Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter.

I have been reflecting on this statement a lot because it is daily presented to me and I hope continues to be presented to me.

I live in Canada where we like to think prejudice doesn't exist. It may not be as visible or dramatic as what we see in the States but it exists. I know because I grew up beside it in Nova Scotia. I grew up with friends who were black but it doesn't mean I understand what they went through. I saw it, felt it, but I did not experience it. I was never suspected of anything when I walked in a store or down the street. I may not have been rich but compared to my friends I live a privileged life because I wasn't black. It is exactly what they are trying to tell people today.

I also saw it in Europe when I lived there. My best friend was black. I could cross between countries there without even a glance but when we traveled together we were stopped every time. Prejudice and judgement are not unique to the US, although for the moment it is grabbing our attention.

This speaks to the horrible nature that is at the core of being human. We are filled with fear, hate, and prejudice. We are only lying to ourselves if we truly believe that we are free of these things. Just look at the response people have to the statement "Black Lives Matter". To say that "All Lives Matter" is ignoring the fact that our societies believe that some lives have greater value than others, and what is considered valuable depends on the country in which you live. Prejudice exists in every country even if it is a different group of people because of colour, race or religion. But this must not be true of the Church.

Although no follower of Jesus is perfect we must be aware of our sins to give them over to Jesus. To admit our prejudices and hatreds is the first step to have them healed and changed. Just because that is what we grew up with and what we were before Jesus does not mean that is who we are after our re-birth in Jesus. We are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. The Word is filled with what we are suppose to be growing into but there is one truth that should describe the atmosphere of the family of Yahweh:

There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

This is our family, under the head of Jesus, united by the Spirit, considering each other more important than ourself:

Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

There is no skin colour attached to this because the Kingdom of God is about the heart and our relationship with Jesus. We don't judge by sight but by the Spirit of God. If we are still judging people by skin colour then there is something wrong with us. Either we don't have a relationship with Jesus or we are failing to grow into maturity.

We can understand what is taking place in the world because of the sin nature of humanity, but if it exists within the Church it is an illness that must be dealt with by love, teaching and prayer. We tell the world the answer to all these things is Jesus but they aren't going to believe us unless we are willing to allow our hatred and prejudices to be corrected and healed.


Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. (1 John 3:15)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Spirit Is Here To Help Us

If you are a Christian it should come as no surprise that we are living in a hostile environment. We don't fit in and we are not meant to. We are not given to compromise but instead we stand our ground. Not always easy because many of the elements that are against us because of Christ in us are also attractive to our flesh. But we are not alone.

Somehow we need to develop the mentality that we are not alone. Jesus did not give us new birth, anoint us and send us out as secret agents on our own. He did all that in plain sight of the enemy and stands with us. We are not alone because the life we have is in Jesus and he lives in us. We are never alone and we do not fight in our own strength. We do not stand the ground we have been given by using our own strength but instead we use the strength that is lent to us by our Lord. He knows exactly what we need for this fight.

What we can take courage from is knowing that Jesus knows what is going on even when we don't and he understands our limits:

In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words. (Romans 8:26)

Faith is trust. We cannot say that we have faith when we demonstrate so often that we don't trust. We are not required to have complete understanding of every situation but we are required to trust. When we trust we move forward in faith, never turning from the course set out before us. Trust says, "I know I am not in this alone, that I represent the King who I walk with, and that he is my strength and he will see me through everything I face." This is our confidence. This is our joy. This is our peace.

Whatever you are facing, whatever resistance, whatever persecution, whatever hardships, know you are not alone. Know that Jesus is lending you the strength and ability to overcome these things. Know that with Jesus we win. So don't give up but push through; fight on; keep pressing in. The Spirit is here to help us. Trust.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Don't Be Like Them

Being a follower of Jesus, should we live according to our opinion or the instructions of Jesus? Should we be directed by our society or the commandments of the one who we claim as King? Sometimes it seems that somewhere along our walk we get disconnected from the implications of the decision we freely made to follow Jesus. It was our choice. It was our choice to allow him to transform our life. It was our choice to experience the second birth. Yet, somewhere, somehow, many of us have left off our desire to live like Jesus and now desire for ourselves.

We aren't losing ground because our churches aren't big enough or that we don't have enough programs. It isn't because our youth rallies aren't cool enough or our pastors not entertaining enough. It is because we no longer pursue a desire to live for Jesus but instead chase after the priorities of our world. Let's isolate one verse while keeping it in it's context. Jesus said:

Don’t be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask. (Matthew 6:8)

The words of Jesus. A message for every age but especially for today. Don't be like them. Don't be like the rest of the world. Don't be like those who make life all about survival, possessions, working themselves to death. Don't be like those who store away treasures that they will never get to spend. Don't be like those who search for escape in the distractions of this world. Don't be like those who seek purpose in things that will have no value in eternity.

Jesus told us not to be like them but instead to spend our days seeking the things of the Kingdom. As citizens of this Kingdom, as children of our Father, we are to pursue and discover the priorities of our God, the things he considers to be important. If this does not attract you or have any interest for you, you should understand that you are not where you need to be with Jesus.

It's easy to get to that wrong place. It only takes a neglect of our relationship with Jesus, a neglect of God's Word, a neglect of prayer, a neglect of worship, a neglect of church. For a while we feel okay and everything seems fine and then we even start to lie to ourselves. But decide to be honest for a moment. Is Jesus still the greatest love of your life? Is your eternity the greatest priority? Is your love for people and concern for their salvation your greatest interest? Is your life about yourself or others? Are you distracted by the things of our society?

Don't be like them!

Now is not the time to faint and fall away. Now is not the time to sit and rest for a while. Now is not the time to become distracted. Time is short. Know the Father's heart and pursue those things.

Monday, December 15, 2014


As the restraints of forced righteousness falls away in our society we should be able to see a clearer distinction between believers and non-believers. Our problem is that believers have gotten so entrenched in the patterns of this world that we have lost sight that we are not part of it. We don't often take into consideration that we are citizens of the Kingdom. It doesn't mean that we are instantly perfect but it does mean that we are maturing in a certain direction. Or, at least we should be but many of us don't even understand the expectations of walking with Jesus. Let's consider one example.

Our walk with Jesus requires a certain level of discipline. In a culture that no longer values such personal disciplines it is easy to lose ourselves in the thought that it is good to speak our mind. We do want to be honest, don't we? The problem is that many of us lack the maturity to control our thinking, or I should say, to give up control to the Spirit. We often "speak our mind" and in so doing hurt the people we are suppose to love.

We are so entrenched in the culture of our age that we throw discipline to the wind and elect to embrace personal expression. Individual rights become the anthem of our age, but such an anthem flies in the face of Christianity, in the teaching of our Lord. James writes:

My dear friends, with our tongues we speak both praises and curses. We praise our Lord and Father, and we curse people who were created to be like God, and this isn’t right. (James 3:9-10)

If there is no difference between us and those who are not alive in Jesus there is a problem. The Word tells us again and again that we have died with Christ and we no longer live, but instead Christ lives in us. It tells us that the life we do live in these vessels we live by faith in Jesus, in what he has promised and taught. He taught that we are more through him, so where we failed in discipline in our flesh, through him we have victory. We are more than we were.

Love is now everything to us. We need to learn how Jesus defined love and how that love defined his actions and thoughts. We are more than we were and that is now defined by the love of Jesus. We know it is wrong to speak ill of anyone. Whether they are with or without Christ they were created by Father and as such are due love and respect. Our desire should be to see them saved not destroyed. Understanding this will go a long way in the discipline of our thoughts.

