Sunday, March 31, 2013

Love, Trust, Obedience

Easter is a glorious day, a wonderful day, the Resurrection Day. Because of the events of this day everything changed for all of time and beyond. With the cross we have salvation. Our sins were paid for and forgiveness is available for anyone who seeks it. But the cross is the stepping stone to something unbelievably fantastic. On this day death was beaten. On this day a new creation was revealed. This is the day of a new beginning and it started when the Father brought his son from the dead. He is Risen!

The thing that has really fascinated me this year, as I have reflected on the events of the cross and the empty grave, is the Father's will. Jesus told us all the way along that he did not come in his own authority but the Father's and he demonstrated this relationship of love in word and deed:

I tell you for certain that the Son cannot do anything on his own. He can do only what he sees the Father doing, and he does exactly what he sees the Father do. (John 5:19, CEV)

It astonishes me that despite what Jesus declared about his death, some still believe that he died at the hands of the Jews. It was his Father's will that he die in our place:

The Father loves me, because I give up my life, so that I may receive it back again. No one takes my life from me. I give it up willingly! I have the power to give it up and the power to receive it back again, just as my Father commanded me to do. (John 10:17-18, CEV)

You see, the cross was more than just Jesus loving us and dying for us. It goes deeper than that and speaks of the relationship we are suppose to have with God. Jesus went to the cross because he loved his Father and would never do anything in rebellion against his him. His love meant that he trusted, even through the torture and death of the cross. Each step he took was taken in obedience and was an act of love.

Easter should be a lesson to us of love, trust and obedience for we are born of rebellion. There isn't a parent reading this who does not understand about love, trust and obedience. When our children are young they have nothing but love and adoration for us. Obedience is not always easy to children because of their rebellious nature but love is a great restraint. Although never perfect, our children loved to do what we said. If we asked them to get our slippers they would. If we asked them to help us with the dishes they would, eagerly. But as children get older, things change.

Children become more self-absorbed. The world starts revolving around them. They want to be their own bosses. They choose to no longer recognize the authority of their parents. Love has diminished so trust of the rules and their parents' wisdom also diminishes. Parents' hearts are crushed and there is natural consequences to rebellious acts. Sound familiar? It should. It is what happened in the garden.

Before the cross and the resurrection  rebellion is all we knew, all that we could do. We could not obey God no matter how noble our intention. Look to David as an example. A man who loved God and who God loved. But that love could not save David from rebellion because only Jesus can save. Jesus' resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit ushered in a new era, the era of the new creation. The authority of the old nature was cut and we were given the freedom to choose.

Obedience is a choice; a daily choice; a moment by moment choice. But we have problems with choices because we are also an undisciplined people. We know what is good for us. We know that smoking kills but we choose to smoke. We know we need fruit and vegetables for our bodies to function properly but we choose pop and chips. We know that we need proper exercise to feel great and have plenty of energy, but we love our television and video games. We are bad at making good choices.

Jesus has done everything that needs to be done for us. He has opened the doors wide and said walk through. He became the first born of a new creation so that we may have all that has been promised. He did not stay so he could send to us the Holy Spirit. We are equipped to be obedient. But obedience is only possible when love is the motivation:

If anyone loves me, they will obey me. Then my Father will love them, and we will come to them and live in them. But anyone who doesn’t love me, won’t obey me. What they have heard me say doesn’t really come from me, but from the Father who sent me. (John 14:23-24, CEV)

In death and in life Jesus has set for us the example of love. He loved the Father, represented the Father, taught what he was told to teach, did what he was told to do. He faced the cruelty of the cross, the ugliness of the grave and in obedience, rose from the dead to take his place at the right hand of the Father.

Easter is about victory won through love, trust and obedience. Our life should be about the same. Yes, let's celebrate the victory won on this day but let us also ask the question, "Do I love Jesus? Do I trust him? Do I walk in obedience to him?"

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Awkwardness Of Saturday


That's the awkwardness of Saturday.


It's amazing how much can change with a blink of time. Only a couple of days ago Jesus was teaching in the temple. Now he lies buried in a borrowed tomb.

On this Sabbath day, the disciples will not gather to worship and pray.

     They will not participate with Jesus in any healings, feedings, teachings, or anything else.

On this Sabbath day the Messiah, the King, the Son of God lay in a tomb.


The only thing the disciples will do today is try to find each other.

     Try to to stop from weeping.

     Try to console themselves that they had no choice.

          They had to run away.

          Jesus wouldn't let them fight for him.

Poor Peter.

     "I will never deny you Lord."

     "Even if I must die, I will never leave you."

Poor Peter. A broken man.

They did not know what we know now. They had no idea what follows the awkward silence. They could not even imagine, even though Jesus had made it plain to them.

For them, today is a horrible day.

     A broken day.

     A hopeless day.

     A dark day.

     A silent day.

Funny how even the Word of God is silent on this awkward day.

Friday, March 29, 2013

It Was All For You

It is finished!



Over with.

The nails have pierced his skin.

The last words were spoken.

The last taunts were offered up.

Forgiveness was given.

The last breaths were breathed.

The side was pierced.

The blood has flowed.

The tears have been cried.

The rain has fallen.

The earth has shook.

The curtain torn.

Everything changed.

The Creator died.

Everything changed.

The power of sin is broken.

Everything changed.

Redemption has been won.

By Jesus.

For us.

But the cost ...

The body is perfumed.

The tomb is sealed.

Hearts are broken.

Reality beckons.

Despair sets in.






Now we wait.

Behind closed doors.

A blanket of fear pulled tight.

Will it happen?

Will we see the sign of Jonah?

Was this more than a day off for you?

Don`t you get it?

It's all about you!

It was all for you.

The Weight Of The Cross

Pilate has questioned him. Herod has dismissed him. The crowd has rejected him. The soldiers have beaten him. Now he carries the cross.

Perhaps at the darkest moments of our lives we have imagined such cruelty on our worse enemies, but on the innocent?

Jesus never got involved in politics. He didn't seem to care who held power in Israel. He didn't try to become king. In fact, he avoided it, leaving when he thought the crowd was going to force it on him. He didn't fault the Pharisees for trying to keep the traditions from being diluted by the powerful Greek culture. His problem with them was only that they allowed such traditions to take priority over people's relationship with God.

Jesus was an innocent. A man feared by the powerful because of his innocence and purity. And here he walked, beaten, almost to death, exhausted, no strength left, forced to carry this cruel instrument of death. He was a dead man walking.

But even in this there was no peace.

Even in this he was taunted, spat on, despised. No rest for the wicked. But he was the opposite of wicked. He was the essence of goodness and love.

Here he was an innocent. A victim of Rome? A victim of the Jews? Hardly! They had no authority over him, except for what his Father gave them.

Yes, Jesus chose the Father's will over his own. This was his Father's doing. This was the way of redemption for all of creation. The only way.

So on he went. To do his Father's will. Because he loved his Father and obedience, even in death, was never a second thought.

How much did you say you love Jesus? Enough to bey him?

Thank you for the cross. May I have as much determination, love and selflessness to carry my own.

What Will This Day Be To You?

The betrayal has happened. The arrest took place. His disciples have all scattered. He stands alone. He has been questioned by the high priest. He has already been beaten. And now Peter has disowned him. He stands alone.

There is still a long day ahead for him. There is still Pilot.There is still Herod. There is still the beatings, the whips, the mocking, the condemnation. And at the end of it there is the cross. There is death.

Every step he takes is one step closer. Every breath he takes is a breath closer.

"Not my will but yours be done."

It was about his Father's will. It was always about his Father's will. He would do anything for his Father, who he loved and trusted. Jesus set the example for us.

He prayed it. He lived it. He walked in it. And now he stands alone. He stands alone to face what we should have and he did it because his Father willed it. He willed it for us, so we would never have to face it.

Will today be just another day for you? A holiday? A day to sleep in? Maybe just another day of work? Nothing special?

This is Crucifixion Day. This is the day that marks the moment the Creator went to bat for the creation. This is the day we mark, the day Jesus gave his all so we could receive God's all. Walk with him through it today.

At this moment Jesus stood alone but he stands alone no longer. Today he sits at the right hand of the Father and we are seated there with him; his Bride; the Church he redeemed by his blood. But it didn't come cheap. It came with the price of the cross. Let it be a day of praise as we rejoice in the goodness of our God.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Leader-Managers or Leader-Servants

Here we are, the day before the crucifixion, the day before Jesus was cruelly beaten and then nailed to the cross. Completely innocent of all charges but it was never about the charges and always about the Father's plan. Jesus' death was not a mistake but the plan since before the beginning of time. Unfortunately Jesus' disciples could not imagine what was about to happen and so missed all the foreshadowing Jesus gave them.

