Friday, April 26, 2013

Living The Extraordinary In The Ordinary

Is this going to be an ordinary or extraordinary day for you? According to Scripture every day should be extraordinary as you carry out the mission of Jesus Christ. Yes, you are on a mission, not to please yourself but to make disciples for Jesus. The first step is for them to hear your testimony and to understand the situation they are in. The problem is, we are not very good at what Jesus commanded us to do.

Unfortunately we are too caught up in church "stuff", disagreements, spouting off personal doctrine, or just pursuing the "american dream". We have generations of people who do not understand that they are a condemned people, heading to certain death. In fact, the Church has toned down over the years so that church has just become a community that we belong to, one that defines who we are. But the world doesn't need to know who we are. These dying generations need to know who Jesus Christ is because he is the only one who can rescue them from their doom.

This is the reality:

When Christ Jesus comes as king, he will be the judge of everyone, whether they are living or dead. (2 Timothy 4:1)

Every person you see today, unless they know Jesus, is condemned and heading for judgement. It's just a formality because without Jesus covering them they are already condemned. It is simply the passing of the sentence that awaits them. How can we live with this knowledge? How can we not be overwhelmed with sorrow for them? How can we not be desperate for them to know? I'll tell you how: It isn't our reality.

I don't care how we try to excuse it away, Jesus is not our reality. This world, with all its pleasures and trappings is our reality. We say the right words, read the right books, quote the right verses but we are still caught up in the affairs of this world. Our anchor is still in this place. We are still dependent on what this world considers to be valuable. Our minds and hearts are polluted and Jesus is nothing more than an emotional concept. How else can we explain how the majority of Christians can die without ever leading anyone to Jesus?

We convince ourselves that we care because we feed the homeless, build hospitals, run clean water projects, give money to orphanages. These are all great projects of compassion that should be part of our mission but they should only lead to the heart of our mission. If we forget the heart then we will have well dressed, well feed, well cared for sinners standing in judgement before God, being condemned for eternity. Above everything else, and I mean everything, must be our compassion for the lost souls and compassion drives us to present Jesus to everyone.

You and I are only play acting. We have taken on a role and we are fulfilling it to the end and it doesn't do anyone any good. "He will judge everyone" should move us to action, reaching out, pursuing, testifying, telling others about the great news, that they too can be sinners saved by grace, a new creation, gloriously saved from the coming destruction. How many are going to hell because we don't take Jesus at his word and because we are too busy with ourselves? Everyone of us should be convicted of the fact that our neighbour needs Jesus and we should be provoked by the love of Jesus to do something about it.

So, ordinary or extraordinary day?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Are We Representing Jesus Well?

The one thing that should concern us is, are we representing Jesus well. It is unfortunate that often times we still allow our old nature to dictate our behaviour and actions. Sometimes we say and do things without even processing what the potential outcome will be. We feel the emotion and allow ourselves to react. He have the thought and speak it out loud. The network television stations have a 3 or 5 second delay on their live shows so they can bleep out things that are inappropriate. It is too bad we don't have the same delay built into our personal system. It is why our mothers taught us to count to ten before reacting to things that made us mad.

We live in an age where a lot of our personal, private thoughts are now shared with everyone. Those things we use to think, process and often times throw away, are now shared across the world. You would think that we would use some kind of filter to prevent these things from harming others, but many of us don't. In doing this we fail to represent Jesus. And it is all about representing Jesus.

If we have any doubt about our behaviour, and even if we don't, we should be comparing ourselves to what we find in God's Word. We don't compare ourselves to other Christians but to Jesus and what God says is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. He has called us to his holiness and the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is not good enough to excuse our behaviour with "I'm tired" (one I use a lot) or "I'm only human". Excuses don't cut it with God and he is the one to whom we answer. We have to bow before him and own our fault, confess it and allow him to remove it from us.

We shouldn't need people to correct us; we should see and know our errors, faults and sins as soon as they happen. We know it because we know the Word of God. We know because we are convicted by the Holy Spirit. Don't ruin that. Don't deny the correction of the Spirit through the Word. Don't become insensitive by trying to justify yourself before God:

Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live. The Scriptures train God’s servants to do all kinds of good deeds. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

It isn't about us. If we have done something outside of the character of Jesus we need to deal with it so it doesn't get in the way. It is always about Jesus. Always. We represent him, not our church, not our family, not ourselves; only Jesus. And because of that we need to follow the instructions set out before us in the Word of God for dealing with our faults, sins and mistakes. There is a correct way to behave and the Word of God gives it to us. This is the only code of behaviour we measure ourselves against.

Are we representing Jesus well?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Standing On The Word Of God, And Nothing Else

The Bible, God's Word is awesome. If you don't know it, you are a radiant being stumbling around in the dark. It is essential for understanding and confirming what has been written on your heart by the Holy Spirit. The sooner you start eating from it the better it will be for you. It is a benefit to consume the Word daily so that all that God intended you to be will become your reality. Without it, we are confused by the false reality of this world that is dominated by a false prince.

I realize it is difficult to balance everything in your day, especially if you do not have a grasp of the Kingdom of God. If Jesus is just something you need to try to fit into your day, you are in a lot of trouble. You will always struggle spiritually and you will never step into the full knowledge of Christ, becoming fully like him. Jesus cannot be a part of your life; he must be your life, the motivation for everything that you do. You must be fully consumed by his love and your love for him, with obedience being your great desire.

Our attitude toward God's Word must be as passionate as the writer of Psalm 119. We must be raised on it as if it is our life source and treat it as if it is the life source for our children. Paul wrote to Timothy:

Since childhood, you have known the Holy Scriptures that are able to make you wise enough to have faith in Christ Jesus and be saved. (2 Timothy 3:15)

Too often we are guilty of trying to fulfill the mission of Jesus using short cuts. We use emotional pleas but the only thing that makes us wise unto salvation is God's Word. We can't bring people into the Kingdom and expect them to stay based on emotions because emotions are unstable unless the Spirit is in charge. Faith is not an emotional reaction, although emotion can be included. Faith is a decision to believe what Jesus said and we only know what Jesus said according to the Word of God.

The Word is constantly under attack from outside and inside the Church. No other holy book in the world is attacked like the Christian Bible but yet the Word says of itself:

Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live. (v. 16)

God's Word is his. It was written through many various servants, inspired by the Holy Spirit. The servant's were only instruments and not authors. And what God has given to us is more precious than gold because it is a spiritual instrument, useful for teaching, helping, correcting and showing us how to live. Our problem is we don't want to take the correction; we would rather explain away those parts of the Bible.

We simply forget that we are accountable to our God. We are not radical free agents set loose upon the earth to do what we feel is best. We have a play book to follow, one that confirms what the Spirit has written on our heart. Is it right to steal? The Bible says no and so does your heart. Is it right to have sex with whoever you want? The Bible says no, and so does your heart. Is it right to direct your own life? The Bible says no, and so does your heart. Do we need to be generous because of God's love? The Bible says yes, and so does your heart. If your heart is lying to you, you need to ask who it is you serve. Paul writes:

The Scriptures train God’s servants to do all kinds of good deeds. (v. 17)

Clearly stated, we need God's Word as our training manual. It needs to be studied, understood, applied and lived every day. We can't go a day without referring to it. And remember, it is not an old book, archaic in teaching. The Word does not stand on its own but is empowered in us through the Holy Spirit. It is a living testament of God's promises and our responsibilities. Yes, responsibilities. Salvation is by grace but as the children of God we have responsibilities to live out every day that we live in this place. If you don't understand at least that much then you are desperate to know, understand and live the Word of God.

Monday, April 22, 2013

You Know Who Taught You These Things

Faithfulness is a hard thing to find anywhere for anything these days. We are society of choices and we have a wide variety to choose from. Have you counted the variety of toilet paper in the grocery store these days? Look at our televisions. Maybe I am showing my age but I grew up with three TV stations and one of those was French. Now it takes 30 minutes just to flip through the tv guide to see what is on. There was a time when we were faithful to the brand products we used but it wasn't hard to do when there were only two choices. Now it seems the choice is dictated by what is on sale.

