Friday, August 31, 2012

Not Choosing But Chosen

We who follow Jesus Christ, who are citizens of his Kingdom, who have died and now live through him, are a very blessed people. We need to be reminded of that fact. The reason we need to be reminded is because we forget.

We forget that we are blessed because living in this place, where we do not belong, can cause us to forget. We get busy, distracted, overwhelmed and we forget. We forget who we belong to. We forget we are here with purpose. We forget that this is a temporary thing and the permanent is on the way. We forget to look up.

Over the next few days I want to remind you of the greatest blessings we have received. I want to remind you, in all your busyness of living, to look up. And I am starting with this reminder:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4)

First blessing: He chose us! Yes, so often we think it is us who have chosen him and perhaps that is a reason we get things so wrong all the time. Jesus said:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. (John 15:16)

Remember those words today as you hurry around in the insignificant busyness of your little life. Jesus chose you, knows you, loves you and has appointed you to something bigger than your life. So grow into it.

He didn't just choose you though. Jesus chose you before the creation of the world. Before God called light into being he knew you intimately and he made provision for each day of your life. He knew you and still he decided to go ahead with it. He went ahead with it because he enjoyed the thought of having even the possibility of being with you.

Don't miss out on the important bits here. He chose us for something. He chose us to be holy and blameless in his sight. Not that we could do this but he has blessed us by declaring us holy and blameless. It is what Jesus has done for us. We forget this. We forget that it has already been done for us and we try to do it ourselves. Instead of just letting the Spirit work this blessing out in our life we struggle and fill our life with guilt and shame when we fail.

We can be really stupid sometimes.

Look up!

Realize who you belong to and why. Realize what our King has done for us and why. Realize you have been chosen and blessed beyond measure and you walk around today holy and blameless in his sight. Realize you are more than what you see in the mirror. You are more than all your failings combined. Your failings do not define you. Jesus defines you.

My friend, you are blessed.

Look up!

Be defined today.

You have been chosen and you are holy and blameless.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ignorant Of God's Blessings

You are blessed, child of God. You may be ignorant, stubborn, forgetful, ungrateful but you are still blessed. We all need to be reminded of that fact because we so easily forget in the busyness of our day. In fact, right now we should all take a moment and just say "I am a blessed child of my heavenly Father". It is not that we have one or two blessings but all of them. Apostle Paul writes:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

Praise be indeed! Every spiritual blessing in Jesus has been given to us. Every. We are a rich people

You might be thinking, "I don't feel blessed". That's because we keep equating blessings with physical comfort. But our Father's desire for us goes beyond simple temporary things and he provides us with what we need for eternity. Remember, we don't belong to this place any more. We are here with a purpose which is the mission Jesus gave to us, but other than that our citizenship belongs in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

We need to make that shift. We have to be willing to lose our mistaken value of these temporary things. We need to allow the Spirit to give us the right perspective, focus and understanding. We have to be willing to give up the struggle, to let go, and to let the Spirit do it in us. We need to desire to value what God values. We need to desire to see what he sees.

If the only thing we seek and value in life is our creature comforts then we will not have the taste for the true blessings of God. It is like being raised on fast food all of your life. It kills your taste buds so when you eat a finer meal, something home made and seasoned to perfection, you cannot appreciate and value it.

Many Christians are more interested in God's daily provision than they are in his salvation. They would rather pray for a sports car than they would holiness. They value their large screen TV more than they do the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. What about the fact that our Father has declared us blameless in his sight? Isn't that a blessing more highly valued than the $1000 that unexpectedly arrived at your door?

There are all kinds of temporary physical blessings God fills our lives with that are great. A good wife is a blessing. Lots of children are a blessing. A job is a blessing. Good health is a blessing. As great as these are they only have temporary value in this place. Consider the real value of grace, forgiveness, peace, love, and joy, just to name a few. These are the things are ours every day and that should provoke us to praise our God from the rooftops.

The Church used to sing a song that encouraged us to count our blessings, to name them one by one. The song reminded us that when we take the time to daily remember these incredible blessings it reminds us of what God has done for us. When we remember what he has done then we also remember his love for us and that alone will rescue us from whatever kind of day we are experiencing. The praises of our King will be forever sweet upon our lips if only we can remember what a blessed people we are.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Charged With Disturbing The Peace

It feels great to be the recipient of someone's act of kindness. You drop something and a stranger quickly bends and picks it up for you. Your arms are full and someone opens the door for you. You're tired after a long day at work and a stranger gets up and offers you his seat on the bus. You are short by $2 at the market and the stranger behind you kindly pays it for you.  It makes you feel great about the place where  you live and the neighbours who share the place with you.

If simple acts of kindness make you  feel good then the incredible acts of God's grace must cause you to celebrate all day long.

Perhaps they would if we realized how deep and wide that grace is. It goes beyond the cross of Jesus and into our daily living. It covers our slow spiritual maturity. It makes allowance for the fact that we all start off as spiritual babies, knocking things over, making a mess, breaking things and filling up our diapers. We don't always realize just how much grace we are receiving every day. A baby does not realize how many times his parents forgive him in a day but when he is older he will appreciate it. We too should be appreciating God's grace more as we mature, not less.

Paul wrote a blessing to the Ephesians:

 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2)

It is a blessing to remind the Ephesians what they already possess. It is not a prayer that they would receive but a reminder of what they have. Jesus said he gives us his peace, not as the world gives. In other words he is not taking it back. It is ours and if we do not feel that peace then we should be looking at what we allow to disturb it. We do not have to go looking for peace in some far off desolate place because we already have it in our relationship with Jesus.

It is only logical.

If Jesus is our everything and we are covered by his grace what could disturb our peace? If we feel no guilt and shame because of God's grace, and we have nothing to hide, peace has the freedom to reign. If we are bound to nothing in this world; if nothing holds any value to us; if we are storing away all our treasures in heaven, then peace is what dominates in us. Where there is grace there is peace and we have grace in truck loads.

When we don't trust Jesus; when we are wrestling with our future; when we start putting value in temporary things, then worry, fear, and anxiety will be part of us and they will be the great peace disturbers. Nothing in this world is permanent and fear of losing what we have in this place fills the lives of those who put value in these temporary things.

