Monday, September 30, 2013

1 Timothy : How To Correct The Time Wasters

Apostle Paul is writing to Timothy, to remind him of the instructions he had given him concerning the church in Ephesus. Paul had to answer the call of the Spirit and go to Macedonia yet again, but his heart was still in Ephesus. He was aware of dangerous things that were happening so he left Timothy to take care of it. The problem was that people were wasting their time on things that did not help in their service to Jesus. A problem with which we are very familiar today.

Paul instructed Timothy to tell the people to stop wasting their time and then he gave him three subjects on which to focus his teaching:

You must teach people to have genuine love, as well as a good conscience and true faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

We can assume that these are the three things that do assist us in our service to Jesus. It only makes sense, considering Jesus' instructions. Jesus told us that we must love as we have been loved by the Father and that by our love for each other the world would know we are his disciples. Just because someone fails in this love does not mean they are not a true follower but it can mean they are off track or have failed to mature in their walk.

A good conscience means a repentant heart. It means being open to the correction of the Spirit, knowing we aren't perfect but we are desiring to be like Jesus, knowing that correction is a good thing. We should not feel guilty about anything, having responded to the Spirit and dealt with all matters that are not honouring to Jesus. Offering forgiveness and seeking it should be a natural thing for us between us and God and us and others. This all adds up to a good conscience.

True faith means that we take God at his Word. Not a watered down, intellectual version of the promises but trusting that Jesus meant what he said. It is a faith that allows God to be God, in all the messiness that is sometimes involved. It is an absense of anxiety and fear. It is a life permeated by peace that comes with trust. Faith is believing that our Father loves us that much, that everything he said applies to us. It is trusting that if he has called us to something he will provide for that thing to be completed. No doubt. No complaining. No second guessing. No giving up because it looks dark. Pushing through until the task is completed no matter what it may cost us because it cost Jesus a whole lot more.

Paul says that merely talking about it is a waste of time and does not help us serve Jesus. It goes along with the current day saying, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." Paul warned Timothy:

There are some who have given up these for nothing but empty talk. They want to be teachers of the Law of Moses. But they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they think they do. (v. 6-7)

Just because someone calls themselves a teacher does not mean God called or anointed them to that position. Jesus told us the Kingdom's model of leadership is that of servanthood. So put it into action before you start teaching on it. Tough but true. Jesus modeled everything he taught, as did Paul.

So this is how people who are wasting their time on meaningless things are corrected with the Word of God. If we can't be corrected by the Word then there isn't much left. These are the three things that are important to allow the Spirit to develop maturity in us. These are the three things that will keep us focused on the priority of the Kingdom, that will help us serve Jesus. And we know that it is all about serving Jesus, being obedient to his commands. It is why we are here, not as free spirits but obedient solders in a mighty battle over the lost. Training in genuine love, a good conscience and true faith is what should occupy our days, no the time wasters that seem to have our attention now. Only those things that help us in our service to Jesus.

God Does Not Need Us To Prop Him Up

We've got to stop propping God up and let him protect his own reputation. We are doing him a great disservice by thinking we have to defend him or do anything for him unless we have been assigned the task and are relying on his strength. Is he without power or intellect? As he said to others, do we think his arm is too short?

Do you remember the account of David's first attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem? There is mention in it that God's throne sat between the two angels on the cover of the Ark. This was a very important symbolic thing between God and the nation he had raised up to represent him. It was holy because it belonged to God.

In 1 Chronicles 13 we read that the oxen had stumbled so Uzzah, who was walking beside it, reached out his hand to prevent the Ark from tipping. You would think this was an act of kindness, love, dedication, a natural thing to do. But God killed Uzzah for doing this. There were two problems with Uzzah's actions.

First, he was not a Levite. God was very specific in his instructions concerning the care of the Ark. The responsibility had been given to the Levites and even they were not permitted to touch it. They were given very long poles that went through loops on the Ark. Remember this thing was extremely important and holy; it bore the name of God. (1 Chronicles 13:6) David did wrong in not asking the Lord how he wanted it done. He consulted his military leaders and all of Israel but he did not consult God.

Second, Uzzah gave a bad testimony about the greatness of God. If God could not look after the Ark, protecting it and providing for it, what did that say for God's ability to protect and care for his nation or his governance over all of creation? In that one simple act Uzzah tried to rob God of all the glory due him. God does not need defenders. He does not need anyone to look after him or protect him. He does need our sacrifices and is not dependent on our worship. He is self-sufficient. He has designed the Body of Christ and put a structure in place. He has assigned each person a place with responsibility and he has empowered each to do what needs to be done. But it is his choice. It is by his power.

Praise Jesus for this age of grace in which we live or there would be a lot more Uzzah's being buried. We are terribly guilty of robbing God of his glory. We weaken our testimony about his greatness all the time. Every time we defend him. Every time we try to argue his existence.  Every time we try to be something for which we have not been called. Every time we take on a responsibility that is not ours because it doesn't appear anyone else is around to do it. This isn't our place. We must let God be God, without definition, explanation or defense. God can explain himself. God can defend himself. God will reveal himself. God can provide for himself. God raises up and tears down. We call him Lord for a reason. It is our place to testify and worship because of what he is doing. For us "doers" that is harder than it sounds.

