Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Little Boasting, A Lot Of Pride

It's amazing what a well meaning compliment can do to us. It's nice to be appreciated, to have our hard work recognized, to hear that something we have done has been well received. Years ago, when I considered myself a poet, I loved the feed back I would get from my writing. A bad review would put me in the depths of depression for days but a good critique would give me fuel for writing for a few weeks. I think most of us appreciate compliments but compliments can also work against us.

Compliments have a way of puffing us up, perhaps beyond the reality of our ability. What is appreciated by one person may be frowned on by another. Where one person thinks we are great, another person might consider us "okay". My mom and dad would consider anything I do fantastic whereas a stranger would not have the emotional attachment and may be a little more harsh. In this sense, compliments may distort the reality of our ability. God is practical when it comes to self-evaluation:

"For by the grace given me I say to ever one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." (Romans 12:3)

If we do not try to keep everything in perspective pride can creep in and pride is a powerful destructive force in a life based on the character of Jesus. As the Word of God says, "Pride comes before a fall". When compliments are permitted to move us beyond our ability then we will undoubtedly face a fall when reality comes crashing in. Compliments are intended to encourage us, not puff us up.

The apostle Paul had a simple way of dealing with this. I realize he was often dealing with difficult situations and many people would not have liked Paul, but thousands of others would have appreciated what he did for them. He also accomplished a lot and sacrificed everything. With all that Paul was and did I am sure pride must have come knocking on his door more than once. But Paul dealt with it by looking at everything with the same set of glasses:

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)

We do not share the same values and perspective with the world so compliments should all be re-directed to Jesus Christ. Everything we do and say should be intended to bring glory to Jesus, not us. We can express  our thankfulness for people's appreciation of what we do but we turn it into praise to Jesus for giving us that ability and directing us by his wisdom. Compliments should not take up residence in us but need to be transformed into praise and worship. This is how we maintain a proper perspective of priorities in our life.

We have nothing to boast about as all good things come from above. We can boast about our incredible God, his wonderful plan and the perfection of the cross but compared to that our accomplishments seem pretty insignificant. Everything we have is from the Lord. Everything we are able to do is from the Lord. The success we have is the blessing of the Lord. So where is there room for us to boast? There is none. Praise the Lord of my soul; praise the wonders of his love, mercy and grace! May Jesus remain the center of all things for us.

Friday, June 29, 2012

No Compromise

Everyone wants to be accepted. It is a terrible feeling when you are an outsider or you are made to feel like you don't belong. I have a lot of experience with that, having lived through some very awkward teen years. People look at me now and say "But you are a pastor"; a responsibility I matured into but even as an adult I was socially awkward. Thankfully I had friends who didn't care and I eventually matured in my abilities. But I know that strong desire to want to be accepted and not rejected.

Perhaps that is why so many churches are trying so hard to be relevant in this world. They build their programs around things that will attract people from the world, make the church more likeable, acceptable, relevant in this age. I understand why the leadership is doing this but they are asking the wrong questions and seeking the wrong solutions. We need to first discover the right question and it is not "How do we stay relevant in this world?" Relevancy in this world is not the problem and demonstrates a wrong orientation.

We are not in this place to make friends or to prove our worth to the world. We aren't even here to attract people, that's God's job:

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44)

We were sent to make disciples. We are who we are in Jesus and there is no compromise to make ourselves more attractive to the world. The fact is we do not belong to this place so the result is we are going to look awkward in the world. Accept that fact and move on. We will have people who hate us because of what we do, what we say and who we represent. It doesn't mean we look for a fight; the Bible clearly says that, as far as it depends on us, we are to live peaceful lives. But things are changing so fast in our society now that clear distinctions are being made between followers of Jesus and the world. Our decision is simply which will we be part of going forward.

Paul warned the Galatians away from those believers who wanted to compromise who they were in Jesus to avoid persecution:

"Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ." (Galatians 6:12)

The Word tells us that in the end days many believers will be deceived by the teachings of demons, that they will abandon Jesus but a remnant would remain. I look at our compromising Church, the Church that wants to avoid being seen as socially awkward, the Church that wants to be relevant and acceptable in this world and I fear for those who have begun to follow the doctrines of this world instead of Jesus Christ. I understand that feeling of wanting to be accepted, to be liked, to be included but that is no excuse for abandoning Jesus with compromise.

Never once did Jesus tell us to compromise to save ourselves. In fact he made it clear that the world would hate us and persecute us. Then he told us not to be afraid because he has overcome this world. The apostle Paul reminded us that no matter what happens to us, our encouragement is the reality that nothing can separate us from Jesus' love.