The thing to keep in mind is just because you think it, does not mean it needs to be spoken. As much as we are growing there is still parts of our old nature trying to hold on. We do not want to give those things life by speaking them into life. If there are wrong thoughts then we need to confess them to Jesus, repent of them and reject them. With discipline these parts that no longer belong to us will die but if we keep giving them life then we will never grow into the maturity to which we have been called.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Has God Chosen Some To Be Saved And Some To Be Lost?

I trust what Jesus says. I find it interesting what some people say expounding on the Scriptures but when it comes down to them and Jesus' words I will always choose Jesus' words. I know a few people who have married themselves to certain doctrines that are not found in the Word, that fly in the face of what Jesus said. One of these things is that our loving Father has decided who will be saved and who won't be. This means that no matter what some people decide, salvation will never be available to them.

Can we just review here what Jesus said?

"Then everyone who has faith in the Son of Man will have eternal life. 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. 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 3:15-18)

Look at it again. Jesus said "everyone" who has faith in him. Other translations says "whoever believes" in him. I don't need to go any further than these words. It is the promise I rely on, where I have placed my faith and trust, because of the one who said it.

My salvation is not a thing given to me because Yahweh has considered my favoured but because I believed in the one single act where Father sent the Son to die for the salvation of the entire world. Salvation is a free gift for everyone who decides to believe. We will be judged not according to our sins but according to whether we believed or not, whether we placed our faith in the Son of God, trusted his promises and accepted the gift.

Father has chosen to love the entire world of people, even in the midst of our rebellion, in all our ugliness, in all our guilt and shame. It is when we accept the promise that the promise is applied and everything is removed. None of this was done by me; my only part is to accept it, but it is my choice. Father has not chosen some to be saved and some to be condemned. He has chosen us all to be saved but it is up to us. He has given us a choice. That is what Jesus said and that is good enough for me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Being An Island Sucks

You are not meant to be alone. You are not meant to face life here on your own strength. You are not an island. You need people. More accurately, you need your brothers and sisters in Christ. That is how it was designed. It is a spiritual fact and when we fight against it, decide against it we are deciding against Yahweh. Don't do it.

A simple verse to put the truth in focus is:

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)

I make it a point not to argue against the words of Jesus. Even if I may not understand it at this moment I have found it is best policy simply to trust that Jesus is right.

There are a number of challenges with fellow Christians because each person is an individual and no one is perfect. We have certain expectations of each other and we all fail those expectations. We make mistakes, we hurt each other, we don't always follow Yahweh's instructions, we are sometimes selfish, we often try to manipulate things to our advantage. This causes hurt and when we are hurt the first thing we want to do is withdraw. This is natural to us. But we no longer allow our old nature to reign but instead support our new nature.

The first and most important aspect of this new nature is forgiveness. The only way the Body of Christ works is when forgiveness is always our first reaction. The only way we can be brothers and sisters is when we are liberal in our forgiveness. The only way we can make sense of anything is when we learn to forgive in the same manner we have been forgiven.

I am not talking about the forgiveness that says "I forgive but I will not trust you again". The forgiveness we have received from Father says "I forgive you and will continue to forgive you for eternity. I am making myself vulnerable to you and will absorb the pain in order to continue to forgive". Now if you want to talk about a definition of real love, this is it. It is that decision to not withdraw from the people who hurt us but to forgive them and to sacrifice ourselves for them, even if they hurt us again. This is love as defined by Jesus who told us to love each other as he has loved us.

If we choose to withdraw, to be alone, to isolate ourselves, it is because we have failed to understand what it is all about. It means we haven't surrendered our heart to Jesus but have simply paid lip service. This is not a physical or emotional response but a spiritual reality. Jesus transforms the surrendered heart, strengthens it to love as he has loved, unconditionally, with unending forgiveness, willing to be hurt countless times in vulnerability, always being healed by love. We are not an island and when Paul described the Church in 1 Corinthians 12 he ended it by explaining how this impossible thing was possible:

I want you to desire the best gifts. So I will show you a much better way. (1 Corinthians 12:31)

And then he gave us 1 Corinthians 13. Love is how it all works. Love makes the impossible work. Love provokes you to forgive those who hurt you and to draw close to them. These are the decisions we have to make. We have to decide not to withdraw, to stay close, and to make friends out of our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter the cost.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Either Believe Or Don't

I'm a simple guy who likes simple things and perhaps I over simplify my faith, but I don't believe so. I think faith comes down to simply believing Jesus. Christianity is not something you can pick pieces of and reject others. It's an all or nothing relationship. For example, you can't say that Jesus was a good man and yet reject his divinity. By rejecting his divinity you reject Jesus.

Too many Christians treat the Bible like a super market where they can pick out what they want and leave alone that which challenges them too much. Too many Christians are battling demons when demons have no authority over them. Too many Christians are an emotional mess when their heart belongs to Jesus. Too many Christians are frightened by tomorrow when tomorrow belongs to the Lord they trust and serve. It just doesn't add up. How can we say we believe one thing and yet react like we don't?

Here is a simple verse that is suppose to be part of who we are:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

So if this is what we are told, promised, why don't we do it? We put ourselves through so much, trying to find our own solutions when it has been promised that all we have to do is pray. Many of us testify to the fact that Jesus either gave us strength and wisdom to deal with what we faced or removed the "mountain" completely.

What is the sense of worshiping a God you aren't going to trust? What is the sense living to please him if we aren't going to obey him? What is the sense of being a "stand off" Christian when the full advantage our relationship is intimacy with Father?

Believe or don't believe; that is our freedom. Trust or don't trust; that is our decision. But don't be a hollow actor, saying you believe and trust but not actually following through on it. That is simply sad. Jesus made it clear that he only accepts our all. He is not interested in a portion or percentage of us. He requires all of our heart so then take advantage of the benefits of a whole hearted belief: Trust.

Pray and petition, with thanksgiving. Jesus said, ask, seek and knock and it will be given. If you are going to believe then believe it all. Don't live half-heartedly but with all your passion. Jesus loves you with all his passion so love him back the same way.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Does Jesus Want You To Be Rich?

"Ask Jesus whatever you want and you will get it." Kinda cheapens our faith, doesn't it? Reducing Jesus to a glorified Santa Claus distracts us from what really matters. In all Scripture we need to keep in mind that Father is busy preparing us for eternity. He will deny us things that he knows will damage us and he will take us through things he knows will increase us. We don't always have to like it but we should understand it is for our benefit. So when we push the idea that Jesus is here to give us whatever our selfishness desires we undermine true faith.

So let's consider what Jesus did tell us:

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." (John 15:7)

It is so easy to take one verse out of context of the rest of the gospel. We need to remember this came from Jesus who also told a rich man to go sell everything he had, give it to the poor and then come follow him. This is the Jesus who possessed nothing. Poverty is not the purpose here but putting earthly treasures in their proper place is. So what can we take from this verse?

First, it is centered in relationship: "Remain in me". The focus is not our comfort, our desires, our wants, but our relationship in Jesus. This is the Jesus who taught that he is the vine, we are the branches and Father is the gardener who does the pruning. We only have life through Jesus so we desire what he desires and his priorities become ours. We have a Kingdom focus and not a democracy focus. What the King commands is what happens.