Two chapters over in 1 Chronicles we find David's second attempt to bring in the Ark, but this time he has either read or received instructions on how to do it. This time the Levites knew that it was God who was in charge any they were simply to follow his instructions. Instead of trying to do it on their own, they understood their place, and they were grateful. They made sacrifices to God for doing it through them instead of having the attitude they were doing it for God:

God gave the Levites the strength they needed to carry the chest, and so they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. (1 Chronicles 15:26)     

Maybe that is too subtle a difference to understand but it is a major difference. We do not use our strength to assist God because he is too weak to do it on his own. Instead, God gives us the strength to complete what he has given us to do. Uzzah was not the chosen instrument and his actions gave a poor testimony as to God's greatness. The Levites were the chosen instrument and God gave them the ability to do it, for which he received the glory; a proper testimony from the instruments of God.

This is why it is vital that we understand who God is, who we are in him and what responsibility has been assigned to us. We have been assigned a place in the Body to serve Jesus. It doesn't matter if we think we are capable or not. God will provide and it will only add to our testimony of his greatness. And please, let God be God. Serve according to his will and take only the actions he has instructed you today. He is holy and all who belong to him are holy.

Friday, September 27, 2013

1 Timothy: Stop Wasting Your Time

I have to be careful when I am teaching from apostle Paul's epistles because I enjoy tracing the events of the early Church, and can get distracted from the message therein. There are clues in all of the epistles that, when tied in with the book of Acts, gives us a good timeline as to the events.

For example, in this letter (1 Timothy 1), Paul mentions leaving Timothy behind to look after certain doctrinal matters in Ephesus while he headed off to Macedonia. This was when Paul felt in the Spirit that he had to go to Jerusalem and hoped to go on to Spain. However, as he traveled through Macedonia, on his way to Jerusalem, the Spirit revealed he would be arrested and end up in Rome.

We can also see here that Paul left Timothy with a significant responsibility in this huge area of ministry in Ephesus. Paul had charged him with the responsibility of keeping people fixed on what was important:

When I was leaving for Macedonia, I asked you to stay on in Ephesus and warn certain people there to stop spreading their false teachings. You needed to warn them to stop wasting their time on senseless stories and endless lists of ancestors. Such things only cause arguments. They don’t help anyone to do God’s work that can only be done by faith. (1 Timothy 1:3-4)

Of course, in the midst of this great work that was taking place in Asia Minor, the enemy was present to spread seeds of distraction and division. Here Paul named two things that people were wasting their time on: senseless stories and endless lists of ancestors. Paul made his point firm: these things do nothing to help anyone do God's work that can only be done by faith. I think we need a few Timothy's to rise up today with the same mission.

Let's face it, the enemy has done a pretty good job at dividing and distracting us over useless things. I am not a Catholic and I do not look to the Pope as my spiritual leader but I understand what he was saying the other week. He said that the Church was being distracted by issues of sin instead of pursuing our mission.

What is our mission? To make disciples. How are we making disciples when we are out waiving placards against homosexuality and abortion? Do we not understand that if we carried out our mission, to make disciples, that homosexuality and abortion would not be an issue?

The world cannot understand spiritual matters. The world cannot understand why homosexuality is wrong. The world cannot understand why unborn children are a gift of God, precious and deserving full protection. They cannot understand these things because they do not have Jesus. They can only understand, we can only understand, by the Spirit of God. So we need to be involved in their salvation not their condemnation.

I am not saying that we should not tell them about sin but if that is all we do then they are lost. Paul charged Timothy with the responsibility of pointing out what was wrong because the things they were involved in only caused arguments and division. Timothy was given that authority. We need the anointed of God to rise up and tell us to stop it; there are more important matters to deal with. We need to set aside what divides us and lift up what unites us. We need to be united in the Spirit. We need to be unified in our mission, of making disciples.

Paul told Timothy what to teach the Body but we will look at that tomorrow. Today it is enough to think on this matter and how it applies to us. What is it that we are occupied with that is of no help in doing God's work? What useless or senseless thing are we distracted with? What is part of us that is not part of faith? What are we allowing to divide us and stall the advancement of Jesus'mission? Do we need a Timothy to bring us correction? Are we just playing church, acting as philosophers, not understanding our place or purpose, becoming a block to salvation instead of an agent of the Spirit?

God, speak to us the truth, no matter how much it hurts.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

1 Timothy 1: Too Mature To Be Mentored In The Spirit?

Everyone needs someone they answer to for their spiritual condition. All of us need someone of greater maturity to help us along in our growing process. We never arrive. There is never a place you get to when you can relax and say "I am here". The moment we stop increasing we start decreasing. Growth is not an option; it is a must, and growth is not a matter of age but of relationship. Maturity is not according to the years spent but relationship developed.

The purpose of Paul's letters to Timothy was to continue the process that started when Paul invited Timothy to join him and Silas on their mission journey. Timothy was not invited as a minister but as a chore boy, a servant. He was invited to come to prepare their meals, wash their clothes and whatever else needed to be done so these men would be freed from the common tasks, allowing them to concentrate on their purpose. However, Timothy was not destined to remain in such a position.

Paul became Timothy's mentor, training him in the Lord and Spirit. Paul first encountered Timothy in Derbe, which we read of in Acts 16. Timothy was highly thought of by everyone around as they spoke well of him to Paul, and it was Paul's desire for Timothy to come on their adventure:

Paul and Silas went back to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a follower named Timothy. His mother was also a follower. She was Jewish, and his father was Greek. The Lord’s followers in Lystra and Iconium said good things about Timothy, and Paul wanted him to go with them. (Acts 16:1-3)

Here we find something that demonstrated the character of Timothy. Paul always went to the synagogue of the towns he visited but Timothy was half Greek and had never been circumcised. Paul knew that circumcision had no place in the new covenant with Jesus as the Spirit circumcised the heart instead of the body, but Paul also understood the people to whom he ministered. Timothy would need to be circumcised for the sake of this ministry. At his age, circumcision would be very painful and would take days from which to recover. But Timothy submitted himself to it.

