Tuesday, July 31, 2012

You Don't Have To Be A Mechanic To Drive A Car

We are a strange people who love to complicate simple things. There is nothing as simple as being a Christian. Sure, in the depth of what God has done for us there are some incredible things to be understood. If you study theology you will discover some very long words that describe some deep truths. Following Jesus and studying theology is like being a driver compared to a mechanic. A mechanic understands how a car works but it doesn't mean he can drive whereas a driver just enjoys the car. Sometimes, in an effort to understand the car mechanics can lose the joy of driving.

Here's what we have to do to drive the car:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)

I love what the Spirit did through Paul, revealing the deeper things but also keeping it simple so we can just enjoy the car. Let's review the elements to being a Christian.

First and foremost you have to start with Jesus. There is no other way to be a Christian, part of the Body, a member of the Church. A number of churches no longer require its members to profess Jesus, only asking them to lead a moral life. They fail to teach that without a personal relationship with Jesus we have nothing. It starts with Jesus.

Second, accepting Jesus is great but we have to continue with Jesus. It is not a one time decision. It is a daily decision to be in a relationship with Jesus, to have fellowship with him, to keep him as Lord, to obey his Word and to follow his direction. The only life we have is the one we live in Jesus and without him we have no life. We can't just say "I accept Jesus as my Saviour" and think we have bought an insurance policy for the afterlife. When we accept Jesus we enter into a relationship and a lifetime of service.

Third, we must be rooted and built up in Jesus. It means he is our only source of everything. We send our roots deep into His Word, we absorb our sustenance in prayer, we drink deeply in worship. As we grow closer to Jesus we also realize he is building us up, changing us, increasing us, transforming us into what he needs us to be in this place. What we are today is not what we will be in a month, year or 20 years from now because we experience constant growth. Jesus is our source for all things, not this world. We seek wisdom and knowledge from him, not this world. The Kingdom is not based on the principles of this world but instead on the principles of our King.

Fourth, we must allow our faith to be strengthened by Jesus. Often we think we have to have faith, which we do, but Jesus said it can be as small as a mustard seed. We just have to take the first step. We have to be willing to get out of the boat, like Peter. We have to speak to the mountain believing it will move. We just have to speak the words, we don't have to move the mountain. It is Jesus who does it. He increases our faith, lending us whatever portion we need. He comes along side and strengthens that little seed of faith so it becomes a powerhouse that moves mountains, causes the blind to see, raises the dead and gives chase to demons. We just have to have that seed to take the first step and Jesus strengthens it to do the rest.

Fifth, we must be overflowing with thankfulness. Some of us can't even be thankful let alone overflowing with it. A Christian knows and appreciates everything Jesus has done, is doing and will do. We realize that despite our circumstances here, what we have in Jesus far outweighs them all. We realize just how rich we are in Jesus and it keeps a song of praise on our lips. We are so busy counting our blessings that we don't have time to complain. It is with a heart of overflowing thankfulness that the sweetness of Jesus is able to dwell and permeate the work of our hands.

Simple, right? This is how we enjoy driving a car even if we don't understand all the mechanics of it. In this simplicity great things have been done in the authority of our King by people without education and privilege. Simple people who made a simple decision and kept making it every single day of their lives. Simple people who moved mountains and hearts and moved entire cities by a simple act of faith. That's all that Jesus is looking for, simple people who know what it is to be a follower of Jesus. You don't have to be a mechanic to know how to drive the car.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Throwing Pearls To The Swine

You and I both know there is a lot of crazy stuff on the Internet. It is almost laughable that people will scoff at our belief in Jesus, in a omnipotent God, in the Creator of all things, and yet believe the stars can tell them what their day will be like. There is also the strong belief that man is responsible for his own salvation. This in the face of the fact of man's history of violence and destruction. People still deny the truth of our slavery to all the wrong things, even the though we have kept a good record of all these things we have done.

It is important in a world of instant information that we get our facts from a reliable source. In an instant I can find the best banana bread recipe, how to fix my toilet, the latest Olympic medal standings and the meaning of John 3:16. It's amazing but not all sources are based on truth and fact and that is extremely important to understand. There are a lot of opinions and half truths kicking around the internet.

This was Paul's concern even in his day, that those who were young in their faith would be led astray by fine sounding words and arguments. He expressed this to the Colossians:

I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. (Colossians 2:4)

There are a lot of people who love to debate and, as far as the world is concerned, they are good at it. They are great at arguing, especially when they are not willing to allow us to use the Bible are our authorized source. But that's where we make our mistake: We try to present Jesus as some kind of history project. We present him in the same way that a Muslim presents Mohammed or someone speaks of Gandhi. The presentation of Jesus is ineffective if we are just trying to use fine-sounding arguments:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

We keep using words and leaving out the power. Jesus is not a dead historical figure but a present, powerful Saviour who changes and transforms lives. By his authority we heal the sick, bring sight to the blind, cause the lame to walk, cast out demons. Or at least we should, but we don't do much of it these days because we keep leaving aside the very real power that is Jesus, King and Lord over all creation. But even when we do use this power in us, the resurrection power, it doesn't mean we don't use any words:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
    no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
    what God has prepared for those who love him” 
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:6-10)

Therein lies my point. We cannot present Jesus as this world presents things and we cannot argue with the supposed wise-men of this age. Jesus is not a formula or a methodology as the world understands it and actual understanding comes via the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It is by the anointing of the Spirit that we know and understand Jesus:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Presenting Jesus to a person without the Spirit is fine because we do it in the power of the Holy Spirit, with signs and wonders, through a demonstration of God's power via words of knowledge into a person's life. However, we do not argue Jesus to a person without the Spirit because it is throwing pearls "before swine". They just trample those pearls into the mud because they cannot understand the value of them. People need to know Jesus beyond words, they need to see him manifested based on the Word of God.

Elegant words and fine-sounding arguments can be taught in Bible Schools and through formal education but the power of which Paul speaks only comes through the Spirit in us. We need to spend more time learning about the Spirit and how to make ourselves open to him. We need to learn to surrender ourselves so he can work through us. We need to stop with our human effort to save the world and become free agents of the Holy Spirit, spreading the power of God to the darkest regions of this world. The wisdom of this world cannot match the wisdom of our God, so it is time to set aside the pretty words, stop listening to the logic of this world and present Jesus through the Spirit in us.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Do You Need To Hear Something Positive Today?

One of my great concerns about us as a people of God, as a Church, as followers of Jesus, is that we are so leader oriented. I wouldn't say that we worship our pastors and worship leaders but there is a bit of the world in our attitude. The world likes to elevate people to a demi-god position. Look at what we do to actors. So George Clooney can act, does that make his political opinion more important than yours? So Oprah Winfrey is a good interviewer, does that mean she knows what she is talking about spiritually? We do this to people who are no better than us, lifting them up, making them famous and important, and then treating their opinion as if it is based on some kind of special insight or wisdom. Part of this creeps into the Church.