Unfortunately some people apply these love of choices, and frequent changes according to convenience, to God and the Church. But with God there are only two choices: To continue to be lost in sin or be rescued from it through Jesus.There are not "many choices" to get to God, as some celebrities are famous for promoting; there is only one way and his name is Jesus:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life!” Jesus answered. “Without me, no one can go to the Father." (John 14:6)

It doesn't matter how you try to twist this, it still comes down to Jesus being the only way. In our world of choices it is a reality many people find hard to accept. And it is for this reason you need to be careful where you get your spiritual food. Paul wrote to Timothy:

Keep on being faithful to what you were taught and to what you believed. After all, you know who taught you these things. (2 Timothy 3:14)

"You know who taught you these things." Again, there are a lot of choices where you can get your spiritual food. There are a lot of choices for churches. There are a lot of teachers on YouTube. There are a lot of pastors and teachers writing blogs. But just because you read someone's tweets and have access to their official FaceBook does not mean you "know" them. Like I said, there are many online teachers, pastors, putting out a lot of material but you should not accept it at face value. You don't know these people. In fact. 95% of you reading this don't know me. We've never met.

You have a pastor and some of you have more than one. God has provided you with a church filled with teachers and mentors. Are you reading their blogs and their teaching? That is where you should be getting your spiritual food. You can see your pastor living what he preaches all the time. You can see your elders' living testimony. These are the men and women God has given to teach you so learn from them.

I am not saying that the teaching material that people like me put out here on the Internet is wrong but some of it is. You should consult your pastor or elders. Ask them to verify things for you. If something sounds strange, counter to what you have been taught, not lining up with the Word of God, then take it to your pastor. Just because I say I am a pastor does not mean I am. Just like when you are chatting with someone you have never met, it doesn't mean they are who they say they are. Just because she says she is a 16 year old girl doesn't mean she isn't a 42 year old man. People can be whatever they want to be hidden behind their computer.

Never allow the Internet, YouTube, FaceBook, Tumblr,or any of the other great social media tools to replace the Church. The Body of Christ is vital for your growth and your service to Jesus. Get involved and grounded in your church. Get to know your pastors and elders. Ask about their testimony and learn from them. God has given them to you so stay faithful and know who is teaching you.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Evil Becoming More Evil

Wouldn't it be great if we could just throw open our arms and embrace anyone and everyone who claimed to be Christian. It should be like that but most of us know it isn't. So many people who claim to be Christian are stating their family tradition and not their personal relationship with Jesus. They haven't a clue what it is to live in the Spirit or to have anything to do with God except when they are in some kind of trouble. Even then the name of Jesus is used more as an exclamation than a plea for help.

This is why so many clarify their position in the Church with "born again" or "evangelical" or even "practicing". However, even these clarifications are not a measure for a personal relationship with Jesus. I am not talking about different subtleties in doctrine but the simple fact of a relationship with Jesus; a daily walking; Bible believing and living; Holy Spirit filled; Christ centered Christians. This is vital for us so we do not allow ourselves to be enticed away by those who claim Jesus but don't live Jesus. Paul warned Timothy:

But evil people who pretend to be what they are not will become worse than ever, as they fool others and are fooled themselves. (2 Timothy 3:13)

Is it possible to be evil and not realize it? Not at first, but I believe you can convince yourself that you are okay, that you are one of the good guys. When we tell the same lie often enough we start believing it to be true. Why would people do such a thing? Same motivation as there is for most sin: self-centeredness. There was something in the lie that profited the liar and so he kept on lying until he even believed it to be true.

There are a lot of pretenders in the Church who carry the title of Christian but have nothing to do with Christ. You will discover them by their actions. Without the Spirit of God it is impossible to carry on the act of Christ-like character for very long. You can see it in how they treat people. You will hear it in their language. You will detect it in the selfish attitude. It is possible to hide these things for a time but eventually the cracks start appearing. They will even convince themselves that unacceptable behaviour is actually acceptable and will convince others as well.

Again, this is the reason we must know Jesus, his character, his love, his mercy, grace, forgiveness. We must know it by experience and we must know it by the Word. We must know the authentic in order to recognize the fake. We must do this more and more as the days grow darker and the influence of evil grows bolder. I am not talking about going on a witch hunt; that is not our responsibility. I am only talking about being able to recognize the authentic to embrace and the false to avoid. God will take care of the wheat and the weeds, we just need to test the spirit in all things.

Don't be fooled by those who have fooled themselves. Anyone can be persuasive; all they have to do is truly believe what they are saying. But words alone are not how we test the spirit. Following Jesus is not an academic exercise but living the character of Jesus 24/7 by the power of the Spirit in us. Please be careful, it is getting dangerous out there.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Being Hated Is Not Abnormal

What were your expectations when you accepted Jesus? I guess that depends on what you were being told at the time. It is unfortunate that we are not always forthcoming in our desire to see people accept the salvation Jesus offers. After all, salvation is of far greater worth than anything in this world. Regretfully it means some people have wrong expectations, but that is not Jesus' fault. He made it clear what we should expect:

If the people of this world hate you, just remember that they hated me first. If you belonged to the world, its people would love you. But you don’t belong to the world. I have chosen you to leave the world behind, and that is why its people hate you. Remember how I told you that servants are not greater than their master. So if people mistreat me, they will mistreat you. (John 15:18-20)

Not exactly what we start with when we are presenting Jesus to someone, but it is the truth. It is not God's desire but is the natural result when you have a righteous, holy people living among rebellious nations. The nature of this world is rebellion; rebellion against God and all things connected to God. We read this scripture:

Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18) 

"Do your best" has also been translated as "as far as it depends on you". Peace requires an agreement between two parties but as long as there is rebellion against God there can be no peace. We try but don't be disappointed when you find people at odds with you. Don't be surprised when people don't want to be your friend and they hate you for unreasonable reasons. It is not so much you as it is the Christ in you that makes their rebellion obvious. They don't want to be reminded that there is a right and wrong in the world, and your life is a reminder.

Apostle Paul didn't beat around the bush when he wrote to Timothy:

Anyone who belongs to Christ Jesus and wants to live right will have trouble from others. (2 Timothy 3:12)

We don't want trouble, we don't look for it and we don't enjoy it when it happens but neither should we be surprised. The important thing is to allow the Spirit to direct you in these times and don't allow your flesh to dictate the day. How you handle trouble may the biggest sermon you ever preach. It may be exactly what people need to see to know that your faith in Jesus is real. The Word says that God uses all things and we need to handle all circumstances in our lives with such a faith.

Always, always, always remember that it isn't about us. If you feel offended you had better examine your heart again because it doesn't sound like your dead enough. Our life is no longer ours so how can we be offended. If someone comes against us they are actually coming against Jesus and I think Jesus can defend his own. We have not been given to defend ourselves but instead to stand our ground. We are given words and abilities to fight for those who are coming against us. Yes, we fight for them because we love those who hate us and we pray for those who persecute us. That is what Jesus told us to do.

Following Jesus requires a lot more than singing worship songs. It requires faithfulness and obedience at all times, in all things. We live for Jesus not for ourselves and we will face whatever we must in his authority. That's why we can keep on singing, keep on dancing, keep on loving and forgiving even as the stones are thrown and the whips come down. We are not of those who grow weary and fall away but in the strength and the joy of our Lord we press on.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


And the world asks, why?

An absolute tragic waste of life. Children killed, murdered, before they get to taste life. Parents robed of their joy. Today, lost in a dark place, searching for understanding. But there is no understanding. It is senseless, useless, a tragedy, just plain stupid. Today they have to face the reality of their loss. Their hearts are shattered.

So too are the lives of those injured so severely. Limbs gone. Lives changed forever. Livelihoods destroyed. Families facing financial impossibilities. There is no reason for this deliberate act of hate and violence in Boston. None whatsoever. There is no reason for such a loss as this. But it is the world in which we live.

I read the paper this morning. I see the pictures. And I cry. My heart is broken. I feel I am part of this tragic loss.

However, the Spirit reminds me of other tragedies. Not to take away from the effect this act of violence is having on the world, but do you realize that there were only 3 killed and 130 injured. I say only because in a single day there are far more than 3 people who die in a senseless act of violence in this world. There are far more than 130 people injured as a result of tragic violence.There are countless families who are changed every day in a blink of an eye because someone considered someone else's life less valuable than their own. What about those who died today from salvation? Those stolen and sold into slavery?What about those who were beaten and raped in our city block last night?


Because it is an ugly, godless world. But we are better than that.

You have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.”  But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you.  Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong.  If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors[a] love their friends.  If you greet only your friends, what’s so great about that? Don’t even unbelievers do that?  But you must always act like your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:43-48)

Jesus' words, himself a target of unspeakable violence. And what were his words at the pinnacle of the unjust violence wrought against him? "Father, forgive them." Jesus taught the lessons that he would soon live out himself. We say things like, "I know the Bible says to love and forgive, but ..." Yes, there always seems to be a clause for not living the holy life we have been told to live. There is always just cause to hate and seek vengeance  There is always just cause for not forgiving. But Jesus says, do it anyway.