When we think we have to live a good life to earn our way instead of simply giving glory to God in love, then grace will not exist. As long as we think we have to earn anything with Jesus grace cannot exist. What we do and how we live is not to earn points but is a loving act of obedience. We have to be careful because with an absence of grace there is an absence of peace.

Perhaps that is why Paul chose to start off many of his letters with this same pronouncement of God's great blessings to us. Today I offer you this same utterance, as a reminder of these blessings that should be ever present in our day: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is Your Life By The Will Of God?

Imagine the confidence you would have if you knew for certain that the things you did were the will of God. Imagine the confidence you would have in life knowing that you were living the will of God. Called by God. Directed by God. Filled by God. The Apostle Paul often reminded the targets of his letters that he did what he did because Jesus willed it:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. (Ephesians 1:1)

We know it wasn't Paul's idea. His idea was to chase down everyone who called on Jesus' name and throw them in jail or have them killed. It seems he was willing to go to the ends of the earth to rid the world of these  foolish people. Instead it was God's will to send Paul to the ends of the earth to proclaim the name he was persecuting.

I don't know where or why we lost that sense of calling; that sense of God's will and purpose in our lives; that sense that we are compelled by the love of Jesus. There should be no doubt in our lives of God's calling and choosing.

Personally I think the problem is that most people have never sought the face of God or had an encounter with Jesus. A lot of people were simply raised in the Church and continue to walk in their parents' faith. They have no sense of calling or purpose, just an obligation to carry on the tradition. When I was a kid I heard a preacher say "God doesn't have any grandchildren". In other words spiritually you can not be an offspring of your parents or anyone else. Your faith and experience must be first hand.

Too many people adhere to growing into an awareness of Jesus. Maybe this is possible but the ones who I have met who are the most passionate and aware of God's calling are those who have encountered Jesus. There is that moment when you are suddenly aware of his presence, where you are overwhelmed by his holiness, your ugliness, his love and his forgiveness, all at the same time. It is an incredible moment. A moment that you will always look back on whenever your faith seems weak.

I often remember that moment, almost 30 years ago now, and I am strengthened in the remembering. I am strengthened because I am reminded that this life wasn't my idea. It was Jesus who chose me, I did not choose him. I was moving in the opposite direction. I was not seeking his face. I was happy in my rebellion and then Jesus met me. He chose me, called me, sent me, directed and guided me. This life was his choosing and because he chose it I know I can trust him in it.

It is an incredibly encouraging reminder that we operate, live, work, minister in the authority of Jesus Christ. It is an incredibly liberating reminder that everything we do is done for the glory of God. Our entire life is permeated by the purpose of God and we are simply his agents, his workers, his partners in ministry. We can all say that we are what we are by the will of God, but it is in the real knowing and experiencing this that will bring you much joy and encouragement.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Do You Need Someone Praying For You?

Imagine being told that someone is fervently praying for you daily. How would that make you feel? Encouraged? Would it give you more strength? Would you be pleased?

Now imagine that someone is praying for more than just a good day for you; more than simply asking God to bless you. Imagine you found out that they were praying boldly for you for something specific and substantial? Would you accept that prayer and the results of what it evokes from God?

Imagine being the Colossians and hearing this:

Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. (Colossians 4:12)

Would that encourage you? If it wouldn't for you it sure would for me. Knowing that someone is praying, for the purpose of me standing firm in all of the will of God, would encourage me to rise up to do exactly that. Instead of praying for God to bless my life their prayers are for my maturity and that I would be fully assured of all the promises of God. Now there is a prayer warrior.

We need to start changing the focus of our prayers, to start praying in the wisdom and direction of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit knows what we need better than we do so it is important that we are attentive to his direction and prompting.

We also need consistency in prayer. Jesus told us not to stop until we have received what we are asking for. Of course we are not talking about prayers born out of selfishness but prayers provoked by the Spirit of God in us; prayers directed at the heart of the matter. Not prayers to be polite so that we can say that we prayed but prayers that shake the foundation of the enemies fortress and cause it to crumble.Not prayers that God would hedge people in but that he would strengthen and encourage them for the fight.

It doesn't matter how old you are or if you think you know how to pray or not, you need to pray because there are people who need you to pray. Even if all you start off with is that Jesus would strengthen and encourage them, it is a great place to start. If we saw every Christian, every person who calls on the name of Jesus, begin to pray fervently, believing the promises of Jesus, then we would see some pretty incredible things happening in and through the Church.

Without the Spirit; without prayer, the Church is nothing more than a social gathering for people who want to do good in life but often fail. With prayer and the Spirit we become a force to be reckoned with. Start praying today. If you have no one to pray for then start with me. I need an Epaphras in my life.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

You Need A Job

Sometimes the word "work" can be treated as a "dirty" word in the Body of Christ. Some people's attitude is that God will provide, expecting that they can just go through life living off of other people's generosity. Yet, there were times when even the great apostle Paul worked to provide for himself so he would not be a burden to others.

The reason I think this is relative is because some of us have the idea of God's blessings all backwards. Whether our work is our studies as students or labour in the work place or effort in ministry, it all comes from the hand of the Lord and we have been told to work hard at it. We dishonour our God when we just sit back and "let it happen".

We have a responsibility to work:

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10)

There is nothing selfish in our work unless we make it selfish. We work to provide for others, for the church, for our families. We are told to change our ways from being self-centered to being generous:

He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:28)

Our attitude is what matters. If we are short-sighted and can only see what is around us then our labour could become a thing of bitterness. But when we do our work as if we are working for the Lord and not ourselves then there is joy in the work of our hands:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)

Some would say that they want to work but there is no work for them. We must recognize that all things we receive are from the Lord, including our work. Work is a blessing from the Lord not a curse. It is good to work but just like all blessings, if our relationship with God and man are messed up then the blessings can't flow. This all goes for students as well. If you are struggling in your studies, examine your relationship with Jesus and with the people in your lives.

