Saturday, May 31, 2014

Overwhelmed By The Mess

How do you clean a messy house? For that matter, let's make it simple, how to you clean a messy garage? More specific, my garage? It seems every year at this time I am faced with the same task: cleaning the garage. I have no idea how it gets in this mess but there it is, in all its glory. Obviously it is a matter of picking one spot  and starting. Obvious to you and me but for some people it is far too overwhelming so they just close the door and pretend it doesn't exist.

Children have the same problem with their bedrooms. It isn't that they don't want to clean, they just don't know how to start. They get overwhelmed and they end up playing with the stuff instead of putting it away. It requires an adult to come along and help them in the process. Parents should never expect great results if they simply say "Go clean your room". It is always better to have the attitude, "Let's tackle this mess together". Praise the Lord, it is what Jesus does for us.

A lot of us have pretty messed up lives, especially spiritually. It is such a mess it is overwhelming and we don't know where to start. When we get the conviction that Jesus wants to do something with the mess, we often want to do everything at once. We don't understand that it is a growing process, one step at a time. We conquer one thing and then add to it as we get stronger and better organized.

Recently I found myself in a mess. I got involved with some projects that were taking 16 hours of my day. What little time I had left I spent on my family, eating and sleeping. Many of my spiritual disciplines started dropping off to the point that I couldn't even find the energy to read my Bible. And I am a pastor. Shame on me for letting my mess get so big. Thankfully Jesus never let's us stay in that condition for long.

After some consultation with the Lord and a strong word of direction from the Spirit, I resigned from the projects and focused on my purpose and calling. At first it was like walking into my garage and being overwhelmed by everything that needed to be done. But the Spirit calmly told me, pick one spot and start there. This verse is the spot that brought conviction so I started there:

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

So I started getting up early to read the Word and I made it my priority that it would be the last thing for my eyes at night. I read the Bible in three months, refreshing myself in the one thing that has always sustained me. This provoked my conviction of prayer so I was brought back to my knees. This led to memorizing the Word, then to meditation on the Word, then incredible moments of worship and heart changing deep meditation. It has led to a great sensitivity to the Spirit, renewed power, greater revelation, increased relationships, deeper love, and it goes on.

But it started in one place, doing one thing in faith, under the conviction of the Spirit, longing to see Jesus' face. Slowly, patiently, all those spiritual disciplines are coming back into place, stronger than ever before.

Things get pretty messed up but they don't need to stay that way. It can be overwhelming but it doesn't need to be paralyzing. There may be a lot you want renewed but it can't happen all at once. It starts with one place. It starts with one act. It starts with one prayer. All that matters to Jesus is that it starts.

Friday, May 30, 2014

It's More Difficult Than What We Are Being Told

I know the stuff I am throwing out recently isn't the most popular stuff but it has to be said. In the days of Judah, when the enemy was at the gate, many of the false prophets were telling the king what he wanted to hear. It wasn't going to save him but it kept the prophets employed. Only a few prophets spoke the words of Yahweh and their reward was to be thrown in jail, but they would not relent with the truth. We cannot relent with the truth.

Many are preaching "Peace! Peace!" "Victory is yours!" People are sitting back and enjoying life. They are stuffing themselves, enjoying the riches of their labour. They are content because life is good. But the ax is at the root. Reality is not at all like they have been told by their spiritual guides. Those men and women are speaking to the desires of the sheep so they can stay employed. We need to be yelling the truth from the mountain tops, on the street corners, along the highways and byways. The truth? It's not as easy as we are led to believe:

Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. (Luke 13:24)

"Well, Jesus did it all, didn't he?" "There is nothing I can do for my justification, only Jesus was able to do that for me on the cross." One hundred percent correct! And don't let anyone tell you differently. But it also costs us everything. To accept Jesus, to follow him, he told us:

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

But many of us think we can have it all. We don't let go of the world when we take hold of the cross. We think we can follow Jesus and do what we want. We think we can enjoy all the pleasures of this world and the superior pleasure of fellowship with the Spirit. We have yet to understand that we too died and we no longer live:

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

Are we living that as a foundational truth? We have a good handle on what Jesus has done for us but many of us are using grace as an excuse to sin, to hold back, to not give our all to Jesus. We keep emphasizing what Jesus has done for us, as we should, but we are leaving out our response to that incredible act of love..