His commands, direction, instruction and teaching become the sustenance, the bread, that we consume every day. His words guide us, increase us and direct us: And my words remain in you. We do not live for our own purpose any more so we would never think of asking for something to lavish on ourselves. Our purpose and desire is obedience to Jesus' commands, not because we are afraid but because our love for him provokes us to obedience:

"If you love me, keep my commands." (John 14:15)

It is in this context that Jesus tells us "ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you", because our focus is not on us but on Jesus. He is our desire so we are going to ask for the things that will assist us in serving him and in obeying his commands.

I believe one hundred percent that Father provides for our needs. I can testify to many miracles in which my family was provided for, simply because we prayed. But I cannot teach or support any teaching that twists God's Word to say that he wants us all rich, healthy and spoiled. But Jesus did tell us that Father will meet our needs without us needing to worry about it but we are to focus on the things of the Kingdom.

I have been through some rough times and I am sure I will go through more. Each time I have come to know Jesus more intimately, grown spiritually, have never missed a meal, remained housed and had clothes on my back and the same holds true for all my children. Ask, trust and go all the way with Jesus because he is the only one looking out for your eternity but make sure you know the Word in context of the Word.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is The Problem Simply That We Are Religiously Minded?

There is little doubt that there are challenges to get Christians beyond religious thinking into a vibrant relationship with Jesus. In some way I think it starts with a changing of the perspective of life. Is Jesus an aide to us so we can have a comfortable life here, or is Jesus the reason we live? Answering this will help us understand why people struggle in their Christianity.

Many mistakenly act as if Jesus is their "Get Out Of Jail Free" card. He is the ticket to a blissful eternal life but we get to do what we want here. Such a perspective tells us that people only know Jesus by theory and not personal relationship. Such people will struggle with trust, will be overcome by the struggles of this life and will often fail in their faith. These are those who will abandon Jesus in the storms of life. They say the right words but fail in the practical living.

Those who have entered into a relationship with Jesus have a simple understanding that they no longer live for themselves, no longer make their decisions on their own, no longer own anything and are ready to face anything trusting that Father has it all in his hands. We identify with Paul:

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me."

I realize that I am stuck on this verse because I think most Christians miss it. I think most of us don't spend enough time meditating on this one single verse:

"The life I live in this body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

I no longer live. I have given up all my rights. I live to please Father. The life I now live I do so by trusting Jesus and all his promises. I live by faith.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Not possible unless I have realized the truth of my giving myself to Jesus and accepting his sacrifice for my sins and the life he offers through the resurrection: I no longer live but Christ lives in me. We live by faith and people of faith are not overly concerned by the things of this earth. We know we are beautiful to Father and we are accepted by him.

Look at your life. Are you overly caught up in this culture? Are you overly concerned with your appearance? Are you affected by the opinions of others? Are there things you possess that you could not live without? Are you worried about your future? Are you occupied by more than just today? Are you hurt by the words of others? Or can you instead say that you no longer live but Christ lives in you; that you live what he wants; that his priorities are yours; that you are content with yourself and this life because it is all in the hands of Father?

Are you religiously minded or are you in an incredible loving relationship with Jesus? Is Jesus an aide to us so we can have a comfortable life here, or is Jesus the reason we live?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Mature Perspective

There are certain principles of Christianity that we know, understand and speak about a lot, but we don't necessarily understand them enough to put them into practice. I am not saying that Christianity is a matter of practicing certain behaviours. Instead it is a knowledge that certain behaviours belong to rebellion and others please Father. With this knowledge we desire to live in a way that pleases and honours Father even if we are powerless to do it. That desire is then empowered by the Spirit in us because we were made a new creation through Jesus, so we are changed bit by bit to be more like Jesus.

When I first started out with Jesus I was a very critical and judgmental person, as I find many new Christians are. It takes us a while to get our footing and to understand that how Father sees things is different then how we see it. We tend to see all the things people do wrong according to the Law. Father sees a creation he loves lost in rebellion against him. He sees a creation he wants to come back to him, to become his children. He sees with love. He would rather forgive than condemn and that is what we need to remember, for ourselves and others.

The struggle for Christians is the tension between forgiveness and justice. It sounds simple enough. If we have been forgiven we should forgive, which is what Jesus instructs us to do. He told some very powerful parables on the danger of accepting forgiveness but not offering forgiveness. Our problem is our sense of justice, wanting people who do wrong things against us to pay for those wrong things. It can take us a while to fully understand from our heart and not just our head how important it is to forgive as we have been forgiven but once the Spirit has made this a part of our character, we see everything differently.

As far as judgement is concerned, when we keep pushing in with Jesus, our perspective changes. We begin to realize that every person is susceptible to the rebellious nature of sin and we all mess up. Each of us is accountable to Jesus and what Jesus thinks is so much more important than anyone else. He knows our struggle and it is the reason that salvation is a gift of grace and not something that we earn. Because it is a gift based on Jesus' actions, the only way I cannot possess it is if I refuse it. This is true for me any everyone else.

With the truth of this accountability we need to apply this simple Scripture:

Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4)

With this shifting of perspective we become cheerleaders for our brothers and sisters instead of judge and jury. When we realize the greatness of Father's love for those who belong to him and even for those who don't, we tread with respect in the lives of others.

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We are all at different levels of maturity, knowledge and understanding. We are all wrong in some part of our understanding but we are all growing. I try to keep in mind what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi:

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. (Philippians 3:15)

We all belong to Jesus and where we are wrong Jesus will bring correction and we are not to judge those who belong to Jesus because Jesus is going to bring them into victory. And we are glad for it. Our great desire, along with the salvation of everyone, is that everyone who is saved will be victorious over everything in their lives. If this is not yet your desire it will be as you grow into it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christianity Is Not Cheap

We live in a world where the great message is that you can be and do whatever you want. Gone are the absolutes; the absolute good and the absolute evil. Now is a time of acceptance, tolerance, accommodating, respect, and broad-mindedness. We are an open society that says, "As long as it isn't hurting anyone you can do whatever you want". And it is in this environment that people create a god after their own image.

If that's what you want then go ahead but don't call yourself Christian while doing it. Christianity is not a "do what you want" religion. It is not a feel good system. It is not a something that has been developed and proclaimed based on people's opinions. It is not cheap; not by a long shot.

Christianity was birthed in the blood of our Saviour who gave his all so that we could be offered it all. It has continued in the blood of those who gave their all in return, who were not afraid of death and who refused to compromise on the truth. They sought nothing for themselves in this world because they had already received everything through Jesus Christ.

Christianity is not shaped and molded by popular thinking. It is not impacted by society. It continues on the foundation of the Bible, the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures that are the only revelation Yahweh has given of himself. It doesn't matter if you hold a different opinion. You are free to have your opinion but if it goes against the revelation of God then it is not Christian but remains your opinion.

As a follower of Jesus, centered on a relationship with him, we stand on the Word of God. If not, we stand on nothing, just a thought or opinion, which doesn't amount to much. Keep in mind that as a follower of Jesus our reality is summed up in this statement:

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. This life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself to me." (Galatians 2:20)

If we don't start with this then we are trying to follow principles without a relationship with the giver of those principles. It doesn't matter how good you are in following those principles, if you can't testify that your life exists only in Jesus, then there is no eternal value in what you do. Salvation does not come from what you do but from relationship with Jesus. What we do comes from this relationship but the relationship starts when we accept that Jesus died for us so our rebellion against Yahweh could be forgiven and now offers us life through him, in relationship.

