Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Have you had any of those moments when you have looked around at your life and asked, "What am I doing here"? I have been having a lot of those recently as well as some very long one-sided conversations with God.

I am a dreamer with an artist's heart. I take long walks, meditate on the Word and like to spend time in isolation as I reflect on the application of God's Word to life in general. I write, love writing, feel refreshed in writing. I enjoy photography, reflecting God's creation through the paint brush of a lense. I enjoy sitting with my wife, dissecting the lyrics and music of various artists. I live for the precious moments of sitting with a person, listening to their challenges and sharing any wisdom God bestows on me to share with them. I love being a pastor, speaking and teaching on God's Word and conveying to the world the glory that is our God.

I love my children, spending time with them, playing games, even the xbox with my boys. I love cycling with my passionate daughter whose idea of a bike ride is an 86 km day. I love wrestling with them, watching them perform made up dances, or just cuddling because that's what they want to do.

I love going for walks with my wife, dreaming about our future and living in our present. I love sitting quietly, just sitting and being with each other. I enjoy working out the household problems together and I love falling asleep beside her. I love that she knows me better than anyone and still loves me.

These are all great moments but now I feel they have been stolen away. I wasn't sold by my brothers and sisters like Joseph but I sure can identify with him.

There are days when I feel enslaved to my circumstances and imprisoned by my work. I have gone from what I was, free to be what God wanted me to be, to what I am now, restricted by my environment. And I ask why to my God every day. But it is a silly question, because I know why; I just don't like it.

It is great to be a dreamer/artist but God called us to be more than that. He called us to be doers of the Word. He sent us out to be in the world with people. He sent us to the worse of the worst. He told us to go and make disciples. But the early Church did not go. They stayed. And because they did God had to allow a great persecution to scatter them according to his desire.

I can identify with that, having spent years in my ivory tower, not being or doing the will of my God. I was being what he designed me to be but I had limited myself. He wanted me to be more than what I was. Now I can also identify with Joseph, who was humbled by circumstance before becoming what God had designed him to be. But Joseph never stopped being who he was designed to be. He stayed true to the character given to him by his Creator, and whatever he put his hand to prospered.

I have been humbled by my circumstances, going from preaching God's Word to flipping burgers. From designing and running a Christian School to working hard to re-develop a dying business. From quiet moments along the river to quiet moments along my baker ovens. And all the time dealing with people who do not have a clue about the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I serve the same sort of people Jesus did when he walked this planet and to whom he has called us. He is humbling me because of my destiny. He is reminding me what it is all about. He has moved me from the theory to the practical.

I wish I could say that my attitude was the same as Joseph's but I am a complainer. The Spirit has been showing me the weaknesses of my character and I don't like it. I have to be willing to accept what God is doing and stop wanting to go backwards. This is where I am now and I need to learn my lessons so we can keep moving forward. It isn't about me but what God is doing through it all. Do I trust him? I had better; he has my eternity in his hands. If I trust him with my eternity I need to trust him with today.

And in it all, our desire remains the same; to be like Jesus. So we live through him, no matter where we are, so teh world can see him.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Calling Good Evil And Evil Good

God is love! That is the clear message of the Church today, and it should be because there is no love that compares to the love of our Father. This love has brought in an era of grace through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But unfortunately some have interpreted this love to mean that "anything goes". As we see evil called good and good evil we should be shocked that this message is arising from the Church.

Yes, God is love but he is also holy. Yes, grace is incredible and without limits but we have been warned not to abuse it. There is a lopsided message starting to emerge from the Church and it is wrong. It is made up of lies covered by a thin veil of truth and people are falling for it.

Yes, Jesus hung out with the prostitutes, the drunkards, the liars and thieves, but that did not stop him from teaching the righteousness of God. Yes, he forgave sins but he also told people to stop sinning. The woman caught in adultery was saved from stoning but Jesus told her to "sin no more". When people met Jesus they were never the same again. When he invited people to follow him, Jesus set an example for them and they left everything they had been to become something more. They did not continue as they were, doing what they wanted, free to sin to their heart's content.

Today, in our desire to be inclusive, we forget the transformation that takes place with the new birth. If there is no transformation then it is conformity and conformists will not make it into the Kingdom. It is a heart change, a repenting, a turning away from what we were and grasping what God has called us to be; a complete transformation under the power of the Holy Spirit.

The audacity to come before our Creator in the depravity of our thinking and say, "Accept me as I am with my thoughts and limited wisdom, with my sin. Don't change me. If you try to convince me I am wrong I will serve someone else." We are not doing God any favours. It is he who has rescued us at great cost and he has said to us, "If you love me you will obey what I have commanded". Famous servant's of God are now saying, "You had better accept sin or I will decide to spend eternity in hell". With such an attitude I think the choice has already been made, but it is the damage and confusion they are sowing that concerns me.

Yes, God is love and that love also makes forgiveness available. We need forgiveness and transformation because our ways are so entrenched in sin and the depravity that comes from it that we are desperate for his forgiveness. How can we be forgiven of things that we no longer consider wrong?

Yes, God is love and that love comes from his holiness. As a holy God he hates sin. Just a tiny, and I mean tiny, example from his Word:

"There are six things The Lord hates, seven that are detestable:
     - haughty eyes
     - a lying tongue
     - hands that shed innocent blood
     - a heart that devises wicked schemes
     - feet that are quick to rush into evil
     - a false witness who pours out lies
     - and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers." (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Jesus did something incredible with the law; he took us to a deeper place in it. "Do not murder but I tell you do not hate. Do not commit adultery but I tell you do not lust." The law went from a document impossible to live, to something written on our heart by the Holy Spirit and alive in us by that same Spirit. Grace does not give us an excuse to sin but should give us a desire to be more like our God.

Of course the problem now is the definition of sin. What do we consider sin? As we redefine it, calling good evil and evil good, the debate is really over what God defines as sin. We have certainly come into the last days as people run after the teachings of demons, which are convincing people to abandon the Word of God and go with what feels right. We set aside the wisdom of our God for the wisdom of man forgetting that our God has told us that his ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours.

Redefine sin any way you want but it still comes down to what God has said. Re-write his Word to make it say what you want but you will still be held accountable to the truth. God is love and that is why we have had two thousand years of grace but the day of judgment is coming and then we shall see if there is a hell or not. His love has made it possible for us to escape judgement but those who have rejected his truth for their own will be condemned by our righteous God according to the decisions they have made.