God has promised to bless the work of our hands but he can't do that if we are not strong in our relationship with him and with our neighbour. If we live in rebellion against him, openly or in secret, and we hate our neighbour then we cannot expect the blessings of the Lord to flow freely through us. Honour God and your neighbour and you will see doors of blessings and opportunity flying open:

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God ... The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 12)

For those of you who are seeking the blessings of the Lord in work, whether labour or studies, I join the psalmist in praying:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Reaction Or Response?

In yesterday's blog I mentioned how we respond to people matters. At all times we are representing Jesus Christ, our King. As his representatives it is important for us to set aside our reactions and allow the Holy Spirit to respond through us. The character of Jesus should be evident to everyone who knows us, meets us and happens to bump into us:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6) 

There is a difference between reacting and responding. Reaction is a knew-jerk thing. Someone does something and your flesh takes over before you can even process it. Words fly out of your mouth. Your body goes into action. Your emotions boil over. The only time a reaction is good is when we are jumping out of the way of a bus.

Any time we are reacting to someone it is almost always an emotional thing and usually those emotions are hurt or anger. We lash back with words that we may later regret. We may slam our fist against a wall to express our reaction, or maybe throw something but hopefully never hit anyone. We allow the emotion to take over, flood our heart and mind and deafen us to the Spirit.

A response is much different. It comes after we have all the facts and have considered things from perspectives beyond our own. It gives us time to hear and be directed from the Holy Spirit. It takes the effort of the emotions to control us and submits it under the control of the Spirit. It recognizes there is more at stake here than just our emotions, rights, desires.

When we decide to respond instead of react to a person we are giving the love of Jesus time to work itself in and through us. Our words are full of grace and seasoned with salt. We speak wisdom into the situation. We remove ourselves from the formula and instead of being a victim we become the minister. We minister Jesus' love, mercy and grace into the situation.

There is nothing saying that the person we are responding to doesn't deserve a tongue lashing or worse. Perhaps they deserve justice for what they did but if our God was only concerned with justice we would not be where we are today. Grace, mercy, compassion, understanding, patience and love is what should be seen in us, produced by the Spirit and given our permission to determine our response.

There is never an excuse to react in kind to anyone. There is never an excuse to yell at someone or to shake our fist at them. There is never an excuse to swear, use vulgar language or anything that would destroy our witness for Jesus. There is never an excuse to treat people poorly or to purposefully try to hurt them. It doesn't matter how tired we are, angry, upset, distraught. In all things we must remain submit to the Holy Spirit and allow him to direct us in our response to people. In all things allow the love of Jesus to be our guide. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Be Wise In Your Actions

Our actions matter. Sometimes we forget and we get lazy in our attitude. It is very much a "let your hair down" society now. Almost anything goes. It's your life so you can do with it what you want. Unfortunately when we expect little of people that is exactly what we get, little.

People need encouragers in their lives. They need someone who will stand in their corner and cheer them on. Children need parents who won't allow them to sink to the lowest common denominator but encourage them to go beyond the norm. Children need to hear that God has given them the capacity to do great things as he works through them. They need to dream and to have visions.

The world needs to hear that there is a plan in place to move them beyond this point. Most people are seeking something better, they just don't know yet that God has planned better things for them. Most people are stuck in the "what you see is what you get" and can't possibly imagine the wonderful things God intends for them to have and to experience. They need someone in their corner, cheering them on to discover the better things.

People actually believe that a loveless marriage is normal. Others have settled for a joyless job. Many think turbulent teenage years are just something that has to be lived through. People have come to accept hopelessness, despair and depression as part of life. They need encouragers to tell them different.

Paul says to the Colossians:

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. (Colossians 4:5)

Be wise in the way you interact with people who have yet to discover the love and joy of the Lord. Be careful how you respond to them. Remember they need encouragers.

Don't respond in your flesh but in the Spirit. If you are dealing with an angry person, rude, vulgar, inconsiderate, just remind yourself that they are without Jesus and you can't expect anything more from them, but God has planned something better for them. So when you respond you do so knowing this is an opportunity to demonstrate the love and grace of Jesus. Even if they were to spit in our face we must continue in the character of Jesus.

I have a part-time job dealing with people. Our policy is that if someone is yelling and swearing we are to give them three warnings and then hang up. Jesus did not set any such policy. We live as if he did. If someone offends us we carry on as if we have a right to cut them out of our life. But Jesus told us to love them, to pray for those who persecute us. Very much different from the way we conduct ourselves.

Too often we respond in kind. If someone is rude to us we are rude back. If someone yells at us we yell back. We hold to our rights and are offended they assaulted us. We conveniently forget the "turn the other check". We ignore the instruction that if someone sues us for our shirt that we should give him our coat as well. Or how about if we are forced to walk one mile we should walk two? If we don't feel the need to love these people then we need to re-examine our relationship with Jesus. A relationship with him should be transforming our heart and mind.

Personal rights are set aside when we are dealing with "outsiders". Instead of thinking of ourselves we must always be making the most of every opportunity. It doesn't mean something positive will come out of every encounter but we are making the most out of it. We need to show a lot more wisdom than we have been, setting ourselves aside and allowing the Spirit to operate through us, to bring conviction to the hearts of those without Jesus. A smile on our face and kindness in our heart often opens the door to many opportunities. Its all about Jesus.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Should I Pray For You?

I am not sure that we remember the purpose of prayer any more. We have become far too carnal in our thinking. Even when we pray for other people it is often carnal in nature, praying for creature comforts. There is nothing wrong in reminding God what needs people have; Jesus did tell us we could ask for anything. However, if we are who we are suppose to be in Jesus then we have that same heart and desire: To see the salvation of souls.

When Paul asked the Colossians to pray for him he did not give them a list of things he needed. He didn't mention any health issues, financial concerns or even any relationship problems. I believe Paul knew and trusted that our Father had all those things well in hand. But look at what he did ask them to pray for:

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Colossians 4:3-4)

I don't think there is a minister out there who doesn't understand the importance of the Spirit's leadership in what they do. Any minister who has failed will tell you they started down that road when they left God out of things and started making decisions for themselves. It is a house of cards we are building when we base things on our thinking and opinions instead of on the direction of the Holy Spirit.