My friend, don't let go of the Word of God, don't let anyone dismiss parts of it or twist what it says. Stay true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, to sound doctrine and run away from those who will try to convince you that the doctrines of this world are acceptable to Jesus. Stay the course of faith, trust God and, no matter what happens in the days to come, keep your eyes on the goal. The goal is not a peaceful retirement with plenty of money to enjoy yourself but it is to faithfully finish the race here so we can enter the rest of Jesus in the age to come.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Keep On Keeping On

Kermit the Frog used to sing "It's not easy being green" meaning it is not easy to be different in this world. As much as our society prizes individuality, it still expects people to operate with a certain mindset. I am not speaking of our society with it's official rules but of the unofficial rules; the rules written by our human nature. These rules are fuelled by greed, self-centeredness, self-preservation, hatred, revenge and such. You don't believe me, then watch the local news for a few days, watch people on the bus, observe the behviour at your local Wal-Mart. In this ocean of selfishness it is not easy to be like Jesus.

There are certain laws and changes happening right now because it is the right thing to do in our society. According to the wisdom of man it only makes sense that our leaders guard the rights of equality among all people. We may personally disagree with the recognition of homosexuality as legitimate behaviour but according to the law of man it makes total sense. However, we cannot come into accord with this because we know that man's logic is faulted and we adhere to the wisdom and direction of God. This is why it is not easy to be like Jesus.

In all of this mess we are told that we are the light and salt in this world. No matter what direction it takes, how much it changes or how dark it gets, we must stay the course, represent Jesus and do as much good as we can in a dying world. We see the writing on the wall, we know what's coming, we know how bad it is getting so we have a responsibility to share the good news of Jesus with as many people as we can. We cannot allow ourselves to become weary in our responsibility.

Becoming weary is a terrible thing. I have a job to help pay the bills while I minister in one of the darkest areas of this world, and if I am not careful I can allow this job to make we weary. I have to watch my attitude, eat well, sleep well, and set goals for myself to prevent weariness. If I allow myself to become weary then I want to quit, I don't want to go on, I even want to run away. It is no different spiritually.

We have a responsibility to stay fresh in a world that hates what we are and who we represent. We have to stay on top of our game, stay in the word, make conversation with God a constant thing, keep worship an increasing part of our day and to be occupied with the work of the Kingdom. These things keep us fresh in our relationship with Jesus and that is the secret to staying the course.

It is not easy following Jesus, being like him, having his character in a world that lifts up other values. We are in contrast to this world and it is only going to get worse. But that is not an excuse for us to slack off or to run away. We need to keep our relationship with Jesus fresh. The Word tells us not to allow ourselves to fall into a state of weariness:

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Galatians 6:9-10)

Don't give up, no matter how difficult it is. Our reward is not in this place but is in the place to come. Don't be surprised when the world hates you and your kindness is rejected. Understand they did it first to Jesus. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, brought sight to the blind, raised the dead and they still nailed him to the cross. Why would we expect to be treated better than that? No, we have responsibilities here. We have an obligation and it is not to this world but to Jesus Christ who loves this world. So, press on my friends; in the Spirit of God, press on!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Real Avengers

I watched a movie last night with my family that followed the predictable plot of hero-gets-picked-on-so hero-gets-revenge-and-overcomes. Many of our movies and TV shows contain this same plot played over and over again with a different background. It seems to be a prevailing idea in our society that when wrong is done to someone they have the right to seek revenge. Yet, I find it incredibly ironic that our society is so stuck on the idea of justice and revenge when God has shown us so much mercy and grace.

It's like the parable Jesus told of the servant and the king. The king brought his servant before him and demanded his loan of a million dollars be paid back to him. The servant did not have the money so the king was going to throw him into jail until his family could pay it off but the servant begged the king for mercy. For some reason the king forgave the debt and let the servant go. However, just outside, the servant came across a friend who owed him $2. This same servant, who was just forgiven 1 million dollars demanded his friend pay back the $2. When his friend couldn't, the servant had him thrown into jail. When the king heard of this he became so angry he reversed his decision and put the servant into jail.

Jesus told us that we are to give as we have received. We have been given love, mercy, grace, forgiveness and we are to live our life in such a way that we are freely giving these things out as they are needed. That is what it means to follow Jesus.