Timothy became like a son to Paul as they spent months together, with Timothy serving and Paul instructing and training. It is because of this relationship that Paul addressed his letter:

Timothy, because of our faith, you are like a son to me. I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind and merciful to you. May they bless you with peace! (1 Timothy 1:2)

At the time of writing this letter to Timothy, Paul was no longer writing to someone who had the task of washing his clothes. He was writing to a man, a minister of the gospel, someone who had matured into spiritual leadership. All the way along, from town to town, Timothy was faithful to his tasks, and to his faithful submission to the instruction of his mentor. It was only in Macedonia that Paul started to entrust him with actual ministry:

Right away the followers sent Paul down to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea. Some men went with Paul as far as Athens, and then returned with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible. (Acts 17:14-15)

Paul was forced to leave the church before it was established. Why leave Timothy unless it was to allow him to work with Silas in finishing the establishment of the church?

Even in the world the importance of mentoring was understood. Now we live in an age of privilege and people expect the top job because they have a degree in the theory of operations. Few are willing to start as a servant and grow into responsibility. But in the Church, the Body of Christ, it is still essential.

We are watching more and more ministers who have yet to mature, making stupid decisions that damage the Church; to say there is no hell and everyone will be saved regardless; to say that atheists will be in heaven if they are true to their convictions; to say that homosexuality is blessed by God, because spiritual awareness of these matters is an evolution of revelation; to say that "church sucks", to water down the importance of corporate worship and instruction, to "dumbify" the Church can only comes from a place of great immaturity. Such ministers either lack a mentor or need a better one. The Word continues to be the revelation of God and all things in the Kingdom submit to this Word. Even the Spirit does not depart from the Word.

There is a structure that God has put in place for the Body. At the top we have the Apostles and Prophets. We have evangelists, pastors and teachers. There is a teaching and mentoring that comes from the top down. God's design, not man's.  Jesus told us to go and make disciples, not church members. We are part of the growth of the body, of the maturing process. We cannot miss the importance of Paul's revelation in Ephesians 4:

Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong. This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

It is a process and maturity is the goal. Right after this Paul writes:

We must stop acting like children. (Ephesians 4:14)

Are you submitted to someone who is of greater spiritual maturity than you? Are you growing, moving toward the goal of being just like Jesus? Are you willing to become whatever it is that the Father has decided you will be?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

1 Timothy 1: Commanded By Jesus

It's time for me to get back to what I do best: instruct on the Word of God. I may throw in some extra blogs from time to time but I must get back to expounding on the Word in a systematic manner. Considering the craziness that is going on, I am led to once again go through Paul's letters to Timothy. There is a lot of excellent instruction for us in this current age included in these letters.

From Paul.
God our Savior and Christ Jesus commanded me to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, who gives us hope. (1 Timothy 1:1)

Do you know who you are in Jesus and what you have been appointed to? Do you know your place in the Body of Christ? Your gifting from the Spirit? Without knowing these things how can you serve?

We don't get to do whatever we want to do or whatever we feel like doing. Our calling and place in the Body has nothing to do with talents, personality or our preference. It should never be a matter of filling out a volunteer form or us being asked what we would like to do. All of these things are divinely appointed by God. Don't think so?

The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. (1 Corinthians 12:7)

But it is the Spirit who does all this and decides which gifts to give to each of us. (v. 11)

But God has put all parts of our body together in the way that he decided is best. (v. 18)

Not our decision. That is why apostle Paul says with great clarity and boldness, "Jesus commanded me to be an apostle". Not Paul's decision but God's. It is the only way that he was able to run the race to completion, knowing he was appointed by Jesus for the task. It is this knowledge that causes us to go the distance.

If at any point you think that what you are doing in the Body was your choice you will also eventually believe you have the choice to walk away. Service is not easy. Carrying your cross will take everything you have to give and beyond. With it being so hard, if you believe you have a choice, you will walk away. It is only when you are "compelled" that you are willing to die in your calling. Can you express the urgency of your calling in the same manner as Paul?

I don’t have any reason to brag about preaching the good news. Preaching is something God told me to do, and if I don’t do it, I am doomed. (1 Corinthians 9:16)

In seminary I remember filling out a missions survey which was filled with questions about by likes and interests. This was suppose to tell me where I was suited to serve. Wrong! Unless I am called by God I will not serve with the power or conviction of God and I will do only a tolerable job in my flesh, which might, at the end of the day, kill me. The Body is filled with people filling positions halfheartedly, without passion because passion comes from conviction and conviction comes from knowing you are appointed to your task by Jesus.

Until we can say in truth "Jesus commanded me" we will not serve with all our passion. We will not serve with conviction. We will not serve with authority and power. When Paul spoke he knew he spoke with the authority that came with his office. We need to accept the truth:

Not everyone is an apostle. Not everyone is a prophet. Not everyone is a teacher. Not everyone can work miracles. Not everyone can heal the sick. Not everyone can speak different kinds of languages. Not everyone can tell what these languages mean. (1 Corinthians 12:29-30)

But everyone is appointed to something. It means that some ARE apostles; some ARE prophets; some CAN work miracles; some CAN heal; some CAN speak different kinds of languages. The Word clearly says:

Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body. (v. 27)

Every part has a function and purpose as appointed by Jesus and you are one of those parts. But which one?

That is the question that you need answered. Ask the Lord to reveal your purpose, calling and then wait on his response. He will put it on your heart, confirm it through the Word and confirm it again by what people receive in the Spirit for you. You may not like what you have been appointed to but you will feel compelled and your joy will be found in your obedience.