Now imagine that you are about to face a time of cruel torture. You know what is about to happen and you know it is not your fault but you are still going to be facing the hardest moment of your life. And while you are preparing yourself and your friends for what you are about to go through, your friends start fighting over something insignificant. Not only is it insignificant but it goes against what your life has stood for. They just don't know you at all. I wonder if that is how Jesus felt.

Here Jesus was, preparing his last meal, stealing himself for the onslaught that will take place in a few hours, and his disciples start arguing about who of them is the greatest. The argument arose when Jesus revealed that one of them would betray him. I can see how that could happen to these pre-Spirit-filled disciples.Each would be defending themselves from the thought it could me one of them which would lead to "I love him more than you" which would lead to "I am greater than you, look at all I have done." Jesus must have lost his appetite.

In his typical nature, Jesus gently corrected his disciples and reminded them what he had been teaching and demonstrating from the beginning. It is a lesson we would do well to learn and apply to our own service to the King:

Foreign kings order their people around, and powerful rulers call themselves everyone’s friends. But don’t be like them. The most important one of you should be like the least important, and your leader should be like a servant. (Luke 22:25-26, CEV)

We hear far too much about leadership these days. All people seem interested in is developing leaders and everyone wants to be a leader, but what we need to be doing is developing servants. "Don't be like them" is what Jesus says but we run after classes and courses that are based on best business practices in leadership development,from the world. Crazy. The only example we should be learning from is Jesus.

I have met too many pastors who act like world based leaders. They are powerful, professional, intelligent and run a well organized church. Their church is run like a well oiled organization or small business. But they act like the church owes them something, like a CEO expecting good bonuses for his hard work. Yes, they work hard but no one owes us anything, at least not in the sense the pastors think. God says that people need to take care of those who minister to them but it is a completely different sense than what these pastors were thinking.

Ministers of the gospel are servants and their purpose is to live and die for their sheep. They sacrifice in the same way Jesus did, where there is nothing held back and everything that is given is poured out. It is not a life of ease or popular vote. Pastors have to teach just as Jesus did, whether people like it or not. They have to deal with the tough stuff and if it costs them their lives to bring the truth then so be it.

Pastors are not managers. They do not manage finances, buildings or people. Pastors are servants who minister the Word of God, operating through the Spirit of God, to bring good food to God's children, to be wise in God's will and to plead for the lost to turn to Jesus. Unfortunately too many of us still have the mentality of the early disciples and try to be the "greatest" in the Kingdom. Jesus is not interested in how big the church is we "manage" but instead looks to our faithfulness in our service, regardless of where he has placed us to serve.

We who are pastors have a great responsibility to sacrifice everything to share with everyone everything we have been given by the Spirit. It is wrong for us to measure success in offering amounts, size of our building or the numbers in our congregation. The number of books we have written, the time spent on speaking tours amounts to nothing compared to setting it all aside to sacrifice all we have achieved to bring Jesus to those who need him at that moment. We are servants here, not lords. We are servants, not kings. We are willing to be abused in order to have one opportunity to help someone with Jesus.

As we consider the cross and what it cost Jesus, let's consider whether our attitude and service are pleasing to him. After all, it isn't about us and all about our King.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hope Realized In The Seemingly Insignificant

Have you ever been in a stressful situation where the stress seemed like it was going to cut off your ability to breathe? Perhaps it was during exam time or maybe you had to face the boss about a big error you had made. Maybe you had fallen behind in your payments and the pressure was mounting. Maybe your test results came back and the doctor wanted to see you. I think we all have had a time or two when we thought the stress would kill us.

Did you notice during those times how you took comfort in the little things? Do you remember that cup of tea that tasted like a million dollars? Or that phone call with your sister when you didn't really talk about anything? Maybe it was that walk you took with your significant other and all you did was hold hands. Perhaps it was sitting alone on that park bench watching the sun disappear over the horizon. It is amazing how in the stresses of life it is the seemingly insignificant that grounds us and gives us some hope. For Jesus that moment came from a widow.

Too often we take what Jesus did as a non-event. What's the big deal, he never felt stress? We forget that Jesus came as one of us, with all the traps, pitfalls, emotions, temptations. The only difference was that he overcame all the failings and remained perfect. But just from what we are told of what happened in the garden, we know Jesus was feeling the stress of the situation. These were the last couple of days before the crucifixion and he didn't want to do it. He was doing it because obedience to his father's will was more important than anything else.

Remember with what Jesus was surrounded. He saw a people led astray, leaders who cared only for themselves. He saw a people who were so lost in religion that they couldn't even recognize the Creator who walked among them. He saw the filth of sin and a lack of faith. He saw, after 3 years, that only a glimmer of what was taught had been held on to. He saw a people who just couldn't grasp the reality of the situation. And then along came the widow.

Remember the number of times Jesus was surprised by faith. Remember the Samaritan woman who came seeking favour. Remember the Centurion who sought healing for another. And here, in a very dark moment, Jesus is encouraged by the simple act of a widow:

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. (Luke 21:1-2)

The seemingly insignificant, like a passing butterfly or a common sunset. We all know this story but I want you to hear Jesus' words again as he draws attention to this act of faith and dedication, this act of love:

“Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:3-4)

Is that not a perfect illustration of the heart that God is wanting in his children? Is Jesus not underlining a key part of our relationship with God? Did he not tell us that we need to love him with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul, all of our strength? Did Jesus not say that we would have to lose our life to gain it? Did he not say that everyone who would come after him would need to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him? Did he not tell us it is all or nothing?

Then two days later Jesus gave his all.

How cheap is our faith? How many of us only give out of our riches? We give a lot but it is only a small portion of what we have. We live with a tithe mentality when God has called us to 100%. How many of us are shamed by that widow's offering yet we now know God better than she did. Perhaps we are lying to ourselves. Perhaps we don't know God as much as that widow. There has to be some explanation of why we could watch Jesus go to the cross and not be provoked by love to dedicate 100% of ourselves and all we possess to the one who gave 100% for us.

This is indeed a week of reflection.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Things Of Emporers

Our service to Jesus should not be a struggle. Our life here should not be a struggle. We should not be filled with worry and fear over things that will not matter for eternity. We need to learn quickly what is important and what is not. We also need to learn what belongs to God and what belongs to the Emperor. What I mean by this is very simple.

Days before the crucifixion Jesus was teaching in the temple. In their continuing attempt to trap him, the leaders of the people sent in a couple of spies to try to trip Jesus up on his teaching. The best way was to play the national card against the occupation. They asked Jesus about taxes. The trap was a good one. If he said the Jews should pay it then the radicals would reject him and stir the people up against him. If he said not to pay the Roman tax they would accuse him of treason. Jesus destroyed their trap with something we still don't get:

“Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.” (Luke 20:25, CEV)

Jesus was not political. He did not involve himself in civilian affairs. His purpose was the Kingdom of God not the kingdoms of man. Yet, at the same time he drew our attention to the fact that while we are here we have certain obligations to the authority that is in place.

For some reason many Christians want to force the government to govern by God's standards, but it is a man-made government. Remember when the people called for a King, rejecting God as their king. Samuel was upset but God told him to go ahead and he warned the people what a king would demand. Those demands have not changed, even with an elected government. God does not desire to operate through man's government or even a representative. His desire is to deal with us individually, in a personal relationship. Yes, he is in control of governments; he will raise them and lower them; he will use them but he will seldom deal with his people through them.

God has his own servants for dealing with his people. Through apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, God deals with his children. Yes, we must give to the Emperor what we owe him. Our government pays for our roads, schools, hospitals, military and so many other things that we benefit from. As long as we are here we need to lend them our support, encourage them, pray for them. We vote according to the Spirit and not our personal desire. But we do not exist for this. This is a system we are part of only because we are here. We do not belong to it. We do not live according to this man's government. We live by the Word of God, empowered by the Spirit. We are the Body of Christ, citizens of the Kingdom of God.

When God wants to provoke change he will do it through the hearts of his children. He will do it by calling them back to him, reminding them of his holiness and righteousness. He will convict hearts in prayer meetings and provoke a spirit of generosity. A nation changes, not through its government, but through the Church that seeks the face of God. Revival happens when the Spirit moves us to pray and gives a heart to seek God's holiness. Revival happens, not through government but when God's people run from evil and clean to what is good. God does not force himself on anyone through governments and when this has happened in the past it was wrong and it was abused.