Now I am being unfair to criticize our society for doing something that only comes natural to it. It is a natural thing to seek justice and revenge when we are offended but Christians are far from natural. We are a new creation, natural made supernatural. We now have the nature of Jesus seeded in us by the Holy Spirit and that makes us different from our society. Only, we are forgetting we are different. We are watching so much TV and movies without thinking about what we are watching that we are becoming ordinary again.. We just accept what we see as being normal. It is normal, for the world, not for us. Even in the Old Testament we find this instruction:

"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18)

Much of what Jesus taught had this as it's undercurrent where love prevails over any idea of justice and revenge. Jesus asked us to consider how we would want to be treated if we were in the position of the one who had offended us:

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

I realize it is hard but we are to do exactly what Jesus did. When they were nailing him to the cross, what did he do? He asked his Father to forgive them. It is contrary to the Spirit of God in us to seek anything other than the best for everyone we encounter, including our enemy. It doesn't matter what they have done, we are to forgive them and move on. When we have been forgiven so much, we can't afford to do anything else. Follow Jesus' example and love as he loved us. We don't deserve it you know. We are ugly, smelly and not very intelligent when it comes to God, yet he made a decision to love us, to forgive and surround us with his grace. Think about this the next time you start calling out for justice against someone who has offended you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sometimes I Forget About God

To be perfectly honest with you, there are times where God isn't real enough for me. There are even moments I forget about him. I forget he is right here with me. I know his presence but I forget and my attitude is as if God is off doing something else. When a person's entire desire is to live to please God, it helps to always practice his presence.

To practice God's presence is to have the attitude that God is our constant companion, not to act as a spiritual policeman but as our friend; one who is on our side to see us succeed in all things. We need to know the heart of our Father for his children:

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord,'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11)

But sometimes we behave as if God is blind or is not present. We do things we shouldn't do because no one else is around, acting as if God is not with us. We act one way in front of people and a different way when we are alone, forgetting we are living to please God not people. We have to be careful with this attitude because we are warned that God cannot be mocked:

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6:7)

Everything we do or say is like a seed, whether done in public or private. We are either planting the good things that flow from the Spirit of God in us or the evil things of our sin nature. These things cannot remain hidden for long as the fruit will appear sooner or later. We may think we can get away with it for a while but eventually these seeds will produce and the fruit will be evident to everyone. Besides, we can't hide anything from God.

"The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:8)

We can't hide anything from the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. No one, not family or friend, has been with us every single moment of our life. He knows every intimate detail about us, our likes and dislikes, our love and our hate. He knows our successes and failures, our good deeds and our sins. He knows our thoughts and motivations. He knows and he loves us, desiring for us to mature into the very best character of Jesus. His desire is for us to join him for eternity where we will get to know him so much better, but, there is a requirement. Not just anyone will get in.

We have to know the Son and be known by him. We have to have a real relationship where Jesus is always present with us. We have to turn our back on what we were, take up our responsibility in the Body of Christ and live like Jesus, with the right attitude and action. This is only possible when our life is surrendered and we are living by the Spirit. Surrender isn't something we do once. We have to surrender every day, and especially in those moments when no one is looking and our old sin nature is battling for control. Jesus said we have to deny ourselves to follow him. It is only when we are surrendered that the Spirit is able to guide.

Remember, God is for us not against us but neither can he be mocked. Behaviour and attitude matter as followers of Jesus, and not just when people are around. We have to do what is right in every situation according to God's standards not our own. Practice the presence of God and live, not to please yourself or anyone else, but to please him.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Little Bit Of Practical Christianity

Our idea of Christianity is often so foreign to the Bible, I wonder if Jesus can recognize it at all. Our "organized" religion has made everything so nice and neat; easy to swallow and digest. We have our neat churches with our great programs. We have our often talented and well paid pastors. We have our recording-level worship bands and solo artists. When you step back and take a look at it, it really is amazing. So what am I complaining about? It's not very biblical.

In all our professionalism and largeness we have lost much of the intimacy the Bible instructs us to have. Consider just one simple thing: Tithing. We have made it so simple. Using a calculator, we look at how much we got paid this week, hit the 10% button and, voila, there is our tithe. Only the instruction we received from Jesus and from the Apostles tells us that it is about our 100%, our all and how the Spirit prompts us to use the resources God has given us in supporting the Kingdom work.

Look at this one little verse in Galatians 6:

"Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor." (6:6)

There is no need for this any more because of our tithing system, right? Only this instruction was not so much about providing for our spiritual instructor as it is about us, the givers. This verse is found in a list of instructions on "doing good". This is a personal responsibility we have and it produces something in us as we are generous with "all good things".

Yes, I said a personal responsibility.