Monday, July 29, 2013

How Do You Know What Is Right In The Church?

Which God are you interested in serving? The god of the popular gospel where it is reported that God's love will win out in the end or the God who has said there will be a day of judgement? The popular gospel allows for many things that used to be on God's "do not" list but the gospel of the Word of God continues to state there is a difference, a right and wrong. It sure is easier to serve the god of the popular gospel and that in and of itself should be a warning to you.

The reason I ask is because we are losing an entire generation. Now when I say lose, I am not referring to them not coming to church but instead we are losing them from the truth of the Word of God. The truth is being set aside for what feels right and good. There is a new morality coming in based on the logic of man, not based on the Word of God and with it is coming an immorality that is gripping the hearts of our youth.

I stated yesterday to my congregation that finances is what destroyed the heart of my generation, as we sacrificed our soul on society's values at that time. It was all about being successful, having possessions, enjoying the spoils of financial freedom. This is still the dream of my generation. But this generation has a new dream and it plays out in what our God calls immorality.

Sexual immorality is not considered immoral any more but simply youth exploring what comes natural. And if God's love wins out in the end what is the big deal? How are you ever going to know if a partner is suitable if you don't take them on a test run? You may have to go through a few partners to find the right one but that is okay. Hey, you may even decide on someone of the same sex. There is no way that God would ever tell you that you can't love someone. What is marriage anyway? It's only a ceremony, a piece of paper. In fact, marriage has just become big business. God knows your heart. (tongue in cheek)

I wish I could say I was stretching the truth but these are the attitudes and teachings of some of the popular gospel who claim to be lovers of Jesus. Some facts:

Jesus said that there would be a day of judgement and there would be a time that those who claimed to follow him, but who did not obey, would be thrown out of the Kingdom into a place of torment. Funny how this doesn't fit with the image that many paint of a God of love. Because it doesn't fit in, it gets dropped. We fail to see that it is his love that opened the door to rescue us from this future. It is love that has given us two thousand years of grace to make a decision for him. That is incredible all on its own.

Another fact, Jesus said that condemnation depends on the decision we make about him:

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

But you see it is not a matter of believing and then doing whatever you want. Our God is holy and he has told his children they too must be holy. Jesus put it quite simply:

"If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15)

Love is not willy nilly, do whatever you feel is best. Love has obligations. Because God has declared his love for us he is obligated to us. When we declare we love him we have an obligation of obedience and worship. We can't make things up or twist what God has commanded. It is not a game. We need to seriously know these commands.

I am sad that this may hurt you and make you fel picked on but having sex outside of marriage is not acceptable to God. It is sin, an act against his righteousness. Having multiple partners is wrong, a sin. Having sexual relations with the same sex is wrong, a sin. Having sexual relations with a child, an animal, or anything else a depraved mind can think of, is wrong, a sin, an assault on the righteousness of God.

In fact, our God is so holy that Jesus told us that to look at someone lustfully (walking down the street, on your computer, in a video or movie) is wrong and is as bad as having sex with that person. It is not about feelings but what God has commanded, and if we love him, we will desire to obey.

God's love does win in the end, for those who repent of a sinful heart and who desire to walk in God's righteousness. His love allows for the grace to cover our failings. The great news is that we still live in the age of grace. His Holy Spirit is still here because the Church is still here. But a day is coming when his Spirit will be removed and the Church will be taken up. Will you be on the Lord's side or will you be allowing the god of this age to tickle your fancy?


Sunday, July 28, 2013

You Are The Air I Breathe

If I told you that you have one hour to live, what would you do?

Think about it for a minute.

Would you waste precious minutes feeling sorry for yourself?

Would you waste precious minutes worrying about problems you would have had to face tomorrow?

Would you waste precious minutes watching TV or playing video games?

Would you waste precious minutes on the hurtful words someone said to you yesterday?

I highly doubt it. You would probably want to be with those you love, to express your love, to reassure them, to make sure they know how you feel. You would probably want to make last appeals to those you love who don't know Jesus because you are concerned about their eternity.

So why don't we live every moment of every day like that?

Jesus told us to be prepared, to be found faithfully fulfilling our duties when he returns. He told us that the matters of the Kingdom are the priority and all that matters in the Kingdom is our relationship with God and getting the word about Jesus.

Jesus told us this is such a priority that it is worth leaving everything we have to go in search of the lost. Do you recall his story of the lamb that had wondered off and the shepherd who left what he had to retrieve it? Do you recall the charge he gave to his disciples when he ascended? Did he not tell him to go throughout the world telling everyone about him, making disciples, not church goers? Does the Word not also say that our citizenship is no longer found in this world but in the Kingdom?

So let's look at our attitude for a moment.

How entrenched have we become in this world? Do we consider our work a means to provide for the Church in its mission or to provide for ourselves? Do we see our Father as our provider in this place? Are we trying to make a name for ourselves here or is Jesus enough for us? Is money our big concern? Do we need possessions? Is our joy effected by the amount of money we have? When we have it, do we make sure the church is provided for and then do we spend it on others, or is it all about our needs?

What decides our thinking on right and wrong? If it is accepted in society do we accept it as good? Or is it the Word of God that sets our standards? Do we make knowing and understanding the Word our priority? How do we make it a priority? Do we cut out other things to give it priority or do we fit it in around other interests? Do we want to know what God thinks? When we find out what he thinks, do we make it a priority to allow him to instill it in our lives? Is there more to our relationship with Jesus than emotions and music? Do we do what Jesus commanded as long as it is convenient to us or are we willing to give up our life to stand by what he said?

When we say that we love God with all our heart, mind, soul, body, and strength, how is that worked out in our day? How would it be worked out if we only had an hour to live? A week? A month? A year?

We sing songs that express that Jesus is the air we breathe and that he is all we need. So, today, everything of this world will be stripped from you, including your freedom. You will be locked up in jail, cut off from all that you love. You will be told you have 24 hours before your execution. Will you still be able to sing? You are told you will not be put out of your misery in 24 hours but will be locked away for the rest of your life, to rot in your cell. Is he still the air you breathe? Does he remain all you need? Do you still have joy and peace?

How entrenched are we in this world? Which system is more important to us? Are we able to see the Kingdom of God through our dependence on this world? To whom do we belong? Who do we serve? What do we love? How will we spend the next 60 minutes of our life?