Christianity is different from all other offerings out there and it costs everything. It is not cheap. It does not allow you to do what you want. It involves your death and a new life through Jesus. This is Christianity. Anything else is false and has no eternal value at all.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Just Do It!

How does anyone achieve anything great? One word: Discipline. If you want to achieve anything in this world it is going to require discipline and hard work. I am sure you have been told this countless times but it still remains true. You want good marks? Discipline yourself to take great notes and to study daily. You want to succeed at work? Discipline yourself to show up on time, know your job well, and work hard. You want to mature spiritually? Discipline yourself to ...

Obviously our spiritual walks start by accepting an invitation we did not earn and we certainly don't deserve. Jesus invited us into an all encompassing relationship with him that will change us from the inside out. Although we have done nothing to achieve this relationship, there are steps we need to take to grow and mature in this relationship. The first step is to learn.

Learning is an important step in everything. Whether it is education, driving, parenting, work, your spiritual walk, you need to learn to progress. For Christians that includes the disciplines involving the Bible. The entire revelation Yahweh has given us concerning himself is found in the Scriptures so it is vital that we know and understand them. The instruction given to Joshua still holds true for every Christian today:

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." (Joshua 1:8)

It is great to talk about it but it won't happen by itself. We need to develop reading, meditating, memorizing and studying the Word. That's right, reading it occasionally is not going to help. That's like showing up for class or work once in a while and thinking you are going to understand everything. The only way to know and understand the Word is to be in the Word "day and night".

Like any discipline, it may be difficult to get going, especially the memorizing part, but once it is going you will discover how much it changes you, and you will long for it. Because of the Spirit using what we learn to form us, there is power in the Word of God. Without it you cannot, I say it again, cannot, develop spiritually. Just remember:

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." (John 14:21a)

In our relationship with Jesus, doing is a must. If we do not do then the learning has no value.

So sit down and work out a plan. Decide what you are reading and when. Decide a time to meditate on the Word (yes, it is different from reading and studying). Work out your plan for memorization. There are some excellent apps for your phone. Get involved with a group study and enjoy discussing what you are learning. You need this. Please, trust me on this, you need to do this to see the changes you long for.

Be a disciplined Christian; open your Bible and start today.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What Use Is The Bible?

We live in an age of instant information. You can find out about most things with a few key strokes. But not all information is good. Not all sources are reliable. Along with it being the age of information it is also the age of misinformation. Not only do we have access to more of the truth, we also have access to much fault-filled thinking. So how do we judge the truth?

It will not surprise you if I say the only way to judge the truth in all this noise is the Word of God. Of course there is a huge move to discredit the Christian Scriptures because if it can be removed then there will be nothing to stop human faulty wisdom. But for those who call Jesus Lord the Bible is our only measuring rod. It is fine if science and other sources of knowledge confirm the Scriptures but we don't need such confirmation because the Spirit confirms it in us.

Of course there will be many who will not accept the testimony of the Spirit because they reject him too. So if they reject everything of Yahweh how can they expect to see him? They don't and they don't want to, so I have no interest in their opinion of God's Word. Here is the value of the Scriptures:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)

Don't read it too quickly. Look at the order. First we use it for teaching. We have to tell people who Jesus is and what he has done for us. They need to discover the wonder of his person and his actions. We don't teach people from our opinion or what we think but according to what Yahweh has revealed of himself through the Word. We teach the Jesus of the Bible not of popular culture.

Then we use it for rebuking false teachings that are based on the self-important wisdom of man. To rebuke something is to sternly disapprove. So we use the Word to understand what is disapproved by Yahweh. It is not based on our opinion or wisdom but on Yahweh's definition of what is not approved. But we don't leave it there.

We also use the Word to correct. We don't just disapprove but we set it right with the truth. We don't just criticize but also show what is right, what is approved, what Yahweh says is his will and desire for us. It is setting aside the old "wineskin" to put in place the new "wineskin". Those who are interested in truth are not trying to defend what they have accepted as truth but instead desire what Yahweh has revealed as truth.

Then there is the training. There are specific trainers in the Body of Christ as taught in Ephesians 4:

"And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints in ministry ..." (Ephesians 4:11-12)

These trainers use the Word to train us how to live in Jesus. We do not live for ourselves but for the will of Father. However, our flesh has not given up and continues to fight for dominance. These trainers help us to learn to keep the flesh in place to allow the Spirit of Christ to have authority over us.

If we are trying to serve Jesus without the Word then we have nothing to measure what we are doing, whether it is right or wrong. approved or disapproved, truth or false. The Christian must understand that the Word is the game plan, the battle orders, the thing that reveals who Father is, who we are, what he has done for us, and how we are to live for him. So don't try to live your day without out it or you may end up in some very wrong places.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Let's Get It Right

There is a difference between trying to love Jesus by obeying him and obeying him because you love him. We misunderstand this all the time. We hear Jesus say, "If you love me you will obey my commandments" and what we end up hearing is "Obey me to love me". What Jesus was doing was giving us a means to measure our heart condition: If we love him our great desire will be to obey him. If it is not our desire then we know something is wrong.

What we often end up doing is trying to conform our behaviour to Jesus' commandments instead of allowing our heart to be transformed by his love. It is always about the heart condition. It is always about love. Jesus stated that he who has been forgiven much will love much and this is really the starting premise to the most incredible relationship you could ever experience. If we realize the wonder and depth of his forgiveness, we will not have to try to love Jesus, it will flow abundantly from us. If we do not realize the amount we have been forgiven, we will try hard but always fail to love as he desires us to love, and will will be mere actors in our obedience.

Obedience always comes from a heart changed by love, it is never a matter of obedience changing the heart. Jesus taught a lot about this:

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (John 14:21)

Don't rush that verse; read it over a few times. In fact, it would do you well to hide it in your heart by memorizing it today. It is another key foundational understanding in our journey of faith. Obedience is not a means to an end but a measuring post to the condition of our heart. Obedience to Yahweh tells us all is well, that our love is authentic. Don't miss the results of a surrendered heart of love: We are loved by the Father and Jesus, and Jesus reveals himself to us.

It is simple, true and too often misunderstood. Don't obey Jesus because he is King and you feel forced. Yahweh doesn't force us to do anything and everything acceptable to him must come from our free choice. Instead, learn to love him so that your obedience is a fruit of that love and you will discover greater truths and more exciting things than you thought possible. Let's get it right.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Spirit Is Willing But The Flesh Is Weak

Have you ever noticed how hard it can be to resist certain sins in our lives? We really want to get away from it, we pray, we confess, we repent but as soon as the opportunity presents itself we are right back into it. There is no sense pretending that we are perfect or that we have got a grip on everything in our life. If someone happens to look behind the right door they will discover what a mess some parts of our lives are in. Thank the Lord that Jesus knows and understands, and that this life is about growth and not perfection.

When Jesus found his disciples sleeping after he asked them to keep watch and pray during the most difficult moment of his life on this earth, what did he say?

"Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41, NKJV)

We recognize that he was speaking to his disciples but he was also speaking to himself. Jesus was faced with temptation in that moment, not because he was unwilling to obey Father but because his flesh wanted nothing to do with the pain of torture. He overcame that temptation by his love for Father and endured the torture that lead to and encompassed the cross.

