Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Pebble Effect

How do you see yourself in this world? It's a good question. How you handle life depends a lot on how you see your relationship with the world and with others. If we really see ourselves as "passing through" then we wouldn't get so emotionally invested in things that have no eternal impact. As much as I enjoy my Montreal Canadiens winning, I am not about to get emotionally tangled in something that does not matter for eternity. In other words, I am not about to feel low because my team lost.

You may think that sounds silly but many of us allow unimportant things to impact our day in negative ways. We get upset because we heard that someone we hardly know doesn't like us. We get upset because someone dented our car or because one of our kids broke a plate from our good China set. We get really bummed out because we flunked our calculus test and now our grade point average will drop, affecting which university we can approach. It sounds disastrous in the moment but when we are standing in eternity we won't even give it a thought.

So what is important? Relationships. Relationships and our role in them. Some would say that we have a responsibility to win people to Jesus. Do you know the Bible doesn't tell us that? Do you know that Jesus never told us to do that? Salvation belongs to God and conviction is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to share the Good News and to make disciples. You see, our role is that of teachers. We are to teach others what we have been taught.

This was one of the many things that Apostle Paul reminded Timothy to do:

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

You see, you have the responsibility to teach others what you have received and they in turn have the responsibility to teach what they have received. We aren't simply "passing through". As we pass through we have to leave an impact for Jesus. People should be able to look back on our path and see the countless relationships we have impacted with Jesus. They should see changed lives that go beyond the people we touched but include the people who were touched by those we touched and so on. Our life should have the pebble effect on the still pond.

Is this what you see in your life? Is this the lasting, eternal effect you are having in this world, or that Jesus is having through you? Are you reaching out into the lives of every person you are in relationship with, in an effort to teach them about Jesus? How many people will you meet in eternity who are there because you took the time to teach one person about Jesus?  Let's gain a proper perspective of our time on this earth.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Are We Missing?

If you were to take a survey of family and friends, what do you think they would list as your number one strength? Is it your charm? Perhaps your whit? Maybe you have superior intellect or great musical ability? Could it be your talent for making and keeping friends? Loyalty, dependability, determination, maturity? It's funny how some people see traits in us that we would never see in ourselves. But would any of your friends say you are a person of grace?

I have met some awesome people in my time. Some were great preachers and others great evangelists. I have met prophets and teachers whose revelation and understanding make me look like a beginner in God's Word. But whatever we are and whatever we have can all be made useless without a practical application of God's grace. It is only in the context of God's love that we can begin to grasp the profoundness and the life impacting nature of grace.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the Apostle Paul spent so much precious time encouraging Timothy in this, in his last letter to his friend. He writes:

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1)

So many people want to walk in Jesus' footsteps but fail to understand those steps are things of grace. Every minute he lived here, every breath he took, every step he made, every word he spoke were done in the grace of God. We didn't deserve any of it.The only thing we had earned was God's wrath but here he was rescuing us in an action of grace to his enemy and setting an example of how we have been transformed. Yes, we were transformed to be vessels of this great ointment called grace.

If you say you love Jesus and yet hold on to even a pebble of hatred, you have not really experienced the love of God. If you become impatient easily, avoid certain people, love some more than others, then you have not grasped the nature of God's grace. If you keep a list of wrongs, fail to forgive wrongs done to you, find it impossible to be kind to those who hate you, then you do not understand the true cost of following Jesus.

It is not a matter of us trying to love others. No matter how hard we try we will never be able to find it in ourselves to love as God loves. We don't have it in ourselves to be like Jesus. Many have tried; all have failed. We can become like a good person. We can become a person people admire as we allow our strong traits to shine through and try to keep our bad ones hidden. But in Jesus nothing is hidden that will not be exposed.

The only way we can live the grace that we have been shown is by allowing Jesus to live through us. We have to die to ourselves, stop pushing for what we want, stop running from God to gain the world. We have to empty ourselves and allow the Spirit of God to have full control so that the anointing of God will be on us, and the new character, the character of Jesus will be seen by all. Then we will live a life of grace. Then the world will see the difference and know there is a difference. They may hate us for it but at least they will know.

Would your friends say grace is a word that describes you?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Applying Grace

Have you ever met a person of true grace? A person who doesn't hold anything against anyone? A person who has the ability to see people as God sees them; victims of a nature they cannot change? They are amazing people and we should all be like them. Unfortunately we too often forget that this same grace is applied to us every day. We often think it is applied once but we are far from perfect. I can't even imagine what the list would look like if I was to see what God's grace overlooks in my life every day.

I think we just have very poor memories. We forget that we are trophies of grace. We forget that we are not so much examples of how to live a perfect life but an example of how a perfect God lives through us. As such, we should be constantly applying that grace to everyone in our life. It means we never keep a list of wrongs. It doesn't mean we don't deal with the wrongs when they happen. People need to be aware of the consequences of their actions. But grace says that we forgive and we don't remember that offense again. It means every day is a new day with a new slate. It means a decision we take and it means we need the anointing of God to live his grace.

Apostle Paul was in a bad place. Under house arrest, many of his friends had abandoned him. He wrote of one person to Timothy, but he did not state what this man had done to him. Instead he chose to remember the blessings he received from the man:

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. (2 Timothy 1:16-17)

All Paul could pray for this former man of blessing was that God would show him mercy. No list of wrongs. No angry words. No instruction of vengeance. Instead, a pray from a man who desperately needed people to pray for him:

May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus. (v. 18)

If you have ever faced the pain of rejection, the hurt from being stabbed in the back, you will understand the amount of grace such words take. But Paul was never concerned for himself. He never worried about how people perceived him. He was never looking for followers and supporters. Paul`s concern was where people were with Jesus. Perhaps with such an attitude in life grace flows easier. When we allow things to become personal; when we absorb them into our being; when those words and actions are allowed to take on more importance than they have in the Kingdom of God, grace slips away.

I believe the secret to the advancement of the Kingdom in the hearts of men and women has nothing to do with church marketing and everything to do with grace. If we would only ask for a greater revelation, a greater anointing, a greater application by us in the lives of others, people would begin to see God's heart toward them. No angry or hurtful words from our mouths. No complaining. No words that tear down. Only words and actions that build up, that encourage, that cover. This is the Kingdom I belong to, that I love, and of which I serve.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Success In God's Eyes

What is success to you? Think about it for a few minutes and write it down. At the end of your life, as you lay on your death bed, what would cause you to feel that your life was a success? Some people do not worry about success and live their life with no direction, no compass. Others have their life goals planned out in great detail and have definite measures of success in their life. Many struggle with depression, anxiety and a sense of lose because they failed in their goals.

