Monday, March 31, 2014

Why Do You Call Him Lord?

There is absolutely no doubt that salvation is by the grace of Yahweh. There is nothing we could do to save ourselves and there was no good in us to provoke Jesus to save us. Salvation came out of Yahweh's love, his compassion and mercy for his creation. This grace also enables the Spirit to empower us to live and serve in his presence, with power to overcome everything from our old nature, the fallen world and the enemy of our soul. But none of this takes away from the importance of us living the righteousness of Jesus.

Jesus taught us, as well as showed us, that there is a difference between right and wrong, good and bad. The world fudges those lines and says there are no absolutes but the righteousness of Jesus Christ proves otherwise. In fact, all the way through the Scriptures the importance of righteousness was lifted up. Even though the prophet Isaiah, as he spoke of our approaching salvation, Yahweh stated:

Keep justice, and do righteousness,
For My salvation is about to come,
And My righteousness to be revealed.

Blessed is the man who does this,
And the son of man who lays hold on it;
Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And keeps his hand from doing any evil. (Isaiah 56:1-2)

We no longer walk in righteousness, doing good instead of evil, to try to earn our salvation. The grace Jesus gave us on the cross took care of that, but now we walk in righteousness to bring pleasure to Father. For us it is an act of love, as we live in obedience to Jesus. The expectation is, if we call him Lord we will submit to his commands, teachings and instructions; we will obey. He told us:

But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)

Too often we dismiss much of what Jesus taught, abusing the Scripture that tells us that we are no longer under law but under grace. What that is telling us is that we are no longer under the condemnation of the law but under the forgiveness that comes from grace. But this does not minimize our need for obedience if we are to be followers of Jesus Christ, his disciples and fellow heirs:

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

Salvation is by grace but a loving relationship with Jesus provokes in us a desire for righteousness. In fact, Paul the apostle says that we become slaves to this righteousness instead of a slave to sin. Let me be clear, this is not righteousness by law but righteousness by faith. We have been declared to be righteous under grace, but Jesus expects us to walk in that righteousness. It is a state of being, declared by Yahweh, which provokes us to action.

Simply put, if you really love Jesus then obeying him becomes a top priority to you. Jesus showed us that there is a difference between right and wrong, good and evil. He didn't just tell us, he showed us. It is interesting because to me righteousness looks a lot like love. You can't say you love Jesus and then expect him to believe you when you do the opposite of what he taught. It also confuses the people who are looking in, the ones who want to see if there is anything authentic about this thing we call faith.

Why do you call him Lord? Righteousness may call on you to die to what you want today. For the sake of love, can you answer that call and obey? Love keeps us from twisting the truth of the Word to meet our selfish agenda and beckons us to the righteousness of Jesus. As always, it is a matter of choice. We are under grace but we walk in righteousness.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Does It Take To Love Like Jesus?

I don't think we hold ourselves to a high enough standard, especially in what we call love. People may think money is the foundation of everything but they are mistaken. Without love there is only existence, there is no abundance. I believe most of us want to move beyond existence and discover what gives us real joy, but that won't happen without love. And I don't mean our Hallmark experience of love. Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, said without love he was nothing and he had nothing:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

But we have all heard this before. There is nothing new here, so what is the problem? Why are we living such one dimensional lives? Why can't we seem to get any closer to Jesus and why does it seem like we are missing something? I think it's because we are so busy with "stuff" we don't have time to actually reflect on the Word of God. Sure we read it but we don't have time just to sit in the presence of Jesus, to meditate on passages, and be taught by the Spirit. We treat the teachings of Jesus like Gandhi's teachings, not understanding that Jesus is the bread of life and from him has come instructions to serve him. Consider this:

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Children imitate their parents. They see what they are doing and they try to do the same things. My 19 month old loves to stand on her stool at the sink and "help" me do dishes. She watches me and then tries to imitate me. We are suppose to examine the life of Jesus and, through the power of the Spirit in us, do what he did. We are to love as he loved us. If you sit and think about that for a moment it is going to blow you away. In fact, it will most likely change everything you do and how you do it. At the very least it will reveal to you your wrong motivations.

Jesus left everything that was familiar to him. He was changed forever. He walked as you and I do today, filled by the Spirit to enable him to minister to mankind. He thought nothing of himself as he poured out his life daily for the sake of the people who needed to hear the Good News. He was innocent but he gave his life, through suffering and death, to die in our place. And when he did it we were his enemies. He did it so we could have the opportunity to discover the Father, to know what real life was, so we could repent and be forgiven, so we could have eternal life with him. He loved us.

He loved his enemies after telling us to love our enemies. Yet our love is of such a low degree that we aren't willing to sacrifice our desires for those who love us. We are missing something somewhere and I think it is simply because we have gone with the Hallmark version of love instead of Jesus'. 

To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. (Luke 6:29a)

This is the simple verse that has blown the top off my life. Yes, I have known it since my Sunday School days but I haven't really known it. Well, at least not to the depth the Spirit has been taking me to recently. The cost of this one simple teaching; the necessity to be completely empty of the idea of justice and rights; it shames me. The vulnerability in love that it demands has been lacking in my life. How about yours? The willingness to be hurt in love.

Why do I keep going on about this? Because we are missing the point. It is as Paul wrote: Without love we have nothing and we are nothing. Again, not Hallmark love but Jesus' love, and if we are willing to do some honest reflection I think most of us would agree that we haven't been living there. It is important because of this:

But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)

How many times have you gotten angry at someone for what they did against you? How many times did you feel your rights were stepped on? How angry do you get at injustices committed against you? Do you get angry at the person who forces their way ahead of you? How many times have you been offended by someone who says they love you? How many times have you been hurt or slighted? How much unforgiveness are you carrying around? How many seeds of bitterness have been planted? If this is the result of one week of living how could you possibly imitate Jesus and walk in love?

You can, you just need to get to know him better. You need to know what he taught and how he lived it. You need to sit with him for good chunks of time every day, just to learn from him. And then you have to trust that by the Spirit he has made you capable to love in this way. I am talking way beyond acts of kindness. I am talking about the depth of Jesus' love, where you give up all your rights and put everyone above yourself; not just those who love you but your enemy as well; where you are willing to be vulnerable to hurt, pain and suffering as a result of your love. We are talking the heart of a servant whose only purpose is the betterment of all other people, including those who hate you. We lay down our lives so others might live.

