Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Truth Concerning Money And The Kingdom Of God

Everything is precious to God; everything. People, time, talents, materials, thoughts; everything comes from him and has been given for a purpose. Money is not evil, it is just one more blessing from God with purpose. The source is God and if he has blessed you with it there is a reason for it. We treat money as if it is some evil thing. Either that or we treat it as some kind of god that we chase after. It is neither. It is a tool, a device, an instrument with purpose, just like a hammer or screw driver. What is evil is the pursuit of money at all cost:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Read that carefully. It does not say that money is the root of evil. First of all it says that the "love" of money is the problem. Second, it is "a" root of "all kinds" of evil. It is the pursuit of wealth at all cost that causes the problem. The fact is that God blesses us with all kinds of blessings which are tools to be used for the Kingdom. Paul was concerned that people needed to know this so he told Timothy to instruct the rich in how to use their wealth and what behaviours to avoid. Now pay attention because to some people in this world you are rich:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17)

First of all, if you are blessed with money, don't let it distract you from what is important. Face it, wealth is uncertain. It is here today and gone tomorrow. Most people in this world are waking up to that fact. One bad investment, one failed bank, one country too far in debt and "poof", it's all gone. Wealth is not our hope, God is. Money is not certain, God is. Money will not always be there to provide for our needs, but Jesus always will be. Jesus told us not to lay up our treasures on earth where they can be stolen or rot away. He told us to store them up in heaven where they make a great foundation. What are these riches? They are exactly what Paul told Timothy to instruct the rich to do with their wealth:

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:18)

No, this is not earning our way to eternity with God; that has been given to us by grace via the death of Jesus. Salvation is a thing of faith, trusting in the grace of God through Jesus. These things, good deeds, being generous and the willingness to share, are the treasures that go on ahead of us and that are stored for our arrival. They will be jewels in our crown, the foundation under our feet. They will decide who is wealthy in the presence of God:

In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:19)

It is not so much an attitude as it is a way of life, part of our character that always shines through because of the priority of Jesus in our life.

Of course this character is not just for those who have an abundance of money but they are better equipped to be more generous and do larger good deeds than most of us. But then again, wealth is a matter of perspective. To someone on Wall Street we may look average or below average, but someone living on the streets or in a crumbling shack we look wealthy. Generosity and good deeds should be a natural outpouring of the Spirit of God in us. The reason Paul stresses it for the rich is because of the dangerous affect that money can have on us.

It is vital to our eternity that we do not see money as anything but a tool. It is not our salvation. It is not our provider. It is not our comfort or our dream come true. Money is nothing more than a blessing and a tool to be used for the Kingdom of God. Don't fall in love with money, fall in love with Jesus. Don't pursue money, pursue Jesus. Don't waste the blessings God has given to you but treat them like an investment in the Kingdom of God and see what Jesus produces through that investment. This is true as well for time, talents and all materials we have been given. Be rich in good deeds, be generous and be willing to share.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Are You Doing With Sin?

How are you doing with this whole sin thing? It's not the easiest thing to avoid, considering how long we have bathed in it. Sin was as natural to us as breathing. It is not something we had to think about as we did it without a thought about what we were doing. Oh certainly there were certain sins that our parents had warned us about that we had to consciously make a decision to enter into, but most of the time they were little things, like hating someone. Even wanting what someone else had, being envious, prideful, boasting, a small lie, a lustful look, an unjust decision, all seem so little and did no real harm and yet are still held in the same category as murder according to God's law. Sin is sin and the only way that its authority becomes less is when Jesus becomes more.

First of all, Jesus died to break the hold that sin had over us. We have to accept that sacrifice, repent of our past, and declare Jesus as Lord of our lives. This means that we die with him on the cross and are raised to life with Jesus. We are dead and the only way we can live is through Jesus. Without him we are just dead. He is our life today and in the next life to come. Now, because the power and authority of sin has been broken and we are no longer slaves to it we are free to make a choice. We can choose to live according to the righteousness of Jesus, becoming a slave to it, or we can consciously decide to submit ourselves once again to sin. This is the reason the writer of Hebrews exhort us to:

... throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

I really get inspired by this passage. Throw it off, the writer tells us. Make that decision to cast it aside, not to get entangled in it any more. We can't do this by ourselves because we don't have the ability so it is a good thing we died and are now living through Jesus because he does have the power. He not only overcame sin, he empowers us through the Spirit in us to do the same. The Spirit is our source of life, the source of God's power that enables us to do all things through Jesus. It is this that the writer continues with:

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 12:2-3)

Fix your eyes on Jesus who has beaten sin and has empowered us, who have died and been risen with him, to do the same thing. We have the resurrection power pumping through us by the Spirit of God in us. "None of us and all of Jesus", has to be our every waking thought. Paul also encouraged Timothy in this:

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:11)

Notice the action and effort in all of this. We have to actively "flee" from sin. We know what causes us to fall. We know our own weakness. We know how to "flee" from sin, so now we need to put all our effort into that and the power of God will strengthen us to overcome. Flee from everything that is not of the character of Jesus Christ and instead actively pursue right living, the character of Jesus, faith, love, the ability to go the distance with Jesus and gentleness. It is great to love Jesus and to worship him but actively pursue to live your life for his glory. Throw off the stuff that robs him of his glory, that denies his power in us, that sucks the love out of our life and instead fill your life with the pursuit of all things Jesus.

That means you may have to decide to cut certain things out of your life, things you enjoy but things that rob you of God's power and your love for Jesus. An athlete may really enjoy candy but candy will not enable him to win the race. The desire to win that race will cause that athlete to cast aside his enjoyment of candy. Perhaps for us it is certain music or bands we need to flee from, or perhaps certain TV shows that promote sin instead of righteousness. It might even be some parts of social networking like Tumblr, which has no filter for righteousness and is filled with tons of things that can destroy a man's resolve to go all the way with Jesus. I don't know what it is for you but I do know that the enemy has made sure that it is close enough to attract you. Throw it off, flee from it and make your life focused on Jesus. Paul writes:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12)

Fight! Fight the good fight of faith. It is all about faith, trusting God, trusting the promises of Jesus. He has promised that you have been set free from sin. Don't listen to your flesh, put it under the authority of your spirit. You may be weak in the flesh but you are not weak in the spirit; you are a mighty warrior. You are strong in the Lord, empowered by the Holy Spirit, a child of righteousness, wholly saved and given the task to glorify Jesus before the nations. Sin is never worth it but Jesus is. Fix your eyes on him and run the race that is marked out for you with all your passion and strength. Do nor grow weary because the Spirit will enable you when you are weak. It is in your weakness that you will find God's power shining through. Go for it!

Monday, February 27, 2012

You Cannot Love Both The World And Jesus

There has to be a difference between someone with Jesus and someone without him. If there isn't a difference there is something wrong. As followers of Jesus we have been called out of the world. What is meant by this is that we have been called out of the system of the world. We have been called out of its pattern of thinking, perspective, priorities, and values. We must still live here because we have been called into Jesus' mission, to share the good news with anyone who is willing to be saved. But living here does not mean being part of the mentality here; we have been brought into something different. We are different. We are a new creation.

