take greater priority for us? I wonder if we asked our children what they thought was important to us what order they would write them in? We are a privileged people to be able to call upon the name of the Lord. There is no greater privilege than to worship him. He has given us life, rescued us for death, forgiven our sins, given us a book filled with promises, is our constant companion, fills our lives with blessings, rescues us from our own stupidity, fills us with love, mercy, grace, peace and has promised to respond to our prayers:

I know that the LORD is great, 
   that our Lord is greater than all gods. (Psalm 135:5)

It is because we belong to him that we are different than most people on this planet. We make the choice to worship him in the assembly instead of going hiking or playing golf. We teach our children it is more important to be in a house of worship than on a soccer field. We teach them that worship is of far greater value than earning an extra dollar or two. We demonstrate to our family and the world that we have no other gods before our God because we love him and honour him above everything else:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, 
   made by the hands of men. 
They have mouths, but cannot speak, 
   eyes, but they cannot see; 
they have ears, but cannot hear, 
   nor is there breath in their mouths. 
Those who make them will be like them, 
   and so will all who trust in them. (Psalm 135:15-18)

The idols of today are different from then but they have the same effect. They are empty of any worth if God is not the God of them. Would our children say that our sports are more important than church or that their activities take a greater priority than worship? Do we see worshipping God in the assembly to be of greater worth than a sunny day on the golf coarse, or on the beach, or in the garden? What was your first thought when you woke this morning?

If we want life to have the balance God intended for it then we must give him the priority in all things. He must be God of everything in our life. We should have a relationship where we would never see an alternative choice to worshipping in the assembly. It should not even be a matter of giving God part of the day but honouring him with the full day. After church invite people over to enjoy fellowship in the Body. Take time and go for a walk with the family and discuss the wonderful things God has done. Sit and watch the sunset with your children tonight and discuss the majesty of our King Jesus. Give God the priority of your thoughts, actions and time today and see what happens to your relationship. But this morning at least start with:

Praise The Lord!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Big Shout Out To All You Who Minister Among Us

I am giving a big shout out to all you people in full time ministry out there. We are all ministers in this world, sharers of God's light, carriers of God's Word and Holy Spirit. We all have the responsibility of introducing Jesus to those who remain in darkness. We all have been commanded to know God's Word and to obey Jesus Christ, but there is a special group of people who have been set aside for the purpose of doing nothing but ministry. People automatically think "Pastor" but there are many different ministries headed up by full time ministers who are not pastors.

It is important that the Body of Christ recognize these individuals and honours them. It is not that they are some kind of superstar but it is simply due to what they do that they are worthy of honour; it is the way things are done in the Kingdom of God. The psalmist of Psalm 134 wrote a blessing for those who ministered in the temple:

Praise the LORD, all you servants of the LORD
   who minister by night in the house of the LORD.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
   and praise the LORD.
May the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth,
   bless you from Zion.
(Psalm 134:1-3)

Sometimes this is a difficult subject for us because we do not understand honouring authority or showing them respect. This is a problem because the Kingdom is not a "free and easy" place but has a structure of authority. I hate to tell you but it's not even democratic. Jesus Christ is the head of the Body, the authority over it, and he has anointed some to be leaders in this Body, and we are told to submit to these leaders. But we have had problems with authority since the Garden. Most people glaze over what Jesus taught. One simple example out of his teaching:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. (Matthew 23:2-3)

Even though the authority was wrong Jesus told the people they must remain in obedience, just don't follow their example. A few decades later this authority was destroyed by the Romans. God has his way with dealing with authority gone wrong. But we have been told to honour, respect and obey:

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

In fact, we are told there is a natural blessing when we choose to lift up those who minister among us instead of tearing them down and criticizing:

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

We are blessed simply by not making it a harder task to minister.