We are looking for heroes, people we can follow, people we can quote, people we can trust and believe in but we do it for all the wrong reasons. In the Church there is no one more important than anyone else but there is respect. We respect those who are called into positions of leadership. We respect them because it is a difficult place to serve, not because they are better than anyone else. There are all kinds of callings and positions and they are all important to make the body function. We respect those who are called as the servants of the Body because it is a right thing to do, because the Bible tells us to, which means it is what God asks. But don't get it wrong.

We get it wrong when we start losing sight of the purpose and we start making the person more important than who we are in Jesus. We get it wrong when we see one person's calling of greater significance than our own or of someone else's. What is important is our purpose, the mission we were given. What is important is the Head of the Body and what he directs us to do, everyone of us, so we can work together to see the body function as it should.

There are two incidents of this in the Bible that really stand out for me. The first is found in Numbers 11. Moses had brought 70 of Israel's elders together. He caused the Spirit of God to come on the elders and the elders prophesied. Yet there were two elders still in the camp, not with the others, and the Spirit came on them as well and they prophesied.

Joshua, who had been Moses' aid since he was young, took great exception to this. He felt it took glory away from Moses and he told Moses to stop them from doing it. Joshua was making Moses more important than this thing that God was doing. Thankfully Moses was a mature leader and refused such temptation from his admirer:

“Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29)

A leader called by God does not want to keep to himself the secrets or blessings of the Lord. He doesn't want his name to shine in lights. He doesn't want to be lifted higher than anyone else. He wants all of God's children to have what he has and to eat from the blessings he has received. We find this same scene played out with Jesus.

In this case it was the disciples who wanted a sense of being a special class. They were privileged to be picked by Jesus and they wanted to preserve that for themselves. In a sense they wanted to be the elite, belonging to a priesthood, having the inside track, part of an inner circle. They had it all wrong. Jesus had only called them so he could train them to go out and train others, to train the entire world. But the disciples had seen someone casting out a demon in Jesus' name and they stopped him. They actually stopped him. How easily legalism creeps in. Jesus corrected them in the same manner as Moses:

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:39-40)

Later Apostle Paul would run into the same problem with the Corinthians. They were dividing themselves into who they were following, causing conflicts, not unlike the doctrinal fights of our day. Paul had to tell them that one leader was no more important than another and each had his place and purpose and the only one who mattered was Jesus.

We need to get our perspective back in order to be doing what we need to be doing. It is great that there are people like me who are called for a specific reason in the Body of Christ, but there are so many more callings that are equally important. It is great that we have people who are given the gift of preaching, teaching, writing, singing, playing music but we need all the gifts to shine not just a few. Where are those with the gifts of encouragement, prophesying, healing, wisdom, knowledge, miraculous powers? Why have we allowed these to fade while placing special honour on others?

My friend, we need you. We need you to stop living in the shadow of your brothers and sisters and to shine in your calling. We need you to grab hold of your gift. I said your gift, not someone else's. Grab hold of that thing and give it all you have to serve others with it. There is no elitism in the Church, no priesthood because we are all of the royal priesthood. As Paul wrote:

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

This is much longer than I intended to write but I want you to understand, you are important to Jesus, to the Church and to me. Please, throw off any ideas you had on leadership as understood in the world and start to think with your spiritual mind, the mind of Jesus. Be who Jesus has called you to be, and shine for his glory. I need you.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

When God's Provision Is Not Enough

It is amazing how the complaining spirit spreads among us. We could take the most positive person we can find, stick them in a crowd of complaining people, and by the end of the day that wonderfully positive person would be a complainer.

Many of us do not think we complain against Jesus. We look at the Israelites coming out of Egypt and we can't believe what complainers they were. We think we would never complain against Jesus that way. Too bad there isn't a recording of some of the things we say so we can go back and listen to it. Just the fact there is so much personal debt in North America shows what complainers we are as we tell God, "What you provide isn't good enough. I have to go borrow money to get what I need". We look in the mirror and complain about how we look. We complain about a lack of friends. We complain about our job, our school, our teachers, our boss. In fact, what don't we complain about? And those complaints are against God, our provider and the director of our path.

You never thought of it that way, did you?

Imagine if there had been such a thing as credit cards in Moses day, as he and the Israelites followed God in the desert. Then again, they had all the gold and jewels of Egypt, so it wasn't a lack of money that was their problem. Instead it was a lack of restaurants, farms, fishermen. In fact, in the desert it was a lack of everything and the people complained. Perhaps their complaints were a little more legitimate than ours, a people who have the convenience of everything. All the Israelites wanted was some meat.

Moses got in on the act of complaining as well. He was complaining against the Israelites. They were wearing him down with all their complaints so Moses turned to God to complain. But complaining does a terrible thing in our relationship with God; it destroys our trust, hope and faith. As God told Moses that he was going to provide meat for the nation for a month, Moses stumbled.

After being part of all those plagues in Egypt, after walking through the divided sea on dry ground, after eating the manna al these days, after all he had experienced with God, Moses' reply seems a bit ordinary:

“Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?” (Numbers 11:21-22)

God's response is one of mercy, grace and patience. It is a response we would do well to take note of as we fray God's nerves with all of our own complaining:

The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.  (Numbers 11:23)

Is God's arm too short for you? Is he too small to take care of you? Maybe he has gotten too old? Perhaps he has over extended himself? Maybe he is a God who changes his mind? Perhaps he is too inconsistent? Well, just so you know what kind of God has promised to take care of you, who promised to be with you always, who promised you peace and rest, who promised you his love, let me tell you what he did for Moses and the Israelites to give them the meat they complained about:

Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. (Numbers 11:31)

Yes indeed Moses, God will do exactly what he said. Yes my friend, he is faithful to his promises. He will do for you exactly what he has promised. Stop complaining and wait on the Lord. His arm is not too short. He does not lack the resources. He is all that he said he is. Now trust him. He loves you. He will take care of you. He is investing in you. He has called you. He will equip you. He does have a plan for you. Just listen and obey. He is saying to you, "You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you".

Friday, July 27, 2012

Keep Moving Forward

We often forget that our life here is a journey filled with purpose and learning. In a sense, we are never out of the classroom. Everyday Jesus is presenting us with new lessons as we slowly make progress in our goal of maturity in him. We live this life one day at a time but we live it going forward, gaining wisdom from God, energy from Jesus to keep going and with an adventurous spirit.

If life is nothing more than getting by, we have lost the point and will soon lose our way. Our goal is not some grand idea of retirement where we get to play all day. God designed us for work and we are happiest when we are busy at something, and Jesus has given us a big something to be busy at. This journey is always about steps and lessons and we need to be good students.