Jesus knows exactly what we are facing when we are confronted by temptation and everything in us is screaming "run" but our flesh stays put. Someone said it this way: "To overcome temptation one should not run from it but run to Jesus." It may seem like a subtle difference but it is a big one. It indicates where we have put our eyes. If our eyes are on Jesus we will overcome but if we are looking to the temptation we will be overcome. Consider what Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians in Rome:

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1, NIV, 1986)

Our bodies are the weakest part of the process because our bodies will not be redeemed until Jesus' return. We have a new mind and heart but we are stuck in this weak vessel, which speaks loudly to Yahweh's grace and glory. If only we could see ourselves as living sacrifices, not living for our own pleasure but as servants of our God. If we could see the turning away from temptation as being part of our worship, our eyes would be focused on the object of our worship and not on the thing pulling on our flesh. John the apostle was very familiar with this subject as we recognize his message to us :

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4, NKJV)

Jesus' authority in us is greater than any spirit or temptation that belongs to this world or the evil one. Because he has overcome he has made it possible for us to overcome. Be careful where you fix your eyes.

As servants of the Creator of all things, our desire ought to be like Jesus in our attitude of service. No sacrifice is too big or too small considering the mercies he has shown us. Each day, let us offer not only our heart and mind but our bodies as well, as we get our focus off of ourselves and onto our Father. Have an overcoming day in service to our King.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why Are You So Different From Everyone Else?

There are some Bible verses that have an ability to shift our understanding so dramatically that we are unable to see life in the same manner ever again. Or, those same verses can blend in with all the other verses as we read them over again and again with no affect. It really depends on our expectations and attitude as we approach the Word of Yahweh. Let's pick Galatians 2:20 as an example:

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Now either that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up or it didn't. It either just reminded you how different you are from everyone else or it didn't. It either put all your problems in perspective or it didn't. Christianity is not a religion like other religions. We are not trying to achieve some goal or some point of happiness or bliss. We have received everything we need in Jesus and the only thing that is happening is that we are growing into that relationship.

What other religion declares that all it's subscribers are dead, no longer living? What other religion declares that all of it's followers are possessed and only have life because it is shared with them by the one who possesses them? What other religion declares that the object of worship gave up his life so those who believed would gain a life eternal through him?

Christianity is not a code to live by, a set of rules or regulations, or a philosophy to understand. Christianity is the death of one thing and the birth of another. It is the death of all we were, a cutting off, a casting out, a separation from the old so that we can become the new, reborn, clothed anew, changed for eternity by the one who laid down his life so we could gain it all. Christianity is about dying in what we were and now living something entirely new in Jesus.

We have no life outside of Jesus. His desire has always been obedience to Father and so now that has become our desire because we live in him. What is important to him is important to us. We possess his mind and his heart because we are possessed by him. We voluntarily gave up our old life to gain this new one and now everything is new, everything has been changed, and we will never be like we were ever again.

So yes, some Bible verses open our eyes in a dramatic way to understand what has transpired with the surrender of our life. Now we are in the deep fellowship that Father has desired to have with us from the beginning. We cannot live like those who belong to this world because we now have the mind, the perspective of Jesus Christ. We have been crucified with Jesus. We no longer live but Christ lives in us. The life we live in these bodies we live by faith in the Son of God. We have been changed, transformed. We will never be like we were ever again.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Keeping Your Eyes On The Prize

I write a lot about perspective because perspective matters. How we see the world shapes our understanding and our decision making process. We all have limitations to our perspective which means we all have limitations to our understanding. A two year old sees life much differently than a 6 foot tall adult. Someone in India is going to see life differently than someone in France. Someone who has traveled the world will see the world differently than someone who has never been outside of their hometown.

Christians need to understand that they see everything differently than those who are not in Christ. Part of our struggle is maintaining this different perspective because the perspective of the world is overwhelming. It is also difficult for those Christians who do not want to stand out but would rather just melt into the background of every day life, because our perspective makes us stand out. Remember this fact about what we have experienced:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Our values, priorities, goals, direction, purpose are all contrary to those of this world because we have a Kingdom perspective, one that is oriented to eternity and to our King. We are not self-made, self-directed, self-purposed. Ours is the perspective of a gladsome servant, happy to lay down our lives in whatever manner the King requires. Our goal is not a happy life in this place but a joyful one in eternity with our King. It was this fact that enabled Paul the apostle to write:

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

I think most of us understand what Paul called "light affliction" which makes any of our days look like walks in the park. The degree of difficulty doesn't matter nor does it matter that we are free of difficulty. All that matters is that we maintain the proper perspective, "while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which as not seen".

To maintain the proper perspective we need to be in the Word daily, enjoy intimate moments with Jesus, and refresh ourselves in the fellowship of believers. Do not wall yourself in from the world because it is to the world we have been sent, but neither look for support, encouragement or refreshing there. You cannot be encouraged by a contrary perspective and maintain yourself in the Lord. You cannot serve two masters. Continue to refresh your proper perspective in the Lord and keep your eyes on the prize.

Monday, November 3, 2014

We Are Not Without Hope

Have you ever seen anyone happy about going through tough times? We all face them. We all have had our hearts broken, torn apart, stomped all over. We all have faced financial challenges and lost sleep not knowing what we were going to do. We all have faced some sort of bullying and intimidation. We have all been students and had to face the impossibility of it all. We all have had to walk through those dark valleys not knowing where we were going and what it would result in. But have you ever seen anyone glad to be in such times?

We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 4:3-5)

We take pride in our problems? Paul the apostle obviously came from a different planet. Our perhaps he lived in a completely different reality, with a different set of priorities shaped by a vastly different perspective. Most of us will never live what Paul went through and yet we have been invited to live in his same reality; a reality based on the principles of Jesus Christ, governed by a set of spiritual laws provoked in us by the Holy Spirit, made possible by the re-birth we experience through Jesus. Let's consider three statements Paul made before this declaration concerning troubles.

Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (v. 1)

Our new reality states that we have all that we need in Jesus. Because we are guaranteed eternal life, the forgiveness of our sins, we have peace. When we understand the value of this great gift and its importance over everything else, nothing can disturb the eternal peace that is ours.

We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him. (v. 2a)

Praise the Lord, nothing he has done for us is dependent on us. We are in his grace. All things are covered. When we mess up all we have to do is confess it to him to keep the relationship honest but the sin is already covered. It may feel awkward at first because all religion says that you have to pay penance, that there must be some cost for that sin but Jesus paid our cost. We stand in his grace. Oh the wonderful peace we possess.

We boast in the hope of God’s glory. (v. 2b)

Amen! Ours is a living hope every day. We get to experience hope in the best and worst of times. If the sun fails to rise today we still possess hope because Jesus Christ has done it all and we possess his promises. And all of this is worked out in us as we mature in the challenges of living in a fallen world.

We are being perfected for eternity by Father. He is using everything we experience to benefit us. We are in a process of growing up, maturing, so we can grow into the fullness of Jesus. This is why we can laugh and sing and rejoice when the storms are upon us, because we know who Jesus is, who we are in him and what we possess. Trouble benefits us because Father transforms it that way. Trouble produces stuff in us. Trouble produces, endurance. Endurance produces character. Character produces hope. It is a vastly superior reality in which we walk with Jesus.

You are not without hope!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Are You Sure?

How sure are you of your salvation? I worry that in this age of shallow spirituality, people are failing to understand the assurance of their salvation and believe that they can become "unsaved" in an instant. But our salvation has never been dependent on us except for the decision to believe. I know I have been harping on this all week but if we do not understand the nature of our salvation the enemy will always be able to rob us of our peace.