What amazes me is that this is the first time Paul has mentioned he is in jail. He didn't ask for his freedom or that he would be better treated. All he wanted was that God would open a door, provide an opportunity, so that he could proclaim the plan of God's salvation for man. And he asked for that divine anointing of the Spirit, allowing him to make the message clear.

How many pastors, evangelists, teachers, apostles and prophets today need those same prayers? What ministers are you praying for and what are your prayers? Are you praying protection for them as well as their financial needs to be met? Then stop it.

First of all, make a list of people you know who are involved in ministry. It's not just your pastor. It could be Mrs. Brown who visits the hospital twice a week. It could be Miss Smith who visits several nursing homes. It could be Joe who hands out sandwiches Downtown. It could be Betty who invites her neighbours over once a week to talk about Jesus. It doesn't matter who they are, if they are involved in ministry write them down on your list.

Now, covenant to pray for them daily, but pray for them as if you are partnered with them. Pray for the anointing of the Spirit on them so they would realize the power and authority of Jesus in their ministry. Pray that they will have the opportunity to present Jesus to those whom they minister. Pray that the Spirit will anoint them to present God's plan with clarity so that those who are listening will understand enough to receive the conviction of the Spirit of God. Do this for a month, every day and listen for the testimony of what God is doing in these ministries.

We have a duty to pray but understand the purpose of our prayers. We are releasing the power of God through the Holy Spirit, in the ministry and lives of people. It is not:

"God, bless Miss Smith as she visits people today. Bless her and make her a blessing."

It is:

"Lord, may your anointing flow through Miss Smith today, that as she speaks people will hear your voice. May the conviction of the Spirit fall upon those people. Open their eyes and ears that they will see and hear the truth and light even in the dark pit in which they live. Give Miss Smith the opportunity, open the door for her with each person she engages with. Give her the confidence that those are your words that fill her mouth and let the message be plain and simple that people will be able to understand and receive. Allow your power to flow in and through her today!"

Power will not flow without prayer. We need to be praying. We need to be backing up ministers. We need to be partnering with them and letting them know what we are praying for them. We who are in ministry must also change the focus of our prayers and prayer requests, that we will seek the things of the Kingdom and leave our carnal needs to the Father as Jesus said.

May we see the power of the Holy Spirit return to the entire Church today. Pray!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Come On Warriors, Rise Up!

What are we suppose to do as Christians in this world? Even after 40 years of walking with Jesus some people have not grown past this question. Well there are a lot of things we need to "do" but if you really want to know, look at Jesus' example.

The big thing is to be engaged with people. We cannot fulfil our purpose if we are not engaged with people. Jesus doesn't care about the beauty of our church buildings or the size of our congregations. His focus is on the heart condition of people and that is why we must be engaged in this world and the conversation that is taking place. In other words, we are being disobedient when we hide out in our church buildings or in our homes.

You do realize what happens when God's children fail to obey the "go" command, don't you? Jesus told his disciples to "go" to the ends of the world with the good news. Instead they held up in Jerusalem and the Church began to grow in huge numbers there. So God allowed a great persecution to come on the Church forcing everyone to scatter. And where they scattered the Good News spread.

There is an attitude we are suppose to maintain as Christians to fulfil our purpose in this place, while we remain engaged and part of the conversation. I think we find a nice summary of that attitude in Colossians 4:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2)


Pay attention!

Be Thankful!

Let's be honest, we often do the opposite. There is a great prayer deficit in the average Christian life. Most of us spend less than 15 minutes in prayer every day and much of that has no real purpose, faith or power behind it. We pray because we feel obligated to "stay in touch" with God. It certainly is not a weapon we are wielding and it is not a provocation of God's power for the sake of the Kingdom. Much of our prayers are about ourselves and not about people we are fighting for. We certainly are not devoted to prayer. We have no real sense of purpose in it.

Pay attention? Hardly. Most Christians can't tell you who their political leaders are. We don't know what is going on in our various countries. We certainly don't know what is happening around the world. We don't even know what is happening in our neighbourhood. We are a very closed people who are only concerned with those things that impact us personally. We go to work/school, come home and eat, look for entertainment, take care of the family, take care of what is ours and that is our life. This is not paying attention.

A Christian should know his neighbours, notice when something is wrong, be engaged to be there to help and most importantly to pray. We need to pay attention to know what is going on to know how to battle in prayer. We aren't in this place for ourselves. We are here to fight for others.

Have you ever met a thankful Christian? Well shake their hand and take a picture because they are a rare breed. Most Christians are complainers, grumblers and accusers. We allow so much negative things to take up residence in us and yet the Word says that a relationship with Jesus produces an attitude of thanksgiving.

Yes, watching the evil of this world can have an effect on us. Seeing how much evil is in the world can even attempt to overwhelm us but maintaining an attitude of gratitude guards our heart. When we constantly remind ourselves of the goodness, faithfulness, and love of Jesus evil is kept in its place. Remembering the power and authority of Jesus keeps everything in perspective. With a heart filled with gratitude to Jesus for everything, we will find it that much easier to be engaged with people.

This is a call for us to wake up from our stupor and self-centered attitude and get engaged with the battle we are here to be part of. We need to shake ourselves up before God does and get back to the fight. Pray! Pay Attention! Be Thankful! This is our attitude and we will do well in the battle today if we maintain it. Come on warrior called by Jesus! Rise up!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Where Is Your Weapon Soldier!?!

"I will keep you in my prayers."

"I'll be praying for you."

Have you ever heard those words? Have you ever said them? It is the polite Christian thing to say in the face of someone's overwhelming problem. It's often said and just as often forgotten. When we do remember it is usually a quick one sentence prayer: "Lord bless so-and-so".

If we really believe that prayer makes a difference why don't we pray on the spot? Why don't we pray with the authority we have been given? Why don't we pray as if mountains will move right at that moment? In the parking lot. In the supermarket. Over the phone. In the coffee shop.

Did Jesus ever say "I'll be pray for you" when he faced the blind, sick, crippled, dead?