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthhhy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." - Jesus Christ

Friday, July 26, 2013

In The Face Of A Bad Day, I Rejoice

How was your day yesterday? Rough? I've been there too. Sometimes it leaves you wondering where God was in it. Where are all those benefits we are suppose to have as the children of God?

I guess these questions are similar to those asked by the world: "If God is so loving, why do bad things happen?" Why are there earth quakes, tornadoes, floods, wars? The short and simple answer is that we have done this to ourselves. Bad things exist because the heart of man is self-centered and evil (that which is contrary to God). But what about God's children? Are we not suppose to be blessed?

Well, we are blessed but it is also good to note the words of Jesus here. He was speaking about one of the key foundations to understanding God's love but it gives us a greater picture of how God sees things:

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 love their friends. (Matthew 5:44-46)

Sometimes the rain is not such a blessing. Sometimes believers and non-believers stand in the same storms, face the same disasters, walk through the same valleys. The difference is, our God protects us and strengthens us as we go through it. When we have a bad day we need to praise our God because we have no idea how bad it could have been. We seem to be missing this in our understanding these days but it was not lost on the psalmists:

You, Lord, are my shepherd.
    I will never be in need.
    You let me rest in fields
    of green grass.
You lead me to streams
of peaceful water,
    and you refresh my life. (Psalm 23:1-3)

This as true today as during David's time. When we allow the Shepherd to lead us we receive good things and are in a place of peace and rest; no worries, fears or anxieties. That is where we are suppose to be in Jesus so that we learn to trust. It is in that place of trust that we are able to praise him on the bad days:

You are true to your name,
    and you lead me
    along the right paths.
I may walk through valleys
as dark as death,
    but I won’t be afraid.
You are with me,
    and your shepherd’s rod
    makes me feel safe. (vv. 3-4)

David certainly had his share of bad days but he saw them as mere shadows and there is no substance to shadows. No matter the storms, whatever fear they are trying to provoke in you, they are mere shadows, no substance.

If only we could capture the vision of this psalm, the peace, the trust, the righteous paths, then we would be able to accept God as our protector, especially on the bad days. Especially when things look dark. Especially when we don't have a clue which way to turn. It is not faith when we doubt God's promise to use everything for our benefit. It is not faith when we fear losing stuff and don't recognize his protection. It is not faith when we stare at the shadows and ignore the peaceful waters. It's only faith when we ignore the fears and rejoice in the peace. 

In the midst of the bad days, Jesus is there to encourage, strengthen, and defend us. In the midst of the storm he tells us to "trust". So, sing, dance, rejoice, be glad because God is good all the time and all the time God is good. No day is a bad day when you keep the promises of Jesus alive and well in your heart and mind.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Enemies Of God

What do you have to do to be saved? By saved I mean saved from eternal damnation. It is a good question that should have a simple answer but in this age of "enlightenment" it is a simple answer that is getting lost in the noise. It is a good thing to refresh ourselves in what the Word says about salvation.

Jesus referred to a second type of birth. He told someone that we need to experience a new birth, into what our Father desired us to become; his children. In our current form we cannot be the children of God. Not everyone in the world is a child of our Father, but he desires them to be:

God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. (John 3:16, CEV)

It is the Father's desire that none should perish but he decided from the beginning that he would not force himself on us. The only love he wants from us is what we freely give to him. Our mistake is thinking that we are all born as his children and if we behave ourselves we will all get to go to heaven. It's not the truth. We are all born as enemies of God but he had compassion on his enemy and desired for us to be his children:

Even when we were God’s enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son’s life. (Romans 5:10, CEV)

But to go from being the enemy of God to being his children we have to experience a new birth. Jesus said:

“I tell you for certain that you must be born from above before you can see God’s kingdom!” (John 3:3)

When asked how a man can be born a second time Jesus explained:

Humans give life to their children. Yet only God’s Spirit can change you into a child of God. Don’t be surprised when I say that you must be born from above. Only God’s Spirit gives new life. (vv. 6-8)

And this only happens through Jesus. He is the first born, who opened the way for the rest of us to follow. So this second birth comes down to this, a very simple act of trust:

Then everyone who has faith in the Son of Man will have eternal life. (John 3:15)

A voluntary act of trust; an act provoked in us as we accept that God really loves us that much, that we are sinners separated from God and that only Jesus can get us to where we need to be; with our Father. Adopted as "sons" of God; chosen to be loved; transformed by the spilled blood of the Son of God.

However, the cross where Jesus died is not the end of the matter. In fact, the cross is only the beginning; the open door to a brand new adventure.The cross is the beginning of the transformation process, as we go from what we were to the new creation God has destined us to be. We leave the old behind as we take up the new. All priorities and desires change as our destination changes. That is the road we are on now, of this new adventure.

However,new adventures can have difficulties and we can get tired, even weary. But we mustn't. We must rest on Jesus' strength. We must abide in him and he in us. We must remain intimate and vulnerable to God because going part way is not good enough. Close doesn't count. We have to go all the way with Jesus, right to the last breath.

But that is another story for another day. It is enough to know today that you are not saved unless you have made that decision to voluntarily accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, having faith that God loves you and wants you as his children. It isn't yours because your parents are Christians. It isn't yours because you go to church. It isn't yours because you do good deeds and think about God every now and them. It is only yours when you make that decision to accept Jesus, his love, his sacrifice because you know you are an enemy of God and don't want to be any more. Have faith in Jesus and he will do the rest.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How Much Do You Love God?

Our God is kind, loving, compassionate, merciful, forgiving, and full of grace. What he has done for us is incredible and we owe him all the praise and worship we can manage. He also deserves the obedience of his loving and grateful children. He deserves all of their attention, affection and eternal service. But one thing we must always remember is that he also a God of justice.