Apostle Paul always saw the purpose of growth and steps in the things he did. Writing to the Colossians Paul kept talking about purpose:

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love... (Colossians 2:2)

That's a great purpose isn't it? It was always my desire to serve people, to be an encourager, someone who helped others achieve great things. But Paul sees this as only a seed. He saw encouragement and unity in love opening the door to something else, a stepping stone:

... so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding ... (v. 2)

Encouragement in Jesus and unity in love allows us to possess the full riches of complete understanding. A cheerful heart pleases God and practising God's love (not our paled version) gives us the capacity to have complete understanding and all the riches that come with it. If you are stuck in your progress you need to consider whether you have passed the kindergarten class on love. Love is the key to beginning our journey. If you are trying to serve Jesus without love you will not make any progress as you try to press forward. Unfortunately that is where many of us are stuck and we do not even possess the discernment to understand why we are not progressing.

The full riches of complete understanding is not the end of the matter. It is just another stepping stone in our moving forward in our goal of maturity in Jesus. Paul says we need this stepping stone:

... in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ... (v. 2)   

You may say "But I know Jesus". Unfortunately many of us know about Jesus but we don't know him personally. Much of the Church that worships Jesus have never had a personal encounter with him. If we had we certainly would be more passionate about serving him and fulfilling the mission. Far to0 many of us believe that once we are saved it is the end of the matter.

When a child was asked why he fell out of bed he responded "'Cause I fell asleep too close to where I got in". That describes us. There is so much more to Jesus, the Church and our life here than the cross. The cross has allowed us to enter in, to begin the journey but there is greater treasure than this. We need to grow in Jesus, to know him deeply and personally because in Jesus:

... are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (v 3)

Life is a great journey. Each day is a stepping stone in our progress. Life is about growth, about being more than we were yesterday. Life is about getting to know Jesus, becoming mature in him, possessing all the treasures he has for us. You need to learn to love so that you can gain understanding so that you can know Jesus through whom you will gain wisdom and understanding. Jesus is our everything and this world has nothing to offer in comparison. Press on my friend, there is so much more for us to discover in Jesus.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Great Source Of Energy Is Not Red Bull

"What are you doing for Jesus?" That's an interesting question. It's a wrong question but interesting. It is never "What am I doing" but "What is the Lord doing through me". There is a difference in those two things and too many people find it too much of a subtle difference to understand it. But it isn't subtle at all.

Look at how Paul words this to the Colossians:

To this end I labor,struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:29)

There is no doubt that we work hard for the Lord and Paul says that he laboured, even referring to it as a struggle. Is there anyone who ever worked as hard as Apostle Paul did? But take note, underline it, circle it, highlight it with multiple colours as Paul writes "struggling with all his energy".

That's the point we miss. Whatever we do in the Kingdom did not originate with us, is not done with our wisdom, did not come from our mind and is not done with our energy. If it is, then it is not from the King and if it is not from the King it is pointless and we should leave it alone. We forget that we take direction from the King and when we do he provides everything we need including his energy.

Too many of us are struggling with our own limited energy. We pour ourselves into the task, whether it is of our own choosing or from the Lord. We can start off well but then slip into self-guided mood and self-reliance. When we do this we start consuming ourselves. I picture it like a pregnant woman.

Many people don't realize the nutritional needs of a pregnant woman. There are specific things that her body needs as God uses those things to knit that new life together in her. If she does not provide her body with those building blocks the body will start taking it directly from the woman's body, especially the calcium from her bones. To create this life the body is sacrificing itself and will leave the woman in poor condition and will effect her in future years.

If we are not "struggling with all his energy" to complete the tasks we have been given, we are consuming our own energy and we cannot do the King's work with our own energy. We just do not have enough of it. We end up dry, bitter, burnt out. We were well intentioned but ill equipped. We have not been called to just start a task but to complete the task as well.

Apostle Paul recognized the source he had to lean on no matter where the struggle took him, He relied on the energy of Jesus "which so powerfully works in me". And that is the truth of the matter. The King provides the energy, causing it to work powerfully in us, so we are able to complete the task. This energy is provided supernaturally by the Spirit in us. We renew that energy as we renew our relationship every day, through prayer, Bible reading, worship and service.

We are intelligent. We are capable. We have lots of energy and strength. We can accomplish a lot of things when we set our mind and heart upon it. But we cannot accomplish Kingdom things according to Jesus' specifications if we rely on our intelligence, capability and energy. The Kingdom work is beyond us, is greater than us, and needs resources not found in ourselves. Only through Jesus are we able to do all things. It is more than a nice verse to quote; it is at the foundation of our relationship with Jesus.

 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

Learn the truth of this before you become weary in doing good and become another statistic in this epic struggle to bring light to this world.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Goal Of Living

We should only have one goal in life which permeates everything we do. A High School student will have many activities and will accomplish many things in their few short years but in it all they have one goal: to graduate. Everything has that purpose, so they meet the requirements and beyond, so they are then able to move on from High School to do other things. Our life here is similar, where we will have many various activities but they all have that same underlying purpose: to perfect us in Jesus. In other words, so we will become mature in Jesus.

Apostle Paul stated in many different ways that this was the role he was called to, to help people grow and mature in Jesus:

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)

"Perfect in Christ", mature, obtaining the full measure. This is the role Paul saw the five-fold ministers possessing; the trainers of the Church; those who come along side and help us through the Spirit to see more, understand more and make the right steps to maturity. I appreciate how Paul put it to the Ephesians:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Having a pastor to pledge allegiance too or to treat as a demi-god is not the goal. To learn to follow Jesus, to live as he commanded and to become mature is the goal. Pastors and the others are only there to help us understand this goal and to help point us in the right direction, to maturity. It is only in maturity that we are able to attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, and that must be our desire.

Too many of us are making no progress. We are the same today as the day we met Jesus, maybe a little worse. If a student makes no progress, learns nothing, goofs off, wonders the hallways, never attends class, he will never graduate. He has missed the entire point of High School and too many of us are just like that. We are wasting our life, goofing off, still expecting that by some miracle we will reach our goal. But unlike High School we do not gain maturity by sitting in a classroom. Life is our classroom.

Did you notice what the ministers and servants of the church, the trainers, are suppose to do? "To prepare God's people for works of service". We can't just study the Word, it is meant for living. We can't just sit in our churches, we have to be the Church in the world. We are not meant to be trophies on a shelf but trophies of grace on display in the great adventures of life. The Spirit teaches us "on the job", as we are living, experiencing life. In these experiences he is teaching us the practical application of the Word and is working things out in us so that we can grow and mature.

We should be more mature today than we were yesterday. We should have learned something yesterday. We should be looking forward to learning today. Even in our sins and errors, our blunders and mistakes, Jesus is teaching us. Every time we listen to him and he leads us through as overcomers we learn and grow. Every victory we have, every moment we live are opportunities of growth. As long as we are moving forward, changing, growing, learning, maturing, we are living life as Jesus intended us to live so when the day comes, we will be found to have obtained the full measure of Jesus, and are made perfect in him.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We Are A People Of Privilege

What a privileged generation we are. For thousands of years people wanted to know God, wanted to understand his mysteries, wanted a better glimpse of his glory but they only had second hand knowledge. They had to hear about him from judges and prophets. Priests represented God to the people and the people to God but even the priests did not have direct access. They would study, hear stories, follow traditions but they never encountered God for themselves.