If change was brought through government Jesus would have become Emperor, but he did not. Instead he went to the cross and became King of kings and Lord of lords. Listen to the Words of Jesus and understand the Church is not what we have made her to be but something more, something greater, something of great power and righteousness. It is time to leave the Emperor to play his role while we fulfill ours. It is time to stop with struggling with things that are not important, not our concern, not of the Kingdom.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Authority Questioned

This is Passion Week, the week ending with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christians we take a little bit of extra time to examine the scriptures and reflect on the significance of each step that Jesus took closer to the cross. But the cross was not the end, as it was only the beginning.

That is one of the most unfortunate things about Christians, we fall asleep too close to where we get into bed. It is a sure way to fall out of bed. Too many people receive salvation and leave it at that. They come to the cross, repent of their sins, claim Jesus as King but don't go any further. They fail to understand that the cross is the open door to a great adventure that lay beyond it.

Past the cross is the empty grave, the resurrection, the receiving of the Holy Spirit, the power to live an incredible life as a servant of Jesus in this place. Jesus has given us the right and privilege to serve him in his authority. That authority will be questioned at every turn, by the world and by Christians who have not gone beyond the cross. But do you know that the religious leaders at that time also questioned Jesus about his authority? Yes, days before the cross the enemy was trying to plant doubt in Jesus' mind with "Who do you think you are?"

Jesus had gone into the temple and was teaching when the chief priests and the leaders of the people came up to him. They asked, “What right do you have to do these things? Who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)

But Jesus refused to answer them for the simple reason that he knew they would not accept his answer. He told them he would answer their question if they would tell him where John the Baptist got his authority. These "leaders" were more interested in controlling the people than they were in the facts that lay before them. You will find the same thing.

Jesus has given you the authority to operate supernaturally but there are those who do not want the Church to look weird. They are more interested in acceptability, fitting in, and the relevance of the Church to the community. They want to feed the hungry, care for the sick, run food banks and community kitchens. These are great projects but we are called to more than this. We are here to preach the good news, cast out demons, cast out illness, bring healing to mind, body and soul. We are here to fight for people on whatever level the Spirit directs us. We are instruments for the manifestation of the Spirit of God, lightening rods for God to reveal himself to man.

The greatest opposition to the authority of Jesus is not from the world but from those who only know the cross. But you can't let that worry you. You don't have time to be defending yourself to such people. Our time is running out here and there is a lot left to do. Jesus did not waste time on such people and neither should we. Leave them be in their limited thinking and understanding as they handcuff God and move on with the work you have been given to do in Jesus' authority.

Jesus gave us the cross. Amen! He gave us the empty grave. Amen! And he left so that he could send to us the Holy Spirit, to enable us to live the example he left for us. Jesus lived those three years in ministry to set an example for those who would follow. He set an example of how to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was odd and stood out from everything else around him. He stood out. Let me repeat it again:He stood out! He became a target but he pressed on. When we serve him in the power of the Spirit, in his authority, we stand out, we are odd and we may become a target. But we press on, determined to end our time here in faithful service to our King.

Do not let anyone discourage you from becoming what Jesus wants you to be.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Hypocrisy Of Palm Sunday

Today in the Church, around the entire world, we celebrate the day of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We refer to it as Palm Sunday because the crowds waived palm branches in celebration of the arrival of this potential king and saviour of Israel. If only they had understood the half of it. This day marks the beginning of Passion Week, the days leading up to the cross and the resurrection.

For centuries the world has celebrated Jesus without understanding who he is to us. Certainly they knew the stories and they entered into the various ceremonies and became very religious about it all. But much of the world only recognized the power to control the masses and did not understand the very personal nature of the relationship. Just like the crowd during the triumphal entry, they waived their "palm branches" without knowing who Jesus is to the world. Now that time is coming to an end.

Perhaps the church you attend is alive in the Spirit but much of the world is walking away. Perhaps you know personally the magnificence of Jesus, but your neighbour, who has attended church faithfully all of his life, no longer sees the sense of it, because he never met Jesus. Much of Europe is dead to Christ. Nations that once proclaimed him as King now set up the old churches as museums, relics of the past. No other religion is attacked and persecuted as much as Christianity and maybe it needs to be because there is a lot of hypocrisy in what man has done to her.

I can hear tables being turned over and coin scattering across the stone floor. What have we done to the Bride of Christ? We have not been building our churches on sound doctrine but on sound business practices. All the teaching we hear about today is leadership, leadership, leadership. Funny, from what I can see, Jesus spent his time teaching his disciples to be servants. Perhaps in our deprived thinking we are doing the right thing, building the Kingdom of God, but how much of it will stand against the purifying fire?

The reason there is so much scandal in the Church, why people are walking away, is because there is too much of us in what we do. It is not by our strength and might that we accomplish anything in the Kingdom but it is by the will of God. We are suppose to operate by his Spirit not our flesh. We aren't suppose to seek our will, or what is best for us but, as humble servants, we do the King's bidding. Because we have not learned this, all the world sees is a bunch of desperate people trying to hold on to the traditions of our past. Where is the radical love? Where is the passionate fire? Where is the faith that commands the mountains to move?

Not by best business practices or accountant rules. Not by leadership training or needs based surveys. Not by the latest trends or what worked well for a church somewhere down south. According to God's will for where you are and by his power. That is how the Church moves forward.

For so long leaders have tried to become professionals and to have the Church accredited by the world. It's time to throw off the man made mantle and put on the one given to us by Jesus. It is time to run away from all things man and run to the righteousness of Jesus. It is time to put an end to the scandals in the Church by becoming God's holy people again. It is time to stop seeking the world's approval and seek God's. It is time to set aside the hypocrisy of the palm branches and start laying down our cloaks before the King. If we humble ourselves before our God we may yet see revival in our churches.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I Have Decided To Say No To Evil

When someone is acting immature we often hear them being told to act their age. If we recognize this can be an issue emotionally and mentally why don't we recognize the same problem spiritually? Why are we afraid to tell people to "grow up" spiritually? Apostle Paul never seemed to have this problem as he often told people to "grow up".

If we were to do this the best place to start is in the mirror. Following Jesus requires some mature decision making. It means setting aside whatever we want, to follow the instructions of the King. Maybe that's the first problem. Maybe we see him too much as a friend and forget he is King. His commands are not suggestions. He doesn't tell us to follow his commands if we feel like it. He tells us to obey because we love him. Love does not demand less of us but more. There is no stronger motivator in life than love. Some would say fear is the strongest motivator but I think that's because they have not experienced real love.

Here's the thing: You were called to be holy, set apart, special, for God's use. I can't stress that last part enough: You are intended for God's use. God's holy instrument. His servant. His warrior. His man. His woman. His child. Paul explains it to Timothy:

In a large house some dishes are made of gold or silver, while others are made of wood or clay. Some of these are special, and others are not. (2 Timothy 2:20)

Some of you will understand this. There are dishes that you use every day and then there are the special occasion dishes. There is the flatware and then there is the silverware. If one of the daily use dishes gets broken you may be a little upset but that is nothing compared to how upset you would be if one of the good dishes was broken. You place special value on these for special events.

That’s also how it is with people. The ones who stop doing evil and make themselves pure will become special. Their lives will be holy and pleasing to their Master, and they will be able to do all kinds of good deeds. (v. 21)

Stop doing evil! Turn from it. Run from it! You know what tempts you and causes you to fall, so stay away from it. Some would say, "But only God can keep me from evil". Jesus has made it possible for you to make that decision. He has opened the door. He has sent us the Holy Spirit. But we have to make the decision. We have to turn from it. He has made it possible for us to have the strength to say "no" but we are the ones who have to say "no". So say it already.

We are not intended to be common. We are not intended to be dailyware. We are intended for God's holy purpose and we will step into that the moment we stop doing evil and make ourselves pure. We are made pure by the blood of the Lamb. We remain pure by daily walking in obedience to the Holy Spirit. It is as simple as that. Make the decision not just to accept the cross but to live in obedience to the King.

The Church is a family of believers, filled by the power of the Holy Spirit to do God's will on this earth. But we can't operate in that power if we are double-minded, prostituting ourselves, trying to hide the evil we do in the dark. That power can only flow freely when we walk away from everything that is not part of God and immerse ourselves in Jesus every moment of the day so we are always available to him whenever and wherever, however he wants to use us. We should desire to have the power to fulfill God's will daily. 

