Thursday, January 31, 2013

You Are Meant To Be Seen

God has chosen not to hide us away but to use us as a light on a hill. This means everyone can see us; we are always on display. Even when you don't want to be seen, you are seen. Our entire purpose is to be the light bearers so God can glorify himself to the world through us. Aside from Jesus we have no other purpose. You are meant to be seen.

Some people are afraid of this because they have this notion that we have to be perfect; that we cannot allow any imperfection to be seen. If we are sick we don't tell anyone. If we are in financial trouble we keep it to ourselves. We don't want to rob God of his glory by showing our weakness. How foolish we are to think that God doesn't want to use our weaknesses. In fact, Jesus is often able to shine through our weaknesses better than our strengths. Apostle Paul did not hide his struggles.

Surrounded by strong men of faith, Paul would send them out with letters and personal news about himself so others could see what God is doing, and be encouraged:

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. (Colossians 4:7-8)

Now I am not talking about complaining. Words of complaint only prove to destroy people, not encourage them. But neither do we hide our circumstances, so when God takes action others will see and marvel at what an incredible God he is. How will they learn of his compassion unless they see it in action in us? What about his mercy and grace? What about his forgiveness? No we don't hide these things away and try to project perfection because that would be a lie. Instead they need to see our faith in action as we trust Jesus in every aspect and circumstance of our lives.

The light on the hill cannot be hidden. It's purpose is to be seen and to encourage. God does not want you hiding away your circumstances but neither does he want you complaining. Let people see your life and your faith. Let them hear statements of trust and dependence. Let them hear the praises as God responds to your needs. Be as transparent as apostle Paul was and God will be glorified in all things through you. The world needs to know and see the reality of our relationship with Jesus, not just the sterilized plastic version.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Full Of Grace And Seasoned With Salt

We all know the power of words, having felt that power many times in our lives. We have had words of love and encouragement spoken into us. There have been words to inspire and ignite; words to build up and cheer us on in some of the worse moments of our lives. There have been words of blessings but there have also been words of cursing. There have been words that have acted as a destructive force, trying to rob us of our joy and peace. There have been words that have robbed us of our dreams and prevented us from moving on to overcome things in our lives. There have been ugly, useless words that have buffeted key moments of our lives. Words are powerful indeed.

Sometimes it is the word itself that has the power and sometimes it is the intent behind the word. Some of the most wonderful words can be spoken into our lives with a maliciousness that steals away any value they contained to bless. It is the latter that I believe Paul was referring to when he wrote:

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

It is not the "what" that Paul is referring to but the "how". Some people may look at this verse and see the "what" but Jesus told us not to worry about the "what" because when we walk in the Spirit the Spirit will always fill our mouths with the right words to say. It is the manner in which we say it that we must pay attention. It is a conversation full of grace and seasoned with salt that will keep the powerful words of God powerful.

You can yell at someone that you love them until your face turns blue but the yelling is robbing the word of its power. You can tell people that God loves and forgives them but if there is lack of grace in the manner in which you speak there will be no power behind those words. We are a people of grace and, no matter the actions of other people, we must respond as a people of grace. Just as a gentle answer turns away wrath, an answer seasoned with salt opens the heart to receiving the words, the blessings, the encouragement.

I think sometimes parents forget that their teens are in great need of this grace and these words seasoned with salt. Too often we parents allow our emotional attachment to our kids block out our spiritual responsibility  to respond and not react. Just because the emotional teen in front of us is yelling at us because of a momentary panic in their lives does not mean we need to have an emotional reaction to them. The words of grace, seasoned with salt must be applied. The moment will pass, we will still have our peace, and our teen is not so emotional any more. You may even discover that the Spirit gives just the right words to speak into their situation.

As followers of Jesus we should see how Jesus responded to people, even those who were trying to trap him. By the Spirit he had the right words to speak but he also responded with much grace. Who were they to question the Son of God? But he lowered himself to their level and spoke with patience, love, kindness and grace. They were confounded and stumped by the simple things with which he responded. You have that same Spirit. Trust God for the words and you concentrate on the attitude. Let's make sure we are not doing anything to rob God's words of their power.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Spiritual Danger Of The Clique Mentality

If you have ever been a high school student you know the effects of a clique. This is a small group of people who exclude everyone else. Often they are very destructive, tearing down others to build themselves up. They are not always destructive but there are always exclusive; excluding anyone who does not fit in with them. Often they have some common denominator, whether it be an attitude, dress code, activity or belief. High School is not the only place you find cliques.

Churches often have them. I am sure they don't mean to develop but they do and sometimes they are destructive. In saying this, sometimes the entire Church is a clique and outside people find it very difficult to fit in. This is especially the danger of smaller churches where everyone either knows or is related to everyone else. Churches don't mean to be exclusive, but they can be. The Word of God clearly states:

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. (Colossians 3:5)

The Spirit showed Apostle Paul how exclusive the Church could be, even at the beginning. Jesus did not practice exclusivity. He went out of his way to make sure that his disciples came from a varying background, and even then he only spent time alone with them to teach them the foundations. Other than that Jesus was always amongst the crowds of people who came from every background. Even though he had come specifically to deal with Israel, he still included the gentiles when they came to him. Jesus told us whoever believes will be saved.

The Church is not like the nation of Israel. That nation was given a territory and was told to be different from neighbouring nations. Israel was intended to be used by God to display his glory, to reveal himself to the world. Right from the beginning the Church was founded differently. We were not given a territory. In fact the first command given to the Church was to "go". And Jesus was serious about that. When the Church disobeyed the command and decided to stay in Jerusalem, Jesus allowed a persecution to scattered them throughout the earth.

The Church is not about physical territory but spiritual. The Church is about the heart condition of people. The Church is still the instrument to reveal God's glory to the world but it is done in the workplace, in the home, in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, marketplace, wherever Christians go so goes God's glory and power. This is why we cannot afford to become a clique like Israel was. We can't afford to have any thoughts of being exclusive. We are only special in that we accepted the blood of Jesus that has and is transforming us.