As we have received, we are to give out. There are no buts about it. We love as Jesus has loved us. We forgive as we have been forgiven by our Father. We show the same mercy as God has shown to us. No excuses, just do it. This is the difference between the Church and the world. This is the difference between the saved and the lost. This is the difference between the light and the dark. This is the difference. This is why Christians, honest followers of Jesus Christ, do not go around blowing people up. This is why Jesus told Peter to put the sword away. We are not those who live and die by the sword. We are those who love the enemy who would take our life.

If we don't understand this then we do not understand God. If we cannot love in this way then we have not yet tasted of Jesus' love. If we are bent on vengeance instead of being an instrument of healing in a suffering world, then we do not love Jesus. John said it well:

God is love, and anyone who doesn’t love others has never known him. (1 John 4:8)

The world is going to ask why and seek vengeance. We know why, the results of a godless society promoting self-centered agendas. We know why and we are still committed to love as Jesus loved, to give as he gave, to sacrifice as he sacrificed, to forgive as he forgave, because we are his followers. We are instruments of healing in times such as these. Do not allow cursing to stain your healing lips, speak words of comfort and hope to a word lost in this suffering.

Monday, April 15, 2013

No More Excuses

I wonder how confident we are about our Christian walk. Would we be willing to tell someone to look at our example? More often than not we make excuses: "I'm only human", "I'm not perfect, just forgiven". I guess it is our way of apologizing or seeking forgiveness. Or is it our way of avoiding holiness? All I know is that when I read Paul's testimony he was not afraid to say to people, "Do what I do", "Consider my example".

Look at what Paul wrote to Timothy, someone who spent long periods of time with Paul and would have seen his private as well as his public face:

Timothy, you know what I teach and how I live. You know what I want to do and what I believe. You have seen how patient and loving I am, and how in the past I put up with trouble and suffering in the cities of Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. (2 Timothy 2:10-11)

You know what I teach and how I live. There are two "you know" statements and then there is the amazing, "you have seen". Paul is reminding Timothy that he lives what he preaches, and Timothy knows it. Paul did not hold up high standards for others that he was not living himself. Neither was he excusing other people's attitudes and behaviours so he himself could live such a low standard. Paul was determined to be like Jesus and he expected others to have the same desire.

Paul took Jesus at his word and he had faith to believe that everything was possible through Jesus. That includes holy living. It includes the righteousness of God. I don't see in any of Paul's writings where excuses were offered and I don't see where excuses were extended. We have been called to live according to the Word God has written on our heart, confirmed by the Spirit and the written testimony he has given to us. It is a daily surrender and a growing process but it is not a system of poor excuses.

We have not been left here to struggle with sin. Sin is done with and if it happens then God's grace and forgiveness is abundant but we are not to use that grace as an excuse to sin. We need to be careful of our attitude that it is not a "God will forgive me because he understands how weak I am". We were weak but we aren't any more. We are filled by the resurrection power, possessed by the Spirit of God. When we sin it is a rebellious act against God, lacking in love. For such a thing, we had better repent and not expect God simply to "understand". He does understand and he sent Jesus to take care of the matter. Now we are more than conquerors and had better start acting that way instead of like the weaklings we like to project.

More than conquerors, I am telling you and it means that when God tells me to be holy as he is holy that he has made it possible for me. Not because I will my behaviour, attitude and desires to change but because I submit to the Spirit's authority to change them in me. It is a decision to decide for Jesus every single time and when I fail to do so, not to excuse it but deal with it. "Lord, you made me capable of saying no but in my selfishness, I decided against you and said yes to my selfishness. Forgive me and help me understand more fully how your love has transformed me. Sin no longer has authority over me but I gave it that authority and for this I am sorry. I will run from evil and run to you."

All of us should be able to say to a "Timothy", "Look at my example". All of us. No more excuses. No more slogans. No more easy outs. We are called to be God's holy nation, set aside for his purpose, by his design. He has declared us to be holy and has transformed us to be holy. We are more that conquerors through Jesus Christ, our King.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Usurping God's Authority

It is hard not to think with the world's mindset when we have been raised, educated and operate in it every day. We do it without thinking about it and that's probably the greatest problem: we don't think. Too often we put our mind in neutral and go with the flow. As Christians we mistakenly think that our first impulse will be for God, that it is second nature to us. But it isn't. We have to make a concerted effort to think with the mind of Christ. We have to make a conscience decision to walk with the Spirit, taking actions that would please God instead of our flesh.

God's ways are far from what we want. His desire is hard for us to fathom over our own. We think because something is a good idea and it is doable that we should just go ahead and do it. We think that just because something looks like it would honour God we have the authority to do it. When will we learn?

Too often we put all the emphasis on ability. Just because I am able to do something does not mean I should. Just because I have better qualities to be a leader does not mean I am God's choice to lead. The reverse also applies; just because I don't have the best leadership qualifications doesn't mean I am not called to lead. Come on people, we have the Bible. When are we going to start seeing God's heart in it?

There were those who thought they could do a better job of leading Israel than Moses. Even Moses' own family came against him at one point, jealous over his authority. Who knows, maybe there were those with better ability than Moses but it didn't matter. God had chosen Moses and the only ability Moses needed was obedience and faithfulness to God who instructed him. Maybe that's the real problem. Maybe we don't realize that leadership in the Church is not about how well a person can lead but instead how obedient a person is to God instructions and directions. Jesus is the head of the Church, not man.

We seem to have lost respect for the anointed and maybe it's because we have left the anointing aside when it comes to us choosing our king, oops, I mean leaders, pastors. David was one who understood the anointing. He was chosen as king long before he became king. He understood that it was not given to him to remove Saul, but instead to replace him when God had removed him. It took time. It took time because David refused to usurp God's authority. God had put Saul in place and God would remove him. I'm not saying that it is a model for today but simply pointing out that David understood what was going on and how leadership worked from God's perspective.

I am concerned for the Church and have been for many years. Our emphasis is all wrong when it comes to leadership. Our expectations are wrong. The mindset of the leaders is wrong. The Church is being run and directed by a bunch of highly educated executives who act more like business people needing to report to their board of directors and must always please the stockholders.  No wonder there is lack of God's power in the Church; we've left God out.

Why can't we set aside all the garbage, all our best practices, all our church growth, emerging church ideas and seek again the will of our God? Why can't we allow him to shake up the whole Church so that the anointing will fall back into place and we can be a real people who desire nothing more than God's will? Why can't we put the emphasis back on walking in the Spirit instead of our own intellect? Oh yeah, we are stuck in the world's mindset. Oh God, send your cleansing, correcting purifying fire today, that the Bride may rise up in the full glory of the Groom.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

It's Time To Put Equality In Its Place

There was an article in one of my city`s local papers that spoke a truth that many people want to deny. For decades women have fought for equal rights but a branch of them are not interested in equality, they want to be better. On the other end we have most men who don`t want any trouble and want to be politically correct. This article pointed out what the Church should have been teaching for years : It is not about equality because men and women are not equal in ability, but they are complimentary. Women are great at some things and men at others but when put together we make a whole. Maybe the difference is too subtle to see but it is an important difference.

God made it clear that the responsibility to lead was given to the male gender. Of course, our sinful nature took that and twisted it as it does with all good things God has called into being. However, it is also true that no man can lead properly unless his wife allows him. Yes, I said allow him. A wife can dominate her husband quite easily, and those who are married know exactly what I am talking about. Women, in disobedience to God, have all that is required to take over leadership from their husbands. It is never a question of ability and always a matter of obedience.

Women are strong, intelligent, determined, insightful, compassionate and very capable of doing anything they put their mind to. It has been that way since the beginning. Personally, considering that God made women last and gave her the ability to incubate life, I think she is his crowning glory in all of creation. But he did not intend for her to lead. It has nothing to do with being second class in the Kingdom because she is a compliment to her husband as her husband is to her. The greatest things are going to happen when a couple understand and walk in their God-appointed roles and work together instead of against each other. It is fantastic when it works; it is disastrous when it doesn`t.

Paul gave Timothy a warning about those who were teaching false things about God. Paul knew that if these men were able to capture the heart of the woman it would affect the whole family:

Some men fool whole families, just to get power over those women who are slaves of sin and are controlled by all sorts of desires. (2 Timothy 3:6)

I will tell you right now a truth that his been proven over the ages: women are the hearts of their family. They can be the worse mothers, make huge mistakes, anger their children but they will always have the hearts of their children. Forgiveness comes for a mother whether she asks for it or not. Sure, children get angry, daughters don`t talk to them for years as teenagers, but watch what happens when the hormones come back into place. I am telling you, no matter what, we love our moms. If dads make those same mistakes, look out, they`ll still be hearing about it in 40 years from now.

