Friday, January 31, 2014

We Act As If We Have No King

Christian behavior is very interesting to consider these days. It is as if we do not have a ruler and everyone does whatever they feel is best. It is like Jesus was just a prophet who gave us some general guidelines and suggestions and now we have to work them out on our own. Seldom do we act as if we are under authority and that we are accountable for our heart, thoughts, words and actions. It is like we think we are on our own, so we look for someone to be king because we don't want to be alone.

We are suppose to be different, unique, set aside by Yahweh to bring him glory, just like the Israelites were. They were a peculiar people; no other nation had a law like theirs. No other nation was ruled over directly by their god. No other nation was without a king. But Israel was because Yahweh was suppose to be their King. He purposed to rule over them, develop and protect them, to bless their land and the work of their hands. He wanted to prosper them directly and they were to be holy to bring himself glory as he set this nation in front of the world, on display. But we read this throughout Judges:

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

They acted like this even though Yahweh had given them his statutes, the Law.

The problem was that people lost their intimacy with Yahweh. They did not look to him for leadership and guidance. They did not make themselves accountable to him and so felt they were on their own. Instead of being uniquely cared for by their God, they became little pockets of people defined by clans, easily cut off from each other and attacked, not unlike today.

Today, most churches and spiritual trainers/leaders do not see themselves directly responsible to Jesus and so do what is right in their own eyes. In other words, they teach from their opinion instead of by the Spirit and the Holy Scriptures. They make it say what they want it to say according to their personal view. Have we lost our intimacy with Jesus?

There is a sad passage found in 1 Samuel where the people threw off Yahweh's will for them and demanded to be like all the other nations; they wanted a king. Samuel was upset, feeling rejected as the last judge in a long line of judges, but Yahweh spoke to him the truth of the matter:

Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. (1 Samuel 8:7)

We are a unique people, a nation that was not a nation, a people not defined by geographical borders but spiritual and moral ones. We have been called out, transformed and transforming into a new creation, adopted into Yahweh's family, called his children, sealed for eternity by the Holy Spirit. We don't get to do what we want as we are now slaves to his righteousness and live according to his Word. We are possessed by Jesus Christ via the Spirit as we also possess Jesus. We sit at the right hand of the Father with Jesus and are here in this place to teach and lead the lost into a saving relationship with Jesus. We are not here to live by our opinion, to do what is right in our own eyes.

Simply put:

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Act accordingly, child of Yahweh, because you have a King who is with you every day to teach, guide, and bless you, to prosper you and to make you shine as he sets you in front of the world, on display, for his glory.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why We All Need Friends

The one thing that most people are desperate to possess is good friends. It is the reason television shows like "Friends" and "Big Bang Theory" are so popular and even attract Christians to be entertained by sin, because they depict the friendships we long to have. The fact is we need friends because we are not meant to be alone. We were created with the need for family and community.

In Corinthians 12 we find the vision of the Church, the Body of Christ. Not a thing divided but something of beauty with unity at its core. It is described as the many parts of the body, dependent on each other in order to function. We need each other because none of us possess everything we need. Friends, family, fellow believers lend of themselves to us and we lend of ourselves to them. When Jesus is the central figure of all relationships beautiful things are produced.

It doesn't mean that all friendships will be smooth. Even that truth is reflected in the crude humour of television shows, but when Jesus is at the center of it all, it is his love that glues us together. That is why apostle Paul goes from 1 Corinthians 12 to 1 Corinthians 13, because unity of the Body is only possible by the love of Jesus. We just don't have that right type of love to keep it going because in the natural we are abusers of people. We take what we want and we give very little back. When Jesus has authority in the relationship, be it friendship, family or marriage, service to one another is the foundation.

There is a tiny passage in Scriptures that has always stood out for me as a reminder of the importance of friendship. It was during the time of judges when everyone was doing what they thought was best; a time when Yahweh was only considered in hard times. We read:

So the five men departed and went to Laish. They saw the people who were there, how they dwelt safely, in the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and secure. There were no rulers in the land who might put them to shame for anything. They were far from the Sidonians, and they had no ties with anyone. (Judges 18:7)

Laish was a quiet, peaceful city with no close neighbours. They kept to themselves and never bothered anyone. What stands out is that they had no ties with anyone. It reflects a lot of attitudes I see today, people keeping people at a distance. They don't want anyone involved in their business and they don't bother with anyone else's. Live and let live. This city also had no rulers, no one to correct them, no one to whom to be accountable. And, as it turned out, no one to help them when they needed help. They were easy targets and easy to defeat, as are so many Christians today who do not understand the importance of the Body, of friendship, of accountability.

Friends protect us, even if that protection comes in the form of correction. We hear the slogans "Friends don't let friends drive drunk", but what if the drunk has no friends, no one who cares enough to say no? What about us? Some people see independence as a strong character but such independence makes a person weak, vulnerable, easy to defeat. We need friends with whom we can be honest. We need to be vulnerable and open to people who trust us and who we can trust. We need friends who put Jesus at the center of the relationship. We need friends who have our back and who we love enough to protect with our life if need be.

We were not created to be an island, to live in isolation, to be without accountability. We were created for the purpose of others, for community, for family. The Body of Christ is not a community as much as it is family. Many used to call themselves "brother" and "sister" as a reminder of that relationship. Such an attitude is not always easy but it needs to be important enough for us to work at it. Scripture says that friendship with the world will lead to our spiritual and eternal death so we need to look to our fellow believers and start building alliances before the enemy picks us off as an easy target. You can't sit back and wait for people to come to you. You need to step out and offer your hand in friendship and start building good alliances with Jesus at the center of it all.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lovers Of Pleasure Rather Than Lovers Of God

Why shouldn't I enjoy whatever I want in this world? Hasn't Jesus given me freedom?