Imagine, facing death knowing that something you had worked so hard on and that had met with great success, was suddenly destroyed. Maybe in other circumstances you would have rushed in and rescued the situation but your time is up. There is no more working. What is done is done. It is lost. How would you feel? A life wasted? This was the situation apostle Paul was in.

From the beginning Paul had wanted to get into Asia Minor but the Spirit had blocked him. When the time was right he was allowed in and when he was things happened. Paul spent years in this region, based in Ephesus. He had a great team who would go and preach in every corner of that region. In Acts we are told that there was not a person who did not hear about Jesus. It was a busy time but also very fruitful.

Paul was now in Rome, under house arrest, going through a trial before the world's most powerful man. He could receive visitors and send people with letters but he could not leave. It is while he was there, during his last days that he wrote this letter to Timothy and he states this:

You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. (2 Timothy 1:15)

Could you imagine how that must have felt.? He had invested some much time and energy, made so many friends, considered them family, and here he was abandoned when he needed the most support. But Paul was not like this and neither should we by this. Paul did not find his worth in what he did. He did not consider it a success to have the biggest ministry. Paul did not require a following of people to give him a sense of well being. There was only one thing that Paul knew God measured as success, faithfulness.

Yes, it must have hurt, but this abandonment was not devastating to Paul because his worth was found elsewhere. Paul knew he had done everything the Lord had asked. He faced trials and persecutions. He faced some terrible circumstances, but Paul always pressed on, determined to serve in great joy. Some of his last words penned reveal Paul's motivation:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

May these words convict us of a need for an attitude change. Is Jesus really our everything? Is obedience and faithfulness to him our motivation in what we do? How are we measuring a successful life? Even if everything we do comes to nothing, is it enough that we were faithful to the end? Is saying those three things enough to to cause our heart to sing: I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Will that be success to you?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Is Your Opinion?

There is a lot of stuff out there that is going to confuse you. It's confusing because they are convinced that they are right. People are very sincere and passionate about their opinion, point of view and life style decisions they have taken. For them it is black and white but what we live should be black and white for us as well. The difference is that our life, choices and decisions are not based on our opinion.

This is an important fact you must hold on to: We live what we live because we are convinced of God's love for us. Convinced of this love we have  submitted ourselves in obedience to the one who has demonstrated such love to us. Our life is not based on our thoughts and opinions but on the direction given to us by our God.

Now, if all that existed was this place and if all that we possessed is all there was, maybe such a life would appear to be a waste. That is how many look at us, a people who are living a wasted life. But this is not all there is. We are not made up of body and mind. We are a soul with a body and there is much more to all of this than what we see. The world would have us convinced that what we see is what we get and we need to make the most of it before it all comes to an end. That is a truly sad and wasted life.

However we are convinced that there is much more because we have tasted of it by the Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing what is to come. Our Jesus is not a theory or some crutch to get us through life. He is not a delusion that keeps us from going crazy. He is a participant in our lives daily. In fact, he goes way beyond participant because it is through Jesus that we have discovered true life. We do not live the hopeless cardboard cut out life of this world which is lost in self-opinion.

The problem is the passion of this world to live in rebellion to God in pursuit of their own desires. They are not content to die horribly on their own but want to bring as many along as possible. They are not content until you agree to say that they are right. It is far too easy to give in to this world and just go with the flow. Isn't that how the world says we can save this planet? But we know it's not the truth because we know there is more than what we see and there is more than just this world. Paul encouraged Timothy:

Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (2 Timothy 1:14)

Guard it because it is under attack. Guard it, not in your opinion but with the Holy Spirit. Understand the Word of God, not in your opinion but in the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Stand on the Word as truth and do not allow this world to confuse you. Opinion is often based on experience, what we know and see, but the world does not know God and has not seen beyond it's own short nose.

Be careful then what you entertain as truth. Be careful of what you allow to nest in your mind and to possess your heart. Be careful of the opinions you allow to form that are devoid of any portion of the Word of God. Be careful of anything you accept that does not come from the Holy Spirit. Guard the good deposit, with the help of the Spirit of God.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Please, Be Careful Out There

There is a lot of noise out there. Our current age has more access to knowledge than any age in the past and knowledge continues to increase. This is good but with the good also comes the bad. As knowledge increases it seems our wisdom decreases. It seems we understand less and less what to do with our knowledge. There also seems to be a lack of discernment as we confuse knowledge and "wives` tales". In case you did not realize it, not every source is a good source on the Internet.

I am not excluding the Biblical teaching and the Christian following out there from this lack of wisdom. It is wonderful that there is such a great vehicle for carrying the message of Jesus but not all of what is out there is real or true. In fact, we are poised to see the great following away, as people chase after the false teachings of demons, just as the Word says. I am not saying the people spreading the wrong teaching are demons but demons are behind their influence.

There is real danger in preferring to watch videos and read tweets to gain your spiritual understanding instead of reading and studying the Word of God. Have we forgotten that the Holy Spirit is our teacher? It is he who gives us the ability to know and understand. When we study for ourselves he guides us and where we lack maturity to understand him, he gives us teachers to train us. But teachers have a personal relationship with us. It has to be more than a video series on You Tube, as great as they are. We need to be seeking God's face ourselves, not relying on someone else's revelation.

Jesus has placed solid men and women of faith around us to help us stick to solid doctrine. I am not referring to denominational doctrine, as great as they may be. The greater doctrine is that which comes directly from the Word of God and is pressed upon us by the Holy Spirit. A mature teacher will not lift up one denomination over another, but will always put the Word of God first. It is important that we have a good relationship with such people; people we can trust and who love us, whose interest is not in building their own following but to see us mature in Jesus. Paul wrote to Timothy:

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:13)

We always seem to be running after new ideas, new insights, new teaching, but we haven't figured out what we have already been given. Just the subjects of faith, hope and love will take us an eternity to explore. Many rush right by grace not understanding the foundational importance in our relationship with God and others. I know it may not seem like the greatest fade in the Church or the coolest thing happening. I realize that some churches down the street are having multimedia event teaching on the end times or on the place of homosexuals in the church or on how to improve sex in your marriage but if you would stay where you are and learn about God's grace from the Word, all these other things will come into focus as well.