If we can start loving like this the story of Jesus is going to be told to more people and more people will make the decision to be re-birthed in Jesus. He started an incredible revolution of love that flies in the face of the false prince of this world and he told us to carry on. That revolution has faded recently but it only takes a spark to see it come to life again. May that spark be ignited by the Holy Spirit in you and me.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Why Do We Spend Money On What Does Not Satisfy?

As much as I want to believe we are capable of doing good, unless we are concentrating on Jesus, we will always be sucked into what satisfies our flesh. We have to purposefully seek the face of Jesus every day in order to walk in the Spirit instead of our flesh. We have to be totally consumed by his love every day in order for us to keep our eyes on things above instead of what we see around us. We hear the invitation:

Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)

But we don't always respond. We can easily ask ourselves on certain days:

Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy? (v. 2a)

Good question. Why do we put any value in the system of this world? Just because we have to live and serve here does not mean we need to be in love with this place, the system or the values. Our pleasure is found in Jesus and our love is for the people trapped in the limited vision of this world, not the world system itself. So each day we hear the Spirit calling:

Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance. (v. 2b)

Each day, as we seek Jesus and make ourselves open to the awareness of his presence in us, we are reminded of our mission. We are reminded that our King did not leave us in this place for our own entertainment. He gives us purpose every day and it goes beyond worship. Worship is what we do in everything we do but our purpose is to make disciples. We speak the words of his invitation to those who are passing into death:

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near. (v. 6)

The King's message is one of hope and mercy. It is an invitation to love. It is fantastic news to those who are hungry and thirsty. It is fantastic news for those who are restless, unable to find satisfaction in this place. We speak this message of mercy and grace with all who will hear:

Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon. (v. 7)

We tell them of the love found on the cross, the life through the empty grave, and the presence and power through the giving of the Spirit. We care not for their current condition or situation. We care not about the nature of their sin. We only care that they would hear, receive and be forgiven all things, being welcomed into the family of Father. We let go our our blood lust for justice and are empowered by the love, mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. We recognize that while under the power of sin our thinking was crooked and depraved. We hear Yahweh's sweet reminder:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts." (v. 8-9)

Oh what a Saviour. Oh what a King. And this seen through the eyes of a prophet who had yet to see Jesus, who had yet to hear of the mercies of the cross and the victory over the grave. If he could see so clearly from a distance why do we struggle in the shadow of the cross?

Come my brothers and sisters, let us set aside the things that distract, the things that consume our life, the things that possess mere temporary importance and let us run our race, the one set out before us. Let us fix our eyes on the prize, on our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us set our heart and mind on the things above and allow the things of this world to diminish in importance. Let us be consumed with our mission, conveying the love of Jesus for those who are lost in rebellion, as we once were. Let us love with Jesus' love which does not hold back but pours itself out recklessly upon his enemies.

Oh, what a Saviour!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Are You Confused?

How important is Jesus to you? Important enough to set aside all you know and seek him in earnestness? Is he important enough for you to set aside your opinion or even someone else's opinion and seek what he has said, what he has taught? Is he important enough for you to allow him to create a new thing in you; to give you a new set of values; to re-order your priorities? Is he important enough for you to lose everything you have to gain him?

Popular Christianity is moving us further away from Jesus. It constantly has us focused on ourselves; what we need or want. But everything about Jesus is dying to ourselves. It is us being stripped of us, filled with him and serving others. It is about us taking what we are taught and putting into practice. The reason Israel failed is because they were selfish and stubborn, which describes the times in which we live. It describes sections of the Church today.

We have put aside the idea of suffering for the gospel, or suffering for Jesus. In fact, many Christians today are confused by suffering and think it must be because they are doing something wrong. Isaiah spoke to a self-centered Israel and note the attitude he spoke to:

Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures,
Who dwell securely,
Who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow,
Nor shall I know the loss of children’;(Isaiah 47:8)

Notice the "I am" phrase which we find back when Moses was confronted by Yahweh and he had asked Yahweh who to tell the people had sent him. The responses was "I AM". So Isaiah is saying here that the people are acting as if they are God, as if they get to command their own future, as if they get to decide what is best for them. Remember that these are Yahweh's people, his chosen nation, a nation he grew from one man for the purpose of glorifying himself, a people who twice decided to submit themselves to Yahweh and be called his nation. They had the same purpose as the Church, to allow Yahweh to be glorified before the nations of the world.

Isaiah warned that the disaster they said would not happen was going to happen in an instant. My friends, the things you base your life on, the pleasures and joys, are temporary and will be gone in an instant. We are not here for ourselves and cannot afford to be distracted by temporary things. We are acting as if there is no God even though we say we worship him. We make our plans, take decisions, choose our own course as if there is no great lover of our soul:

For you have trusted in your wickedness;
You have said, ‘No one sees me’;
Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you;
And you have said in your heart,
‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’(v. 9)

Yahweh, through Isaiah, warned his people of the disaster that would come upon them from this attitude. How much greater will be the disaster that falls on us because we are united with Jesus and yet deny him in our actions and attitude? Here is an obscure warning to us that many of us miss:

But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. (James 3:14-17)

It's the self-seeking we should be concerned about because we are filled with it. We say it's all about Jesus but our habits, actions, attitude, and desires show otherwise. It blocks Father's wisdom and so the flesh takes over. The result is confusion and every evil thing. Look to what is suppose to be produced by Father's wisdom, by the Spirit in you.

We are not doing enough reflection and evaluation in our lives. We just keep trudging along thinking we are okay, but we aren't okay. We are very selfish, self-centered, making decisions that benefit us. Even when we do good it is for ourselves, because it makes us feel good. How often do we do good to those who throw it back in our face? Maybe once but never again because they are ungrateful. Yet they are the ones that Jesus told us to love. We need to spend more time checking out what Jesus actually instructed and then go and do those things, if he is truly our everything.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Would You Consider Yourself A Skilled Christian?

