Saturday, June 29, 2013

Faith Like A Child

I wish it was possible to tell the world that we do not follow a book of laws as they perceive that we do. In fact, I wish it was possible to explain that to Christians. I am not a hyper-grace preacher and do not belong to a hyper-grace church, I simply believe it is easier to understand God when we look at it from a relational perspective instead of a religious one.

God is my Father because he has adopted me as his child. So when I study his Word I am not seeing a list of laws but instead a Father's loving instruction. My desire to obey does not come from a fear of punishment but from a heart of gratefulness. I love my Father for his love and grace. My response to his righteousness is a love response. There is more to it than that. For instance, since Jesus is one with me, I do not want to bring him into something that would break his heart. But my desire to walk in obedience and God's righteousness is an act of love; a relational thing.

This means that I do not need to understand why my Father tells me not to do something; it is simply enough he told me it is not acceptable. The rebellious nature in me tells me that I am not brainless, that I can't obey blindly, that I am free thinking and deserve an explanation, but the child in me says, okay daddy. The logic of man's thinking is it's downfall, it's barrier against the love and grace of our Father. The cry from the world all the time is "Come dance with us for we are free and wise and no one tells us how to think". It is a seductive cry but the Word of God says:

My son, if sinful men entice you,
    do not give in to them. (Proverbs 1:10)

These men lie in wait for their own blood;
    they ambush only themselves!
19 Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
    it takes away the life of those who get it. (1:18,19)

Our Father has told us that there is a way that seems right to man but it leads to death. The world is convinced of it's truth and throws our Father's words into the heap of all man's man-made religions. We cannot win the world by playing at it's game. We cannot build our churches on the principle's of man's wisdom and expect them to honour God. We cannot build our lives on the values of this world and expect to please our Father. These things that are pursued by those who claim Christ and yet walk in the logic of the world will take away their life.

Again today I plead with you and myself to live a life of no compromise. Do not compromise your relationship with the Father. No do compromise your desire to obey out of love. Do not compromise for the sake of appearing wise in the eyes of the world. Do not compromise to be accepted by man and rejected by God. Our Father has made it clear to those who are willing to be his children. We praise him for his grace, that he forgives all things and restores us to him whenever we get it wrong. But he knows our hearts. He knows if we are sincere in our love or if we are simply playing at it. I plead with you again today to:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength.

There is no compromise in love because love never fails. There is also no disrespect, no disobedience, no rebellious thought in love. Love never fails. So we, as the children of God, respond with a simple reality: If our Father said it we believe it and act upon it. Faith like a child.

Friday, June 28, 2013

No Compromise

One of the first signs that we are slipping away from Jesus is when righteousness takes less of a priority for us. It starts to become easier to compromise on those things we considered to be of importance. I stated a couple of days ago that when I start feeling that I have begun to compromise I refresh myself in the Psalms, Proverbs and the gospel of John. I find it interesting how both Psalm 1 and Proverbs 1 are similar in direction and tone.

Solomon wanted to leave nuggets of wisdom to guide his sons and the first thing he starts with is the need to have the desire to turn away from evil. Evil is a powerful force that held all of us in captivity for a long time and it doesn`t give up just because it lost possession. It will take every opportunity to try to separate us from the love of Jesus. When we understand God`s grace we know that evil holds no power over us but there are times of weakness, tiredness, busyness, distraction when the presentation of evil can be very attractive. It can even present itself as wise. Solomon warned his sons:

My son, if sinful men entice you,
    do not give in to them. (Proverbs 1:10)

Recall Psalm 1:

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers. (Psalm 1:1)

The problem is that we do not recognize evil as evil until we see it in the light of God`s righteousness. This is the reason the world is becoming hard to the message of the gospel; it doesn`t want to see. People do not want to hear that their actions are an offense to God. They don`t want to hear that they will be held accountable for their decision to deny Jesus. They do not want to be told that their life is a lie that leads to death. So they marginalize any who would present the truth.

Unfortunately, when we start getting distracted in our relationship with Jesus we do the same thing. Evil stops looking so evil because we are no longer seeing it through God`s righteousness. Compromise is so easy when we have allowed our relationship to wain. There is no good thing in us apart from what Jesus has done for us and to walk in constant obedience requires a constant growing relationship in Jesus. Without it sinful men will entice us and we will give in to them. Before we realize what is happening we will walk in step with the wicked, stand in the way that sinners take and mock our Father. Without a growing and vibrant relationship in Jesus compromise is an easy thing.

Look for the signs. Are we paying more attention to the opinion of people over the Word of God? Are we starting to set aside the Word, no longer convinced of its truth? Have we set aside prayer for other activities?  Is stress increasing? Is fear in greater abundance? Are our thoughts more to our own needs? Is grace a little harder to find? Is forgiveness harder to give? Do we see the Church differently? Are we more judgmental of believers? Are we beginning to side with society? Are we beginning to lift up the logic of man?

Compromise is easy. Too easy. Paul had one answer:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

In faith there is no compromise, no middle ground. Either you believe or you don't. Either you trust or you don't. Either you obey or you don't. There is no room for doubt, fear, or worry. These things are only produced when we are compromising in our walk in Jesus. There cannot be compromise. It has always been about Jesus and it will always be about him. If your life is not all about him then none of it is about him. It is not a part but the whole thing. If it is any less then we have to yell at our soul to rise up and praise our God, get our eyes back to where they need to be and stop living a lie.