There is a lot of weird stuff being taught out there, and it's appearing on a computer screen right in your home. If you solidly stand on the Word and are trained in it, you will spot the false stuff. It's a great opportunity to grow in knowledge these days, but please, be careful out there. You are hated and the enemy's only desire is to see you defeated, and separated from Jesus. Learn to lean on the Spirit and trust him. He will keep your path straight.

Monday, February 18, 2013

So What Will It Be?

Are you convinced bout Jesus? I mean 100%, never look back, never question, always trust, convinced. I mean the sort of confidence that you can have everything removed from your life, everything you love and enjoy and still serve Jesus without blinking, without hesitation, without fear or worry? Are you so convinced that you do not care one minute what other people think or say about you? Is your confidence so great that you trust Jesus with today and all your tomorrows?

It is so easy to say yes to such questions but how much is this confidence In Jesus evident in your life? If it is so then you must be an incredibly bold and adventurous person, always trusting and obeying. You must have the most incredible sleep each night and spring from your bed each morning in eager anticipation of what God is going to do through you. You must be able to say with Paul:

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. (2 Timothy 1:12)

I know I am repeating myself, having already looked at this verse, but looking at it again, I am sure that we are missing something somewhere. Something just isn't clicking for us. Somehow, someway, we have lost the point of this Christian life. How can depression be part of us? How can there be a lack of hope? I don't mean a hope expressed by words but a hope that is evident in our actions as well as words.

Too many of us live a life defeated by everyday problems and circumstances. We are not living with eternal thinking. We read the words but we don't get it:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

If Jesus is who we say he is, and if we love him as much as we say we do, then our confidence will be found in him and his promises, not anything of this world. If we lose everything here what does it matter compared to the eternal riches that are ours? It's only money here and that has no value in the eternal home that has been prepared. There is nothing here that should be able to disturb the gift of peace Jesus has given to us. If there is something that is disrupting our confidence it is because we are too much focused on the system of this world.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

You can listen to all the sermons you want. You can read as many books as you want. You can visit as many counselors as you want, but until your love for God becomes greater than any other thing in your life, you will not have the confidence and boldness to live your life for Jesus' glory. It's all or nothing. It's diving in the deep end or staying out of the pool. It is leaving the system of this world behind and walking in the promises of Jesus, or living a shallow and pretend faith. It is taking all of the Word of God or none of it.

So what will it be?

Sunday, February 17, 2013


If you want to generate an interesting conversation, ask people about suffering. There appears to be a lot of opinion on suffering, the Bible, Jesus and us. I may not know a lot but I do know there is a right and wrong suffering in the Word of God. Instead of looking at the wrong type of suffering I want to consider the suffering that honours and glorifies God.

Yes, there is a kind of suffering that brings glory to God. Some will dispute it. Some will say that God just wants to wrap us up in cotton balls, plant hedges around us and wants to protect us from all harm. Yet God has declared his children holy, enabled us to live holy lives and has told us to serve him in an unholy place. He has made us citizens of his Kingdom but has told us to serve him in a place that is hostile to his Kingdom. What we have been made into is in direct contrast to the character of this world.You don't think there will be suffering as a result?

The only type of suffering that glorifies God is the type that happens for doing what is right. When we suffering for doing good in the face of evil our God is pleased. It is Jesus who is glorified when we suffer for bearing his name. This is the suffering that the Word talks about. It is not suffering from the flu or cancer or any other disease. It is not suffering for doing wrong. How does that glorify Jesus? But when we suffer because we mentioned Jesus to someone, this glorifies Jesus.

Too many of us try to avoid suffering altogether, claiming it is not God's will yet the evidence from the Word is overwhelming. Were not obedient followers of God thrown into a furnace or a lion's den? Did David not have to flee from Saul? Were innocent prophets not hated and killed? Was Stephen not stoned? Did Moses not have to suffer under his calling? What was Paul's great reward on this earth:

And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. (2 Timothy 1:11-12)

There is suffering that we will face because of our obedience to Jesus. People do not like us. People think we are idiots and superstitious, lacking in intelligence. At best they think we are misguided. But that is okay because the only value we see in them is the fact God loves them. Their opinion, ideas, money, influence holds no value for us. Our perspective is different. Our source is different. Our longing and desire is different. We can face suffering and press on because we know the thing our God values the most is obedience and faithfulness.

Apostle Paul summed it up nicely for us:

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. (v 12)

No matter what I face, no matter the cost, I have joy and peace because I know whom I have believed. The world can say what it wants but I am convinced. My treasure is not found in this place. I have given my life to Jesus, my heart, mind, and soul. I am convinced that what Jesus said is true and I act upon it. If it means I must face some suffering for standing on the truth then it is a small matter compared to what I have and will receive.

If we are convinced that Jesus is truth, we can face anything. And I don't mean face it with sack cloth and ashes but with great joy and peace. Suffering for the Name is a privilege. Suffering for our own stupidity is not God glorifying, but suffering because we follow Jesus is a thing we should expect and be glad to do.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Jesus Chooses, Not Us

Even after all these years I still find it amazing that God chooses to use the foolish of this world to confound the wise. Unfortunately the "wise" choose to see the vessel instead of hear the message and reject both. I am not referring to the world here. I am speaking of the Church. We still don't get it. We don't get that God uses whoever he wants whenever he chooses. We don't get that it has little to do with education and much to do with obedience. We don't get that it is not about our talents and everything about God's anointing. We don't get that Jesus' chooses us, we don't choose Jesus, when it comes to calling and purpose.

The apostle Paul was a foolish man when he was called Saul. To the Jews he was a success. He was a young scholar, learning under the best, filled with zeal for Israel. He was so zealous and ignorant of God that he actually attacked the one he supposedly loved and served. Jesus looked at this man who hated the Church so much that he set his mind upon destroying it, and chose him to bring to the world the gospel of grace. Grace was nothing new, but Jesus was about to bring Saul to a greater revelation of it than anyone else had ever received. But here was Saul, a great persecutor of the Church. What would Jesus do?