Why do you think the Church is filled with more women than men? I think in many ways women have a deeper understanding of God's heart. Father's love their children, work hard to give them a better life, would lay down their lives for them and cherish them dearly, but we have never had the physical bond of a mother with them.There is something to it that only God and women really understand. I marvel at it and sometimes I am envious of it, but it doesn't rob me of my responsibility to lead. I have a wife that makes sure of that, who speaks to me with great insights of how I should approach the children and how best to deal with some difficult situations, especially with my girls. She makes me a better leader and is obedient to God by allowing me to lead. But if she wanted to, she could destroy with a word.

If sin grips the heart of the woman, if she embraces false teaching and allows others to lead her astray, then the whole family is in trouble. That is my place to protect my wife, to lead, to make sure we stay in step together with the Spirit, to insure that our lives are based solidly on the Word of God. I am responsible to keep a guard over my house so that no thieves sneak in and steal away what belongs to God. I need to know and understand the desires of my wife's heart so that I can help guide in God's holiness and righteousness. There is nothing so powerful as a woman with a righteous heart and there is nothing so destructive as a woman possessed by evil desires.

The Spirit gave Paul an interesting insight as he added:

These women always want to learn something new, but they never can discover the truth. (v. 7)

Just because someone wants to learn doesn't mean they can. A life of disobedience does not allow for applied insight. The Word of God is not some great academic book to receive certificates of learning for studying it. It is not filled with theories to discuss with friends. It is not a book of philosophy to be picked apart. It is the revelation of God, about God and what he has done for us. It is something that provokes us into action. The only way to truly understand it is to have the Holy Spirit write it on your heart and to live it. Disobedience is a roadblock in this process.

So let's throw the world's definition of equality out the window along with the other philosophies of this place and let's start living the Word of God. Men and women are complimentary and we must be obedient to our roles. Maybe we are uncomfortable with them but sometimes we must do things that make us uncomfortable at first. Husband and wives were but together as a team and as a team they must walk together. When they do, great things are going to happen for the glory of God.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Know Your Place

Most people's reaction to the news that I am a father of ten is "You look too young to have ten children". But what I have realized lately is that it is not so much that I look young as it is that I don't remind many people of a father. There is no doubt that I am a dad but I don't have that father spirit about me. You know what I mean. There are some guys you meet who have that father authority about them. Not only are they a father to their children but they are also a father to those who are not.

I think I have always wanted to be that but I have come to realize that I don't have that spirit, I have the brother spirit. I'm the sort of guy you would hang out with at the movies, maybe take in a hockey game, maybe talk to about some problems over a cup of coffee, confide in as well. Those who know me know what I am talking about. In fact, you probably knew it before I was willing to admit it to myself. I think it has always been that way.

I was the kinda guy at school that girls felt comfortable around, who loved to talk to, discussed their problems with, even leaned on. Here I was falling in love with them and they considered me a brother. Frustrating, but I resigned myself to the role. I had no idea that God was working on me to develop a pastoring heart. I learned to listen, be compassionate, understanding but also wise with my words.Without realizing it, I was learning to listen to God's voice, not for my own needs but for the needs of others.

For too long I longed to be a powerful leader who people would listen to and who I could help to discover the wonders of God. I kept trying to fit into the father role but that was not the authority God had given to me. I have a friend, my own pastor, who has that authority. He is a father to countless people because he has been given that authority. I've looked at him and asked, "Why can't I be that?", but then I feel like Peter who questioned Jesus about John. Jesus' words were, "What is it to you. Do what I have given you to do." I have heard those words applied to me many times now.

I am a pastor, different from other leaders and given an authority specific to my calling. I am not an evangelist, prophet and most definitely not an apostle. What I am is a pastor, one who often is sent to walk alongside those who need direction and encouragement. I am patient, compassionate, understanding, stubborn, oops, I mean determined. I don't give up on people. None of this is natural to me but what God has developed in me for his purpose.

Realizing this I can let go of that father image I longed for myself and can easily walk in the brother image God has given me. It's good to know where we fit in and how we work in compliment to the others in the Body of Christ. Know your place and operate in it and we will all be thankful for it; Praise the Lord!

The Religious Of The End Times

Sincere faith is not nice if we manage it; sincere faith is vital. What is faith? Faith is the lifeblood of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Without faith we cannot see God. Faith is not believing there is a God. That's not faith, it is simply belief. I can believe a lot of things without them impacting my life. It is impossible to have a faith that does not impact our lives.

Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1, CEV)

What we have today is a lot of religious people who are very faithful at practicing their religion. We do not have a lot of people who have made the decision to live by faith. What do we think God is saying to us when we read:

But we live by faith, not by what we see. (2 Corinthians 5:7, CEV)

We don't have time today to go through all the scripture related to living faith but we need to understand that Jesus even reflected on this as he wondered out loud:

But when the Son of Man comes, will he find on this earth anyone with faith? (Luke 18:8, CEV)

When I was young I had no idea why Jesus would say such a thing but now that I am older and I see what passes for faith, I understand. Within myself there is a war that rages because it is easy for me to do things in my own strength and intelligence. I am a very capable man but Jesus never asked me to do anything within my own ability because my ability is too limiting to him. He wants to achieve things through me that I cannot achieve in myself, not for me benefit but for his. He wants me to live a surrendered and obedient life so that I will listen to his words without question and act on them. Faith means obedience.

Paul warned Timothy that the end times would be filled with a lot of religious people but not so many living by faith:

Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won’t be real. Don’t have anything to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:5, CEV) 

Let me ask you this: How much time have you spent studying Jesus' life and words? We are guilty of spending a lot of time studying methods, history, all kinds of different topics but what about just Jesus? Just his words? Just his actions? Just his promises? Just his commands? We want to look at everything except for our responsibility in this relationship. Our responsibility is to have faith and this faith produces trust and obedience. This faith provokes us into actions that go beyond what we can do in our own abilities. This faith changes everything we see, everywhere we go, everything we put our hand to and everyone we encounter.

Honestly, if we were living by faith there would not be a word of complaint on our lips. If we were a people of faith, fear would be replaced by faith. Fear will try to press in but faith will be our shield. If we are a people of faith, there would be nothing in this earth that can come between us and Jesus. Faith destroys fear, depression, lostness, despair. More than that, faith gives us hope, strength, joy, amazement, purpose because Jesus is real and present with us. Faith makes obedience to Jesus' commands as our purpose and priority. Can we say that of ourselves? Can we honestly?

Look around. Will Jesus find anyone with faith on his return? Perhaps we should make a declaration like Joshua: As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord! We need to bring the reality of faith into our lives so that we will have the determination not to disappoint Jesus when he calls us to him. It's frustrating to see what we are making of it, playing church and being faithful to our religion but leaving the reality of it untouched. Sincere faith, we must live by it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Where Is This Attitude Coming From?

As we sit and wait to see if another madman will drag us into another world conflict, we should do a little reflection on how we are impacting the world as individuals. This crazy little man is willing to sacrifice countless lives for some hidden personal agenda. What are you willing to sacrifice to impact this world as Jesus did? There is no doubt we are in the last days so we need to do everything we can to fulfill the mandate that Jesus gave us which is to present him to everyone we can, whenever we can, wherever we are.

The world is going crazy, and not just because of dictators. Look to our own neighbourhoods and lives. We have neighbours killing neighbours, parents killing children, children killing parents, children killing themselves. We have wife abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, animal abuse. We have countless thousands of unborn children being killed on the altar of self.  It is crazy and will only get crazier. The Spirit warned us through Apostle Paul:

People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful, godless,  heartless, and hateful. Their words will be cruel, and they will have no self-control or pity. These people will hate everything that is good. They will be sneaky, reckless, and puffed up with pride. Instead of loving God, they will love pleasure. (2 Timothy 3:2-4)

That is a lot to take in so take it one thing at a time.

The first is a great description of a lot of people I meet today : People will love only themselves and money. For sure, there are a lot of great people who have a heart for others but those numbers are falling. Many problems in our cities and neighbourhoods are because people put themselves ahead of others. If people were not in love with themselves, we wouldn't mind sacrificing for each other. The question is, are we any better? The money issue speaks for itself.

Consider the people you see every day. Would you describe any of them as being proud, stuck-up (not willing to associate with those in a perceived lower class), rude, disobedient to their parents? Obedience to parents is a big thing to God. If we don't learn obedience to our parents then disobedience will run in everything we do. We will find ways to get out of paying taxes, cheating the system, doing whatever we can to better ourselves against the system without getting caught. Disobedience is a huge problem and I am not referring to teenagers.