Sometimes it is hard to avoid the clique mentality when we have something in common with one group of people and not another but God did it. God is self-sufficient. He does not need anyone else. He has nothing in common with us. We have nothing to contribute to the Godhead. The Father, Son and Spirit don't need us. Yet, our Father reached out to us. Jesus left his place in that group to come and get us; to bring us into the group; to include us. Then he told us to go and do like-wise. 

So, now we are to make the most out of every opportunity. We are to be wise toward those who are not part of the Body of Christ. They are the reason we are still here and Jesus told us to go to them. Avoid the clique mentality and reach out to someone today. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Content Of Our Prayer

What is the subject of most of your prayers? Most often they are about ourselves; usually rushed emergency prayers. If they are not emergency prayers then they are about us getting closer to God, asking for our eyes to be opened, wanting to sense his presence. How often do we pray for other people? How often do we listen to what is going on around us? How much do we watch and pray? You are a power house of God's mercy and grace with the ability to affect what is happening around you. That's the authority you have through Jesus.

How often do you contend in prayer for those who have been called as leaders in the Body of Christ? You know, those men and women who have set everything aside to make people their business, for the sake of the Kingdom? Doesn't matter if you call them elders, pastors, missionaries, evangelists, prophets or apostles, they are all in great need of your prayer support. How many do you know? For how many do you pray?

Apostle Paul was not above soliciting prayer from the Body of Christ:

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. (Colossians 4:3)

All the human effort on this planet cannot even begin to budge some doors, but prayer flings the doors wide open. I can't explain why God has chosen to work through our prayers but he does. Prayer is an absolute necessity in the work of the Kingdom and people who are looking for doors to be opened so they can preach the Good News need us to be praying. But it is not just about opportunities.

Apostle Paul added:

Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (v. 4)

We need to pray for the anointing of the workers. We can do a lot in our flesh but we can't do in our flesh anything that will be of any eternal good. The work of the Kingdom needs the anointing of God so it will be proclaimed "clearly", as it should. Without the anointing our words land on deaf ears. Pray for the anointing.

We should each have a list of leaders we are supporting in prayer. Let them know you are one of their prayer supporters and I am sure they will supply you with a list of their prayer needs. Fight for them every day. Make the vast majority of the content of your prayers about others and you will see things begin to change for you.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fitting In Prayer

Five minute prayers. That's all most of us can afford. We fit it in between the alarm clock and shower. Or perhaps it is in the shower as we try to think through our day. Maybe it's in the bus on the way to school or work. Perhaps it is while we sit in the doctor's waiting room or just before we slip into sleep. Usually a few words: "God help me", "Lord give me strength", "Jesus bless them". There is nothing wrong with this but do we really think these are relationship building or powerful moments of petition?

Let's be honest, many of us have lost the understanding of what it is to pray with purpose. Many of us do not know that these are the greatest moments of our lives, well worth getting up early or delaying going to bed. These are moments when God releases his power through us, to see great things happen in this world and in the lives of others. It is in prayer that we become the true warriors of God. Apostle Paul gave this charge:

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

Being watchful so we know what to pray for in other people's lives and in this world. Being thankful that we are always praying in a right heart condition. Devoted to prayer. When you are devoted to something you give it priority or you soon lose your devotion. A husband who is not devoted to his wife, not making her the priority in his life, will soon lose her. When we are devoted to something we give ourselves to it. Does that describe our attitude or approach to prayer? Are we devoted prayer warriors?

Being devoted to prayer is not a "fitting it in" but having a plan and purpose. It is having a time when you shut out everything else and allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the presence of God, presenting the needs of others to him. It is when we join with him in battling for the souls of those we have encountered. It is praying strength for a brother or sister who is involved something where they need the strength of the Lord to make it through. It is in these moments that we are overwhelmed by the love and compassion of our God, where we often receive instruction and when we are empowered to do his will.

It is also out of these moments that we emerge as empowered prayer warriors who continue to pray without ceasing. We become so sensitive to the Spirit that we hear his prompting to pray for the hidden needs of the people we encounter. We are given words of knowledge to speak into their lives. We become his presence in their lives as he empowers us to act in their lives without needing to ask questions. It is when he reveals to them that he not only knows their situation but he cares as well. That doesn't happen when we are "fitting in" moments of prayer.

We are a people of purpose and power. We carry the Light of God to this world and it all ignites in us in prayer. We have to give it priority. We have to approach it with purpose. We have to give it time in our day. We have to realize what is happening in this time. We have to realize that after Paul told us to put our spiritual armour on every day he gave this charge:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)

Prayer defies description. It is a time of intimacy with our King. It is a time of power releasing and a time of empowerment. It is like a battering ram against the enemy's forces. Without it nothing will be accomplished;  with it all things are possible because of the One who strengthens us. We need to be devoted to prayer, watchful and thankful. Come on mighty warriors, let's get in the battle.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Have We Gone Too Far In Our Message Of Love?

We should not mistake our loving, merciful and compassionate God to be a neglectful parent. Sometimes we try so hard to emphasize his unconditional love that we leave off that he is also a God of justice. We are in a period of grace where God's wrath and punishment for humanity's crimes are being held off but it will not last forever. We need to take sin seriously. We need to know what sin is. We need to consider it a disease that we want nothing to do with. We need to understand that no sin goes unseen by our God.

The Word is clear on the subject:

Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. (Colossians 3:25)

What is sin? Anything that is contrary to the will and character of God. Hatred is sin. Jealousy is sin. Bringing harm to another person is sin. Living a lifestyle contrary to the holiness of God is sin. Anything that comes against these two things

- love God with your entire being
- love others

is sin. Of course, our Father knew we were slaves to a character that we could not free ourselves from so he gave his Son in a loving act of sacrifice in order that we could be free enough to make a willing choice: God's Righteousness or Sin. Once accepted, we have that choice. But in not choosing we have also chosen. This is the reason why, just after telling us that he came so that whoever wanted to can be saved, Jesus states:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)

The world has been condemned and the day of judgement is coming. In all our preaching and teaching on God's love we cannot lose this fact: judgement hangs over the heads of the various people we meet today who have not made the choice for Jesus. Look at each person you see on the bus today or who are standing in the grocery line with you. God's wrath is coming upon these people because our God is a just God. These people are in rebellion to him and they probably don't even know it. They need to be told. Will you tell them?