There are many people walking around with a badge that says Christian without realizing that they are suppose to be walking around in brand new clothes that have Jesus written all over them. We have a lot of wanna-be Christians who have their little badge but who look, talk and act exactly like the person without Jesus. Apostle Paul described these type of Christians to  Timothy:

If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

We know about the fruit of the Spirit, the character of Jesus that is produced in us by the Spirit. Well this passage in Timothy is the fruit of the wanna-be Christian. They teach wrong stuff and when shown what the Bible says, they disagree with it. They think they know more than anyone else, are better than everyone but in fact, understand nothing about God, Jesus and the Spirit. They are drawn to controversies, probably surfing the Internet, looking for someone to argue with concerning trivial things like whether it is better to use wine or grape juice in Communion, and what temperature the water should be for baptisms. Much of what they produce will be envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction. Some of these type of people will only see the Church as a means of making money.

Now contrast this with the character of a mature follower of Jesus Christ. There is a difference:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

There is a good measuring rod to look in the mirror with. A follower of Jesus is marked by a character of contentment. The reason is because we are divorced from the pattern of this world, from it's thinking and desires. Our priorities are much different, as are our values. We are no longer attached to things here and are not striving to gain more things. Jesus said not to try to store up wealth here but instead send ahead of us the treasures that are of much greater worth, which go ahead of us and are stored up in heaven. The love, kindness, good deeds, all such things done in Jesus name are our heavenly treasure. They will be the jewels in our crown, the crown we will receive but which we will lay at Jesus feet. I don't know about you but I want to lay down a crown of great value; I want what I submit to Jesus to be of great substance.

The enemy's greatest tools are deception and distraction and there are a lot of followers of Jesus who are being deceived into wearing the badge instead of the new garment. There are way too many who are being distracted by the rotting treasures of this earth. Don't be among the number. Follow Jesus and only Jesus; consume the Word of God; live by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit; fix your eyes on Jesus; get busy doing what we were saved to do. Allow the fruit of the Spirit to be produced in you by the Holy Spirit which requires a spirit, soul and body wholly filled and possessed by Jesus Christ. We are different. We belong to Jesus. God cannot be mocked, he knows who belong to him.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Is There A Burning In Your Spirit For More Of Jesus?

My friends, it is time to grow up. It is time for us to stop playing Church and to clothe ourselves in the maturity of the Spirit. It is time to set aside the uncertainty of childhood and step into the boldness that comes with the knowledge we have been given in the Word by the Spirit. It is time for us to start acting on the promises Jesus has given to us.

Face it, we might be greater in number compared to the early Church but we certainly are not greater in power, at least in North America. In other places of the world the gospel is preached in the reality of the power of God. Power is demonstrated daily as the Church walks in faith, acting on the promises Jesus gave, to overcome every obstacle in their path. In the face of suffering the Church grows in many places in this world but in North America, if it becomes an inconvenience, we quickly set it aside. We are immature, easily distracted, have no perseverance and we don't believe in the power of God. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews puts out there:

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. (Hebrews 6:1-3)

Read that again and take note of what is considered the elementary teachings:

- repentance from acts that lead to death
- faith in God
- instructions about baptisms
- the laying on of hands
- the resurrection of the dead
- eternal judgment

No wonder we can't get any real traction going in North America, we are still teaching many of these subjects. Oh, we have mega churches and we have some vocal groups pushing a Christian agenda, but we are lacking men and women of maturity; men and women of spiritual boldness; men and women of spiritual authority. We are still a bunch of kids messing our pants and fighting in the sandbox, even arguing over the existence of hell (that's the eternal judgment part of the fundamental teaching).

Just on the issue of faith alone we can see people still struggling with taking God at his word. Most people do not believe 100% of God's promises. They pick and choose what their flesh is willing to accept and the rest they kick to the curb. Most people do not journey any further than the cross. They hang out at the bar of repentance, not understanding the fullness of the promises Jesus has given us for hear and now. We don't understand how Jesus has equipped us through the Holy Spirit with everything we need to do the work of the Father. That's okay because most of us don't know that our salvation has greater purpose than ourselves. It is sad.

It doesn't have to be this way. If we would only understand that we have to die to ourselves in order to accept Jesus we would be 50% of the way to maturity. Our problem really comes from trying to live in two worlds, in two systems, with two lords. Jesus said that it is impossible to serve two masters. He said that we will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. We are trying to live a duplicitous life and it is more this reason that we see a huge lack of spiritual maturity in the Church. Our lives cannot be partially given to God. If we want maturity it is all or nothing.

Is Jesus your everything? Is your life completely focused on him? Do you see his purpose in everything you do? Is his will more important to you than your own? Are his goals your goals? Do you see and understand and are you living his purpose and calling in your life? Is the Word of God coming alive to you? Is your time of prayer effective and vibrant? Do you see God at work all around you? If so, then you are well on your way to "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ". (Ephesians 4:13) If not, then you will continue to mess in your pants and experience fighting in the sandbox. It is time to grow up.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Trying To Live For Jesus Without The Spirit Messes Everything Up

There is a message that burns deep within me that I wish I could impart to everyone who calls on the name of Jesus. Too many Christians are dead to the Spirit because they fell out of fellowship with Jesus before they really even started. It's like they fell out of bed because they fell asleep too close where they got in. They didn't go far enough with Jesus. They stayed on the surface. They went no further than salvation, the cross of Christ. They did not seek the deeper things. They became satisfied too early and relied on nothing more than the baptism of repentance. But Jesus offers us more than forgiveness; he gives us life to the fullest through the Holy Spirit.

I cannot stress enough the importance of growing in our faith through the Spirit of God. Faith and the Spirit go hand in hand, and I am talking about the faith that provokes you to act on the promises of God.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

Too many of us live without the power of God. The life we live in this body we are living by our flesh instead of by faith. It is like what Paul warned, that in the last days there would be a form of godliness without the power of God. Look around my friends, where do you see the power of God? Too many of us have created our own little god with our own little law. We still use the same names but the god we worship is not the Jesus we read about in the Bible. Paul asked this question:

"Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?" (Galatians 3:5)

The problem is that many of us have not received the baptism of the Spirit and miracles do not happen because we don't believe what we read. We are too busy limiting God with our limitations because we don't know how to live by the Spirit and try to serve God by our flesh, which is impossible. Allow me to share a little known verse:

"He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." (Galatians 3:14)

It's all about us receiving the Spirit so we can live a life of faith as big as our God. The blessing given to Abraham was righteousness by faith and it is by this same faith that we receive the Holy Spirit who enables us to live by God's righteousness. The Holy Spirit is the great enabler. Without him we can't see God. Without him we do not have Jesus.

"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are no longer under law." (Galatians 5:16-18)

You cannot live for Jesus without being possessed by the Holy Spirit. You cannot operate in the power of God without the Holy Spirit. You cannot live a life that glorifies God without the Holy Spirit. You cannot see God without the Holy Spirit. You cannot know the will of God, the mind of Christ without the Holy Spirit. You cannot even begin to imagine the love of Christ and its power to transform without the Holy Spirit.

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25)

So in order to keep in step with the Spirit we need to first be living by the Spirit. Too many Christians know nothing about the Holy Spirit yet he is the reason Jesus left this place. Jesus said he had to go so he could send the Spirit, who would then live in us. It is a question of surrender and obedience. Will you receive, surrender to and then obey the Spirit of God to allow Jesus to live through you? The Word tells us that all we have to do is ask:

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13)

So, in faith, ask!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why Treating Your Teacher Or Boss With Respect Is Important To Jesus

I am afraid that there are a lot of Christians who don't know Jesus and don't spend any time with him. You can see it in a lot of their attitudes and sometimes you can even hear it in their preaching. People spend more time in hearing about Jesus than they do in actually studying his life, his words, or even sitting in his presence. We worship a Jesus we only know by word of mouth, and that is a dangerous thing.