Abraham is the definition of salvation by grace. This is how his righteousness (for the sake of a simple definition, a right relationship with Yahweh) is described:

He was fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised. Therefore, it was credited to him as righteousness. (Romans 4:21-22)

"Fully convinced" is the phrase we should use in examining our own faith. Are we fully convinced when Jesus said:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. (John 3:16)

No other requirements than to believe. It is when we believe that a transformation takes place and we become a new creation. These are two different issues but salvation is a simple matter of belief. It is not dependent on our behaviour or actions or thought process. Believe. Such belief should produce faith which is to act on your belief, as Abraham did.

Paul the apostle told us that there is a direct relationship here between Abraham and us:

But the scripture that says it was credited to him wasn’t written only for Abraham’s sake. It was written also for our sake, because it is going to be credited to us too. It will be credited to those of us who have faith in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Romans 4:23-24)

And that is the assurance of our salvation. It is not dependent on behaviour, we can't earn it, we didn't buy it, it was a gift purchased for us by Jesus. So you aren't saved today and tomorrow you are not. This assurance is important as we grow and mature spiritually. We no longer focus on our salvation but growing strong in Jesus, of allowing the transformation to take place, to obey the conviction of the Spirit, to see Jesus become more and us become less.

Jesus said our sins are forgiven by his sacrifice. He said we only need to believe him in order to be saved. This is the assurance of our salvation. There is no other path, no other source, no other condition. We were the enemy of Yahweh and he sacrificed himself, laying down his life, so that we may be reconciled to him. You are not perfect but he is. You cannot measure up to him but by his grace he has declared that you do. C'est tout! It is finished.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The God Of The Impossible

So you say you have faith. Good. But does that faith give Yahweh permission to do the impossible in your life? Not the impossible focused on you but the impossible focused on Father's will and the mission you have been given. Do you have faith that Father will work his will through you even if it requires the impossible? Faith is living what you say you believe. Do you believe Yahweh is the God of the impossible?

The evidence presented in the Scriptures and through many people's testimonies declares that Yahweh is indeed the God of the impossible. Abraham is a clear example of this fact, and this man is considered the father of our faith; a faith that puts our beliefs into action:

So Abraham is our father in the eyes of God in whom he had faith, the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that don’t exist into existence. (Romans 4:17)

The impossible. And because Abraham lived such faith, he had hope when it looked impossible:

When it was beyond hope, he had faith in the hope that he would become the father of many nations, in keeping with the promise God spoke to him. (v. 18)

The impossible. Are you so convinced of Yahweh that you cast aside all doubt and live by his promises?

Without losing faith, Abraham, who was nearly 100 years old, took into account his own body, which was as good as dead, and Sarah’s womb, which was dead. He didn’t hesitate with a lack of faith in God’s promise, but he grew strong in faith and gave glory to God. He was fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised. (v. 19-21)

In the flesh it looked impossible for Yahweh to fulfill his promise but Abraham had come to know him as "the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that don't exist into existence." So Abraham was "fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised". It wasn't just that he believed Yahweh but he believed in the face of physical evidence that declared it impossible. Not only did he believe in the face of his reality but he acted on this belief so that it became faith. And this pleased Yahweh:

Therefore, it was credited to him as righteousness. (v. 22)

It is with this same faith that we receive the promise of salvation and act on that promise. It is by faith that we are saved, not by works. It is believing Jesus and what he has done for us and living that promise as our reality today. As Isaac was the deposit guaranteeing what was to come, so is the Holy Spirit to us. This is also the faith that is applied to every promise given to us by Jesus, even in the face of a reality that declares it impossible. Does this describe your faith? For you, is he the God who calls things that don't exist into existence? Do you live this reality of the Kingdom of Heaven?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

You Don't Pay For A Gift Given To You

Your grandparents come by for a visit. During their visit they present you with a beautiful gift. You are moved by their love for you and put great value on this wonderful thing they have done for you. Imagine now that you turn around and offer them money for their gift. How do you think that would make them feel? Would it not cheapen their gift of love? Could you even imagine doing this? It is what we do with Father almost every day.

Salvation is a gift. It is a gift of grace offered to us, the enemy of Yahweh. Even though we were in rebellion against his authority, he reached out in a great act of love and offered us an escape from the power of sin and forgiveness for all of our offenses including any future ones. As his enemy, we have deserved none of it, yet in grace he offered it.

This is fantastic but then we cheapen it in our attitude in accepting it. We don't seem to believe it as we continue to cry out for forgiveness, as we try to atone for our sins, as we try to bribe Father with our goodness. We confuse the fruit of righteousness with the price of salvation. There is no price for salvation because Jesus paid it for us.

Paul the apostle, the great teacher of this grace, used Abraham as an example. In fact, Paul refers to Abraham as the father of our faith because he is the first to have lived such faith:

So what are we going to say? Are we going to find that Abraham is our ancestor on the basis of genealogy? Because if Abraham was made righteous because of his actions, he would have had a reason to brag, but not in front of God. What does the scripture say?Abraham had faith in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Romans 4:1-3)

It was credited to him. The simple fact is that Jesus saved you because there is nothing you could do to save yourself. Nothing. All of your sin has been covered, even the future stuff. That is hard for us to grasp but it is the reality of our salvation. It does not mean that we cannot lose our salvation. If we were ever stupid enough to deny Jesus, to turn our back and to enter into rebellion again, we would be lost. But sin alone does not affect our salvation when we are of such a heart to confess it because we don't want it to abide in us. We don't need to seek forgiveness because it has been forgiven but we do need to confess it to be free from it.

As to the clarity of understanding that this is a free gift that cannot be earned or purchased by good living and sacrifice, Paul uses this illustration:

Workers’ salaries aren’t credited to them on the basis of an employer’s grace but rather on the basis of what they deserve. But faith is credited as righteousness to those who don’t work, because they have faith in God who makes the ungodly righteous. (v. 4-5)

If we could finally grasp this we might actually discover the quality and depth of the peace that Jesus has given to us. Only don't rest at the foot of the cross but instead press on to grow in maturity and power. We are called as warriors, to lay down our lives for the enemy of Yahweh because he wants to see everyone saved. Knowing our salvation is sure, go out today to do good for the sake of others.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's Time To Start Enjoying The Ride

One of the hardest things for a Christian to accept and live is that salvation is free. Sure, we know it because we can read it for ourselves. We know that sin had mastery over us, enslaved us, and without being aware of it, we were powerless against it. In that state we thought we were in control of our lives and our behaviour. We understand that we had to be rescued, made free from the authority of sin in order to grasp the love of our Father. We understand that this was done by Jesus on the cross. We understand but do we live it?

Can you accept that by his actions on the cross Jesus saved you; that there is nothing you have to do to contribute to this rescue aside from believing and accepting it? True, we don't deserve it and find it mind-boggling that Father would even desire to do this for us but it doesn't change the truth.

What happens to our bragging? It’s thrown out. With which law? With what we have accomplished under the Law? No, not at all, but through the law of faith. We consider that a person is treated as righteous by faith, apart from what is accomplished under the Law. (Romans 3:27-28)

Living a good life does not add anything to the free gift of salvation. Reading your Bible, praying and attending church has to do with growing in your relationship with Jesus which is a separate issue from your salvation. All of your sins, past, present and future have been covered by the blood spilled on the cross all those years ago. You did nothing to contribute to it; it was all Jesus.