Before someone can understand why Jesus is so important they need to understand their condition. Once they understand their condition, the importance of Jesus to them, the reality of God's love, compassion and mercy, become clear and vital. Have we gone too far in our message of love? Is the world missing out on the truth? Would they choose differently if they knew?

... because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 5:6)

We have a loving, merciful, compassionate and JUST God.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Game Changer

Who do you work for? Why do you do the things you do? Are you a hard worker or do you do enough to get by? Do you do what is expected of you or do you go beyond expectations? When your mom asks you to wash the dishes, do you mop the floor as well? When your boss gives you a deadline, do you try to be a day or two early? How are you looking at life?

The Bible is a serious thing and apparently God has written it on our heart through the Holy Spirit. But sometimes we don't get it because we still don't realize that we are no longer citizens of this planet but of the Kingdom of Jesus. This means that all the patterns, rules, way of thinking and attitudes have changed. Our motivation for living and working has changed. The foundation of our life has changed. A few days ago we examined this scripture:

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. (Colossians 3:17)

We discussed that "in the name of the Lord Jesus" means in his authority. We operate in the authority of Jesus Christ; in our actions and in our words. Now let's build on that with a verse we find not far from this one:

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)

There is the game changer. We don't work for men but for Jesus. God places us in certain places to be an influence for him. We are there representing Jesus, as a bus boy or a company manager. It doesn't matter where God has placed us and what the work of our hand is, it is all for his glory. When our mom asks us to do the dishes, as much as we love her, we do it for Jesus not for her. If we realized it was Jesus asking us to do the dishes I am sure we would only be too happy to clean the whole house.

If we realized what it is we are doing and who we are doing it for there would be no more half-measures. We would put our whole heart into the most meagre tasks and people would notice. We don't do it to get a better position or more pay. We don't do it for better recognition. We don't do it to feel good. Our reward is not in this place; we know we are receiving an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. Knowing this means we are all that much more generous with our time and energy. No, we do these things in obedience to the one we love.

It is the Lord Jesus we are serving not man, and that should make a huge difference in our attitude and work ethic. When we tell people we love Jesus it should be seen in the work of our hands. They should see it in our attitude toward others, including brothers, sisters, and grumpy bosses. Our work place should see a difference in us; they should see Jesus. And when they see how the Lord blesses and multiplies the work of our hands they will want to know more about our incredible King. A slack attitude, lack of joy and a grumpy face only robs people of seeing God's glory and perhaps their salvation. Realize God has purpose in all these things and serve him with all your heart.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Infecting People With A Desire For Jesus

The "American Dream" is to better the situation you find yourself in, to become successful in the world's eye. It is about going from rages to riches. Do you know that the "American Dream" has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God? Do you know that God measures success in a much different manner? Do you know God's expectation is that we will shine for him no matter our circumstances and lot in life?

I'm not saying doors of opportunity do not open  or when they do not to walk through them. If God is opening doors, he wants you to walk through, and he has reasons for it. Seldom are those reasons for us to line our own pockets but instead to advance the cause of the Kingdom. However, we are not to allow the lack of opportunities to depress our joy in the Lord for one minute. No circumstance should ever be able to dull the Lord's glory in us. Success is not measured in possessions or wealthy but instead by our obedience to our God.

Consider for a moment the attitude toward slavery. Slavery is a terrible injustice where one human being considers another to be a possession. Terrible circumstances that fly in the face of everything Jesus taught. But Apostle Paul did not run around trying to free slaves. His purpose was far more important than trying to improve people's condition in this world. He wanted everyone to possess a Kingdom perspective so the Spirit could have freedom to work through them, to infect everyone around them. Paul considered it far more important that everyone would be ambassadors for Jesus not matter their station in life:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (Colossians 3:22)

Imagine being a slave, not having a choice in anything, not able to go for a walk when you felt like it or be able to take a vacation. Imagine being treated like a possession, worth no more than the amount of money with which you were purchased. Now imagine knowing Jesus, being possessed by him and being told to shine for him in your attitude and work ethic for the one who saw you as nothing more than an animal.

Some of us feel that because we have a terrible boss or because we are in a terrible job we can slack off or speak against our boss. We think, because of our situation or circumstances, we have a right to complain or mouth off about everything. But when you are possessed by Jesus and compelled by his love you realize it isn't about your job, your position or your boss; it is about the values of the Kingdom. It is also about making the most of every opportunity God gives us to shine for the glory of Jesus.

Our old way of thinking, the old values, the old system is gone; we died to those things when we were transformed into a new creation. Now we have a new perspective, new values and we no longer chase after the things the world does. Knowing that our Heavenly Father is looking our for our needs, we concentration on the things of the Kingdom; not in some areas of our life but in every area. We make sure that our attitude reflects the glory of Jesus and we desire to shine with brilliance as we represent the King. Is there anything attractive about you that screams Jesus and cause people to enjoy being with you? That is our daily goal, to infect people with a desire for Jesus, no matter our lot in life.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rules For ...

In my Bible I have a section in Colossians 3 that some editors thought it would be good to title "Rules For Christians Households". I have a problem with that. I have a problem with anything we title as "rules" in the Bible. Perhaps "rules" in the sense of being compelled by love. "If it is really love then this is what results" is how we could phrase it. There are things that are born out of love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Paul is not giving us a set of rules here but is telling us the natural results of love. When we are possessed by the love of Jesus we are compelled to live in this. When we are possessed by his love we can't bring ourselves to hate our enemy. We can't yell at our spouse or children. We can't harbour resentment or hurt feelings. Our natural reaction is to forgive. It is not something we work at; it is something we are.

It annoys me when people try to get others to conform to "rules" they have picked out of the Bible. Jesus said if we love him we will obey him. He didn't just say obey me. God said that we needed to love him with our entire being. Love is what comes first, followed by a desire to obey, because obedience is born out of love. If you don't love Jesus then you are just going to be another religious nut trying to conform people to a set of rules.