Jesus changed all that!

What he has revealed to us and what the Spirit teaches us is what the prophets could only see from a great distance. It would have been like Moses standing on the mountain, overlooking the Promised Land but not getting to enter it and taste its fruit. Revealing the great mystery of God is what Apostle Paul was called to do, the same calling we have:

I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. (Colossians 1:25-26)

Can you believe that? You are greater than John the Baptist. In fact, Jesus said the least of us is greater than John the Baptist. We are greater than David, Elijah, Moses and any hero you can name from the Old Testament. We live in an age that they could only dream of, as we live the great mystery of God. And what is this mystery:

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (v.27)

There you go, the glorious riches of this mystery is Jesus Christ in you. Something we treat so lightly, hardly giving it a thought in our daily routine, is the great privilege and honour of having Jesus in us, something the heroes of old could not even fathom. Could you imagine telling Moses that a day would come when this great God, who he had served and spent time with, who used creation to serve his purpose, who called earth his footstool, would one day dwell in his people? It would have been something beyond his contemplation, and here we live the reality of it every day.

We are a privileged generation but we are not taking advantage of that privilege. We are not calling upon all the resources available to us because Jesus lives in us. We are filled with the power of the resurrection but we are afraid to drive out a cold let alone take on demons. We are afraid to share the gospel of grace to our neighbour let alone declare the glory of God to the nations. We act more like the victim than the victor. Something seems to be wrong here. We seem to lack an understanding of the privilege and authority we live each day of our lives.

If the nations, our cities, our neighbourhoods, our neighbours are going to hear of Jesus' love and grace, we need to start acting like we are a people of great privilege, knowing and understanding the great mystery of God, of Jesus in us. How can we live for his glory if we do not even know who he is and what he has done? How can we live for his glory if we do not even know who we are in him and what we have become with him in us? How can we stand against this storm from the enemy if we do not know the authority that lives in us, giving us strength, courage and grace to fight for a dying world? We are so much more than we hope and realize because of this great mystery of God revealed in us.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Enough With The Navel Gazing

Purpose; we all need one. Without it life seems like a bunch of meaningless random moments going in whatever direction fate pushes us. There is no control. No point. No hope. Without purpose life is about eating, drinking and dying. What's the point?

Yet, in Jesus we are brimming with purpose. We find direction, control and hope. But how detailed is that purpose? How much do we pay attention to it?

Do you have any sense of calling in your life? Do you feel that God has spoken to you and given you specific instructions life? Or are you just living your life and dedicating what you do to him? There is a difference to these two perspectives. In one, God is in control. He is the provider, encourager and the one who equips for the task. In the other, you are in control. You provide for yourself, have to find moments of inspiration and need to find your own training

Serving our King is not always an easy task but it is easier when we have that sense of calling, when we know that this was not our idea, that we have been sent by Jesus. I have no doubt that is how Apostle Paul was able to face all that he faced. He faced it knowing that he was sent by Jesus and thus he had been equipped and was being provided for by Jesus. Paul was called as a servant of the Body of Christ:

I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. (Colossians 1:25-26)

Specifically Paul was called to present the gospel of grace to the Gentiles. This is pretty ironic. Paul had been a Pharisee. The Pharisees were a group of elite Jews who took it upon themselves to defend the way of life of Israel. They needed to because the Greek culture was so dominate everywhere and now they were under the control of Rome. There were a mountain of threats to all of Israel's traditions and religion. This is who Paul had been, the defender of Israel's traditions, keeping all Gentile things at bay. But Jesus called and Paul became something else.

Things change when we are called by Jesus. What we were falls away and we become whatever Jesus needs. Jesus took a Gentile hater and turned him into the greatest defender and lover of the Gentiles. Apostle Paul did it with single-minded purpose, focused, giving all he had to the task because he knew he was called to this task. In fact, he saw it as a commission, charged with this duty to perform. He saw it as a race that was marked out for him and he was running it to win the prize.

So what about you? Do you recognize God's calling in your life?

I know of some people who started off with a distinct knowledge of God's calling and put all their energy into fulfilling it, just like Apostle Paul. But along the way they got discouraged, forgetting that this was not their choice but Jesus'. They allowed themselves to become discouraged and bitter. After serving brilliantly, sacrificing so much, giving without limit, they gave up, blaming others and blaming God. They lost their way and all that they had done lost its value and now they are only empty shells, with no purpose and direction. It is sad.

Now what about you? What is your purpose? What has Jesus called you to do for him? Are you commissioned by him or are you simply dedicating to him what you have chosen to do? You really need to understand the difference. Are you running the race to win the prize or have you gotten distracted and chosen a different course?

Our time is short. We can't afford the distraction of navel gazing. We need to get focused and give our all to the task to which we were called. Let's make sure the King finds us busying at the work we have been given when he returns to gather us home. Live to please Jesus today and live your life with the energy of purposeful direction, commissioned by the King.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Bubble Is Bursting

Suffering is not something we like to think about and we would rather avoid. Who wouldn't? Many preach against suffering, that it isn't of God and that suffering is a sign of sin. Some see suffering as failure and are utterly defeated by it. But suffering is only natural to a Christian.

I agree that suffering is not of God, as in it is not from his hand, but it is a result of Jesus in our life in this world. From Jesus' own lips we heard the words that the world will hate us because of him. We are not to provoke this hatred as the Word tells us to live at peace with everyone. It also adds, as far as it depends on us. Just because we try to live at peace with everyone does not mean that everyone will want to live at peace with us because the Jesus in us provokes hatred in those who do not want the light to reveal their ugliness. Suffering at the hands of such people is a natural thing in a Christian life.

Now, understand by suffering I am not referring to being punished for doing wrong like stealing. This too is natural but is not due to the name of Jesus. I am also not talking about illness or disease which Jesus has given us authority over. I am talking about when we suffer the actions of others simply because we bear the name of Jesus, like what many Christians are facing in the world today. We live in a tiny bubble of security while our brothers and sisters are shot, hung, beaten, tortured and put on public display. Our bubble will not last much longer.

However, instead of fearing it we need to understand it. Apostle Paul never looked for trouble but as long as he preached Jesus trouble always found him. But instead of fearing it and running away Paul wore it like a badge of honour. Just as the first apostles rejoiced when they were beaten because of Jesus, Paul rejoiced that he was called on to suffer for the Church. To the Colossians he wrote:

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (1)

That sentence may seem a little confusing for you so let me use the paraphrase of The Message to help you understand the sense of what Paul is writing here:

I want you to know how glad I am that it's me sitting here in this jail and not you. There's a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world—the kind of suffering Christ takes on. I welcome the chance to take my share in the church's part of that suffering. (2)

How does that grab you? "There's a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world - the kind of suffering Christ takes on." And what was that kind of suffering? Suffering for the sake of others; suffering for proclaiming the truth. Paul was glad that it was him sitting in the jail instead of anyone from Colossi. He was glad to face whatever suffering he had to as his portion of what the Church faced. He wrote that he welcomed it. It is hard for us to grasp this attitude. "I am glad I suffer and not you." I am sure that if Paul could have he would have faced everyone's suffering for them, his love was so great for the Body of Christ, but he was called only to the portion that was given to him.