The task of ministry is hard enough without being loaded down with the criticism of those who are being served. Have you ever experienced it? Perhaps you were volunteering to serve a dinner to the homeless and you heard some complaining and criticism from those who were receiving the free meal. How did it make you feel? Did it tarnish the experience, maybe rob you of some of the joy? Those who minister among us, in whatever ministry it may be, have made great sacrifices to be obedient to God. They have set aside their own interests and desires for the sake of other people. What they have done deserves honour, respect and support from the rest of the Body of Christ. Their task can sometimes be heavy but the cheering crowd can often lighten that load.

So, for all you in ministry out there, we give you this great big shout out of appreciation. Thank you for all you do to represent Jesus and the Church. Thank you for doing such a great job. Thank you for all your faithfulness. Don't give up now because much is being produced through you. May you be blessed in your labour. May the Lord provide for your every need. May his joy be overwhelming today. May his presence prove to be your strength. May your family remain strong and close and may no division come near your door. May your spouse and children rise up and call you blessed. Thank you. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

If You Are Not Hated You Are Doing Something Wrong

Christianity is not something that fits well with a secular society, it is not meant to. In fact, Christianity is not something that fits well with the world or any religion and we should be concerned if it does. Followers of Jesus are a people of peace, who show the love of Jesus in the things we do and say but the world is provoked by the core of our relationship with Jesus; it hates the Light and the truth that comes from it. Jesus explained:

Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)

The fact is that the light and dark do not fit. Unlike popular belief, light does not need the dark to define it; it does not need it to exist. Life is not about balancing good and evil, light and dark. The two are incompatible so where one exists the other does not. We either serve the light or we serve the darkness, we cannot have two masters.

A follower of Jesus will always be troubled by this world, the evil that exists, the darkness that pervades for the moment, and the world will always be troubled by the Church, the Body of Christ. If there is not trouble between the two then one of them is a liar; either the darkness is not what it says it is or the follower of Jesus is not a follower. Jesus warned his disciples:

All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. (John 16:1-4)

Jesus was preparing his followers because once he left everything would change. It is not the only warning he gave them:

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

Just because we love people does not mean that we stop speaking the truth to them. In fact, it is because we love them that we must speak the truth. We cannot lie people into the Kingdom. Jesus told one group that he was hated because he did exactly that, he told the them the truth. Are we doing the same or are we trying to be accepted by the world? Are we trying to have peace at the expense of the truth that we have living inside of us? James warned:

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

There is no way around it, if we are living for Jesus we will be hated by the darkness that currently controls this world. Our purpose is to preach the Light to the people of the darkness so that as many will be rescued as possible, but as we preach the Light the darkness gives back hatred. Ours is not meant to be an easy life and trying to hide away is as bad as being part of the darkness. We must live our faith in big and bold ways, to hold back the darkness and to allow Jesus to be glorified through us.

Don't tolerate darkness for a moment; don't date it, don't excuse it, don't lie for it. The only thing we can do with darkness is speak the truth of the Light into it and for this we will be hated. Jesus said it, we are not part of this world because he has taken us out of it. That alone is enough for the darkness to hate us, but we do not fear the darkness or its hatred because:

... the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May His Light Be Brilliant In Us

The world is a dark place and getting darker. Isn't that a cheerful thought? I said the world is a dark place not our lives. Just because we are surrounded by darkness does not mean our life is without colour or joy. In fact, Jesus told us that through him we have abundant life. He uses us and our abundant living and the joy he gives us as lights in this darkness. We are not an oppressed people cowering from this hateful world. We are aggressive in our pursuit of bringing light, countering the darkness and hatred, and allowing people of the dark to see the light through us. We love for them to see Jesus in us because the world is a dark place and getting darker.

What a terrible thing it is when a Christian allows themselves to be covered by this darkness because they forget who they are and who they serve. It is sad when we allow worry, fear and anxiety to hide away our light. It is not only sad for us but for those who belong to the darkness. If they do not see us countering the darkness with the boldness and confidence of our faith they cannot see any hope for themselves. This is important because we are more than just worshipers of Jesus Christ, we are also his witnesses. We testify to the truth, to the salvation he has provided, the joy and peace, to his Lordship over everything. Perhaps we need to be reminded of this:

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)

The fact that the Spirit testifies to the people of darkness who Jesus is should be a great encouragement to us in our mission. We are here to compassionately reach out to those who are still lost and who need to meet Jesus. It is an impossible task on our own but the Spirit is at work preparing people. We only need to listen and he will direct us to those who are ready. He has been working on their hearts, preparing them for the words we will share, the actions we will take, the prayer we will offer. It is a beautiful and incredible partnership-relationship we have with the Spirit.