Under that title in Colossians 3 we find these instructions:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:18-21)

People do treat this as a set of rules. They say "The Bible commands us to love our wives" but if that is how we see it we will never manage it. Love cannot be dictated. Instead, be possessed by Jesus and you will be compelled by that love to love others. In this way wives will respect and love their husbands. Husbands will love their wives and never abuse them. Children will obey their parents, not out of fear but out of love and respect. Fathers will be consistent in their application of love to their children and thus never embitter or discourage them. Not because of a set of rules but because they are compelled by love.

People only struggle in their walk with Jesus because they haven't learned to be possessed by his love. They are treating Jesus like Gandhi, with a set of rules and good sayings to hang on the wall, publish on the internet and they honestly try to follow them. When we are possessed by the love of Jesus the Word will be written on our heart, becoming part of us and we naturally live it in love. There is a difference between conformity and transformation. The love of Jesus does not conform but transforms.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

And Whatever You Do ...

It's funny how scripture evolves as we experience more of God. It isn't really that scripture evolves as much as it is our growing in the revelation of God's Word. It starts off as baby food to us as we learn to digest it and put it into action. As we go along the Spirit takes us to deeper places as our digestive system matures. At first we take small scripture verses in isolation but as we mature we put those scriptures in the context of the whole Bible. Here's an example:

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. (Colossians 3:17)

I used to think this was telling me that whatever I decide to do I needed to do it in the name of the Lord. It gave me a sense that I get to choose my own course, as long as I ask God's blessing and dedicate it to Jesus. That is what it looked like to me in isolation. However, as I began to put it into context with the rest of the Bible I began to see it differently.

How can we be dead to ourself and still get to choose our own course? How can the Word say that we no longer belong to ourselves because we have been bought at a great price and yet we get to decide our future? How can Jesus say, "Come, follow me" and we get to decide the direction? Jesus hasn't come alive in me, I have been raised to life in him. I am not asking Jesus to come walk with me, I am accepting the invitation to go and walk with him. I am not inviting God into my life, he is inviting me into his.

On the flip side, it is possible to follow Jesus but then profit from it for ourselves. We can take his direction and make it about us instead of about his glory. We can be alive in him and still make it about us. He can give us very precise instructions and we can hi-jack those plans. This is the reason the Spirit prompted Paul to write, whatever you do, do it in the name of Jesus. Whatever you have been called to, do not do it in your strength or authority but in the authority of Jesus.

Listen, you have great ideas and plans and I am sure it will turn out great, but it would be incredible if they are done in the authority of Jesus and not your own. Yes, with a lot of hard work you could feed 5,000 but Jesus did it with a prayer. There is the difference. You can do a lot in your own strength but it can't compare with what you can do in Jesus' strength. You can accomplish a lot in your own ability but it is nothing compared to the glory of doing it in God's infinite ability and authority.

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

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

So read and understand well the whole counsel of the Word. It is not about us, our ideas, abilities or talents. It is all about Jesus, his power, authority and glory. He calls us and equips us to represent him in this place. Our name goes on nothing. We do not receive the applause. We take credit for none of it because it was Jesus' in the beginning, middle and end. And that is the truth of the matter.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Serving With A Heavenly Mind

I have had it said of me that I am so "heavenly minded you are no earthly good", but I don't believe that. In fact, I believe the opposite to be true; if we aren't heavenly minded we are no earthly good. Too many of us are so full of ourselves and the world philosophies that we have nothing to offer anyone. Be real, who wants to hear my opinion on anything? Who cares what I think. My role here is not to share my opinion but to be so full of the Spirit and God's wisdom that it is God's wisdom that I share.

My opinions don't matter and I don't trust them because they have for too long been formed by the perspective of this world. All I really want is to know God's thoughts, his knowledge and his wisdom in all matters. For this I must experience his Word through the Holy Spirit in me. I don't read the Word to have an opinion, I read it to discover God, his knowledge and wisdom. The only way I can do this beyond the words on paper is to allow the Holy Spirit to teach me the Word. This should be a goal for all of us as we encourage one another to go to the end of the matter:

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. (Colossians 3:16)

There is the word "let" again. Just as yesterday we discovered in the verse previous to this that we must "let" the peace of Jesus rule in our hearts, we must "let" (allow, permit) the Word to dwell in us. It is not something we have to force or generate. We don't have to dissect the Word and become some great theologian or scholar. All we have to do is allow the Spirit to teach us. Let go of any self-learned opinion and "let" the Spirit show you the way to greater understanding and the power to live the Word.

Too many of us try to teach and admonish without the Word. We use a bit of the Word mixed with wisdom from the world. It sounds great to a world-saturated mind, familiar and true, but we are to have nothing to do with the wisdom of this world as we lean on our God for all things. We cannot drink from two sources and expect that God will honour it. The wisdom we are to use to teach and admonish comes from the Word, from God, and if you are not "letting" the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, it is best to keep your opinions to yourself. Your opinion will not save anyone, in fact, it may cause them more harm than good.

We cannot be double minded in these things. We must be clear who is our source for all things. We cannot try to win the approval of man by becoming men and women of education. If the Spirit directs you to take higher education then do it with all his energy, for his glory and purpose. But do not try to get letters after your name so people will be impressed and you can appear wise and knowledgeable. Do not think that education will allow you to be a better minister in the Church. God has no use from education in the Church as he is the source of all things for us. Our teacher is the Holy Spirit and without him we cannot know the mind of Christ. Make sure you understand these things. Make sure you understand your motives. Make sure that Jesus is your only reason for being. He is the air we breath.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Right Goals Are Important In Life

Goals tend to be important for us. Without goals we tend to just exist; we eat, work, sleep, eat, work, sleep for our entire life. We may have small goals like, finish our homework, go for a walk, make supper. We may even have longer term goals like buy a house, pay off the car, set money aside for retirement. But what sense of well being does that give us? Isn't well being really what we are looking for? Don't we want to wake up every day with a desire to live life, to enjoy people, to love and feel loved and then go to bed with a sense of peace and joy?