Yes, Jesus gave us freedom that we could seek the Father and be free from our sin nature to make a clear decision. But too many of us are turning off our brains and just sucking up whatever the world is dishing out, without a thought of how it is effecting us and our family.

Most of us watch ten times the amount of television than what we spend in Holy Scriptures and prayer. Worse than the amount of time, we are not being wise in our choice of entertaibnment. We are feeding lust, cruelty, hatred, profanity in our mind and hearts. What does the Word say about the last days:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of Godhaving a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Have you considered Psalm 1 lately?

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
    Nor stands in the path of sinners,
    Nor sits in the seat of the scornful. (Psalm 1:1)

What do you think we are doing when we sit down and watch the entertainment of this world, listen to its music and seek after the same pleasures as our unsaved neighbour? We are walking in the counsel of the ungodly. We are standing in the path of sinners. We are sitting in the seat of the scornful. We are far from being blessed. Yet we have been told that there is a way that pleases Yahweh:

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night. (v. 2)

Our delight is not in sin-filled entertainment but in our Lord Jesus, in his Word, in fellowship and worship. For those who turn and decide for Jesus; turn and look full in his face; turn and immerse themselves in the love and joy of the Lord and not the world; he is described as this:

He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper. (v. 3)

I don't know about you but that is what I want and it is what Yahweh has promised from the very beginning: walk in obedience with me and I will pour out my blessings on you. Do you desire, as I do, to have a rich fellowship that we would never want to jeopardize over a sin-filled 30 minute comedy? A show that could never come close to the preciousness of our relationship with Jesus? How could we ever desire to pollute our minds and hearts and threaten our eternity perspective? Well, that's what most of the Church is doing, even tonight. Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. There are decisions to be made.

What Is Your Worth?

Lately I have been going through a self-evaluation and I haven't enjoyed seeing what the Spirit has been revealing. Sometimes we get stuck in auto-pilot and live without thinking. That is not Yahweh's plan for us. We are not a bunch of robots. He set us free through Jesus Christ so that every day we can make decisions, understanding those decisions and glorifying him through the process. You see, our Father sees us differently than we see ourselves.

When I look at any of my children I not only see their current situation, I also see their full potential. As their loving father, it is my desire to see them grow into that potential. Our heavenly Father sees us in the same way. He sees our current condition but he also sees the potential he has placed in us and it is that potential he desires to assist us to grow into. Consider Gideon for a moment.

It was the age of the judges and Israel kept moving away from Yahweh. They kept falling on their face and Yahweh had to keep picking them up. At this moment they were beat down by the Midianites, left destitute and in constant fear. This is the reason we find Gideon hiding in a wine press, threshing his wheat. He was part of a failed society, hiding in fear from an enemy Yahweh had commanded them to defeat. Yet, Yahweh did not see a coward hiding in that wine press but instead a man with the potential to do great things in obedience:

And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:12)

Of course Gideon looked around and said, "Yah, right, then why are we in this situation?" I have paraphrased it a bit, but the reaction is not dissimilar to how we feel at times when someone speaks into our situation with an encouraging word. But the secret here is the part, "the LORD is with you". When the angel spoke again he did not tell Gideon to do anything special, to go train, to improve himself; he told him to go just as he was:

“Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (v. 14)

Again the emphasis is on the LORD and not Gideon, "Have I not sent you?" Again Gideon's reaction is not unlike our own, "I have nothing to offer". I am the least of the least. I am not qualified. You've got the wrong person. I hear Moses' excuses coming out again, and Yahweh's response is as it always will be:

“Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” (v.16)

Your worth and your potential is found in your relationship with Jesus Christ and all that our Father is looking from us is our obedience. He doesn't pick the most talented, the best looking, the richest, the smartest. He doesn't need or want any of those things. He is only looking for children who have a desire to obey because all the equipping comes from him anyway.

What is brilliant about you is that Jesus loves you and is one with you. You are in him and he is in you and you are both in the Father. He asks you to turn away from your selfish vision of yourself and understand the potential of your beauty because he is in you and desires to pour out his blessings through you. Mighty "man" of valour, there is no reason for you to be hiding in that "wine press" regardless of its form because Jesus is with you and you will defeat the giants in the strength that you have because the battle belongs to our King.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Who Will You Serve?

I realize that I seem to be repeating myself for the last couple of weeks but I am sharing with you a clear message that came out of my period of Fasting to the LORD. The message is simple: Yahweh has set his standards and has called us to a relationship of obedience, so make a decision. I think the reason this message is so important is because many leaders and teachers have been muddying the waters with human reasoning. There is much apostasy that is spewing from the mouths of those who promised to love and obey Jesus Christ.

Let's make this as simple as possible by looking at one piece of Scripture to understand our Father's heart on his expectations of those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. It is at it's essence the same expectations he had for Israel:

Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! (Joshua 24:14)

The other way this was put was to love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and all your strength. It means we get to know him, what delights him and what offends him. We must know his heart and then desire to walk in obedience to him. It doesn't mean doing whatever you think is best to serve him. That's what Israel tried to do during the times of the judges and it got them in a lot of trouble, as it is getting people in trouble today.