Only now, in our "organized religion" we have pretty well done away with personal responsibility except maybe at the leadership level. No one considers it their responsibility to share the gospel, to pray with their neighbour, to go out and feed the homeless, to take care of their pastor or their Bible Study leaders. No, we have a system for all that. Our pastor is taken care of by the church. There is a team trained in evangelism. Our society is looking after the homeless with a system of homeless shelters. All we have to do is attend church, read our Bibles and pray. But that is not how it works with God.

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:14-17)

We cannot allow our "organized religion to rob us of the personal and intimate relationship we are suppose to have with Jesus and this world. We don't run away from the world but run straight to it. We don't live a theory of Christianity but live the practical, "dirt under the finger nails" version that Jesus called us to. We don`t allow the organization to steal away our personal responsibility to follow the instructions of the Word of God. Exercise your faith, take it for a walk today. Share something you have receive`d with those who provide you instruction. It`s not always money you know. It could be an encouraging word you received or some lesson you were taught by a circumstance in your life. Maybe it`s even your pool on a warm afternoon. There is so much more according to the Word but this might be a good first step for you.

It`s time to get Christianity out of the religious classrooms and back out on the streets and in the market place where it belongs.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seeking Individuality In The Body of Christ

We are a society that prides itself in personal freedom and personal expression, to a point. Yet, we seldom break away from groups to "go it alone". If we do leave one group we usually end up joining another. It is easy to understand why: There is safety in numbers.

It is hard to stand out in a crowd, to take an opinion not shared by the majority, to speak up with a different song to sing. If we think differently from the majority of people we often look around for people of similar thinking so we do not feel so alone. It is difficult to develop a society born into true freedom because we must also protect the rights of other people. So, we try to say that we have freedom unless our freedom is bringing harm to another person.

Even then, it is hard to find a truly "free thinker" in our society because we are always comparing ourselves to other people. This is where "trends" come from. We compare our possessions, our styles, our attitudes, our behaviour. Some people will stick to what the majority of people are doing (the trend) and others will fight for individuality but join a smaller group for safety. I don't mean an actual group, but a segment of like-minded people that we identify with.

Now, some people may find it rich that I am writing this from the perspective of the Church which has for centuries tried to get people to conform by brutal force. But many of us disagree with the practices of the Church in the past because God has never asked us to get people to conform to man's ideas of God's will. At the same time it is our drive for independence from God and self-will that has gotten us into this mess. So we need to understand what we are talking about here in the Church, where we see our young people either conforming or struggling to express their individuality.

Jesus was never into conforming because his purpose was to bring about transformation. Conforming often blocks the transformation that Jesus wants to see take place in our heart and mind. We can do very little to change us but the Spirit of God transforms us into a new creation. Now, as this new creation, we have been set free from sin and all things so we have the freedom to individually choose to follow Jesus. No longer do we accept judgement from anyone but Jesus, and no longer are we concerned with comparing ourselves to others. When we compare we tend to conform to the behaviour of that person or that group but the only one we are suppose to be comparing ourselves to is Jesus. We do not imitate a copy but the original:

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5)

Although we belong and are part of the Body of Christ and are thus united by the Holy Spirit, God still sees and treats us like individuals. He has called us each to our purpose which is unique in him. What he calls one person to is not what he has called another to do. What he takes another person through is not what he is taking us through. We tend to compare, conform and not obey what God is speaking to us individually because there is safety in numbers. Paul told the Galatians:

"If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load." (Galatians 6:3-5)

Notice he said "own load" and not "own burden". Just before this Paul was writing how we need to help carry each others burdens. We are responsible to help, support, and encourage each other but we do not have the responsibility to change each other. That is the Spirit's work. Paul warned those who tried to conform people to their own way of thinking and behaving:

"Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (Romans 14:4)

I know it is hard because we are in the rescue business, our Father's business. And I know it is hard when you can see the answer so plainly and others cannot. But life is a journey with Jesus and we are taught different things at different times according to God's purpose. When we try to force a lesson on someone before God has prepare them then we are causing damage. If we judge them without God's transformation happening in that area that we are trying to conform them to what we know. It is the reason we are told:

"We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up." (Romans 15:1-2)

If the Church is in the business of conformity then we are in the wrong business. We have been called to be encouragers, supporters, burden bearers. The Spirit is the one who is in the transformation business and he does it over the period of our life's journey. The only one we are suppose to be watching is Jesus and that is what we should be reminding each other. Get your eyes on Jesus and learn from him. The beauty of the Church is that we are all in different places, at different levels, serving the same Jesus, united by the same Spirit and his love enables us to accept each other as the Spirit works on , in and through all of us. Praise the Lord for his grace.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where Have All The Lovers Gone?