We have grown soft in our bubble of security but our unnatural freedom in this world is coming to an end. What we, the Church, has built into society is being thrown off and soon the world is going to look a lot different to us. Soon we will know what it is to suffer for the name of Jesus and I pray we are up to the task. I pray that our faith will hold us firm to our King and, no matter what we must face, we will never deny him. In this world, it is only natural to face suffering because of the Jesus in us. The world hates him because he is the light that allows the dark to see its own ugliness. Don't be afraid, he will strengthen us. Stand firm!

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love. (3)

1. Colossians 1:24, NIV
2. Colossians 1:24, The Message
3. 1 Corinthains 16:13-14, NIV

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Needs Jesus

My wife and I went to see "Dark Knight Rises" last night and I am reminded again that we like our heroes to be filled with imperfections. A man driven by hatred and a need for revenge. They mention "moral superiority" once in the movie but I only saw a broken and depressed man filled with an unquenchable anger, who falls in love with and has sex with every woman who enters his life.

Mind you, the movie was about a hero rising out of the destruction of his depression but nothing was said about his anger being dealt with. Nothing addressed his character. We like our heroes to be dark and full of faults and weaknesses. We always have.

Centuries ago we invented heroes in Greek and Roman literature. We called them gods but they were just like the comic book heroes of today. We had the good gods who cherished mankind and tried to help us and then there were the others who used us as play things. None of these gods were perfect and reflected our own imperfections like jealousy, hatred, and revenge. We were able to identify with them because we created them. No wonder so many of us have difficulty in accepting Jesus.

Those who are imperfect have difficulty believing in perfection. We have difficulty in believing in anything beyond our own understanding. We don't even believe in pure evil. In all the stories told today, the good guy always has a bit of evil in him and the bad guy always has a bit of good in him. It makes for a good story as we are able to identify with both the good guy and the bad. The movies that do depict pure evil are the ones we find the most disturbing, and we should as evil is disturbing. But we have thrown away the idea of ultimate good and evil because we want to believe there is still hope for us.

Yes, there is hope but that hope is found in perfection; in the perfection of God's love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. That perfection is embodied in the perfect man, Jesus Christ. It was only as a perfect man that Jesus could become the perfect sacrifice for our imperfection. It was only when perfection volunteered to cover imperfection that hope for us was born. But in typical human form we chose to see the negative of this revelation of perfection. We chose to hate it because perfection also reveals our imperfection.

When we look at Jesus and then look at ourselves we realize just how imperfect, ugly and distorted we have become compared to what God created us to be. Some of us react to this by accepting God's gift of salvation, entering the path to become again what we were made to be. Others look at the perfection, see themselves revealed in the light and hate the light for the revelation of that truth. Instead they laugh at it, demean it, turn it into a joke, call it a myth, a religion and try to dismiss it from their mind.

Most of us would rather believe in the possibility of a hero like Batman, a man capable of overcoming his personal demons, a man who uses his inner fear and hatred to motivate him to rise up out of despair. We would rather believe in these type of heroes because it means we can hold on to our imperfections and still become something great. We don't want anyone to do anything for us, we want to do it on our own. But this is impossible because the imperfect cannot perfect itself; it cannot do anything for itself; it cannot overcome anything and the darkness of depression continues to overwhelm.

We need Jesus. We need his perfect love. We need his perfect grace, mercy and forgiveness. We need his power to transform us from what we were to what God has made us to be. We cannot hold on to our hatred and revenge because these cannot exist in the new creation that we become through Jesus. We cannot be motivated by the things of this earth and our success only comes in total surrender to the perfection we call Jesus. Our motivation is the perfect love of Jesus because such perfect love drives out fear and covers a multitude of imperfections.

I can be mildly entertained by our present day heroes and I can enjoy the stories of the heroes of literature but there is only one hero I call King, who I admire, trust, love and follow to Hell and back. He is the one who never made a mistake, never sinned, never did anything wrong. He is the one who came into the camp of darkness and revealed my imperfections and then covered me by his perfection. He is the one who gave all he had so I could become everything the Father created me to be. His name is Jesus, the perfect Son of God, my hero and my King. It is because of him that this dark knight rises, overcoming everything that would try to separate from the love of Jesus. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Understanding Freedom Through The Spirit's Eyes

Who or what do you serve? I get a kick out of the fact that so many of us think we are free and that we serve no one but ourselves. The truth is, the only real freedom we have is deciding who or what we serve. Even anarchy is not long lasting and itself will fall into a pattern of service to some form of rules. People like to quote Jesus a lot when it comes to freedom:

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

But we need to understand the context of what Jesus is saying because it is not freedom as some people tout freedom in this world. It is not an anarchist freedom but a freedom from something. It is freedom from a specific slavery that Jesus is talking about:

"I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:34-36)

Freed from the slavery of sin so that we are then able to make a decision who we will belong to. It is a freedom of decision making. As long as we are enslaved to sin we have no freedom to make a choice but by the blood of Jesus we have been set free from the bonds of sin so we can make the choice. However, we are also free to choose to return to the bondage of sin. There isn't a no-man's land here. We will be slaves to one or the other.

Now I don't mean to get all heavy on you on a Saturday morning but too many of us are missing the truth of the matter and we are failing in our relationship with our King because we don't understand how it all works.

First, let's understand what Jesus has done for us and what happens when we choose him:

"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (Romans 6:6-7)

When we choose Jesus we are dying to ourselves and to sin. We are denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following our King. But that does not mean you are free as the world understands it. It means that you are freed from sin. Now listen to what the Spirit teaches us through Paul:

"Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?" (Romans 8:16)

Perhaps that is why we struggle so much, we consider ourselves free agents, not understanding that freedom from God means rebellion against God. Jesus did not make us a free agent but did give us the freedom of who we decide to serve, to be a slave to. And that is how we must see it to understand the importance of obedience:

"You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." (v.18)

Jesus gave us the freedom to choose so that we would have the freedom to surrender our freedom to him. When we give ourselves to Jesus we cease any idea of freedom of choice and make ourselves slaves to his righteousness. Is that a little hard to swallow? Yes, and that is why rebellion persists in us to this day because we have not accepted the truth of the matter; we must become slaves to follow Jesus.

Some would say "but we are children, not slaves", and they are right but we are wrong in our attitude as children. We act as spoiled brats and risk our salvation through the rebellion we live as spoiled children. God does not have spoiled children. He demands obedience and if you are not obedient then you do not belong to him. Obedience was defined by Jesus when he took to the cross even though he would rather have avoided it. Obedience is walking in that righteousness even when we don't feel like it. It's doing the things that please our King even when we don't want to, believing we have no choice as the children of God.