No, we don't get to do what we want. Jesus repeated these same kind of words but a little more directly:

If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

Not what you think is best but what Jesus commanded. We live according to the righteousness of our holy LORD not according to the supposed righteousness of man. We have been given standards, statutes to live and they are higher than the cesspool of sin that we are witnessing transpire from the hearts of man in our societies today.

Joshua made it clear that there is something we need to do:

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

No one on the face of this planet is forced to serve Jesus Christ. Men of demented thinking tried to use the Church in the past to hold power over people but it failed. Yahweh does not even force his desire upon us but he freely offers it. He freely offers his mercy and grace, his love and forgiveness, his compassion. He freely offers us adoption into his family and rescue from the destructive course that we have chosen. But we have to make that decision.

The only thing we are warned is that we can't have it all. We can't have the sin of this world and the righteousness of our LORD. Jesus asked the question, what is the point of gaining the whole world if we lose our soul? If we make the decision for Jesus then there are expectations we will live by the Spirit who places the Word of God in us. We cannot take part in the unholy things of this world and be possessed by the Spirit. It doesn't work that way.

Make a decision: is the music of this world more important than Jesus? Are those favorite sin-filled television shows more important than Jesus? Are those misleading movies more important than Jesus? Is the dangerous place of social networking more important than Jesus? If you lack the discipline to turn things off when they go terribly wrong, then get rid of that thing from your life; deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. The choice is clear and a decision is demanded of us: Who will you serve?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Failing To Fully Possess What Has Been Promised

Too many of us are not fully possessing what Jesus intended for us to possess. We have been offered the fullness of Christ and instead we satisfy ourselves with a few crumbs. We are repeating exactly what the Israelites did when they were offered the Promised Land. They never fully possessed it. Some of the tribes took what was given to them but others never did. Even the tribes that did take their possession did not flush out and destroy the other nations like they were instructed to do. And it came to pass exactly what Yahweh warned them would happen, that if they left any of those he sent them to destroy, they would be influenced to turn to other gods.

It's difficult for us to image what Israel could have been and how Yahweh would have been glorified, if only Israel had obeyed:

Now the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them. But there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance.
Then Joshua said to the children of Israel: “How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers has given you?" (Joshua 18:1-3)

How long will we neglect to possess all that Jesus has promised us? When he saved us he made us a new creation; no longer bound to this place; no longer bound to sin; no longer bound to the systems of man; no longer bound to the patterns of this world, we were set free to be fully possessed by the Holy Spirit, to be filled by the power of Jesus Christ, the resurrection power, free to be fully obedient to our Father's will. But we have failed.

We have failed to allow our love for the things of this world to die. We have allowed things to keep residence. We have allowed strongholds to remain and we still sacrifice at the high places. These things continue to pollute us, to influence our heart and mind. They drain goodness from us and cause us to have a divided loyalty. We want friendship with the world and friendship with Jesus, but it doesn't work that way.

To be fully possessed means to have one Master, one Lord, one King. To be fully possessed is to be fully committed to walking in Jesus' footsteps, to doing the Father's will, to obeying the Holy Spirit. It is a commitment to live by the Word of Yahweh and not by opinion. It is a full denial of yourself and a complete acceptance of Yahweh's wisdom.

We are serving in a half measure and expecting full benefits. But there is not half anything in the Kingdom; no half measure, half effort, half hearted, half minded. It is all or nothing:

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:37-38)

I am not exactly sure when or why we lost it but we did. We have allowed the world to possess more of us than we have in the last 100 years. Holiness is almost forgotten as we join in with a society that only lives to be entertained. We are failing to live the powerful godly lives that Jesus saved us to live for his glory, and I am convinced that the only way we can change it is if we encourage each other to turn and seek the face of Yahweh, the presence of our LORD. We need to make the decision to vanquish the strongholds in our lives and place Jesus solidly on the throne, with no hesitation and with all our heart. We need to seek purity in our lives once more that we would be available to be used by our King, to bring salvation to the land and glory to his name.

Say no to being entertained by the sins of this world and yes to serving Jesus with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength. Jesus must be our everything.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Decisions Have To Be Made: Who Will You Serve?

As we come off our Fast we need to ask the question, "What now?" We have had a time of intimacy, of setting ourselves aside, of drawing close to our LORD, of making ourselves available and open to our God. We have withheld certain foods from our body, changed our appetite, cleansed our palate, lost weight, washed our system and feel good. Now e have to decide what we take back on ourselves spiritually and physically.

For me it has become clear that there are far too many distractions that take me away from my relationship with Jesus and the calling I have received. It is like I wanted all the Jesus offered but all the entertainment of the world. My attitude after a long day was that I deserved to relax, failing to understand that they only rest of any worth was resting in the LORD. I'll tell you, I was a man greatly distracted.

During my Fast I gorged myself on the Word and will continue to do so, and the more I ate of it the more the Spirit corrected me. I realized just from the Scriptures of the Old Testament that if I want to serve the Lord with all that I am, my mind and heart must only be occupied by him. We can't say that we do this because if we were there would be a lot more things happening. Currently it is as if we are worshiping our God from a distance whereas he demands an intimate worship from us.

We are too occupied by evil. We are like the Israelites of old who maintained Yahweh's holy temple but also worshiped other God's in the high places. We worship Jesus but we also serve the gods of this world as we chase after money, fame, leisure. We even put family on a pedestal next to Yahweh. This blof is too short to go into all the details of how we are not what we are suppose to be but I think the Spirit is already convicting you on this matter. Consider the Scripture that says:

Do not be wise in your own eyes;Fear the Lord and depart from evil. (Proverbs 3:7)

Evil is anything that is contrary to the character of Yahweh. As we watch murder after murder on our television, we are assaulting the character of Jesus in us. As we listen to the lyrics of those songs, letting them sink into our heart, we are running contrary to the character of Jesus. As we read those words, see those images and allow our mind to be entertained by sin, by the things contrary to the holiness of our God, we are giving ourselves over to the gods of this world.