You know the things that you do, the things you decide to do that are not acceptable to God. Anything he says is not acceptable is evil. Make the decision right now to walk away from that thing. Repent, which means to go in the opposite direction. Don't just stop but cry out to God. Run to him. I mean run fast to him, with all your energy. He will forgive you and will allow you to step into his holiness, set aside exclusively for his use. Stop prostituting yourself to another and realize you uniquely belong to the King, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 22, 2013

It All Depends On How You Look At It

Someone responded to my criticism of Rob Bell yesterday by stating that how we see the Bible depends on interpretation. I agree whole heartily and add that the vast majority of us are interpreting God's Word according to our own selfish desire. The only interpretation that is worth receiving is that given through the revelation of the Holy Spirit but we are too self-focused to listen to the Spirit. We would rather hear from man's interpretation, the kind that comes from man's own wisdom, interpreted through man's desires. Can you imagine how that turns out? You don't have to imagine, just look around.

We can go back and look at the original language, tear things apart, look at them under a microscope, debate them, chew on them, and apply it to our current culture. The problem is that man changes. Our values change. Our culture changes. Our desires change as do our priorities. But God doesn't change. Interpreting his Word to make it more relevant to our culture is plan stupid. God is always relevant regardless of the culture. Society is not suppose to shape the Church, the Church is suppose to influence the society.

Man does not get to define good and bad. We do not get to decide what God considers evil. God has defined it and man has ignored it. We don't need to pick on homosexuality here, we have a whole list of things we can choose from. We can pick on abortion if you want. Do you know how many Christians have murdered their babies because society says it is okay? They ignore what God says and accept murder. I know of many Christians who decide to live with their boyfriend or girlfriend in a sexual relationship because society accepts it and God considers them married, or so they say.

Let me get a little more personal. I am not throwing stones here because I have no leg to stand on. I have been lost in pornography in the past. I have lied, stolen, cheated. I am a divorced man. As David said, my sin is always before me. I am also forgiven and I know my God has forgotten all these things even if I can't. I praise him every day for his grace and for the fact that his mercies are new every morning. But I also know this, he is a holy God and he has called me to his holiness. I cannot make excuses for my sin and I cannot allow society to seduce me into the dark by accepting my sin as "normal." I must pursue the righteousness of God, not man.

Forgive me as I repeat that point: I have no right to excuse my sin and live in it according to the interpretation of my society. I must be honest with Jesus, understand where I have fallen short, repent of my stubborn ways and run after his righteousness. Not a righteousness as defined by me or interpreted by my culture but a righteousness that is, was and always will be my God. I have a responsibility to flee from what is evil, not embrace it, excuse it and re-define it:

But the foundation that God has laid is solid. On it is written, “The Lord knows who his people are. So everyone who worships the Lord must turn away from evil.” (2 Timothy 2:19)

It doesn't matter if society says it is okay to murder my unborn child; God says it is evil. Flee! It doesn't matter if society says I don't need to be married to have sex with whoever I want, male or female; God says it is evil. Flee! It doesn't matter that society says looking at naked bodies is normal and natural; God says it is evil. Flee!

I am praying for a re-awakening of God's children to a desire for holiness, that we would seek the character of Jesus again. I know that re-awakening must begin in me and I am crying out with all my heart, mind, soul and body. I am praying for this because I know that there will be no revival of God's children without it. We need to denounce the things we have done in the dark and society does in the daylight. We need to throw off what is not of God and seek his face with all our energy. We must call good good and evil evil. We must allow the Spirit to interpret God's Word to us and refuse the interpretation of man because man has it all messed up.

Let us make the decision to be his holy people again.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Lies Of Rob Bell And Others Like Him

My heart is sick from the lies of the enemy coming from the lips of those who claim Jesus as King. There is some kind of marriage taking place between the world and God's children, a melange of truth and lies so something new is born. But it is not new. It is as old as time. It is the enemy again whispering in the ear, "Surely God did not say ..." but God's instructions are clear. They are clear, written down and plain for us to see.

Too many servant's of Jesus are falling for the temptation of the enemy when he says "Bow to me and I will give you the kingdoms of the world". For the sake of acceptance and popularity we are calling good evil and evil good. It isn't just Rob Bell and his sudden support of gay marriages. Come on now, the guy was already messed up, claiming there is no hell and even if there was, God's love wouldn't allow any of us to go there. One has to do some major re-writing of God's Word to come up with these lies. But that's what is all about, isn't it? Aren't we re-writing God's Word to be more "relevant" to our culture? At least that is what Rob Bell has to say. Him and a lot of other pastors are leading entire congregations, even denominations right through the gates of hell. I guess they can all try to deny it when they are in it but it's not going to go away.

According to Rob Bell we have no choice but to change and to call evil good or the Church will disappear. No, the Church will not disappear but we do know there will be a great falling away. We do know that many will be enticed away by the teaching of demons spoken through those whose consciences have been seared. Not my words but directly from the Word of God:

God’s Spirit clearly says that in the last days many people will turn from their faith. They will be fooled by evil spirits and by teachings that come from demons. They will also be fooled by the false claims of liars whose consciences have lost all feeling. (1 Timothy 4:1-2, CEV)

I also remind you of what we were looking at yesterday. It was a different lie but with the same result: people were being led back to death:

That sort of talk is like a sore that won’t heal. And Hymenaeus and Philetus have been talking this way by teaching that the dead have already been raised to life. This is far from the truth, and it is destroying the faith of some people. (2 Timothy 2:17-18, CEV)

It doesn't matter how popular it becomes.It doesn't matter how many pastors and congregations support it. It doesn't matter if the Church loses 90% of those attending, we have to stand our ground; we have to stand on the Word of God; we have to stand on God's truth.

God is not running a democracy. We do not get to vote in changes to laws. We do not get to re-write God's values. We do not get to tell God our terms for following him. Right and wrong are not defined by the majority or even a chosen powerful few. There are no lobbyists in the Kingdom of God. It is a Kingdom and the King decides. If you don't like it you have the freedom to leave but you leave behind the benefits as well. You don't to keep anything and death is the only certainty you will face. Not a loving God you say? The cross says other wise but the cross also demands choices to be made. You don't get to keep the world and Jesus.

Flee from evil and run to God's righteousness. Popularity and acceptance in this place are not reasons to sell your soul. I pray the conviction of the Holy Spirit will somehow penetrate the seared conscience of Rob Bell and all pastors and congregations like him. I also pray for the protection of the young sheep who follow this man and others like him. However, we are not surprised. The Word told us these days would come and they are here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Slandering The Word Of God

We don't get to say whatever we want. Sure most of us live in places where we have freedom of speech but this freedom does not mean we get to say whatever we want. We can and often do but we forget there are consequences. If I said or wrote something about you that was not true it would be called slander and most courts in the world protect people in these cases. If I claim something about you I must be prepared to defend what I said by actual proof. If not, you could successfully sue me. So we should always think twice before commenting on something of which we are not certain. The same is true about Jesus and the Word of God.

It is unfortunate that we live in an age where people prefer listening to other people's opinions on the Word of God instead of studying it for their own understanding. People's knowledge of the Word is often from scripture taken out of context, Christian songs, 3 minute video clips, sound bites from some conference. What we don't understand we make up. What blanks are left we fill in with speculation. It is amazing some of the wrong teaching people are basing their faith on and worse, teaching to others.

We have no idea what damage we are causing when we teach speculation instead of the truth, opinion instead of fact, rumour instead of knowledge. We are slandering the Word of God and destroying people's faith. Paul wrote of such an incident :

And Hymenaeus and Philetus have been talking this way by teaching that the dead have already been raised to life. This is far from the truth, and it is destroying the faith of some people. (2 Timothy 2:17-18)

There are so many false teachings permeating the Church and the faith of God's children all because the children are too lazy to see what God said for themselves. It is like when Moses came from meeting with God and the people were terrified. God wanted to have a personal relationship with all of them but they were too afraid. They told Moses to represent them. Now it isn't fear that keeps us from knowing God but laziness. We still want someone to represent God to us instead of entering into the personal intimate relationship that is ours to have.

If we want to be teachers of the Word then we must become students of the Word. But understand, students of the Word do not sit in classrooms. That is not how the Word works. It is not a document to be studied but a character to be lived. The Word does not so much tell us what to do as it explains what is happening. It gives us road signs to let us know if we are on the right path. It reveals God's heart and explains what he has done. But the Word has to be lived and we are empowered to do that by the Holy Spirit. To be a teacher of the Word means you are filled by the Spirit and are a living example of the Word of God.

