Friday, February 28, 2014

We Have Nothing To Fear When We Walk With Jesus

Do you want to walk in faith, be filled with the power of Jesus and be used by him to see hearts changed? Then the Word of our God has to go beyond words, becoming greater than flesh, if we are to walk in faith. We have to allow the Word to have greater substance than the chair we are sitting on, the clothes we are wearing or the food we are eating. We have to be more assured by it than by what we are seeing right now with our eyes. We have to become more confident of what we cannot see than of the things that would cause us to fear.

I am sorry but you will never step into the fullness of Christ as long as you are trying to get there by the thinking process of man. You cannot argue your way into greater inspiration. You cannot think your way into greater faith. You cannot get there by any means of the flesh. Let me show you why.

Hezekiah was another of the great kings of Judah, one for whom I have reserved a great deal of respect. He had a great and growing relationship with Yahweh. Yet, here before him was the great Assyrian army. The Assyrians were ruthless, vicious and destroyed anything they set their eyes on. No nation or city had been able to stand against them and here they were about to come against Jerusalem. What does the flesh say? Fear of course. Perhaps despair, suicide, hopelessness. If you had a greater survival instinct perhaps you would be looking for a back door, a way to escape. But that is the difference between the spirit and the flesh.

Hezekiah was a man who had become so close to Yahweh that he discerned the truth of the matter. He did not see with his eyes but with his spirit as he looked out at this terrible enemy that out-muscled them significantly. Hezekiah, in full confidence of Yahweh, stood before the people and simply stated:

Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. (2 Chronicles 32:7)

You and I may have been tempted to count heads and then disagree with the king. Yet, all the great men of faith, the one's who trusted the Lord and were used greatly by him, saw this truth every day. Remember Elijah on the roof with his servant when the enemy surrounded him? More are with us than with them. We remember the statement of faith in the New Testament: greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. Hezekiah continued:

With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” (v. 8)

If we do not see that the flesh takes second place to the Spirit we will never learn to trust, and trust is the great component of our relationship with Jesus. The fact is that the flesh will always look greater. The odds will always be against us. Circumstances will constantly threaten to derail our faith. The enemy will always be looking to scare us away from Jesus so he can devour us. But victory is always ours in Jesus because the Lord fights our battles.

Christians should be the most confident people walking on this planet. Not self-confident to the point of arrogance but confident, as in confident in our Lord Jesus and the promises he has given us. We have to be confident when we are up against Goliath with all his strength and threats. We have to be confident when the numbers are against us and we are about to be swallowed up in a sea of opposition. We have to be confident when the world shows its ugly face of hatred and threatens to destroy us. We have to be confident when the bills are more than the income, and our health is heading in the wrong direction. We have to be confident when we are walking through the valley of failure and we don't understand what went wrong. We have to be confident that Yahweh is sovereign in all things, everywhere, all the time, and he knows what he is doing.

There are more with us than with them. With them is an arm of flesh but with us is the Lord our God. Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. If you feel weak in the face of the enemy do us all a favour, strengthen your relationship with Jesus. Cut out the unnecessary distractions in your life and fill it with relationship building moments. Bathe yourself in prayer, worship and the Word. Walk with him, talk with him, sing with him, dance with him and soon you will discover how confident you have become in him. Read Acts 1:8 and realize how you have been equipped. Hezekiah did not honey coat it to calm down the people, using religion to do so. Hezekiah spoke the truth to the people, the truth he had experienced for himself in his relationship with Yahweh. I encourage you, let your relationship take you beyond words and into a life of substantial faith.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Will Fear No Evil

Have you ever been afraid? Fear is a normal human emotion when faced by things we don't understand or by things that appear to threaten us. But fear can also be provoked by our imagination. We can fear sounds and shadows when there is nothing of substance. We can fear the "maybe's" and possibilities of life. We can fear our tomorrows causing us to be paralyzed in our today. This is what I sense David talking about in Psalm 23:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. (v. 4)

It is a shadow, a thing of no substance, a threat with no teeth. Actually, all fear is like that for a Christian. Fear has no teeth for us and is only the shadow of things that would like to harm us if it could but it can't because Jesus is with us. That is why David continued:

I will fear no evil;
For You are with me. (v. 4)

What can separate us from the love of Jesus? Absolutely nothing. When we turn to him in all situations we find comfort, especially as we turn to his Word. Shadows disappear in the light of his presence and Word:

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (v. 4)

If fear is paralyzing and overwhelming us it is because we are not relying on Jesus for strength and comfort. Fear may be a natural human reaction but we are no longer controlled by our emotions; we are a new creation, filled by the Holy Spirit, walking in the presence of our God.

We can find an example of someone who understood this long before Jesus gave us the Spirit. King Jehoshaphat was an awesome king and had developed a strong relationship with the Lord. News had suddenly come to him about a combined army that was coming to destroy Jerusalem. This army was massive and did not appear to be a "shadow" threat but something of real substance. Maybe under any other king Jerusalem would have been destroyed but Jehoshaphat knew Yahweh and he knew the promises. In other words, he knew the Word. He reminded Yahweh of a few things (2 Chronicles 20):

First, that Yahweh was the ruler over all kingdoms and that no one could come against him.

Second, that Yahweh had given them this land.

Third, that Yahweh had made a promise that if at any time they faced trouble they could pray in the temple and he would rescue them.

Then Jehoshaphat prayed this prayer that has always remained with me from the first I read it:

O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (v. 12)

We don't know what to do but our eyes are on you. Of course the Lord is going to respond to such a man of the Word, to a man of this kind of faith, a man who leans on the Lord for his hope and strength. Yahweh responded and told them they would not have to fight, that he would fight for them. He told them to get dressed for war, in their armour, swords and bows, and then watch him deliver them from their enemies.

One of the most incredible parts of all of this was the next day, as they marched out to face this overwhelming enemy, they went out singing. They faced their enemy with praise and worship. Praise and worship was not their salvation but was their heart response to the promise of salvation by the grace of Yahweh.

My friends we have nothing to fear but if we do feel fear then we need to run into the presence of our God. We are always in his presence but if you are feeling fear it is because you have forgotten that Jesus is the ruler over every nation, over every circumstance and nothing can come against him. You have forgotten that what you have received has come from his hand, and you have been told to stand your ground. You have forgotten his promise that whatever you need you can ask for in his name and Father will give it to you. Pray that prayer, "Jesus, I don't know what to do but my eyes are on you" and fear will flee from you as he answers you swiftly. Your fear will be replaced with praise and worship.

You cannot save yourself. Whether by many or by few, salvation belongs to the Lord. You belong to him and he has given you a ton of promises to encourage you. Learn the Word, walk in his presence and you will discover that there is no substance to the things that provoke fear in the children of Yahweh. Allow his "rod and staff" to comfort you.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Cause Of Our Spiritual Weakness

There is a spiritual truth that is almost impossible for us to live in our current age where the almighty dollar reigns supreme. For years we have allowed the seed in our heart grow, the seed that says "money makes the world go round". Everyone wants a comfortable life with enough money to do what they want and what most people want is to be entertained. So we work to spend, and what we don't have, we borrow. We lean heavily on credit cards and enslave ourselves to the financial system of this world; and we think it is good.