We can earn a million dollars and never feel that peace. We could get that job we always thought we wanted  and never feel that joy. We could reach retirement with our plan intact and not have a thankful word on our lips. Goals are great and needed but they must be the right goals or it will be a wasted life.

The problem is with perception and expectation. From a young age we are shaped and trained with other people's expectations. It starts off with our parents, and they only want the very best for us. They speak their dreams and hopes into us but often these are dreams and hopes already shaped by society. Then we are faced with advertisements which bombard us with images and slogans of perceived success. We face it in school, with friends and sometimes even in church. Most people don't even give it a second thought and just go with the flow, with society's perception and expectations. So many lives wasted.

In it all there is God's quiet and gentle voice calling us to something so much different; something that deals with our true well being. Quiet words, such as:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)

Jesus promises so much more than our small goals ever could. He offers more than the greatest job, best education, biggest retirement fund:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Just because you are a Christian doesn't mean you have discovered the truth of these words. Too many of us don't have a clue that we are suppose to trust God;  that we are suppose to follow his instructions; to listen for his direction. We accept Jesus and then continue pursuing life as usual but Jesus told us specifically not to do that:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

We hear the words but fail to understand; fail to allow them to affect our life; fail to allow them to change or perspective and expectations. Failing to understand these words prevents us from living a life of "risk" (faith), and keeps us in a very "safe" (dull) place all of our lives. There is no growth, just existence. Do these words have any effect on you:

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)

Jesus has given us peace, now we must allow that peace to rule our hearts. That means considering what is important to God and walking in that thing. It means allowing his priorities to become our priorities. It means allowing the Holy Spirit to instil God's values in us. But mostly it means letting go of everything we are dependent on and trusting God. Can you do that? Let go of society's expectations? Allow Jesus' love to be our motivation for all things, to desire to reflect his glory in all we do and say, in the choices we make? We must allow God to define success for us.

I want to wake up every morning with a desire to live life to the fullest. I don't want to feel horrible because it is morning; I want to feel excited. I don't want to see my day filled with boring routine but with endless possibilities. I don't want to see people as an interruption but as my reason for being here. I don't want to exist; I want to live life in abundance because of Jesus. And when I put my head on my pillow at night, I want a heart overflowing with thanksgiving and a great sense of peace, no matter what I faced that day.

This is all possible as we take Jesus' hand and allow him to lead.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What Are You Grasping?

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. - ! Corinthians 13:1-3 (The Message)

There it is in a nutshell. Love is the foundation of all our motivation. But not any love. It is the love of Jesus that must occupy us. We must envelop ourselves in his love, allow it to become an ocean to us, the very air that we breathe. It is more than just looking to his example. It is more than an outside force influencing an inward change. It must become the inner force that impacts our outward actions. This is only possible when we are possessed by Jesus himself.

We can't stop pursuing greater revelation of his love. We can't stop learning. We cannot set it aside to pursue other aspects of his character because love is at the heart of all of his character. It is what binds it all together:

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14, NIV)

After Apostle Paul describes the functioning of the Church, the Body of Christ, in 1 Corinthians 12, he said there was only one way, the excellent way, that the many parts of the Body could function as one: Love. In the Church today we try to unite people with the thought of having a common goal. Churches will try to encourage its members in this way. But often we get the goal wrong. The one thing that unites us, binds us altogether, makes us as one, is the love of Jesus Christ.

Some say we spend too much time on this subject which is not true; we don't spend enough. We have the wrong perspective of this love. We continue to treat it as something that is on the outside that we need to get in but we have to see it as something on the inside we need to pour out. This one prayer of Paul's has never left me and remains my desire that I must act on every day:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Oh to have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge. It is the only way to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Without love we have nothing, we are nothing.

In all the glitz, glamour, pumped emotions, ecstasy music, mission statements, lofty goals, let's not lose sight of what is the real power. Let's not lose sight of the foundation. Let's not lose sight of our motivation. Let's not lose sight of the purpose of it all. If you are not grasping the love of Jesus what are you grasping? If your desire is not the fullness of God, what is your desire? Love binds it all together in perfect unity.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Do You Really Want To Know?

Do you want to know who you are? Do you really want to know? Sometimes we say we do; sometimes we say we want God to show us, but we don't really want to see. We are too afraid. I think we are afraid because we already know that it's pretty ugly. Come on, if we are really honest with ourselves we all know that it's not a nice place in our heart. It's the whole reason we need Jesus.

If you want a true test of your character, of who you are, ask yourself how quick you are to forgive. I don't just mean the words you speak but the thoughts you hold on to. Do you make it your purpose to decide to forget offences. I mean to never bring them up again; ever! I mean to act as if it never happened. That's what forgiveness is. It is not a "putting off" but a throwing away, to be forgotten.

How are you with loving people who don't fit into your acceptable column? I don't mean just tolerating them but calling them friend, hanging out with them, inviting them into your life? Think of some people who annoy you in your church. Did you know that love means you work through that annoyance; you act as if it doesn't exist and you love them all the more. Love is not always so easy. Jesus said it is nothing to love those who love you. But he called you to a greater love; one that shows kindness to an enemy and prays for those who persecute us. If this is said of an enemy, how much more someone who is united with us by the same Spirit?

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

At the foundation of our life in Jesus is the fact that we no longer belong to ourselves, but we were purchased at a great price. We belong to Jesus and as such we take on the character of our Master. Obviously we can't change ourselves but the power of the transformation gives us the authority to make decisions. We have to make the decision to forgive and then the Spirit gives us the power to make it happen. We have to make the decision to love and then the Spirit gives us the power to see if flourish. We can't make the mistake of thinking we are going to get zapped with something and all the hurt and pain is going to disappear. We have to submit that hurt and pain to Jesus, just give it over to him as our Master, and decide to forgive. We will soon discover the power is there to make it happen.