Certainly we tell Jesus we love him in every worship song we sing, but what about the worship we live? There is so much selfishness in us that we don't have a chance to give our all. Every time we lay it out on the alter we are clawing it back. We are only living half the truth: Jesus' half. Jesus says "strive" to enter. "Deny" yourself. Deny! It doesn't do anything for our justification but everything for our relationship (sanctification). Again, Jesus says:

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. (John 14:21)

Our obedience is not trying to earn salvation but is a love response to Jesus' sacrifice. We respond to his love by desiring to obey him for the rest of our days here and every day in eternity. We desire nothing else. We gladly deny anything our flesh desires in our overwhelming desire to serve our King.

Does that describe us? Does it really describe the Church today? The Church that would rather get together to put on a show and run all our wonderful programs instead of doing what Jesus told us to do, which is go into the world and make disciples. He didn't say bring them in; he told us to go out. Kingdom building must always take priority over church building.

It's great to acknowledge the love and sacrifice of Jesus but if it doesn't transform you, turning you away from yourself with the realization you have died and it is Jesus who lives in you, then it isn't real. Yes, that's right, it isn't real. There is a reason Jesus said it is not easy to make it on the narrow way. I beg you, check your hearts.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Came To Send Fire On The Earth

FIRE! FIRE! If you have ever stood in a building and heard that called out you know the panic it can cause. You know the fear that grips you. You know the emotions that take over and cause you to flee. You know how the brain shuts down with only one thought in process: Survive. Fire is a frightening thing but it is exactly that which Jesus speaks of in a very revealing moment, when his heart is opened and we can clearly see in.

Today it is hard for us to imagine Jesus as anything but loving and kind, and he is, but his love is more than that to which we limit it. The modern day preacher has tamed his imagine, making him cute and cuddly; a play thing for children. How sad that we have misinterpreted the Instrument of all creation in such a manner. How shocking to our conditioned ears to hear his voice speak so plainly:

I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! (Luke 12:49)

Perhaps you aren't familiar with this passage; most people aren't. We would rather picture Jesus walking around with a lamb across his shoulders and children skipping about his feet. But this is the One who commanded the storms to be silent. This is the One who commanded the demons to flee. This is the one who commanded life back into the dead. This is the one who drove out of the Temple the thieves, and he didn't use words but a whip. C.S. Lewis described him as safe but not tame.

Jesus came to start a revolution. He came to set the world on fire. He came to introduce us to the Kingdom of Heaven and that turned the world upside down. Yes love, and yes spiritual peace between his Father and us individually but far more than that, he brought fire. He brought everything of which he set the example. Everything he seeded. Everything he seeded and that the Spirit came to grow. We need to at least try to grasp what he meant by this:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. (John 11:12)

If refers to the eager crowds that came flocking to John the Baptist and then to Jesus. They wanted what was being offered and acted like a people besieging a city. The "take it by force" refers to the zeal, the passion, the desire of the people to lay hold upon what Jesus offered, to make it their own. It alludes to a passionate fire, burning within the people, desiring change. This is what Jesus came to do, to set the world on fire with a desire for the holiness, righteousness of Yahweh. But there is always a price.

Setting the world on fire came at a cost and that cost is the lose of peace. The world is afraid of a passionate heart. A fire is hard to control and the world is all about control. Jesus warned he came to bring fire, not peace:

Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

And then he went on to describe the division the fire would cause in society and families. If that is what happens as the result of fire then so be it. It is better to have division with fire than peace without it. The Good News of Jesus Christ cannot result in yawns and mediocrity. It is meant to provoke passion for or against. You can't shrug your shoulders at the name of Jesus, not after the fires have been ignited. There is nothing worse than facing the fire and walking away lukewarm:

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,[a] I will vomit you out of My mouth.  (Revelation 3:15-16)

My friends, where are the flames? Where is the passion? Where is the preaching on the streets? Where is the shouting from the rooftops? Jesus does not provoke discussion over cups of tea. He sends the demons into the pigs. His love provokes men to tear apart roofs. His presence inspires men to jump out of boats in a raging storm. We can't be around him without his presence provoking wild and passionate faith in us, provoking extravagant gestures of love.