It is important here to take note that we are to testify about Jesus and that testimony must be backed up by our actions. Do we really think people are going to be convinced by our words if we are constantly cowering in fear? Will they listen when we fall apart every time we encounter problems and challenges? Will they be attracted by our anxiety or bitterness, envy, pride, jealousies, bad mouthing, tearing down? Those things are part of the darkness and they already have plenty of that. They cannot see Jesus if that is what they are seeing in us.

Children of the light, warriors of Jesus, temples of the Holy Spirit, we must remember who we are and who we belong to and stop this nonsense of weakness. There is nothing weak about us because we are covered by the blood of Jesus and possessed by the Holy Spirit of God. Ours is the joy unspeakable and the peace that goes beyond understanding. We do not cower from the dark, we stand against it. We fear nothing because we are more than conquerors. Standing in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ, we are his testimony and the whole world is looking in. We throw off everything that belongs to this world and we claim the things of the Kingdom. We stand in our birth-right knowing that every promise ever spoken by God belongs to us. We will not fear! We will not tremble! We will obey in love! We will overcome because we fight in the strength of our King. Begone fear! Begone worry! Begone anxiety! I am the testimony of Jesus Christ. So are you. May his light be brilliant in us! May the world see there is more than this dark world. To God be the glory!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

All That They Need Is A Miracle

I am a big time believer in God glorifying himself through powerful miracles, signs and wonders. I believe it is meant as much for today as it was during the time of Acts. I take Jesus at his word when he said we would do greater things than he did and I am not about to excuse the lack of miracles by claiming they were given for a specific time. The lack of miracles is due to my lack of faith, but I am changing that. Some of you know that I am pushing my spirit, mind and body to live within the zone of  "Jesus said it. I believe it. I live it." Either we accept all of Jesus' teachings or we accept none of them. It is not a supermarket where we get to pick and choose.

There is a reason Jesus left so the Father could send the Holy Spirit. Why do we think we are possessed by the Holy Spirit? When Jesus came to us he set aside his divinity and operated by the Holy Spirit, not because he had to but to set an example for us. He was the prototype. What he did was done through the Holy Spirit and then he sent us the Holy Spirit so we could so the same things and more. Some people don't want to accept this. Perhaps it's because they are afraid that it will show that their faith isn't real. Some use the excuse that it requires faith and miracles rob people of faith. Let's be clear on this, even if people see the miracle, even if it happens to them, it does not mean they will believe. Listen to Jesus:

If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’" (John 15:24-25)

Miracles mean nothing to a heart that is hardened, but it is God giving them an opportunity to believe. Look at all the things that Jesus did, that were spread far and wide. He had huge crowds following him. As soon as he healed the first person that person began to spread the news and Jesus was pursued by thousands of people wanting a miracle and wanting to see a miracle. Yet, they still crucified him. However, there were those who saw and put their faith in him and its for these people that these miracles are important.

Every opportunity you have to pray with someone is an opportunity for God to reveal himself. Don't be afraid of the big ones. Don't be afraid of praying for healing from deadly diseases. God promised healing, Jesus demonstrated that healing, and then he told us to do the same thing. Sight for the blind, restoration for the lame, diseases and demons put to flight, all so God can be glorified. These things are not happening today, and it's because we don't believe, we have been robbed of our faith. For too long the Church has been divided on this issue and it is like we are afraid to disprove God's existence. It is like we treat our faith in God and his promises like a china bowl, fragile and breakable if we do not handle it carefully. I look at Jesus' life and I do not see a man who handled faith like a china bowl. It was a relationship and a tool, something he used with great strength, like a hammer. I don't think we handle a hammer as if it is fragile.