How can we discover the greatness of our God when we are enslaved to another? How can we discover the wonderful provision of our God when we are enslaved to another? How can we discover that he is mighty to save, whether by many or few, when we trust another god for our salvation?

You may think I am being a little over dramatic but that's because we have become blind to our own condition. We have become spiritually weak for several reasons but this is one of the big ones. It is not unlike the kings of old who trusted their own resources instead of Yahweh. Over the last couple of days I have been using king Asa as an illustration and today is no exception.

You will recall that Asa was a great king, bringing spiritual renewal to Judah as he encouraged everyone to turn back to Yahweh. He was a king who leaned on his God, who trusted him and as a result the land was blessed. During an invasion of the Ethiopians, when he was outnumbered 3 to 1, Asa cried out to Yahweh and trusted him in the battle. He easily defeated the army and gained great riches. Because Asa and Judah sought the Lord, they found him, and he gave them peace for 35 years, during which time they prospered. It was a golden age, until Asa made the same mistake we make today.

The King of Israel attacked and was building a city to cut off a major trade route. Israel's army was nothing compared to the Ethiopian army Asa had defeated in trusting Yahweh but during the 35 years of peace Asa seemed to have forgotten. He panicked and made a bad decision:

Then Asa brought silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house, and sent to Ben-Hadad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying, “Let there be a treaty between you and me, as there was between my father and your father. See, I have sent you silver and gold; come, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel, so that he will withdraw from me.” (2 Chronicles 16:2-3)

The fact that Asa trusted his riches and paid a foreign king, who was actually an enemy, to get him out of trouble was distasteful to Yahweh. He sent his prophet to tell Asa what he had done was wrong:

Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. ( vv. 7-8)

Now pay attention to the next part and understand how wrong we have been and why we struggle in spiritual weakness:

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (v. 9)

Our Lord looks for opportunities to show his strength through the weaknesses of his children. It brings to mind the Lord`s response to Paul`s prayer for deliverance, when he said that his grace was sufficient for Paul because he reveals his strength through our weakness. But we refuse to be weak in this age. We turn to other sources for salvation. We rely on the wisdom of man. We lean on credit. We run after means to feed and clothe ourselves. We wear ourselves out, ignoring Jesus entirely, as if he were some decorative ornament that adorns our lives; totally useless but pretty to look at.

Now that you are aware of this you have an opportunity to repent of it. Father wants us turning to him in our weakness. He wants us to lean on him so he can glorify himself through us. But please do not react like Asa. He had an opportunity to repent here. He had made a mistake but our Lord is the source of all grace. He only looks to us to repent and be restored. But instead of repenting, Asa allowed his heart to be filled with anger, bitterness and resentment. He threw the prophet into jail. He became a tyrant, oppressing the people because his heart had changed. And even when the Lord used disease to bring correction and to soften his heart, Asa refused to turn to him for help, instead choosing to die in suffering with the disease. We can be stupidly stubborn in our disobedience.

Face it, we are a distracted people who lean on other gods for salvation. We are wrong, we are weak, and we are in much need of repentance. Just for this moment, be honest with yourself. In your weakness, who or what gets glorified? If the answer is not Jesus then fall on your face before him. And don't lie to yourself. This could be a major turning point in your spiritual maturity. Allow Jesus to be glorified in your weakness.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Paralyzed By Guilt And Shame

Too many of us in the Church stand in the shame of our past. It is true that we have much to be ashamed of considering what we have done against our God and the people he loves. But these things that are producing shame in us are things already dealt with, things long forgiven, things that no longer have any claim on us. When we bear shame we are not trusting the promises of Jesus. We have been promised that Jesus has removed our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. We no longer bear the guilt of the things for which we have repented because Jesus bore the blame in our place. It is done. It is finished.

Yet, we remain paralyzed by our shame. We fail to step into Father's plan and will, our destiny, because of our shame.

Along with us not trusting the promise is the enemy's attempted to keep us down. He will use every opportunity to remind us of our past. Although Father has forgiven and forgotten, the enemy will use people with long memories to keep us in our place. Regardless, it is still our fault for not facing the enemy in faith that the promises are true and are applied to us. Regardless of the accusations, name calling and denial of people who have known us, we should know who we are in Jesus and stand in that reality.

I believe some of us need to seek renewal. Actually, I am positive that much of the Church needs to seek renewal so that the authority of Jesus can be renewed in us and in the entire Body. Shame is like the threat of some disease that we do not have but the effects are as if we do. It is causing a dysfunction and the Body looks diseased. We all need to seek the Lord's face with all our heart, throwing off this cloud of shame as the authority and healing of Jesus rushes in. Yes, indeed, we need a massive healing in the Body.

King Asa did that in Judah. He heard from the Lord:

The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. (2 Chronicles 15:2)

He went on to promise Asa great peace if Asa walked with him. The king then performed a great house cleaning in the land and they renewed their covenant that brought in freedom and great joy. But consider their steps:

So they gathered together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. And they offered to the Lord at that time seven hundred bulls and seven thousand sheep from the spoil they had brought. (vv. 10-11)

They renewed their worship, their relationship. They came with great sacrifices in honour of their God.

Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; and whoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (vv. 12-13)

They agreed together to seek Yahweh with all their heart and with all their soul. It was a serious covenant between each other. This wasn't some "if I can fit it in" agreement but all consuming, first priority, life or death seeking.

Then they took an oath before the Lord with a loud voice, with shouting and trumpets and rams’ horns. (v. 14)

The oath would have been like a pledge of allegiance, putting themselves under him, under his authority, with a desire to obey him. It wasn't a somber affair but a celebration with loud voices, shouting, trumpets and rams' horns. They wanted everyone, everywhere to hear this oath. They were willing to be accountable to it. I would have liked to hear the words but the words don't matter as much as the motivation of the heart.

And the response of Yahweh?

And all Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and sought Him with all their soul; and He was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around. (v. 15)

As promised, they found him and he was pleased with them and he gave them ... peace!

We need this same renewal where we renew our worship / relationship. We need to make this great covenant to seek his face together with all our heart and soul. Why together? Because we are the Body. We are in this together. We are dependent on each other. We need each other to be strong in the Lord. Then we need to make that oath of allegiance. Not quietly but loudly, so that everyone can see and hear and we will be accountable for it. And, as we renew our love with Jesus, the promises will be renewed in us and we will walk in the assurance of shamelessness and the peace he has promised us.