Are you convinced you are commanded by Jesus today?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Yesterday I Resigned As Pastor

Some of you are aware that there is a restoration and re-align taking place with the apostle of over our church, with our church itself and with many individuals in the church. We see this as a period of restoration and revival. Great things have been taking place around us as the power of God continues to manifest anytime any of us get together.

It is also a challenging time, and sometimes painful as the Spirit deals with things that need to be dealt with in our lives. This past weekend was such a moment for me.

Many years ago I was asked to pastor our church through a troubling time. Many leaders abandoned the family and it was a difficult time for people to hold on. Those who did, matured in the process and gained a profound understanding of the family of God. But there is a definite chain of command in the Body of Christ. Although we are all equal in importance and relationship in Jesus, there is a certain establishment of authority that he has created. Read Ephesians 4 as well as 1 Corinthians 12 to gain a beginning understanding of these matters.

This comes as bad news for those free radicals who do not want to be answerable to anybody but God. These are the type of believers who often dis-associate themselves from the Body for various reasons or spend their lives going from church to church, avoiding accountability. But they are also the ones who sit with a smile on their face in the pew, rejecting much of what is being preached because they believe they know better. But the Word demonstrates that the responsibility, vision, and leadership falls on a few that we know as apostles and prophets and it is the responsibility of the Body to support, encourage, and submit to these leaders. We have the responsibility of carrying the vision God has given to them.

On the weekend some of these things started coming together for me. The Spirit pointed out that things were not aligned properly in the headship of our church. My pastorship, which started 9 years ago, came under the authority of a man who had no authority over our church, thus my pastorship had no authority. Although we had placed the church under an apostle, that apostle had never appointed me as pastor, never laid hands on me, and I was not in alignment with his authority. The Spirit clearly made the point with me that I had to resign because mine was not a correct authority and it was blocking what God wanted to do.

This news came with no guarantees. I was to put aside the mantle of pastor, lay it at the feet of the apostle over the church and sit down. I was not permitted to walk away from the church. In fact, it was clearly my responsibility to become a man of valour to the apostle as David's men were to David. It was my responsibility to support, encourage, lift up, defend, serve, and humbly obey, carrying out the vision God had given to him. Not as a pastor but as a man of valour.

Sunday morning came and it had all been laid out in the spiritual realms what was to take place. I saw it clearly but I did not know if I had the strength to do this. How could I walk away from my calling, the only thing I knew how to do, my purpose on this planet? Yet it was the will of my Father and my only desire was to walk in his will. No guarantees. But as I stood in worship in our pre-service prep time, Jesus stood beside me.

I'm not kidding. I saw him in the Spirit stand beside me, put his arm across my shoulder in a physical act of encouragement and said very clearly, "I will give you the strength you need. I am proud of you." I was overwhelmed by gratitude and love. I felt his strength, his power and I was warm all over by the burning that was taking place in me. A burning I could not control. A burning I could not contain. I wept all the way through worship, not out of sorrow or fear of what I had to do but out of gratitude for the compassion of my King, for his presence and my awareness of it. I wanted to dance, shout and sing all at the same time. I was being renewed and re-established in this one single act of submission to my Father's will. Why had it taken me so long to understand?

The moment came quickly, the Word was preached easily, and in a single act of total surrender, I laid my Bible, representing my mantle, at the apostles feet. Peace filled my soul. I pledged myself to this man of God, to lift him up, to defend him, to carry his vision, to serve. Strength flowed into my limbs, my heart, my soul. Then my wife and I sat down.

It was done. Finished. Completed. I was no longer pastor. No guarantees.

And then something incredible happened.

The apostle took my Bible, had my wife and I stand, handed my Bible (mantle) back to me and laid hands on us, appointing us as pastors of the church under his authority as apostle. If no one else understood the significance of this moment, the man of God, my apostle did. Everything suddenly came into alignment with the Father's heart. Everything from the past was washed away. Everything was made right, proper, and in the will of God. The authority in the church was established according to the will of God. Everything in an instant was healed and made whole. The church gathered around with affirming words and prayers.

Now it was done. Now it was finished. Now it was completed. Now I was truly pastor. Guaranteed.

Today I am more than I was yesterday. Today I am truly a man of authority under authority. Today I stand healed and made whole in my leadership in the church. Today, the mountain is removed and the path made clear for the free flowing blessings and power of Jesus. Today is the first day of a new season for me, my family and the church, and I think for our apostle as well. Today my apostle has a man of valour by his side. May God use us all mightily in this dying world as we minister in his appointed manner.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Anointing Of Second Place

We are addicted to leadership. Everything in the Church seems to be geared to developing good leaders. Seminar after seminar, conferences, books, internet teaching all centered around leadership. We have developed quite the industry on just this one subject.

We seem to have this compulsion that when we find an intelligent or gifted person we fling the leadership mantle around them, whether they are gifted leaders or not. We don't look for the anointing. We don't examine God's calling. We don't see if God's hand is on that person. As long as they are educated, intelligent, gifted and good looking, they fit the bill. We will even overlook the last two as long as the first two are in place. Sometimes, if we are desperate enough, it is sufficient that they are educated.

What happened to the training of the warriors? You know, those guys who are not anointed for leadership but are anointed with God's gifts as workers in the Kingdom. Those guys who take the anointed vision of God, laid on the hearts of the leaders, and put it into action. Those guys who are anointed with energy, enthusiasm, intelligence, strength, determination, and a servant's heart.