Could you imagine a world where everyone was so concerned with other people, friends, family, neighbours, strangers, that they wouldn't have time to worry about themselves? Maybe not the world, it's too in love with itself, but it is certainly God's plan for the Kingdom. Of course, you know right, that the Kingdom is already here in you and me. God has designed this Bride for his Son to have certain character and part of that character is to be occupied with the needs of others.

It is at the foundation of our relationship with God. Jesus told us not to worry about our needs but instead to seek after the things of the Kingdom. If we are busy with the Father's work then the Father is going to be busy with looking after our needs. It is like a huge "pay it forward", the original "pay it forward". Jesus said,

"Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give." (Matthew 10:8)

Freely we have received from God and what we have received freely we are to give out freely. Near the end of his days, Jesus commanded his disciples:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34)

Pushing it forward. There are all kinds of things that Jesus taught that demonstrate this character of abandoning generosity. I was raised on "Do to others what you would have them do to you". I only wish I had listened. The understanding that we are responsible for each other, that we are to be "our brothers keeper", that, at whatever cost, we help each other. Not when it suits us or is convenient or when we have the finances. Right at the moment of the need, we are occupied with our brother or sister. That is the Church, the Body of Christ, never doing anything that would bring any harm to anyone else, knowing God would not be pleased with us.

So it should not surprise us to find these words in Galatians 6:

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)

What is the law of Christ? To love one another as he has loved us, with self-sacrifice. Christ's love is not cheap; it cost everything. Our love cannot be cheap for one another; it must be extravagant. We are far too reserved. We should smother one another with the affection of Christ.

We have allowed this selfish, sin-centered world to change us. We have allowed tiredness to become an excuse. We have allowed our entertainment and technology to turn us into individuals when we were intended to be a body, united by the Spirit. Our cliques are too homogeneous. Our comfort zone is too small. Our vocabulary is too limited. Our experience is stunted. We have no idea how to love the lovable let alone the unlovable Jesus sent us to love.

Let`s stop making excuses for our failure to obey Jesus and at least be honest with ourselves. We have messed up.

The great news is that with God it is never too late. We can turn this thing around. With the strength and guidance of the Spirit we can be everything God has called us to be. Let`s start by turning away from the mirror. Let's instead turn to one another and love as Jesus has loved us.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Despite The Dangers, Will You Go?

One of the hardest things to do is tell someone about sin. We don't want to scare anyone away from Jesus but we don't want to hide it from anyone either. People need to know the truth. People who are lost in the black hole of sin need to know that these is a way out. Yet, when we talk to them about it, we know we are going to face accusations of judgement and being out of step with life.

It doesn't help either when part of the Church herself is falling into the deception of sin. Parts don't believe in hell any more even though Jesus spoke about it plainly enough. They believe we get to rewrite God's code of what is right and wrong. Of course they do, because the Bible said they would. There is nothing happening now that hasn't already been told would happen. If we read the Bible then we shouldn't be shocked by what is going on. Saddened, even appalled, yes, but never shocked as if we didn't see it coming.

The thing is that God does not give us a way out of our responsibility. His whole mission is to reconcile man to himself which means the sin issue needs to be dealt with. The incredible thing is that God has already dealt with it in what he did with Jesus on the cross. "Paid In Full" is what is written on the court documents but we have to accept that gift from God. Sadly too many turn away from that gift because they don't want to admit they were guilty in the first place, and if we dare try to explain, it is us they hate and not the sin that is destroying them.

Regardless, Jesus told us to go. And we read this warning:

"Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." Galatians 6:1)

There is a difference between those who are busy with the Lord's work and those who are busybodies. Too many people are more interested in seeing the train wreck than they are in rescuing the perishing. People are more interested in pointing fingers and judging than they are in being part of the solution to see salvation and restoration at work. Some people are just out to see people fail and they have no idea what the word grace means.

The reason we need to make sure we are right with the Lord before we get involved in the work of restoration is not so that we can be pious in our attitude but instead so we know what a humbled position we are in. Those who are rescued from this same sin must return to that place in order to tell others about how they were rescued. It's not because we are better or even know better but instead because we know the one who is best and who has overcome every barrier that keeps us from God. It's with hat in hand that we return to our scene of the crime to plead with those who are dying to choose life.

This is why it can be so hard, because we have to trust our God to protect us from what tempts us as we face these things again. Far worse than any danger who have from those we are trying to reach is the danger of the temptation itself. We do not dare go in our own strength or we will fail and rob God of his glory. We must go in the Spirit, clothed in Jesus through whom we can do all things. We don't have time to point fingers and call names. We are too busy doing our Master's bidding; too busy with this ministry of reconciliation as God calls every man, woman and child, regardless of their sins, back to him, the Father of all things.