This shame thing is not Jesus' problem. He promised us peace that no one can take from us. He promised this because he was taking away the peace destroyers, the guilt and shame of our sins. No one else needs to recognize this in order for us to walk in this peace; people can remind us all they want. All that matters is that the relationship we have with the Peace Giver is strong and growing. Renewal brings healing and right now healing is the greatest need in the Body. Let us do this thing together so we can be the people of Yahweh that he needs us to be, that the world needs us to be, in this darkening age in which we live.

Monday, February 24, 2014

What Does It Take To Beat The Odds?

Life is pretty good when everything is in your favour. It is a time of growth, expansion, prosperity. It is easy to worship Jesus, to sing and pray. Being surrounded by people who love and encourage you allows you to be who you were meant to become. It is easy to maintain a great attitude and to walk in faith. But what about when things go wrong? What happens when people come against you and there are circumstances as big as mountains in front of you? What if you are in a hostile environment where no one believes in you or lends you any encouragement and support? Can you still pray, worship, sing, trust and walk in faith? I hope so, because it is one of the keys to success in Jesus.

You have to have a solid relationship with Jesus if you expect to be able to stand in the storms of life. You can't have a simple relationship of acknowledging his existence, praying over your food, attending church and trying to be good. That isn't a relationship at all; it is a system. A relationship is where you get to know Jesus; everything you can know about him. You trust his promises and act on them. You spend a good amount of time with him and realize he is always with you so you chat all day long. We become dependent on our friends and so we learn how to trust and lean on Jesus. But we also realize that he is more than a friend.

Jesus paid for us. I realize that sounds funny but we belonged to Satan. Jesus went into the enemy's camp and ransomed us with his own life. He paid for us and we now belong to him because in the nature of things "man" never belongs to himself. We may think we can be our own god and be the captains of our own destiny but it is all a lie. We belong to someone and Jesus made it possible for us to belong to him. In belonging to him then we should want the most intimate relationship possible and when we have such a relationship we realize that Jesus will see us through anything. The great kings of Judah knew this.

Asa was one of the good guys. He purged the kingdom of anything that was not related to Yahweh. Like some of the kings before him, he did some house cleaning and he encouraged the people to obey Yahweh. He knew what was good for his people and he set the example. As a result, Yahweh allowed him to enjoy a time of peace. He spent that time building and fortifying cities. Asa knew he lived in hostile times and that peace comes and goes, so he prepared for the worse. And then it happened.

Judah was invaded by an Ethiopian army, over one million three hundred thousand strong. King Asa had an army of over five hundred thousand. Talk about a bad day. They were outnumbered almost 3 to 1. In the flesh things looked hopeless. All of us can relate to having faced hopeless looking situations. But Asa had a fantastic relationship with Yahweh. His faith was not just a "fair weather" faith. Asa trusted Yahweh.

And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, and said, “Lordit is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” (2 Chronicles 14:11)

I really appreciate that prayer, "It is nothing for you to help". What appears to be impossible for use to face, deal with or overcome,is nothing for our God. It is Asa's knowledge of Yahweh and the incredible relationship that he had that allowed Asa to trust. Asa knew his history and was able to say with great confidence, "whether with many or with those who have no power". In fact, if you understand the history of Israel you will quickly take note that Yahweh prefers to use the least in order that he will receive the greater glory.

Needless to say Yahweh responded and sent the Ethiopians fleeing. Asa defeated them so soundly that they could not recover. This experience, instead of destroying Asa, prospered him as he came away with a lot more than he went in with. This is how it is with the challenges we face. We think these things are to defeat us but Yahweh always uses the victory in these things to increase us. Don't ever forget this scripture:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

I am not going to pretend everything is all butterflies and daffodils in life. Some people are dealt a really hard hand and must make the best of it. Some days are filled with despair as hope seems to be sucked dry from us. Sometimes it seems there is no direction to head in and we see no purpose in going on. But these are the lies of the enemy designed to keep our eyes down, on ourselves, instead lifted up to see Jesus. However we cannot know this, see it, understand it or walk in it if we have a "system" relationship with Jesus.

If you want a relationship that will allow a growing faith, a faith that permits you to know that Jesus will overcome everything for you, then you have to focus on Jesus. In fact, do some house cleaning. Get rid of anything and everything that distracts you from Jesus. If it is not used in the relationship development or in the out reach to others then trash it. When you dedicate yourself fully to the Lord you are able to experience him fully. If you want to be strong and unbeatable in the good and bad days then develop a relationship of trust. As long as you want both the world and Jesus you will never experience the kind of faith you need to prosper spiritually. Seek him with all your heart and get rid of all your other gods. Faith gets you going and trust will sustain you in the relationship.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

It's Getting Uglier Out There

Man's wisdom says that an unborn child is a fetus and not human, is part of a woman's body like an arm, that the woman has a right over her body and the fetus has no right to life.

Yahweh calls it murder and it is a sin.

Man's wisdom says that a child with a poor quality of life really has no life at all and has no value to our society so it is okay to kill the child.

Yahweh calls it murder and it is a sin.

Man's wisdom says that all things are equal and so marriage must include men with men, women with women.

Yahweh calls it an abomination and it is sin.

Man's wisdom says that all things are equal so he is starting to lean toward one man many wives and one woman many husbands.

Yahweh says marriage is between one man and one woman and anything different is a sin.

Man's wisdom says that it is healthy for thirteen year olds to experiment with sex.

Yahweh calls it fornication and it is sin.

Man's wisdom says it is healthy to have a sexual affair, that it improves your marriage.

Yahweh calls it adultery and it is sin.

I could go on with a much longer list of how our society and governments are turning its back on the statutes of Yahweh and setting up the wisdom of man. This is perfectly understandable in a world that is fallen, controlled by sin and is not seeking the face of Yahweh, but how many things on this simple list are accepted and practiced in different parts of the Church?

We are in a huge battle right now, not so much against the world, but for holding up the truth of Yahweh in the Body. Many are beginning to deny the authority of the Holy Scriptures. Many are developing their own theology. They still hold to the name Christian but Christ has no part in it. Once again we are making our own household gods and worshiping at the temples of our making. It is going to get very rough from here on in.

There are going to be days when you feel discouraged and alone. As you watch family and friends fall under the pressure of acceptability and conformity to the thinking of our environment, you yourself will face doubts. But the ones who will fall are the ones who have not developed a personal relationship with Jesus; the ones who knew about Jesus but did not know him. When you meet with him, speak with him, are encouraged and strengthened by him and dine on his Word every day, it is impossible to deny him or his truth. But others will fall and it is then that you will have to trust like you have never trusted before. As the world sneers at us, calls us names and works to isolate us, it will take courage and trust to stand on the Lord's side. Before there was little cost to following Jesus; now it will cost us everything.

I have already written about the necessity of trust on the battlefield but I want to keep emphasizing it and giving Scriptural examples so you will have something to lean on as the battle intensifies. We have to remember that Jesus warned us that the end times would become very difficult for believers. The Word says it will look and become so bad that some would be given over to despair. But, in the end, we will have the victory. Here's my example from Scripture.