There is a difference between spiritual growth and salvation. We do not grow into our salvation but we do work out our salvation daily. We do grow into a more intimate relationship with Jesus. You have been forgiven because of Jesus' actions. All your sins (past, present and future) have been washed away, removed, forgotten. If you sin today, for the sake of a right heart with Father, you need to confess it, repent of it, but understand it has already been forgiven. Remember the Prodigal Son.

Stop beating yourself up over your sin; you are growing out of it. Simply allow your desire to change from your flesh pleasures to our heavenly delights. Stop looking at the things of this world and fix your mind and heart on things above. Pursue greater intimacy with Jesus and stop trying to earn your way. The ticket has been bought and delivered. Enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

United By The Blood

The beauty of the Church is that it is not homogeneous. It can't be. You and I are now family, no matter where we live, what we have done, what we look like. In the same worship center we will find police officers and ex-criminals, politicians and voters, the wealthy and the poor, the elderly and students. In many churches you will find people who speak all kinds of different languages, different skin colours, different origins. But regardless of our differences we have one thing in common: The grace offered through Jesus.

When we live in the Spirit the Church is a thing of great beauty; when we live by the flesh our differences make it an ugly place. It is vital that we understand that the Church cannot exist according to the flesh. It is not a club, a thing of business, something of this world. The Church is not a thing to be managed by a board of elders. It is a living thing that has life through the Spirit. Without the Spirit there is no life and it is an institution like any other institution of man.

As members of this living Body we are united by the Spirit under the headship of Jesus and this one thing must be remembered:

All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)

That is something else we have in common: We have all been found wanting by Yahweh. We have all fallen short of his standards. None of us can get there because we have all been in rebellion to him; we have all sinned. It doesn't matter about any of our differences, no one is better than anyone else because all sin is in rebellion to Yahweh. However, Jesus changed all that.

Jesus gave us something better to have in common with each other. Jesus paid the price so grace could be applied to all of us and in this grace all of us are treated as righteous, regardless of our past, regardless of our sin. In the Church there is no one better than another, no one great, no one small, no one more privileged than another. There is no male or female. There is no rich and poor. There is no colour. There is only us and our relationship with Jesus. This is the Church, the Body of Christ.

To anyone without Jesus, the Church is a bizarre place, filled with a collage of people. It is not homogeneous in the flesh but it is in what cannot been seen by the eye. In Jesus we are all the same, we are all children of Father and we are all covered by the blood of the Lamb. What was impossible for man was possible for Yahweh. We are family.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Do You Have To Do To Be Saved?

How is a person saved from the eternal damnation we are all heading toward? Is it by paying money to the church? Is it by living a good life, treating everyone kindly, doing good deeds? Is it by praying, reading your Bible, going to church? Is it by doing anything?

Salvation involves doing but not as we may first think. To start with, all the doing was done by Jesus. Everything that needed to be done was done by Jesus. There was nothing we could do so Jesus came and did it. There is a little bit of doing on our part but that doing is simply to believe. To believe Jesus is who he says he is and to believe that he did what he said he did.

He was not a good man. He was not a prophet. He was not an early version of Gandhi. He was not a wise man teaching about love. He was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, the one who could pay the price we could not pay, to do what we could not do. But it is a useless sacrifice if we do not believe.

Jesus' words:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Not that "everyone won't perish" but "everyone who believes in him won't perish". He has done it all but we have to believe. Is this promise applied only to the Jews or a select group? The word "everyone" deals with that. Paul the apostle also made this matter clear:

God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. (Romans 3:22)

The word "faith" is used here as a step beyond belief. Faith is belief in action. When we live by faith we live our lives in the belief that Jesus is the sacrifice that paid for all our sins and now we are saved from the eternal consequences of our sins. Salvation is not earned, cannot be bought, is found nowhere else other than through the sacrificial Lamb, who is Jesus. It is the reason this Lamb told us:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Now everyone is left with the choice to believe or not. And that is all you need to do to be saved; believe. What happens to you after you choose to believe is another story.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Killing Our Wounded

Where did we go wrong in the Church? When did we actually start expecting and demanding perfection from people? When did we start believing that perfection was possible? Why are we ever surprised or shocked when a brother or sister stumbles? And why this act of self-righteousness; as if any of us could ever cast the first stone?

We are on a journey and that journey is a progression. It is not a slow steady curve on some kind of graph. It is a series of ups and downs and ups as we slowly grow and mature. A child does not learn to walk without falling. Even mature runners will occasionally fall. Considering that we are all just one decision away from sinning, none of us can afford to think that we are perfect. Being aware of our imperfections means we are willing to seek help when we need it.

Here is the fact: We all sin:

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. (Romans 3:9)

These are Paul the apostle's words as he describes Yahweh's judgement and the place for the Law. We do not need to sin as we have been freed from that authority over us and have been placed under Christ's authority. We have been given the power to overcome all temptation, but often our flesh is weak. There are all kinds of weak points, when we are tired, discouraged, confused, afraid. If we are strong in Christ then these moments are easy to overcome, which is why we should always be strong in Christ. But when we neglect the relationship these moments seem like mountains. At these times our flesh wants to take us in one direction and our spirit in another. We pray that maturity gives us the ability to choose the spirit over the flesh but sometimes we fail.

We need to recognize this in order to understand the importance of receiving and giving grace. Just as all of our sins have been covered by the sacrifice of Jesus, we need to cover the sins of our brothers and sisters. Before restoration can happen we must respond with grace and forgiveness. In order to create an atmosphere of repentance, where people are not afraid to confess their sins, we need to have a place of love, acceptance, forgiveness and a desire to see everyone healed and restored.

How can we reach out to a dying world in love when we don't know how to love our own? We tell the world to come to Jesus, to trust him for healing but instead of seeking healing for our fallen, we seek their destruction. Crazy.

Admitting sin is the first step to healing. Admitting that we, the Church, are not perfect is the first step to creating an atmosphere of grace. We must hear Jesus when he said that he did not come to condemn but to save. We need to re-vision why he left us here and what he told us to do. Perhaps we could start with his instruction to love each other as he has loved us.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Jesus Is All I Need

Things are changing quickly in our society. The social norms I grew up with are fading under the pressure for individual rights to choose what each person considers to be right and wrong. In this age of social media, it seems one week of pressure can bring about a wave of changed opinion. Obviously people do not have deep convictions and will change with the changing wind. So I wonder, if everyone changed their mind about Yahweh and stopped believing, would he cease to exist?

Perhaps a dumb question but it is the attitude of those who are trying to do away with faith in Yahweh from our society They want us to be our own gods, to make up our own morality, to redefine everything, throwing away the commands of our Creator. What is happening isn't new but it may be new to the age in which we live. So if they were to succeed, would Yahweh cease to be?

For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. (Romans 3:3-4)

Those who would destroy all faith on earth fail to understand our response to Yahweh's faithfulness. Even if they are successful in convincing those who are sitting on the fence right now, there are those of us who will never turn our back on the One who is always faithful to who he is. If he did not exist, was not faithful, was not every day present, was not involved with us every day, was not compassionate, merciful, overflowing with love, perhaps then they would have a chance to do what they want to do. But to us who deeply believe, Yahweh is all this and more.

It sure seems that the world is falling apart and the Church is being destroyed but the world is going as Jesus said it would choose to go, and the weak believers are doing exactly what Jesus said they would do. There are no surprises for Yahweh. He's seen it all and he has laid down his plans and we are in those plans. We are a people of great hope and joy because of Jesus Christ. This hope and joy are real because Yahweh is faithful.