To see miracles flowing from the Church again we need some changes in our understanding and attitude. We must believe:

     1. Jesus said it so it must be.
     2. He did what he did by the Holy Spirit.
     3. He sent the Holy Spirit so we would do the same powerful things.
     4. He said we would do greater things than he did.
     5. That God's purpose for this is to reveal his glory, that those who choose to believe will be saved.
     6. That we are possessed by the Holy Spirit, who is filling us with the resurrection power and giving us access to the divine nature.
     7. It is God's will for Jesus to be revealed through his character in us and by his power through us.

The fact that there are not more miracles is not God's fault but ours. The fact that there are more atheists than before is not God's fault but ours. The fact that the Church has become an academic institution instead of a power house of God's glory is not God's fault but ours. Jesus pondered if he would find faith on this earth on his return and now we can understand why. Just as we trust Jesus for our salvation we need to trust him when he said that the Father will give us whatever we ask. Start asking for those miracles, and believe. To God be the glory.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Don't Be Surprised By The Hatred

Most of us cannot stand the thought that someone has something against us. It drives us crazy when we try everything we can to get them to like us, to forgive us, to see value in us and yet they continue to treat us as trash or a non-existent person. It hurts; it really does. Yet, if we are living in Christ, loving him by obedience to his commands, walking in the mission he has given to us, it is only a natural thing that we become hated by those who are lost in the darkness of this world. When you represent the light in a world that prefers for their sin to be hidden in darkness, who do not want to be told the truth, who do not want to "feel" uncomfortable you become a target for their hatred.

They don't hate us because of our righteous because we have none of our own. If we try to convince the darkness of the light through our projected self-righteous we will only turn them off from the truth. We are not infallible. We are not yet perfection. If we try to project a plastic life they will see right through it and there will be no power to our testimony. However, when they see what God has done with our sin and how he transforms our life and when they see an actual progression in our growth then they may see some value to it, even if the nature of it produces hatred in them. The point to remember, it is not us they hate so much as it is the Jesus they see in us:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." (John 15:18-21)

We have nothing to complain about in North America, not yet. Our neighbour may not like us and avoids talking to us because he doesn't like "religion". Too many people trying to tell you how to live, he says. He's not so weak that he needs a crutch, he tells you, giving you permission to use it if you want, while he tears you done with the other neighbours. You may even have a group of people online attacking you as you share bits of the Bible with others, especially if that bit addresses the sins they enjoy the most. But these things are nothing compared to the hatred that is inflicted upon Christians in most of the world. Try serving Jesus in Iraq, Iran, Egypt or Nigeria right now. Hundreds of Christian Nigerians were killed this last week and hundreds of churches burned to the ground because of the Jesus they represent. There were once 1.5 million Christians in Egypt. They now estimate that only 200,000 remain.

The reason for the hatred is a simple matter. The world loves what belongs to it and hates what does not. When we accepted Jesus as our Saviour and agreed to follow him as our Lord, he ceased to be part of this world. We live in it but we no longer belong to it. We no longer live by its rules and follow its beliefs. We are now Kingdom dwellers and we live by the rules and commands of God's Kingdom. To be a follower of Jesus is to be different and we naturally stand out in the crowd, or we should. There are plenty of fakes and pretenders but true lovers of Jesus obey his commands, even when it costs them their lives.

Unfortunately many of us in North America do not have a relationship of faith strong enough to stand in such storms. How can we think we can survive a hurricane when we can't even handle a Spring rain. We panic over a phone bill or a simple cold or when someone criticises our actions. We had better do something about this soon because I hear the hurricane winds approaching and many are going to let go of their faith in the face of it.We should be praising the Lord for the testing of our faith, for the trials and persecutions which prove our faith genuine. It's better to have it tested now and to have it revealed lacking so we can do something about it, because when the day of accounting comes and our faith is proven to be fake there will be no opportunity to do anything about it.

I mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria this week. I cringe at the thought of the violence they and their families had to face. I mourn with the children who will grow up without parents and the parents who must suffer the lose of their children. I mourn but I also celebrate the victory of my brothers and sisters who faced their trials, who were hated because of the Name, who held onto their faith and are now welcomed into the arms of Jesus. There is no greater victory. But with all of our privilege and freedom in North America, will we have this same victory or will it be stolen from us as we slip further and further into the enemy's camp?

We are followers of Jesus Christ, born of his sacrifice and the Father's will, no longer part of this world but citizens of an incredible Kingdom. We have access to the divine nature through the Holy Spirit in us and it is through us that Jesus glorifies the Father. Ours is a surrendered and obedient life as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and strengthen us in that obedience. We cannot worry, fear, or be bothered by the hatred directed at us by this world. We hold onto the knowledge that greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world, and that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. The world killed Jesus but they could not rob him of his victory, his glory or his power. We share in that same victory, glory and power. Today, in the face of everything, remember who you are and who you represent. Demonstrate your love by your obedience to the very end of this age.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Cheap Love vs Rich Love

Love does a lot of things to us and prompts us into some of the oddest actions. Young men will spend hundreds of dollars trying to convince their love interest of their sincere affection. They will buy flowers, go to the movies, pay for expensive meals, give gifts of jewellery, and any number of things. Yet the most powerful things that are produced by our love are free. Women should measure a man's heart by the amount of forgiveness he is willing to give out. The deeper his heart the more forgiving he should be in action and attitude. In fact, the greatest tool in our arsenal of love is forgiveness.

I love my wife. She is the most beautiful, incredible woman I have had the pleasure of knowing. My wife loves me. She calls me her "superman" because that is how she sees me. We will have a long life together because our love produces the one thing that is essential for a marriage to last: forgiveness. The truth is I am no superman and I do some pretty annoying things. I don't want to be annoying but there are moments that I just don't think. We have arguments, disagreements, difference of opinion, individual perspectives and all these can lead to conflict. We are two people learning to function as one so we need some lubrication to prevent wearing each other down. This lubrication is in the form of forgiveness produced by our growing love for each other.

It is an easy thing to forgive, we just make it hard. We complicate it by making things more important than they are or by putting our need to be right ahead of everything else, or by making our pain more important than the person we love. Well, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ there are a few things you need to know.

First, Jesus told us that a fruit born of our love for him is obedience:

If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (John 15:10)

It is an easy matter to know if you have a religious spirit or an actual proper relationship with Jesus Christ. If you really love him then you will not come up with excuses for not obeying. Instead, you will gladly do whatever you have to do to obey his commands. This will be the desire of your heart and you will study and learn his commands and instructions so that you know what to obey.

That leads us to the second point:

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12)

That's setting the standard pretty high for this thing we so easily refer to as love. You know there is cheap love and then there is the rich love that Jesus has shown us. Cheap love comes and goes in an instant. Cheap love allows you to love objects such as cars, clothing, and a movie. Cheap love in a relationship will fade with time, perhaps days, so that you are "falling in love" once a month. Cheap love can result in a lot of broken and tattered hearts. Rich love is much different and can be summed up in a simple sentence:

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

We lay down our life in love when we consider the needs of the person we love greater than our own. This is found in good parents, in a good spouse, in healthy friendships. It is what is produced by rich love and is impossible for the cheap stuff:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)

The third point then is this: real love is the only thing that allows the Holy Spirit to produce fruit that lasts and one of the greatest of these is forgiveness. It takes the attitude of "laying down your life" to allow forgiveness to be an ever flowing river from your heart. Such an attitude does not allow hurt, pain, sin, mistakes, errors, slights, insults or anything else to take root and cause bitterness. Forgiveness keeps the heart young, fresh and vibrant and it brings the distinct flavour of richness to every relationship. It is yet another reality of the Kingdom of God:

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15) 