It looked bad for Judah.  They were at war with Israel and were out numbered 2 to 1. One king served himself and the other king served Yahweh. But Israel ambushed Judah so that they were surrounded. But the army of Judah did an amazing thing. There on the battlefield they trusted Yahweh, even when it looked to be the end for them. They did not despair. Instead, they cried out to Yahweh and fought on:

They cried out to the Lord, and the priests sounded the trumpets. Then the men of Judah gave a shout; and as the men of Judah shouted, it happened that God struck Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. And the children of Israel fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hand. (2 Chronicles 13:14-16)

Trust is the key to our survival and personal victory. The Church will triumph. Jesus will have the victory. The question is will that victory include you and me. Jesus told his disciples to trust him, to put their confidence in him, and those words stand for us today. This battle requires us to ensure that we have the full armour of God in place and that we stand our ground. It is going to get messy but we are in it together and most important, we are in it with Jesus. Together we stand and trust because Jesus is King.

Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God; believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me. (John 14:1 AMP)

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Repentance Is A Good Thing

There are a lot of attractive things in this world. A lot of things that look and seem really good. There are a lot of things that give us a good feeling and when we are young we want to try them all. But as the apostle Paul said, we may think we have the right to do anything but "anything" is not always beneficial. Remember Eve and the temptation she faced when she considered that fruit. It looked good and she thought it would benefit her but it went against Yahweh's command. The fruit itself did not cause the damage as much as it was the act of disobedience.

Let's not lie to ourselves; there are consequences to sin. Some things look really good and beneficial but at the end of the day they destroy us, bringing shame and heartache. The apostle Paul wrote those words to the Corinthians who were trying to use the argument of Yahweh's grace as an excuse for sexual immorality. Today Christians use the excuse of Yahweh's love for the same purpose. They say because "God is love" that love is the basis for all things (which it is) so that if a relationship is based on love it is honouring and pleasing to Yahweh. This may be true if you want to ignore the hundreds of passages that deal with obedience. What comes out of a relationship of love with Yahweh? An overwhelming desire to obey. Jesus said, "If you love me obey my commands".

When we fail in our obedience (and we will), it is vital for us to grasp the importance of repentance. Repentance is more than just "I'm sorry" but a heart cry that comes with the conviction to turn away from that thing and have no part in it any more. It is a great desire to leave off rebellion and to walk in obedience, making obedience the great desire of our relationship because we love Yahweh with our entire heart. Obedience is a love response and it is in that love response that we begin to recognize good from evil, right from wrong.

Just picking out one of hundreds of examples in Scriptures of Yahweh's promise to respond to repentant hearts, look at 2 Chronicles 7. In this passage Yahweh is promising Solomon that when his nation responds to his correction with repentance, Yahweh will restore and bless them:

I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (vv. 12-14)

The unfortunate truth is that we are wrong sometimes. We get distracted. We move away from Jesus. We choose a wrong course. We get selfish. We are attracted to things that look good and seem beneficial but are set against the holiness of our God. We sin. Repentance is a good thing. Repentance is a restoring of things to their proper place. Repentance allows the Spirit to bring healing in the brokenness. Certainly we should know better. Yes we have failed. Yes, our failure has probably caused pain to others. But all we can do is trust that when Yahweh says he restores through repentance that he will do just that.

Consider the parable of the prodigal son that Jesus brought to this world. It is a story of hope. It is a parable of our relationship with the Father. The best thing the son did was consider his father. The best thing he did was come back in humbleness. The best thing he did was seek his father's face. Everything after that was the father. That is our Father. He will not deny a repentant heart and he will bring in restoration.

Have you made a mess of your life? Are things rough for you right now? Is there drought and pestilence in your "land"? This is simply the correction of the Father and the natural consequences of rebellion. There is nothing you can do to repair the damage but our Father has promised to bring healing. Run to him today. Repent and trust the Lord with all of it. Trust the Lord and be restored. Trust the Lord and see the healing flow. Repentance is a good thing.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Stop Blocking The Blessings From Flowing

So many of us want all the benefits of Jesus. We want a sense of his presence. We want to be encouraged by his strength. We want to experience his power in us. We want to be able to speak to the mountains in our life with his authority and have them leap into the ocean. We want to be healthy and well, at peace, and content. These are all promises Jesus has given us and we want them so we can be awesome in our service to him. We want it but we keep getting in the way of receiving it. He has promised to prosper us, to shower us with these and even more blessings but we block them by our disobedience.

As I continue to explain the importance of obedience to my children I put it in terms they can understand. I ask them if they believe they should be rewarded for doing bad things? They answer no. I ask them if they believe they should be rewarded for disobeying my instructions. They answer no. See, even children understand this stuff. I explain to them that I want to bless them with all the good things I have to give them because I love them, but if I give them all these things when they disobey then I will be re-enforcing their bad behaviour and they will turn out to be bad people who do not know how to obey rules. They would be spoiled. What amazes me is that my children get it.

They now understand that when I correct them it isn't because I hate them but because I love them. They understand that if I don't correct them I will end up spoiling them, causing them to be rotten and useless to our society. I realize that there is a level of morality I am teaching them but I am not teaching them to follow the rules of man, but instead the commandments of Yahweh. You know, David taught the same thing to Solomon:

Now, my son, may the Lord be with you; and may you prosper, and build the house of the Lord your God, as He has said to you. Only may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, and give you charge concerning Israel, that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will prosper, if you take care to fulfill the statutes and judgments with which the Lord charged Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and of good courage; do not fear nor be dismayed. (1 Chronicles 22:11-13)

In essence what he told Solomon is that he was praying wisdom for him to understand that if he obeyed Yahweh he would prosper. Simple enough for children to understand. "If you obey me good things will happen. If you disobey me bad things will happen." This is love. Correction comes from a root of love and is intended to increase not decrease a person.

Solomon started off well and indeed prospered beyond anyone's imagining. He became the greatest king on the earth and everyone submitted to his wisdom. However, Solomon did not continue in obedience. He married women that Yahweh had commanded not to marry. These women did exactly what Yahweh said they would do; they became a distraction to Solomon and he began to worship other gods. The blessings were removed and Yahweh brought in correction. Solomon's last days were spent in wars instead of the peace he had enjoyed. Because of his unrepentant disobedience Yahweh decided to divide the kingdom. Never again would one king rule over the complete kingdom as Yahweh divided it under Solomon's son's rule. It could have ended differently.

Many of us have yet to taste of the full blessing, prosperity, of our Lord because we do not give priority to obedience. We believe grace will carry us through. We do not have the maturity of a child to understand that it is our heart that matters to our Father. We may not be perfect but when our desire is to walk in obedience, holiness, his righteousness, when we give it our best effort because it is our desire to please him, then his grace covers us when we fall short. And if we fail to repentant when we fall short he will correct us so that we understand the importance to recognize when we have fallen short. This is a good thing. Even when we do fall short, the reason he covers us by grace is because our desire, our motivation is obedience. It is not the attitude of a spoiled child, "My dad loves me so he will forgive whatever I do". A child understands the difference, why can't we?