Do you want to be filled by Jesus, to feel his presence, to know his will, to know his strength and power? Do you want to be overwhelmed by his joy and peace despite the circumstances of your day? Do you want the concern for others to be greater than your concern for yourself? Then shun evil, throw away the things that occupy your time and fill your days with Jesus:

 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Sometimes I think we forget where we are, what we are doing, and who we belong to. We forget that we are in hostile territory and it takes great discipline to walk with and serve Jesus in this place. It takes a singleness of mind and a heart so filled with love, renewed daily, to stay the course. We need to be strong and courageous. We need to embody the words of Yahweh to Joshua:

 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

We need to remember that blessings flow with obedience. Every king of Israel was told that if they walked in the ways of Yahweh and kept his statutes blessings would be theirs. Every King failed. Decisions have to be made; hard decisions. Jesus told us it is better to cut off a hand our pluck out an eye than to enter hell whole. If something is causing you to sin, to do evil, to separate you from Jesus then learn to live without it.

Decisions have to be made if we are going to be a nation of royal priests:

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

Beware Of Your Own Logic

We have an ability to think, to reason, to draw conclusions and act on those conclusion. We were created with a great capacity for intelligence. However, relying only on our observations can and will get us into a lot of trouble. Just because we think it doesn't make it the truth. Just because our observations bring us to a certain conclusion doesn't mean we can rely on it. Jesus never told us that we would be on our own and that it was up to us to figure things out. In fact, he told us the opposite.

Yesterday we considered how Joshua got in trouble for making assumptions instead of consulting with Yahweh. Life is fluid and things can change rapidly depending on the many individuals involved in our lives. Then right on the heels of that difficult lesson came another one that dealt with the problem of our logic. The people of Gibeon saw the writing on the wall, knew they were doomed to die at the hands of Israel, so they came up with a plan to deceive Joshua:

However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Joshua 9:3-5)

They had somehow heard that Israel was commanded to drive out all the nations within a certain area so they made it look as if they were a people from a distance. Joshua should have consulted with Yahweh for the truth to be revealed but instead they trusted their observations:

The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath. (vs.14-15)

We are no better, living by observation instead of by the Word of Yahweh. We see and we draw conclusions and act on those conclusions, attributing it to the will of our Father. We may even fire off a prayer or two or three but we do not wait or listen for a response, we just react to what we see. Our Lord's desires is made manifest to us in the Scriptures:

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

We have to walk in his statutes, in what he says is right, not what we come up with in our own logic, our own opinions. It doesn't matter what you think according to the logic of man, all that matters is what Yahweh says on the matter. And if you do not agree then you are not a follower of Jesus Christ. You may carry the title but Jesus made it clear that if we love him we will obey him, and he is the Living Word of Yahweh, which means he is referring to all of it. We don't get to pick and choose. Simply put:

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

By faith, trusting the Word of Yahweh, and not by sight, the logic of my opinions.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why It Sometimes Goes Wrong

Life is fluid. Everything is constantly moving, changing, evolving because life involves a lot of people. Perhaps if you stood in isolation, dependent on no one else and having no interaction with anyone else, life might be predictable. However, your life involves a lot of different people who are independent in their decision making. Even you, with your many decisions in a day, cause life to be fluid. This is the reason we should never assume.

We are dependent on Yahweh, or at least, we are suppose to be. We are suppose to be in constant communication, checking his will and direction. He adjusts our actions according to the decisions of other people so that his will is always fulfilled. That means it is not one set of instructions and off we go. He goes with us for a reason, so adjustments can be made. This is why he desires obedience from his children, so we will listen constantly and obey in love and trust. We have an example of this with Joshua and the Israelite's.

They just had an awesome victory at Jericho. It was a bit odd but the purpose was to show them that Yahweh was giving them victory and it was not dependent on their army. He had given them exact, step by step directions. So now their sights were set on their next objective, the city of Ai. Joshua sent the spies and they came back with this report:

Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few. (Joshua 7:3)

Confident on the heels of their victory, they did not consult with Yahweh. They assumed. But life is fluid. None of them could possibly have known that the situation had changed. One of their own had disobeyed Yahweh's instructions in the first battle and because of his sin, Yahweh had removed himself from Israel. When they went up to attack Ai, a much softer target than Jericho, they were thoroughly defeated and people died. People died, not just because of Achan's sin but because the leadership had failed to consult Yahweh. If they had verified things with him they would have discovered the change in their situation.

We can't make assumptions with Yahweh. We must remain in the Spirit, being sensitive to his voice so when adjustments need to be made we will be in the know. If we do not understand and practice the presence of our Lord then we will have the mentality of a commander receiving instructions from the general, then going out without the general to carry it out. Then again, a general always has contact with his troops in the field for the purpose of adjustments as the situation changes.