What better way to describe the growing attitude of our society than ungrateful, godless, heartless and hateful. It is a very angry society, hurting and being hurt. There is a lot of hate out there and it doesn't take much to touch it off. People care less about their neighbours. Maybe they mean to care but they don't. "Live and let live" because I don't want to be involved, is a great way of summing up a lot of attitudes I see these days.

Notice how Paul is describing the people of the end days because what is being described is a people who have lost love: cruel words, no self-control, no pity. They just have no heart. They don't know grace or even understand it. It's all about vengeance and justice. The love those who love them and hate those that hate them. These are the days we are living in as we see our communities and the world being transformed by an underlying hate and distrust.

So where is this evil coming from? Simple : instead of loving God, they will love pleasure. That is all we live for, what our society orbits around; pleasure. We don't want anything to interfere with it. Half the world is starving to death but we are fine as long as we have our $500 game counsel and the latest smart phone. It is incredible how the world has changed in 50 years. I really don't think it has another 50 to go.

In this mess we have been given the task of burning bright for Jesus. We recognize the times we are in. We continue to call good good and evil evil. We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and we refuse to be polluted by the self-centered atmosphere of our society. We know we are here to serve. We are here to impact the world for Jesus. In the face of the selfishness of our society we live a selfless life, willing to give it all up for the sake of one soul. Does this describe us? It should if Jesus is our everything. It should if we understand our mission. It should if we are walking in obedience because we love him.

According to the world thermometer, it is time to wake up from the intoxication of this world and seek the holiness of our God. It is time to put on the robe of righteousness and live every moment of every day for the glory of our King. We have been distracted long enough; now let's get our mind and heart on things above.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

There Will Be Some Very Hard Times

We've been waiting for Jesus to return for a long time; so long that some have left the faith and others sit on the sidelines to laugh at us. How quickly we forget that time is not a relevant thing for our God. One thousand years is as a day to him. However, there are certain things that must align as the exact day has already been chosen. We were given signs to watch for so that we would known the day was approaching but Jesus said that he did not even know the exact date as that was something only the Father knew. Yet for me, the date does not matter. Being found faithful on that day is what concerns me.

We know the day is approaching because we are recognizing the signs and so we should be considering the warnings we were given by Jesus and apostle Paul about the days in which we live. Paul simply stated:

You can be certain that in the last days there will be some very hard times. (2 Timothy 3:1, CEV)

We are only seeing the beginning of it in North America. There has never been a time in history like we have now when so many Christians are being persecuted and killed around the world because of the name of Jesus. In North America the real hostility toward Christians is just beginning to manifest. We are going to see our governments turn against us. We are going to see persecution grow quickly to the point of people being afraid of identifying themselves with Jesus. All those who have criticized Peter in the past will find themselves in the same situation. What will they do? What will we do?

Mind you, not everyone will be persecuted. Some will not stand their ground. Some will cave to the pressure and will change the Word of God to be accepted by our society. All we have to do to see the truth of this is look at whole congregations who, for the sake of acceptability and growth, accept sin as something holy. Just look at men like Rob Bell who refuse to put on the full armour of God and stand. We are seeing more and more of it. Not because they have found a new truth but because they have fallen for the lies of the enemy which match their own evil desires.

Where do you stand with Jesus? In the days to come you had better be sure of where you stand. You had better check that relationship and verify that Jesus is number one in your life and all desires for this place are dead and gone. Dark days are coming and the enemy is going to shake the tree to see what falls off. The Father is going to come along and cut off anything that does not have life. The great "falling away" is going to continue until all that remains are the warriors of Jesus, and then he's coming to bring them home.

There are going to be some very hard times. People will go to jail because of their faith. Property will be taken away. Many will be killed as they are being killed already in many parts of the world. Along with praying for pastors being jailed in Iran, we will be praying for pastors in our own countries. We will not just be praying for those who have watched their husbands killed and their homes burned in India, we will be trying to take care of our own.

It's happening quickly my friends. Read the news. Pay attention. Look for the signs. Prepare yourself by getting as close to Jesus as you can, and prepare yourself to stand, with the full armour of God. No compromise. No giving up. No denying Jesus. We have the Holy Spirit who will give us the grace to face every situation. There will be some very hard times but we will face them with the joy of the Lord because we are more than conquerors through him who saved us. Amen!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rescue The Perishing, Care For The Dying

Why do people need Jesus? What is in your head when you are thinking about presenting Jesus to someone? Is it to save them from hell? Is it to point them in the direction of heaven? Perhaps it is to lessen some of their suffering in this place? What is your motivation and what do you see the root cause to be?

I ask these questions because it is never good to go into battle with some vague notion of what we are doing. Unfortunately for some Christian warriors, they don't even get as far as to consider these questions. They are so caught up in their own life, their own problems, that they aren't even in the fight. But life here isn't about us; not any more. It is about Jesus and his mission to save as many souls that are willing to be saved.

I find it important to remind myself what we are engaged in. Part of it was exposed in yesterday's scripture:

"and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:26)

I find this to be one of the most revealing scriptures as to what we are involved in. It is more than just trying to get people to come to church. It is more than wanting to see their self-destructive behaviour change. It is more than wanting to see them enter into God's glory. These people are prisoners, taken captive by the enemy of our King. These people need to be freed.

They have been in captivity so long they identify with their capture. They are more familiar with his ways than they are with God's righteousness. They don't even realize what a terrible position they are in. We are involved with God's rescue plan to rescue them from captivity so they may again have the freedom of choice. Believe it or not, some will choose to go back to captivity, but praise be to Jesus, some will be rescued.

Our role is pivotal. Our Father planned it; Jesus completed it; and the Spirit is here to equip us to present it. But as I said yesterday, salvation belongs to God. It is his work. What he has called us to partner with him in is the presentation. The good news must be presented. People must be told about Jesus. They need to hear the reality of their situation. They have to hear why they need to be rescued.

We are not in this to win brownie points with God. This is not our way of earning a ticket to heaven. This is a calling of love, filled with compassion for a people who are lost just like we were. They are trapped by the devil but in such a way that they can't even see the trap. They are not only held in captivity but they willingly do what the enemy directs them to do. It is a horrible situation and we need to be reminded about it every day.

It is unfortunate that we have spent so much time building community; so much time building a sub-culture. We put tons of time and energy into our music and literature industries. We are back to building wonderful cathedrals to man's great success at building community. There is so much time and energy that goes into teaching, with class after class and seminars galore. We have great women, men and youth conferences. We really live as a world within a world, but what impact is there from all of this. How is Jesus' spiritual uprising transforming the lives of the people of this world? We have this great community but yet, all I can hear Jesus saying is, go.

We talk the talk but I am not convinced that we are convinced that salvation is urgent. I don't think we have a good mental image of what we are involved in. I think we are more interested in conformity over the need for full transformation by the blood of the Lamb. Honestly, is there any sense of urgency? Do we see our friends and family in captivity by the enemy? Is there any compelling by the Spirit to get into the trenches and get into the fight?

If we don't care we should at least be obedient because we love Jesus. Jesus told us to go. But at the same time, I think we should be concerned if we don't care. How can we not have compassion for those who are stuck in the same ugly place that we were rescued from? May the Spirit press this matter on us until our eyes are re-opened to the condition of our neighbour. Come on warrior, we have been called by the King.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Don't Be A Bully For God

How are you at handling conflict? Most of us are not very good at it and so try to avoid it. It is good to avoid conflict where possible but it is not always possible. Sometimes we have no choice but to face up to it and it is in those times I am wondering about. How do you handle those conflicts that cannot be avoided?

Many of us steel ourselves so that we can be protected against what is coming at us. Sometimes we allow anger to become our defense. We allow anger to become a wall that prevents anything from getting at us. But anger is also a weapon that causes injury. Conflicts do not have to end in hurt.

The problem with conflict is that we allow it to become personal. We keep getting in the way. A conflict does not have to be about us. We don't have to own it. It doesn't have to be part of us. We do not need to allow it to consume us or to even touch our heart. If we understood Jesus correctly we would know that there is nothing in this world that we value or that we should feel attached to. If we understood this then there would be a lot less hurt in conflict. People cannot offend us when our value and worth is not found in us but in Jesus alone. This is how Paul was able to instruct Timothy:

Be humble when you correct people who oppose you. (2 Timothy 2:25)

Everything is done in humility, even correction. The way this is possible is when we respect a person's right to choose. Some people say that they love people too much to respect their decision to reject Jesus. Funny, God has done everything he can to rescue us and his love for us is of far greater worth than ours for people, but he leaves the choice to us. He will never force his will upon us, but we must understand there is a day when we will face the consequences of our decisions. This is what people need to understand but we must it explain it with the same attitude as God's; we have to respect a person's right to choose.