Remember, we don't belong to ourselves any more which means no one can offend us. They may offend our Master but Jesus will take care of that. We cannot take offence because we died. Only someone alive can take offence. We died and were brought back to life, but not life in ourselves again; we are only alive in Jesus. We no longer live for ourselves.

We can't be satisfied to stay where we are. The transformation has taken place and is taking place every day. We have to know and act in the character of Jesus. If there is prejudice and unforgiveness found in us then we do not understand who we are in Jesus. We are a new creation and these things do not belong to us. Because we have received forgiveness, we forgive. Because Jesus bared with us and went to the cross for us, we can bear with each other, laying down our lives for one another. His power in us makes it possible. This is what we should see when we ask the Lord to show us our heart. It is what should occupy us. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Words That Shape Us

How you see yourself is exactly how you are going to act. That is why the words that we allow into our heart can be so powerful, if we allow them to change our perception. If we are not absolutely sure of who we are those words, which come from other people, can actually shape us into how other people see us. This is why it is important for parents to speak good things into their children because those young lives are still being shaped and are influenced by our words.

This is also why it is important that we only allow God's words to shape us. We need to be absolutely sure of who we are in Jesus so that assurance will prevent others from shaping us. Consider these words:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved ... (Colossians 3:12a)

Chosen, holy, loved. This describes us. Chosen because God made a choice in sending Jesus so that we may be saved from destruction and adopted into the Father's family. Holy because, by God's grace, that is what he has declared over us and made the decision how to see us, even though we are not worthy of that word; it is who we are because God said we are holy. Loved because God has poured out all his mercy, forgiveness and compassion on us, transforming us into something new, saving us from ourselves and sitting us at his right hand with Jesus.

Now how could we ever listen to any words that say we are ugly when God says we are beautiful? There are too many hurtful words that we could repeat here but why bother; they don't apply to us. God has told us exactly who we are and we need to act on those words, allowing them to shape our perception and action. If words can be spoken to convince us we are stupid and we act stupid, should not the words of God propel us into acts of greatness?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (v12)

Because we are chosen, holy and loved we are shaped so that we become compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient. If you are not sure of who you are then words will shape you into other actions even though you desire to be these things from God. You may want to be compassionate but because you are not convinced you are chosen, holy and loved, your actions will not reflect Jesus' character; you will not cooperate with the Holy Spirit in you.

We can't just attend church, Bible Study and sing sings, hoping for the best. We have to be transformed. We have to allow the blood of Jesus Christ to transform us into the new creation to which God has called us. We need to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to continue the transformation process daily. We need to be convinced of who we are in Jesus so the words of God are the only words that shape us. Know who you are in Jesus and walk that walk.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Christ Is All, And Is In All

Looking at the history of the Church it is not hard to tell that transformation was not always understood. For far too long the Church was used by powerful men to get what they wanted. It was a tool used to hold power over the masses. Much of our history is a thing of shame. Remnants remained but the vast majority of people had no idea what it was to be alive in Jesus. This is seen in the dark parts of our history when men and women were judged because of their nationality or the colour of their skin.

I think one of the most beautiful, poetic and truly wonderful verses of the Bible is this:

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11)

I think Jesus demonstrated this fact when he chose Matthew, the tax collector, and Judas, the Zealot, to be his disciples. When we are in Jesus, it does not matter our trade, nationality, skin colour, education, financial situation or position in society; we are all his disciples and all that matters to us is Jesus.

There are really only two groups on the face of this planet: those who are a new creation and those who are enslaved to their sin nature. That is all that we should see as a people alive in Jesus. We should know God's heart for those who are enslaved and we should share that heart. All of our focus and desire should be to see the enslaved set free because that is all our Father desires and it is the reason Jesus died. It is why you are where you are right and our desire should be to see everyone come to the same place of freedom.

We accept and believe with all our heart what John 3:16 says, that "whoever" believes will be saved. There is no prejudice in the Body of Christ. There is no judgement. There is no special or select group of people. Everyone has been called to repentance. Everyone has been called to Jesus. He was lifted up that all eyes would look upon him and be saved. Salvation is for everyone and to everyone we must bring it.

You don't need to go out of your country to find those who are enslaved; they exist on your street. In my province 0.3% of the population are born again Christians. There are a lot of people enslaved on my street, in my town and I have been given the responsibility to lift Jesus up to them. It doesn't matter the language they speak or the religion they belong to. It doesn't matter their age or sex. It doesn't matter if they are rich or poor. They need Jesus and I have to tell them about him.

What is your focus? Where is your heart? What is your mind set upon? Do you possess the mind of Christ? Do you share God's desire? Have you been transformed or conformed? Are you on a mission? Do you want to see the captives set free? Then go, make disciples of everyone.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Liar, Liar

The habit of lying is a hard thing to stop once we have started. Why did we start? There are all kinds of reasons why people start. Sometimes it is a self-preservation thing. It started young when our mom's would ask us questions like "Who left the milk out?" Then there are the embellishment lies with our friends; the proverbial "fish story". These lies make us look good. There are the vengeance lies, to get an enemy in trouble. There are lots of different lies and lots of different reasons why we lie and once started it is hard to stop.

However, lying does not belong to the children of God. Our God hates falsehood and part of our transformation is to destroy the need for lies. It was part of our old nature, but now we are a new creation, with new and better habits; ones that glorify Jesus:

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:9-10)

The reasons for lying have been taken away. No longer is self the center of our being. We have no reason for self-preservation. We do not need to make ourselves look good. We have no hatred or ill-will toward our enemy. Jesus has become our everything and our only desire is to bring him glory and to allow his character to shine through us. Everything has changed. What once was is no more. A creation never seen before stands in its place; a blending of God and us; transformed by the power of God. Our hearts and minds have been changed forever, and our bodies will soon follow.

Yet, you might still be stuck in that habit. The reason for it is gone but the habit remains. It is similar to smoking. There is usually a reason why people start. Could have been a rebellious act, a thing to still nerves, a response to depression or stress. The reasons are gone but the habit is fixed and hard to break. How do you break the habit of lying? By telling the truth.