If they come, we rejoice! If they turn their back, we continue to call out. Jesus Saves! He's the only one who can. Keep up the fight my friends and never give up. Christ's love compels us.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tomorrow Does Not Exist Today

Serving Jesus Christ isn't all that hard. Sure, he told us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow him. Sure he told us to count the cost. Sure he said the world would hate us. Sure he told us that we have to love him so much that all other love looks like hate in comparison. Sure he told us to go to the ends of the world with the purpose of making disciples. Sure he reminded us that he did not even have a place of his own to lay his head and then he told us to be just like him. Certainly sounds hard but that's because we forget one thing: He also told us to live one day at a time.

Our problem is that we are planners and controllers. We invest ourselves in things that belong to this place and not the place to come. We look for consistency. We want everything to stay the same all the time but the only thing that stays a constant is God's love. Everything, and I mean everything, is in a constant state of change. You are not the same person you were yesterday simply because of the things you have seen and experienced since then.

There was a time when change seemed slow and happened over a number of years, or even decades. Now things are sped up so fast that change is the state of being. What is happening in the technology world translates into everything else in our society. What was acceptable yesterday is not acceptable today and vice versa. What was absolutely not acceptable at all in any shape or form is now the newest band wagon that everyone is trying to get on board. This is life.

Yet, God's character does not change. His love is a constant. His promises are written in eternity. He is the same today, yesterday and forever. But he is also constantly taking us through change because we have to change.

He is developing us; maturing us; preparing us for the life to come. He wants us to experience new things; understand deeper perspectives; see with clearer vision. He wants the worship to go deeper, mean more, come from experience. He wants our service to become stronger, more determined, overcoming all things. Bigger, better, stronger are the children of God the more they experience of him. And it is not a hard thing.

Serving Jesus is not hard when we live in the manner he taught us; when we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow his example. Serving is not difficult when we set aside the planning and take it one day at a time. That's the thing, the trick, the secret to making this walk an easy thing: Walk it one day at a time. He told us not to worry about to morrow. He said to live today. We gives us the grace we need for TODAY! He said that we would be like the wind, coming and going at his bidding, because nothing in this world anchors us in place. We are not to get attached to anything except for the one constant in our life, which is God.

It is only difficult when we try to control our tomorrow. It is only difficult when we allow the fear of tomorrow to fill our today. It only becomes difficult when we don'y trust God with our tomorrow and spend today trying to plan for it. Instead, we have to turn our back on tomorrow and say "Today I will serve my God. Today I will be faithful to my task. Today I will worship. Today I will deny myself. Today I will take up my cross. Today I will follow."

Today is all we have and today he has given us strength and grace to serve the Lord.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Please Pray For Me

For ten years God has asked me to blog on his Word and for ten years I have been faithful in doing it. In the last two years he had me blog 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This year some things changed in my life and suddenly there was less time. I set aside the blogging except for once a week. This morning the Spirit convicted me on this point, asking me where my priorities were. Starting tomorrow I must get back to my blogging and I am looking forward to it but … I have no time. Please ask the Lord to give me the wisdom on what must change in my life so he has the highest priority in my life.

Father's Have A Different Purpose Than Mothers

What a sorry tired world we live in when the Church tries to attract men with entertainment instead of challenge. Most men do not want to be pampered but want a challenge to live up to, the very thing God laid out before us. But that is what has gone wrong with the Church. We  saw people chasing after entertainment in the world so we tried to attract them with entertainment, allowing the Church to feed into their selfish nature instead laying down God's expectation and desire of us. So now we try to entertain men, make it fun, but men are doers at heart.

Fathers are different from mothers. Fathers are the ones that make sure that mothers are honoured. We insist on it from our children, training them to make their mothers feel awesome. I love my mom and I am glad to honour her but I understand the importance of it because my father trained me in it. And that is what fathers do. We don't put ourselves in the center of things but instead we make sure things happen. Our reward is not with gifts and breakfast in bed. In fact it is very difficult for a man to allow that to happen because we are the doers, or at least we would be if we are allowed and encouraged to be. Our reward is not our children showering gifts on us but the success of our children in life, love and faith.

We want to be respected and appreciated but most of us have forgotten that men who take short cuts are not deserving of respect and appreciation. This is the day and age of expecting big returns on very little investment. The world is a mess because people think they can invest $1000 and get a million in return. Whole companies have been lost with thousands of jobs disappearing because investors were not receiving enough return on their investment. What a greedy world we have become and the idea of sacrifice is out the window. We have turned men from doers into spectators.