We did wrong. We rebelled against his love. We deserved death. But he did not kill us. Instead, he came up with a plan to rescue us; to give us an opportunity to escape our enslavement and disobedience. The cost of the plan was all on him but the decision was all on us. As much as he loves us; as much as he has sacrificed for us; as great as his mercy and grace is, we still have to choose. In choosing we turn our back on our rebellion and doing whatever we think is best and we embrace our God as our Father, entering into an incredible relationship of love and obedience. Jesus told us plainly:

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them! No one who has faith in God’s Son will be condemned. But everyone who doesn’t have faith in him has already been condemned for not having faith in God’s only Son. (John 3:17-18,CEV)

It all comes down to that decision so in essence our salvation is in our hands because God has done everything he can to rescue us from our own demise. But it isn't a one-off decision.There is the initial decision that allows our Father to adopt us through the work of Jesus, but then it becomes a daily decision to live in obedience and to shun evil. It is no different then when we were growing up in our parent's home. Every day we were presented with situations where we had to choose to either respect and honour them in our obedience or to rebel and do our own thing. Solomon told his son:

Obey the teaching
    of your parents—
21     always keep it in mind
    and never forget it.
22 Their teaching will guide you
    when you walk,
protect you when you sleep,
    and talk to you
    when you are awake. (Proverbs 6:20-22)

At the age of 49 I still live according to what I was taught in my parents' home because it was ingrained in me and as I have grown I have discovered the wisdom of my parents. As a child I obeyed (not always) simply because I was taught to obey but as I have grown I obey for a different reason. With God it is often like this.

We don't always understand why our Father has commanded certain things but if we love him we will obey, even without understanding. As we grow and mature, we begin to appreciate his wisdom and our obedience becomes a thing of maturity. Again, Solomon told his son:

The Law of the Lord is a lamp,
    and its teachings
    shine brightly.
Correction and self-control
    will lead you through life. (Proverbs 6:23, CEV)

There is a reason our Father commanded what he commanded. There are reason he has restricted what has been restricted. If we are too young spiritually to understand, then love should be enough to cause us to desire to obey without understanding. But as we mature, we will begin to see and appreciate just how much the Word is a lamp for our feet and the brilliance of the instructions of our Father.

Yet today, at this moment, you have to make that decision whether you will obey or not. Don't try changing the words and fitting it in to your agenda because that dishonours our Father. That's trying to paint him as a liar and confuses the world. No, you have to decide whether you love him enough to obey what he has instructed, whether you agree or disagree, whether you understand it or not. Obedience is not doing your thing and paying lip service to our Father. Obedience is following the instruction of our Father as he has given it. Do you love him enough to do what he has said?


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

God Is Not Raising Spoiled Children

The thing we need to remember about our God is that he is a parent. We are his children and his desire is to see us grow and mature just like what we desire for our children. Of course children need to be raised in an atmosphere of love and encouragement and so we emphasize a lot the love, mercy and grace of our Father. It is important and we need the whole world to understand. But love is not just a field of butterflies and daffodils on a warm sunny day.There is more to a parent's love than hugs and kisses.

We often forget that our Father must also discipline us and this too is part of his love. Any parent who refuses to correct their child, who fails to teach right from wrong, who neglects to demonstrate the negative consequences of wrong action, does not love their child as they should. Of course we would prefer that our children were perfect and we did not have to deal with any negative behaviours, but our children are not perfect; they came from us.

Our Father loves us enough to deal with our wrong behaviour. He loves us enough to discipline us. No one enjoys it but we know we need it. We need it in order to learn and to grow up. Just because we needed discipline does not make us a failure; the only failure is to reject the correction. And remember, our Father's correction always includes restoration. Our desire should be to be obedient in all things at all times but when we are not our great desire should be restoration to a proper standing with God. David felt that:

Don’t punish me, Lord,
or even correct me
    when you are angry!
Have pity on me and heal
    my feeble body.
My bones tremble with fear,
    and I am in deep distress.
    How long will it be? (Psalm 6:1-3)

I don't know about the rest of you but the punishment was never the greatest consequence of my wrong actions as a child. I could handle the punishment because it was over quickly but it was the strained relationship I could not handle. It wasn't until my mom or dad told me they forgave me, and I felt they were sincere, that I could relax.

The one thing we can be sure of is that our Father never corrects us out of vengeance or hatred. His correction is always an act of love, to make us more than what we are, to bring us to a better place, to help us mature and become all that he intended us to be. We must remember that even in correction, God is for us, not against us and when he says he forgives us he also means it is forgotten, never to be brought up again. This is an important passage to consider if you think love should not include discipline:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? (Hebrews 12:5-7)

Spoiled ones, that's which ones, and our Father is not raising spoiled children.

Are you so perfect that you make no mistakes, never offend God, never sin? Are you so mature that you have no room to grow further, nothing more to learn? Me neither. I have a long way to go and need the discipline of my Father to go the distance. I don't like it but I know I need it because I want to be with him today and forever. I want to live a life that would make my Dad proud. I want to please him.

So when we pray "show me Lord" sometimes he brings correction to tear down what we incorrectly built. Sometimes discipline must be applied so we can gain insight into what matters the most to our Father. Don't despise discipline and don't think our Father hates you or has abandoned you. Apply the lesson, seek forgiveness and allow him to restore you to him so that you will be more than you were before. Ask him for eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to receive and a mind to understand.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Jesus Got Mad

Jesus got mad. He hung out with the lost, the sinners, the murderers, prostitutes, liars and thieves. He didn't get mad at them. He taught large masses of people who ended up not wanting his words but his free lunches. He didn't get mad at them. He was approached by people he was not sent to, who were not the chosen people, who asked him for favours. He didn't get mad at them. No, he got mad at those who turned the temple into something it wasn't suppose to be. He got mad at the religious.

Read John 2 and see the account of the incident.

Jesus,who tolerated so much in the world to bring the good news to the people who needed to hear it, would not tolerate what the religious had allowed to happen in the temple, a place of prayer. I think there is a great lesson here that we are ignoring, an elephant in the room. We've got it backwards.

We spend a lot of time judging and accusing the world of what is only natural for it to do. They are a lost people, blinded to the truth, who exist by instincts that are twisted by rebellion. In many ways they do not know better. They need a message of compassion and truth. They need to know that despite it all, God is still reaching out to them with mercy and grace. They need to hear the words of hope that Jesus brought to us.

We seem to ignore the words of instruction that came through Apostle Paul:

Why should I judge outsiders? Aren’t we supposed to judge only church members? God judges everyone else. The Scriptures say, “Chase away any of your own people who are evil.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

How easy it is for us to point fingers at the world, accusing them of what comes natural. Paul says such judgement comes from God, not us. However, we are responsible for tending to the Church. It is here that we have to be hard on ourselves and yet it is here that we say very little.

Don't get me wrong, there is lots of judgement, but of the wrong sort. There is a lot of behind the back accusation and finger pointing but very little correction. There is also a tolerance of things that God has rejected. I see so much from my vantage point, so much that people accept as right when God has called it wrong.