I can't see how Jesus would be pleased at all with what we have done with his Bride or how we live in this world. We haven't been saved to conform to our society but to stand firm in the new creation that we are in Jesus. If we actually study the life and words of Jesus we would soon discover that to live by Jesus' pattern is to live a life that is in direct contrast to our society. One of the things that disturbs me most is how Jesus lived as a servant to mankind but we, as his followers, live as if mankind should serve us. Jesus taught:

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

This teaching concerning our attitude in living a life to God's glory is expanded in the epistles but I will use just one example:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

I have seen too much of life to say that most Christians understand and live in this attitude. It is a rare exception to find a follower of Jesus who understands this precious attitude. Most of us are very demanding of other people, sometimes reducing them to tears. I have seen it with my own eyes, one minute a person testifying about the goodness of God and the next walking away in triumph after reducing a store clerk to tears over some small mistake. Those of you who drive, what is your attitude on the road? What about with the service person on the phone? What about with your teacher or your boss?

That's an interesting question for those who go to school and for those who have bosses: Would your teacher or boss know that you love Jesus by your attitude of respect and service to them? Do you go to school or to work with the attitude that they owe you, or do you go with humility and respect, with a desire to bless them? This is what Paul told Timothy to teach those who were in the bondage of slavery:

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them. (1 Timothy 6:1-2)

Yes, that is what they told those who were treated like objects to be bought and sold. Obviously Paul understood the value to God of a person in slavery because he desired to teach them how to serve Jesus even in that horrible condition. Do you consider your boss or your teacher, even your parents worthy of respect simply because they are the authority over you? Maybe they are terrible, not earning any respect but the respect we show has nothing to do with what they earn and everything to do with God's love. This is what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

We don't keep track of their offenses against us. We don't push for our rights. We aren't even concerned for ourselves. We only want to honour Jesus so that his name and the teaching of the gospel is not slandered. It may mean suffering for the name of Jesus but it is our calling to do that if it brings glory to God. In our society today it's all about our rights. When a store clerk makes a mistake we have the right to demand compensation. When a teacher is in a cranky mood we have the right to complain. When our boss asks us to do something beyond our job description we have the right to refuse. There are all kinds of rights in our society but, after being possessed by Jesus, we no longer fall under the system of this world. Our rights in the Kingdom of God is the privilege to love and obey Jesus Christ.

If this is our right then I strongly suggest that we spend the time to get to know him better, to study his example, to know his words and submit to his Spirit. In this way we will learn the importance of putting others ahead of our own needs. In this way, by our love, they will know that we truly do belong to Jesus Christ.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Lies Of Our Heart Are Re-enforced By The Lies Of Our Enemy

I really hate the enemy of our soul for what he has done to mankind. I know it was Adam's choice at the beginning that threw the whole race into rebellion against God, but it is the enemy who has kept us here. Satan hates God. He hates him with a passion and he wants to hurt God by robbing God of the object of his affection, us. He hates us too because God loves us, but his real purpose in the lies he convinces us are truths is because he wants to keep us separated from God to hurt God. This is the reason he works so hard to keep us in the dark and tries to keep blinders on us so we can't see God.

In order for us to be saved from this sin nature and from the enemy we have to get to the point of understanding and accepting the truth that:

... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God... (Romans 8:23)

Maybe you think there are a lot of good people out there, and, compared to some people who commit murder, they appear good, but the fact is we all sin. Paul told Timothy:

The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. (1 Timothy 5:24)

In other words, some sins are obvious and the whole world can see, whereas others are hidden but will still be revealed in time.

All of us. Every single person ever born was born with this sin nature and have given into it, except the one who came to save us by defeating this sin nature, Jesus Christ. This sin nature will try to convince us of a lot of lies and the enemy is there to re-enforce them but sin still comes down to us and that is why we will be held accountable for it. God has given us enough revelation in nature itself to know there is a God, and he has given us his Word and the Holy Spirit to convict us of our need to be rescued from this sin nature. He has also sent Jesus as our rescuer, the one who can set us free. Romans 8 is a great chapter to read to give better insight into the power of this nature and the power of Jesus to break it's grip on us. Read this:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5)

When we turn our back on this sin nature by accepting the gift of freedom from Jesus and we dedicate our lives to him, he gives us another gift, the Holy Spirit, who is the power of God in us. The Spirit guides us away from sin and into all the wonderful blessings of God. He gives us the power to live godly lives to the honour and glory of God.

Jesus Christ is the only one who can save us from this nature we were born with. He is the only one who can reconcile us to God. He is the only one who can free us from our slavery. He is the only way we can come to the Father; there is no other way. We can't live a good life and earn our way. We can lie to ourselves and convince ourselves that God's love will save us even though we persist in our sins. We can convince ourselves that the Bible is outdated and God understands the current age in which we live. God understands alright, he understands that sin separates us from him. It always has and always will. We were given the Law so that sin would be defined, so that we could understand the difference between right and wrong, so that we would be convicted of our actions and the nature of our heart. Then he gave us Jesus to pay the price of our sin and set us free. Calling evil good and good evil will not save you. It is God who makes these definitions and we will be judged according to them, unless we have been set free from them by Jesus.

Do yourself a big favour today, set aside your opinions and thinking, set aside the lies of the enemy, set aside the blinders and let Jesus remove the scales from your eyes. Be willing to see the truth and then allow Jesus to rescue you from the slavery you were born in to. God created you but he did not create you to be like this. He has something better planned for you and you will find it in Jesus.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You Say You Want To Live For Jesus

Have you ever felt too young, or really too anything, to serve Jesus in boldness? You read the Word, feel a deep burning inside to live what you are reading, but then step back from it because you are afraid what people will say? You see something in Scripture that you don't see anyone in the Church doing so you back away from it even though you have a conviction to live it? Please don't do that. There are many things that Christians are not doing as we lead a life of duplicity. We are not living as we aught and if Jesus returns soon we are going to have to answer for it, but don't let that stop you from living the life of bold faith.

Paul had left his spiritual son, Timothy, in Ephesus to oversee things and to guide the saints in God's way and in solid Biblical understanding. We have no idea how old he was but he was young to be in this position. He must have been a remarkable man for Paul to put such trust in him. He told Timothy this:

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

I know many young people like to quote this verse but not many actually do anything with it. It is great to read it and to be encouraged by it but it is even better to put it into practice. The only way you can do this is by a complete, and I mean complete, surrender to Jesus. So many young people are distracted by their own false sub-culture. They get caught up in fashion, entertainment, friends, even education. They lose sight of the greater values of faith, love and family. A complete surrender is when we come to realize that there is nothing greater than Jesus; when we "sell" everything we possess to follow him. Consider what Paul wrote to his friend.

Set an example in speech. The words you choose to use say a lot about what is on your mind, in your heart and what you are allowing in through what you read, listen to and watch. Your vocabulary is often the result of your environment and your entertainment choices. When you spend the majority of your time hanging out with Jesus he will become your greatest influence. Your vocabulary, the kindness of your words, the priorities you show in your speech, will all reflect this. May I add, the stuff you blog about, that you re-blog or re-tweet is an extension of your speech. I follow a lot of Christians on Tumblr and you would be hard pressed to believe that some of them were followers of Jesus by the things they include in their re-blogging. Set an example, not for the world but for fellow believers. They need some good examples.