Do you consider yourself a skilled Christian? Yes, that question struck me as odd as well when I first read it in the book of Hebrews but as I pondered it I began to appreciate it. We do a lot of listening, learning, studying but not a lot of practice. Certainly we all try to be kind but there is a lot more to Christianity than being kind. In some ways, our spiritual development is somewhat like school in that you do not get to advance until you demonstrate that you are able to apply what you have learned. In other words, there are many of us Christians who are still stuck in kindergarten.

While we are serving Jesus in this place we should understand that his goal for us is spiritual maturity. Everything we do, that we face, that we learn is suppose to move us forward in this maturity. To put it in the terms of my opening question, we should be improving our skills, advancing to the "master" category. The writer of Hebrews observed this:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (Hebrews 5:12)

This provokes a humorous picture in my head of a bunch of 25 year olds playing with nursery toys, stuck in kindergarten. They should be teachers but they have not yet gained the skills to leave kindergarten. We learn about, even study, concerning prayer, but we don't pray. We learn and study about evangelism but we have never been brave enough to try. We hear about the importance of hospitality but never invite anyone over. And these are the simple things:

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. (v.13)

Righteousness is important but few of us understand it. We are unskilled to apply it. Righteousness crudely is the understanding of good and evil, right and wrong. There is a right path and there is a wrong path. There are right choices and wrong choices. The more that we allow the Spirit to guide is in the right choices the more familiar those things become, the easier it is for us to recognize. But if we don't understand this then how could we ever apply the Word of God to our every day practical living? Then we hear Jesus' question, why do we call him Lord if we don't do what he has instructed? (Luke 6)

When athletes train they are conditioning their bodies to perform in a certain manner. Each sport requires different skills. A hockey player would not make a great snow boarder. He may be good at it but he will never be great because his body is conditioned for hockey. With practice he has gained skill in his chosen sport. Christians also train their heart, mind, soul and strength under the guidance of the Spirit to gain great spiritual skill to be able to apply the Word, to walk in righteousness.

But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (v. 14)

I am not talking about gaining our salvation by our own works. I am speaking to those of you who have already received Jesus and are under that promise of salvation. I am speaking to those who are on their walk with Jesus but can't seem to get any traction to advance. Our great desire should be to mature in Jesus, to walk in his righteousness. At first it will be difficult, just like learning to physically walk, but with practice we gain skill and we will eventually be running. We will be mature, growing into the fullness of Jesus.

It means when we are faced with decisions, we learn to die to our desires and choose what honours Jesus. It means, every day our thoughts are of Jesus and we use him as our measuring rod in our conduct and choices. We learn to hear and obey the Spirit as he constantly guides us and teaches according to the righteousness of Jesus. It means we learn to die to ourselves a little bit every day as we become skilled in the word of righteousness, moving from milk to glorious solid food. It is where the Word of God moves from a document of theory to the Living Word inside of us, embodied in our words and actions. It is gaining skill to do what Jesus has instructed us to do as we apply it in everything in our lives. So let's make every day a practice day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Intimacy With Daddy: Be Encouraged

Sometimes we allow doubt and fear to reign over us because we do not understand the nature and character of our God. Yahweh is at heart a father, our father. He is not a failed father. He is not distracted or self-centered. He has not walked away from his children, abandoning them to some impoverished destiny. He is not abusive nor manipulative.

Our Father, daddy, is attentive to his children. We are his focus. He never takes his eye off of us and is always at hand to rescue us from our own foolishness. He guides, protects and loves us through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as he formed a nation from Abraham, he has formed a new nation; a people who were not a people and he has called us his own. We have been adopted through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus. Because of the blood of Jesus we are now fully his and he is responsible for our care.

When we look to his heart for Israel we can better understand his heart for us. Through the prophet Isaiah, Father told his people:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine. (Isaiah 43:1)

Hear the assurance in that, "You are mine". But this is Israel and we are the Church; does it really mean that we are his? Yes, because we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, the Son, Jesus Christ. All that we were as the enemy of Father has been washed away and we have been redeemed from our sin so that we are made holy and justified, now adopted and set into the family of Father. He has not done this with one massive sweep of his hand of grace but instead has called us each individually, called by name to have that grace applied individually. He knows us intimately and he says, "You are mine".

Now understand what this means. So often we read from the psalmist "You are my God" and we echo that proclamation with them. In saying this we are saying that we belong to him, understanding our responsibilities as the children of Father, such as obedience, but we also accept the benefits. I don't know where you are in your life right now but I want you to be encouraged by just one these benefits:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you. (v. 2)

One of the simple benefits is that he is with us. We have it even better than the Israelites because we are possessed by the Spirit of Jesus. He abides in us and we in him. He is with us wherever we go and experiences whatever we experience. He is our protector even in the worse possible days. It doesn't say he will prevent us from going through the waters or the fires but he promises that we will go through, we will make it, that the waters will not overwhelm us and the flames will not burn us. Be greatly encouraged:

For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (v. 3)

Daddy has you. He has you in his arms at all times. You are precious to him and he is occupied with you all the time. He doesn't get weary of you, he doesn't take a nap, he doesn't get busy with something else; he is always busy with you. Sometimes I think we fall short in understanding just how much he loves us and how intimate we are with him. Jesus prayed that we would have a full understanding of this intimacy:

that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, (John 17:21)

The Trinity is a great mystery to us but one thing is not a mystery, that Jesus brought us into an incredibly intimate relationship within this Trinity; that we are one with Yahweh. Father knows you, he knows you by name and you are his.