Practicing the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ is more than for our strength. We often get selfish in this relationship, thinking it is always about us. It is true that being aware of his presence is a great source of strength and confidence, but his presence is also for direction. You have never been left alone to do this on your own because on your own you are not capable. You are not capable of understanding all the changes in our fluid lives, but the Spirit is and he is here to direct us in our Father's will. So learn to listen and obey.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Grace As A Loophole

In this age of hyper-grace we are losing our fear of Yahweh. We are no longer afraid to sin, to offend our God because the overwhelming message of the day is that his grace will cover us. How quick we forget apostle Paul's warning not to use grace as an excuse to sin. The grace of our God is the great message of the age, as it has been for every age since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a fantastic reality that we need to bring to the world but we can never lose sight of the truth that we serve a God of justice. Yahweh will judge and he will punish according to our heart.

We should not be looking for loopholes in order to excuse our sin. If any sin has a hold on us it means that we are enslaved to it and not to the righteousness of our LORD. It means we do not walk in the freedom Jesus won for us and it means we are wrong. Pleading grace is not like pleading the 5th in the United States. Grace is applied to the repentant heart not to the one that is looking for the "get out of jail free" card. Let's look at two examples, one from the Old Testament and one from the New.

Israel had just destroyed Jericho at Yahweh's command. He had warned them not to take anything but to destroy everything. However, there was one who did not obey. Achan could not resist certain of the treasures, so he took some and buried them in his tent. An innocent sin that did not impact anyone else, right? Wrong. God's blessings were removed from the nation and when they fought the next battle many lost their lives because Yahweh was not with them. Achan's sin was found out and Yahweh called for justice to be carried out. Rebellion cannot be tolerated among the children of Yahweh:

Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. (Joshua 7:24-25)

Harsh but so was the sin, the rebellion that Yahweh could not permit to spread in his holy nation. Now let's flip forward to the beginning of the Church. There was a married couple who had a plot of land. At that time many of the followers of Jesus were selling their possessions to give to the leaders to provide for those who did not have much. This couple wanted to look good in everyone's eyes but without the cost. So they said they were donating the price of the plot of land they sold but in fact they held some back for themselves. They said they were giving their all but they kept some in reserve:

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. (Acts 5:3-5)

They could have given whatever they wanted, there were no expectations, but they choose to lie. Fear came upon the followers of Jesus as it should to this day. I speak for myself as well when I say that we have lost that fear. We are no longer afraid to offend our God, we no longer fear to sin. We enter into it with the thought, "My God knows I love him; he will forgive me according to his grace". But the Spirit knows the motivation of our heart. If we truly loved Jesus then we would seek his righteousness not loopholes to get what we want and to do what we wish.

There is a difference between those who have chosen righteousness, who pursue it and who are covered by grace, and those who say they seek it but lie, expecting that the grace of our Father will cover them. Our God is still a God of justice and we should fear that justice. How quickly we forget the warning in Hebrews:

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)

Fearful indeed. I am not saying that we should live our life constantly in fear of stepping on an ant and offending Yahweh; we do not live a sin conscience life. But we can live a life where we are aware of the motivation of our heart and if our motivation is to sin against the righteousness of our LORD, to reject it immediately. We are a holy nation, a royal priesthood, separated for the purpose of our Father. We walk in his righteousness and maintain a healthy and respectful fear of the Living God. No loopholes, only obedience.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Doubts, Fears, Insecurities

It is sometimes hard to admit but the honest truth is that we all have doubts, fears and insecurities. They are not always with us but under certain circumstances they will try to bubble up and overwhelm us. They counter everything we know and have experienced. They are whispers in the night, They are a dampening blanket to our passion. They are a drawn curtain that blocks our view. The question is, what will you do about them?

Can you imagine having spent over forty years as Moses' assistant? What an incredible challenge and blessing that would have been. Imagine after such a long time with such a man you were suddenly informed that Yahweh had scheduled his death. Imagine at the same time being informed that Yahweh had named you his successor? Keep in mind all that Moses had done and faced. Keep in mind all the fighting he had done with and for the people.

Israel was not an easy people to govern and lead. It was never going to be easy for Israel but they made it one hundred times harder on themselves. Because of their own stupidity they ended up living 40 years in the desert. Their constant complaining drove Moses crazy and now, on the brink of years of war with many nations, Moses was being removed and an untested leader was being put in his place. I wonder if Joshua had any insecurities, second thoughts, doubts and about his assignment?

There is nothing in Scripture that indicates Joshua had any doubts or fears. There is not a word of complaint from his lips. There is no great calling out to Yahweh but there is one message that came out loud and clear from Yahweh, Moses and the people:

Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed. (Joshua 1:9)

Moses told him privately:

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Moses told him publicly:

Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. (Deuteronomy 31:7)

Israel said to him:

Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and of good courage. (Joshua 1:18)

To know that Moses and the people having trust in him would have been affirming for Joshua but not near as much as to hear directly from the LORD:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Was Joshua's confidence to be found in his own ability or the strength of the army? Not at all. It did not matter what his personal insecurities were about his ability because his confidence came from the fact that Yahweh was sending him. "Have I not commanded you?" But he wasn't just being sent. Yahweh promised to go with him, to never leave him. Does that ring any bells at all?

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Often our insecurities rise up because of doubts in our own ability but being strong and courageous is not a hard thing to do when you understand the presence of the LORD. Jesus did not just send us out to claim the lost for him, to take on great battles and face incredible danger according to our ability. Jesus promised to come with us, to be with us because it is his fight; it is according to his strength and power, not ours. It is the reason the Apostle Paul was able to say with great confidence that he was able to all thing through Jesus who gave him strength.