This translates into our relationship with God as well. We have a Cain attitude. Cain got into trouble with God because he did not honour God with his best. His brother Able brought sacrifices from the first born of his flock but Cain brought left overs, keeping the first fruit for himself. Contrast this with Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his son. This was not just any son but represented his entire future, the promises of God. So in showing his willingness to give up his son Abraham demonstrated that he was willing to sacrifice even his future for his relationship with God.

Now we find it hard to sacrifice a mere hour to read our Bible, or pray. We complain in our spirit about the length of worship service and rarely think of giving up anything else for God. And as long as we are attending church we are never challenged to live as Jesus commanded us. Yes, commanded, not requested or even suggested. It is not a portion of our life that belongs to him but the whole thing. He purchased us with the blood of his Son and this is what Jesus laid down as our attitude:

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Mark 8:34

This is what needs to be presented to men and especially fathers. I say especially fathers because fathers need to teach this to their children. Mothers understand sacrifice because they are the epitome of sacrifice. But mothers often what to protect their children and do not always want their children to experience sacrifice and challenge. But men understand that sacrifice is often the backbone of life and is a key part of our relationship with God.

For the Church to be what Jesus has always intended her to be, men must receive the revelation of the knowledge and understanding of sacrifice. It is not that we gain anything from it, because God has done everything we need, but the Body and the world gain through us. It is in a sacrificial life that the world becomes curious. It is in our generous, self-sacrificing love that the world sees Jesus. It is when men set aside their own interest for their wife, sacrifice their down time for their children and give up their golf game or their night out with their buddies for the Church that the world sees that there is a difference here. It is when a man walks the streets of his city looking for the lost, or builds a home for a destitute family in Jesus name, or befriends a penniless stranger that he comes close to the heart of God.

Men who have received this revelation don't ask themselves, "What about me?" because we have already received Jesus' answer when Peter asked him that question:

“We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:27-29)

Enough said. So, the decision is for us men to make. Do we want to have a Cain attitude or an Abraham blessing? Stop chasing after entertainment in the Church and let it become the great halls of instruction, inspiration and worship that she is suppose to be.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We Need More Than After-The-Fact Faith

We need more than after-the-fact faith.

One would think that faith would come natural during a crisis, After all, we spend much of our day bragging about our God, telling people to trust Jesus, that no one loves us like Jesus does. So, it should be a simple thing to look to him for the strength and resources we need in everything that is beyond our ability to cope; but faith seems to be a "last resort" sort of thing for us.

It seems most of us are taken by surprise when God answers our prayers and responds to our crisis.

When we have exhausted all our other resources and come to God with our need, we get all excited that he came through for us, like we just won the lottery or something. It's great to get excited about God's faithfulness but we should be just as excited before he answers as we are after because it is not "if" God answers our prayers. That's the problem, we don't know who we are to God and who he is to us. We need more than an "after the fact" faith. We need the faith Jesus talked about, that contains no doubts about God, and that acts on the certainty of God's love, character and promises. We need a determined faith.

Jonathan, the son of King Saul, did not know Jesus, yet he knew enough about God that he trusted him and acted upon that faith. Yes, I said acted on. He took determined steps before God's hand moved in order to see God's hand move. That's the thing, real faith acts according to the promise not the proof. Anyone can have "after the fact" faith, but it is the one who truly loves Jesus who acts upon the promise.

In Samuel 14 we find Jonathan facing an outpost of an invading army. There was only Jonathan and his armour bearer but Jonathan had enough of a relationship with God that he knew who his God was. He decided to act on that faith and attack that outpost and he said to his friend, "Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few". (1 Samuel 14:16) Jonathan knew his history.

It ended up that Jonathan and his young armour bearer put the entire army to flight. Two men, one with unwaivering faith in the character of God, and we are still talking about it to this day. Determined faith changes everything because it brings God into everything.

Today we have no such determination. Today we treat prayer like the lottery. We buy our ticket and we hope that the odds are in our favour. That isn't faith, that's grasping at straws, an act of desperation and the world knows it. It robs God of his glory and brings no testimony to our lives. This certainly is not the faith that Jesus spoke about and not the faith that calmed the storms, healed the sick, raised the dead or saw thousands fed by a picnic lunch. Faith is a certainty not a lottery hope and a prayer of faith claims the promise today and acts on it, not waiingt until tomorrow, after the fact, to be claimed.

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

Spend some time with that chapter in Hebrews, investigate some of those heroes, read through one of the gospels, look at Paul's life, consider some of the great modern day heroes of the faith and ask yourself if we have anything that even comes close to the faith that acts upon the promises and character of God. Be brutally honest with yourself and ask if you have fairy-tale faith or "stand your ground" faith.