Jesus did for Saul the same thing he has done for all of us; he reached out and allowed him to make a decision. Perhaps Saul's encounter with Jesus was a little more dramatic than yours, but then again Jesus really needed to get his attention. Jesus met with him, revealed his glory to him, appointed and anointed him for his task. Saul became Paul, the great herald of the gospel of grace. Paul never forgot this moment. He never forgot the charge given to him. He never took it lightly:

And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. (2 Timothy 1:11)

We don't get to decide. We don't get to choose what we feel comfortable with and do that. We don't get to tell God what we are willing to do for him. We are servants. We listen for the Master's voice. When he appoints us he equips us. The last thing we want to do is try to walk in a calling that is not ours, trying to do it in our strength and ending up destroyed. When we are called by God for what we must do, we will look back at that moment again and again to remember it was not our choosing but God's. It makes a big difference when you end up suffering for that calling. In your strength you will quit and run away. In God's strength and energy you will stand your ground and remain faithful to the task.

Too many people are choosing their own calling. Too many people are operating in Jesus`name but lack authority. Too many people are being destroyed, quitting, walking away because they chose and were not appointed. It looks so simple at the beginning. It looks like a simple choice but you have no idea of the trials, persecutions, suffering that marks the way. In the Lord we have joy and peace but if you have chosen that path for yourself you are facing destruction.

Set your mind and heart on things above and listen. Listen for the Master`s voice and obey. It does not matter the task we are called to. The only thing that counts is faithfulness to that which we have been given to do. Obedience, faithfulness, determination, going the distance is success in our calling and it is possible because we were chosen.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Remembering The Significant In My Day

What is going on in your life right now? You could probably list a hand full of things that have your attention. Maybe you are feeling a bit down after a disappointing Valentine's Day. Perhaps you have finance problems, health problems, relationship problems. Maybe you are over worked and under paid. It could be a simple matter of having no future, not knowing where you are going, a real lack of direction. There are lots of things that can play on our emotions, keep us down, make us feel destroyed but I want to share a small verse of the Bible that should bring much into clarity:

Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:10)

Read it again, this time out loud. Okay, a third time, out loud and slowly. Let the words envelop you, washing you, cleansing you from all the insignificant things in your life. Permit them to be separated from your heart because your heart was recreated to contain joy and peace. We allow ourselves to get worked up over things that have no eternal value. When we put these things up against the fact that Jesus has destroyed death and has brought to us life and immortality, they become very small and insignificant things in our life.

I am not minimizing the struggles you are going through. They are real as are the emotions and jumbled thoughts that you face each day. I am not belittling your problems and circumstances, your depression or hopelessness. I am not telling you that it is all in your head and that you should just shrug it off. I don't believe you can avoid these things at all, if you are not won over by Jesus Christ.

These things are quite natural to this world. Worry and fear are a big part of people's lives. But we are not of this world. These struggles and circumstances are not part of who we are. They have no hold on us, no power at all because we are not oriented to this place. Our hope is not found in anything here. Our security is not found in any person or institution here. Even if the authorities of this place strip us of everything we have and lock us away in the deepest dungeons, nothing can touch our joy, because we do not look for worth or rewards in this place.

It is enough for me to remember today that death has been destroyed. It is enough for me to remember that Jesus has brought life and immortality to me. Maybe there are a hundred reasons why the song in my heart should be muted as so many things try to press in on me, but there is one reason greater than any other why that song will be louder than anything else today, and his name is Jesus. He has destroyed and given to me life and immortality. I know that as hard as this place can get, my reward is elsewhere. I know these seasons will pass and the great time of deliverance will be upon us. I know that soon, very soon, I am going to see my King, who I love and serve today, here, in this dark and desperate place.

There are lots of things that can play on our emotions, keep us down, make us feel destroyed but they do not belong to us; they belong to this world. We are not of this world and do not belong to it. We belong to Jesus and that is why joy and peace are greater than anything else today. So instead of remembering these things that would destroy me, I remember my King and sing all day long.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Before The Beginning Of Time

It is difficult for us to imagine anything beyond this moment. We do it; we manage to imagine but often it is just within our own experience. We imagine things based on our past experience. It is hard for us to imagine anything beyond our own experience. Time is a difficult concept for us to handle and eternity even more so. It is hard for us to understand God and his relationship with time so we continue to think of him in a linear manner. So when we say that God knew everything before he created it we see ourselves fixed, engraved, stuck with a certain future.

God's foreknowledge does not rob us of our choice. We have freedom to make our own decisions, regardless of the consequences but God simply knows what they are and has made his plans accordingly. Psalm 139 is one of the great portions of Scripture that reveals this:

Lord, you have searched me
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you know it completely, O Lord. (vv. 1-4)

And then this:

All the days ordained for me
    were written in your book
    before one of them came to be. (v. 16)

Some people are threatened by this and feel they are trapped. like a character in a novel. However, foreknowledge does not rob me of my choice and decisions. Someone knowing what I will decide does not mean that I no longer have the power to make that decision.

Now knowing this about our God, does it not strike you as something incredible that he knew everything that would happen and still he went ahead with it? He knew the heartache we would cause him. He knew that we would reject him. He knew the hatred that would be produced in us. He knew the cost he would have to pay for us. He knew all this and made his plans accordingly. Can you see why the Apostle Paul stated:

This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

Yes, nothing about God is new. He didn't just suddenly change over night. He didn't even gradually change. He is the same throughout the Word, it's only that we have gained a better understanding. Over time more has been revealed. The people of the world did not know of God in the same way pre-Moses as they did after Moses. It had nothing to do with Moses and everything to do with God making himself known. Further revelation was given through Jesus. Now possessed by the Spirit we can have an intimate knowledge of our God.

It isn't that God suddenly became a God of grace. In order for God to do all that he has done over human history, he had to make those decisions at the beginning. He had determined his grace before he commanded light into existence. The grace we enjoy today was given to us before he even started on creation. That is pretty awesome. When God makes a decision he does not change his mind or his ways. He has granted us grace, it is ours. He made that decision before he even started on his creation so don't deny him that glory. Accept his grace and live your life under that grace for his glory. What an awesome God we serve!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Accepting Grace At Face Value

Grace is a powerful thing. It is when one person treats another person in a positive way that has not been earned or merited. It is like this: I have been mean to you for ten years and you have suffered under our relationship. Yet, when I find myself in need of some compassion, you are right there, as if I had always been your best friend. Grace is extremely powerful and comes at a great personal price. There is nothing cheap about grace. Grace can also be abused.