We all consider King David to have been a great leader and we often lift up leaders with the same hope that they possess a David's heart, but what would David have been without his mighty men? There is a reason God took time to make sure that all their names were recorded for us. These are the men who responded to David's love for God, his vision and his compassion for the people of the nation. They chose exile with him. They chose to face death with him. They chose to defend him. They chose to give up the right over themselves to obey him as their chosen leader.

We all consider Peter, John, James, Paul as great leaders of the Church but Stephen was not any less anointed by the Spirit. He was a leader but not of the variety that we think about. His was a supporting role. He took the pressure off of the Apostles by looking after Church affairs so they could preach and teach. He was still full of the Holy Spirit, powerful, standing out in a crowd, but he was a warrior, carrying out the vision of the leaders. He was a mighty man.

I don't think it's leaders we are lacking in the Church but rather the warriors to follow the leaders. We are missing the Jonathans, Stephens, Timothys. All leaders in and of themselves but also mighty men who stood with and fought for the anointed leaders of the day. I mention Jonathan here because, even though he was the crown prince according to the flesh, he knew he was not God's appointed leader. In fact, he told God's appointed leader (David) that he would gladly serve him as one of his mighty men. That takes more guts than what a lot of people realize.

This is a call to my fellow mighty men. Let us not be tempted to take on a mantle that does not belong to us. We know, we can see for ourselves, where God's anointing lay. Let us pledge ourselves to these imperfect, chosen, anointed leaders of our day. Let us not try to out due them but encourage them by standing with them in the fight. It is not easy bearing the mantle of leadership but neither is it easy to resist the flesh and take our appointed position in support of God's anointed. Know the ground you have been given, and stand.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dead Yet Alive

Imagine ...

Imagine if we let God be God.

Imagine if we stopped trying to be managers of the Holy Spirit.

Imagine if we lost control.

Imagine if we voluntarily gave control to the Spirit in a great act of abdication.

Imagine ...

Should we imagine or should we just do it in the submissive desire to obey the one we claim to love:

I have died, but Christ lives in me. And I now live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me. (Galatians 2:20)

I have died.

I have died.

The significance of that somehow gets lost in the translation of our desires. After all, if I have died then I have no desires because, well, I am dead. How can I have desires if I am dead?

Being dead and walking around would make us a bunch of zombies except for one great, tremendous, wonderful fact:

But Christ lives in me.

I have died but Christ now lives in me, which means that he is my desire.

What he wants, I want.

Where he goes, I go.

What he does, I do.

What he prays, I pray.

What he says, I say.

It is not me asking Jesus to join me on my journey. It is me dying, ending my chosen journey, and joining Jesus in his. I am alive but I am only alive in Jesus as he lives in me. He is my desire, my hope, my joy, my peace. I have no desire, hope, joy, peace outside of him.

So why do we try to live by the rules of this world when we belong to Jesus' Kingdom? What is it to me that I am rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, male or female, jew or greek, fat or skinny, tall or short? I will be what he wants me to be and I will do what he wants me to do, and I will have what he wants me to have. Nothing in this world can stress me because it has no root in me. I don't belong here.

I am dead.

But Jesus is alive in me.

And I am alive in Jesus.

And now I live by faith.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)

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


I want more of you God.

God cannot be contained.

God cannot be controlled.

You are dead and your only act is to allow the uncontrollable God to have his way in you.

Let him set a fire down in your soul.

A fire you can't contain.

A fire you can't control.

After all, you are dead, but Jesus is alive in you.

Let our desire be to have more of him.

Let the passion burn deep.

Set A Fire -

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We Are Very Good At Escapism

It's been a hard day. You're bummed. You just want to veg for a bit, not think about things.You grab the TV remote, open the computer, plug in the ear phones or disappear into a novel.

It's been a hard day.You're stressed. There is so much going on. You don't know what decisions to make. You don't want to think about it right now. You should open your Bible. You should pray. You should spend some time in worship to get centered again, but you don't. It's so much easier to watch a movie on NetFlix, scroll through some social networking, go to sleep.

We belong to a society that loves to escape, prefers to be distracted, to major on the minor and hope the important stuff goes away. It is so easy to give in to it; a lot less energy, less emotions, less decision making. Why can't life just leave us alone?

If we turn to the Bible we quickly discover people who tried to avoid life and their responsibility in it. Yes, you are not alone. Adam tried to hide from God so he wouldn't have to face the consequences of his disobedience. Elijah tried to disappear in a cave to avoid confrontation and threats. Peter fled into the cover of the night to avoid the shame after denying Jesus. Maybe it's just tiredness, despair or craziness but somehow we forget who is our God.

Do we really think God doesn't see us in the forest, or the cave or in the dark? Not only does God love us enough to pursue us in all places but he is waiting there for us before we arrive. God knew all our days before we lived one of them. He knew our decisions, moods, reactions, circumstances and he laid down his plans accordingly. The psalmist reminded us:

"Your eyes saw my embryo,
     and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me,
     before any one of them had yet happened." (Psalm 189:16, CEB)

And the psalmist's reaction to this revelation?

"God, your plans are incomprehensible to me!
     Their total number is countless!
If I tried to count them - they outnumber grains of sand!
     If I came to the very end - I'd still be with you." (v. 17-18)

He worshiped. How could he not? Any time we look into the incomprehensible glory of our God our response is worship. And concerning trying escapism on God?