We are heading into a period of history where the real hatred of the world toward the Church is going to reveal it's ugly head and we are going to face a persecution like never seen before. The Church will be purified and those who live by the promises and character of God will survive spiritually. They will be the ones who hold on to Jesus while rotting in the jail cells and facing their death. They will be the ones holding on to their faith when all they possess is taken away by the state and they are classified as second rate citizens or even enemies of the state. If you are a Christian who gets stressed out and fearful over matters such as your finances, school exams, relationships or job then you are in a lot of trouble.

Determined faith looks into the eyes of the enemy and says "Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few". It faces the furnace with no regrets,

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:17)

Determined faith understands its responsibility to do all that we can to stand, and after we have done everything, to stand. Determined faith acts on the promises before not after the fact. Determined faith starts celebrating before it happens not after. Determined faith keeps a smile on our face, peace in our hearts and a calm in our mind. Determined faith says more about our relationship with Jesus than a thousand conversations ever could. Determined faith is the only thing that will see us through the dark days ahead. The writing is on the wall, in the news, on the city streets, as the word "homophobia" because part of the regular vocabulary and is taught in our schools. The storm is already upon us.

Determined faith will see thousands saved from the depravity of this world and us safely home, with Jesus.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Are We Prepared To Face The New Reality?

The world is changing, and so is our society. Things that were done privately, behind closed doors are now being done in the light of day, with no shame. Where once we had a standard in our society, it is now "everything goes". The rights of the individual far outweigh the benefit of society. As we look around we can hear Apostle Paul's response, ""'everything is permissible' but is everything beneficial"?

Yesterday my daughters had the final program for their dance. Normally my wife and I either walk, bike, or borrow a vehicle to get around but yesterday we took the public transport. On the bus I saw a poster that did not surprise me but gave me much concern. Translated from French it said "my sexuality is my business". Later, in the school where my girls were performing, I saw student artwork denouncing "homophobia" and encouraging the homosexual lifestyle. It is very easy to see what is being taught in the public school system. Quite a shift in a very short period of time.

So what are we, the Church, suppose to do? The tide has turned and people are once again disappearing into the dark, retreating from the brilliance of God's love. People are always swayed by the crowd and once public opinion has been changed it tends to swell with people who are carried along. Unfortunately this also includes believers who have not grounded themselves in what Jesus taught. The thing is, we cannot just stand-by and watch it happen because as we do we too will be indoctrinated by a society that has no belief or concern for Jesus. There are some things we need to understand.

God created us so that we have the freedom of choice. Adam and Eve exercised it as did every person we read about in the Bible. We each have a choice whether to face God or turn from him. We know the only one who can save us from our depravity is Jesus so there is no sense in trying to change someone's behaviour until they have met Jesus. The real danger is with those who claim they have accepted Jesus and yet conform to the pattern of this world. Our place in all of this is to be the light that Jesus said we are, to not fear being that light and to live our lives as an example of that light:

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deedsand praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

This will take determination, perseverance and a good dosage of the Holy Spirit to empower us to stand in the face of a society that will turn more and more against us. We represent something that society does not want to be reminded of: that there is a right and wrong and God has set boundaries. They want freedom which God has given but choices and decisions have consequences and we need to remind ourselves and others of that fact. We have to set ourselves before God and not stop seeking his face even as the crowds gather to stone us for the light we represent.

Do we have the guts? Seriously. As our faith begins to cost us, have we been building up the resilience to go the distance? What are our priorities? Are we willing to lose it all for Jesus? Are we willing to stand out, to be different, to teach our children God's definition of right and wrong? Our society is becoming more like what Paul had to face every day and yet he said he had one purpose:

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)

We have a race to run and we have purpose in doing it. Lose sight of that and you may end up losing everything. What do we get if we gain the whole world and yet lose our soul? No, we have to make certain that we stay alive in Jesus every single day, understanding we are called as warriors in a mighty battle that is becoming more evident every day. In order to participate we need to make sure of one thing, that we are daily renewing ourselves in Jesus:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

Just because this world is going to hell doesn't mean we have to and it doesn't mean that we can't rescue as many as we can. We aren't here to condemn, we can't afford the time for such foolishness. Jesus said people condemn themselves by their actions and decisions. We need to be occupied with the light of God, helping people to step into the light of his love, mercy and grace. We need to be occupied by this work that we have been given and stop chasing after the things the pagans chase after. This world needs to see Jesus and they need to see him in you. So stand the ground you have been given, make sure you are wearing the full armour and continue to grow in Jesus, the light of this world.