Set an example in life. What is life to you? What is it's purpose? What is your attitude toward it? Understanding this will impact what you do with it. We are only here for a short time and we are here as servants. Servants operate in obedience, doing what they have been instructed to do. Servant's are not here for their own pleasure and enjoyment. You must realize that our reward is in the life to come but here we must work hard and in boldness, to present Jesus to those who are lost. Acts of kindness are important but our higher calling is to testify concerning Jesus and to make disciples. This is life for us, not to be thrown away on pleasures but to be invested in the lives of the lost. Set an example for the believers.

Set an example in love. This is a big word in a teenagers life. It is a big word in an adult life. It is a word that is abused and it is an emotion that gets trampled on. The fact is Jesus has defined love as a willingness to lay down our life for someone. He then tells us to love our neighbour, to love our enemy. He also tells us that this love must be of the same quality as his love for us. Wow! Have you studied 1 Corinthians 13? Have you considered the cross? Is this how you would define love? Is this what you are living every day? As long as we allow ourselves to be injured by offenses and seek revenge for what is done against us, we know that we have not yet matured in love. Love is constant sacrifice and giving without any expectation of getting back. Love is pouring ourselves into the lives of other people, especially into those who hate us. Love is giving up everything for the benefit of other people. Set an example for the believers.

Set an example in faith. This is a big one considering that most people don't even know what faith is. Faith is beyond belief, it is actually acting on that belief. Faith is being certain of what you cannot see. Faith is stepping out into the dark, trusting that what Jesus said is true. Faith is not words alone but words that provoke us into action. Faith is doing and being. Faith is taking God at his word and living our life according to that word. Faith is leaving behind everything that makes sense in the natural and striking out on a new path that very few people can even see, where we speak to mountains to make them move, where we walk on the water, where we give sight to the blind, give hope to the hopeless, heal the sick, raise the dead, pass through the dark valleys while singing and dancing to the Lord. Go beyond belief and enter that realm of faith in action, which pleases God. I will tell you this, faith without cost is no faith at all. Set an example for the believers.

Set an example in purity. Sex is what probably jumps to mind but purity is more than a physical thing. It is a lot of what I have already written. It is a purity of spirit, soul and body. Our spirit is where God speaks with us and where we worship him. We do not want to allow anything to pollute this part of us. We do not want to introduce any idols, including self in this place. Keep it pure, for God's use alone. Our soul is really everything that makes us human. You may think of it as your personality and it includes your intellect and emotions. The Word tells us to keep our mind and heart fixed on things above. These two areas are so open to other influences, we need the Spirit's help to keep our soul pure. Being careful of what we allow in goes a long way. Stop watching movies and shows that we know do not honour God and use sin as entertainment. Then there is our body, which often follows the lead of our heart and mind. Your body is no longer yours, it was purchased at great cost. Honour God with it by keeping it pure. Sexual sin and and abuse to the body are the most devastating sins as they are done inside of us, they go in deep and are long lasting. Set an example for the believers.

You want to live your life for Jesus? Then stop sitting on the fence. Stop trying to keep a foot in both worlds. Stop living a double life. Go for it. Dive in the deep end and give to Jesus every aspect of your life, the whole thing. Set an example for believers in what it is to live a passionate life for Jesus, especially living by faith. Don't fit into the crowd of believers who are going in the wrong direction. Instead, set an example as Paul has told Timothy to do and consider this:

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (Timothy 4:16) 

You have no idea who you are influencing by the example you are setting, so make sure it is an example you can be proud of when you stand before the King of kings.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Concerning The Ministry Of Healing

The enemy has been very successful in deceiving us when it comes to the matter of God's healing. We are prepared to accept salvation for our soul but we are not prepared for the simple matter of God healing our body. We allow the enemy to convince us that God is somehow glorified in the disease of his saints. God has glorified himself in the salvation of the sinner and he does the same thing with the healing of disease. It is amazing how many Christians rise up against this message when it is brought forward. Yet Paul writes:

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

So many people are willing to come up with all kinds of scripture to support their stand against God's desire to heal the body but few are willing to seek the scripture that supports this teaching. What a terrible negative bunch we are, trying to come up with excuses to support our lack of faith. Lots of scripture is flooding to my mind right now but I am going to keep this short and limit the amount of scripture I use to make one small point about the healing authority Jesus has given to us. Let's begin with Romans 5.

People use this verse to point out God's desire to use our suffering for our benefit:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Sounds great and the enemy has used this to keep us blind to the truth. Because we are so weak in our faith and our responsibilities in this world, those of us in North America have no idea what it is to suffer for the Name. So we substitute this suffering for disease and financial problems. Disease is a fact of life in this world and so is financial problems due to our own fault or someone else`s. But this is not the suffering Paul is referring to here that God uses to build us up. Look over at Romans 8 now.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

So again Paul brings up the idea of suffering. Now listen to what is considered suffering for our faith:

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (Romans 8:34-35)

Do you see it? There is nothing about disease here. Paul is speaking of suffering for our faith, when we actually get outside of our comfortable churches and "do" the Word of God, when we actually live by our faith. Opposition comes and we must persevere and in that perseverance he builds our character and such character houses the hope in us that is Jesus Christ.

Come on now, if Jesus told us that we can speak to a mountain and see it leap into the sea, don't you think that disease is an easier thing to deal with? Do you think he gave us authority over only a few demons and maybe a couple of diseases? Jesus gave us the authority to do all things through him. For man this is impossible but with God all things are possible.

The difficult thing is to have faith to receive. Without faith we cannot receive. Jesus did not heal every illness in the land but he did heal everyone who came and asked. We do not have because we do not ask. We have no expectations so there are no results. We have to change our mind, have it renewed so we are no longer living by the patterns of this world. To God be the glory.

Hey You! The One Sitting There In The Dark. What Are You Hoping For?

Who you say you are and who you think you are can vary greatly from your actual reality. If we want to discover who we truly are we need to notice how we react in an emergency. It is amazing how emergencies bring out our character and the things that are really in our heart. We say we are a people of faith but when something tragic or dramatic happen to us, what is our first reaction? Is it to turn to a friend for help? Is it to run to family? Is it to run to the doctor or to our credit card, depending on the type of emergency? Or do we pray, trusting that the promises are true and are applied to us and our family?

It really depends on how you answer this question: Where is your hope found? I know, it sounds like a dull and drab question but I want you to ponder it for a few minutes, right now. Are you dependent on your parents, spouse or perhaps a friend? What is your back-up plan? Are you reliant on your education, your intelligence? Perhaps it's your beauty that you hope will always put you on top? It is amazing how we so easily fall into this trap, finding something that seems to be more concrete and accessible than our hope in Jesus Christ.

It is a shame when we start relying on other things than Jesus Christ. Everything else is temporary and in a constant state of change. Relationships change and evolve. The people we thought would always be there for us move out of our lives. Finances rise and fall with a whim. Jobs are anything but stable in this age. Governments come and go, laws are changed, society's values change. Our youthful beauty is lost with time, or at least the appearance of such shallow thoughts of beauty. Even our intelligence fades with age and those degrees become dusty and outdated. There is only one constant in this world and his name is Jesus Christ. His love and promises forever stay the same.

Paul wrote to Timothy:

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:9-10)

If you are relying on anything or anyone else you are going to face heartache, but if your reliance is on Jesus Christ then your life will be forever filled with his joy. That is not to say you will not face difficulties but you will discover that his joy never leaves you when you, in faith, push through such times. We are more than conquerors because Jesus has overcome everything. It means that no matter what we face we can overcome it because he has already overcome it. 