Let's stop slandering the Word of God and be determined to know the truth for ourselves. Stop being taught by songs, sound bites and scriptures shared on the Internet and bathe yourself in the Word by the Holy Spirit. Open your Bible and ask the Spirit to write it on your heart. Become a student before you teach. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Worthless Talk

Words, words, words. We talk a lot but say very little. We have a rich language but we limit ourselves to a communication that expresses practically nothing. Everyone has a FaceBook, many have blogs and we fill cyber space with lots of information, telling people what we are eating, wearing and doing but nothing that would reveal much about our hearts. These days we seem to be into shock and destroy. We use our words as weapons, containing very little value, their purpose to wound as deeply as possible. We also have a lot of useless conversations.

In the Church we major on the minor, risking salvation over methods of worship or evangelistic approach. We concentrate on what someone has or has not done and we are slow with forgiveness. We use our words to keep a person buried in their sin instead of assisting to restore them to Jesus. Words are powerful and important and should be filled with grace. We should also walk away from any conversation that does not add to us or someone else. Run away from the conversations that rob us or someone else:

Keep away from worthless and useless talk. It only leads people farther away from God. That sort of talk is like a sore that won’t heal. (2 Timothy 2:16-17)

It seems this was a problem in the early Church as Paul wrote about it often. It was caused by people who were teaching about things they knew nothing about. It seems Paul encouraged them to stick to the basics when testifying about Jesus:

Keep your mind on Jesus Christ! He was from the family of David and was raised from death, just as my good news says. (v. 8)

There are a lot of wonderful things about Jesus beyond the cross and the empty tomb but not everyone should presume to be teachers. Many things of speculation are passed on as certain truth. Churches have been split over disputable matters. You and I probably would not agree on a lot of things but the basics are for certain. It is crazy that we would allow such things to divide and weaken us.

We have a job to do and we have to stop allowing words to distract us. There are people dying every day while we discuss things that will have no impact on their salvation. I am not saying that sound doctrine is not important  but we need to make a distinction between the foundation matters and the things that divide us. I don't really care where you stand on the tribulation, as long as Jesus is Lord and we love and serve him with our entire being. We share the same Father, same King, same Spirit and the same mission. Nothing else matters and nothing else should be permitted to get in our way.

Too many of us have too much theology and not enough practicality. Too many of us spend hours in study and nothing in sharing the good news. Too many of us are too concerned about our own salvation and not concerned for others. Paul said he would gladly give up all he had with Jesus if it would lead to the salvation of his people. Do we have that level of passion for what Jesus told us to do? He did not tell us to go build schools or churches in his name, he told us to make disciples. How do we do that? Just like he did. Let's keep away from worthless and useless talk.

Monday, March 18, 2013

No Short Cuts

My dad has always been a man of excellence. He not only taught me with words but by his actions that any job worth doing is worth doing well. My dad has never taken short cuts or cut corners and done any less of a job to make life easier on himself. He is a man of quality. We don`t see that a lot any more in a society that prizes pleasure over work. Instead of pleasure being a distraction from a hard days work it has become the purpose of a hard day`s work. We work so that we can play. Work is the evil we must face in order to enjoy the pleasure we want to live. But we were created to work.

I have no delusions when it comes to the Kingdom of God; I am a servant of the King, a worker of the harvest. I have not been saved to serve my own pleasure and to be pampered by God. I have been saved and left here as a Kingdom citizen with tasks that I am to complete. I have been warned that there will be tough days and that many will see themselves as my enemy but I am under the authority of the King and his protection. And I have been told to be faithful to these tasks I have been given and to be found doing them on the King`s return. There are no short cuts and my King is looking for quality.

Paul`s instruction to Timothy was in this same spirit as he wrote:

Do your best to win God’s approval as a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed and who teaches only the true message. (2 Timothy 2:15)

How does a workman avoid feeling ashamed? By doing the best at everything he does. Again I feel I must put in this side note. I am not talking about salvation. Everything you need done to belong to God has been done for you. We are not talking salvation here but being a faithful workman in the Kingdom, completing the tasks that have been given to us. A carpenter knows that if he does not do his best it will soon be seen by everyone. He wants to feel good every time he looks on his handy work, not shame because it is falling apart. The same can be said of everyone whose work will be put on display, whether it be musicians, plumbers, actors, parents and Kingdom workmen.

Do you realize that our work will be put on display on the day we are asked to give account for what we did with what we were given? Short cuts will be seen. Shoddy work will be shown. Half-measures will be clear to everyone. And it is not just then. Do you not feel the conviction of the Spirit when you let go of an opportunity? Do you not feel troubled when you only give your minimum to the work of the Kingdom? Do you really have a sense of satisfaction when you say `good enough`?

Maybe you are not laying bricks or patching pot holes or painting houses but the work you do is plainly seen by the King. When you tell that friend that you don`t have time for them because you want to watch the hockey game, it is seen.When you lose patience and walk away from a person who `should know better`, it is seen. When someone asks you about your faith and you are too ashamed to talk to them about Jesus, it is seen. When we put more finances and time into what distracts us then into the mission we have been given, it is seen. When a need is presented and we ignore it, as if we didn`t see it, it is seen. When we choose sin over righteousness, it is seen.

Paul told Timothy to do his best to win God`s approval. Is that how you live your day, wanting to do your best so you win your Father`s approval? Some people have problems with such a thought but it is there, plan as day, in the Bible to read. How you live your life matters. How you approach the Kingdom work matters. You are a workman so be one that works hard and wins the approval of our Father. No short cuts.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

If You Aren't Keeping It Real, Take A Break

I think we sometimes forget that no one has ever experienced our whole story, the story that makes us who we are and explains why we do what we do. Different people have experienced different parts with us like our parents, friends, spouse, children but none of them have been there from beginning to end. I think we sometimes forget this because we have been there from beginning to end and we just assume that people know. But they don't know.

The person who will know you the best is your spouse. You will share the most intimate moments of your life together, also some of the worse. You will fight battles side by side and face to face. You will tell your spouse great moments from your past, many memories but you won't be able to share it all because you don't remember it all. But even the things you do not remember helped shape you and caused you to feel the way you feel and react the way you react. How can your spouse fully understand when they don't know? The incredible thing is, there is one who does know you in great detail, even better than you know yourself, because he remembers those things you have forgotten:

"O Lord, you have searched me
     and you know me." (Psalm 139:1, NIV '88)

It's why it is so incredibly silly of us to ever try to lie to our Father. Maybe we can lie to ourselves so that eventually we believe it but we can't lie to God; he knows us. He knows every intimate detail of our lives. He knows our thoughts, our motivations, the words we would speak before we speak them:

"Before a word is on my tongue
     you know it completely, O Lord." (v. 4)

Better than our parents, our spouse and our children, our God knows us. And still he loves us. Still he cares. Still he went to the cross. Still he covers us by his grace. Still.

God knows us but he was not prepared to leave us in that condition. He was not prepared to see us suffer under the destructive force of sin, to see our character twisted and disfigured. He knew what he had created us to be and he was not prepared to leave a band-aide solution in place. He wanted more for us; he wanted us to have a character of holiness, like him.

You can't lie to the King. He knows your heart and he knows your thoughts. He has known you since the day he gave you life and he is the one who purifies those who seek him. He is the one who calls us Holy who run after him. He is the one who gives us new life every day when our desire and motivation is him. We have a part to play in this. The Spirit does not force himself on anyone but he will enter where he is invited.

We have been changed through Jesus. We are a new creation, but now we have to be willing to stop doing evil. It doesn't mean we can stop on our own but we have been changed now so that if we desire to, if we are willing, then the Spirit is able to strengthen us to turn from evil every time. He corrects our motives. But if we decide to think on evil things we will soon act on those thoughts. We have to cooperate with the Spirit and understand that we have been called to greater things then the common purpose of eat, drink, die:

In a large house some dishes are made of gold or silver, while others are made of wood or clay. Some of these are special, and others are not. That’s also how it is with people. The ones who stop doing evil and make themselves pure will become special. Their lives will be holy and pleasing to their Master, and they will be able to do all kinds of good deeds. (2 Timothy 2:20-21, CEV)

Let's stop lying to ourselves and God. Let's be honest and open and ask the Spirit to convict us where we need to feel conviction.We have been called to be a Holy people because without holiness we cannot go where we need to go and do what we need to do. Without holiness we will have no fear of doing evil and will soon be overcome by what has overcome the world. A lack of holiness is why good people do bad things because goodness will not save or protect from the evil that destroys, but God's holiness does.