Read our history. The Church is not for the faint of heart. Serving the King is not without risk of life and limb. To trust, holding on to faith, will not allow us to stand still as the flames come calling. Passion for the Name. Compelled by his love. Provoked by the Spirit. We cannot remain the same; our spirit yearns for the fire. He has kindled the flames. Will you be consumed?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Are You Convinced About Jesus?

Have you ever watched a team sport where one team really wants to win and the other is just present? The team that wants to win works hard whereas the other seems to stand still. The team that plays to win obviously wins. The best match is when both teams show up to win. The feeling from the fans is, "Why bother playing if you don't want to win?" There are times we may want to shout that thought at our fellow Christians.

Maybe it seems unfair to compare our Christian journey to a sporting event but not really, Paul the apostle did it. In fact, he told us we should be running this race to win. That means all out. Only the runners who desire to win are sure to complete the race. The Christian walk is a walk of effort and discipline. Obviously not an effort for our salvation, that was done for us by Jesus, but we have been left here with a job description and a clear teaching that we are on a walk that involves a process of growing up. That is what takes effort, hard work and discipline.

In Luke 12 Jesus gives us a very stern warning about being faithful stewards. We have been left in charge of the mission and the resources of the Kingdom. These resources aren't for personal gain but for the people we are to be serving, for the purpose of the Kingdom:

Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. (Luke 12:42-43)

Blessed indeed. That is how we all see ourselves and we expect Jesus to be pleased. But sometimes it seems we believe in an Easter Bunny too. Reality tells us we are falling short as stewards. We see ourselves in this fanciful position but that's because we are not measuring ourselves against the proper measuring rod. Jesus is our only measuring rod. Measuring ourselves against imperfection is only going to produce imperfection. We need to be honest with ourselves and if we are honest we admit that we are terrible stewards:

But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. (v. 45-46)

Let's wake up to our reality friends. We are in a tough place as the world turns colder, harder and more aggressive. We can't afford to not have our head in this game. We can't afford to make half efforts. We have all the resources of heaven available to us to be faithful stewards. Listen carefully to Jesus' words:

And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. (v. 47)

We may not want to be living in these times but we are, and we have been chosen for a reason. Considering that we have died and we no longer live but it is Jesus who lives in us, we are more than conquerors. Nothing is impossible for us because we believe in the one who strengthens us to do his will. Do you hear him cheering us on? Our Coach is with us in the game and he is lending to us what we lack. He makes sure that we are equipped to win but we have to play with our all. We have to leave it all on the playing field. Do you get it?

Let's get our head in the game, get the Word in our heart, get on our knees, accept the resources and use them for Jesus' glory. Our purpose is all about those who are without Jesus. If need be, let us get rid of our worship palaces, scatter the troops and get to work. Let's stop playing church and do what we are suppose to be doing, on the streets, at work, in our neighbours home. Let's tell them about Jesus and allow the Spirit to work through us with power.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sometimes The Best Answer Is The Simplest

The Word of God is a wonderful mystery that is revealed through the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus is key. Without the key the Bible appears to be a bunch of babble with archaic rules. With Jesus it becomes a testament to Yahweh's love for us and a thing that enters and changes us. Some days it appears like a mystery we will never grasp and other days it comes across like baby food, obvious and impossible to misunderstand.

Here is an example of one verse, eleven words, whose truth is plain but the application of which provokes great change:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:34)

I think you would attest to the truth of these words. They only make sense in the direct logic they convey. Simple. Straightforward. Easy to understand. Not much room to argue against it. The challenge is not found in the understanding of it but in the application.

Whatever you consider to be important will take priority in your life. You can tell your wife a million times that you love her but if she always comes last in your list of priorities, your true heart is revealed. If you tell your daughter she is important to you but every time she wants to talk you are too busy, your true heart is revealed. If you tell Jesus you love him, attend church but can't find any time for him the rest of the week, your true heart is revealed.

There is no getting around the truth of this statement.

If your car is your treasure, then your car will be getting your attention, time and money. If your xbox is your treasure, then your games will be getting your attention, time and money. You may try to find a girlfriend who likes gaming just as much as you but that's so you can spend time with your true love without feeling guilty. You can give Jesus all the excuses you want but you and I both know that you weren't that busy this week. The problem was that you were caught in the time trap of social media because that is where your heart is.