Don't just say that you trust Jesus and love him dearly, live it every single moment of your day. He doesn't just give us hope, he is our hope. He gives us strength and power to overcome all the schemes of the enemy. He has given us authority to chase away demons, to heal the sick and give sight to the blind. He has given us such a great hope so that we can show the lost his great light in all the dark corners of this world and in their lives. We are not a defeated or suffering people. May Jesus be glorified in our lives as we push through everything to break out into victory with this living hope we have discovered through God. When you can honestly say that Jesus is your everything and you are willing to lose all other things in your life, then you will know what is real hope.


Monday, February 20, 2012

It's Not Always Easy Being A Pastor

To some people it looks like pastors and elders have an easy life. They get to spend all day studying God's Word, praying, writing and visiting people without any concern about anything. But the fact is pastor's and elders are possessed by a mother's heart, always caring for, praying over and tending to those who have voluntarily placed themselves under the servant-leadership of the pastor and his team. All of their days are filled with people and the desire to see them grow and mature in the Spirit.

Sometimes this means needing to correct or warn people when they are in danger or taking the wrong path. Most of these mistaken paths lead to danger and even death. But it is hard to bring correction to people who are free to come and go as they wish, who are under that servant-leader voluntarily, which means they can leave any time they want. The mature stay where they are because of their resolve and the immature tend to run away. Regardless, because of the love of Jesus, pastors must warn those who are going astray. If the person hasn't hardened their heart and is not overcome with pride, a simple warning is often enough so that the conviction of the Spirit pulls at the heart and they turn back to the Lord.

Often we forget that preventative medicine is best. Physically, if we eat well, exercise properly, and get our proper sleep we will prevent a lot of diseases. We will not need to see a doctor except for our annual check up. If pastors would occasionally spend some time on preventative care it may save many heartaches. It is what Paul was telling Timothy to do, warn people of the danger before they fall into the trap:

If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. (1 Timothy 4:6)

Then Paul warned Timothy about a few things as preventative care. Remember that Timothy is young compared to Paul but Paul had left him there to oversee the ministry in Asia Minor with Ephesus as the hub. That was a lot of responsibility and would be a busy life. Paul loved his friend who had shared many of his journeys and who had remained faithful to him and to the Lord. He gave him some good instruction that is also good for us to apply:

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. (1 Timothy 4:7)

There are a lot of godless myths and old wives' tales circling around the Church these days. A lot of practices that we are leaving off, such as prayer, Bible study, and fasting. These activities bring us into a closer relationship with Jesus but instead we fill the time with music, video teaching and fellowship. There is nothing wrong with these last three but a steady diet of it without the more important relationship building tools will leave us weak and susceptible to deception and abandonment.

Instead, Paul tells Timothy to train himself to be godly. He tells him:

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:6)

Some of us who are older understand the value of physical training. It prevents illness and disease, it keeps the body working well, it helps us remain mentally alert, it allows us to have energy, keeps us active longer, we sleep better at night, and the list goes on. Physical training is of some value but godliness is not only valuable for this life, it is something we will take with us in the life to come.

Godliness is to have the character of Jesus and we can train for it by understanding the character of Jesus and desiring that character. It is an amazing spiritual law that, as you step forward in that thing you want, God transforms you into it. If you desire to love like Jesus, even though we have no such love in us, when you start doing what he did in love, the Spirit fills you with that love. As you desire to be like Jesus, taking the first steps, allowing the Spirit to correct where you need correction, the fruit of the Spirit, which is the character of Jesus, starts being produced in you.

The training is the studying to know and then acting on what you know. What you lack the Spirit gives to you. Let me give you an example. I have been studying a lot about Jesus' love and the apostles understanding of this love so it is much in my heart to possess this love. But this love is not for us, it is a fruit of the Spirit for the benefit of other people. The other night I made some soup and salad for my family for supper. I did a kind thing and made my wife her favorite soup separate from the rest. As we sat down to eat my pregnant wife told me that she was turned off from her favorite soup and would prefer what the rest of us were having. Unfortunately, what the rest of us were having was my favorite soup. Having just finished a lengthy fast I was really looking forward to this soup. As quick as a flash the Spirit said "And this is love". I reached out and switched our bowls of soup. When my wife protested (because she loves me), I was honestly able to look into her eyes, smile a big smile and say, "I love you", which settled the matter. I was training myself to be godly. The Spirit was my coach and my enabler.

This is the thing we can never forget: we are not in this alone. It is not like Jesus gave us our assignment and then pushed us out of the airplane to fight on our own. We have the Holy Spirit, who is much more than a companion and a corrector. The Holy Spirit is our enabler. He makes it possible to do and be what, on our own, we would never be able to achieve. He is our coach, guide, helper, corrector, and enabler.

He uses godly men like Paul and Timothy to warn us away from danger, to encourage us with the Word of God, and to guide us when we feel lost. He also uses the Word of God as we study and grow. He uses our time of prayer to speak to us, to correct, to instruct and guide us. He uses worship to draw us into God's presence so we can give our offerings of love. He encourages us through the fellowship of believers. He reveals deeper things as we are instructed by men and women of God. He helps us in our godly training to become more than we could ever possibly imagine. He helps us take our pastor seriously when he has to bring us words of warning and correction so we do not continue down the path of destruction.

I don't know about you but I for one am very thankful for the gift of the Holy Spirit as I continue to train myself to me godly. We also need to be thankful for the pastors and elders who God has surrounded us with; men and women who love us enough to practice preventative medicine as they warn us away from the things that could destroy us. Send them a note today to tell them how much you appreciate them.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Seek The Baptism Of The Spirit Of God

Sometimes I get a bit frustrated from the lack of complete teaching we find in the Church today. We are so busy wanting to build our churches by fitting in to society that we are compromising on the powerful mission of the Church. Some people will point to the growing population of the mega churches and say that we are doing a good job. Sure, we are doing a good job at growing churches but not of increasing the Kingdom of God. It is not our responsibility to grow churches but to grow followers of Jesus. There is a difference.

Most churches today do not or cannot operate in the Spirit because most of them do not go beyond the baptism of repentance. We have forgotten there is more to it than John's baptism of repentance. There is Jesus' baptism of fire, of the Spirit of God. It is necessary for us to have this in order for us to operate in a way that pleases God. I want to give you three simple examples. There are more but I want to give you only three so you can be equipped to expect more from your relationship with Jesus.

When Peter was sent by the Spirit to the gentile home of Cornelius, he didn't know what to expect. According to the Law Peter wasn't even allowed to enter his home but he had a vision from God that told him not to refuse to minister to Cornelius. Meanwhile, having been told by the Spirit to expect Peter, Cornelius had assembled his entire family. Read what astounded Peter and convinced him that God was calling the gentiles too:

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. (Acts 10:44-46)

Now previous to this, apostle Philip was travelling about by the direction of the Spirit and ended up in Samaria. There he started stirring up quite the fuss and many people became disciples of Jesus. The Church Council in Jerusalem heard about this and sent Peter and John to investigate. When they got there they found people professing Jesus but they were lacking one thing:

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17)

Now let's skip to a much later time, when Paul was about to hit the height of his ministry. He had already traveled through Ephesus but it was a rather rushed visit because the Spirit would not yet allow him to visit Asia Minor. I guess things were not quite ready for Paul to visit but when the Spirit finally released him to come into the area we read this:

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
   They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
   “John’s baptism,” they replied.
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-6)

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an optional thing, it is required as a disciple of Jesus. The Word clearly shows that we need the Spirit in order to serve God in a manner that pleases him. Now many Christians have received the Spirit without understanding it and have never been trained in how to operate in the Spirit. Along with the baptism of the Spirit we need to bring this training back into the Church.