If you are involved in ministry and you are not being 100% honest with yourself and God, do us all a favour and take a step back. Get things set right. Make Jesus your pursuit. Be sure that holiness is in place so that you flee from evil and pursue righteousness. Make faith, love and peace your daily goals so that you remain faithful to the King. And once you are certain your priorities are in order, step back into the fight.

Don't lie to God.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Stop With The Words Already

Have you noticed how ugly a person gets when they are stuck indoors a lot. I don't mean appearance but their attitude, temperament and perspective. I have noticed with all my children that the longer they stay in bed the grumpier they get. The longer they play video games the more fights they have. Yet, when they are outside, running around, riding their bikes, being with friends, they laugh a lot more and are pleasant to be with. I notice the same thing with the Church.

Christians are spending far too much time "indoors". We love to worship, take classes, study, be together, fellowship, but the more we do that the uglier we get. We end up in arguments, fights, debates over things that do not matter for the mission.We have this love affair with words. I am not referring to God's Word but our words. We love to hear ourselves talk. We write a lot of books too. We are staying "indoors" far too much, sleeping too long. We do a lot of navel gazing and it is not healthy. It is not what we were told to do.

About words, Paul told Timothy to warn his people:

"Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen." (2 Timothy 2:14)

We seem to have turned the Christian walk into some kind of academic pursuit. Everyone wants certificates and diplomas, letters after their name. We want to spend our time in discussion but Jesus called us to action. The Word is useless if not put into action. Our service is useless if it is not of action. The Word warns us;

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22)

Yes, study the Word; know what the instructions are; understand and then live it. I am not saying we should not study but if all you do is study you are wasting your time. We have to get outside, run around, ride our bikes, play with our friends. We have to live life, filled by the Spirit, acting on the Word, being the "salt" this world is so desperate for. We have to be in the world, the workplace, the hockey arena, the market place and we must live like Jesus, representing him so others can know him. This is when we will be the healthiest, when we will know the joy of the Lord, when we will see the most spiritual growth we have ever experienced. This is when we will be fulfilling our mandate, our commission, our purpose, our calling.

If we would be busy with our King's work we would have less time to fight about words, there would be less division and there would be more of Jesus for the world to see. It's great to be a student of the Word and hopefully you will be that for the rest of your life, but if all you are is a student then you have missed the entire point of it. Be doers and let the Spirit work through you to effect change in the hearts of everyone you have contact with today.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wake Up Warriors, It's Not About Us!

There is no doubt that you are going to face some difficult times in your life. You can't live in a fallen world without running into some hardships. Some people seem to face more than their fair share, but then again, who are we to define fair. The question is, how are you going to deal with these things when they happen? Will you panic, fall apart and generally not handle it well? Will you run to someone you trust for the answers, taking whatever advice they have to hand out? Will you just ignore it and hope it goes away? There are plenty of ways of handling or not handling the difficulties of living in this world.

The question is not if these things will happen but what you will do when you come upon them. May I suggest that you change your perspective. Part of our problem is that we measure everything by the standards of this world, but we no longer belong to those standards. We have new standards and a new method of measurement. We have a new measurement of success and failure; a new measurement of riches; a new measurement of values; a new measurement of purpose; a new measurement of what is important.

Face it, this world and the various societies belonging to it are pretty messed up and getting worse by the day. They pursue logical argument and what seems right. They are absolutely convinced in themselves that their logic and the arguments behind the logic are solid because they seem right to them. But since the Fall we have not been able to trust our own thinking and judgment on matters. We needed a higher standard, something outside of the depraved thinking that resulted from the Fall.

As you face some of the difficulties of living here do not trust your logic or emotions. Do not trust the wisdom of this world. Do not look around this place for a lifeline or an example to follow. Do not model yourself after the perceived success of this place. You, child of God, have only one source for all things, and his name is Jesus. In troubled times we are not troubled. Instead we find strength in truths and standards that cannot be changed or re-shaped by the storms of this place:

"If we died with him,
     we will also live with him;
if we endure,
     we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
     he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
    he will remain faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself." (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

These are a few truths that are stones in the foundation of our faith. These truths are unchangeable, regardless of our circumstances. From these things we draw strength and are able to continue with joy. They are not just words but truths that strengthen our mind, heart, spirit and body, to stay the course, to stand our ground.

If the warriors of the Kingdom could be stopped by mere circumstances and hardships of this world, the Church would have died long ago. But we can't be stopped because our worth, value, standards and measurements are not from this place but from the Kingdom of which we are citizens. We are strengthened in this place beyond our own sake but so that we may be of use to our King in bringing salvation to the lost. Wake up warriors, it's not about us! Stop panicking, get back in the ranks, trust the King and stand your ground. Now sing with the joy that comes from the assurance of our salvation!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I Endure Everything For Them

God has brought us into partnership with him and his mission. I can't explain why, it is just what he has chosen to do. I heard recently from the apostle over my church, "We can't do anything without God and God won't do anything without us". The Church is vital for the mission and we are members of that Church.

I dislike the fact that I always have to clarify this point but here we go again. We are not working for our salvation. That was all done by Jesus and there is nothing left to be done. However, there is a ton of work to be done so that Jesus is lifted up in order that people may come to him. Why else would Jesus tell his disciples to ask for more workers, because the harvest is plentiful and the labourers are few? There is a work to be done and, as citizens of this great Kingdom, we are the labourers.

Apostle Paul said this:

"Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory." (2 Timothy 2:10)

A couple of points to clarify. Let's start with the elect. We are part of the elect. The elect are those who have made or will make the decision to accept the sacrifice of Jesus and make him Lord of their lives. We are the ones who have become citizen's of the Kingdom, who have died to self and made alive in Jesus, who have been made into a new creation. The elect are not pre-destined in the sense some understand it. There are not limits placed on our choices. It is only a matter of God's foreknowledge. Not being limited to our time and space, God knows the decisions we will make. Just because he has the foreknowledge does not rob us of our freedom to make or not make a decision. So the elect are simply those God has a foreknowledge of the decision they will make for Jesus.

The other point we have to clarify is that we don't have this foreknowledge. Because we don't have it means that we must make the most of every opportunity with every person we will meet. It means that we have to work hard and endure whatever we must to make sure that everyone has the opportunity of being part of the elect.If people decide against Jesus it is the freedom of their choice, but at least we know we have done what we can to lift up Jesus to them.

This is why Paul said he was willing to endure everything and I think by his life we can see that these were not empty words. He was willing to endure everything because he knew that it was no longer about him but about the salvation of the world. He already had everything he could possibly want in Jesus. With nothing else left to desire, Paul was able to pour out his life so that others might live.

Imagine approaching each day with this same attitude: "Jesus, what happens to me today does not matter, just show me where you want to use me". If you get spat on then you get spat on. If you get punched then you get punched. If you get to lead a soul to Jesus then, all glory to God, that is another soul saved from the endless torment of hell.

"Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect."

The harvest is plentiful and the labourers are few because they are too busy pampering themselves in their quiet religion. Time is running out. What are you more concerned about today? What occupies your prayers? Your own needs or those who need Jesus? Are you willing to endure everything for the sake of another person's salvation?

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's Time To Get Our Hands Dirty

If God needed a prophet in Iraq would you go? If he needed a martyr in China would you do it? If he needed a preacher in Nigeria would you volunteer? A lot of people would throw up their hands to volunteer without hesitation whereas others would take time to consider the cost. But what if Jesus simply asked you to represent him in your school or work place? What if he simply wanted to use you as his agent right where you are? Would you be willing to face the consequences, to carry the cost no matter the price?

To be sold out for Jesus is more than just being willing to enter into a relationship with him. To get on board with Jesus is to also get on board with his mission. Too many of us miss that point. Jesus wants much more than worshipers; he wants disciples. He wants people who will do what he did, obey what he has commanded, who are willing to do more than just live a moral life and are willing to live by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We do not get to choose when and how we will be used. Our responsibility is simply to be available and obedient. There may be hardships involved but our perspective is such that nothing we go through here is comparable to what has been prepared for us. Our reward is not here. The blessings we receive are for the purpose of the work. We are not here for a long time or a good time but for serving time. That is not to say it is joyless because serving the Lord has a joy that goes beyond any pleasure on this earth. That joy is to sustain, strengthen and encourage us: "The joy of the Lord is my strength".