The only answer to a compromised life that has abandoned God's righteousness is a heart response to God's grace: To love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Just Say No

Every day I feel pressured to do what is wrong. It's because my son and I run a business that is frequented by those who live without Jesus. Their perspective and wisdom is different than my reality. Their first priority is what benefits them so if that means they need to break a few laws for their own convenience then that is what they do. Overall they are great people but even great people do wrong things for the wrong reason.

Often, because I decline their "short cuts" to success and prosperity, I am considered unwise and even stupid. They don't mean to be mean, it is simply how they see it from their perspective. For them it is never a question of right and wrong but the difference between what you have to do because you can get caught and what you can get away with because no one will ever know. But those of us who serve our righteous God know that what is done is always known.

Yet, we who serve Jesus do not do the right thing out of fear but as a response of love. Yes, God always knows but we also know him as someone greater than a judge of all things. This is our Father, who dearly loves us and desires to see us mature into Jesus and who wants to pour out his blessings on his children. He tells us simply to walk in his ways and, as a heart response to his great love, it is what we desire to do.

Going back to yesterday's scripture:

God blesses those people
    who refuse evil advice
    and won’t follow sinners
    or join in sneering at God.
Instead, the Law of the Lord
    makes them happy,
    and they think about it
    day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)

It is not a chore for me to do what is right. I don't consider it a sacrifice. I have no desire or longing to get ahead by taking short cuts. I do not begrudge the government it's taxes. I live in this country and live by the benefits I receive as a citizen. But I also have a greater citizenship and I enjoy even more the benefits from a greater country. It makes me happy to walk in God's ways. It brings joy to my soul to obey his righteousness. I like doing what is right because I know I bless my Father by doing it.

I want to overemphasize this point because it is important: I cannot rob a person or a government of what belongs to them and then claim that God has blessed me. No, I have blessed myself by taking what does not belong to me.God's blessings do not flow in such a heart and such actions will be judged even if that judgment is not today. The children of God cannot claim to be following God if we are simply following the actions of sinners. If you are able to cheat on tests, keep stolen money, cheat people out of what is not yours, take short cuts, then you really need to examine yourself to see where your roots are connected. It is impossible to live such a life and be rooted in Jesus.

Do what is right and you will see the blessings of the Lord flowing through you. Refuse evil advice. Don't follow sinners. Don't mock God. Allow your heart response to our Father's love be a desire to live by his righteousness. Choose good over evil according to God's definition, not man's. God knows what he has planned for you, do you? If you do then you will never be tempted to set aside the righteousness of our God.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Here's The Bath Water, Now Where Did That Baby Go To?

Have you ever gotten so involved with something that you have lost sight of everything that is important in your life? Of course you have; we all have. It is like the husband who mourned the death of his wife and built her a grand hall in memorial. However, he got so lost in the project that he ended up throwing out her body in the process. So now we have the Taj Mahal as a reminder of what happens when we lose sight of our purpose in the midst of the journey. When this happens to me I go back to three places in the Bible to regain my footing: the Psalms, Proverbs and the gospel of John.

Psalm 1 is a great grounding psalm. It reminds us of the greatest priority in our lives, that living is not enough, and living for God must be our center:

God blesses those people
    who refuse evil advice
    and won’t follow sinners
    or join in sneering at God.
Instead, the Law of the Lord
    makes them happy,
    and they think about it
    day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2, CEV)

It is far too easy to take short cuts in life, to set aside what is right to gain personally in our finances. But righteousness is important to God and effects our relationship when it is not our priority. But this righteousness does not come from the law but instead from a love for the Lord. It is like any other love. When we love someone we would never desire to do them wrong. God's love for us has given us a life possible through grace. We do not earn it by living a law. But our heart response is to want to please and honour our God. There is right and there is wrong in life and our love for Jesus will give us a desire to do what is right. This desire for righteousness sets us apart:

They are like trees
    growing beside a stream,
trees that produce
fruit in season
    and always have leaves.
Those people succeed
    in everything they do. (vv. 3-4)

For me, this is the secret of life. I can labour until my dying day and do marginally well for myself. I will be known as a hard worker but it doesn't mean I was fruitful. Many people work hard and see limited success but God has promised to bless the work of the hands of his children. I do not believe this means nominal success. I believe this means fruitfulness in a way that the world will be able to see the hand of God.

This does not mean oodles of money. Success is more than just money so why should be allow this to be our measuring rod? Fruitfulness means abundance in relationships, health, attitude, outlook, love, joy, wisdom and everything else in life. It is not a "getting by" or a "marginal" attitude but a great generosity in everything, including finances. It has been given to us, as God's children to produce abundantly.

That's why I love going back to these verses to get re-established. I need to know that mediocre is not what I have been called to. I need to be reminded that God's plan is so much greater than my own. I need to be reminded that God has greater purposes in my success that just for my sake and yet blessings for me is included in his plan. If I do not feel the creative juices flowing, if I have become unaware of the blessings, if I am feeling drained, then my roots are not in the stream of the water of life. These verses are a warning sign to me. It is like God is holding up a picture to show me what it is suppose to look like.

So, have I lost it? Have I lost the purpose in the busyness of the project? Has my vision so narrowed that I have thrown out the baby while holding on to the bath water? The honest answer for me is yes. But such honesty is only valuable if I am going to do something about it and this blog entry is a beginning step to get back to my first love. A baby step but it is a step. It all comes down to love, a passionate love, a love response in light of what Jesus has done and the Father continues to do every day. I am so thankful for his grace, which never gives up on people like me. I am so thankful for the mercies that are new every morning.