This is a significant issue that needs to be addressed because so many of us claim love for Jesus but our actions belie the true condition of our heart. Let me remind you again that our part of the covenant with Jesus is to love Yahweh with our entire being, to be consumed by him with even greater passion than when we are sometimes consumed by things of this world:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)(Deuteronomy 6:5)

The point is, our treasure is suppose to be Jesus, not our car, xbox or even our girlfriend. His love is the priority, or at least should be. Take a lot around with me. Take a look at our fellow Christians. No judgement here, only observation. We may say with our lips we love him but our feet, hands and wallet tell us that our love has found a different treasure.

Take a quick inventory with me:

1. What one thing takes the greater portion of your time?
2. What one thing do you spend the most time thinking about?
3. What one thing do you spend the most money on?
4. What one thing consumes the greater portion of your energy?

Now, after answering these, where is your heart? What is your treasure? Could this be why Jesus seems so distant? Could this be why the Scriptures feel so cold? Could this be why nothing seems to be going right? Could this be why you seem so confused?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

May the Lord be gracious, to open our eyes, to receive our confession and to restore our hearts to him. Purify us Lord. Make us as one with you. May there be power in the Church for the winning of the lost.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Zombies In The Church

So we died. We died and most of us don't even know it. You want to talk about a bunch of zombies? Most of us do not have a clue that we died with Jesus on the cross and now Christ is living in us (check out Galatians 2:20 again). This means that the life we are living in these bodies must be lived by faith in Jesus. It means we are owned. It means that we should be separated from anything to do with sin, the "me" stuff, and now we are living for the glory of our Lord. It sounds simple enough until you realize that most people don't even know this fact. Most people are trying to live when they are dead which makes them zombies, I guess.

Jesus taught that you can't put new wine into old wine skins. The old wine skins don't have the flexibility that is needed for the young wine which is still fermenting and creating gas. New wine into old wine skins cause the skins to explode and everything is lost. Thus, we died with Jesus, we were made a new creation so that we could handle it when Jesus possessed us to live in us. Stick with me, where are heading somewhere with all of this (review yesterday's blog).

So the weak point in the entire process of our redemption and reconciliation with Father is the dead corpse, our body. Everything else is new but our body won't be made new until we hear Jesus call our name. Then our bodies will be redeemed as well. In the mean time, our bodies are the weak link and often are the war zone for great temptations. This is why we have this verse:

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

Uh oh. Doesn't this kind of fly in the face of what we hear being promoted in our society? Of course it is because our society is in rebellion against Yahweh and all his precepts. What we are being told is that our bodies belong to us and we have the right to do what we want with it. It is the argument for almost anything, ranging from abortion to suicide. My body so my say. Perhaps this is true, but consider what the Word says, God's Word, the Spirit, bringing Yahweh's perspective to our clouded and demented thinking. He says, take what is ours to give, and give it up as a sacrifice.

Jesus has done incredible things for us. The end of Romans chapter 11 speaks of how incredible he is, that's why there is a "therefore" in this verse. Understanding his greatness, his sacrifice for us, let us offer up our bodies as living sacrifices to him, in gratitude and appreciation. That's the attitude that, my body does not belong to me because, instead of holding on to it, I am willingly offering it to Jesus. Of course sacrifices must be of the highest quality so I am going to take care of this dead carcass every day as well as I can, to honour my King. And don`t forget that this is a living sacrifice that we must offer every day.

My body may be non-transformed dead flesh but Paul the apostles states here that we can cause a sort of transformation by offering it as a spiritual act of worship. It's dead and useless to us anyway but it is amazing what Yahweh can do with what we offer him. In doing this it changes my attitude toward a few things, a few behaviours that I think are my right, since it is my body. Keep in mind that this only matters if you have died with Jesus on the cross and Christ is living in you.

First, sexual immorality is out. That puts a damper on this attitude that it is only sex, no big deal, everyone is doing it. It matters to Jesus, the instrument of creation, the Son of God, King of kings and Lord of lords, and because we love him and he is alive in this body, we do not want to drag him into situations that would tarnish our living sacrifice. Same could be said for smoking, drugs, cutting, eating disorders, obesity, or anything where we are exercising control over what is a sacrifice to Yahweh. See how that works?