The most assuring part of your day today should be knowing that you are his; you are a child of Father; he has called you to him, redeemed by the Son, he called you by name and said you belong to him. Rejoice! I will tell you again, Rejoice! Praise his holy name. Dance, sing, lift up holy hands because you are possessed of the Spirit, loved by Jesus and belong to Father. What an incredible place to be. Forget about the waters, do not worry about the fires, because Father has told you to not be afraid. Instead, Rejoice! because you are his.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thriving Not Surviving Life

Life is life. Good things happen in life as do bad things. Some days will be fantastic, ones you want to live over again. Other days will be horrible, ones you wish you had never gotten out of bed. You will go through seasons of great blessings, when everything you touch seems to blossom. You will also go through seasons of great dryness, when you seem to be surrounded by nothing but desert. These are the tides of life, the seasons, the changes. The question is always about perspective and approach

For Christians the perspective should be an easy thing; Yahweh is sovereign. We have purpose in this life, left here, not to serve ourselves and our self interest, but to serve our King. We serve him in whatever season of life we are experiencing because it is not about us or the season; it is always about obedience and service to our King. He strengthens and equips us in every season so that we can serve those who are being destroyed in their experience of life. That is what we must settle in our hearts, that Jesus is present to lend us the strength to go the distance in our service to him. I really appreciate this passage from Isaiah that reminds us who we serve:

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28)

Constantly reminding ourselves of the greatness of our Lord also helps us in our approach to life. If our perspective is that we are here to serve the King and he will keep us in all situations then our approach to this life should be one of great boldness and bravery in the Spirit. We should be those who fearlessly throw ourselves into any situation, never being afraid for our own well being but filled with love and concern for those perishing in the storms. We can do this because we have confidence in him who sent us and abides in us:

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength. (v. 29)

That`s us at times, having exhausted our strength on the battlefield, in the storms, under weighty circumstance, doing good, we just want to lie down. But the Spirit renews us, increases us, fills us with great strength, so we can press on in our service. We all grow tired from time to time because we forget to operate in Jesus`strength not our own; we all look at the storms on occasion and lose heart, we all get overwhelmed at the thought of things, but that is the beauty of our Lord; he never leaves us there:

Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. (vv. 30-31)

Too often we read this from a selfish perspective, as if the Lord is renewing our strength so we can enjoy the pleasures of this world. He renews us so we can run and walk in our continued service to the King. He renews his love in us so that we can set ourselves aside and love without obstacles, without prejudice, so we can pour out our lives for others like a drink offering. His strength is like a river flowing through us, not to be dammed up and kept selfishly but to flow through us into the lives of others.

This is true for all the blessings, such as love, that they would flow through us into others. We need to see ourselves as conduits. We are not the stars, Jesus is. We are not the source of hope, Jesus is. We are not the source of healing, strength, wisdom, salvation, Jesus is. But he has chosen us to participate in the process of rescuing others. He does not want us bogged down in life, distracted or lost. He renews us every day throughout the day so we will be constantly refreshed and strengthened in all the seasons of life. So abide in him and you will discover your wings. Trust him and love with great abandon.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Concerning Spiritual Foundations

I have been seeking greater understanding of spiritual foundations lately, at the same time as being overwhelmed by Jesus' explanation of love in Luke 6. As much as I appreciate the poetic description of 1 Corinthians 13, it is Jesus' words that have stopped me in my tracks.

Today I was pondering the end of Luke 6, where Jesus was giving the parable of the builder who built his house on the sand as compared to the builder who built his house on solid rock. Obviously the one built on the rock withstood the storms. Foundational matters, right? Have you noticed what Jesus said to launch into this parable?

"But why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things I say?" (Luke 6:46)

The solid foundation is not just the teachings of Jesus; it is obedience to what he taught. The foundation of our life is not the Bible, it is living the Word by the power of Jesus Christ in us. Jesus said:

"Whoever comes to me, and hears my sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like ..."

And then he launches into the parable. But notice in the parable that the wise builder did not take the easy way out. He dug through the sand, dirt and gravel until he found the solid rock. Once he unearthed the rock he began to build his house. Once built, nothing could destroy that house, even though many things came against it, but on that solid rock it stood.

Then Jesus said the foolish builder represents those who hear but do nothing about it. This is the lazy builder who couldn't bother to dig to find the solid rock. He just built it on where he was, right on the sand, dirt and gravel. How many of us are too lazy to dig in the Word for understanding and application? The many things that came against it easily moved the weak foundation and brought the house down.

Sounds like a simple Sunday School lesson but the truth of the matter escapes us every day. "But why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things I say?"

I may struggle with the vulnerability of the love commanded in Luke 6, but I am digging through all the useless foundational material to find that solid rock. With the power of Jesus I am determined to make sure my foundation of obedience is right. Even though this love requires me to be open to rejection, slander, misunderstanding, hurt after hurt, I want to do it right according to what Jesus has taught. I trust him to heal those hurts but I want to be vulnerable in love. We must be vulnerable in order to love as Jesus loved; we must be willing to be wronged, to be hated, to be killed without a demand for justice. Obedience to this is a foundational matter; THE foundational matter. It is from this that everything else gets built and it is upon such solidness that everything else is able to stand the storms without being destroyed.

"But why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things I say?"

How To Know Good Advice From Bad

It is tough being in the midst of trials. Sometimes it is really hard to know where to turn, who to trust, who really has your best interest at heart. Sometimes we simply turn to whoever appears to be the most available, the person who readily offers their opinion. Often that is the very last person to whom we should listen. Often this person is filled with nothing but the counsel of the world and has no understanding of the spiritual realm to which we belong. Their advice works perfectly well for someone of this world but misses the mark for the citizens of the Kingdom. That is something we should always keep in mind.

People whose roots are in this world cannot see what we see; they do not know what we know; they cannot understand what we understand. A great example of this is when king Sennacherib, the great king of Assyria, tried to frighten king Hezekiah and Jerusalem into surrender. Why fight a battle when you can frighten your enemy into submission? Is that not the tactic of the enemy of our soul? He says to Hezekiah:

“What confidence is this in which you trust? I say you speak of having plans and power for war; but they are mere words. Now in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me? Look! You are trusting in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt, on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him." (Isaiah 36:4-6)

This king could not figure out why Hezekiah was resisting him so he looked around for the obvious. He guessed wrong that Hezekiah was hoping Egypt would come to his rescue but Hezekiah's only plan was to trust Yahweh. This king saw Hezekiah's confidence and assumed it was according to the plans of the world. But he didn't leave Hezekiah's faith alone either:

“But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the Lord our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and said to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar’?” (Isaiah 36:7)

He had heard of Hezekiah's reforms but misinterpreted them. Hezekiah had inherited a messed up kingdom that worshiped every god of every neighbour and then some. He brought in revival with his reign because he loved the Lord our God with his entire being. He did a cleansing of the land and threw out every idol, teaching the people the Law and having them return to the proper worship at the Temple. This was a good thing that provoked the love and protection of Yahweh.