John the Baptist said that he baptized with water but the one to follow him would baptize with fire. Jesus said plainly that he had to go so that he could send the Spirit. The Church was given birth when the Holy Spirit fell on the 120 disciples who were gathered together. The entire book of Acts explains what the Spirit enabled the believers to do. Yet today, we are satisfied with the baptism of repentance because we want to "fit in" to society. We claim what we read in Acts was just for a "season". We deny the offices of the Apostle and Prophet because we do not want spiritual accountability as pastors. We are handcuffing God and sinning against him because we refuse to live the full gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is my prayer that the Lord will send a fresh wind and fresh fire through the Church; that we will stop trying to please him with our flesh offerings and begin to serve in earnest through the Spirit of God. It is my prayer that this generation will rise up in the power of God, to operate in the Spiritual Gifts we have received and turn this world upside down as we did in Jerusalem and the rest of the world as the disciples of Jesus operated in the Spirit of God. The baptism of repentance is a good thing but it is only a beginning step. The real life begins with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If you don't know anything about it start asking questions. If you have received this baptism but have received no training in the Spirit start asking questions. The time for the new revolution is now.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Radical Christianity Exists On Faith Alone: Are You A Radical Christian?

Can we talk candidly about faith? We talk about a lot of things but one of the basic things that we take for granted is not all that often touched on. I know there are a lot of things that are said about faith but I am not sure that we grasp the profoundness or the importance of this thing. It is something we don't find a lot of even though we have so many mega-churches growing in the world.

The writer of Hebrews stated:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Paul stated in his great letter to the Romans:

"Everything that does not come from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23)

Jesus often corrected his disciples and listeners with the term, "You of little faith". An example was when Peter started sinking into the sea. Jesus reached out:

“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

According to Hebrews 11 faith is the absence of doubt:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Confidence and assurance of what we do not yet possess. This is faith. Faith goes beyond simply believing. It is not good enough to say that you believe in God's existence. It goes beyond just worship. James wrote:

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:19)

The Word states that faith goes beyond believing. Faith is when we believe what God says is true and act on it. James possess the question:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? (James 2:14)

And then he gives us this response:

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is uselessWas not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. (James 2:20-22)

He also gives us this conclusion:

You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

So you can see that faith is required to please God and any action we take without faith is sin, but faith requires us to act on the promises and commandments of God. Such as when you see someone needing help and you only have a few dollars which you need for lunch. Faith is trusting God when he says he will supply your needs and taking the decision in faith to act on the commandment to love your neighbour. That is the faith that James talks about, the faith that Jesus demonstrated to us.

The good news is that God does not expect this type of faith to pour out of you in bucketfuls, at least not to start with. Jesus gave us a very simple lesson about faith:

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Luke 13:18-21)

Faith never starts off in large quantities but the quality matters. Faith must be without doubt, even if it is a small thing that we act on in faith. It starts off small like a mustard seed. That seed, that first act of faith , will grow and become something of great significance that others will benefit from. Just like the small amount of yeast that is mixed in the dough, it will spread throughout our being, becoming part of our character, affecting every aspect of our lives. But is starts with one small action as we step out on one of the commandments or promises of Jesus.

By it's very definition faith requires action. Without action faith is only a belief that sits dormant in us and has no effect whatsoever. But faith is like a seed that is planted, that will grow and become so much more than we could have imagined. It will grow to the point where we can act on every promise and commandment of God without blinking an eye. We will cause mountains to leap just by walking into the situation. The sick and injured will be healed just by touching us. We will become such people of faith that others will be encouraged in their faith through us. We will have consistency of faith just as the dough has the consistency of yeast throughout.

We cannot please God without it. Don't claim to have faith and in the next breath speak words of doubt against God's promises. If we believe then act on. Proclaim the name of Jesus in the darkness and in the storm because you trust his promise of rescue. Reach out to address the need of your neighour even though you are in need yourself because you believe the promise of God's provision. When you pray over the sick believe that they will be well because it is the authority Jesus promised to us. Believe and do not doubt. Believe and take action. Live your faith and you will please God.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

You Say You Believe, But What Exactly Do You Believe?

There certainly is a lot of stuff out there on the Internet. You could spend your life just surfing, reading, watching and learning. But what would we be learning? There is a lot of information on the Internet but not all of it is worthy of your time and not all of it is true. Checking out the source of this information is crucial in what to accept as truth and what to cast aside as false. This is as true about spiritual matters as it is about health products. You need to look at the source.

The Spirit of God revealed many things to apostle Paul and one of those things is the age in which we live. Paul warned as he wrote to Timothy:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (1 Timothy 4:1)

These deceiving spirits and things come in all kinds of forms, not just false biblical teaching. One of the biggest things is the teaching that God does not exist in the first place. There is a lot of deception found in the sciences, in philosophies, in the matters of life that we come to accept as basic tenets of living. When we hold up a number of things that the world puts forward as basic human rights these days we see how they pull people away from the teaching of the Spirit of God. Two very simple things that spark a lot of hatred and debate when they are brought up in polite company: the woman's right to decide and homosexual rights. I have no doubt that the "right to die with dignity" will soon be added to the number. One really has to set aside their faith in God in order to promote these rights because the Bible is very clear on where God stands on these issues.

Paul tells us that these things are taught by demons and people are lead away by deceiving spirits and these things are promoted by people who have completely cut themselves off from God:

Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:2)

The frightening thing is that there are many false teachings, things that take our kids away from Jesus, being taught in the classrooms. Even the students with the strongest faith find it hard to avoid the indoctrination that is taking place every day. Even parents, who are weak in their faith and knowledge, who don't have time for Bible study and prayer, who simply attend church once a week, come to accept these things as truth. They aren't there to protect their children, to help them overcome these threats, to put those demons to flight.

Godliness is under a huge attack right now as preacher preach against hell instead of warning people from it. There are so many churches that have embraced the acceptance of homosexuality, common-law marriages, abortion, just to name a few things. It is common to hear now that Jesus is not the only way to the Father, that there are many ways. Bibles are being promoted that marry Islam and Christianity together. Instead of being based on the solid rock of Jesus Christ, parts of the Church are being blown about by the waves of popularity. Leaders are not leading but instead are taking the pulse of society and adapting to it. Craziness, but the Spirit warned Paul that these days were coming.

Skipping ahead a little bit in this chapter of 1 Timothy 4, Paul encouraged his friend and fellow worker to remain diligent in his study and teaching:

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

My friends we must pursue godliness. Our greatest desire must be to become like Jesus. He has to be our only hero, the one we want to be transformed into. As we study his life we discover that he was not a big fluffy teddy bear as many picture him today. He was rough with people sometimes, he spoke the truth without apology and he dealt with what was most important. He always spoke the truth no matter the cost. He spoke the truth because those who God loves need to hear the truth in order to live.

Paul told Timothy to watch his life, how he was living. Are we living the Word of God at all cost? He told him to watch his doctrine, make sure it is the Word. Are we living the Word of God or someone's opinion on that Word? We have to read and study for ourselves. We need to know the overall plan of God and the purpose of it. We need to keep everything in this context and we need to pursue godliness based on this, to become just like Jesus. Paul told Timothy to persevere in the truth of the Word and in godliness because it wasn't just about him. We are all people of influence. What we say, what we do, what we believe has an impact on the people in our lives. We have to make sure we are living the truth or we will end up having a negative impact on those we love. Check yourself and what you believe to be the basic tenets of life. Check them against the Word of God and the teaching of the Spirit. 