It's so much nicer to see ourselves as children but maybe we are not mature enough for that. Until we learn obedience maybe it does help us to see ourselves as slaves. Understand that Paul only used this wording in order to get us to understand spiritual truths in human terms:

"I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves." (v. 19)

Yes, we are the children of God and we are not servants of the King but his friends. But the idea of children and friendship has lost some of it's meaning over time and is diluted and does not come close to what it meant at that time. So although we are these things, it may help us understand more if we see it as slaves and servants. Then we will begin to understand our obligation of love to our King and the absolute necessity to live a life of obedience to the King, constantly bowing our will to his.

So, again I ask, who or what do you serve? You serve something; it's best to figure that out today.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Don't Overlook This Important "If" Today

There was a time when I was God's enemy. We all were. We lived outside of the Kingdom, in a dark realm, lost in darkness, filled with ugliness and perfectly unaware of how bad off we were. To us Jesus was a myth, an old wives tale to keep children afraid to do bad things. It was a bunch of stories that taught good morals but had not impact on us. Live and let live, we would say. If it makes you happy go for it, we would say to the do-gooders.

We had no idea that every word we spoke, every action we took, every selfish thought we had was an act of rebellion and hatred toward the Creator of all things. Just like people today believe that every plastic bag, each trip in the car, and each factory used is an offence against the idol mother earth, all that we did offended the great Giver Of Life. But we didn't care; we didn't know. All we could see was our desires and the little life we had etched out for ourselves:

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour." (Colossians 1:21)

Yet, somehow, somewhere, God reached out to each of us. He sent some vessel of light into our darkness and so much of what we were was revealed and we heard the invitation to return to what God had created us to be. He who considered us his enemy reached past our rebellion and offered us what we did not deserve:

"But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation..." (V. 21)

Not just forgiven but also transformed to be a new creation; one which is holy to Jesus, without any blemishes and, what is incredible, free from accusation. The enemy can try to remind us every day what we were but Jesus will hear none of it. The King only sees us as holy and without blemish. We no longer have any part with the darkness that once enveloped us and almost killed us, because we are citizens of the Kingdom of light. In fact, we have now been given the responsibility to go out into the darkness as messengers of light, bringing it to those who remain as enemies of God.

Yet, there is an "if" in all of this. It is true, through the physical death of our King we have been made holy, without blemish and free from accusation ...

"... if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel." (v. 23)

Sometimes we act like our redemption is an investment that we stick away in the bank and not worry about until the day comes when we need to cash it in. We treat it like an insurance policy. Yet, our salvation is not dependent on a single act that we have taken or a decision made many years ago. Our salvation is dependent  on a relationship that must stay active and vibrant every day of our life. It is a relationship that must be renewed daily as each day we make the decision to follow the King, allowing him to change us and develop us into the citizens we need to be for eternity.

It is like the parable of the talents Jesus told. The servants who invested those talents and produced more were awarded but the servant who hid his away and did nothing with it, producing nothing, was kicked out. That is a good warning for us. Much has been given to us and much is demanded by our King. What has been freely given to us we are expected to give to others just as freely. We are vessels of love, grace, mercy, compassion, of truth and light. Jesus encouraged us that as long as we remain in the vine we will bear much fruit but if we allow ourselves to be cut off from the vine we will be burned up.

Don't become lazy in your attitude in this relationship with Jesus. Every day seek for it to increase, to become more. Treat each day as a great opportunity to serve your King and receive from him all the resources you need. Be vibrant, fresh and excited with Jesus, don't let it fade or dry up. Every day seek him with all your heart.

"Continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel."

Remember who we serve, what he has done for us, what he has promised and that through him we can do everything. Start this day with a knee bowed to our King, ready to serve at his command. Where once we were his enemies, now we are his lovers, devoted to his every word and will. Let us serve King Jesus well today.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

By His Blood All Things Are New

What kind of leader do you look for? Do you look for good looks and charm; someone who can give great speeches and really stir your heart? Or do you look for the strong, silent type, who, by his or her mere presence, brings confidence to everyone around them? Perhaps you look for character or action; someone with a take-charge attitude? It is interesting how each of us looks for something different in the men and women we choose as our leaders. However, I can tell you with no hesitation, not one of them can compare to our King.

Lord Jesus was worthy of worship before he volunteered for his Father's mission but considering what he accomplished on that mission, all praise is due him. Remember what the Father's goal was and what he accomplished through his son; what he accomplished for us:

"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)

That he did this for us, rescuing us from darkness and making us citizen's of Lord Jesus' Kingdom, is incredible but how he did it is a thing beyond legend. It has become our entranceway to God himself. Lord Jesus did not just come and boss things around or sign some papers or battle an epic battle as we know it. Jesus took on the enemy single-handed, and as leader he replaced all of us with himself and died for us. What general would do that for his troops? What president, prime minister, King or Queen would do that or has done that? Look at this mission again:

"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:19-20)

The only reason we are citizens of the Kingdom, the children of God, a royal priesthood, the Body of Christ, is because of the blood of our King. Words cannot describe the awesomeness of our King and why praise and gratefulness should always be on the lips of his people. Read it again in this way and understand why we call him King:

"And being found in appearance as a man,
     he humbled himself
     and became obedient to death -
          even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
     and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
     in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
     to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8-11)

I am emphasizing this because we need to remember that Jesus is our King for a reason. He bought us, ransomed us, rescued us so that we could be his subjects. We belong to the King, our leader. He did not have to earn our adoration but he has because he did what no other leader could do for us. We do not just sing lovely songs to our King and see our duty fulfilled but we make it our purpose to obey every command and decree of our King, beyond simple obedience and obligation but instead because of the deeper obligation provoked by love.

If you resent the commands of our King, you do not know him. If you look for the loopholes in his commands, you do not love him. Our only response to our King is the response of love which is quick obedience. Like no other, Lord Jesus is worthy to lead and worthy to be followed, even to our death. There is no one like our King for it was through his blood that God reconciled to himself all things, whether things on earth, or things in heaven. Amen!  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Do You Know The King?

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

You believe Jesus. You say that you love him. Good. But is he more than a name to you? Is he more than an idea, a concept, a thought to worship? Do you even know who King Jesus is? Have you met him? Do you know him?

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

Not just a nice guy, a buddy to lean on but the image of God; first over all of creation. Numero uno. Do you understand why all praise is due him?

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

That includes you and me. How terrible to reduce the King of kings, the instrument of creation, the ruler of all heaven and earth, to a concept, thought, idea, dream. He is our everything!

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

When the King calls, we answer. When he tells us to go, we go. When he gives us a task, we complete it. When he tells us that his servants live a specific way, we live it. When the King gives us authority, we have authority. He is before all things in our life. He is the one who holds it all together. Everything must obey the authority of Jesus.

And he is the head of the body, the church.