Yet the world look on this and did not understand. They misinterpreted his actions of love and devotion. They figured Hezekiah had blown it and was now at the mercy of the gods he had offended. Hezekiah stuck to his trust in Yahweh and Yahweh himself delivered them from the king of Assyria.

People without Jesus can only evaluate your situation from their experience, from what they know, and what they know is the wisdom of man. It will sound reasonable because it is, for those who are without Jesus. They are only following the rules and habits that they know. However, we belong to another set of principles established by Father. We belong to another place, the Kingdom of Jesus. We have a different ruler than the false prince of this world and he is the true King of creation. We are no longer governed by the patterns of this world and so cannot receive counsel based on it. We need wise counsel and direction from those planted firmly in Jesus.

Be very careful because since we live in this place temporarily we can become accustomed to its rules. We can be tricked by the sound arguments of this place. Everything we hear makes sense by what we see, but we do not walk by sight. We walk by faith in Jesus, in the Word, by the Spirit, according to the principles of the Kingdom. More than any other book ever produced by man we should be in love and know the one book produced by the Holy Spirit. Above all else, allow it to be your guide as taught to you by the Spirit. He will never fail you, even in the face of the kings of this world.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Problem Isn't The Message; The Problem Is Our Heart

We live in an age when words rule. We all like to talk, whether verbally or written. The Church is filled with words; people talking, debating, arguing, disagreeing, and there are a lot of books being written. There is a huge war of words as the philosophers of the Church argue with each other in front of the whole world. We are hearing "false prophet", "false teacher" being thrown around far too easily. It is like we have forgotten the Word that tells us:

But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:19-21)

But it is difficult to understand this when we have allowed the Church to be lead by the academia and we know how teachers love words. Where is the gospel that comes with power?

If we follow this thought it leads us to the realization of how many of those words are empty. The Word of God is never empty, filled with power to convict and change the hearts of the receivers. The empty words come from those who would rather debate the word instead of submit to it. Those words lack any good. So what we should be looking for is the fruit that is produced. That is how we know the true content of the heart, by the fruit it produces.

There are many passages of Scripture that teach on this but I appreciate a certain passage in Isaiah 32:

For the foolish person will speak foolishness,
And his heart will work iniquity:
To practice ungodliness,
To utter error against the Lord,
To keep the hungry unsatisfied,
And he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. (Isaiah 32:6)

Case study number 1: The Fool. Look at what such a heart produces; ungodliness, uttering error, keeping the hungry hungry, spoiling the drink of the thirsty. The heart of the fool produces emptiness. Those who are seeking Jesus will not discover him in the words of a fool.

Also the schemes of the schemer are evil;
He devises wicked plans
To destroy the poor with lying words,
Even when the needy speaks justice. (v. 7)

Case study number 2: The Schemer. Look at what this heart produces; wicked plans, destruction through lying words, denying justice. Pity the seeker who is looking for Jesus in the words of a schemer.

But a generous man devises generous things,
And by generosity he shall stand. (v. 8)

Case study number 3: The Generous. It is obvious what such a heart produces; generous things. This is the heart of love as defined by Jesus in Luke 6, giving recklessly, without thought of personal cost, to the benefit of friend or foe. In these words we will discover the power of the Kingdom.

So many of the words spoken and debated today are spoken from selfish, puffed up hearts that think nothing of the consequences of their speaking. The fruit that is produced is confusion and division. No one is growing into spiritual maturity from these things. They are destructive to the Body of Christ. We should pay attention to the wisdom of Proverbs:

Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

That should give us something to ponder as we ask the Spirit to examine our hearts, but let us not stop at this familiar verse but let us put it in context of what follows:

Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put perverse lips far from you.

Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.

Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.

Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil. (vv. 24-27)

The only way we are going to see the power of the Kingdom return is when we stop the foolishness, examine our hearts and walk the walk we have been given. Fix your eyes on Jesus and stop trying to make a name for yourself by tearing down other servants. If they are in error the Spirit is not impotent; he will correct. But you, you keep your eyes on the prize, understanding your tasks and allowing the power of the resurrection to flow through you. The world needs to see Jesus in us, the Church, the Body of Christ. Let your heart be true and may they discover Christ through the fruit that is produced by his reckless love in you.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Why We Fail With Jesus

Independence is the great sin of mankind and by mankind I mean you and me. It is what led Adam to his act of disobedience. He operated independently from Yahweh, making a decision that was contrary to Yahweh's expressed will. Ever since then we have been living in direct opposition to Yahweh, acting independently, wanting to live without a relationship with our Creator. We don't even want to see a Creator/creation relationship and so try to dismiss the existence of the Creator, instead promoting the idea that we are all here by chance.

This idea of independence is so deeply ingrained in us that even though some of us have returned to our Creator, through the Creator's work and invitation, we still find it difficult to be dependent on him. Even though he takes great delight in guiding us, providing for us, fighting for us, blessing us, walking us through hard lessons, strengthening us, and at times rescuing us, we still act as if we want to do it on our own. We fail to understand our relationship with Yahweh.

Dependence, absolute dependence is what he is looking for in us and so desires to see the letting go of our desire and actions of independence. To be independent is to shut Jesus out and opens us again to disobedience because we cannot live for and serve Jesus while separate from him. Jesus described us as a branch of a vine. We gentiles are a grafted in branch. We get all our sustenance from the vine so that fruit can be produced through us. That is a healthy, dependent relationship. Jesus also said that those branches that are not connected to the vine dry up, are gathered together and then discarded in the fire; not a healthy relationship.