There is a lot of information and teaching out there. Check the source! Make sure it is the Word of God as revealed by the Holy Spirit. Watch yourself out there, there's a lot of deceiving spirits and demon teachings.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Would You Consider Yourself A Godly Person?

How are you doing today? Things okay? How would you describe your journey so far? Any confusion? Is everything pretty clear? How are you handling the draw of this world on your flesh? Any mixed messages happening there with your fellow Christians? The battle can be pretty hard sometimes when we are surrounded by so many tempting things. The world can appear really attractive and we can get pretty tired of trying to stay on the right path but the desire for godliness has many rewards, including eternity. But what is godliness?

We are going to look at godliness in greater depth next week but for now let us summarize it by saying it is us becoming like Jesus. It is us being transformed with his character. Some have referred to it as "a pursuit" of Jesus' character but only in the sense that it is our desire. It is where we turn our back on the character that is produced in this world because of our desire for Jesus' character. It is when Jesus becomes more important to us than anything we could pursue in this world. If godliness is the working out of Jesus' character in us then it would help to know the character of Jesus.

We all know that Jesus is loving and compassionate but that is only part of his character. I am going to give you a four point summary that simplifies the character of Jesus and that allows you to put all that he did under these descriptions:

- Jesus was* completely committed to our Father.
- Jesus was entirely dependent on the Spirit's enabling. He did nothing without the Spirit.
- Jesus loved others.
- Jesus proclaimed the Good News wherever he went.

Read that over a few times. This is a good summary of Jesus' character but it is not exhaustive. It allows us to see in a nutshell what that character should look like in us. Ask yourself:

- Am I totally sold out to Jesus? Is there anything else that has my attention, time, talents and heart?
- Am I completely dependent on the Holy Spirit to enable me to do all things? Is there any part of it where I trust in my own abilities, money, opinions and ideas?
- Do I love others with sacrifice, considering their needs greater than my own? Do I only love according to convenience, when it suits me, when I feel like it and as long as it is what I want to do?
- Do I freely share the Good News about Jesus and the Father's plan for salvation? Do I proclaim freedom to the prisoners? Do I shed light in the darkness for people to see? Or do I keep the Good News to myself in the fear of offending someone?

Interesting isn't it. Funny, it wasn't my intention to write any of that. I just wanted to point out what Paul said to Timothy. Godliness is not a natural ingredient found in us. It is something that must be produced in us by the Holy Spirit but we must desire it. Like everything in the Kingdom we must first desire it before we can have it. We must desire salvation to be saved. We must desire godliness to be godly. There is only one source of godliness:

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
   He appeared in the flesh,
   was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
   was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
   was taken up in glory.
(1 Timothy 3:16)

That mystery from which godliness springs is the great mystery that the Father has revealed to us. Once we were blind but now we see so very clearly the Son of God, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, Jesus the Christ. He is the only source of godliness and it is to be like him we must desire. As we allow that desire to grow in us the Spirit will enable us. We will become more like him as we journey through this life for the purpose of developing this character.

When I asked how you were doing at the beginning of this you may have measured your response according to the standards of this world but that is not what I meant. How are you doing in your walk with Christ? How are you doing in this "pursuit" of godliness? Where is your heart right now? Are you completely and entirely committed to Jesus Christ? Are you completely dependent on the enabling power of the Holy Spirit? Do you spend your days loving others as Jesus has loved you? Are you so convinced and excited about Jesus that you have to share the news wherever you go? That is what I meant when I asked "How are you doing?" So, how are you doing?

* "was" refers to the three year ministry period. Jesus was, is, and forever will be. Jesus has always been, being one of the three in the Godhead - God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

She Is Radiant And I Will Defend Her To My Death

I have never kept secret my thoughts on the modern Church but I am also one of her greatest supporters. I think we have been messing around with God's design to make it more acceptable and understandable to society. We have recently been basing everything on a business design, including the way we market the Church. We are less demanding of people, watering down some of the gospel, removing hell and other things so we become more attractive. We have set up our own system of governing congregations, different from what Paul describes. We have allowed the Church to evolve into a charity, a place of good works and government subsidies. In some situations we have turned her into a harlot as she dances to the tune of those who provide her funding.

God designed the Church, the Body of Christ, to be a power house of righteousness, a place where mercy, grace and love are administered. She is a hospital, caring for the broken and battered. She is a house of prayer as her members release the power of God to effect change in people and the world. She is a house of warriors and a training ground for those who are new and old to the fight against the darkness. She is a place of the "all consuming flame" of God, where people learn what it means to be born again. She is a place of worship, celebration and support. She is family, where we encourage brothers and sisters to continue on, to press on, to go to the end of the matter. It is never about stars, spotlights, showcasing and always about moving forward in our fight against the enemy who just wants to destroy everything God loves. She is a place of redemption and infilling.

There is plenty of graffti that we have written all over this wonderful Bride of Christ but I believe the Holy Spirit can wash all of that away. I believe that as we seek God's face and call out for the Spirit to renew the Church, all the chains and shackles we have attached to this radiant Bride will be cast aside and she will rise up in the power Jesus has adorned her with. I am not of those who get disgusted with what they see and walk away. It is impossible to have life outside of the Bride. We have been joined to her, are members of her Body, responsible for her beauty and her care, receiving our sustenance through her. It's as is described in Paul's letter to Timothy:

If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)

How can anyone walk away from God's household, the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth? The Church is not an option that you can disassociate with just because you do not agree with something. The Church is not a lose association of like minded people who get together once a month to discuss a vague agenda. The Church is not a country club, a curling club, golf club or any other sort of club that you can just transfer your membership. The Church is the Body of Christ, which you automatically become part of when you accept Jesus Christ and are renewed in him. No options, it is automatic. If you are not part of the Church you are not part of him. That is God's design.

So those people who decide the Church is too full of unrighteous people and they no longer want to be part of it are too immature to know fact from fiction. Only the spiritually immature believe it is possible to have fellowship and growth in Jesus without the Body of Christ. They are self-delusional to think they do not need the "pillar and foundation of truth".

My eyes are wide open, I know there are problems and non-biblical practices. I know that I am also part of the problem and so are you. Our duplicitous lives, our corrupted thoughts, our selfish nature, our prideful thinking all contribute to the graffiti we paint on this beautiful Bride. But I also believe in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. I believe that God brings in correction. I believe the Church is the Bride of Jesus and the Groom is not going to allow his Bride to be tainted. I believe there will be a wave of holiness that will sweep through, a wave of correction that will spur on growth in righteousness. I believe it and I want to be part of it. It occupies my prayers and my actions. It is the desire of my heart that Jesus will once again be glorified to the nations through us, the Bride of Jesus. I trust it is so because that is what the Word of God says to me.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Am Telling You, Jesus Sent Us Out With Power

I think we too easily forget who we are in Jesus Christ. We get so used to the rules of this world, the natural laws, the restrictions of our flesh that we forget that we are more than this. Have you read the gospels? Have you read the life of Jesus? Do you know who he is?

Let me tell you, Jesus was 100% man and 100% God. However, he set aside his divinity so that he could take our place. Oh, he was/is divine but he did not avail himself of these powers and privileges. He walked, lived, worked, slept, ate just like we do every day. When he hurt himself he felt pain. If this is true then how did he do the stuff he did? Good question.

You see, those who really don't know anything about Jesus simply believe that he was a good man who taught about love. They say he was a great teacher that had far greater insight into love than most people today. They put him on the same level as Gandhi. But that's because they don't really know anything about Jesus.

Jesus came to cast out demons and preach the good news. He had to get rid of the demons so people could receive the good news. Right there people start freaking out and walking away. Christians today don't want to hear it because they don't want to defend it. But that is exactly what Jesus did. Read it for yourself.