I know we love people and we want them rescued from the destruction of hell. We have the truth and we want to convince people but forcing them into something is wrong and will not last. It is not enough to pray a prayer; it has to be the conviction of the heart. The only way we can obey God is through love. The only way repentance is sincere is through love. The only way we can work out our salvation daily is through love and love does not happen when someone is forced into something that they are not convinced of.

Salvation does not belong to us; it is the work of God. We are only messengers, conveyors of the good news, and trophies of God's grace. Arguing with someone over salvation will not work. Becoming angry and shouting at someone about their actions and attitudes will do nothing but convince them you are a bully. Read Paul's instructions to Timothy and see who is actually responsible for touching the heart and mind of the person you are speaking with:

Be humble when you correct people who oppose you. Maybe God will lead them to turn to him and learn the truth. They have been trapped by the devil, and he makes them obey him, but God may help them escape. (2 Timothy 2:25-26) 

We have the responsibility to always present the truth but it is God who changes the hearts of men. So we speak the truth in humility, avoiding senseless arguments, presenting Jesus and allowing the Spirit to do the rest. We must go. We must present. We must tell others, but do it with an attitude that pleases God.

God does not need bullies. He does not need those who will allow their emotions to control their mouth. He needs warriors, controlled by the Spirit who are willing to go anywhere and speak to anyone about Jesus, in humility and love. If people decide not to listen, it is their decision. Salvation is by the conviction of the Spirit. He will use your words that he gives to you to speak but he will not use your persuasion. Just speak the truth plainly and allow the Spirit to do the rest. Don't take their rejection personally. It is not you they are rejecting. Trust God in this as you trust him in everything else.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Parenting In The Church

Have you ever wanted to be a teacher? Imagine the opportunity to shape young minds, to share knowledge and wisdom and see the reward of your students' great success. Sounds great in theory but it is more like trench warfare. What do you do with a classroom full of students who do not want to learn, who build walls and fail to see the importance of expanding their minds? So in reality, the greatest thing a teacher can ever achieve is to get his students to the point of wanting to learn. As soon as a teacher does that, he has equipped that student for the rest of his life. Is it better to give a fish or to teach how to fish? Is it better to give out knowledge or to teach how to gain knowledge?

The Church needs good teachers but the Word appears to make it a bit confusing. In one passage we are being chastised for not gaining enough maturity to be teachers and in another we are being told that we should not all assume to be teachers. The difference is the same difference between a school teacher and a parent.

There is no teacher more important or greater than a parent. Parents will teach their children to eat, walk, talk, sing, laugh, and share. Parents will teach the difference between what is good and what is bad and how to love. They teach them the foundations of life without an instruction book or curriculum. They do it with words and they do it by example. They teach as their parents'taught them. They teach the practical lessons of life. School teachers teach the formal education, which is also important but has a different nature and purpose. Sometimes school teachers end up teaching both because parents forget their responsibility.

In the Church all of us are like parents. We demonstrate the foundational aspect of our walk with Jesus. New Christians watch our example, listen to our testimonies and see how life is lived in a practical manner. We have our formal teachers, who are very important, who explain the words and teach us about things like the importance of love, but how that is applied is seen in the example of the "parents".

That is why we read from James:

My friends, we should not all try to become teachers. In fact, teachers will be judged more strictly than others. (James 3:1, CEV)

These are those of the five-fold ministry, who have a special anointing for the task, and who are responsible for bringing to us our formal "education". We need them but not everyone should assume to be one. However, we are all parents and should have such a maturity that we set a good example of the "working out" of our salvation daily. This is why we read this correction in Hebrews:

By now you should have been teachers, but once again you need to be taught the simplest things about what God has said. You need milk instead of solid food. People who live on milk are like babies who don’t really know what is right. (Hebrews 5:12-13)

We need maturity to be a good parent. I think we all understand that a 6 year old would not make a good parent. Either would a 14 year old or 16 or even in many cases an 18 year old, because they have not yet gained maturity. That is not saying they are not mature as an 18 year old but parenting often takes more than an 18 year old's maturity.

Spiritual maturity does not work in the same way; it is not based on time. Spiritual maturity is based on surrender and obedience. It is based on faith and trust. It is based on our centeredness in Jesus. This is important for church leadership to understand as well.

In his description of what Christians should look like, Paul told Timothy:

They must be kind to everyone, and they must be good teachers and very patient. (2 Timothy 2:24b)

Every Christian is a teacher but not formally. Everyone of us should have such maturity that we teach as parents teach. Few parents sit down with a blackboard and draw out how the principle of walking works. Instead, with a great deal of patience, a parent takes the child's hand and helps them learn to walk by trying again, and again, and again. When that first step of independence is taken there is a great celebration, the video is shared with everyone and a parent brims with pride.

New Christians need just as much attention and care. They don't need formal instruction from us because they will get that from those called to do so. They need people who will take them by the hand and will demonstrate a consistent, practical walk with Jesus. That new Christian will stumble and fall and will need loving, patient hands to help them to their feet again. But there is no excuse for parents who are impatient, unkind and fail to demonstrate the practical living of God's Word. Every Christian should have maturity to be kind to everyone, to be good parent-teachers and to be very patient.

The only real question to ask ourselves is, have we reached the level of maturity to be a parent?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

What Does A Christian Look Like?

These are confusing days we are living in, especially if you are trying to figure out how a Christian is suppose to think and act. So many voices. So many opinions. And that is just in the Church. Let's add in the pressure from the media and special interest groups. There is also the mounting opinion of a changing society, calling wrong right and right wrong. But no one can dictate to you what God has or has not said. You have it right there in your hand, the Word of God, and you are possessed by the great teacher, the Holy Spirit. As a Christian you are not into opinions; yours or anyone else's. All that matters is the Father's will.

Paul has given us a good idea of what we should look like when we are possessed by the Spirit and bent on doing the Father's will:

- running from temptation
- doing what is right (God's definition, not society's)
- being faithful
- being loving
- easy to get along with

And then we hit our Achilles heal:

Stay away from stupid and senseless arguments. (2 Timothy 2:23)

How many times have you been pulled into stupid and senseless arguments over disputable matters? We didn't mean to go there but we just wanted to correct their thinking or understanding on something. Before we know it we are in a huge argument and people are being hurt.Was it worth it? Did we make our point? Will that person ever be open to talking with us again?

Stay away from stupid and senseless arguments. These only lead to trouble, and God’s servants must not be troublemakers. (2 Timothy 2:23-24)

True, so very true. Often times we are not to teach but simply to share our testimony. We tell people what Jesus has done for us or maybe something that happened this week that shows his great grace. Not everyone is a teacher. I am a teacher and I still avoid senseless arguments.

Sometimes arguments are senseless because the person is not yet ready to receive. I am having an ongoing discussion with one gentleman who has been influenced by some Mormon teaching. He actually believes that only 144,000 people will get into heaven. I discussed the truth of this with him but his reply was "It all depends on interpretation". I could see that this discussion was only going to do more damage than good so I changed the subject. We will re-visit this topic again but at that particular moment he was closed to anything I had to say. It became a stupid and senseless argument.

Paul says that we are not to be troublemakers. We are not here to force anything on anyone. Like Jesus, we make ourselves available, we talk about Jesus to everyone and spend time with those who want to know more. It is their choice if they do not want to receive the good news we have to share. But that doesn't stop us from loving them or showing them compassion. Paul says of us:

They must be kind to everyone, and they must be good teachers and very patient. (v. 24b) 

Of being teachers and correctors I will write more tomorrow but for today, drink in this image that Paul has given to us of what a servant of Jesus Christ looks like. The most important things are, study the Word and listen to the Spirit. Know the difference between your voice and that of the Spirit's. After God, people are the most important thing in your life. Learn how to treat people according to the Father's will and you will be a faithful servant of the King.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Super Market Of Churches

The Christian Church reminds me a lot of a supermarket these days. You can find a little of everything to suit your taste. If you support women preachers go to that church. If you like believe in speaking in tongues go to this church. If you hold to gay marriage go to that church over there.  It is hard to know what the Church holds on to as beliefs any more because the teaching is as varied as people. We are making God out to be whatever we want or need him to be. But that isn't the Church.