Did Jesus take people aside, move them into another room, find a quiet place to pray?

Prayer is not something we do on occasion as we think about it. Prayer is our big guns, our battering ram, our high explosives. A person who prays and believes is a dangerous person in this world. Things happen around people like this. Powerful things. Amazing things.

I married a woman like that.

When my wife prays things happen. When she speaks God is listening, waiting to spring into action. Not as her servant but as a daddy who takes delight in giving what he promised to give to his child. My wife understands this relationship and the goodness of God and the promises of Jesus and the power of the Spirit. She is not afraid to speak in the authority of Jesus and when she does speak things happen.

I used to be like that. Then I got busy.

But Jesus is not going to take busyness, even Kingdom busyness as an excuse. Work all you want but it will not measure up to what one prayer of a righteous person can do:

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

In Paul's great address to the Ephesians where he encourages them to put on the full armour of God and to stand their ground, there is only one instruction of action given. This is the action:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:18)

Prayer is not something we do before going into battle; prayer is the battle. What incredible things would happen if only we would remember. If only we would remember the place and importance of prayer. If only we would remember the power released in this world by prayer. In the many things Paul said to the Colossians Paul told them there was one thing they had to devote themselves to:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 3:2)

A Christian who forgets the prominent place of prayer in our epic battle to bring Jesus to this dark world is a useless warrior stripped of his weapon. Pray is not poetic language of a polite society. Prayer is down in the muck and the trenches, releasing the power of God into every situation faced. Prayer is the weapon of trench warfare and I don't know if you've noticed but we are fighting in those trenches.

Devote yourself to prayer! It is essential to who we are and what we do in the authority of Jesus.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Entertaining Angels

I think the message of respect is pretty clear in the Bible. We never have a just reason for showing disrespect for anyone. If Jesus tells us to love our enemies, the people who hate us and persecute us, isn't respect part of that? Colossians 3 has a clear message of respect.

Here we see instructions for wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives. Of course this is a relationship of mutual respect. The same is true for children obeying their parents and fathers not exasperating their children. Yes, parents need to have respect for their children. Then there is the part addressed to slaves.

It is difficult for most of us to relate to slavery so we liken it to work. We are to have respect for our bosses. Yes, even the bosses we disagree with and who we find unfair, we are to show respect. Of course Jesus has told us to love them but I just want to point out that respect is part of that because most of us leave that part out.

Sometimes we only respect people who deserve it. Perhaps that is the reason why there is such little respect in our society. If we don't know a person we don't consider that they might deserve respect. It is a useless argument anyway because we are to respect everyone, regardless if they deserve it our not. The surrendering of our seat to a stranger, a smile, the opening of a door, are all politeness but also a gesture of respect.

The Bible tells us to practice hospitality to strangers because we never know when it is an angel that we are showing such kindness. Respect to strangers is important because we don't know their story. I have an example of that.

Being a pastor of a small church in a difficult and spiritually dark part of the world, the Lord has provided a job that I can do on the side to put food on the table. I work from home as a customer care agent for a large tech company. Last month I took a call from a lady who was extremely rude and insulting. Nothing I did was good or fast enough for her. She spoke in a way to try to make me feel small and insignificant. At one point she even called me idiot.

These type of calls don't usually have any affect on me because I know where my worth and identity comes from but something this lady said as we were finishing our business together really shocked me. After treating me like a pile of dirt this lady ended the call with "God bless". What? This rude, uncaring, disrespectful woman was a sister in the Lord?

I can't help but wonder how she would have treated me if I had been invited as a guest preacher in her church. I wonder what she would have thought of me as me credentials were presented with all my various ministries I have led over the last twenty years. I wonder what she would have said to me after hearing me preaching with the anointing of God. I wonder.

But it should not matter that I am an elder of the church, an anointed preacher and teacher of the Word. I could be a homeless man looking for a dollar for a meal and she would still need to respect me according to Jesus. Respect is born out of love and we have been told by Jesus that we must love.

Of course love can't be commanded but that is not what Jesus was saying. Jesus said that IF we love him we would obey him. IF we love someone we will respect them. IF we have a real relationship with Jesus it is because his love for us has provoked that relationship. No one can be forced to love Jesus but love is the natural response when we meet him and know what he has done.

Apostle John makes it very clear if we do not love our brother then we do not love Jesus. After all, how can you love someone you don't see when you don't love the people you do see? That lady demonstrated to me that she just doesn't get it. She may know the words, she may go to church, she may even know about Jesus but her lack of love and respect to a stranger shows that she just doesn't get it. My friends, be careful how you treat people because regardless of who they are, this one thing you must remember: they are the object of our Father's affection and thus deserving of our respect.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Life Worth Living

I so wish I could accurately express to people how we are getting Christianity wrong. The basic problem is that we continue to live as if it is something that goes outward in whereas the reality of it is that it goes inward out.

Jesus explained to us that it is not what goes into people that make them unclean but what comes out. Think about it.

Most people want a set of rules or instructions to follow. I have even heard preachers describe the Bible as a "How To" book on life. Others refer to it as an instruction book. But it isn't. The purpose of the Bible is to reveal what God has done for us and is doing in us. It's an explanation.

So many people try to "live by the Word" but forget that we are miserable failures at it. So we come up with excuses, "I'm only human", "I'm not perfect, only forgiven" and so on. But in truth the greatest failure is not understanding that these things that God is doing is done by the Spirit in us.

Again let me say, God's place is to do and ours is to submit to the Doer.

It is God who changes us, not us changing ourselves.

However, in Colossians 3 we do find a few things we can do to better facilitate God's work in us:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

There is number one and two right there. Let, allow, permit, make way for, submit to, invite in the peace of Jesus so it may rule in your hearts. When Jesus told us he was giving us peace he emphasized it was his peace and he did not give as the world gives. It is ours, never to be taken away. But he is the one who gives it. We receive it from him as a gift, not something we earn because we have removed all the stresses from our life and we know how to do yoga or have mastered meditation. His peace exists in us in the worst of times because of Jesus and we "let" it rule our heart. That's our part, letting it.