Not the pastor or the elders. Not Mr. Smith who out gives everyone else in the church, or Bob who has lived through 20 different pastors. We would do well to remember there is only one head of the body and from him we take direction.

He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have supremacy.

Not in some things in your life but supremacy in everything. Superimpose that fact over your life right now and see if there are any gaping holes where you have tried to keep the King out. Supremacy in everything.

Is this the Jesus you believe in? Is this the Jesus you say you follow? Is this the Jesus you claim to have Lordship over your life? Is this the Jesus you bow your knee to? Is this the King you follow into battle every day?

Then our lives need to start reflecting this fact. Something is wrong because the Church is not shining in this world as it should and the only way that can happen is if we are following a different Jesus; one that better suits our choices, lifestyle and desires; one of our own making. But there is only one Jesus and he is before all things in our lives and he has supremacy in everything and he has given us one set of instructions. They are not instructions that have changed with time but are eternal. They were not given in context of culture but exist higher than any culture that has ever existed, including our own. The are the commands given by the King.

Do you understand why the demons shudder? Do we shudder? Do we fear to disobey the King? There should be a fear to disappoint the one we love. We hate disappointing our parents, friends, spouse, co-workers, boss. Why should we not also fear to disappoint the one who we claim to love more than any other person and thing in our life? Is he King? Is he Lord? Is he supreme in our living? Do we live to please him?

We can't be part time followers. We can't be part time servants. The King has called us into full time service. We are on duty 24 hours, 7 days a week. Our lives must reflect the glory of our risen Saviour, our glorious King, radiant in holy splendour, majestic over all creation, and our lives. In him we have life. In him we have found our purpose. In him we have freedom over all that would have us enslaved in darkness. In him we have hope. In him we have discovered love. In him we have the right to be called the children of God, citizens of his Kingdom. In him we have everything. So to him we bow our knee and honour him with the living of our surrendered lives, submitted to the rule of our King.

Do you believe the King? Do you follow him? Will you live to honour him?

(* scripture verses taken from Colossians 1)

Monday, July 16, 2012

I Have No Other King

Do we remember that Jesus is a King? Not just any king but the King of kings? Do we remember that the Father has taken everything, in heaven and earth, and put them under the authority of Jesus, his son? In fact, this is what the Father has done for us in relation to this King and kingdom:

"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)

We have the privilege of being citizens of this Kingdom by the will of the Father and are under the authority of the King. Understand this: the authority of the King. This is important for us to grasp because we act as if the commandments of the King are mere suggestions that we have options in. We act as if he is a distant King and we can decide what we want and act like we want. It is as if this King has never done anything for us and we have no love for him. Yet, it is by our King that we "have redemption, the forgiveness of sins".

I think the problem is that we still worship Jesus of Nazareth. We worship a little baby in a manger. We worship the son of Mary instead of the Son of God. We worship the miracle worker, the teacher, the humble servant. We fail to understand that there was a transformation with Jesus after the cross. He moved from the suffering servant to the King of kings:

"And being found in appearance as a man, he humble himself and became obedient to death -
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8-11)

This is the King who we are subject to. This is the King who we have pledged our allegiance to because we owe him so much. He is our sovereign, the one we have pledged to serve and to obey. He is the King who has promised never to leave us, to be with us to the very end of the age. He is the King who promised that we would be supplied to complete the mission he has given us. This is the King who has given us purpose in his service, who has given us tasks to complete, who sent us out represent him in the darkness we have been rescued from. This is the King who said to us that if we love him we will do what he has commanded. This is the King who told us that we can only serve one king.

I think we forget sometimes who it is we serve. We forget that we are not defined by where we live, our clothes, job, bank account and investments, by our homes and cars, or even by the family we are part of. We are defined as citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ; we are defined by the character of our King. Do you see yourself as a citizen of this world or of the Kingdom of Jesus? Do you live to please yourself or man or the King? When you go to take action on the matter, do you consider what would please our King, what would bring him honour and glory, what would be the right thing to do? Do we do what is right or what is easy?

There is no doubt that Jesus is King and that his sovereignty is over all things. The question is, is he our King? If he is our King then our desire would be to obey him and to complete the task that he has given us. Our purpose in life should be nothing more than to please and honour our King. Our great desire should be to carry out every one of our King's commandments. Every day we should be pledging our lives to this King and using all of our resources to do what he has commanded. Our every thought should be about the King and the Kingdom to which we are citizens.

I will not be defined by this world but by the King who I love with all my heart and who I long to please with my dedicated service in every task I have been given. In my life Jesus Christ, my King, must and will be supreme. And I bow my knee to him every moment of my day, refusing to forget, refusing to let it fade, refusing to let anything cut me off from my Lord. I am in service to King Jesus, who I love, who I have pledged myself to, who I will live and die for. I have no other King!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Motivation Beyond Duty

Last night I was finishing off the dishes before going to bed. It had been a long day. I had worked for 8 hours and had some follow-up work to do. My children also returned from camp so it was great to spend time with them. I also spent some time trying to teach my two youngest children how to ride their bikes in 33 degree (celsius) weather. Needless to say the dishes were the low priority.

My wife is nine months pregnant and is finding it hard to do anything so she had slipped into bed. As I also contemplated bed I surveyed the kitchen and wrestled with the idea of washing the dishes. I was tired but at the same time I did not want my wife waking up to the discouragement of cleaning the kitchen. With the motivation of love I turned my back on my bed and set upon cleaning the kitchen.

I was on my fourth and last drainer load of dishes when my wife emerged from the bedroom. Apparently the kitchen light woke her. She looked exhausted but she saw what I was doing and grabbed a dish towel to join me on my last bit of dishes. I am always glad when my wife and I work together, side by side to finish our goals, but at that moment I felt robbed.

I felt robbed from the glory of completing this entire task on my own. It was a service offered in love and I was glad to do it. What kept me going to finish the task was the delight I knew it would bring to my wife but now I would be unable to say that I had completed this on my own so she wouldn't have to.

Maybe you know what I am talking about. Not everyone does.

I sometimes feel that way about the things I do for Jesus. I enjoy a challenge, putting my hand to something that is bigger than I am. I find great joy in offering up a sacrifice of time and effort to my King. I imagine his voice as I hear those words "Well done". I don't think anything will ever compare to hearing those words from Jesus.

Some people look at that and they misunderstand. They think it is about earning our way to salvation or trying to bribe God with our behaviour. It has nothing to do with any of that. Our salvation is by the grace of God, the work of the cross and can never be earned by us. It is a gift, freely offered and freely received. But such gifts provoke things in people.

The blessing of salvation provokes such a deep sense of love and gratitude for the giver that we gladly pledge our life to the King. We want to spend all of our days serving him, not to earn anything, but to bring him delight, to bless our God. I have no interest in receiving anything from Jesus other than what he has already given and to hear those incredible words from his lips.

It is the same thing that had Paul face and overcome all of his challenges. It is how he took on tasks that were beyond him and why he never backed down from anything. Paul was a driven man however he was not driven by ambition but instead by love.