It comes down to interpreting the Word of God, or at least that is what I have been told time and again recently. The problem with interpretation is that it has to go through our own personal set of filters. We tend to ignore the stuff we don't like or excuse it away. Looking at the Word of God this way means it is wide open to abuse and it most certainly has been abused. We can make the Word say whatever we want it to say according to our own personal prejudices.

The problem with all of this is that we have left out the very important part of "deny yourself". Following Jesus has been very aptly explained in a couple of steps in the Word. First we are crucified with Jesus, so we die. We die to ourselves, to sin, to desires, hopes, dreams, opinions and this world. This is the part people tend to overlook or forget. We go right to the second step which is to be made alive in Jesus. Well we can't be made alive in Jesus if we have not died. So we have this fake thing happening.

We conform most of our behaviour to that of Jesus but our heart actually remains the same. There has been no transformation because transformation requires death, a letting go of everything we knew, especially our opinions, and living in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. In a society that prizes individual rights and freedoms, this is hard. What Christians should be understanding is that we are taking orders and directions from the Spirit and not doing what we think is best based on our knowledge.

This is how we read the Word, not through our experience and opinions, but through Jesus. The Word says that we know his mind. We don't know his mind if we have not died. We only know his mind when we have been crucified with him, raised to life in him, possessed of the Spirit and seeking only the Father's will. Anything less than this has the danger of "interpreting" God's Word with our filters. If we use our filters we will always bend God's Word to our desires.

Perhaps this is the reason Paul instructed Timothy:

Worship with people whose hearts are pure. (2 Timothy 2:22)

The only heart that is pure is that which is possessed by Jesus. The only heart that can be possessed by Jesus is the one that has voluntarily died, been crucified with Jesus and has been raised to life in Jesus. I repeat, in Jesus because there is no life found in us, only what is found in Jesus. We can't live for ourselves and Jesus. We can't serve both this world and God. Holiness requires that we find no value in this world or opinion of man but instead we live on every word from God. Anything less and we are lying to ourselves.

So I have a problem when people talk about interpretation. It usually means the person has a personal agenda and is creating God in the image of his own sinful desires. When we have died to self, been made alive in Jesus, the only interpretation we need comes from the Spirit and is always the will of the Father and not our own. Stop looking for a church that meets your own personal beliefs. Repent of your selfish ways and seek believers whose hearts are pure.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Faithful, Loving And Easy To Get Along With

It seems these days that socially awkward nerds are in. In my day we were just picked on. Being socially awkward is no joke as it leaves people feeling on the outside. Often it is just a matter of being unsure what is acceptable behaviour in a new environment. It happened to me when I went from elementary school to junior high school. In elementary I had all my friends I had grown up with. We knew what to expect from each other and we accepted each other. Bigger school, lots of kids I didn't know, not many friends and no idea how to conduct myself. It left me standing on the outside looking in, which made me a target. This also happens in the Christian family more than we realize.

Imagine knowing what is acceptable behaviour for most of your adult life. You have your friends, family and all the various activities you enjoy. You have a certain way of talking, certain language you use. Suddenly you are introduced to Jesus, you are gloriously saved, born again and now everything is different. The difference is as great as a baby going from the womb to the world. Big shock. How does one behave in this new setting? What is acceptable? What isn't?

Unfortunately too many churches take these people under their wings and teach them how to conform to the acceptable behaviour of that particular church. But it isn't about conformity. Jesus Christ is all about transformation. We need to be teaching new Christians how to hear and obey the Spirit so the Spirit can continue with the transformation process. God does not want us to change our behaviour; he wants to change our heart which will affect our behaviour.

Yesterday we considered Paul's instructions to Timothy to run from temptation and to do what is right. These instructions should always be understood as our actions in cooperation to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In and of ourselves we are not capable of righteousness but, because of the ongoing transformation in us, we are capable. Consider this instruction:

Be faithful, loving, and easy to get along with. (2 Timothy 2:22, CEV)

Consider the words carefully. Weigh them against your heart and your behaviour. This is what is acceptable behaviour in the Kingdom of God. This is the crowd you hang out with now. The Spirit of God in you desires this in you. He is working to make it happen but we have to make the decision to cooperate, to make these our daily goals. It is only possible when we are determined each day to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. The moment we allow "self" to start getting in the way is the moment we fail.

Be faithful; to the covenants that we make; to Jesus and to each other. Be faithful to the promises that we make. Be faithful to relationships. Be faithful to the Church and the leaders Jesus has placed us under. Be faithful to what is good, holy and pleasing to God. Be faithful.

Be loving. I am constantly stymied by this. If we are not honest with ourselves we will gloss over it with "Of course I am loving" but when we really examine God's love against our hearts then we are overwhelmed by our failure. I am tired and allow "self" to get in the way as I correct my child. The words come out harsh and unkind. Correction is very necessary but harshness is not. My wife asks me to turn off a light she forgot. She just got into bed and I have been there for ten minutes, almost asleep. "Self" would tell her to do it herself. Love would only be too glad to serve my wife. If I do it with resentment in my heart it is not love. This is a major thing to realize that God's transformation means a cooperation to be loving. And if we aren't then we had better examine ourselves to see if we understand how he has loved us.

Be easy to get along with. We could spend a long time on this one. Don't be argumentative. Make people your priority. Don't judge behaviour when it is the heart that matters. Don't develop a protectionist attitude that will separate you from the world. Don't accept sin but don't allow it to keep you in your house either. Jesus told us to "go" and make disciples. We can't do that hiding in our house. If a brother or sister sees something in the Word a bit different from you that's okay. God teaches all of us. If that thing is going to take them away from Jesus then speak to your pastor for advice on what to do and what to say. Most importantly, listen to the Spirit and follow his lead. Whatever you do, be loving and easy to get along with.

This whole section is pretty solid in instruction on Kingdom behaviour. We would all be in a better place if we studied this and asked the Spirit's help in implementing it in our lives. Remember, it is already in you through the desire of the Spirit to see this completed in you, it only requires our cooperation. Walk in the Spirit today my friend and see how much of "self" needs to be kicked to the curb.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Do What Is Right

After having spent some time with Jesus on the cross and in the resurrection, I am turning back to our walk through  2 Timothy. In his last letter to his friend Timothy, with the prospect of not seeing him again, Paul is giving him some sound instruction.

We could all use some sound instruction these days as our culture and society continue to erode with the threat of taking us with it. We have to have clear understanding of who we are in Jesus and how that should play out in our daily living. We need to have sign posts to tell us what holiness looks like. This is important because we have many who claim Jesus as Saviour but live a life that is in direct opposition to his character. The goal of the Holy Spirit is to make us all like Jesus.

Paul touches on several bite size things here so we are going to take our time walking through them. He writes:

Run from temptations that capture young people. Always do the right thing. (2 Timothy 2:22, CEV)

This seems to be my theme in these recent days, "run from evil". Paul says here to run from temptations. He specifically says "that capture young people". This seems to indicate that the older you get the more you grow out of some things. That's not to say that they are no longer there, just that they are not as powerful as they were. Hopefully some wisdom has also been gained to understand the natural consequences to certain actions, but wisdom should not be assumed for everyone.

Is this to say that young people are weak? Not at all. I know a number of young men and women who have surprised me by their great maturity and faith. But I also know that these spiritually mature young people have great struggles to overcome certain things in their lives. Some of you may be thinking that sex tops the list or great longing to have someone to love them. As strong as these are they are not at the top. I would count pride and arrogance as the top temptations. This is countered by the humility of Jesus.

We could make up a long list but the list is not what matters here. What matters is the instruction to run from temptation. But how do we recognize temptation? How do we know when something is against the character of Jesus? How do we know when something is wrong? The simple answer is to study what is right. If you know Jesus, know his character, his actions, you will know when something does not fit.

I have been told that the people who have to detect fake currency have one sure way of telling the fake from the genuine. They do not spend years studying counterfeit work. They spend time studying the genuine article. They know the genuine so well that they can spot a counterfeit in an instant. If you want to know what is of God, know Jesus.

Along with this, and more importantly, we are possessed by the Holy Spirit who convicts of things that do not belong to God. This is not an inner voice or a conscience but is the direct intervention of God. The Spirit will not prevent you from sinning but he will make you aware that the temptation you are considering is not of God and you should have nothing to do with it. It will always be your choice to obey or not. Paul's instructions is to run from that thing. Don't just tolerate it and not participate but run, and I would add, run quickly.