We did not deserve Jesus' sacrifice for us. There was nothing redeemable about our character. Today it is taught that there is a little bit of good and bad in all of us but from God's perspective we were totally and completely corrupted by our rebellious nature. From the perspective of our Holy God, we were spoiled goods. Yet, according to his great grace, he still loves us and desires restoration with us. According to his own purpose he never gave up on us and to this day, through the sacrifice of Jesus, he still pursues those who are corrupted him their rebellion.

Let's make it clear in our understanding here:

... who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. (2 Timothy 1:9)

We don't deserve it. We did nothing to earn it. We did not do it for ourselves, it was done fore us. We can't do anything to buy God's grace but he has lavishly poured it out on us. Stop trying to earn it. Stop refusing it. Stop living in the guilt of your past. Stop watering it down. Stop accepting it in bits and pieces. Stop blocking it from certain areas of your life. Stop listening to the accuser and start believing God when he tells you that your rebellious ways are not only forgiven but made as if they have never happened.

Stop making God's grace insignificant. Jesus died to show you that grace. Jesus was willingly changed for all eternity so that he could be the first born of the new creation, opening the door for us to follow. This grace has not come cheaply for our Father or for Jesus. We need to treat it as the great riches that it is and accept it at face value. Yes, we actually have to accept it, drink it in, allow it to be part of us and stop playing these emotional games. We are forgiven. Yes, we didn't deserve it but forgiveness is ours. We have been made a new creation and the newness needs to be accepted and embraced. We are more than we ever were because of what God has done through his grace so stop rolling around in the mud and get up like the prince and princess that you are.

We insult God and continue in our rebellious ways when we do not accept his grace at face value. Who are we to deny God his great desire for restoration with us? Who are we to deny his forgiveness? Who are we to rob grace of its beauty and freedom? Yet we do it every time we allow our past to keep us from soaring with the eagles. We do it every time we fail to walk as giants in this land. We do it every time we allow fear and worry to keep us locked away, never shining with Jesus' glory. We need to live as God's children, dearly loved, cherished, saved and called to a holy life. You have been enabled by God's grace to live the victorious life to which he has called you.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How Can We Be Ashamed?

Stop trying to fit in because we don't. Stop trying to be accepted because we aren't. Stop trying to water down Jesus because you will lose everything if you do. We are definitely getting something wrong in this age in which we live and testify. One thing is when we try to make Christianity attractive and popular. Oh how we wish that the world would run after the righteousness of God but it is lost in its rebellion and self-centered perspective. So when we present Jesus in his great power and love, people rise up against him because he threatens that perspective.

We are different and we were designed to be different. In this world we stand out from the crowd because of Jesus in us. Because we follow him, obey him, run after him, walk in his steps, and are empowered to live as he lived, we look, act, speak, respond, think, see, love differently than the crowd without Jesus. It is the reason you stand out in your school, work place, perhaps even your home.

When we lower the Church or ourselves so that we are more attractive to the world it means we are being less of Jesus. When we try to attract the world with similar activities, music, movies, speeches, teachings, we are not serving Jesus but ourselves. When you join in bad mouthing someone to fit in, when you turn your eyes away from the cheating, when you laugh at that terrible joke, we are setting Jesus aside to fit in with our environment. That is not why Jesus left us here. He is not concerned about you fitting in and being accepted; he is concerned about those who are lost without him. You represent him here.

Look at what Paul wrote to Timothy:

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,  who has saved us and called us to a holy life. (2 Timothy 1:8-9)

The "so" follows Paul reminding Timothy he was not given the spirit of timidity but of power. We have been given the power, strength and desire to live a life to the glory of Jesus in this place. And yes, it will cause suffering. You will suffer for being different. You might not have all the friends you potentially could have. You might be picked on because you stand out. People may talk about you behind your back. You might get bullied and picked on. You might get beat up. This is what it is to follow Jesus, the one who was ridiculed, rejected and crucified.

Don't be ashamed to testify about Jesus, it is why you are here. If that is your purpose and you fail to live it, you may be filled with sorrow on Jesus' return instead of joy. Paul actually invited Timothy to join him in suffering for the gospel. We have a message to share to a world that is lost in its selfishness and sin. It is great news that will save anyone who accepts. It is for the "whoever believes". It is all we should be thinking about every day: bringing the good news to our part of the world. By the power of God you will be preserved and empowered to complete the task he has given you, no matter the cost. Trust him and be willing to lay your life down in service to the King. That day is quickly approaching. Will you be willing to die as so many others before us have, in presenting Jesus to those who desperately need him?

Don't be ashamed. Stand out. Be willing to be different. Allow the world to see Jesus through you even if it hates you for it. Shine today my friend. Shine for Jesus' glory and the salvation of your part of the world.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

No Timidity In Jesus

There are some things we have to get right if we are ever going to live up to our potential in Jesus. Too often we rob ourselves of the joy of serving with all our heart because we get the foundation of our understanding wrong. The one thing I keep going on about is the fact that our service to our King does not depend on our abilities  It does not depend on our desires, likes, wants, fears or our lack of anything. There are only two things that we need to bring to the table: faithfulness and obedience.

When you come to Jesus you come stripped of everything. You come empty handed. You have nothing to offer and what you think you had is taken from you. The whole reason we needed Jesus to die for us is because we had nothing to offer our God. So God did it all. It is no different in our service. God does not need anything we can do for him. What he is looking for is empty vessels that he can pour himself into.

Let's get this right: God does not need your opinion or your ideas. A private does not express his opinions to a general; he obeys what he is told. God loves us as his children, but as servants he is only looking for obedience. This is vital to understand so that when God speaks and gives us direction we are not like Moses, giving our excuses. If God said it don't philosophy over it; just do it.

This is the idea of what Paul was writing to Timothy. He just told him to fan into flame the gift that was given to him when Paul laid hands on him. In other words, God had equipped Timothy with his own power so Timothy could be obedient in the tasks he was given. Timothy did not have the ability but God did through him. So now Paul encourages him to not allow anything to prevent him from being obedient and faithful:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

If you are serving God in your strength and ability, stop it! You are serving God with your limitations and he can't use what you are offering. It will be of no eternal value. He wants us to serve him with his limitlessness.

We have no excuse for hanging back; no excuse for disobedience. We can't say it isn't our personality. We can't say it is out of our comfort zone. We can't say we are afraid of failure. We can't say that we are too timid. If we do then we better wake up to the fact that we are trying to serve him in a manner that does not honour him. We do not have a spirit of timidity but of boldness in Jesus Christ.