The second thing is being thankful. He does so much for us that he creates this natural condition of thanksgiving but we have to choose to be thankful. A complaining spirit is not thankful. Neither is a heart filled with rage, anger, hurt, pride and all the other junk we pollute ourselves with. A thankful heart should be natural in the light of God's grace but it is still our choice. We have to "let" it.

There are a few other things that we can do as well. These are all things that allow God to have the freedom to work in us and in the Church:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (v.16)

God can't force us to study his Word, that is our choice. But it is more than study, it is allowing the Spirit to put that Word into effect in our living: "dwell in you richly". It is seeing the Word come alive in all its depth when it says to love one another, to respect the elders, to love your enemies. God will write it upon our heart and the Spirit will enrich our lives with it as the Word takes life through our living. It is amazing stuff that works from the inside out but we have to let it, allow it, permit it, make way for it, submit to it, invite it in.

Part of the riches of the "Word alive in us" is the vibrancy it brings to the Body of Christ, the Church, our family. It is not a community, it is family, and it is vibrant when each member allows the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly. It turns us into teachers and ones who are able to admonish with all wisdom and not with anger and hatred. It overwhelms us with love for each other and the desire to see the best in people. It fills us with praise so that we are known as a people of singing and dancing as the praises of our God flow out of us. And, it brings us back to this point again, it provokes gratitude in our hearts to God.

Interesting how it always seems to bring us to thanksgiving, gratitude, thankfulness, appreciation. When we are busy being thankful we don't have time to complain or criticize.

So what is the end game? What results from these few things that we are able to do since it is up to God to transform us? The bottom line of our life is this:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (v. 17)

There you go, a life worth living!

These few things that we can do amount to nothing more than facilitating the inward transformation that God is working in us, but it lets, allows, permits, makes way for, submits and invites in our ability to live our life in the name of Jesus. And don't forget the giving thanks bit. It provokes us to be a people of constant thanksgiving.

I don't know what other kind of life we are living but this is the only life that is actually worth living. This is life in abundance. This is freedom. This is joy. This is love. This is Christianity as it is meant to be.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stop Doing And Start Being

Most times it is hard to tell who the Christian is in the crowd. We may have a different vocabulary and we may have a few different activities but much of our thinking remains the same. We have gotten so use to it we don't even see it. Unfortunately in the Church today, God no more leads us than he does a person who doesn't call on the name of Jesus.

Honestly, consider your day for a moment. Do you feel directed by the Spirit or are you doing what you want to do? Consider your life goals. Are they your goals or the direction the Spirit is moving you in? We have this insane notion that whatever we think must be from God. We don't even know the difference any more between our own thinking and the conviction of the Spirit. There is a whole generation being lost to the Spirit.

Again and again we hear it and read it, people making excuses for themselves, "No one is perfect". Our failure is only due to one thing because God overcame everything else. That one thing is simply our decision not to choose Jesus in every situation in our life. We fail when we choose to do what we want instead of what the Spirit is directing us to do. In many ways, we still think we are responsible for our own salvation.

Yesterday we considered a list of things that warn us when our relationship with Jesus is off. Today I want us to consider the good signs that we have a healthy relationship. I word it this way specifically because many of us are trying to live this list externally. We actually think we have the ability to live this holy life but our part is nothing more than surrender. Surrender to God's power and will in us. We are to surrender, lay down our will and desire and allow the Spirit to change us.

If we are getting up in the morning and saying to ourselves, "Today I am going to be more loving", we will fail. But if we get up in the morning and say, "To you Jesus I surrender this day and I am determined to follow the Spirit all day long", you will find yourself being more loving. Most of us do not understand the difference.

Here is the list of the signs of a healthy relationship with Jesus:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)

For those who are confused by the wording "clothe yourselves", "put on", I remind you how Paul said we are able to live these things:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (vv. 1-2)

Again I tell you, these are not "to do" lists but rather signs that tell us our relationship with Jesus is healthy. When we have a growing and vibrant relationship with the King, serving him, learning from him, submitted to his will, we will discover ourselves clothed in compassion. Kindness, humility, gentleness and patience will be evident to everyone as the character of Jesus shines through. We will understand the need to bear with those who are not as mature and forgiveness will be the most natural thing. And we will have a greater revelation of love, deepening every day.

These are all things that we fail at because we are the ones trying to do it instead of allowing the Spirit to do it through us. The only thing we need to put effort into is our relationship with Jesus. As others have said, you can't spend two hours in prayer with Jesus without being changed. You can't follow the direction of the Spirit and remain as you were. You can't have a deep fellowship with God and still decide your own course. We can't call on the name of Jesus and live like our neighbour. There is a difference when we learn to walk with the Spirit who lives in us.

Stop doing and start being.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Problem With Lists

Today we are looking at something that makes everyone feel comfortable: Lists. For some reasons lists bring a comfort and give the sense of life being achievable. If we have a lot to do we make a To Do list. Grocery shopping is made so much easier with a grocery list. A list is a must during Christmas as we keep all our gift buying organized. So there is a place and a purpose for lists. But not all lists are to be done. Sometimes they are simply for the purpose of comparison.

When it comes to our relationship with Jesus many of us find it easier to have lists. We especially like it when we find lists in the Bible to tell us what to do and what not to do. The only problem is that this is not the purpose of these lists. Consider Colossians 3:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

Sounds good; these are the things we are not to do. God is not pleased with this kind of behaviour. Paul explains:

Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. (vv.6-7)

Okay, so this is the stuff that comes against God's holiness, that separates us from him, that belongs to our former life, before we met Jesus. Paul adds a bit more to the list of the things we must not do:

But now you must rid yourselvesof all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. (v. 8)

Sounds like a list we should write down and carry around with us. Yeah! That's a plan!

It might be a plan but it is not the purpose of this list. If that was the intention then why are we told we are no longer under law but under grace? Why does the Word say that Jesus took the law and nailed it to the cross? If we could just follow a list of commands why did Jesus have to die?

Our life with Jesus is all about a total surrender to him. It is about our death and our new life which we only have in Jesus. It is all about loving Jesus and being totally captivated by him. This list presents to us what no longer is part of us so that if we recognize any of this in us we know that there is something wrong with the relationship.