In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul was explaining to them that he had every right to their financial support. He was an apostle and as an apostle they owed him but he would not accept such support from them. In fact, he would rather die than accept such support because this was part of his act of service to his King. What a joy it was for him to earn his own way by the work of his hands so he could preach the good news with no cost to those who would hear it. Paul says:

"If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it." (1 Corinthians 9:17-18)

Some will understand this and some will not. Some will know what it is to do something beyond the sense of duty, with a desire for nothing more than expressing love. Some will understand why I refused my wife's help last night and gently returned her to bed. It was nothing more than to complete the task of love I had set my heart to do.

It is a joy to serve the Lord in hard times and with challenges beyond me. It is a pleasure to set upon a difficult task, overcoming great obstacles and beating the odds knowing it is something I do in love for my King. I understand Paul when he says:

"I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:15-16)

Compelled indeed. So do not judge another man's work. His motivation may be beyond your own understanding. Check your on motivation for the things you do and press on my friends! Press on in your service to our King! And may your motivation become something greater than duty.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

We Are Called To Something Greater

At one time Christians knew that they were different, set aside from the world, in it but not of it. We understood that our citizenship belonged elsewhere and our character came from God, not society. We understood that we answered to a law far greater, deeper and older than any of society's laws. We understood that the standards of the the Kingdom far exceeded any standards in this world and that we did not measure ourselves against anything here but instead our standard of measure is Jesus Christ. We once understood these things but I am not all that sure we do today.

As I look at Abraham and study his life, I discover a man of great contrast, a man who understood his place in the world and his place in God. Obviously Abraham was a diamond in the rough with a number of character flaws that God was working out but we would do well to consider his attitude in living.

When Abraham walked among men he walked as a prince. As he grew and matured Abraham realized that the blessing of the Lord was on him and he had nothing to fear. This is a great change from the man who used to tell people his wife was his sitter because he was afraid that they would kill him to take her. He ended up to by the type of man who wouldn't allow anyone to take from him what God had given. Consider how fearlessly he went out against the allied kings to rescue his nephew Lot. Abraham knew he was a prince in this world.

Yet, when it came to God Abraham quickly changed his mindset and saw himself as a servant. When the three angels came to visit him Abraham dropped everything he was doing to wait on them. He quickly had the best of his food prepared and he humbled himself before the visitors. He knew everything he had came from the hand of God and he was only too happy to become a servant when addressing God, speaking to these angels with great respect.

I'm not really sure that we see the things of the Kingdom as being holy any more. I am not sure that our attitude toward God is one of great respect and admiration. I know we worship him but I am not sure we treat his commands or the things associated with him and the Kingdom with respect. I am not sure we come into his presence with any form of respect or see ourselves as his servants or consider everything we have to be from his hand. I think we treat men and women of power in this world with greater respect than we do the Creator of all things.

Now look at the respect that Abraham showed those angels. Look at how he spoke to them and treated them. Compare that with how the men of the city treated those same angels. Just look at their behaviour toward these agents of God and the fact that Lot had to try to defend them. The men of the city treated these visitors in the most foul way because they could not see nor understand the things of God. That is the way of this world, not seeing or understanding the things of Kingdom so treating as common what is holy.

This is understandable from the world but what excuse do we have? What excuse is there for living a life that is not set aside for God's purpose? What excuse exists for not seeing our life in service to the King instead of for our own selfish pursuits? If called upon to do so today, would we die for the name of Jesus? If called upon to do so today, would we sell al we possess and give it to the poor? Would we be willing to leave all that is familiar to us and move across the world just because God told us to? Or better yet, would we be willing to share the good news of God's love, mercy and grace to the neighbour we rarely talk to?

We are a people set aside for God's purpose, not belonging to the world but to the Kingdom of God. Our standards are not from this world but from God. Our priorities, goals, and purpose are far higher than anything we find in this place. We are here to wait upon the Lord, to do as he commands and to fear no man. What happens to us here does not matter as long as we are in service to the King. We do not fear anything of this world because the love of Jesus has vanquished all such fear. We are a people who do not identify ourselves by where we were born, the colour of our skins or the language we speak but instead by the blood of the Lamb. We are Christians and by every definition of that name we are different than the men and women of this world.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pleasing Jesus: Joyfully Giving Thanks

So, how are you doing? Is life treating you fair these days? Not likely. If you are like most folks you probably have a list of complaints and troubles. There is so much stacked against us in life that it's hard to see ourselves getting ahead. There is always something to trouble us. If it isn't finances then it's relationships. If it isn't relationships then it is health. If it isn't health then it is the weather. If it's not the weather ... you get the point. Life can be hard and unfair. Or, at least that can be our view point without Jesus.

Think about it for a second; with Jesus our future is guaranteed, he promised the Father is looking after our needs today, he took away our need of fear and worry, and he gave us purpose. Now, if we choose to ignore any of these things and decide to live in misery and poverty of spirit, that is entirely up to us, but what he has offered us should be more than enough for us to maintain a grateful heart. The problem is, complaining comes natural to us.

Even with all these spiritual blessings we still find a reason to complain. We are just like the Israelites coming out of Egypt. Instead of looking at what God has done in the past and what he has promised for today and the future, we decide to focus on the negative, our perceived deficit. You need to understand that this does not please Jesus. God called the Israelites stiff necked when they complained despite his blessings. Jesus called them the same thing and we are no better.

It doesn't matter the thousand things Jesus has done for us in the past; if there is one thing to worry about tomorrow we will worry and with worry we find fear. We always fear the worse even though there is no evidence for it. Just the possibility of something can put us in a spin. One day we are proclaiming the greatness and glory of our God , then the next we are throwing mud at his glory by filling our day with worry and often complaining about it. In truth we are complaining against God.

A grateful heart has no room for fear, worry or complaining. A grateful heart recognizes the supremacy of our God and the things he has done in the past, along with the promises he has made for the future. A grateful heart expresses the joy of our relationship with Jesus. A grateful heart puts today and tomorrow in a different light and keeps all challenges in their proper perspective. A grateful heart allows the peace of God to flow and bathe us in trust. A grateful heart pleases Jesus. We find it in the list Paul gave the Colossians concerning the elements in our life that please Jesus:

... and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritanceof the saints in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:22

I like the word "joyfully" there. It makes me think of a lavish outpouring of praise to our God who has done, is doing and will do so much for us. As the song says, count your blessings one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.I think we are ungrateful and forgetful who need to remind ourselves of what God has poured out on us. Make a list. Keep a note book and write down every time God blesses you. Review that list once a week and you will begin to see things in a different light.

Jesus loves us and is supporting us in the mission to the end. The spiritual gifts that have been given to us are extravagant. Just the fact that we have been forgiven our sins should be enough to keep us praising every day, but there is so much more. All our Lord asks in return is that we keep a grateful attitude in all our days so that our praise will be heartfelt and our relationship with him will remain healthy and strong. A grateful heart pleases Jesus and changes how we see our day.