The nation of Israel had problems with dependence. They had moments of great brilliance under kings like Hezekiah but they also had moments of great ugliness as they turned away from Yahweh and sought help from others. That was king Asa's great sin. At one time trusting the Lord in the face of an army three times the size of his own and then seeking help from an enemy neighbour against a much smaller army. The Lord warned Israel against the folly of trusting anyone but him:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
And rely on horses,
Who trust in chariots because they are many,
And in horsemen because they are very strong,
But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
Nor seek the Lord! (Isaiah 31:1)

Our God is the great "do not fear" as he reminds us time and again that he is with us; always with us. It was one of Jesus' last promises, that he would be with us until the end of the age. Why? Because we are dependent on him for everything, including completing the mission we have been assigned. We are a brilliant people who on our own can accomplish a lot, but we can't do our Lord's work. We can do something that looks like it but it is lacking the element of eternity because only he can give it that element.

If we are not trusting the Lord with the mission then we certainly are not trusting him with our daily living. We fill ourselves with worry, fear, anxiety. We lose sleep trying to come up with a plan. We turn to everyone else for help and advice. We almost destroy ourselves with the wrong decisions and choices we make. We may even ask Jesus for help but we don't wait on him. We ask and then we lose patience and act on our own. Woe to us when we turn to "Egypt" for help, when we trust someone else's strength instead of the Lord's.

Our God doesn't need us but he wants us. We have nothing to contribute to him but he can work through us to accomplish a lot for his own glory. He is not trying to mature us into independence. He is growing us into maturity which is complete dependence on him. Anything else is only a pretend relationship. He loves us and wants to see that love completed in us but that isn't going to happen when we are trying to live outside of him. It is time to set aside all notion, action and desire for independence and decide to trust Jesus with every aspect of our lives. No more complaints, resistance, worry, fear, anxiety or stress; just the free flowing river of trust.

Friday, March 21, 2014

When Prophecy Seems To Fail

"He is a false prophet." I have heard those words leveled at men of God, accusing them of speaking false words when certain things they have said do not happen. This is dangerous ground on which to tread and come from a root of lack of understanding concerning words of prophecy and knowledge. It is a dangerous place to be, to accuse brethren of something you do not understand.

First of all, if you don't believe that Jesus speaks to us in this manner just leave it alone. Don't show your ignorance by speaking up on a matter you have yet to come to understand or believe. I suggest you study the Scriptures more and spend time in conversation with our Lord, asking him to teach you.

Second, understand that these men and women are not speaking on their own. The Spirit is using them to speaking encouragement and direction into people's lives. These instruments of Jesus have no invested interest in the people they pray over. They are not trying to manipulate. In the anointing they are given words or images to convey Jesus' heart to the people. Those who are mature in the Word understand immediately and the prayer is more a confirmation of what the Lord has already put on their heart. For the less mature, it simply seems like a mystery, a bit spooky, especially when it comes blanketed in a word of knowledge. But the servant does not own the words that come from the Spirit. He is only a vessel.

Third, understand the nature of such things. Whatever is spoken into your life is conditional. Everything with Yahweh is conditional, including the blessings. His love is not conditional, but the fruit of that love in your life is very much so. When a word is spoken into your life it is conveying Yahweh's perfect will but the fulfillment of these things is conditional to your love and obedience. Consider the word spoken over Israel through the prophet Isaiah. First the expressed desire of Yahweh:

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1:18)

Forgiveness is announced. That is always our Father's will, to forgive, allowing reconciliation and restoration of our relationship with him. He desires this over justice. Then the word spoken over the nation was his intention to bless them:

If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land. (v. 19)

But notice the conditions: willing and obedient. Are we to consider Isaiah a false prophet because of what ended up happening to the nation? Did Yahweh not also speak of the results of failing the conditions?

But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword. (v. 20)

Isn't it strange that Israel always made the wrong choice.

Another glaring example of prophecy being changed after spoken is the prophet Jonah. There are lots of examples but this one really stands out. Jonah had to go to Nineveh, an enemy city, to convey judgment. Later he said that the reason he resisted to go is because he knew Yahweh was capable of changing his mind. Many a person keeps their mouth shut for this same reason. They are worried about their reputation if what they have been given to speak does not unfold. Jonah spoke, delivering the message that the city would be destroyed due to their wickedness. The people took it to heart and the king called for repentance. They moved the heart of Yahweh who called off the judgment. Do we call Jonah a false prophet?

Such matters must be understood to be conditional, whether we are talking about words of blessings or words of correction. Disobedience or repentance can change everything. We must remember that above all things our Father desires a great relationship with us. Obedience keeps us in that place but he will change his intentions is we disobey so that he can bring in correction to get us back to where we need to be. You cannot blame the messenger if you force Father's hand in correction.

Remember, before you go accusing the servants of the Lord, that everything in your relationship with Jesus is conditional to your love and obedience. It may be Father's intention to bless you or use you but you can cause him to change to another course of action. Your desire, even above any blessing, position or reputation, must be to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength. A sweet obedience flows from such reckless love as does the fulfillment of Father's will in your life.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happiness Is Not That Difficult

We all want to do well. We all want a successful life. We all want to be content with who we are and with what we are doing. We want to be happy. It is a reasonable desire and one which we make a lot more complicated than it is. It is unfortunate that in our Western society we equate success with "things". We fill our lives with "stuff" that we think will bring us happiness and pleasure. This "stuff" can be possessions, toys, gadgets; or it could be finances, healthy bank accounts, money to do stuff with; or it could be relationships, people we lean on. This "stuff" might also be academic achievement, education degrees, or perhaps our profession, the thing we dedicate our life to doing. But happiness is not that difficult.

All this "stuff" that I listed above are temporary. They look solid but really they are here today and gone tomorrow. We don't have any control over them at all. We may work hard to gain them but in a blink of an eye they can be taken from us. Our expectations can be shattered in an instant. One wrong word, one thoughtless decision, one indiscretion; gone. One accident, one disaster, someone else's mistake; gone. Life happens and in a flash we can go from victor to victim. What of happiness then? But happiness is not that difficult.

What of your expectations? What happens to you if you fall short of your goals? What if you don't obtain the stuff that you think will provoke your happiness? What if your grades are not good enough to get into that specific university which would allow you to apply for that certain career? What if in not getting that career you had to be satisfied with a lesser salary which would not allow you to buy all that "stuff" that you believe brings happiness? What if your investments don't work out and you end up closer to poor than rich? What if you can't support that great life-style? What if your perfect relationship turns out to be a nightmare of abuse? What happens when your expectations are not met? Is your life an unhappy ending? But happiness is not that difficult.