These people, who I believe are sincere in their love for God, have also pursued their own interest. They twist and turn the Word of God to make accommodations for themselves. They accuse those who follow God's Word of being narrow minded. And I am speaking of much more than homosexuality.We stretch the truth to allow for what our hearts desire for ourselves.

Homosexuals are not the only ones who say they cannot change so God must have made them this way. Whatever our interest, or "pet" sin, the thing we can't or won't let go of, we make our excuses and live with it. There are those who love God but can't stop the lying. There are those who love God but continue to have sex with who ever is open to it. There are those who love God who can't stop the attraction to pornography. There are those who love God and can't stop stealing. There are those who love God who can't stop drinking or doing drugs or any list of things that God has rejected and called unacceptable for his children. But we excuse it, accommodate it and call it good.

It is what got Jesus mad in the temple that day and provoked him to action and it is what Paul said we have a responsibility to take care of:

In my other letter I told you not to have anything to do with immoral people. But I wasn’t talking about the people of this world. You would have to leave this world to get away from everyone who is immoral or greedy or who cheats or worships idols. I was talking about your own people who are immoral or greedy or worship idols or curse others or get drunk or cheat. Don’t even eat with them! (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)

There's the tree in the eye again.

It's great we are talking about the prophetic and using all kinds of wonderfully descriptive words and using a worship that moves our emotions but until the Holy Spirit moves our hearts back to a desire for holiness, it's just a bunch of words. We need to allow the real love of Jesus to provoke us to evict what does not belong in this temple of the Holy Spirit. We need to get mad that we have allowed such things to occupy us. Sexual immorality does not belong to this body any more, it does not belong in the Body of Christ. Either does drunkenness, lying, stealing, gossiping or any other perversion of God's children.

Of course we have no power to evict anything or to change ourselves. The power only comes from Jesus but he gave us his authority so we can speak to those things in us. It is not by will power but by God's power. Just as a person who is drawn to the same sex cannot stop themselves, either can someone who can't stop having affairs or a person who can't stop lying or a person who can't stop stealing, or drinking or taking drugs. But that is the beauty of Jesus, who restores us to what God has designed us to be.

If we choose to hold on to our sin because we like it, we in turn are rejecting God. You cannot have both sin and Jesus. Sin is a very attractive thing and is powerful. It is why we have been slaves to it for so long but when we accept the sacrifice of Jesus, all of that changes. We are transformed. We have the power and authority, Jesus' authority, over sin and we must use it.

We have to stop tolerating sin in our lives and in the Body of Christ. It is better to deal with it now before the time of forced separation is upon us. The sheep and goats, wheat and weeds will be separated. It's not what we say is right and wrong but what God says. Let's stop pointing fingers at the world and get back to the desire for holy living. Let's get mad about sin in God's holy temple.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Truth About Marriage

There are a lot of things we say and do that we justify when there is no justification for it. We can reason away anything so we can do what we want to do. We can get away with whatever we want to get away with as long as we forget that God knows every motivation of our heart. We can even make the Bible say what we want it to say. We need to stop it.

Yesterday I said that every act against God can be traced back to a selfish heart. Every act against our neighbour can be traced back to a selfish heart. How much easier then is it for us to justify acts of hatred in a family? Just look at what husbands and wives do to each other with the emotional games they play on each other, justifying it within their self-centered world and even believing that God is on their side. These are two people who have made a covenant with each other, with God as their witness, to love each other until death separates them. Love does not play games. Love is not selfish. We should understand that it is in a relationship of love, trust, mutual understanding that these two people become an incredible spiritual force.

God hates divorce.

Those are Jesus' words. He said that there were some circumstances that God would tolerate divorce but tolerate is a long cry from support or encourage. It is amazing the acrobats we go through to try to fit within the criteria in order to justify our selfishness. I should know, I write this as a divorced man.

In most cases there are no innocent parties in divorce. We all make choices and have to live with those choices. In the case of divorce, selfishness took over at some point. Hearts got set against each other because someone wanted something that put them above the needs of the other person. Maturity, good spiritual maturity, would cause both people to set aside their own needs for the needs of the other person. Not easy but it is the thing that would please and honour the God who they say they love more than any other.

The problem is, once selfishness gets in and we start justifying our emotions, it is difficult to turn back. It is true for any relationship. Once selfishness takes root we are in a lot of trouble. Our love for God should be enough to de-root anything before it takes hold, but in order to justify ourselves we have to distance ourselves from that love because no amount of self-justification could stand in the brilliance of that love.

It is a hard thing when we begin to allow emotions to take the lead because love goes beyond emotion; it is a decision,a commitment, a covenant. Solomon said this of marriage to his son:

You should be faithful
    to your wife,
    just as you take water
    from your own well.
16 And don’t be like a stream
    from which just any woman
    may take a drink.
17 Save yourself for your wife
    and don’t have sex
    with other women.
18 Be happy with the wife
you married
    when you were young.
19 She is beautiful and graceful,
    just like a deer;
    you should be attracted to her
    and stay deeply in love. (Proverbs 5:15-19)

It is the last part that stands out for me: "You should be attracted to her and stay deeply in love." That is a decision that has to be made every day. That is a commitment, to give your whole self to your wife. There is nothing here to say it is dependent on how she acts or if she loves you too. It is a one way charge. He is telling his son that he has the responsibility to stay attracted to his wife and to stay deeply in love with her over everything else. The only thing a husband should love more than his wife is God.

I will tell you right now, every day at least ten reasons will present themselves not to love your wife. There will be ten reasons that you will need to look at in the face and say, I love my wife in the way the Lord has loved me. It is my choice, the decision I make right now. Some days will be easy and other days will be hard but every day should end with the same result, being deeply in love with your wife. It does not depend on her; it depends on you. It doesn't matter how she acts, what she does or what she says, it is your responsibility to love her:

A husband must love his wife and not abuse her. (Colossians 3:19, CEV)

There is no justification to supersede this command. It is not a command of the law but of the heart of God. If we have accepted his sacrifice on our behalf, his faithfulness in the face of our unfaithfulness, his mercy and grace, his overwhelming love, then his expectation is that we will do the same for others; how much more our wives?