We want all the benefits of the relationship but just as Yahweh's response in the relationship of love is to bless us, our response should be the desire to obey. We need a David's heart, one that is fully for the Lord, all the time so that if we do fail our first concern is our relationship with Jesus. My friends open your arms and heart wide to receive all the abundant blessings he has planned for us, and be determined that the motivation of your heart in all matters is loving obedience in everything he has commanded.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Measuring Rod For The Quality Of Relationship With Jesus

We throw around a lot of words in the Church, things that everyone takes for granted. In fact words make up most of what the Church does these days, yet the Scriptures tell us that we should keep our words to a minimum and allow our actions to speak for us. Too often our actions cancel out our words. We say a lot about faith, how much we love Jesus, how we desire to walk in his foot steps, but we allow our emotions, not faith, to control our actions. We say we have faith but then fall to pieces in the face of adversity.

The number one thing we lack with Jesus is trust. This must mean that our love is not sincere because trust is developed in love. Sure, we can sing beautiful worship songs and sincerely give our lives to him in the emotion of it all, but what are we like on the battlefield? What are we like when all eyes are on us in the moment of crisis? Do we do what is demonstrated to us time and again in the Scriptures? Do we call out to Jesus and trust for his intervention?

Even in the tiniest passages of Scripture we see how Yahweh rewards those who trust him. In 1 Chronicles 5  we are being told of Gad's actions to expand their territory. This one simple statement is found:

And they were helped against them, and the Hagrites were delivered into their hand, and all who were with them, for they cried out to God in the battle. He heeded their prayer, because they put their trust in Him. (1 Chronicles 5:20)

So often we just read about the small victory, skipping over the "for" or "because" parts. Did they have victory because they were bigger, smarter, better, equipped, more talented? No. They had victory over their enemy because in the battle they cried out to Yahweh, they trusted his promise. It even says specifically here that Yahweh answered their prayer because they put their trust in him.

Notice as well here that the trust was not expressed in some worship service or even in their prayer closet. They demonstrated their trust on the battlefield, where it really mattered for them and their testimony, where Yahweh received the glory. They did not call out for others to join them. They did not retreat and wait for a better time. They reached out to Yahweh in the midst of the battle, put their trust in him to overcome the enemy, and kept fighting. Too often we treat prayer as a last resort, after we have tried everything else and nothing worked. On the battlefield you don't always get second chances so make your first option your best choice.

Without trust we have no real relationship with Jesus. We can't write on our blogs one day how much we love him and trust him and the next how panicked we are over a situation. That is failing on the battlefield. That is showing that we do not yet understand what faith and love mean. That is showing that we don't really believe the promises of Jesus. We are double-minded so that even when we do cry out we don't trust enough to believe. James told us that if we are like that we should not expect to receive anything. Remember, Yahweh responds to our trust and trust is developed in relationship. No trust is a good indication there is a problem with the relationship.

If every Christian was willing to demonstrate on the battlefield what they proclaim in worship, our world and the Church would look much different than it does today. We can't do much about anyone else, but you and I can be resolved today, while on the battlefield, to cry out to Jesus and trust him for the victory over every situation. May he receive all the glory as we live a testimony of trust, so that the whole world will see Jesus in us.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Revive Us O Lord!

A lot of people like the idea of Jesus. They like the thought of someone loving them unconditionally. They like the thought that someone loved them enough to suffer and die for them. They like the thought of Jesus being with them, of him promising never to leave them alone. There are a lot of great promises that come with following Jesus.

Those of us who are in Jesus also like the thought of spiritual revival. We like the thought of "dry bones" having new life breathed into them, taking on new flesh. We like the thought of filled churches and lively meetings. We like the thought of the fire of the Holy Spirit flowing across our nations. We like the thought, but these two things have something in common that we really don't like: Work.

I don't mean work in the sense that we have to do a lot of good works to have salvation or a lot of door knocking or phone calls to make for revival. Those two activities have nothing to do with anything, even though we might think they do. You might think you want to follow Jesus but when you realize the transformation that will take place and the things that will change, and the things the Spirit will convict you of - unless your response is a love response- you won't go the distance.

You might like the thought of revival but when you realize the transformation that will take place, the house cleaning that will happen, the changes the Spirit will bring about, the amount of time in prayer and Bible study, the hit to your reputation - unless it is a heart response - you won't go the distance. Revival involves repentance and repentance is the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the letting go of everything that is contrary to the character of Jesus. Most of us say we want revival with our lips but we fear it with our hearts because we are comfortable and we don`t want to become uncomfortable.

The greatest revival that took place in the Scriptures was under the leadership of king Josiah, and it started with the reading of the holy Scriptures. It brought to an end people doing what they thought best. It ended all other opinions. It revealed the truth to the people and it scared them. The truth of Scripture scares people, it wakes them up, it confronts them with the evil of our heart compared to the holiness of our God. There will be no revival if we keep avoiding the truth of the Word.

The second step of this king was to make a covenant with Yahweh, in front of the entire nation, to keep his commandments. The worship of Yahweh had not stopped but the relationship had. This was a renewal of holiness, of relationship, of obedience of action. And all the people joined with their king.

Then this king, who sought Yahweh with all his heart, started cleaning house. He purged and cleansed the temple. He renewed the priests and tore down every idol, every high place, desecrating them so they could never be used again. He purged the land of anything that offended Yahweh and re-dedicated the land and the people to be wholly Yahweh`s.

Then the king brought back the worship celebrations and the festivals of remembrance, giving praise and thanksgiving for all the things Yahweh had ever done for his people. At the same time he got rid of the spirituality that took people in the wrong direction, mediums and spiritists. He got rid of the national places of false worship but also cleansed the land of all household gods and idols. He called the whole nation to repentance. And Scriptures say this of king Josiah:

Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him. (2 Kings 23:25)

One man`s spiritual revival changed the atmosphere of an entire nation but consider the work that was involved. Don`t think for a moment that when you turn back to Jesus with all your heart that all the pieces will simply fall right back into place. There is a lot of house cleaning that takes place after, as the Lord moves in to take what you have freely offered. The great thing is, if you have truly turned to the Lord with all your heart, you have done it in love, and you are only too glad to do the house cleaning, just like Josiah.

As our nations turn their backs on Jesus, as churches do what they think is best, as the Holy Scriptures lay gathering dust, it is going to take men and women who desire Jesus with all their heart, who are not afraid of revival, who are willing to do some house cleaning, who will renew their covenant, who will walk in holiness, to keep the Light of Jesus burning bright in the falling darkness. Are you afraid of a little work?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An Uncomfortable Christianity

Do you want to hear a really sad statement from the Scriptures?