Then our compassionate God could not walk around in the suffering of mankind without responding to that suffering, so when the first person asked for healing Jesus responded from the love of his heart. Then it became a sea of requests as a suffering humanity discovered the compassionate heart of God. How did Jesus do all this if he had limited himself to his humanity? Can't only the divine do this?

Go back to where Jesus stepped away from his life in the world and presented himself for baptism. It wasn't just water Jesus was baptized with but the Holy Spirit as well. As Jesus came out of the water the Spirit of God descended on him and it was by the Spirit of God that Jesus did all these things. Why? Why would he set his divinity aside and operate in the Spirit?

There were a few reasons but the one I am addressing here right now is that he came to set for us an example of what it was to live by this same Spirit. Jesus promised this same Spirit to us and told us we would do even greater things than he did. When he left he said he was leaving so he could send the Spirit. After he left the Spirit came upon the believers and the Church was born. The book of Acts is not the Acts of the Apostles but the Acts of the Holy Spirit because it was by the Spirit they did all these things. Have you read it? It's out of this world. Nothing there about being stuck in the confines of this place. No patterns of the world found in these chapters.

Why am I telling you this? Because we have forgotten, in the trappings of this world, that we are more than this. We have forgotten that Jesus told us to live by the Spirit of God. We have forgotten that the epistles of the Apostles tell us to live by the Spirit of God. We forgot that we are God's glory and he wants to operate through us in power so that the nations will see his glory.

Instead we set up churches to sing songs, entertain people, give out food and clothing and operate like any other charity would. Meanwhile we have the resurrection power in our blood to cast out demons, heal the sick and raise the dead. Jesus first gave this authority to his 12 disciples (Luke 9). Later he gave this same authority to the 72 (Luke 10). Finally it was given to all believers with the giving of the Holy Spirit at the birth of the Church (Mark 16).

There are far too many skeptics walking around disguised as Christians. Either we believe the full gospel or we don't believe any of it. Jesus said it is all or nothing. Too many Christians are calling Jesus a liar. Too many are saying that only parts of the Bible are true. Too many say that the sink can't be healed, that the dead can't be raised, that there are no such things as demons. They say the only power we have is to live a good life. Wimps is what I call them. No spiritual muscle to them at all. No wonder this world is becoming a darker place as the Church fails to bear the Light who is Jesus. Jesus was more than a teacher, more than a statesman, more than this world deserves. We are more than teachers, more than statesmen, more than this world understands. Go ahead, read it for yourself and see if I am lying. Ask the Spirit to open your eyes and you too will see it plainly enough. God has filled us with his power to reveal his glory and he has sent us out to do it. Go ahead, open your Bibles and read. See for yourself.

And hurry up because we have a lot of work to do!
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Are You Hoping To Become A Leader?

This may seem like it has nothing to do with you but leadership in the Church is something we should all be concerned about, especially because we seem to be doing it wrong. Sometimes we act in the Church as if leadership is a dictatorship, not meaning that it is run by tyrants but instead that people feel they have no choice. When it comes to leaders and followers there is always a choice. No one is ever forced to follow anyone; it's a choice if we submit to that leadership or not. But even then I think we are using the wrong vocabulary in the Body of Christ.

I don't even like using the word "leader" in connection to the Church because we only have one Leader who is Christ, who directs us through the Holy Spirit in us. The pastor is not a leader in the sense that we have leaders in the world. He is not the head of the church, Christ is. It's not even "our" church; it belongs to Jesus. Maybe we may own the building but the "Church" is his Bride. The pastor and elders are there as trainers, teachers, guides, helpers. They are responsible for making sure we understand the Word and do not head off on some strangely twisted teaching. They are there to help us understand how to mature in Jesus, to train us in spiritual works so that we become productive members of the Body. Do we see that happening?

The most difficult task for the pastor and elders is to bring in correction because it has to be done right. It has to be done in a way that encourages the believer to make right choices for the Lord. It should never be a thing of punishment and vengeance. The pastor and elders should be of such incredible spiritual maturity that they are able to handle such matters in the Spirit without killing any of the sheep. I became a pastor at the age of 28 and I feel I was not mature at all. I know of pastors who started much younger and had even less spiritual maturity. Praise God for his grace.

Perhaps this is the reason Paul found it necessary to give Timothy some guidelines in the selection of elders. I don't like that some people use this as a law, eliminating grace from God's plan in his calling of under-shepherds for his children. If this was a law that was put in place then Paul was disqualified from being the servant-leader he was. He tells Timothy:

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (1 Timothy 3:2-3)

Can we say here that he must be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, a born again believer? You would think that this would be a given but basically what Paul is telling Timothy is an elder must have spiritual maturity to take up this responsibility. I know a lot of Christians, Jesus lovers to the core, who still have struggles they are working out. This is a daily submitting to the Spirit that they are learning but have not quite grasped yet. They are still young and needing to mature, but they are getting there. They do not qualify as an elder simply because they have not matured to that point yet.

Then Paul strikes on something that has caused a few of us to give pause and wonder if we are now disqualified as elders in the Body of Christ:

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) (vv. 4-5)

Does this mean that every pastor, every elder has the perfect family; that all his children are well behaved and walk around in shirt and tie? Hardly. That would remove the sin nature from children. Children will be children, always pushing the limits of the boundaries set by their parents. Only Jesus can cut off the root of that nature but salvation always remains a personal choice. No one can force salvation on someone, not even on children. Now, depending on personalities this pushing will either be a private thing or a very public. So what does Paul mean by manage? We have responsibility as parents to train and correct our children. If we allow them to run wild without correction, if we fail to instruct them in the Word and in the love of Jesus, if we are so busy with our own lives that we don't have time for our family, then we have not been good managers.

There are those who look at a pastor who has a rebellious teenage son and say that he is disqualified as an elder and must resign. I vehemently disagree and call those people immature in the Word and in the Spirit of God. If this is what disqualifies a "man of God" then should God not have to resign as God? Did he not lose "control" of Adam and Eve, and did this rebellion not plunge the entire human race into a state of rebellion? Ridiculous! God has done everything he can to love and correct this entire race. All we can ask of pastors and elders is that they do the same. What they are willing to do for their family speaks well of what they will be willing to do for the church. When you want to understand what Paul is talking about think of the priest Eli and his two sons.

Now Paul really hits the nail on the head:

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. (v. 6)

The type of leadership Jesus called elders to requires maturity, a great deal of spiritual maturity. A guy may make a great and wise business man but that does not make him spiritually mature. Someone could be a great musician but that does not mean he is spiritually mature. Someone could be flowing in the gifts of the Spirit, but it does not make him spiritually mature. Spiritual maturity is found in those who have discovered that love has no limits, that grace is abounding in Jesus, that they are the least and everyone else is of greater importance. Maturity is found in a servant heart and that is what is required for pastors and elders. If you think you have it you probably don't.

I have been a pastor for 20 years now and I am still sorting through some of these things. I am only now grasping the heart of the matter of servant leadership in the Body of Christ. After all this time I am only now beginning to see the real leaders among us and they are not always the ones standing behind the pulpit. I am seeing a lot more clearly what we have done to God's plan for the Church, what we have done with our "leadership" training, and the business practices of the Church. I am now only falling to me knees in repentance, seeking the forgiveness of the Lord and asking for the grace to move forward in his design. Twenty years to get to this point. I just hope I am a faster learner over the next 40 years so I can get more than two more lessons in.

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