I know its a bummer to see your body this way but you need to decide whether Jesus is worth it. Is it worth loving him that much? You who said you would do anything for him, are you saying he is not worth tying up loose ends by offering your dead body as a living sacrifice? There is a lot more to this growing into maturity when we stop and consider it, isn't there? I am not just referring to the young kids who are dishonouring Jesus with their attitude toward sex but to us older kids who have a hard time understanding the priority of exercise. A sacrifice unto the Lord is what it is called and his love and mercy should be our motivation. Nothing to do with salvation and everything to do with sanctification, growing up, gaining maturity, following Jesus.

Welcome to Monday morning! Now what are you going to do with this dead corpse you are walking around in? Shall I light the fires?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

And I No Longer Live

Today I don't want to complicate anything and I don't want to point out anything that we are doing wrong. I know I get a bit heavy on some issues but we really need to be because of the dangerous direction we are moving in. But none of that today. I want to simply demonstrate the importance of meditating on the Word of God. I am going to use one verse that I was meditating on earlier. Look at the richness and the depth of a single verse from Yahweh's incredible love letter:

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live."

I hung on the cross with Jesus. I was there with all my sins. The only thing that could separate me from them was death but because I was crucified with Jesus, because he took my place, I was able to die without physically dying, and this separated me from my sins. Simple and beautiful.

But I am dead. I no longer live. So now what?

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

Wow! So I died with Jesus and the only reason there is any life in me now is because Jesus rose from the dead and now lives in me. I can live because Jesus lives. It is more than just a promise on the Day of Resurrection, it is something that I live today, in the practical. I died but Jesus lives in me.

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

I live by faith in Jesus. I can live because Jesus lives in me and I live in this body by this faith I have in him. That is powerful stuff. So I don't belong to myself. I most definitely belong to Jesus and I am only able to live because I have faith in him. It sure makes me want to have more faith, strong and powerful. It also makes me realize that I am not limited by what I was.

Death has separated me from everything that had defined me before. Now it is Jesus who defines me. It is Jesus who places or removes limits. It is Jesus who has given me new life. Now another verse comes roaring to mind:

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

This changes perspective big time. It means I can step out of what I once was and step into what I am in the new reality of the Kingdom. I operate in Jesus' strength, power and wisdom. It might be hard to learn how to walk with these new legs but that's okay because Jesus is doing the walking, I just have to obey and allow him. But the verse isn't finished with yet:

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

And there is why I can completely trust him with my death and the life he lives through me. This is why I put my faith in him with no questions, doubts or fears. He has earned my trust and I gladly give my faith. No one else has done what he has done for me with the cost that he had to pay. No one else suffered for me as he did. No one else climbed up on a cross. No one else died that I would be forgiven. No one else defeated death so that I might have life. No one. I am indebted to him and I gladly surrender to him that he might live in me so that I might live in him. May his will be done through this body of mine.

There is so much more that flows through me concerning this one verse but I leave it as I have written. But if this is where one verse can take us, how much more the entire Word of God. But it won't do anything for us if we are not meditating on it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Possessing Without Being Possessed

What do you want out of life? Do you want success? Enough money to be satisfied? A spouse with a couple of children? Do you want a job that will challenge you but still leave you enough time to do what you want? What are your dreams, your ambitions, your goals? They tell a lot about a person and their relationship with Jesus Christ. Then again I forget that most of us don't take him into consideration when planning our lives.

Sometimes things can look legitimate to us, having purpose and a place. By any means of measurement they are normal and just. But when measured against the Kingdom they suddenly appear small and unimportant. The whole thing depends on what measuring rod we are using to determine importance.

Jesus spent his life, possessing nothing, to bring the Good News to the people of Israel. He healed the sick, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, caused the lame to walk, cast out demons all while he taught about the Kingdom and spread the Good News. He had a different set of priorities, a different perspective, a noble purpose. His measuring rod was far different than the people who surrounded him. Then one day a voice out of the crowd shouted:

"Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me" (Luke 12:13)

In the midst of his selfless giving this must have struck Jesus as odd. Here he was offering eternal life, freedom from everything that possessed the heart and mind, yet this person was only concerned about a family inheritance. Maybe that doesn't strike you as odd. Maybe it seems quite reasonable to you, but when you are faced by Jesus, do you really think possessions are the priority? Jesus first answered the man:

"Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?" (v.14)

Then he said to the crowd, giving insight into the priority of the Kingdom:

"Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." (v. 15)

I know none of us think we have a problem with materialism but that's because we are comparing with people around us. We figure we don't have very much so it can't apply to us but when we compare it to the Kingdom we begin to see some things we may not want to see. I sit here and think "I don't own a lot" because I live in a small apartment and don't own a car. However, I own two desk tops, a laptop, four tablets and three cell phones. I also have three large screen TV's (some were gifts), and a nice camera. I own about eight bicycles. I could go on. According to certain parts of the world I am a very rich man. But the real danger is not in the possessing but being possessed.

Nothing belongs to us; it all belongs to Jesus. We died with Jesus so we no longer own anything in this world but are stewards of all that is in our possession. They have a purpose and need to be used for Jesus' glory. Sometimes he moves his resources around and we must be willing to let go of anything we have been taking care of for him. But too often we don't want to let go. Too often we can't let go because those things have defined us, they bring us great pleasure and we can't imagine living without them.

This is the real danger, when possessions take the place of Jesus in our lives. Our delight and pleasure should be found in our Lord. He defines us. He gives us purpose. He possesses us. We should be willing to let go of anything he requires because it belongs to him anyway, but it is a difficult attitude to measure. We almost have to take an inventory and consider if we could live without the various things currently in our lives. It also takes a tremendous amount of honesty because all of us are quite good at lying to ourselves.

We live in a society where material possession means wealth and most people I know would like to be wealthy. But we belong to a Kingdom that values spiritual wealth above everything else and when possessions are possessing we may hear our Lord saying, "Go sell everything you have, give it to the poor, then come follow me." Perhaps it is a good time to do some self-evaluation to know where you are in relation to all of this. Are you Kingdom centered as good stewards of the Lord's resources? Or are we earthbound, anchored to possessions that have no real value in the new order? What do you want in life?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Seeking More Revelation Than We Need

We live in the age of the individual. We may live in community but the perspective that is most important to us is our own. We experience everything according to how it impacts us and it is difficult for us to imagine a different perspective. The last great bastion of selflessness is motherhood where one individual seems to exist only for the betterment and preservation of another. Sadly, even this is being eroded so that we find more and more children being cared for by someone who is not their mom nor even a relative.

Long live the individual (tongue in cheek) who doesn't necessarily think the world resolves around him but simply doesn't care that it includes other people. We see a lot of things being birthed in this rather self-centered atmosphere, such as relativism. It doesn't matter the truth the community sees, if an individual says he doesn't agree with truth and declares it is something that it is not, the whole community must bow to his wishes. So a boy is no longer a boy if he decides he is a girl. The whole community must agree because we must protect the individual.

In all this mess we have Jesus, who is the only source of truth because he is truth. In Luke 11 we find the religious elite asking for another sign to prove he is who he is. It isn't enough that they have witnessed hundreds of healings, the casting out of demons, the control over nature and even over death. They wanted greater revelation. Jesus told them that they would get no further revelation then what he had already provided. Then he taught about the lamp.

This teaching was a continuation to his response about the sign. His light was not hidden. It was clearly seen as if on a hill and easy to see by it. These critics need not ask to see more because he had let his light shine for all of them. Then he said this:

The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. (Luke 11:34-35)

This is related to the precepts, foundational matters that we build our life on, such as the principle that Jesus is our light. But what this entire thing is telling us is that we need to be content with the revelation and understanding that he gives to us and not waste our time going beyond what we have. Too many of us don't spend the time we need to in what we have already been given and want to rush into more. Sometimes when we reach for more we become like those of Jesus' time, full of pride, self-learning and ignorant of the real truth.

The problem was that they weren't really ignorant of the real truth. They knew, they understood, they just didn't like it because it didn't match up with what they wanted. They had reached so far that they had lost the light and had allowed their principles and foundations to shift so they were now full of darkness. Jesus told them then as he continues to tell us now:

If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light. (v. 36) 

Even though the Word of God is living and constantly increasing our revelation, some are setting it aside for what they hope will be great knowledge and truth. They are really looking for something to sustain their own individual selfish foundations. They are leading others with them and so we find increasing apostasy in the Body of Christ. The solution is a simple one: Get your eyes back on Jesus so you can be filled with light. His Word gives us great revelation into this light, and empowered by the Spirit, we have enough to sustain us for eternity.