Things that are not possessed of eternity will never bring us happiness because they do not touch the deeper place of our life. There is a hunger in us, a desire to be in relationship with the One who created us. We try to satisfy this longing with "stuff" but "stuff" cannot reach the deeper place. "Stuff" cannot satisfy the longing of our soul. Only Jesus can respond to the longing of our soul and only that relationship brings us eternal satisfaction. Once possessed, nothing can touch that relationship because Jesus will never fall away no matter what we go through. Happiness, or what we know as joy, is simple and it is found in a passionate relationship with Jesus Christ.

There is a Scripture that best describes the attitude of those who walk with Jesus, who find their satisfaction in him, who exude joy in all circumstances of life. This is their code:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

To those who are pursuing happiness in all the wrong places this sounds like a fine sentiment that they may put on a plaque on their wall. But to those whose entire purpose is found in Jesus, this is the reality they live every day and it comes from they joy that they live. It doesn't produce the joy because the joy comes from the relationship but it is found in the river of joy that flows from the relationship. People who make Jesus their everything trust nothing else but him. They do not trust their own thinking on matters but desire to live the truth of his Word. They do not segregate their relationship with Jesus from what they do in the world. Jesus becomes their reason for what they do; all action and decisions are provoked by this relationship. In living in this relationship Jesus directs their affairs, their decisions, their paths, their direction and everything is for his purpose.

Happiness is not that difficult. It is found in a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship causes the colours of this world to fade in comparison so that the false joy of the "stuff" is replaced by the genuine joy of eternity. We are an eternal creature living in a temporary circumstances longing for relationship with our eternal Creator; and when we have it we know the experience of real joy.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An Important Perspective For A Successful Life

The greatest goal of any teacher is to instill in his/her students the desire to learn. The greatest skill a teacher can give his/her students is how to learn. We are students for life. Many of us thought the learning was over with graduation at any level but we soon discovered that every day is a classroom and if we understand, accept and apply ourselves, we will enjoy the adventure. But if we decide that we no longer need to learn, life will become a very complicated thing filled with many struggles.

As Christians we should grasp this understanding wholeheartedly. We are students of the Holy Spirit. Every day is a classroom where we get to put into practice what we have received in theory. Our Teacher is with us all day long to apply practical lessons, so we can learn and grow. The purpose is for us to grow and mature which involves, theory, practical, correction and encouragement. It starts in one place though:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

It begins in a proper relationship with Yahweh. It begins with the understanding that he is the Teacher and we are the students. That is a healthy place, a respectful place, a place of understanding authority. If we have a healthy fear of Father it means we will respect his instructions. Many of us consider them suggestions but his instructions are commandments. Some people get offended at the thought of being commanded to do anything but that is because they are spiritually immature, do not understand the love of Father, and have yet to discover they are not a boss but a pupil.

Note though that the fear of the Lord is the beginning. It is a starting place. Just like the cross is the starting place for our relationship with Jesus. Past the cross is the resurrection and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. It is a progression. But from this humble position our knowledge and understanding grow. We spend far too much time doubting, criticizing, complaining and rebelling against the Teacher. These are not attitudes that permit an atmosphere of healthy learning. These are marks of distrust and if we do not trust our Teacher we will not be able to learn from our Teacher.

The lessons we receive from Yahweh are far more important and often more difficult than any we will learn in our formal schooling. These are life lessons meant to shape us for eternity. They include humility and service to others. We have an excellent Teacher who examines our weaknesses and puts us in places and situations to deal with those weaknesses, so they are exposed and overcome. Not always a pleasant experience but always to our benefit.

People get in trouble when they think that choosing Jesus is going to make everything easier and that he will resolve all our problems. Our walk with him is not easy but it makes everything better as he teaches us by using our problems to grow us spiritually. It is a challenging classroom but our Teacher is always present to lend us exactly what we need in the moment. Don't give up and do keep your heart humble and your perspective that of a pupil. Every day he is moving us closer to the goal; eternity is almost at hand. Keep running the race to grab hold of that prize. Submit to the Teacher and the lessons for today and you will be surprised by the joy you have in doing it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How To Change The Attitude Of Your Day

All praise is due him! But do we live that way? All praise is due him? But is it seen in our attitude? All praise is due him! But do we acknowledge it in the rush of our day? We know a lot of stuff in theory but it does not mean we live it out in our days. Indeed, all praise is due him, but sometimes, in our quest for survival, we don't let it play out in our lives. We reserve a time of remembrance and praise but the other moments of our lives is more an "every man for himself" attitude.

Often we slip into an ungrateful attitude without realizing it, with it becoming the "norm" for us, how we feel every day. We read a little less, pray a little less, praise a little less. The colour slowly drains away and we are left with that "overcast" feeling in our life. And it becomes normal for us. But it is not normal. It is not Jesus' normal.

Throughout the Scriptures we are told time and again that thanksgiving is the key to a healthy relationship with the Lord. We are also told that it is the key to keeping the blessings fresh and flowing. Thanksgiving pleases Father because it indicates that we are very grateful for all his loving kindness. Psalm 107 is a great psalm where the psalmist took the time to describe various situations people find themselves in and how the Lord intercedes on their behalf. Most of the situations are caused when people don't turn to the Lord but when they do they are delivered from their situation:

They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way;
They found no city to dwell in.
Hungry and thirsty,
Their soul fainted in them.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He delivered them out of their distresses.
And He led them forth by the right way,
That they might go to a city for a dwelling place. (Psalm 107:4-7)

The psalmist concludes every situation with the same statement:

Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!

For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness. (vv. 8-9)

All praise is due him! When we let go of our pride and seek his face, he floods our soul with great love and kindness. He satisfies the longing of our soul, he sets us free from our imprisonment, his works are to our advantage; he loves us deeply. If we would stop our struggling, trying to find our own solutions and cry out to our Lord, we would remember why all praise is due him.