If you are having sex with every boyfriend or girlfriend you have then there is something wrong with your relationship with Jesus. If you can't control your anger and end up hitting things or yelling at people there is something wrong with the relationship. If there is greed and filthy language, desires that go against God then your love for Jesus is just not where it is suppose to be.

This list is not a do and don't list but more like a warning label.

You don't have the power to effect change in your behaviour other than trying to conform. But conformity is not an agent of permanent change. Sooner or later the true character of the heart will reveal itself. Only the transforming power of Jesus Christ can make us a new creation and that new creation only too gladly allows the character of Jesus to be revealed in it. It is the daily submission, the resistance to temptation, keeping our eyes on Jesus, setting our heart and mind on things above that allows Jesus to have his way in us.

It is so easy to fall into the mentality of lists, which is fine for the purpose of being organized but is useless for spiritual growth. God has given us road markers so we will understand his progress in us and to help us remember our daily need for submitting to the Spirit. We misunderstand Paul's language "put to death" which is to die with Christ and be brought to life in him, as well as "rid yourself" which happens with daily surrender out of an all encompassing love.

Simply put, pay attention to the signs but don't do the list.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Making Jesus Our Everything

I think many of us want to live a life that glorifies God. It is our desire to know each day that our Father is pleased with us. We long to hear from our King  "Well done good and faithful servant". The only real question is, how do we do it?

It's not as hard or complicated as we make it seem.

There are many lists in the Bible, a number of does and don'ts, a few things that look like we can put them into practical use. You have even probably tried to follow a few of these as most of us have, and failed in doing it, as all of us have. This is the thing to keep in mind: Jesus came to free us from a law we could not live, not to set up another one to replace it.

Jesus took the law and fulfilled it because we couldn't. Then he had the Holy Spirit take the law and write it on our hearts, empowering us through the Spirit to live the law in our new life, not from a list but from our heart. The law is in us, but in a friendly, practical way. As Jesus said it is summed up in two things: Love God with your entire being and love others. If we live this then we will fulfil the law and every list we find in the Bible.

But that brings us back to the "how" question. How do I live this "law"?

Without a doubt we have a part to play in this but the biggest part is God's as he shapes us into the character of Jesus. Our part is to let him to do it and we do this by making sure that Jesus comes first. Well, let's go beyond that. We do this by making sure Jesus is our everything. The only way he becomes our everything is when we make our life and everything in it about him. Let's go beyond that: he becomes everything when we recognize that our life and everything in it is from him and for him.

In Colossians 3 Apostle Paul gives us a few lists concerning holy living. They are important lists but not ones that were intended for us to live up to. That is how the world would perceive them. They are not a list of things for us to do but instead to allow the Holy Spirit to do in us. He is able to do this when we allow him to do it and we allow him when your heart and mind are possessed by Jesus as they must be. Paul starts this section off by the single most important thing we must do (our part) every day. Let's break it into two sections. The first:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)

The heart is a deceiving thing. Our emotions trip us up every day. From the heart comes jealousy, anger, hatred and many negative things. If we keep our heart focused on how things effect us, how peoples actions harm us, and make everything about us, our emotions will continue to trip us up. But we are instructed here to not make it about us. We are told to set our heart on things above and as we do this the Holy Spirit is able to do his thing in us; the love of God flows through; all the incredible things of God are let loose, and we find ourselves forgiving, having compassion, being tender, understanding other people's actions. The more we set our heart on things above the more capacity we have to love God and others

The second thing:

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (v. 2)

It's not just emotions, perspective matters as well. During Paul's day the heart was the symbol of everything that made us human, including intelligence. The mind was seen as the place where we perceive things. In this case if we set our mind on things above then we will have the right perspective. As long as we are only perceiving in the natural the Spirit will not have the freedom to show us what God is doing. When we get our mind set on Jesus, everything in this world looks different. We can see the ugliness and why the world needs Jesus. As long as we are perceiving with our mind with the perspective of the world we will never fully understand the importance of Jesus to this world or God's will in our life. We will not be able to love God and others, at least not as God defines love.

Paul also reminds us why our heart and mind should be set on thingss above:

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears,then you also will appear with him in glory. (vv. 3-4)

Our life is no longer made up of things of this world but instead we are hidden with Jesus. We died. We keep forgetting that. When we accepted Jesus we died to what we were, how we felt and what we perceived, to our opinions. That is how it must be but often today it is more like Jesus just becomes part of our life instead of BEING our life. That's what Paul is saying here: "When Christ, who is your life ..." You died and the only way you can live is in and through Jesus just as he lives in and through us. This is the only way to live a life that glorifies God.

Tomorrow we will look at how this translates in our daily living.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stop Getting In The Way

The self-help, self-improvement, self-whatever industry has certainly made a lot of money off of peoples desires to be more than they are. We all have that desire in one form or another. Some people want to improve their intelligence so they work on math skills and general problem solving. Some want to improve their heath so they join a gym. Whatever you want to improve you will find hundreds of books, videos and articles on it.

It is no different spiritually. Many people want to know more, be more but often we run out of energy or desire. Spiritual practices take too much effort or cost too much or just get boring. The fact is, we don't have very much determination and stamina. Apostle Paul said of these things:

These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. (Colossians 2:22)

He also says of them:

Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (v. 23)

People may have been a little more extreme in Paul's day about self-improvement but the basic principles are there: a desire to improve on ourselves by controlling our desires.

Most self-improvement principles are based on self-discipline and self-control, when we take control over those things that control us. It could be our appetite, tv watching, sex, swearing, bad thoughts, or anything that we are trying get a handle on. Most people don't realize that these are all provoked by our sin nature and there is no controlling that.

The Word of God makes it clear that mankind is enslaved to the sin nature. No matter what we try we cannot escape from this nature. We may make small inroads if we are really determined but we will always be disappointed in the results. We may be able to get our body in shape but it will not improve our character. We may manage to improve on our intellectual capacity but it will not improve our wisdom. We may be able to influence a few surface things but it will not deal with the underlying nature of indulgence.