Faith will exist at Jesus' return because Yahweh is faithful. There will be dark days and we may question a lot but none of it will change Yahweh's faithfulness. None of it will keep him from being him. We do not cling to the Church, we cling to Christ. We do not find hope in the world, we find hope in Jesus. We serve Christ through the Church and we serve Christ in the world, but it will always be Christ's faithfulness that will keep us going through it all. Stand firm.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Do You Have The Circumcision Of The Heart?

Are you a Christian because you go to church? Are you a Christian because you read your Bible? Are you a Christian because you do good to others? Most of us would quickly say no because we know that these activities do not provide salvation. We say it, we know it, but still many of us fall back on the false security of such activities. And then there are the many who call themselves Christian because they were born to that tradition but have no real knowledge of Jesus and do not possess salvation.

We are a people who find security in the physical more than the spiritual. We find security in doing something, touching something, seeing something which is the reason we are attracted to the simplicity of religious ceremonies and activities. But that is not the first step with Yahweh. It is like putting the cart before the horse. What matters to Father is the condition of your heart, the relationship, the acceptance of his free gift through Jesus.

The trouble Paul the apostle had with the Jews is the same problem we have with religious Christians. The Jews trusted the Law above their obedience to it. Paying lip service to the Law was more important to them than obedience to Yahweh. Sound familiar?

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)

Christianity is not a tradition. Our heavenly Father does not have grandchildren. In order to be a follower of Jesus Christ we must have a real and growing relationship with him. To be a child of Yahweh each individual person must understand and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, turning our back on our rebellion and embracing the forgiveness of our Father. We cannot be physically born into the family but must be spiritually reborn through Jesus Christ.

Going to church will not save you. Reading your Bible will not save you. Doing good will not save you. Being born into a Christian family will not save you. Only encountering Jesus, repenting of your rebellion and accepting his forgiveness, confessing him as Lord and Saviour, will allow Jesus to save you. If you don't understand the difference, please find a mature Christian to speak with. This is life and death.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Do They Say There Is No God Because Of You?

Being religious in our thinking is no help to anyone. For a Christian, to be religious in our mind is when the head becomes more important than the heart; when our intellect is more important than our compassion; when rules become more important than mercy. It is easy to become religious but not so easy to be like Jesus. We can fault the Muslims and the Jews for being trapped in a law that they cannot fulfill but the Church is falling into that same trap.

Paul the apostle pointed out that there was no one like a good Jew and pointed out their attitude:

Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. (Romans 2:17-20)

When we fail to remember what Jesus has saved us from we can fall into this place of self-imposed instructor. We think it is our role to demonstrate righteousness to a world struggling under its own filth. But Paul asks another question of these "teachers":

You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? (v. 21-23)

You who preach against the sins of this world, do you also sin? Can any of us afford to cast that first stone? Do you not remember your past? Do you not remember what you were? And who made the difference? Did you save yourself, or was it Jesus who saved you even though you were his enemy? Now here is the punch:

For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written. (v. 24)

Is our judgmental attitude and our failure to walk what we talk causing people to blaspheme, to say there is no God, to consider that the Church is a joke? Would attitudes be different if we truly had the desire to be like Jesus, to be compassionate, merciful, forgiving, where relationship becomes more important than rules. We need to ask ourselves if we are here to be law enforcement or representatives of the greatest Advocate we could ever know. Are we trying to hold the failing world to a greater standard than what we are able to live?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Practical Guide To Living The Word

My wife has finally decided to get her driver's license. Just because we don't have a car doesn't mean a license is not important. In our province in Canada the government requires all drivers to take a year long course which includes theory and practical. My wife must attend classes where they discuss driving techniques along with highway laws, then she gets two hours with a driving instructor where she must put what she learned into practice. It is not unlike the Church.

Imagine how useless it would be if my wife attended class but never had the opportunity to put the theory into practice. Her theory classes would be a waste of time and money. Yet this is exactly what we find in the Church. We have tons of sermons, great teaching and incredible training opportunities in small groups and other avenues but it is all useless unless we put what we are taught into practice.

This is a tricky subject for Christians because we know it is not our actions that save us but the single act of Jesus on the cross that has made salvation available to us. It is not what we do but what he did. Yet there is more to it than just salvation. Consider our Father's heart:

For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified. (Romans 2:13)

We also know that the Spirit spoke the Father's heart through James when he wrote that we are not to be mere listeners of the Word but doers. It is great to hear that we are suppose to love each other but when we fail to do it the knowledge is useless to us. When we know we are suppose to be compassionate and merciful to sinners and yet condemn them instead, the knowledge is lost on us.

Jesus has saved us but we must work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit for the transformation process. We are a new creation but we are growing out of what we were into our new heart. We do not have the ability to love as Jesus loved, even though he commanded us to do so. However, when we desire to love in this way we open the door to the Holy Spirit to change us so we can love in this way. The only manner in which the transformation will take hold is as we desire it, letting go of what no longer belongs to our nature and taking hold of the character of Jesus. It is a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit.

As we sit through the sermons, Bible studies, and discipline classes, we need to hear what inspires but we have to say to the Spirit, "That's my desire". He will bring the conviction about the things we need to let go of and he will provoke us to the greater things; the things of love, mercy and grace. The Word is intended for us to live, not simply study, so go live it and see the world change around you.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Stop Watching The Video and Start Living The Life

I'm no different than you. I can get just as distracted by life. The long To Do list, the bills, the children, work, tasks; so many tasks. Just living creates a huge To Do list and it is an easy thing to allow that To Do list to move us from one thing to the next in our day, from one day to the next. We can get to the end of our week and ask ourselves "Is this really what my life is about?" Is it?

As a Christian I am compelled to respond with an emphatic "NO!" Jesus warned us against chasing after the priorities of this world and to set the Kingdom priorities before us all the time. These priorities help shape our world view and the purpose for living. Perhaps it is time that we remember a few facts and I would like to use a few verses from Romans 2 to do that.

Now before I am misquoted here, let me say, it is well understood that good works will not save us; only Jesus saves. However, good works is the fruit of that salvation and ongoing relationship with Jesus. The Word of God is clear that the "tree" is known by its "fruit". So understanding this we listen to Paul's warning about the facts of life:

(Yahweh) “will render to each one according to his deeds”. (Romans 2:6)

This is a fact about life that the vast majority of this world population does not understand. The "deed" is only a fruit or manifestation of the heart condition. What we do, what we say, matters. It is important that Christians maintain a tender heart to Jesus so the Spirit can produce in us the things that prompt us to good works:

Eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality (v. 7)

Doing good is the fruit that is produced in the life of someone possessed by Jesus Christ, who live for his glory. Doing good is not the catalyst of salvation but the fruit that shows the rightness of the heart. The opposite is also true:

But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek. (v. 8-9)

These actions are only a window to a heart that is chained by its sin nature. It cannot help but do these things because it is without the transformation of Jesus Christ. This knowledge should shape our day. We should understand the purpose is not the task but the people included in that task. Our life is not what we accomplish but the people we impact.

The Christian life is not how much time we spend in the Bible, prayer, meditation, worship but instead how these activities change us to live our purpose. If these activities are producing nothing in us then we need to examine the condition of our heart and relationship with Jesus. What matters at the end of the day is how our faith is impacting the lives of the people Jesus gave us to love. We need to take our example from him and not just speak the words but put them into action.

Is the purpose of your life to serve yourself or to humbly love others through service to them? We need to spend some more time meditating on and then responding to the teaching and direction of Jesus. Stop watching the video and start living the life.