Praise, adoration, worship, thanksgiving are not something that is for a reserved moment in our week. No, these things are part of an attitude within which we exist. A heart of praise produces a heart of cheer. Perhaps you recognize that your attitude is not right these days. You can easily change it by changing your words from complaining to praising as you reflect on the goodness of our Lord. The psalmist concluded:

Whoever is wise will observe these things,
And they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord. (v. 43)

Indeed, a little reflection on the "daily and eternal loving kindness" of our Lord Jesus will work a wonderful work of grace on your heart and will be seen by all in your attitude throughout your day. As you realize "his wonderful works to the children of men" (count your blessings one by one) I pray your heart will explode with gratitude and you will pour out on him all the praise that is due him.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Longing To Sense The Presence Of Jesus

"I want to sense the presence of Jesus." It is a desire I hear expressed often. It is a desire I have expressed often. Jesus promised us that he will always be with us. He sent the Holy Spirit to fulfill that promise. There is no doubt that he is with us and we operate in this truth, in faith, but it would be nice to actually experience that presence. Yet, we are not willing to take the sacrificial steps necessary to make this a daily reality in our lives.

Imagine listening to loud music non-stop ten hours a day for a couple of years. You are going to cause some damage. Our hearing is pretty sensitive. Normally we detect the smallest whispers but after such an abuse of our hearing we are going to damage the sensitivity. The whispers will still be there but we won't be able to hear them.

Our sense of taste is a fantastic instrument. We can detect even the slightest subtleties in flavour. But when we load our diet with sugars and hot spices we are abusing our taste buds and overloading our sense of taste. Soon most foods taste bland without adding things like salt, butter and various spices. Gone is our ability to enjoy the fantastic flavour of a garden fresh tomato. Spirituality works in the same manner.

The Western society is a thrill seeking society. Pleasure is the single greatest driving force in our life. Bigger is better in everything. Bigger TV's, bigger stories, bigger noise, bigger food, bigger thrills. At one point murder was an implied thing on television. Now we want to see every gory detail. It used to be that sexual immorality was never displayed but only implied. Now we are not satisfied unless we see all the details of what those people are doing in bed. Evil was only ever implied; now we want to see if personified. All of our sensitivities are being overwhelmed and dulled. This is not even saying anything of what pornography is doing to relationships.

Our spirit yearns for fellowship with our Lord but we have lost all sensitivity and have lost the way to an intimate relationship. We go through the motions. We do what is expected. We attend church, participate in worship, try to read our Bible, try to be kind to others, but it just doesn't seem to work for us. The reason it doesn't work is because we are too dull in our spirit to detect his quiet whisper or sense his delicate touch or see his gentle leading. Our ears are too full of noise, our eyes to full of images, our mind too full of deceit, and our heart too full of sin. the psalmist wrote:

I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not cling to me.

A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will not know wickedness. (Psalm 101:3-4)

The intimate relationship we want with Jesus requires some decisions on our part. As long as we are overwhelming our spiritual senses with wickedness we will fail in our relationship. We don't have to participate physically with these things but allowing the images, the ideas, the emotions of it to fill us all the time makes it impossible for us to enjoy the rich fellowship of Jesus. We have to make the decision to set nothing wicked before our eyes. We have to allow the Spirit to develop in us an allergic reaction, where we will abhor the things that abhor our God. This is what Jesus taught on the matter:

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)

Jesus desires intimacy with you today and every day. He wants to direct your paths and lend you strength all the time. He wants to see you succeed. The question is: What do you want? And how bad do you want it? Bad enough to make the decision and to take the action to set nothing wicked before your eyes? What is the greatest desire in you because that is what your heart, and then your actions, will follow? You can't have two masters.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

He Is God, And I Am Not

O man, it is Sunday morning and I can't wait to get to church. This is my favorite day of the week as I get to set aside everything else and just concentrate on loving Jesus and loving the Church, his bride. Yes, it is a messy place, but I don't care, because it is family. It is in the context of this family that I have learned to love Jesus even more. I could concentrate on everyone's shortcomings and point out how they don't measure up to my standards but I won't. The reason I won't is a simple one. Jesus told me that if I do that to them it will be done to me in the same manner. So forget that; they are family and sometimes family is messy.

That is why the apostle Paul told us the only way Church works is with a huge application of Jesus' love. We don't build the Church; the Spirit builds the Church with us. There is a difference. It is just like we don't build our lives; the Spirit does through us. Oops. I forgot. That's the problem. Most of us don't live by that truth. Most of us pay lip service to our King and still consider ourselves to be the masters of our own destinies. We are still building our own lives. The problem is, we are not very good at it.

It's like me thinking I can build my own house. I can certainly try but I know now I would not want to live in it. The first strong breeze to come along would knock that thing right on my head. I don't know anything about building a house just like we don't know anything about building our lives. We certainly participate in the building but under the direction of the Master Builder. I can't say it any better than the psalmist:

Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. (Psalm 100:3)

Notice how he starts it off? Know, understand, accept that the Lord is God. I can almost hear along with it, "We are not". That is the crucial bit that we leave out of our lives. Jesus is Lord of my life; I am not. He directs me; I don't direct him. It is he who is making me; I am not making myself. He gives me direction according to his will for me, and I follow.

I enjoy the simplicity of this psalm and this statement:

"God is God. He has made our nation, not us. We belong to him."

The Church was formed in the same manner as Israel; by Father's will. He grew Israel from the seed of Abraham. He grew the Church from the seed of the Holy Spirit. Just as Israel belongs to Yahweh, so does the Church. We don't get to define her because she is defined by the Spirit. She belongs to him.

It is no different for us as individuals because we are the Church. Each of us were born into the Kingdom by the Father's will, by his supernatural act of grace. We have not done this for ourselves but he has done it for us. He has made us, not we ourselves. Our lives belong to him, not us. We are his sheep and sheep obey the Shepherd's voice. We do not build our lives; the Shepherd does.

It is in this knowledge of our reality that we are able to enter into Sunday worship with such gusto and thanksgiving:

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. (v. 4)

Be thankful indeed. Rejoice indeed. Enter into his presence, indeed. I am his and he is mine. He is God and I am not. He is building me and I am not. I am his child and I belong to his family. There is no better place I would rather be than right here.