Every time you catch yourself in a lie, stop and tell the truth. Apologize and reverse course. Yes, it is embarrassing but after a few embarrassing incidents you will start avoiding the lie and the Spirit of God will lend you strength. "I'm sorry, I have no idea why I said that. The truth of the matter is ...." "I'm sorry, that was a le. The truth is ..."

Take off the old self with it's practices and put on the new self.

The new creation that we are is made in the image of our Creator. The transformation happened and is continuing to happen. The cross changed us and gave us the capacity to carry God's image so the transformation is ongoing. As we gain more knowledge of him we become more like him. We are being renewed in this knowledge. Now you have the knowledge that lying does not belong to our new nature; go and sin no more.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Waking Up To Holiness

It seems for the last week the Holy Spirit has been pushing the point that we are to be transformed not conformed to the righteousness of God. Perhaps it is because of the fasting many people are doing. I really hope that everyone is participating in the fast with the right motivation and understanding and aren't doing the old Lent thing people used to do for Easter. People would give up something minor to identify with the suffering of Jesus. As if giving up coffee or television could ever help us identify with the beating, suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.

Fasting should help us see the things that need to be changed in our life so there can be more of Jesus and less of us. There should be a throwing out of things to make room for the Holy Spirit. There should be a throwing off of things that do not belong to our new nature so the glory of Jesus can shine in us. But, as we discussed yesterday, it is only possible when we have died and been raised to live in Jesus. The transformation must have started in order for us to possess the power and authority to "put to death" the things that belong to the old nature from which we were just transformed.

If you have been saved, put to death with Jesus on the cross, and raised with him according to your faith in the power of God to do so, then you have the power to get rid of those things that have had authority over you for years. We read in Colossians 3:

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. (Colossians 3:7-8)

Again, it must be stressed, this cannot be done from a self-help, self-improvement mentality and perspective. If you have tried to improve yourself, and failed, it is because you are not doing it within the power of the transformation. It means you are trying to do it in your own authority and without Jesus you have no authority over your sin nature. You honestly have to die with Jesus and be raised to life as a new creation in the power of God. Christianity is not something to be trifled with; it is a transforming power that changes what you were. Christians are actually a bunch of aliens walking around on this planet, no longer natives to this world, no longer fitting in.

If you have gone through the transformation, you possess the power and authority of Jesus to put to death these things that no longer are part of you. You can get rid of that anger that once possessed you, the rage that overwhelmed you. Malice and slander no longer feel natural to your lips and actually leave a sick feeling in your stomach. Filthy language tastes like bile so that even in the worse moments of your day only praises of our King occupy your tongue. If any of these things still belong to you I suggest you examine closely your relationship with Jesus, whether it is an honest one or not.

We no longer belong to this world so we do not conform to its patterns, its way of thinking, its perspective. We no longer try to go with the flow or fit in. Being popular or accepted is no longer our goal or concern. To live our transformed lives to the glory of Jesus Christ and to walk in obedience to his purpose for us is what we desire. And it is to a re-awakening of this understanding that I hope your fasting is moving you toward. Through the transformation of your life in Jesus, you have been given the power over sin in your life and for the sake of your relationship with Jesus I pray you are exercising that power.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Will You Act On Your Beliefs?

How are you saved? Did you do it for yourself? Did you find some way to extract your sin nature and now you are free to live God's law? Of course not. You have no such power over yourself. You are saved by the act of Jesus Christ and your faith to believe. In fact, the faith isn't even yours. We are too spiritually impoverished to possess such faith so even that had to be lent to us. But we have to believe. Belief is not something you talk about but something you act upon. You live by your beliefs.

Yet, belief by itself is useless when placed in false thinking. Belief has to be based on truth. You can believe you can fly but when you jump off the top of a building to live your belief you will soon discover that the law of gravity is greater than your belief. So belief by itself will not save you. Belief comes alive when met by truth and the truth is that Jesus saved you on the cross. Not only did he save you but he let loose the power of transformation. Your salvation sparked the transformation that became possible through the single act of death on the cross.

Belief must be more than just the fact you are saved because salvation came in a big package with many other things, your freedom being one of them. You believe you are saved? Great! Now start acting like the free person you are. Stop submitting yourself to sin. Stop making excuses that you are only human because you aren't. You are a new creation and as a new creation you have been given freedom from what once held you in bondage. This is what was meant when this was written:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (Colossians 3:5-6)

People fall for the lie: "We have no power over these things". You were given power. You were given the power to say no. You were given freedom. But it takes as much belief to walk in that freedom as it does to accept the gift of salvation.

There is no doubt that the enemy does not like the fact he has lost control over us and will use every opportunity he has to get the old nature back in control. When we are tired, lazy, bored, unfocused, forgetful, weak, he will present us with all kinds of opportunities. Many of us fail because we do not believe we have power over these things so we do not act upon that power.

Put it to death, not in your own power. You cannot save yourself. You cannot stop yourself from sinning. You are not more powerful than the enemy. However, you have been given the power. You have been set free. You are now greater than the enemy because of who you live in. Because you died and were raised to life in Jesus, you are not what once you were and now you have been given the power to say no; the power to put the enemy under your feet.

We are without excuse. The power of the resurrection courses through our veins. We are possessed by the Spirit of God. We are more than conquerors. We are an overcomer because Jesus has overcome. Your greatness is not measured in the values of this world but according to God's love. You are a giant in this world, mighty warrior, and it is time to live this victorious life according to our beliefs.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jesus Is Our Life

Imagine if I told you "Man is something I do but it doesn't run my life"? You would probably think I am nuts. "Man" isn't what I do, it is what I am. Everything I do is shaped by the fact that I am a man. I can't stop being a man and decide to be an elephant. I can't set it aside and just be a man during certain days of the week or times of the day. I eat, drink, sleep, work, and play as a man. It is the same with Christianity.

Christianity isn't something we do, it is what we are. Everything we do is shaped by the fact that we are a Christian. We can't stop being a Christian and decide to be something else for a while. We can't set it aside and just be a Christian during certain days of the week or times of the day. We eat, drink, sleep, work, and play as a Christian. It is not an external religion that tries to impact the soul. It is an inner "being" that impacts our environment.