Where could I go to get away from your spirit?
    Where could I go to escape your presence?
If I went up to heaven, you would be there.
    If I went down to the grave,[a] you would be there too!
If I could fly on the wings of dawn,
    stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean—
10         even there your hand would guide me;
        even there your strong hand would hold me tight!
11 If I said, “The darkness will definitely hide me;
        the light will become night around me,”
12     even then the darkness isn’t too dark for you!
        Nighttime would shine bright as day,
        because darkness is the same as light to you! (Psalm 139:7-12)

There isn't a cave, jungle, or dark night that could ever separate us from the love of God. There isn't a TV show, video game or book that could keep him from pursuing us. Whatever it is that we don't want to face we can do it with God's strength. Whatever we want to avoid we can confront with Jesus in us. He has promised to equip and strengthen us to overcome all things in this world. So don't put it off.

Put down the TV remote. Put the music away. Turn off the xbox. Close your book and allow God to make you aware of his presence. Receive strength. Overflow with blessings. Be all you were ever intended to be. Forgiven. Transformed. Empowered. Possessed. All things are possible through him who gives you strength.

Welcome back to our reality; the reality of the Risen King.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Overcoming The Spirit Of Quitism

I learned a long time ago that my faithfulness to Jesus is not dependent on someone else's decision. What does this mean? Jesus did not tell me that my reward would depend on how many people I got to heaven. I am not responsible for someone else's decision, only my faithful application of obedience to my Father's will. If I present the gospel to someone and they refuse Jesus, they are responsible for that decision but I have been faithful to my responsibility of presenting Jesus.

This is important to understand in a society that measures success by numbers and not faithfulness. A pastor is considered successful if he can grow is church large, even if he is forced to leave his responsibilities for whatever reason. Yet, the pastor who has faithfully attended to his duties in a small town to a small congregation, is completely ignored. We are the Church of the rising stars not the faithful warriors.

The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. (Luke 12:42-46)

Faithfulness to the will of the Master is what is highly prized in the Kingdom. We are not responsible for the results; that's God's thing. I have been made more acutely aware of this recently.

I am a pastor. My desire is to tell about, and teach concerning, Jesus Christ. I am happiest when writing, studying, reading and talking about Jesus. I preach, not because I want to but because I have to. I am compelled by the love of Jesus. So what am I doing here, running a restaurant, planning menus, flipping burgers and delivering pizza; a business that looks like it is failing? I have asked myself this question every day for many months but here I am. The answer, I am discovering, is not far from what I have pointed out above.

When I was a young boy I decided to quit hockey in order to watch cartoons on Saturday morning. My father warned me at that time that if I decided to quit I would become a quitter all my life. What my father was wisely saying to me was that if I quit over something as unimportant as cartoons, I would seed a spirit of quitting into my future, and he was right. Any time something becomes difficult or messy my first impulse is to quit. And we all know how difficult and messy life and ministry can get.

I have since discovered that whatever I stick to, no matter the cost, succeeds, or at least I have personal success in it. The trick is not to quit. The trick is to seriously consider my responsibility to the will of the Father and stand by him, no matter the appearance of things. It has become the anthem of my life as of late.

I don't know what else our Father is doing through this business, or is going to do, but I know what he is doing in me. As I come close to completing yet another 15 hour shift, I feel the spiritual muscles growing. I hear my Master's voice saying "steady on" and I feel the strength he lends me which allows me to go to the end of the matter. I am not responsible for the success of this business, my Father is. I am not responsible for anything beyond my all. All my heart, all my soul, all my mind, all my strength poured out in love to my Father. I will not give in to the temptation of quitting, even though it seems the most attractive option right now. I won't quit on the 15 adults and 10 children in my church, even though I can't see what God is doing.

My only responsibility is to say to the Father, tell me your will that I may be faithful to it. I don't need to be a rising star to receive my reward, only to have a faithful and obedient heart.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Change Of Season

Last night we could feel the change of season all around us. Suddenly, with a change in the wind, the air felt cooler, fresher as the hot, humid air of summer was replaced by the approaching Fall. A new season is approaching.

There is also a changing of the air as a new season comes upon our family business. My oldest son has found a new job in preparation for his eventual move out of this province. It is a sad moment for me but a good one for my other children, forcing great opportunities upon them as they rise up to take on his responsibilities. New seasons bring adjustments which we may not want to make but we eventually do because we must.

It is also a change of season for me spiritually. Our walk with Jesus is always a progression and hopefully it is a progression forward. We learn new lessons, gain maturity and move on to the next. We face new challenges, gain new skills and move on to the next. We face small crisis, overcome and move on to the next. But with each victory comes new assurances, new strength and a new level of peace.

I have faced some things in the last few weeks which I was honest enough to face and they almost crushed me. But "almost" does not mean I was crushed. Almost means that the Lord strengthened me in my weakness so I could grow in the experience and become more of what he has called me to be. It is what he promised in his Word. It comes from not quitting, not running away, not hiding in a cave.

I have had a lot of cave experiences in my life, where I have run away out of fear just like Elijah. Just like him, it was fear from the empty threats of the enemy, threats to destroy and kill that drove me to hide. Just like him, God has met me in those caves and asked, "What are you doing here?" It is something I identify with, God asking me why I am in a place that he did not desire me to be in. "What are you doing here and not where your responsibilities would have you be?" The last time this happened I said it would never happen again.

This time I stood my ground. This time I was honest about my weakness. This time I listened to the Lord's examination. I am so thankful for his grace which allowed me to learn from my failures and to mature in my trust. Elijah was encouraged by God in that cave in which he hid, but even seeing the glory of God did not bring him out of his fears. He chose to stay in that same condition even though God met him in that dark place in his life. I praise the Lord he has taught me how to respond to him in times such as these; with absolute trust, adoration and determination.