I will continue to say it: Things are only going to get worse. For this reason we should be even more diligent to keep our eyes on Jesus, to seek greater understanding and revelation from the Word and to love him with all we have to love. Let us keep our eyes good so the light in us will be good. When we have Jesus we need nothing else. Remember that!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Don't Pretend To Care If You Don't

There is a lot of emphasis on our personal place in the Kingdom. It's a lot of "me" stuff. The Church markets itself as a great place to be with all the various services that we offer. In many ways church is big business and so it is marketed as big business. The seats have to be just right, the music too. Success depends on how many parking spots we have and whether our building has just the right number of seats/people ratio to promote growth. It's all about formulas and systems and no one sees anything wrong with it.

I didn't realize we were responsible for church growth. I mistakenly thought it was the responsibility of the Holy Spirit.

I really thought that we were just responsible for spreading the gospel, telling people about Jesus and helping them grow in the Lord. I thought salvation and all the other stuff belonged to the Lord. Well, of course it does and it is the reason we have cheapened the Church and faith with all this marketing stuff. How do we handle what Jesus taught:

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. (Mark 4:26-29)  

Does this not clearly tell us who is in the driver's seat? We scatter the seed. We go out and tell as many people as we can about Jesus. Anyone who will actually give us a few minutes we tell them about the greatest news ever. Our testimony is a seed. The Spirit is going to do something with that seed. He is going to grow it until the heart is ready. Then another worker will come in and that person will enter into the Kingdom.

Now you can complicated it if you want but I don't see why you would try to improve on what Yahweh is doing. You can attend as many evangelism classes as you want. You can learn as many techniques as you want. You can take as many psychology courses as you want. You can write as many books as you want. It still comes down to us going out and talking to people about Jesus. But we don't.

We are quickly losing our love for telling others about Jesus. It is more the attitude of "live and let live" or perhaps it is more accurate to say "live and let die". We have lost the sense of urgency that so many generations before us had. I think it's because we either don't believe it any more or we just don't care what happens to anyone else. We don't care that people are going to hell and we have the answer. We don't care enough to put ourselves out, to take a risk, to show love and compassion by scattering seed; telling others about Jesus.

I think we should at least be honest with ourselves. We go to seminars and take training to deflect the attention from the fact that we aren't doing it. We appear to be doing it by going to training but we show our lack of compassion by not doing anything with the knowledge we have gained; knowledge that complicates that simple task of talking to people. Jesus said the mark of genuine relationship is to "hear" and then "do it". There is no getting around Jesus. Either we obey or we don't. We either scatter the seed or we don't. We either believe he will do something with our testimony or we don't.

So either go back to what you were doing (I am sorry for disturbing you) or start flapping your gums about Jesus. We talk about what we are excited about. I hope you are more excited about Jesus than anything else, so you talk about him more than anything else. Just don't pretend that you care if you don't.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Not Much In Man's Eyes, But A Giant To Jesus

I am not a popular preacher and I don't expect to be. It isn't because people are jealous of my stellar righteousness. Just the opposite. I am clearly a sinner saved by grace. My sins are obvious to everyone, but the grace of Yahweh should be just as evident. My unpopularity doesn't come from jealousy over my preaching skills because most people can out preach me in the flesh. I have not been called by the Lord because he needed my public speaking skills and I certainly need his anointing to complete the task. In fact, I possess nothing that the Lord needs because he needs nothing from me at all. But I am called nonetheless. No, my unpopularity steams from my habit of preaching the Word of God.

Not a lot of people want to hear the real truth any more. Most want to be entertained. Most want to listen to a skilled speaker. Others just want knowledge. Very few are truth seekers and those who start off that way soon abandon their effort when they realize the unpopular cost associated with it. It's not a hard thing to preach the truth. Just open the Word and preach nothing but the Word and the Spirit provides the rest. That is what I am determined to do and I pray I will never stray from it. I am not saying that I am the only true preacher; far from it. I am the least of the least, not worthy to be called a preacher, and I only bring what truth I have grasped and put into practice. Others are of far greater skill and anointing. But there are not many who still abide by the Word.