So they feared the Lord, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. (2 Kings 17:32-33)

They feared Yahweh but served other gods. These were not the people of Israel. These were the people brought in by Assyria to resettle Israel after taking the people of Israel captive. It is what Assyria did after conquering a nation, they would resettle them in another place. It is actually an intelligent move, taking away the familiarity so the people would no longer have something for which to fight. It got rid of any underground, rebellious movement.

The people coming in learned of Yahweh, all that he had done for Israel, the great show of power, his promises, so they feared him, respected him, but they worshiped that which they were familiar. It seems to be some human trait that we have, sticking with the things that are familiar to us. We tend to stick with what our parents did. We tend to stick with their beliefs unless they prevent us from doing what we want to do.

When people are presented with Jesus and the great gift he has offered today, there can be general appreciation shown. When people are told of his love and his desire to rescue us from our destruction, there can be a moment of awe. They may respond to the invitation. They may even come to church but they aren't going to allow their "fear" of Jesus, their appreciation, to interfere with their life, their priorities. So what they become is a religious person, living the rituals, ceremonies, and doing what is expected, but nothing of the old has changed. They still worship the gods of their youth.

This is the reason Jesus did not send us out to make converts or to "win souls". He told us to go into the world and make disciples. It took him three years to prepare his disciples to become apostles and even then the work did not really take root until the arrival of the Spirit. But Jesus lived with, worked with, slept with, ate with his friends, teaching them as they went along, for three years. He invested himself into them. The fact is we can't disciple from a distance. If we want people to know Jesus we have to invest ourselves into their lives.

Too often evangelism is treated like the old gun slingers, where we put a notch in our belt for everyone who prays the sinners prayer, but they walk away unaffected and we never see them again. Maybe a seed has been planted for another time but the influence of their gods is pretty strong. They need someone who is willing to demonstrate Jesus' love by laying down their life, investing time and effort, to walk alongside, teach, support and encourage until they are strong in the Lord. Preaching is for those called to it but we are all called to make disciples.

We have made Christianity too easy, too comfortable and very few actually read, know and act upon the Scriptures. In some ways we are no better than those who fear Yahweh but serve other gods. To love Jesus is to obey him. To obey is to do what he has commanded. Among the things he has commanded is that we are to love others. To love others is to introduce Jesus. To introduce Jesus is to lay down our life in order to invest in their eternity. Not so comfortable.

Monday, February 17, 2014

My Lips Are Yours But My Heart Belongs To Me

There is an illness in the Church which causes half-heartedness in those who would be the children of Yahweh. It is an illness that allows obedience in some areas of the heart but disobedience in others. It is an obedience of convenience but whenever it becomes inconvenient disobedience and rebellion set in, but not in a way that disturbs the obedient parts. And so we lie to ourselves and say "I am a Christian".

Yet, to be a Christian is to be like Jesus and nowhere in the Scriptures do I find where Jesus served the Father half-heartedly. He came in full obedience. He served in full obedience. He died in full obedience. His entire purpose was obedience to the Father's will. He set for us an example and told us to do the same.

It is not dependent on how you feel. It is not dependent on what you think. It is not dependent on your desires and whims. It does not matter if you agree or disagree. It does not matter if it costs you little or much. It does not matter if it ends your life. To be a Christian, a child of Yahweh, a follower of Jesus Christ requires obedience until your very last breath.

Certainly, celebrate and worship the Lord for all his benefits and goodness. Cry out in your distress. Receive his comfort and strength. But understand, at the end of the day, what our Father is looking for from us is obedience born of our love for him. He does not want to hear the words "I love you" from our lips when our heart is filled with rebellion. Disobedience is rebellion. Willing to do what you agree with while ignoring what you disagree with is rebellion. Half-heartedness is rebellion. Let's turn to the Hebrew Scriptures for a minute.

There was one king in Israel that showed some promise after a long line of evil kings. His name was Jehu and the Lord had raised him up to bring about the promised punishment on the family of Ahab. He was so filled with zeal for the Lord that he destroyed not only the family of Ahab but anyone who was connected with that family. He put his motivation into words:

“Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.” (2 Kings 10:16)

From this zeal he found strength to move on from the family of Ahab to also wipe out the Baal worship in Israel, killing all the priests and destroying the Baal temple. It looked like he was on the path to great reform in the kingdom of Israel so that they might join with Judah in the worship of Yahweh. Yahweh even made a promise to him because of his obedience:

“Because you have done well in doing what is right in My sight, and have done to the house of Ahab all that was in My heart, your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” (v. 30)

But Jehu could not manage to maintain the singleness of heart and his zeal waned. He fell into the sin of Jeroboam and worshiped the twin calves which had been set up to keep Israel from Yahweh:

But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin. (v. 31)
Yahweh ended up starting the demise of Israel under Jehu, handing over sections of it to surrounding kingdoms. Like so many kings before him, Jehu started off well but ended poorly. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with such examples, warning us of the importance of obedience. It is not enough to make a decision for Jesus, to call him Saviour; we must also walk in his ways every day for the rest of our life. There are times we will fail but when our heart is right, when we desire to be obedient, and we repent when we fail, his grace covers us and he picks us up again. You see, with obedience comes an unending flow of blessings but disobedience brings curses. What fools we are to choose to serve the Lord half-heartedly instead of with the zeal of obedience.

Jesus warned us time and again, directly and through parables, that true love provokes obedience and obedience to the Father is of utmost importance. When the question is,"who will you serve", don't allow your response to be from your lips and not a fully surrendered heart. Let it end as brilliantly as it began. Stay strong and run the race to win it.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Will Jesus Find Faith On Earth When He Returns?

There is a trust deficit in our societies these days and who can blame us? Everyone we are suppose to be able to trust has broken that trust time after time. Politicians continue to do things against our trust. The banks have failed us more times than not. How many times do we have to see police beatings on the news; teachers abusing students; daycare workers abusing babies; doctors abusing patients? Corruption is at every turn. Of course there is going to be a trust deficit. So it may be an uphill climb when people hear Jesus say:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (John 14:1)

Belief, faith, trust are all rolled up in one so in essence Jesus is saying, "Don't be worried, trust Yahweh and trust me". And why shouldn't we? Unlike almost every human being who has failed us and backed out on their promises, Jesus has never failed us. He has kept every promise. If you know him as I know him then you know just how much he loves you and the unbreakable covenant he has made with you. He made the decision to love you and nothing can stop him from doing that.

The important thing to understand is that trust is paramount in Jesus being everything he has promised to be. He warned us that any doubt in him, who he is and what he has promised, nullifies the beauty of the relationship. We must trust and such faith often has to be given when we cannot see. It is like what the apostle Paul wrote:

For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (Romans 8:24-25)

Hope and faith go hand in hand, working in similar manner. Consider Hebrews 11:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (v. 1)

"About what we do not see." Faith burns brightest when it is encased in the mysterious darkness of the unknown. Allow me to take us back to the second book of Kings, to a point where Elisha was being hunted down by an opposing king who was upset that his plans were being told by Elisha. The king tracked him down and surrounded the town in which he was staying. Elisha was on the roof with his servant and the servant was having an heart attack from the fright. The servant asked a very legitimate question for their situation, "Master, what are we going to do?"