It is amazing the level of peace that comes when we decide to stand in faith, declaring our trust in Jesus. His peace is always there, never removed, never absent but when we make that decision to abide by faith, there is a deeper revelation and experience of it. The day after the seasons changed there remain hundreds of unanswered questions but there is a peace that says "I know who holds the answers".

As I wrote yesterday, it is a day at a time attitude. He gives me enough grace, strength, wisdom and resources for today. I don't need to be concerned about tomorrow because whatever it holds for me, I know he will provide for it. I am a strong believer that before I was born God knew every day of my life. He knew the decisions I would make. He knew the things I would face. He knew the decision others would make that would impact me. Nothing surprises him. And the beauty of it is that he has laid down his plans for me according to his knowledge. What an awesome God who calls us his children. May the name of Jesus be forever lifted up. No more caves for me.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Emotions Will Not Tell Me What To Do

How will I serve Jesus?

With all my heart.

How will I praise Jesus?

With all my heart.

How will I trust Jesus?

With all my heart.

I cannot begin to tell you how often I have been or almost been the victim of my emotions. I am not exactly a "weeping man" sort, keeping my emotions to myself most of the time, but discouragement provokes debilitating emotions. Failure can bind the heart. Destroyed expectations, disappointments, missed opportunities can leave you with an emptiness, which is the worse emotion of them all. Yet none of these things matter when it comes to our responsibility to praise God.

Most of us will allow ourselves to become a victim of our emotions. We will allow despair to separate us from God. Even though the Word says nothing can separate us from his love, we allow ourselves to feel separated by negative emotions; we will neglect our responsibility to praise our God. But we are expected to praise our God in all circumstances of life because of his character of love and faithfulness. He is our hope and he is with us all the way as we go all the way with him.

So how do we do it? How do we praise him when circumstances have despair knocking on our door? Would you hate me if I told you it is a simple matter of your will and your words?

I will praise you, Lord,
    with all my heart
    and tell about the wonders
    you have worked.
God Most High, I will rejoice;
    I will celebrate and sing
    because of you. (Psalm 9:1-2)

"I will" are the most powerful words you can use in the face of emotions that want to undermine your will. I will praise you. I will tell about your wonders. I will rejoice. I will celebrate. I will sing. I will shout. I will dance. I will proclaim. I will speak goodness. I will declare your praise before my enemies. I will send those shadows packing as I allow your light to shine in me.

It is not positive thinking. It is not sticking your head in the sand. It is trust. It is faith. It is trusting that Jesus is who he said he is. It is trusting that he will keep his promises. It is faith in the power and will of our Father to strengthen and equip us to go all the way. He may not remove us from the circumstances but he will enable us to overcome those circumstances with the power and authority given to us by Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

How do you overcome? Lift up the name of Jesus. Don't feel like it? Who cares what you feel like. What have your negative emotions ever done for you? How are you better off with despair, or loneliness, or anger, or hatred, or depression? What have they ever done for you? Nothing but destroy you! Now what has Jesus done for you? Everything! So who do you want to spend time with?

Get your butt up off that chair, turn up the worship and start dancing and shouting the praises of Jesus. Watch what happens. I guarantee you will not be left the same. You decide. You make up your mind. You make the decision what will have power over you. Decide and then do something with that decision.

All praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ who did not leave us on this planet, weak, miserable or powerless. Praise him for his love that overcomes everything that would try to separate us from him. Praise him for know all of our days and laying down his plans to accommodate them. Praise him that nothing surprises him and he is here to make sure we win. Praise him that we belong to him and not this place. Praise him that we are in his hands and nothing else matters. May the whole earth shout the praises of our King!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Facing A Crisis Of Faith

It is a very natural process for a pastor to evaluate where he is in ministry. It is not a doubting of God, his will, his love, mercy or grace, but more a pondering and examination as to our place in that will. The past few months have been this process for me and it hasn't always been comfortable.

This past weekend was the crisis point for me, where I laid it all before the Lord and asked for a revealing of the truth. I wanted to know if I was the man for this task or if there was something else I was suppose to be doing. It is a very vulnerable moment where you hope that God doesn't leave you hanging for too long. I was facing two problems.

The first problem was that things have not been very successful. I have faced a lot of failures in the last seven years but I am a great believer in the "if you obey me I will bless the work of your hands" promise. Was I not obeying? And which of my many acts of disobedience had I not dealt with God?

The second problem was that there were no open doors. There is only one time that the Lord had me move out of one ministry without having something else prepared for me. That one time was when he brought me into a time of great rest and study. But I knew at the time that this is what he was doing and there was no discomfort in it. So, here I am evaluating, knowing that there were no open doors which meant I was to stay put, but my failures made me uncomfortable and I wanted to move away from them.

Sunday morning I spoke to my wife and told her that I was going to speak to our apostle. We prayed together before I set off to prepare for our worship gathering. My wife began to pray without ceasing for us and the ministry.

That morning I put out a few things before the Lord and was very specific in my desperation to have confirmation. I told him I really needed someone to speak into my life. I needed confirmation from someone who knew nothing of my self-examination and desperate struggle. I needed to hear from the Spirit so I could re-gain my confidence in my place in God's will.

As worship started that day I knew there was something different but specific to me. Quickly the Spirit began to work on me. As the enemy brought accusation of my failures the Spirit dealt with each as presented. There was pure honesty as the Spirit showed how and why I failed. In each case it was because I willingly gave up territory, did not press on, did not stand my ground, did not stand in faith. The Lord had not failed me but I had failed the Lord. The honesty of the Spirit was brutal as he did not pull any punches, but along with each incident remembered was the assurance of forgiveness. It was like he said, "Forgiven. Now forget it".