Jesus will use us exactly where we are but sometimes he has to arrange to get us to certain places because he needs someone there. It may mean he has to remove things from us or add to us. He may need to have one job end so another can begin. Sometimes it may be as extreme as what Paul experienced:

"This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal." (2 Timothy 2:8-9)

Unfortunately too many of us put the emphasis on how circumstances affect us instead of seeing what God is doing. There is a very self-centered gospel being preached these days and people are eagerly eating it up so that when they begin suffering for the gospel the become very confused and start acting like a victim. We are not victims in this place but through Jesus we are victorious. No matter what we face and what we experience we are not victims but ministers of the gospel. Paul knew that even in his circumstances of being "chained" God's Word was not:

"But God's word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect." (vv. 9-10)

I don't know what else to do to help people other than come against the false self-centered gospel that puts our comfort above the salvation of this world. We have to realize that as warriors of the Kingdom we have a responsibility to join in this battle for the lost. Our comfort here is of no importance and we must be willing and available for whatever the King calls upon us to do, no matter where he places us.

No matter our circumstances, nothing can "chain" the Word of God. Nothing can prevent the Spirit from convicting the hearts of the lost. Nothing can stop Jesus from using whoever he wants, for whatever he wants, wherever he wants. Are you willing to be used? Are you available? Enough of this false gospel. It's time to get our hands dirty according to the will and direction of our God. It's time to set aside the distractions and start concentrating on the commands of the King.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Gospel For Which I Suffer

Have you figured out your belief system yet? I get to meet people every day who are without Jesus but who have a belief system. We may call it a philosophy for living or any number of things but it comes down to the belief by which you live your life. If you believe that "what goes around comes around" you will make sure that you are giving out good stuff to receive good stuff. If you believe that purpose is found in how many toys you buy in life, then your life will be up and down according to what you can afford. If you believe that Jesus Christ died so that you could have life then your life is going to be based on serving Jesus.

The problem is that what we believe is not always what we live. I hear that every day as well. I hear people rationalizing why it is okay to steal from the government. But if you believe in "what goes around comes around" then you should expect to suffer the consequences for theft. Funny how people aren't willing to take their believes that far. Unfortunately either are many Christians.

Paul wrote to Timothy :

"This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal." (2 Timothy 2:8-9)

Paul lived by the conviction and calling of the Holy Spirit. He preached what he was taught by the Spirit and he paid the price for it. He was beat, stoned, rejected, arrested and treated like "public enemy number one" by  Israel. But he wasn't surprised. Why would he be? Jesus told him this is exactly what would happen. He told us all. So why do we complain. In fact, why are we surprised? But that really isn't my question today.

Today I am asking why we don't live according to the belief we profess? Why don't we live by the example Jesus set for us? I don't mean the moral living but the Holy Spirit empowered life that Jesus showed us how to live. Yes, a life of grace, mercy and compassion but also a life filled with the power to see things happen. A life that will face whatever the cost in order to fulfill the belief that Jesus is truth.

"Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me."

We say it,we believe it but are we willing to live it beyond the suffering that it can provoke in our life? Christianity goes far beyond a code we live by and demands nothing less than our all, even if that all is the air we breathe. Anything less is not good enough. Jesus is not Gandhi. Jesus is not Buddha. He is not Mohammed. He is not a teacher of some philosophy or religion. Jesus is our life and we cannot deny that which gives us life. We stick with him no matter the cost because the life he has given is eternal. We could never bring ourselves to deny him, ever, for whatever reason.

There is a reason told us that if we are ashamed of him in front of men he will be ashamed of us in front of his Father. If we are ashamed of him it means we don't believe him. If we don't believe him why should we expect anything from him? Why would we expect to receive the promise of eternity with him? Yet, if we do believe him then our life should reflect that fact. Our life should be an example of faith, power and conviction.If our passion for him does not surpass the passion this world has for many things then we have not even begun to understand his love and our relationship with him.

So I ask you, is your belief enough to go all the way, no matter what it may cost? Understand, those are the followers Jesus will honour.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Remember Jesus Christ

Since last I blogged Bible Gateway and other online Bible providers have removed the NIV '84 at the publisher's request. I refuse to use the new NIV due to its liberal translation of God's Word so this leaves me  no choice but to go back to the printed form of the Bible. Such hardships in this current age of technology. :-)

I am sitting here in my store this morning, with my coffee beside me and God's Word open before me and I am tired. I went into partnership with my son, running a small coffee shop type of store. He needed a partner and I saw it as a means of connecting with people in the neighbourhood. I have to tell you though, it is a lot of work. It's hard to believe that people do this day on and day out just to make a dollar.There has to be easier ways to make money.

I would think that it is an easy thing to become discouraged running a business like this, as bill after bill pour in and income expectation is not always reached. I can tell you, if money was my motivation I would have walked away from this after the first week. But money isn't my motivation. Connecting with people for Jesus is the reason I am involved with this project. That means the financial burden is not so great and the discouragement is kept outside because profit margins don't bring me down.

How we handle life is going to depend on our motivation. Motivation dictates expectation and when expectation is not met then all kinds of emotions run their course. Wrong expectations can be a killer especially when they are based on a false sense of purpose. Perhaps this is why Paul reminded Timothy:

"Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David." (2 Timothy 2:8, NIV '84)

It seems a strange thing to say to a minister of the gospel or even just an ordinary Christian: Remember Jesus.Well, yes, of course I will remember Jesus. But did I yesterday? Did I remember him in the many decisions I made or in every conversation I had? Was he the motivation for my kindness, for my service, for my smiles?It is easy to be me without thinking of Jesus. I am usually a kind and generous guy, but kindness and generosity is not going to reveal the gospel of Jesus to a dying people.

The command to remember Jesus is a reminder that everything must come from him. Our motivation for everything we do must spring from the love of Jesus for us. It is not good enough that I am kind. The type of kindness that changes the world is that which is anointed, that comes from the seed of Jesus Christ. Anything else will fade away. Only that which comes from Jesus has the qualities of eternity knit into it.

I am telling you, you are kind, special, beautiful, talented and a hundred other things that I could say if I knew you better, but none of it matters. All that matters is what springs out of our relationship with Jesus. These are the only things that have the anointing of the Spirit. It is great that we offer our everything to Jesus but we don't have anything he needs.What he wants is our death and rebirth so that we are empty vessels, allowing him to fill us with what we need to serve him. Until we discover that for ourselves we will continue wasting our energy in actions and activities that have no eternal power,as nice and kind as they are.

Remember Jesus Christ. Set aside any other motivation. Stop trying to serve him in your own capacity. Instead, allow him to be your motivation in every word you speak, action you take, decision you make. Then watch what he accomplishes through you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Understanding The Obligation

For the last little while I have been challenging us to consider our perspective on life. Are we sold out for Jesus or is he just someone in our life? Is Jesus the reason for the air in our lungs or do we just pull him out when we have to play the God card? Do we have an "all or nothing" attitude when it comes to serving God with all that we have?

Paul wrote to Timothy :

Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. (2 Timothy 2:7)

Let's review what it was that Paul was saying to Timothy:

- be strong in the grace of Jesus (not as you receive it but as you give it out)
- teach what you have received so they in turn can teach others
- do not avoid suffering in the mission
- do not get distracted by the affairs of this world
- serve according to the rules and principles of the Kingdom
- God provides through ministry

These are Paul's final instructions to this man he considered to be a son so we should consider the importance of these things.Too often we serve with no thought, no reflection, no understanding. Everything else in our lives we study, consider, measure, weigh and understand as we move forward. We do not invest money without understanding the risk. We do not take a job without knowing the job description and the salary. We make a decision based on amount of work, payout and interest. We do not begin a romantic relationship with someone without deciding whether we are attracted, if there is enough interest, if we can see ourselves with the person for the rest of our lives. We consider personality, physical appearance, similarities, the reaction of our emotions. Should we not also understand and engage with Jesus with this same effort and interest?

Service to Jesus does not depend on how we feel. We don't go to work or to school depending on how we feel about it. We have an obligation as we do with Jesus. Again I remind us that we are not free agents. We are not spiritual entrepreneurs. We have entered an agreement, a covenant with the King of kings. We no longer belong to ourselves. We have received instruction. We must understand our obligations and if our heart is right then it will be an obligation of love, filled with joy.