We are like that servant, only willing to believe what we see. We may have a fool's hope to be saved from our situations but it is not a true hope. Elisha was the man of God, he trusted Yahweh because of his relationship, what he has experienced, what he has seen. Many of us should be like Elisha because of our relationship and our testimony. How many times does Jesus have to manifest himself in our situations before we start to trust for every situation?

Elisha told his servant:

“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16) 

Does that sound familiar at all?

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)

Now when Elisha prayed for his servant's eyes to be opened to Yahweh's reality, the servant saw a great heavenly army surrounding them so his fear dissipated. But we do not need to see any great army because we are possessed by the Holy Spirit. Ours is a relationship of trust that needs no proof or guarantees. The proof is in the relationship, the guarantee in his love. We believe it because Jesus said it.

If you need something beyond the promise of Jesus you are in a wrong place in your spiritual growth. If you are filled with anxiety and fear then you are not where you are suppose to be with Jesus. If you are constantly obsessed with your future then you need to get back to basics with Jesus. We are not like Elisha's servant, we are even greater than Elisha; we are inhabited by the King of Glory.

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

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Is There A Limit To Prayer?

What kind of warriors are we? A good warrior never quits, even if it costs him his life. There is a persistence and determination in their actions because they have been ordered into action. Imagine if every army that went to battle were filled with the likes of us? Would we be those who flee when faced with insurmountable odds or those who held their ground even to death? The only difference is that we go to war, not with swords and shields, but on our knees. How persistent are we?

If we want to consider examples of prayer warriors there are a few of them in the Scriptures to admire. Just consider Elijah. We are told that he was a man just like us, as normal as we are, but he understood his responsibility and the place of prayer:

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5:17-18)

James was making the point that our weapon is prayer:

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (v. 16)

The thing is that Elijah had to persist in prayer just as much as we do. He prayed what he was told to pray. He knew it to be Yahweh's will and still he had to persist in prayer:

And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.”
So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.” (1 Kings 18:42-43)

James words to describe prayer were "effective, fervent". Fervent, intense, enthusiastic, persistent. How quickly we forget the lessons Jesus taught on persistent prayer, not giving up, continuing until it happens. Many believe that praying once is enough and if it doesn't happen it wasn't Yahweh's will. But Jesus taught us to pray until something does happen or we get a clear answer. Remember the persistent widow and the judge who finally gave in to her because of her persistence. Listen carefully to Jesus' conclusion:

Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:6-8)

Will he indeed?

People use Paul's thorn as an excuse not to be persistent. They consider that since he prayed three times they can draw the conclusion that we should limit ourselves to praying three times. Such people fail to understand that it was after Paul prayed the third time that he got a response. You don't keep praying after Jesus has responded. For Paul it was only three times, for Elijah seven, for you maybe 100 times. There is no set number, just the instruction to be persistent until we have the answer.

What strikes me in this is that Elijah prayed what he knew to be Yahweh's command and still he had to persist until something happened. So what kind of warriors are we on the battle field? Do we throw our weapon down when we meet with resistance, or do we persist and stand on the ground we have been given to keep? Your family and friends are your responsibility, for whom you fight and protect. You are to cover your leaders. You are to fight for the weak. Remember at all times, you are a prayer warrior: "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." Never give up. Pray on until something happens.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Faltering In Our Beliefs

It is a hard life to be an indecisive person, always struggling over choices and decisions. These people tend to waiver even after they have decided, doubting the choice they did make and if it would have been better to have chosen differently. It reminds me of Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken":

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth."

You notice the title is not "The Road Taken" but "The Road Not Taken". Obviously the emphasis was on the thought of the path that he did not choose, wondering, speculating. We are this way with so much in our lives. Perhaps not to the point of being indecisive but often times regretting not having made decisions differently.

Sometimes such an attitude hampers us in the decisions we have made and so we only put a partial effort into the journey we are on. We are robbing ourselves of the glory of the path we have taken. The worse of it is when we try to take both paths and make a mess out of everything. Throughout the Scriptures we are told to make a decision about who we will serve because, as the apostle Paul said, we will end up serving something.

We all remember the famous "As for me and my family" speech from Joshua and it is spot on. Make a decision people, who will you serve: Yahweh or some other god? Make a decision and give it your full effort. Some of you may protest and say that we are not to put in an effort, that it is all by Yahweh's grace. Salvation is by his grace but our walk with Jesus is with effort and determination. Yes, his grace covers us when we falter but if we do not understand our responsibility in the relationship we will do more than falter, we will drop off. We need to be determined every day to choose Jesus, to walk in his ways (directions, commands, instructions, laws), to not fear and trust him for all we need, to spend time in relationship building (prayer, worship, Bible study), and to carry out the mission (to make disciples).

Yet, Joshua's speech is not the only example of being told we must make a decision. Examples are scattered throughout the Word. One is found in 1 Kings 18:

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
But the people said nothing. (v. 21)

Elijah was fearless and bold in demonstrating to the people that, although there was a choice, there was only one that was obvious. But people do not like choosing Yahweh, even with the promise of eternity because of the intimacy of the accountability. They would rather find a system that would demand less out of them; something that would benefit them but with low risk, low cost and low effort. We are such a lazy people.

Jesus told us that we would have a choice and that he had come for those who would make the decision to believe the good news he was revealing. It's a decision. We can choose to stay as we are,  in our rebellion and be slaves to sin or we could choose to accept the loving relationship with Yahweh and be slaves to righteousness. Paul used the term slave to describe something with a term that we could understand because it is hard to translate the spiritual into a language the non-spiritual may comprehend. When we make a decision for Jesus we are compelled to walk in righteousness in the same way we were compelled to walk in sin without him.

Now let's be clear on this, we can't serve two masters. We can't choose two paths. You can't choose Jesus and still do whatever you want. There is a distinct way of living when we choose Jesus and many of us are choosing with our mouth but our heart still belongs to the other path. It can't be made any clearer than this: when you choose Jesus you let everything else go and you give yourself completely to his path. You don't get to argue and negotiate certain aspects with him. It is like when Moses presented everything to the people of Israel and then told them to choose. Jesus told us to count the cost, check out what you are agreeing to. Yahweh hides nothing but he says that if we are to follow him these are his clear expectations and demands of those he calls his children. It is not a free for all.

Salvation is by grace but the rest of it gets worked out in us daily as we are transformed by the Spirit, transformed with an obedient and willing heart. Too many of us are choosing with our mouth only but it also requires a belief of action in our hearts. The question is simple: who will you serve? Which path do you choose? What is your decision?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

O You Troubler Of My Spirit!