By the Spirit we have been given to serve him we are filled with his power. Do you understand that? Not our ability and power but God's infinite power to overcome all things, to do all things, to be all things. We cannot serve him in our limited love but we have been given his love through the Spirit to serve him in the attitude of love. If we do not feel the love and compassion of God for all people, how can we serve him in this world?

By this same Spirit we have been given self-discipline. It means there are no excuses. When we are tired we lean on Jesus and we serve in his energy. When we feel lazy we put that lazy spirit under our feet and serve him in his strength. If we lack self-disciple in anything in our life it is because our life does not belong to Jesus. Are you understanding the point here?

My fear for Christians is that we do not understand this foundation matter. We are disciples of Jesus Christ. We have died to ourselves and our lives are now empty of ourselves and the only reason we have for living is Jesus. He is not interested in our opinions; we is looking for our faithfulness and obedience. It doesn't matter if you think it is a bad idea; if the Spirit told you to do it then do it and let God work it out. I realize this is hard, especially when we are young, middle aged or old. Get the point? It is always hard to remain submitted to Jesus, but we must if we are going to live up to our potential in him. Trust. Obey. Allow the Spirit to work through you. No excuses.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fanning Into Flame

I think I will sit here until God speaks to me so I will know what to do. He did say "Be still and know I am God". Well, at least that is the attitude that many of us have. We fail to understand that God has already given us our instructions and none of it involves inaction. The "be still" part is in our relationship with him. We can quiet our spirit, no fear, no worry, only peace as God continues to pour into our lives everything we need to serve him.

We often fail to understand that we have a responsibility "to do" in this service to our King. It is great that we worship. It is great that we study the Word. It is great that we have fellowship with each other, but we can't forget that we have been left here with a mission to complete. We have been given our instructions, to go and make disciples.  With such instructions comes equipping. But we don't just receive so we can be blessed; we receive so that we can do.

We have a responsibility to put what we have been given into action. Such gifts will lay dormant in us unless we use them. Paul reminded Timothy that because he was a man of faith he had a responsibility to "fan into flame" the gifts he was given by the Spirit:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (2 Timothy 1:6)

There is no excuse for not using what the Spirit has given you. It has nothing to do with whether you want to or not. It has nothing to do with it being something you enjoy. It has nothing to do with your personality. It all comes down to obedience and faithfulness. It comes down to all or nothing.

You do not get to serve Jesus on your own terms. He made it clear to us that it is all or nothing. It is all of our heart or none of it. All of our being or none of it. All of our passion. All of the gifts he has given to us. We can't even serve him properly unless he equips us and if our King equips us we had better not waste what we have been given.

So we have the responsibility to take what we have been given and use it for Jesus' glory. We have the responsibility to fan it into flames. We have the responsibility to get off the "sofa" of our life and be faithful and responsible with our calling and mission. Because we are people of faith we have no excuse. Faith means we trust God with the instructions we have been given. We trust he will give us the ability to do what he has told us to do. We trust him for the faith and strength we lack. We trust him for the energy we need. We trust him for health, peace and joy. So let's get to work.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What Do People See In You?

Do you have Christian parents? Then you should praise the Lord for them. Although you cannot have a saving relationship with Jesus through your parents' faith, a difference has been made in your life because they are believers. They have spent years teaching you by word and deed what it is to follow Jesus. Perhaps you didn't realize it but everything they did and how they did it was teaching you about their faith in God.

I am not claiming your parents are perfect examples, no one is, but they at least instilled in you the knowledge that there is something greater in your life than what you see. Your faith and trust in Jesus was shaped ever since you could understand and interpret your parents actions and words. Jesus was shining through them to plant seeds in you so that when he made himself known to you, there was a foundation already in place.

As apostle Paul remembered his friend Timothy, his friends faith came to mind. Timothy was remarkable from the beginning. From the very first request from Paul, Timothy showed he was willing to do whatever it took to serve Jesus. Having been invited to come along with Paul and Silas, Timothy obeyed Paul's request and was circumcised. According to our faith this ceremony is no longer needed but Timothy did it due to the fact Paul ministered at the synagogues of the towns they visited. This was a step of sincere faith and Timothy never looked back. And who does Paul credit such a good foundation to?

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (2 Timothy 1)

As I said at the beginning, the source of faith is Jesus Christ, but examples of it are seen in the people we surround ourselves with. It is important for parents to understand that taking a child to church is a good thing but setting an example for their child is still their responsibility. It goes beyond kindness and good manners. It goes beyond respecting people and teaching right from wrong. Parents must demonstrate a sincere faith. Trust in Jesus is seen in the face of trying circumstances. Parents of faith do not allow worry and fear to change their behaviour or to act poorly to others. They show that when times are tough we do not find the solution in our but we bring it all to Jesus.

How we react shows our children the sincerity of our faith. What are our children seeing in us? I don't mean in the good days. Any person can smile when the sun is out. Any person can make a show of it in public. It is our children who get to see our private face. It is our children who first see our reaction to the stresses of life.  It is our children who see the inconsistencies and question how much we really believe what we say.

We need to praise the Lord for our parents who set a good example for us in what it is to trust Jesus. We also must be determined to set that example for our children. When they think of us do they think "My parents love and trust Jesus"? If someone asks them to describe you in a word, will "faith" come to mind? That's a good question to ask regardless of being a parent or not. If someone asked one of your friends to describe you in a word, what would that word be?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Of Friends And Enemies

The world says "keep your friends close and your enemies closer". I hope your values come from a deeper place than that. I hope that your love for your friends come from a greater source. And I hope that your motivation for your enemies is much less selfish than this philosophy. But seriously, have you considered your friends lately? Are they friends because they contribute to you, because you get something from them, or because you have much to give to them? That is not saying that they don't contribute to you. In fact, it is God's desire that we contribute to each other from the resources he provides. But friendship cannot be a selfish thing.

I am not sure we really understand friendship like we once did. I could be wrong. Maybe you have friends who you love to give yourself to and who you would dearly miss if they were not around. If you have such friends then enjoy them while they are close because you may have times of separation when you will reflect on these times with fond memories, and they will be a source of encouragement. That is the sense I get as Paul writes to Timothy:

Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. (2 Timothy 1:4)

We can understand Paul's expression of longing for his friend when you keep in mind his situation. He had been cut off for a few years as he sat, imprisoned in Rome, waiting for his trial before Caesar. On top of this there had been a falling away of leadership. We read:

You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. (2 Timothy 1:15)

At the end of the letter we read:

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. (2 Timothy 4:9-10)

We will look at all this in detail later. It is enough to know that Paul was feeling alone and abandoned by those who he had trusted as brothers. Is it any wonder that he longed to see his friend, his son in the Lord, Timothy? He remembered the tears of his friend when they last parted. How hard it must have been for Paul who had given up everything in obedience to Jesus.