Sometimes we learn these lessons on the wrong end of things. In those cases, we allow his grace to carry us along as he picks us up, dusts us off, and we begin again. His grace is incredible but he will not put up with it being abused. He knows our hearts. He knows our schemes. He knows our motivations. It comes down to what Jesus said: If we love him we will do what he has commanded. Do we love him enough to see our selfishness put aside, to do the right thing and to allow love to be the command of the day?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

You Can't Do It Alone

All sin can be traced back to a selfish heart. Every offence against someone is because someone considered themselves more important. Everything we have ever done against God happened because we considered what we wanted more important than what God wanted. We are a people who say we want to love God but we don't know how to let go of ourselves to do it.

We can look at all the socio economic reasons why we behave the way we do but at the end of the day it always comes down to the self-centeredness of the heart. Love is the opposite of selfishness. Perhaps not the thing that passes as love these days but the love that God describes:

Love is kind and patient,
never jealous, boastful,
    proud, or  rude.
Love isn’t selfish
    or quick tempered.
It doesn’t keep a record
    of wrongs that others do.
Love rejoices in the truth,
    but not in evil.
Love is always supportive,
loyal, hopeful,
    and trusting.
Love never fails!   (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, CEV)

Use whatever definition you want but this is the one that counts. This is the one that made a God who says he loves us, take action to show that love. This is the love that Jesus told us to have for God and for each other. A love that automatically puts the concerns of the other person ahead of our own and where sacrifice is a normal way of life. Imagine what the world would look like if this love permeated the hearts of everyone.

But it doesn't.

We were all born with a sinful nature that puts self ahead of everything and everyone else. As much as we try in ourselves to keep this love on the surface, what lay in the heart always rises up and dominates. This is why Jesus said the heart is key. It is the heart that will always dictate our actions, as hard as we try to work against it, because we know in ourselves what we want to be but we can't get there. Paul described the struggle of a religious heart without Christ:

I know that my selfish desires won’t let me do anything that is good. Even when I want to do right, I cannot. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong. And so, if I don’t do what I know is right, I am no longer the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me is what does them. (Romans 7:18-20, CEV)

We must recognize that this all important love can only be produced in us supernaturally. If at any moment you think that you can do it without Jesus, you have stepped outside of the design of our Father and have taken your destiny into your own hands. It is an act of rebellion.

There is no good thing in us, everything having been tainted by that sin nature with which we were born. If we really want to live like Jesus and do what he did, there has to be a complete abandonment of everything and a bear hug on Jesus. It is only in the total surrender that we are able to be possessed and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Outside of that we are just playing games. Paul understood his condition and the only one who could save him:

With my whole heart I agree with the Law of God. But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me. (Romans 7:22-25, CEV)

If you really want to be a follower of Jesus; if you really want to do what he did; if you really want to have everything he promised; you have to give up everything else. You have to turn your back on everything you knew and surrender to the Father's embrace. What you were incapable to do he is capable to do through you. There is no other way. You have to decide between the world and the Kingdom; yourself and Jesus. By nature we are a sinful and self-centered people. By God's nature we are like Jesus. I end with this:

People who are ruled by their desires think only of themselves. Everyone who is ruled by the Holy Spirit thinks about spiritual things. (Romans 8:5, CEV)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Strangers In Our Own Home

We are not bold enough. Often we try to be too polite with God. We act like visitors in a stranger's home, not wanting to offend or get anything dirty. There is a difference between how children react as a guest in someone's home and as a family member in their own. Why would we act like guests in the presence of our Father? Why would we treat him like a stranger? Why are we so afraid to act like family and why would we ever ask for something he has already promised to us?

Could you imagine this conversation:

"Mom, can I have some clothes? Can you give me some clothes please?"

"What are you talking about? Your closet is full of clothes?"

"Yes, but can I have them? Can you give them to me?"

"I already gave them to you. They are yours. Go ahead and wear them."

"Are you sure I can wear them? It won't offend you? I will clean the whole house if you let me wear them."

"What? Are you feeling okay?"

But we do it all the time. We treat our relationship with our Father like we are strangers in his house. We are afraid to touch what he freely gave to us. We don't act on his promises. It's like he has to give them to us again and again. They are ours.

There is nothing wrong with reminding God of his promises in boldness. It is not so much that we are reminding God as we are reminding ourselves. The psalmist stated it rather frankly:

Listen, Lord, as I pray!
    Pay attention when I groan.
You are my King and my God. (Psalm 5:1-2)

The psalmist comes with boldness, demanding the attention of God, not because he deserved it but because of the relationship: You are my King and my God. There is a lot he says in that declaration. God has made promises that have obligated himself to us. Because he is our Father he has bound himself to certain things.

You may think, "God, is Sovereign, he can do what he wants". True but our Father will never go against his character and his promises come out of that character. He is our Father. He has adopted us as his children through Jesus Christ. In doing this he has obligated himself to fulfill all the promises given to us, as we remain his children. Look at how the psalmist understood it even at that time, before Jesus:

You are my King and my God.
Answer my cry for help
    because I pray to you. (v. 2)

"You are my King and my God and as such you are obligated to answer my cries for help because I am asking my King." Jesus communicated with us the promises of the Father. He told us to go to the Father with whatever we needed. He told us to stop worrying about what we need here and concentrate on the Kingdom because our Father would look after what we need here. We don't need to come with hat in hand to our Father. We come in with the boldness of children who trust their Father to be who he says he is, one who loves us and pours out all his goodness on us. But remember that it is the parents who establish the rules in the house. The kids do not get to do whatever they want. There is correction:

You are not the kind of God
who is pleased with evil.
    Sinners can’t stay with you.
No one who boasts can stand
in your presence, Lord,
    and you hate evil people.
You destroy every liar,
    and you despise violence
    and deceit. (vv.4-6)

Our God is not a "genie in the bottle" who grants wishes. He is our Holy and Righteous Father who expects relationship. He loves us and wants us to love him in return. He wants us to consider what is important to him to be important to us. He wants us to walk in his footsteps, to reject evil and to cling to what is good. It is in this relationship of obedience that we have the boldness of any child to come into our Father's presence, to love him and to expect good things.

Stop acting like a stranger in our Father's house. To be honest, it is kind of creepy. It's like we don't know who we are. Stop it and be the child that you are. Princes and princesses in the Kingdom of God is who we are and our Father keeps us constantly in his presence. Live with boldness and walk in what has already been given to you.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Shapes Your Expectations?