Then he simply stated, "Now what?" I was confused. That was my question to him and he was asking me? I understood though, in that moment of honesty: What decision was I going to make? Stand the ground that was given to me and be victorious in the Lord or quit like I had done in the past and lose more territory? But it was not only in the quitting, it was also the inches I would allow the enemy to gain on me. The little here and the little there. I had to draw a line and say to the enemy, "You shall not pass". The Lord had defined the ground he had given me and I was not to give up a single inch.

I knew in that moment that I had been faith out of one side of my mouth but confessing the wisdom of this world out of the other. My decisions could not be based on what others valued but must be based in faith in the Lord's values and promises. In that moment I knew my decision, which would be tested in the next few minutes.

The Word was preached by our Apostle

He spoke directly into my life, just as I had requested. But instead of thanking the Lord my first thought was that my loving wife, out of great concern for me, had told our apostle what I was facing. She had nullified my prayer, or so I thought. I was not pleased. Regardless, it was a powerful word that broke walls and brought encouragement with the challenge not to give up but to go the distance. It was about discipline and training from the Lord through the trials we face. It was exactly what my heart needed to receive and which confirmed what the Spirit had done for me in worship. I had to stand my ground in blind faith in every aspect of my life.

After the meeting and prayers of affirmation that had been prayed over me; after anointed moments of praying over members of the church, I told my wife she had ruined my request of the Lord. She was totally confused. I told her of my prayer and my suspicion of what she had done in love. She smiled as she assured me that she had not told anyone of my struggle or of our conversation. To my shame I had chosen to believe that my wife had interfered instead of trusting that the Lord had actually responded; and wow did he respond.

So at the end of the day my problems were resolved. My failures were my own, failures of faith, but they had been dealt with. Now I must forget them so they do not interfere with the present nor the future. The second problem was also resolved. There were no open doors because I am exactly where Jesus wants me to be, only I need to be more. Wait, that didn't sound right. I need to be empowered through faith to be more of what he has called me to be. Words of life were spoken into me by the Spirit as the Spirit called the seeds planted in me to come forward. No losing ground; in fact, an increase to my spiritual territory.

I share this with you for one reason: we all face moments of doubts and indecision. The one thing you should not do is rely on the wisdom of man's ways. We know the mind of God because we have the Spirit. Rely on the Spirit who speaks to us with God's Word. Ask. Seek. Knock. It is amazing how the Lord responds to those who honestly seek him. Nothing in my situation has changed but I have been changed in my situation. The line has been drawn and I have stated to the enemy, "You shall not pass". And he shall not, in Jesus' authority.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Word To The Discouraged Heart

Discouragement is a very powerful thing that does not always come with roots. By roots I mean legitimate causes. Sometimes we can easily see the reasons we are discouraged; our expectations are not met, things are not where we want them to be, failure even though we tried our best. Sometimes it is because of circumstances beyond our control or even caused by us. Then there are other times when there is not justifiable reason, we simple feel discouraged by things in general.

Discouragement does not belong to the children of God. I know we will face it at times but it doesn't belong to us; it is foreign. Discouragement should never be left to take root in us but should be dealt with right away. Confess your feelings. Admit that it is what you are facing. Then ask the Spirit to deal with this thing that is inside of you. Sing, shout, declare the Lordship of Jesus in all things.

The only effective way of dealing with discouragement is to go deeper with Jesus. It won't seem to be working at first and you will really have to push through to get there. I mean, you are going to have to fight. It is a battle to make your flesh submit to your spirit but you can't afford to lose this battle. Why do you think Jacob wrestled with God?

Jacob was facing a very difficult situation. He was running away from one problem only to face another that he had created a long time ago. He had wronged his brother and now he was about to come face to face with him. I am sure you have felt stuck between a rock and a hard place with no easy solution. Jacob did what most of us do in desperate times, he sought assurance from God. Perhaps for the first time in his life Jacob realized that his fast talking would not get him out of this. Filled with fear, anxiety, uncertainty, perhaps discouragement, he would not let go of God until he received his blessing.

I don't think many of us have ever been in this place with God, but we should be. We should all have to face such a time as this, when we are forced to be honest with ourselves and admit our only hope is Jesus Christ. We should all be in that place where we refuse to let go of God, because we have no other hope, until we receive his blessing, his assurance, his promises, his hope, his love.

We are in a time in history when the enemy of our soul is doing everything he can to discourage us. We will have discouragement without root and we will have discouragement with deep roots, like Jacob. Our Father's enemy will accuse us of failure. He will accuse us of what God has forgiven. He will make sure that we see the discouraging things around us and hear the discouraging reports as the Israelites did. And most of it will focus on us. What we did or did not do. Our failures. Our lose. That is how you will recognize him, by his emphasis on you, to provoke your emotions. But knowing this will not be enough to protect your heart. You are going to have to learn to wrestle.

We are warned in Scripture:

My friends, watch out! Don’t let evil thoughts or doubts make any of you turn from the living God. You must encourage one another each day. And you must keep on while there is still a time that can be called “today.” If you don’t, then sin may fool some of you and make you stubborn. We were sure about Christ when we first became his people. So let’s hold tightly to our faith until the end. (Hebrews 3:12-14)

The Scripture encourages us not to be like the Israelites who listened to discouraging reports and refused to enter into what God had promised. My friends, the end is in sight; now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to press on and we need to watch out for each other, to testify to each other, to lift each other up, to pray, encourage, and love each other.

Don't you dare give up: Don't! Jesus is coming!