Most people hold back because they are afraid of reputation. They are afraid of what people will think. They are afraid of rejection. But the only rejection we should fear is the rejection of our Lord on the day we are called home. The only reputation that should concern us is one of faithfulness to our King. What the world thinks of us and what the world does to us should not dictate the actions of our day. Only the instructions and example of Jesus should have a direct impact on how we live each day.

So many people are wanting a deeper revelation. They want to learn more. They want to go deeper. Yet, we don't even do what we do know. We sit in classes, take courses, receive certificates but we are too afraid to tell people what Jesus has done for us today, which is our first obligation. Obedience is as simple as explaining to people why we are brimming with joy, despite any circumstance that may be against us. What is the point of wanting to learn more when we don't act on the revelation we have already received.

Oh forgive us Lord.

Let's be the army Jesus has called us to be; faithful, operating in grace, sacrificing as we are called upon to sacrifice, not fearing to suffer when called upon.To God be the glory!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Take Care Of Your Pastor

Hard working pastors are worth their weight in gold. In fact, you can't put the value on a man of God. Yet too often they are treated as employees; someone who can be hired and fired. It's probably because we have allowed them to become managers instead of the men of God they are called to be.

If you ask a pastor for his job description it should be a simple thing:

- to preach, teach and admonish with the Word of God
- to set aside all worldly pursuit for the sake of serving the Body of Christ
- to guide and disciple
- to teach people so they in turn can teach

Instead we will find these things:

- to manage the affairs of the church
- to maintain a balanced budget
- to be financially accountable to the deacon's board
- public relations for the church
- to oversee 2 dozen various committees

And you will find this as a requirement for being a pastor:

- a B.A. in business administration
- a Masters in theology
- a B.A. in psychology
- a teaching degree

It is sad what we have allowed the Church to become when all God requires of his servant's is obedience. Jesus said not to worry about what we will say, that he would fill our mouths with his words. What we need is Holy Spirit filled, anointed, obedient servant's of God. Perhaps there is a reason Jesus called the fishermen and tax collectors and not the priests of his day.

Today we have reduced the pastor to an employee who must meet the credentials of man and earn a man's wages, giving account for his hours, just like any other job. The only problem is that being a pastor is not a job, career, or even a choice. It is a calling to strict obedience and a submission to the anointing of God. The responsibility to look after the servant's of the Church falls on the Church itself. The people have the responsibility to look after their pastors. Paul reminded Timothy:

The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. (2 Timothy 2:6)

This principle goes way beyond just finances. Who do you think benefits the most from the preaching and teaching? The preachers and teachers do not just teach what they know but what they are receiving. As they study and receive from the Lord they are giving out from the new revelation, always keeping the meal fresh. You will also find pastors do this with everything they receive; time, money, gifts are all freely given out as they are freely received. They are never hoarders.

However, the church that refuses to bless their pastors will in turn discover that the blessing of the Lord stops flowing. If they hold back from these servant's of God, God will hold back from them. Not out of vengeance but just simply because these hearts that refuse to give do not have the capacity to receive. But honestly, what loving heart would not desire to bless those who bless it? Only the religious heart would put requirements on blessings. Freely we have received, freely we should give.

So as the Word says, bless your pastors so that you may be blessed. It is to your benefit.

PS - This is in no way a word directed at my church, which is a blessing to me, but simply the next lesson in the daily reading of God's Word.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Let's Get Serious

Enough playing around. Let's get serious. We are not here for a long time and there is a lot to do. Perhaps not in the same sense that some would value work but it is work nonetheless. Our work is to tell as many people about Jesus as we can and to teach those who decide to become followers of Jesus. It is not a joyless work but one that gives us the sense of completion as we work in the Spirit in the will of God. But just because it is a labour of love does not mean it is not the most serious labour there is on the planet because it is a labour that has an eternal outcome.

Now we are not rogue agents. We don't get to do whatever we feel like. We get to do according to the direction of the Spirit. We are not the General calling the shots but the soldiers who carry out the orders. There are rules and principles at play in this fight for the souls of this world and we need to learn them if we are to be effective warriors in service to the King. The mighty warrior Paul wrote to his fellow warrior and friend Timothy:

Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. (2 Timothy 2:5)

Do you know, understand, live by and operate in the rules of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ? All citizens, especially all warriors, must know and live by the rules of the Kingdom. The first rule is a simple one: love God with your entire being, so much so that nothing else even comes as a remote second. It is not a whimsical love, up one day and down another, but it is a love so strong that it dictates obedience to our flesh. It is a love that gives birth to obedience, faithfulness and a desire for God's righteousness. It is a love that spurns sin and pledges allegiance, not matter the cost, to the King of kings.

This love is such that rules like "love your neighbour", forgiveness, mercy, compassion, become our nature. These are not things we must think about but what we are. Just as the knights of old lived by the code of chivalry, we modern day knights live by the code of God's righteousness. But there is more to the principles of the Kingdom than just these; there are actual spiritual laws that are in place.

There are simple things to understand but we fail to operate in. There is the law of authority.The authority of Jesus Christ lives in you. When you speak to the things you are coming against you do it in Jesus'authority. Demons must flee from you, they have no choice because of the authority of Jesus. Disease must obey. Spiritual principles must come into play. You are an incredible spiritual powerhouse, a mighty warrior in service to the King, in the authority of the King. And as such a warrior you have the responsibility to fight against the dark realm according to the rules; you have the responsibility to defend the weak according to the governing spiritual principles.

Yes, the battle belongs to the Lord and the victory is ours but we have been left here to fight in service to the King. We are not here to be pampered but to seek the things of the Kingdom. We are doers of the Word. We are agents, warriors, knights, soldiers and we are here to fight. We fight on our knees. We fight with the equipment we have been given. We fight in the full authority of Jesus Christ. We are not weak. We are not defeated. We are not sick. We are not complainers. We are not fearful. We are not doubters. We are not worriers. We are not gossips. We are not destroyers of people. We are not haters. We are not list keepers.

We are warriors!

We are warrior servants, and Jesus is our King. Now walk as Jesus has called you to walk. Walk like Jesus did when he walked in the fullness of the Spirit in obedience to his Father. We are to walk in the fullness of the Spirit, in obedience to our King.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Slipping Away

A student once decided to get very serious about his studies. It was his last year of High School and he knew he would have to get his grades up if he hoped to get into the college of his choice. He decided he would face this challenge no matter the cost and set upon eliminating anything that was not part of his goals.

He packed up his gaming gear and put it in storage. He went through his computer and removed any apps that were a distraction, that did not add to his goal. He did the same with his phone. He spoke to his friends and told them how serious he was and that he would not be participating in many of their usual activities, instead putting his time into his studies. He went through his room and removed anything that he thought would rob him of his time, and he organized everything to its maximum efficiency.

His effort paid off.

Half way through the year his marks had jumped significantly. His teachers were all pleased with his improvement and the guidance counselor was helping him get his applications together. Things were looking great but it did not come without a cost. Several of his friends had developed other friendships. They were still friendly enough but since he had less time for them the bonds were not there any more. He had also lost touch with his favorite shows and had missed several block buster movies, and he loved movies. He had also missed the release of the new editions to his favorite games. Life had become pretty routine and he was starting to get tired of the routine.

One day he decided to take a break.

As a reward for his hard work he decided to watch an episode of one of his favorite shows. At the end of it he was left with several questions not knowing how the story had evolved to this point. At first he tried to read up on the show but then decided to download  the six months he had missed. Without realizing it, he ended up staying up all night catching up. However, he aced the two tests he had the following day. He felt pretty good, so a week later he decided to get caught up on a couple of other shows. A month later the gaming gear came out and he borrowed the new versions of his favorite games just to try them out. Within two months his grades had dropped and his hopes for his choice of colleges slipped away.

What's the point? Simply this: we have to decide what is important and stick to it. No distractions. No rewarding ourselves. No down time. If Jesus Christ is our all then anything that distracts us from this purpose must be eliminated. It is not a matter of balance. It is all or nothing. Paul wrote to Timothy:

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (2 Timothy 2:4)

You can't have a divided heart. You can't have the best of both worlds. You can't serve two masters:

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

God is consistent throughout the Word, "Love the Lord your God with all your ...". The important part here is the "all". There are no excuses for anything less than our all. None.

So take a look at your life, a real close look, and ask yourself if it matches your words. Is it a reflection of your purpose, your goal? Or have you fallen asleep? Have you allowed things to distract you? Are you taking a break, rewarding yourself for doing so well? Are you slipping away thinking you are okay? Let the Spirit speak to you today and follow his direction.