Have you ever been disappointed? What a silly question. We have all been disappointed in people, situations and desires. Disappointment comes from expectations. We expect things to be a certain way or people to have a particular reaction and when it doesn't happen we are disappointed. Sometimes we allow these experiences to diminish our expectations. We start expecting less of people and of life. Subconsciously, or consciously, we figure the less the expectation the less our disappointment. It is tragic when we allow this in our relationship with Jesus.

As Christians we have faced many disappointments and often they were due to wrong expectations. We then allowed our experience to dictate what we expect from God and we lower those expectations. But we are never suppose to live according to experience or even desires. We are to live according to the promises of Jesus, the promises of our Father. His promises are not like any others. They were true yesterday, are true today and will be true tomorrow. These promises, many of which people do not know, were given in the context of a deep, loving relationship.

For many of us, we treat God's promises like a formula or a "genie in a bottle". We keep our relationship on the surface, read a bit of the Bible, worship a bit, put a few coins in the offering and expect to get whatever we want whenever we want it. But the promises were given to those God referred to as his children. Children have expectations of their parents that they don't even think about but exist within every day.

Children expect that there will be food at meal times. They expect a hug and a band-aide when they get hurt. They expect a bed to sleep in and walls to protect them from the storms. They expect to find clean clothes in their drawers. They expect a bedtime story and a warm embrace whenever they want it. They also expect correction whenever they do wrong, even though they hope not to get caught. Children don't think about these expectations because they happen in the context of a deep and growing relationship with their parents. This is the level of intimacy God desires with us and even more so. Jesus spoke of our connection:

Stay joined to me, and I will stay joined to you. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me. If you don’t stay joined to me, you will be thrown away. You will be like dry branches that are gathered up and burned in a fire. (John 14:4-6, CEV)

He spoke of the depth of our relationship:

I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me. I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. (John 17:20-21, CEV)

We are crazy stupid not to realize the level of relationship Jesus desires for us to have with God. It is in the deep relationship that we can begin to live within the promises at the same level as a child with his parents. A child does not say, "I don't expect there to be cereal for breakfast" in the hope of not being disappointed. The child goes to the cupboard with unspoken expectation of finding cereal there. I face my journey today with the expectation that my God will provide everything that I need. I expect it because he promised and my relationship is such that i trust what he tells me.

It is also in this depth of relationship that I understand the promises, God's purpose for me and the direction he is taking me. I walk in the joy and peace that he has given me and if I fail to do so it is a warning to me that I am letting go of the intimacy. If I fail to walk in the promises and face disappointed, it is not my Father's fault. It isn't because he failed in his promises but rather because I have failed in our relationship and expectation. If a child fails to look for the cereal in the cupboard it does not mean the parent failed to provide. If I choose worry and fear today, it doesn't mean my Father did not provide joy and peace.

All good gifts are from our Father and he never takes away what he has promised to give. It is we who fail with our low expectation, lack of knowledge of the promises, not receiving what has been freely given and in the depth of the relationship to which we have been called. And because we are this crazy stupid, God is not glorified in our lives and the world cannot see Jesus. Experience or promises: What shapes your expectations?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What Will You Consider Success When You are Eighty Years Old?

I have been involved in a lot of things over the years as a pastor and the church I head up is not what we would call conventional. We meet each Sunday in a coffee shop with strangers coming and going, sometimes stopping in for a listen. The project of the coffee shop slash pizza parlor is a strange one but I get to meet some very interesting characters; characters who would never dream of stepping inside a church and who only know the name of Jesus as a curse word. Very few would imagine themselves being served coffee, pizza, sandwiches or ice cream by a pastor. I love it.

Most of these characters lead a tragic life (not in their eyes), so far removed from the truth of life that it astounds me. One gentleman I speak with every morning is visiting from out of the country. We touched on the subject of friendship yesterday. This man, who is close to eighty years of age (looks more like 60) confessed to me that he has no friends. He is a retired self-made business man who doesn't believe in God, or so he says. He has had sexual relationships with hundreds of women but says he has no friends and he sits there jealous of my large family and all the friends I have. I told him the difference is Jesus.

What is crazy for me is that this dear soul believes in re-incarnation but refuses to believe in a Father who loves him enough to pursue him. The difficulty, the wall that has been built up, is one of independence. This man, and many like him, do not want to be accountable to anyone. They want no one to take credit for their life or to hold them accountable for what they do with it, yet so many of them end up empty with a worthless life, no purpose, no reason, no love, no friends.

As this gentleman and I talked I shared my testimony and spoke of the many things God had brought me through. He was amazed to discover how much we had in common except for the foundation on which my life was built upon. He kept repeating that I had accomplished so much because I had confidence in myself and I kept correcting him, that my confidence was in Jesus and the promises he gave me. I told him I had done all that was done by the strength I have in Jesus. He struggled with the concept that I would rely on anything but myself. It was like we were worlds apart and I was speaking a foreign language.

Here was a man, well along in years, still searching for meaning, purpose, friendship and love, looking at me who possessed all that he desired. He had a long history of short-lived empty sexual relationships that now tasted sour to him. He could see in me what he wanted but he refused to accept how I possessed it. My heart breaks for him and I pray fervently that the Spirit will penetrate his heart with a revelation of the truth. There is still hope; he loves my coffee and is around for a few more weeks for more conversation and testimony.

So many of us look to the world and are jealous of everything that others possess yet we possess the greatest treasures. Jesus spoke the truth into our lives when he warned us:

What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself or waste your life? (Luke 9:25)

Don't do it! Don't chase after this world with all of it's false notions of treasure, worth and importance. Don't waste or throw away this precious life you have been given. There is nothing like the friendship we have with Jesus, the oneness with our King and the outpouring of our Father's love. We are already possessed by all that is important and we are given the opportunity to seed that into others. Seeding is what we do best. May it be joy, love, hope for a people who are searching in all the wrong places. May the Spirit use us mightily today to convey the hope of Jesus Christ to those who are desperate for him.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Changing God's Mind

Have you ever been in a situation that you didn't want to be in? It could be a class you didn't want to take, a friendship you don't want to have, a job you don't want to do. The urge is to get out of it, to run away, to make your excuses and bow out. Today's philosophy dictates that you need to be happy in what you do, that it must bring joy, but joy doesn't come from what we do but who we are.