Yes, insecurities, fears, doubts will rise up because they always do because we doubt ourselves, but a person of faith never allows them to stop him. He never allows them to become a barrier to the Father's will. In spite of them he presses on with great strength and courage because of two reasons. First, we have been sent. Second, because Jesus is with us. It is not about our ability. Do not be downcast oh my soul but be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or dismayed because the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. Amen!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jesus Knew Even Before You Did It

Many days of our lives we can be accused of making a god after our own image. He study the Bible, learn about Yahweh, worship him but then change small details to suit our own needs. You don't think so? Then I challenge you to read the entire Bible in 90 days (YouVersion has a Bible Reading Plan for 90 days) and come face to face with who is Yahweh, the true Yahweh, Yahweh the just, Yahweh the righteous. There is a reason why Scriptures says it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

One thing that cannot be mistaken in any of the Scriptures is that Yahweh is full of grace, but we are also warned never to allow grace to be an excuse to sin. We do not understand how much grace is already being shown to us every day. Sometimes we do not even consider how our actions will impact our Father. We do not consider how our actions will effect our testimony. We do not consider how our actions and words impact the way the world looks at our God. Yahweh does.

Our Father knows our words even before they are on our lips. He knows the actions we will take even before we take them. He knows the decisions we will make and he knows our motivation. He knows the end from the beginning and he knows the roots. He sees the outcome of the words we speak and the decisions we take today even when we can't. It is no different today than in the days of Moses.

Yahweh knew before he sent Israel into the promised land that they would reject him and take on the gods of the other nations. He knew that they would do this and he knew the actions he would have to take:

Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. (Deuteronomy 31:16-17)

Nothing is hidden from our God, not even our future. Then why does he allow it to happen? If nothing surprises Yahweh, why does he not stop the rebellion before it begins? Let me remind you that anything that is against the will of the Father is rebellion. What kind of rebellion do you and I live in every day as we make decisions with no thought of Jesus, his righteous ways and his will for our lives? How often do we decide against the righteousness of Yahweh without giving it a second thought? Ignorance is no excuse. He is suppose to be our "everything" and we are suppose to be consumed by passion for the Name.

The reason Yahweh does not stop us is two-fold. First, he created us as a creation with a free will. We have the freedom to make our own decisions. Jesus set us free from the slavery of sin so we could have the freedom to decide for him instead of against him, and we still have that freedom today. If Yahweh interferes with that freedom he goes against his own purpose. He desires for us to love him freely.

The second is that our Father uses these times of rebellion for training us. We are his children and he will correct us. He allows us to make mistakes, to rebel but then he brings in the correction to increase us. No punishment is meant as a revenge but as a teaching opportunity. We may not like the correction but it certainly brings us closer to our Father and that is what he is looking for.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. (Hebrews 12:7-8)

The sad thing is that we usually try to find the short cut out of the correction instead of standing up under it. In this world of self-satisfaction and instant gratification, enduring the correction of our Father is a foreign concept. It could be one reason why there are so many babies running around needing their diapers changed and precious few mature men and women of faith. Sin happens, mistakes will be made, Jesus knows all about it and the Father loves you enough to bring correction. Stand up under it and be increased or slink away into the dark to find your own solutions and lose out. It is your decision, just don't a god after your own image to excuse it away.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Practical Side Of Faith

Sometimes we struggle in our faith because it wars with our flesh. We are very capable people. We can make decisions and live by them. We can plot a course for our lives and live by it. We can choose a career and be successful in it but it doesn't mean that Jesus is in it or that it belongs to the Father's will. Our flesh can desire a lot of things that look legitimate and honouring to Yahweh but that are actually contrary to the Holy Spirit.

The Law of Yahweh is holy and perfect but impossible for us to live because we are far from perfect. The Law, as presented by Moses, was an attempt to live in the flesh what first had to transpire in the heart. Its purpose was to reveal to us the righteousness of Yahweh and how much we have fallen short of that righteousness. It was to show us how much we need Jesus. Romans 10 says this:

Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: (Romans 10:5-6)

Now here Paul quotes Moses so I want to go directly to that passage as Moses speaks the prophetic word:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

Now back to Romans where Paul explains:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

This applies to every promise ever uttered by Yahweh, through prophets or his Son. Salvation is just one of a long list of promises that we are to live by every day of our life. Whether we see the end from the beginning or we seem lost on a dark path, we know the promises. In knowing them we declare with our mouth and we believe in our heart that we possess them and it will happen. It is not a magic formula, it is the practical act of faith.

Our flesh wants to tell us to live by what we see, act upon what we are experiencing, but faith says trust Yahweh. However, Yahweh gave substance to our faith by filling his Word with promises for us and then he gave us his Son to open the way to those promises. He sent us the Spirit to empower us to live those promises and it is by his strength that we can declare with our mouth and believe in our heart, and walk in faith.

A cautionary note though: Scripture warns us that a double minded man cannot receive from the Father:

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6-8)

I realize our spirit and flesh war with each other but it is time to put that war to rest. The flesh belongs under the spirit and our spirit must have control. We live by faith not by sight. Remind yourself of that a hundred times a day. Whatever you are going through find a promises of Yahweh to apply to it, confess it and believe it and you will possess it. Deny yourself and desire above all things the will of our Father.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Worship That Costs

We have raised our children in an age of convenience. They can watch whatever they want on television; we have movies on demand. The Internet brings whatever knowledge you are looking for, along with any form of depravation you seek. Almost everyone has cars and you are pretty poor if you don't (I don't). Credit cards are as easy to get as a glass of water, or should I say bottle? Everything is easy and the things that require work are avoided. Maybe that is why there are so many High School drop outs. If kids can't finish High School then life is not going to be any joy ride for them.