Always do what is right. Not right as you consider right. Not your own personal code of right and wrong. Not even what others consider acceptable and not acceptable. Do what is right according to God. His is the only correct measuring gauge. You will know what is right and wrong by the Holy Spirit in you and confirmed in the Word of God. The Spirit will never direct you outside of the Word but please do not try to live the Word without the Holy Spirit. That is like getting married without love. You can do it but there is no joy in it. It is hollow, empty, without life and will eventually fail in what a marriage is suppose to be. We live our life in Jesus through the Holy Spirit, confirmed in the Word of God.

Now run from temptation and do what is right. Don't live by your own personal code. Live by the Spirit of God and I guarantee you, it will change your day.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Faith In Me Without Seeing Me"

Have you ever had a moment in your life that gave you a reputation that you can't shake? A moment that everyone associates with your name? It might have been something from your childhood that you pass off as a joke now. Maybe it was something from High School, College or your first year of marriage. Sad to say but I have had several moments like that. Praise God that he does not remember the sins of our past like people do. Thankfully he is one who forgives and forgets.

Every Easter there is one person I feel bad for because of this reason of reputation. When you hear the name Thomas what pops into your head? No, not Thomas the Tank Engine but Thomas the disciple of Jesus. We refer to the poor guy as Thomas the Doubter. You think it's bad that you haven't shaken your reputation in 20 or 30 years? How about 2000 years?

Thomas wasn't present when Jesus first appeared to the disciples after the resurrection. He wasn't there to see with his own eyes what they were telling him and because of it he uttered these words that are forever stamped upon his name:

“First, I must see the nail scars in his hands and touch them with my finger. I must put my hand where the spear went into his side. I won’t believe unless I do this!” (John 20:25)

Thomas didn't believe his friends. Would you? Jesus was tortured, nailed to a cross, died and then buried. Would you believe your friends a few days later when they told you "We have seen Jesus"?

Now before we come down too hard on Thomas let's remember that the only reason the other disciples believed is because they had seen Jesus. When the women came back from the tomb and told them that they had seen Jesus alive, Peter and John had to run to see for themselves. Even though they had been told, when Jesus did appear they were shocked and afraid. And who could blame them. They were still without the Spirit and had no spiritual discernment.

If it had been Peter in Thomas' sandals I am certain he would have had a similar response. It is only that Thomas was articulate in expressing his doubt. He declared that it was not until he could actually see and touch the wounds. Why the wounds? Because an impostor would not have any wounds. Now consider how God accommodates our doubt.

A week later the disciples were together again. This time, Thomas was with them. Jesus came in while the doors were still locked and stood in the middle of the group. He greeted his disciples and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands! Put your hand into my side. Stop doubting and have faith!” (vv.26-27)

There is nothing indicating that Thomas actually touched the wounds. The only reaction that we see from Thomas is the same one we would have had:

Thomas replied, “You are my Lord and my God!” (v. 28)

Jesus did bring correction to Thomas but I am sure that each disciple took that correction to heart for themselves. The correction also made mention of us:

Jesus said, “Thomas, do you have faith because you have seen me? The people who have faith in me without seeing me are the ones who are really blessed!” (v. 29)

Sounds great, right? We are blessed because we have faith without seeing. But look at those words again. It is not just that we have faith that Jesus is real, alive and our King. "The people who have faith in me", is saying that we trust what Jesus has said is true. Jesus is saying those who take him at face value, who act on what Jesus taught, who live the promises that Jesus gave, are blessed.

Now I want you to think about that for a moment because we live in an age where we gloss over or excuse away much of what Jesus taught. We accept the moral values, the "does and don'ts", the right and wrongs but we set aside much of the spiritual walk that we are suppose to be on. We have been told to live by the Spirit but most of us don't even know what that means. When we say that we "have faith" what we are really saying is that we believe Jesus is real. We are not saying that we trust Jesus enough to do the impossible things he has commanded us to do.

We say that we "live by faith and not by sight" but we are lying to ourselves. We are worse than Thomas. At least Thomas was brave enough to articulate his doubts. We gloss over our doubts with a fake perception of faith and live our life according to our own personal beliefs. We pray over the sick and nothing happens. We speak to mountains and they do not move. Because we don't really believe. We don't really understand faith.  We think that morality is all there is to God and that the impossible of which Jesus speaks was a period of time, even though the Word puts no time restrictions on what Jesus declared. Funny the excuses we come up with to hide our lack of faith.

Love, trust and obedience should be the guiding code of our lives. If Jesus said it, we should believe it and allow it to shape our thoughts and actions. We should be living according to every single word of Jesus, never doubting, always trusting, empowered by the Spirit to do God's will, just like Jesus was. Let's not judge Thomas because he had the guts to speak what we can't even bring ourselves to admit. Instead, let's examine our own hearts and ask the Spirit to show us what Jesus meant by "faith in him".

Monday, April 1, 2013

Healing, Restoration and Duty

Do you ever get overwhelmed to the point you just have to get away? It could be physical exhaustion but often times it is when we are mentally or emotionally exhausted. Many people turn to something so familiar that they don't have to think about it. Perhaps they clean the house or do some yard work. For me it was always yard work. There was something about getting outside and getting my hands dirty. My reaction to overwhelming mental or emotional fatigue was always a physical response, to get my body busy and tired. This is what I imagine Peter was doing when he decided to go fishing.

Poor Peter.

What a roller coaster ride he had been on. One minute he was on top of the world, by Jesus' side, pledging to stand with him no matter what comes their way. Then he was thrown into complete confusion. When the hour had come he was there as he said he would be, to defend the Master. But Jesus didn't want to be defended. Jesus told him to stop, to put the sword away. He was totally confused. What was he suppose to do? He didn't know, so he ran as fast as he could, like the others.

It was in that confusion, not knowing what was happening and what he was suppose to do, that he did the unthinkable. He actually denied knowing Jesus. He turned his back on him instead of standing with him. He made a fool of them all by demonstrating a lack of love and loyalty to Jesus. What despair overwhelmed him. What bitterness gripped his heart. The tears would not stop flowing from his remorse.

Then the news came that he was dead. The Romans had crucified him. The news was like a knife piercing his heart. Somehow he managed to find the others. Somehow they managed to hide away. But they were so afraid. Would they be next? Would a fist come pounding on the door? The fear and despair, confusion and lostness was blinding to heart, mind and spirit.

And then he was there.

Standing right there in front of them, as if nothing had happened. He was different but yet the same. There was no doubt it was him. Peter's head would have been dizzy with confusion. Jesus was alive but not like before. He was more than before. But Peter was still overwhelmed by shame. How could he face Jesus after what he had done?

So what did Peter do to handle all this confusion of emotions? He returned to what was familiar to him which gives us an interesting situation. Peter needed to be restored. He needed forgiveness. So what better opportunity to give Peter what was needed then to do it in the same place where it all began: in a fishing boat, upon the water.

When Jesus called Peter to join him, he had convinced Peter to go back out and try fishing again, after an unsuccessful night of fishing. He told Peter to fish on the other side of the boat. Peter did and caught a huge catch. Then Jesus told him to follow him and he would make him a fisher of men.

Now here they were in a similar situation. Peter did not recognize Jesus and either did the other disciples but they listened when this stranger told them to try the other side. They did and it was a huge catch. It was as these events repeated themselves that Peter recognized Jesus and it was there on that beach that he was restored.

Jesus gave Peter one opportunity to declare his love for every time Peter had denied that love. Along with the restoration Jesus charged Peter with the responsibility to teach what he had been taught. It is one of the most moving parts of the Resurrection event. It speaks to our own need for restoration. It gives us hope that when we are overwhelmed and try to run away that our God will meet us in that place and call us to him. But there is a point to note here.

It is great that our Lord Jesus loves us and meets us in our needs. It is great that he comforts us, strengthens us and sets us back on our feet. It is fantastic that he forgives us when we turn our back on him instead of running to him. It is wonderful that he understands what happens to us when we get overwhelmed. But he does more than this. He also reminds us of our responsibilities, our duties, our calling.

There is more to it than Jesus helping us cope with life and the challenges we face. There is more to it than God wanting us to have joy. God wants us healthy and well spiritually so we can get back to work. We are workers and we are not of much use if we are sitting on the sidelines licking our wounds. Jesus restored Peter because there needed to be repair in that relationship but also so that Peter could take up his responsibility.

Perhaps you have been wounded and Jesus has been there to help you back on your feet but did you understand all of the restoration? Did you hear his call to return to your duties? Did you hear him charge you again with your responsibilities? So you messed up, that doesn't mean you are let off the hook. God's grace is wonderful and with forgiveness comes full restoration. So stop with the fishing already and get back to what God has given you to do.

** read about Peter's restoration in John 21