Unfortunately many of us allow the philosophies and principles of this world to influence us instead of the guidance of the Spirit and the Word. If we understood the Word we would understand that sometimes our Father brings us through things for the purpose of other people. In other words, it's not always about us. When we don't understand this we can sometimes find ourselves praying against the will of our Father. Because we are looking at things from our self-centered perspective we fail to see with God's eyes and it pits us against God.

I am sure that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a great mom but sometimes she did not see with God's eyes. Sometimes she could only see the immediate and was not able to see the bigger picture. While attending a wedding feast Mary saw that the groom was in trouble. Perhaps this was a relative or close family friend but regardless, the wine had run out and now the groom was in an embarrassing situation. Mary knew that Jesus could do something about this. How she knew he could resolve this isn't clear but she knew and turned to Jesus.

Mary did not know the big picture. She knew Jesus was destined to be used in a great way but she had no idea how great or the cost of it. She only knew what was going on in this moment and Jesus had to respond:

 “Mother, my time hasn’t yet come: You must not tell me what to do.” (John 2:4)

Jesus knew it was not yet time for events like this. It was not yet time for people to see the power of God through him. But the amazing thing is that Mary insisted and Jesus answered. He did it in such a way that only a few people knew what he did so he didn't go against the plan. There are a few amazing things that come out of this incident.

First, Mary did not look for a solution within herself or come up with some elaborate scheme to finance the need. She turned to God. She turned to the one source she knew could handle this situation. This is something most of us have yet to learn. Crisis after crisis we try to find our own solution and it is only in desperation that we turn to God. He should be our first choice.

Second, after receiving a response of no, Mary persisted. This is in line with what Jesus taught concerning the persistent widow with the judge. Mary continued in her expectations that Jesus would do something, telling the servants to follow his instructions. Even though it did not fall into the plan, Jesus, out of compassion, acted in such a way as to meet the need without interfering with the plan. Our God is a God of compassion and we must always make room and prepare for his response.

Third, this had nothing to do with Mary or any great soul saving enterprise. This was a request from Mary on behalf of someone who was in an embarrassing situation. Mary was thinking of someone else not herself in a social situation. We can't afford to define what God will or will not do. We need to respond to the needs around us by petitioning God and expecting him to respond out of his compassionate heart.

It is important to see things with God's eyes, to see the big picture but we must not limit God's actions according to what we think. God's compassion is great and when we ask in faith our Father is moved to respond. We need to be persistent in our prayers, believing, trusting that God will respond out of his great compassion. Who am I to decide what God will respond to and what he will deny? A lot more people may see the power, might, love and compassion of God if his children would just pray.

We also need to understand that sometimes God places us in awkward and difficult situations for the sake of other people. It isn't about us. We are servants and our eyes should constantly be open to the situations around us so that we can intercede on behalf of these people. We aren't very good servants when it is all about us. "Watch and pray" should be our motto as we trust the compassion, mercy and grace of our God for the sake of others. And we hope that the result will be the same result of the wedding miracle:

This was Jesus' first miracle, and he did it in the village of Cana in Galilee. There Jesus showed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (v. 11)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Obedience: A Concept Of A Gone By Era?

Obedience seems to be a concept relegated to a gone by era. Obedience to authority, whether it be parents, police, governments appears to be something that is suggested but circumvented by the individuals right to "think for themselves". We now live in the enlightened age of the individual where anarchists will soon see their desires fulfilled. After all, what else can we expect when each individual is allowed to define their own sense of right and wrong? But of course we should not be surprised with our struggle with obedience.

Our entire character is deformed by the very first act of disobedience and since that moment we have been governed by a spirit of rebellion. The urge to come against authority is in us from birth and is easily detected in "innocent" toddlers. But since the very beginning God has sought a relationship with us built on love, trust and obedience. Obedience is a fundamental part of our relationship with our Father. It is instilled in the law that we were unable to fulfill before Jesus. Apostle Paul reminds us of that law:

Children, you belong to the Lord, and you do the right thing when you obey your parents. The first commandment with a promise says, “Obey your father and your mother, and you will have a long and happy life.” (Ephesians 6:1-3)

So often when you talk about obedience the sinful nature rises up and we start to hear words such as "control", "oppression" and "abuse". But those are situations where obedience is demanded with an absence of love. In the context of what we read in the Word, love is the underlying factor. You cannot have a desire to obey unless it comes from a place of love and trust. But let's not overlook the benefits of obedience.

Paul pointed out that the law to obey is the first one that came with a promises and that promise was of a long and happy life. This is the same promise that Solomon emphasized with his son:

My child, if you listen
and obey my teachings,
    you will live a long time. (Proverbs 4:10)

But Solomon did not just state it once, he repeated himself because it was an important point for his son to understand:

Hold firmly to my teaching
and never let go.
    It will mean life for you. (v.13)


My child, listen carefully
    to everything I say.
21     Don’t forget a single word,
    but think about it all.
22 Knowing these teachings
    will mean true life
    and good health for you. (vv.20-22)

God had warned Adam and Eve that disobedience would lead to death and it did. Solomon described the difference between the obedient and the rebellious as this:

The lifestyle of good people
    is like sunlight at dawn
    that keeps getting brighter
    until broad daylight.
19 The lifestyle of the wicked
    is like total darkness,
    and they will never know
    what makes them stumble. (vv.18-19)

Is there a better description of those who are lost in their rebellion: They will never know what makes them stumble"? And that is why we refer to them as lost, because they are lost in their rebellious way. They aren't even aware of what is wrong any more.

Obedience is not a suggestion in our relationship with God, it is a must. It should be the great, overwhelming desire we have; to obey our Father. Not out of a sense of duty and fear but from a great well of love, in response to his overwhelming love. If we are still pursuing what we want because we want it no matter the cost, then we do not know the love of Jesus. If we honestly knew the love of Jesus we could not stay the same and we would be changed with a desire to obey him in love.

So many people misunderstand Jesus when he stated:

If you love me, you will do what I have said, and my Father will love you. I will also love you and show you what I am like. (John 12:21)

People only pick up on "you will do what I have said" and miss the great blanket of love that the statement is wrapped in. Jesus was simply stating the nature of love and obedience and the relationship between the two. You cannot love someone and be in rebellion against them.

There is no getting around obedience. If you love Jesus then your desire is to obey. If you do not love Jesus then your desire will be for yourself. Those are the facts. It comes down to those words, "If you love me you will do what I say".