Yahweh has always made it clear that it is his desire to bless everyone in the world. He created us to love us and for us to love him. He created us for a wonderful relationship. He doesn't need us because he is self-sufficient. He needs nothing outside of himself. But he chose to create us so that he could pour out his great love on us and he only required our obedience. He gave us a free will so that obedience would be by choice. He knew the risk and he knew what would happen.

Even though it has resulted in disaster for the majority of people on the earth, Yahweh made a way through Jesus, for those who so choose, to return to that loving relationship. His great desire is that everyone would find their way to him, and that's the reason we lift up Jesus, as a beacon to everyone to pass through, to be with Yahweh once again.

However, staying faithful and obedient to Yahweh in a world that is fallen, surrounded by people who don't understand, is a great challenge, especially if we allow the passion of our love to fade. This is where Jesus, our great Shepherd, needs to do things we might not appreciate, to correct us and keep us close. Some people see it as mean in the same way that people in the world see correcting a child as mean. Yet we see the results of tolerant parenting in the world today. Our Father's desire is to have us mature and ready for eternity with him, not spoiled on the pleasures of this earth.

Many of us don't see it this way. Many of us see "hardships" as mean and unnecessary. We don't understand what our Father is doing because we choose not to understand it, in the same way king Ahab refused to accept Yahweh's correction.

Ahab was a rotten king, one of the worse, and the kingdom of Israel prostituted herself to every god imaginable under his reign. Yahweh sent his prophet Elijah to bring correction and to call back to himself his children. Yahweh had always warned that relationship with him required obedience and obedience allowed him to bless his children, but rebellion sealed up his blessings. Yet Ahab saw Elijah only as a trouble maker:

Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” (1 Kings 18:17)

But Yahweh was not putting up with such accusations and told Ahab through Elijah what the real source of the trouble was:

I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals. (v. 18)

Does a child blame his parents for the punishment he brought on himself? Some do but we all have enough intelligence to understand that it is the behaviour that brought the correction. This is not our Father's judgment but his correction. When you encounter hardship, and they are a result of your behaviour, don't accept people saying that it is God's judgment. There is one day reserved for judgment. No, this is the correction of a loving Father who wants to see his children grow up and become mature:

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)

It's not all butterflies and daffodils. Life itself can have large rough patches as does our relationship with Jesus Christ. But in it all we must be absolutely convinced of our Father's love because if we love him we will trust him, even when it is a matter of correction. Most of us know when we are being corrected that it is because we have brought it on ourselves. So endure it, learn from it, and grow from it. If you kick against the Spirit in these things it means we will have to learn the lesson over again. Remember, he uses all things for our benefit.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Be An Elijah For Someone Today

Our world has moved from skepticism to all out hostility against faith in Jesus. That is, until Jesus touches their life directly. But sometimes even small miracles are refused. It is an "I'll believe it when I see it world" and hearts are getting harder. People want proof in the same manner in which science offers proof. They want conclusions drawn from observation and experimentation. However, they don't just want to see the experiment, they want to experience it.

It is like the widow with Elijah. Times were hard. The drought was hard. Israel had completely turned their back on Yahweh. They were being controlled and manipulated by evil king after evil king. These were truly evil days. So when Yahweh sent Elijah to the widow there was no surprise that faith was not a way of life.

Elijah asked the woman for some bread and when she said that she did not have enough the Lord did a miracle through Elijah. Because the Lord was taking care of his prophet he blessed this widow and her son so that the man of God would be provided for in this drought. Yahweh did not allow the flour or oil to run out as long as there was drought. Maybe this miracle softened the heart of the widow but it did not win her over. It wasn't until Yahweh met her in her tragedy and responded to her need in a way not seen before that she began to believe the man of God.

The widow's only son became ill and died. This was tragic on so many levels because this son was her future. He would look after her in her old age. Without him she had no one to provide for her. This was not even to consider the connection of love between the two. But in her grief Yahweh reached in and did something she did not expect:

And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives!” (1 Kings 17:23)

Now remember that Yahweh had already been doing miracles in her life but here was something that could not be explained away. So she responded:

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.” (1 Kings 17:24)

We are living in a world where words alone will not persuade them. You may have the plan of salvation memorized and know twenty ways to refute the arguments of an atheist, but words alone will not prevail against the hardened hearts of this age. They are looking for the power of Yahweh to lend credence to your words. Do we have the boldness of Elijah to pray believing for miracles? The Scriptures say that he was a man just like us, just a normal, everyday kind of guy. But he had faith. Be believed. He listened and acted on Yahweh's word. He looked around and was moved by compassion.

The world is not impressed by the size of your church. It is not impressed with your nice clothes and your great education. The world is not impressed by your fine sounding arguments. The world is certainly not impressed by our music and great organization. However, those hearts may be melted by a people who lived, worked, breathed by faith. They might be melted by direct intervention in their trouble and sorrow. They might be impressed and listen to your words when they see the power of Jesus Christ flow through us and into their situation. But will we believe? Will we act? Will we trust? Will we go?

What is the spirit of Elijah? Faith and obedience that drives us to take action. That's what the world is looking for, a people who allow their God to be glorified through them. Our words will not change them. Our songs will not move them. But the power of Jesus Christ can transform them. Will you be his Elijah today?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Holy Spirit Smack Down

We think we are living an authentic Christianity. We think we are okay. We think we are getting by on the faith that we have. We think it's good enough.

We are lying to ourselves.

It's not good enough.

Grace is seen as a free ticket, but for those who are pursuing Jesus as they should, it is a great power propelling us forward, giving us a desire to go higher, deeper and wider with Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)

I dare you to read that with your eyes open,
not half asleep,
not skimming through but
with eyes wide open.

... who do not walk according to the flesh

but according to the Spirit.

Who is in control of your day? How much thought do you give to Jesus? Who are you living for? What desires are propelling you forward?

Who do not walk according to the flesh.

We don't even know enough to ask ourselves the right questions. We actually think we are okay; that what we are doing (which isn't much) is somehow pleasing and honouring to Jesus.

As if the God who gave us his everything is pleased to accept our nothing.

Are you ready for this?

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5)

"What? I don't understand. What you are saying? Are you saying I am carnally minded?"

You tell me.

"What about grace?"

Grace is not a free ticket to let you do whatever you want because whatever you want is always going to come from the flesh and if you live by the flesh then you have nothing to do with Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

There is more.

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)

"Well I think I am okay. I don't think I am carnally minded."

That's because most of us don't give it a thought. We do what we think is best, which is a pretty good definition of what it is to live by the flesh. We think that a half-effort is good enough.

Jesus said it isn't. He said all or nothing. Yes, that is right. To live by the Spirit means that we have held nothing back and our only longing is the will of the Father.

Does that describe your day?

No? Mine neither but the Spirit smacked me across the head with this scripture and I for one am paying attention.

This is not fun and games boys and girls. This is life and death for eternity. This is serious relational stuff. Jesus has called us to something higher and greater than what we have been willing to live.

What will you do with this? Whatever you do, don't go back to getting by.