I will keep stressing this until the day I die, we are a new creation, different than what we were before, changed forever. It is like a chemical change, when molecules are all changed around to form something new. We died and were born again as something completely different, capable of doing things that we could not do before and not dependant on the things that were destroying us. Where once we could not avoid the distractions and sins of this world, now we can.

Jesus is not part of our life. He is not someone who hangs around on occasion who we spend time with. He didn't set things in motion and then back off. Jesus is our life:

When Christ, who is your life, appears,then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)

I don't know if that is sinking in. He is not part of our life; he is our life. I can no more separate him from me than I can separate being a man from me. Everything I think, my perspective, my actions, my reactions all come through Jesus because the life I live I live in Jesus. I gave up my independent life when I died and was raised in Jesus. There was a chemical change that changed everything in me. I am not what once I was, and either are you.

This means we have to stop living according to the pattern of this world and live by the direction of the Holy Spirit. We must allow Jesus to impact every part of us. The Bible is not a set of rules to be followed; it is a bunch of road markers to let us know if we are on the right track. The Word of God is not some old document or history book; it is written on our hearts that we would live it. If we do not see in ourselves what we read in the Word it means that the relationship is not right and we need to deal with it. It is not God working outwards in but inwards out because Jesus is our life.

If Christianity remains a thing of conformity to you then you do not know Jesus. If it is a prudish thing that seems out-dated then you do not know Jesus. If Jesus is something you think about on occasion and a reason to go to church then you do not know Jesus. To know him is to be "chemically" changed forever, having died to what once you were and are now alive in him. If Jesus is not your life now then you will have no eternal life on his appearing.

Friday, January 11, 2013

What's Up With This Fasting Stuff?

As a great portion of the Church spends these days in fasting, we should ask ourselves why? Why fast? Why spend time not eating, not watching television or movies? Why turn off FaceBook? Why set aside video games? Why put away those magazines? The reason is very simple. When you are in a forest all you can see is trees. You have to come out of those trees in order to see the forest.

Like it or not we surround ourselves with the things of this world. We may preach the Word of God but we still take pleasure from this world like anyone else. But those pleasures can blind us to the bigger picture. They can distract us from our calling and purpose. They can ruin out palate for the taste of God's Word. They cause our life to be complicate, cluttered and down right messy and usually it is our devotion to Jesus that gets squeezed out.

Fasting gets us out of the "trees" and allows us to take in the beauty of the "forest". It allows us to breathe, re-evaluate where we are, what we are doing and what is important. It frees up our mind and our heart so we can give them the rich "food" of heaven. It gives the Spirit room to restore our soul. It closes the door on all that "noise" so we can be still and know that God is God.

Many Christians struggle spiritually. Many say "I can't hear the Spirit". Many question their beliefs. It isn't because the message of the gospel has changed. It isn't because Jesus has changed. It is because their life is so full of "noise" they can't hear God. The solution is to do what we have always supposed to have done:

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)

Didn't Jesus say not to pursue the things that the pagan's pursue? But what do we spend 99% of our life doing? Is there really any difference between us and those without Jesus, besides us going to church, maybe? During this time of fasting we should be asking God to examine us, to correct our ways:

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

The Word says to set our hearts on things above and then it says to make sure our minds are there as well. There is a reason for this: We aren't like everyone else. We aren't like our friends who get caught up in the dramas of Tumblr and FaceBook. We aren't into the High School scene. We don't make work our life. We don't live for retirement. Our goal is not to own a home, two cars and to have 1.2 children. We are not concerned about the stock market or worried over the rumours of wars. We don't diminish our calling by throwing away our calling on xbox games and movies. We are different from the world:

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)

And that is the truth of the matter. We do not live for ourselves but for Jesus. We don't live in ourselves but in Jesus. We do not seek self-pleasure but what pleases God. Our joy is not what we do but what we are because of Jesus. Our peace does not come from external matters but is a gift from Jesus, deserved or not.

I hope your goal in your fasting is to rediscover these facts. I pray you are seeking his face.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Saving Yourself

You can't save yourself. You can put a band-aide on it; you can mask the symptoms, but you cannot remove the disease. The self help industry is a billion dollar lie industry. They paint a world that people can never achieve. They can wall paper and even apply a bit of paint but the rotten structure underneath is still there. We need someone of greater authority than ourselves to take away the disease, to rebuild our structure. This person is Jesus.

Millions of people on this planet have discovered this truth but not everyone lives it. You may not even be living it. We accept the gift of Jesus and he does remove the disease and rebuild the structure but we live as if we are still the ones who have to find the solution. There is no more disease but we are still applying band-aides. Apostle Paul asks the questions:

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)

We need to take a good long look at our attitude toward certain things we do and why. Jesus saved us, end of story. There is nothing we do that can make us more saved. We do not read our Bible to be saved but to grow in knowledge of God. We do not pray to be saved but to participate in God's work. We do not worship to be saved but to glorify God in all his works. We do not serve to be saved but to obey what we have been commanded. We do not sacrifice to be saved but to participate in the suffering of Christ.

The basic principles of this world no longer apply to us. We do not have to do what everyone around us is doing because we answer to a higher authority. We don't belong here any more but are citizens of God's Kingdom. Our values, priorities, perspective and way of thinking no longer match the world's. The Word tells us all the "do's" and "dont's" of this world are fading away, all the trappings of religion are falling away:

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

The self-help style of religion, earning our salvation, has nothing to do with us; because of Jesus we aren't even on the map with such things:

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. (Colossians 2:23)

Nothing is going to get rid of the disease of our human nature except for Jesus. He is the only one with the power and authority. A blind man cannot help himself see; neither can another blind man help him see. Nothing we do and nothing anyone else does for us can save us. We need to pay attention to this because sometimes the attitude can creep back in without us knowing. A friend reminded me of what Charles Spurgeon once said. I will paraphrase: We grow in grace but we will never be more saved than the first day we accepted Jesus Christ. Remember, there is nothing you do that saves yourself.