I don't think many of us can appreciate this sense of separation from those we love. Certainly there are times when we are separated from family and friends but we know we will see each other again. Perhaps the ones who can identify with Paul the most are those who leave family and friends to serve the Lord in dangerous places in this world. They leave all they know behind and have no assurance they will ever make it back. Try to imagine that feeling.

My point is, many of us do not have friends like this.We have friends but do we have friends who love us so much that there are tears at our parting? Do we give of ourselves to such a depth that they are like part of us? Do we think of those moments and feel that love, and long to have them close at hand? We should. That is the level of love and involvement that Jesus has brought us to, but it is our choice to let people in. We can be friends of sorts from a distance but real love risks pain and hurt. Real love is vulnerable and is prepared to be wounded. Real love takes it on the chin and refuses to keep a list.

Real love is a risk and friendship requires a vulnerability that many of us refuse to enter into. Perhaps it is the reason we are not very effective in sharing Jesus with others. We have to care enough to share. We have to love enough to take the risk. We have to love enough to open ourselves up to allow rejection. It is what Jesus did for us and then he commanded us to do the same for others.

Paul took that risk and in the end there were more `friends`who rejected him than who stood with him. Sounds familiar doesn't it? Where were all Jesus' "friends" as he hung on the cross? We must be friends to all people, investing our lives in others, taking the "risk" of complete rejection, and finding great joy in those who we have Jesus in common with. Take the risk,be a friend; it is well worth it.

Duty Calls

Have you ever met anyone who took the responsibility of prayer seriously? I mean really seriously. We are talking here of someone who suddenly stops doing everything because they realized they had forgotten to pray for a person. Or how about someone who refuses to do anything until the matter is brought before the Lord and a response received? Have you met someone who keeps a prayer journal, recording who they are praying for and why, just because they promised they would? Maybe you are someone like that. We all should be.

Apostle Paul was obviously a person like that. You should know that when Paul promised something it was as good as done. If he promised to pray for you, and even if he hadn't promised, and you were part of his team, praying for you took priority. Look at his opening to Timothy in the second letter:

I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. (2 Timothy 1:3)

With a clear conscience because Paul knew he was being faithful to his duties. Yes, Jesus gives us that clear conscience but we also know that we can disturb our own spirit when we neglect to be faithful to the tasks Jesus has given us. One of those tasks is to pray for people, especially those who are close to us or who we are responsible for, like our children. Are you praying for your family and friends every day?

If we realized the importance of prayer we would not dare neglect our duty to it. We wouldn't dare begin our day without it. We would never try to cram it into our day but would arrange our day to have undisturbed time to intercede for those who God has placed on our hearts, and we have put on our list. And we do what Paul did, we tell them about it.

There is not much else to say on this except: Just Do It! We can talk about prayer until the end of time but it doesn't do a thing if we are not engaged in the war with prayer. So let's get to it. Let's make prayer our top priority every day and the duty to pray for people something we dare not neglect.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Is He Really Our Everything?

I apologize for being so late on the blog this morning. I have taken on responsibility with my son at his Snack Shack and it is taking a little bit on my part to adjust. I also see that I was in error with what I wrote yesterday. I had said that we would start with Ephesian today but I failed to note that we went through Ephesians just two books ago. So today we will start right in on 2 Timothy, Paul's last letter, written at the same time as Ephesians.

Paul was writing to his friend, who was once like a son to him. When they first met, Paul had invited Timothy to join him and Silas as they were heading out on Paul's second trip. At that time, Timothy was not being invited as a fellow worker but more as a personal assistant. To put it frankly, Timothy was being invited to prepare meals and do the laundry. However, on their journey. Paul discipled Timothy, teaching and training him so that Timothy would come into his calling. But,as Paul wrote this letter, Timothy was no longer this young man.

Timothy was now a full partner in ministry, having responsibility to oversee the work of the Church in the area of Ephesus. Timothy would have been a well respected leader, closely tied to Paul's significant work in the Asia-Minor area.

It was also a very trying time for Paul. He had been imprisoned in Rome for a number of years. Although it was a house arrest and he could have visitors, it was far from the freedom Paul had enjoyed before. It was from this imprisonment that Paul would receive news and would send out letters to correct and encourage the Church. He had several men who he trusted and sent out with his letters and to minister to specific areas of the Church.

Paul seems to have had some insight as to what was going to happen to him in the next little while and he was trying to get everything in order before his departure. His letter to the Ephesians was like a departing parent to a child and his letter to Timothy had that same sense. Along with this, Paul was aware that many leaders were distancing themselves from him and even the gospel of grace was under fire. Could you imagine working so hard for the Kingdom only to see everything coming undone with no ability to stop it, knowing time was running out? But Paul knew that God measures success in a different manner.

Knowing all this, how Paul begins his letter to his close friend, takes on a special significance:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:1)

Paul was not just any man or any leader, he was an apostle of Jesus. Not representing just anyone but representing the instrument of all creation, the Son of God. Paul walked in humility in this role but he also operated in the authority that was given to him. It is as if he was stating, "I still know who I belong to". 

We also see here that Paul was assured that his calling and purpose was by the will of God, not Paul's choice. There is something assuring in this fact. Do you understand that when you speak, it is in Jesus' authority. When you act, it is in Jesus' authority. When you stand against the storm it is in Jesus' authority. It is sad that more of us do not understand our reality and often allow things in life to become more and Jesus' authority to become less.

Paul also recognized that there are greater things for us than what this life has to offer. Paul made it clear that Jesus was his promise for everything. If he lost his home it was nothing to him compared to knowing Jesus. If he lost his life in service to Jesus, it was nothing to him because to die is gain in Jesus. The only thing that really mattered to Paul was the responsibility that Jesus had given to him, and we will see more of that as we get into this letter.