The ease of the depravities of our society and culture are wearing down the substance of our faith. Our children are growing up needing a greater dependence on the LORD than we ever did. The ease of everything is like a poison, softening fortitude and determination. As the times get tougher I have to wonder if any of the children will be strong enough to stick to Jesus?

The Church is not much better than our Western Society. In an effort to make it easier for sinners, to be more attractive to getting people through the front door, we have dummified faith. We have made it convenient for people to worship because if we don't they won't. We need to ask ourselves if we are doing anyone a service with this attitude and approach.

When Israel came into the Promised Land and Yahweh told them the dimensions of their land and which nations they were to drive out. He also told them there would be one place to worship:

But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 12:5-7)

These people had to travel great distances, at great effort and expense, to present their worship before Yahweh. Could it be that Yahweh does not accept worship without sacrifice? Could it be that our love and devotion is suppose to cost us something? Many times in the Scriptures we read this warning:

No one is to appear before me empty-handed. (Exodus 34:20)

Now before you get the wrong idea and I go off in an Old Testament mentality, we remind ourselves that Jesus told us that true worshipers worship in spirit and truth. The location no longer matters but the attitude certainly does and that is what concerns me because too many of us are showing up empty handed.

I don't mean on Sundays and I am not talking about our tithes and offerings (although that should be considered in the total package). How many of us enter a day with not a thought about Jesus? How many of us plot our own course? How many of us reserve worship for Sunday and even then our thoughts are elsewhere? If there is one thing we should have learned from Jesus, he is not looking for lukewarm devotion and that is exactly what we are producing by our churches of convenience.

All your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength; your entire being is what Jesus demanded. He said the sign of love is obedience. There is suppose to be effort and fortitude in our desire to worship him with our entire life every day of our life. Deny yourself, is not a thing of convenience. Walk in your calling, is not a thing of convenience. Doing what Jesus did, is not a thing of convenience.

Loving Jesus with passion costs. Loving our neighbour as ourself costs. Loving with the love of Jesus costs. Being a follower of Jesus costs and will cost a much greater price in the years to follow. We have to bury the idea and desire of a life of ease and get down to the real work of representing the Good News of Jesus Christ in a world that is becoming hostile toward him. Let us be determined to run this race to the finish and let us raise our children with a backbone of faith that isn't afraid of a little hardwork.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Obedience Comes With Promises

Every parent dreams of children who will be pleasant and a joy to be around. And what is the foundation of a pleasant child? Obedience. Obedience makes it easy for a parent to be loving, kind and generous to their children. Obedience creates a wonderful atmosphere in the home. Obedience allows everything to flow wonderfully. But obedience is a hard thing to maintain.

Children are governed by instinct, by their sin nature. It is only natural for them to test the waters. It doesn't matter their age, if they see the "forbidden fruit" they are going to want it. They need correction, guidance, patience but all we are doing is controlling them. The sin nature cannot be destroyed by control. Real obedience only happens when each of us die to ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to take control. This only happens when Jesus becomes Saviour and Lord.

Jesus Christ did not come to teach us morality but to set us free from our slavery to our sin nature. Whether you are a child or an adult, without Jesus Christ you have no choice but to sin because it is your master. That is why it is useless to correct a child in anger. They are doing what comes natural. Correct them yes, but in a way that will not take away from your witness of Jesus Christ.

Yet, even when we are freed from our sin nature we still have choices to make. Just because we are no longer slaves to it does not mean that we cannot choose to disobey. But just as an obedient child makes a home pleasant, so our obedience allows the blessings and plans of the LORD to flow. Disobedience is like a dam, holding back the blessings of our LORD, blessings he intends for us to enjoy and pass on to the nations. Our entire relationship is built on trust and obedience and obedience comes with promises. To the Israelites' Yahweh promised:

Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the River Euphrates, even to the Western Sea,[c] shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand against you; the Lord your God will put the dread of you and the fear of you upon all the land where you tread, just as He has said to you. (Deuteronomy 11:24-25)

Jesus gave believers promises as well which flow in a relationship of trust and obedience. They are promises of provision, of joy, peace, direction, instruction, strength, hope, purpose, power and presence. But when we are in rebellion, selecting a course of disobedience, we cannot expect to hold on to those promises. Sometimes we contend with the enemy believing he is trying to rob us of these things whereas, the truth of the matter is, we are robbing ourselves.

Everything matters. Nothing is insignificant. You can't take part of Jesus' commands and ignore others. You can't love some people really well and hate someone else. You can't go part of the way and say "good enough". You can't follow Jesus' calling and then decide you know better and take a different course. You can't hear clearly from the Lord and then decide that you misinterpreted it and it meant something else. Obedience should be our great desire. Knowing and doing the Father's will should consume our day. Standing in the flowing stream of the Lord's great blessings should be our constant experience as we live lives surrendered and dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

How Serious Are You About Jesus?

I don`t think we take Yahweh seriously. I don`t think we know who we are to him and I don`t think we know how to respond properly. If we did then we wouldn't act the way we act, speak the way we speak or be involved in the things are are entangled in. We look to Israel`s history and criticize them for their stupidity and yet we are doing the same thing. We are half-hearted in our love and service to Jesus. We have no discipline to speak of and we treat the Lord of lords as if he is our "get out of jail free" card. Our lives are filled with idols, distractions and emotions have over run our devotion.

Pretty harsh? Not as harsh as the justice of Yahweh.