There is only one power that can deal with the sin nature and that is Jesus Christ. It is what the cross was all about. If we could have done it ourselves God would not have had to sacrifice himself to rescue us. In the letter to the Romans Paul describes what it is to be controlled by the sin nature and he concludes with this:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)

The sad thing is that sometimes we think we have let Jesus rescue us but in fact we are still amongst the self-help group. The only way to allow Jesus to rescue us is to completely give up to him, to surrender it all, to allow his power to take over and to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. When we learn to "Be still" we will discover the power of Jesus. As long as we are trying to rescue ourselves we are getting in the way of the real rescuer.

Stop trying to conform and allow Jesus Christ to transform!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

We Need Jesus

We need a real shaking up!

When I say "we" I mean everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ and as such a member of the Body of Christ.

We need this shaking up because the world has so successfully seduced us that we aren't even aware of it. We are so entrenched in the patterns of this world that we can't bring ourselves to imagine the pattern, system, perspective and direction of Jesus Christ. Everything is from a "me" perspective and rarely a "them" or even an "us".

It's about what I think, how I feel, what I am experiencing, how it affects me, what it will cost me. The supposed American Dream is about my freedom, my wealth, my prosperity, my rights. That is so much part of our psyche, how could we possible understand Jesus when he tells us that everything is about God and others?

And because we can't understand this very simple fundamental truth of life in this place, we try to do what we can with what we have. We make rules, formulas, and methodology the focus and as long as we stick to these we are fine. We are aghast at how people in the Bible could fall for idols and yet we worship a dozen idols every day. Just ask yourself what stuff comes ahead of Jesus and others in your life? What can't you live without? What would fill you with fear if it was suddenly taken away?

Apostle Paul asked a very good question as he wrote to the Colossians concerning the authority of Jesus. He asked:

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? (Colossians 2:20-21)

I think that's the problem: Most of us haven't died with Christ. We haven't died to the basic principles of this world. We still allow it to have authority over us. We still follow its pattern of thinking. We still define things by what we see, hear, taste and touch. We may hold to some vague understanding of the theory of Jesus but the theory is seldom applied.

We talk about faith but we still allow fear to paralyse us. We allow worry to disturb us. We allow the opinions of others to shape us. We still panic and do our own thing to save our own skin. We still measure right and wrong by the standards of our society. We still treat God like the Genie in the Bottle, bringing him out only for emergencies, or believing only when we can't figure out stuff on our own. Instead of being our first thought he becomes our last resort.

We figure as long as we are following the Ten Commandments or are giving it our best effort we are okay but we aren't. We aren't okay. We are far from okay. Unless an encounter with Jesus Christ makes a radical change in everything we know we are nowhere near being okay. The world and everything in it cannot remain the same to us after being possessed by the Holy Spirit. It is impossible.

We go from being a citizen of this world, following the patterns and principles of this world, thinking, acting, living like everyone else. It is only natural being from this world. But after being possessed by the Spirit we cease to be citizens of this world and we become born of a different place, of the Kingdom of Jesus. Everything shifts. Different pattern, different rules, different purpose, different attitude, different perspective, different thinking, feeling, doing. We no longer submit to the rules of this place.

I don't know, are you getting this at all?

Without the Spirit we can't. We can't get it.

Without the Spirit we can't understand. Without the Spirit we remain dead to the ways of God. Without the Spirit there is no mind of Christ and we stick to what we are familiar with: the principles and pattern of this world.

We need a real shaking up!

We need the Father to touch the hearts of his children again. We need the Spirit, in his great power and passion, to provoke our hearts to seek the Face of God once more. In truth, we need Jesus.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Disqualified For The Prize

There are a lot of spiritual people out there but it doesn't make them right. Just because they mention God or say something about Jesus does not make them a follower of Jesus Christ. Consider somebody like Oprah who teaches universalism, believing that all gods are the same God and that there are many paths that lead to him. I have no idea how she started out but she is heading in the wrong direction now. She's not alone.

You are going to come across a lot of people who will tell you that they have studied the original language of the Bible and that we have interpreted it wrong. In the original language there can be several meanings attached to a word so the context is important to understand. Even more importantly is the guidance of the Spirit in these things. It is his purpose to teach us and without him we can make the Bible say whatever we want. So we get a lot of people doing their own thing, teaching what they think is right. Apostle Paul gave us a warning about that:

Do not let anyone who delights in false humilityand the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. (Colossians 2:18)

He warns us not to let these people disqualify us, to throw into confusion what we have already gained by the Spirit, to interrupted our progress and to cause us to choose a wrong path. Good teachers can convince us of anything but we have to remember that there is only one authority we bend our knee to, only one we worship, only one we follow and trust. Anyone who leads us away from Jesus and his instructions has lost connection with the King:

He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (v. 19)

So often the enemy is there to plant doubt in our knowledge of God, "Did God really say ... ?" Did God really say to love those who hurt you? Did God really say that homosexuality is an offence to him? Did God really say there is only one path to come to him? Did God really say we have to die to self? Did God really say that the only acceptable place for the gift of sex is inside of marriage? So many things are being questioned and reworked just so we can try to have both Jesus and the world, but it doesn't work that way. Those who are possessed by the Spirit of God know the truth and there is no wiggle room.

If the authority who you are listening too is consistently teaching contrary to the Word of God, the conviction of the Spirit, and the authority of Jesus, you need to run away. Occasionally all us teachers make mistakes. We too get tired or distracted and speak from our flesh. It shouldn't happen but it does. However, when it does the Spirit is quick to correct and we are quick to apologize. We know that we do not own this truth and the revelation of it is not from us but from the Spirit so we must always be attuned to the Spirit. Without the Spirit we are nothing.

So, take caution, not everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus is a follower; not everyone who claims to be a teacher is a teacher; not everyone who claims to know the Word knows by the Spirit. You have been given discernment through the Spirit of God in you to know the difference. Know the Word, stay sensitive to the Spirit, keep Jesus as the only authority you bend your knee to and you will be well protected from the lies of the enemy. Do not let anyone disqualify you for the prize.