Paul was as human as you and me, changed by the same blood of Jesus, having received a calling just as we have. Perhaps our labour is a bit different but the source remains the same. I wonder if we have the same insight for our calling. I wonder if we could lose everything and still press on with our call. I wonder.  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Trailer

Good morning everyone. I don't really have a blog for you today, more of a trailer for what we will be considering over the next few months. Keep in mind that it took us six months to walk through Colossians . Maybe that surprises you. Maybe you didn't even realize that the blogs I write are written from systematically reading through one book of the Bible at a time. Well, there you go; now you know.

There are two books that fascinate me; Ephesians and 2 Timothy. The reason is because there was a lot of stuff going on in Apostle Paul's life. Several of Paul's key leaders had abandoned him while he was sitting imprisoned in Rome. Much of the Church in Asia Minor also seems to have turned their back on him, including the church of Ephesus. This is significant because Paul's largest ministry took place in this area. Also, his friend and spiritual son, Timothy, had some kind of oversight in Ephesus.

So here Paul was, in the middle of his trial before Caesar, unable to return to those he loved and deal with this type of rebellion that was taking place. Paul did the only thing he could do; he reached out with a letter. So what does a man say to a rebellious lot of children who were beyond his reach? What last parting words of wisdom does he share with his friend who must deal with the trouble without him. What great words did the Holy Spirit anoint Paul with to reach out in love and grace?

Some scholars will disagree with my perspective. There are some who believe Paul was released and may have been re-arrested at a later date. There are others who believe Paul was released and quietly faded into history. But there are always elements of truths in traditional stories and the traditional teaching handed down throughout the ages was that Paul was arrested, stood on trial before Caesar, was found guilty and executed in Rome. This is the perspective from which I am approaching these letters. If you have a different one that is fine because it is the anointed Word and the lessons derived from it through the Spirit of God that is what is significant. It helps to understand the context but does not change God's intent for what he has to say.

There are no promises how long this journey will take us; it depends on what the Spirit has to say through my blog each day but I promise it will have a significant impact on your walk with Jesus. It is an easy thing for me to promise because when we approach the Word in the Spirit, there is always a significant impact. I am glad you are joining me on this journey. Let's start by reading through Ephesians and 2 Timothy today and then we will start in on Ephesians tomorrow. May the Lord bless this day of the Word, worship and fellowship, and us in it.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

It's All In The Finishing

So how's it going? Everything okay with you? How's your calling working out? Still going strong? Still pressing on to the end? Do you still know what that calling is? Sometimes what starts out clear and defined becomes a bit fuzzy with time. With all the pushing and pulling in our life our calling can get all stretched out, even diluted. It becomes like sugar in water whereas it was intended to be a rock in water. After a few years we may even begin to wonder if we heard, correctly or perhaps we had misunderstood. Perhaps you have already chosen a different path because the original one lost its definition. I hope not.

It's always easy to start something. It's an entirely different thing to finish it. Anyone can start off with the strength and ability they have but such things are not found in unlimited supply in us. Eventually we will run out, get discouraged and walk away. If you are called to something by God, he has not intented for you to do it with your limited resources. You can try but eventually you will quit. God does not need your limitations; he wants to fill you with his limitless supply. Apostle Paul wrote about his calling:

To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 4:29)

The key point here is not so much the labour, because it can be any labour in the Kingdom, but it is the fact that Paul did this labour with all Jesus' energy. Even the Energy Bunny is going to run out of power. Anyone with children know this to be true. In fact, even high energy kids will eventually drop. But those who labour with all Jesus' energy will have a constant supply, of everything. With each and every calling , when we put our hand to the plow, we are not permitted to look back. In looking back you will always find a way to return to the place you started. We cannot allow thoughts of "what ifs" to enter our thinking because then our life becomes filled with regrets. Regrets will also eat away at our determination.

For Paul, finishing the race was what mattered. Success belonged to the Lord, not to Paul. Paul's only concern was to run the race with the attitude of winning. His responsibility was to finish what he started. Faithfulness is how Jesus defines success in the Kingdom. Paul reminded his friends of the need to finish what they started:

Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:17)

Near the end of his life Paul wrote to his friend Timothy:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

Paul finished what he had set out to do: be faithful to the end in every task he had been given by Jesus. When we are surrounded by life, distractions, a chorus of voices, hundreds of choices and paths, things can get confusing. But there is only one voice we should respond to. It is not the voice of our self-wisdom. It is not the voice of modern education. It is not the voice of "good ideas". It is our Shepherd's voice who has called us to himself, to be faithful in what he has given us to do. Any fool can start but it takes a person centered and dependent on Jesus to finish.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Prayer Warrior

If prayer means as much to you as it does to me, you understand the feeling that I get when someone tells me they have been praying specifically for me. I especially like hearing what they are praying. Prayer coverage is incredibly important in the work we are doing as God's workmen in this place. We desperately need to be praying for each other and not just assuming that all is well; not taking God's provision for granted. There is a reason the Spirit provokes us to pray.

Imagine the joy felt by the Colossians when they read in Apostle Paul's letter:

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)

Oh the joy of hearing that someone is praying for our success; that someone loves us that much to be wrestling in prayer for us. Look at the content of Epahras' prayer: that they may stand firm in God's will; that they would be mature; that they would be fully assured. Epaphras desired the spiritual success for his people and covered them in the greatest possible manner.

Christians too often curse with their tongue instead of bless. It is not that we are worse than anyone else, but we aught to be better. Our mouths are not intended for cursing. What I mean by curse is when we complain about people, tearing them down, belittling their effort, secretly desiring their failure. We have to ask what is wrong with us? What is wrong with our relationship with Jesus? If we are really possessed by the Spirit we should be dying of conviction if we curse instead of bless. If we do it easily enough, without even realizing what we are doing, we need to examine if we are possessed by the Spirit.

Being possessed by the Spirit, we will be provoked beyond out human nature and prompted to pray specific things for people. When this happens, don't keep it to yourself, but tell the person. Tell them specifically what you are praying for so they will be encouraged by your prayers. We need to stop listening to our old nature which no longer has power over us and listen more to the Spirit. We need to stop talking about people and start praying for their success.

Be purposeful in your prayers. Keep a prayer journal. Write down names, dates and specific topics. Pray until the Spirit prompts you to stop. Set aside a time in the day to specifically pray for the people on your list. Be open to be provoked by the Spirit at any time of the day to pray as he prompts you to pray. Be attentive. This is warfare and we are the soldiers. This is God's strategy and we are to follow his directions. Be watchful, thankful and pray.