Some of us use worship to measure our love for Jesus. We think the louder we sing, the more emotional we become, the closer we are to him. This can be cheap love. If you want a true measuring rod look to your actions and see if they are born out of obedience to the Lord you profess to love. Look to your heart and see if there is any root of bitterness, anger, hatred or indifference that have been allowed to grow due to your lack of forgiveness. Don't settle for cheap love, cheap grace, cheap forgiveness. Let it be rich, deep, and sincere so that you will be blessed in every relationship, including your relationship with Jesus. Allow the fruit to be produced in you by having a sincere love for Jesus and for others. Forgive.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It is Going To Be An Absolutely Fantastic Day Of Worship

It is an exciting thing to get ready Sunday morning, to prepare ourselves for the corporate worship of the Lord. It is exciting and a time of expectation as we prepare ourselves, both spiritually as well as physically. It is the physical things though that can distract us from our spiritual preparation, especially if you have children. It is not an easy thing to prepare breakfast, clean up children, prepare their Sunday clothes, tidy the house and then get yourself ready. By the time you are finished you really don't feel like going anywhere. If you are not careful you can arrive at church having forgotten why you came in the first place.

Above all else Sunday is about remembering who our God is. It's about coming in with a grateful heart and a desire to praise him for all of his goodness. It's about honouring him for his faithfulness to his many promises. I know we want to present ourselves in the best light possible but you need to remember you were already in his presence when you woke up this morning with bad hair, bad breath and looking like something the cat dragged in. You were in his presence when you lost your temper with your spouse and said those things that should not have been said. He already knows the best and worst of you and he always chooses to forget the worst and remember the best. That is reason enough to take a deep breath, look around and enjoy your preparation this morning.

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 128 said:

Blessed are all who fear the LORD, 
   who walk in his ways. (v. 1)

That's what I am focusing on in my preparation this morning and I invite you to join me. This past week, have I shown my love and respect for Jesus by acknowledging his ways, spending my days with him, pursuing his goals instead of my own and simply worshipping him all day long? Or, have I been out of step, distracted, pursuing my own desires, not giving much thought to him except maybe at the end of the day with a quick prayer?

God is pleased when we treat our relationship with him with the highest respect born out of love. We want to please him; it is our greatest desire. Just as a child often seeks the approval of his parents so our greatest desire should be to love our Lord by obeying his commands; walking in his ways; not as we think it should be done but as he has instructed us it should be done. I am telling you, the blessings flow from obedience:

You will eat the fruit of your labor; 
   blessings and prosperity will be yours. 
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine 
   within your house; 
your sons will be like olive shoots 
   around your table. 
Thus is the man blessed 
   who fears the LORD. (vv. 2-4)

So many people suffer when there is no need to suffer. They put themselves through so much torment when the solution is at hand. Much of what we go through is born out of disobedience or a "forgetting" of God. When we set him aside and do our own thing we must understand that disaster is just around the corner. When we fall upon it we cry out to God, maybe even blame him, but he is there to cover us in mercy and grace and to set us on our feet again. Some of us are either slow learners or we are hard of hearing.

This is what I know, God has promised blessings when we are obedient to him. Jesus did not promise following him would be an easy thing and not every day would be problem free. In fact, he told us if we did it right the world would hate us but this does not mean he was saying that life would not be blessed. Just in this one psalm we see that God has promised we would eat the fruit of our labour and that our families would be blessed. Have you experienced that this week? Then you have much to praise him for.

I look at my week and I see the many challenges the Spirit has guided me through. He even moved a couple of mountains for me and responded to a number of my prayers. He has been very active with me this week and he has filled me with an abundance of peace, joy, contentment and love. I am a very blessed man with a heart filled with gratitude this morning. Knowing what he has done for me fills me with confidence that he will do the same today and tomorrow so I enter his courts with shouts of praise and thanksgiving, allowing everything else to fall away.

Do not dishonour our Father this morning by entering in half-heartedly, tired and frustrated. Enjoy your preparation. Laugh with your children. Appreciate your spouse. Hand over your worries and fears. Quiet your spirit and allow our Father to wrap his arms around his child who he takes so much pleasure in. Bless the Lord oh my soul. Bless him with thanksgiving!