The Law of Moses was a simple thing; love and be devoted to Yahweh. Everything flowed from that just as it does today. In explaining the essentials of this Law to Israel Moses said:

Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it. The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 10:14-15)

So the Creator of all things looked upon a man and loved him, setting him apart, and grew a nation from him. He delighted in them. What a privileged place to be. What he asked for in return is that same love and devotion:

Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. (v. 16)

So often we think that the circumcised heart is a New Testament thing but the circumcision of the flesh was only a symbol of what really matter: the changed heart that said to Yahweh, I belong to you and am devoted to you, to obey you and serve you out of my love for you.

There should be no one sitting in our churches feeling obliged to be there. No one can ever be coerced or manipulated into faith. No one can ever hold a gun to someone's head and say love Jesus. Love is a voluntary thing; a thing of devotion and dedication, of wanting to please the other person. There has to be a circumcision of the heart, when we declare our love and devotion because of our response to the Father's great love for us. And this love changes us.

By this circumcision we recognize that we belong to him, that we are his people and his people's great desire is to obey him. His commands are not a burden but a delight. We cut out of our life anything that does not add to the relationship, anything that interferes and we guard it with a jealousy because he is our first love. We check ourselves often to insure that no idols have crept in, that we haven't set up any high places, and if we discover we have, we destroy them immediately. We belong to Yahweh, God of gods, and Lord of lords, and our love for him have us fastened fast to him. Nothing can move us our pursued us to turn away.

Now understand that everything in this world works against that love and there is an army out to destroy it in you. But they can't touch you. The only one who can disturb that relationship is you and your negligence. Consider your life, your goals, desires, activities, words, actions. Do they reflect those of a people who have circumcised their hearts in great love for Jesus, the Father and the Spirit? I don't think we take Yahweh seriously.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Do I Need A 'Hook' To Get Noticed?

I get the feeling that sometimes we feel we have to reinvent the wheel; that what has been established isn't good enough and we need something new. I don't think people look around and say "What new way can I serve Jesus" but it comes off that way. Many leaders seem to look for that "hook" that will make them stand out in the crowd; that says "hey look at me, I'm different". But maybe different in the Body of Christ isn't a good thing.

In Apostle Paul's description of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12) there are no stars. In fact, Paul said that Yahweh had arranged it so everyone, regardless of gifting and responsibility, were on equal footing:

But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)

What leadership has been put into place has been warned not to laud it over anyone but they are to have servant attitudes (hearts). Jesus taught that leaders in the Kingdom are servants, putting their own needs last, behind those who they are responsible for, just like Jesus. Don't be mistaken, there are leaders in the Body, but only one Head, and they are considered trainers. Ephesians 4 speaks of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers that Jesus has appointed as trainers, preparing the Body for good works.

All this to say that leaders do not have to find hooks to stand out because they don't need to stand out. We don't need to find a new way to serve because it has already been given to us. We do not need to make "pleasing Yahweh" a complicated thing. This is what he told Israel:

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

Jesus summed it up in one short sentence for us:

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

We don't have to reinvent the wheel. We don't have to make it some great mystery. It is not something out of our grasp. We don't need leaders putting their own twist on it. Love Yahweh with your entire being, with all your passion, intellect, time, possessions and love everyone as you want to be loved. Do what Jesus taught. Not complicated. The only thing you need to do is deny yourself (set aside your opinions, emotions, desires), take up your cross (walk in your gifting, calling and the mission given to us), and follow Jesus (do what he did through the Holy Spirit who has been given to you).

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sometimes Life Sucks. For A Reason

One of the hard things for Christians to understand is when we face difficult times. If Yahweh is as loving as he says he is why is it that we go through some of the tings we go through? Why does he let my heart get broken? Why can't I find a job? Why can't I seem to pay my bills? Why does everything always seem to be so hard? Sometimes we would rather see Yahweh as a Santa Claus than as a father.

Father's have the responsibility to raise their children by training them for life and eternity. We are not babysitters who just have to entertain the kids until someone else takes them off our hands. We have to train them the best we can so that when they move out on their own they are as prepared as possible to deal with the world. It means we cannot raise spoiled children and there is a lot of hard lessons in the training. But it is better to learn those lessons in the protection of a loving family than alone in a cruel world. Our heavenly Father has the same responsibility, only his preparation and training is for our eternity.

Hebrews 12 has a lot to say on this subject:

 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. (Hebrews 12:7-8)

Our fathers here disciplined us as best they knew how, not because they were cruel, but so that we would grow up right and ready for the world. How much better is our heavenly Father's discipline:

They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (vs. 10-11)

We see a perfect example of Yahweh's correcting and training techniques with Israel, when he brought them out of Egypt. Everything they went through was arranged and it was for their benefit even though it seemed like hardship at the time:

 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)

The purpose was to humble them, making them dependent on him, and to test them, to see if they would obey because obedience would be important for the centuries ahead. And this is how he trained them and how he provided:

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you. (vs. 3-5)

They faced some hard lessons but the generation that left the desert was the most powerful, obedient, and dedicated generation of Israelites who ever lived. Those hardships brought them into an incredible relationship with Yahweh that allowed them to have confidence to defeat nations through their obedience, living by every word that proceeded from the mouth of the LORD. This is exactly where the LORD wants us to be: dependent, obedient and powerful. But it takes training and discipline.

Yahweh has a purpose for everything we face and those things that we have caused by our own foolishness he will use for our benefit as well. Our part in everything we face is to face it in the joy of the Lord, with confidence, hope and trust. Our part is to listen and obey in love. No matter what it is you are in the midst of right now, be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged because the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.