Sometimes, most likely accidentally, the truth is presented to the masses instead of being confined to small pockets of believers. It is then that people are faced with a decision. They can laugh it off and claim they were mistaken in the hearing, or they can embrace the truth and immediately put it into practice. What Jesus expected from those who claimed to follow him is simple to understand:

And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28)

This is the same message Jesus repeated throughout his ministry and one we fail to implement. Receive the Word. Do the Word. That is what is expected of us. Receive his instructions. Obey his instructions. Over and over he repeats it in varying words but the same message, "He who has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." Again and again. Hear and obey.

Not complicated. "If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." Obedience. Not a complicated thing to understand but we must first know the Word to know what it is that we are to obey. We need the Truth. It needs to be preached to us, taught to us, set before us. We need to read it for ourselves, study it, consume it and have the Spirit teach it directly to our hearts. And all that we receive must be lived. There is no way around it; it must be found to be the living Word.

Truth makes us uncomfortable, especially when it requires the sacrifice of self and living to love others. We would rather get lost in distractions and be entertained by fine sounding words and arguments. It's hard to come face to face with the truth because we usually end up on our faces before Yahweh. So no, I don't expect to be too popular any time soon because I am determined to know the Word and to put it into action every day for the rest of my life. I expect to live and preach in the power of the Spirit and I don't expect it to win me any popularity contests. That's fine by me because my only desire these days is to be popular with Jesus.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

We Possess The Answer To The Brokenness

Let's strip it all down. Let's get rid of the stuff that is distracting us. Let's bring it back to what is the fundamentals about the Kingdom. Ready? Love Yahweh with everything you have to love him. Love him enough to obey him. Love him enough to want to tell everyone about him. Love him enough to love everyone he loves, who is everyone. Love him enough to spend your life bringing people to the Son. Simple. But how do you do it when you are dysfunctional?

Yah, that's right, we are all dysfunctional. There's a group of people who celebrate their dysfunction and others who try to ignore it and others who try to hide it but the fact is we are all damaged goods. Sin has damaged us. But Jesus is all about healing damaged goods. Then he uses those recovering people to reach out to others who need the same healing because we all need it. It doesn't matter how strange you are or how you see yourself or the world, it only matters how Father sees it and he sees you healed in it. So how do those who are recovering from brokenness possibly find the ability to be used by such an incredible Father?


It isn't about you or your intelligence or your talents. It's about Jesus. It's about the Spirit. Jesus does the Father's will through you by the Holy Spirit. He has empowered you, beyond any ability you have, to be who he needs you to be. We make it all about us but Jesus makes it all about the people who need him. You may say, "I need him". Listen carefully: You already have him. Give it up. Stop being selfish. Start seeing what Jesus sees and what he sees is a whole bunch of broken people who need to hear what you know and what has healed you. They need healing and Jesus wants to do it through you. How?

By The Spirit!

Once again it comes down to you asking. Do you want to be used by Jesus? Do you want to fulfill your destiny? Then let the resurrection power flow through you by the Holy Spirit. If you have not allowed the Spirit to have full authority through you, if you have not experienced this power, then ask:

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:13)

You see, the Holy Spirit is the best thing Jesus has given to us since the cross and empty grave. He has given us the power, the ability, his presence to live his glory in the world so that people would see and believe. People are asking for proof because we haven't been living our destiny, because we are not the people he has intended us to be, giants of healing in a land of brokenness. If he didn't want us to have it he wouldn't have told us to ask for it. So why aren't we asking?

We aren't asking because we are prejudiced in our thinking, understanding, and expectations. We are comfortable in our ignorance and selfishness. Nuts! That's what I have to say, nuts to that. We have a world dying from it's brokenness and we are sitting comfortably in our selfishness with the healing for that brokenness. Shame on us. Shame!

Monday, May 19, 2014

How To Unlock The Full Arsenal Of Heaven

Sitting at your computer, re-blogging other people's inspirations is not Jesus' plan for you. You have greater responsibilities than that and it is time for us to stop seeking the easy way out. Yes, I know, you are an introvert. So am I. Big deal. I still have to get up and preach to a congregation each week. I still have to lead Bible Study. I still have to met with people throughout the week, invite them into my home, respond to invitations to go to theirs. The Lord does not call us to what is comfortable for us; he calls us to his work and empowers us to do it.

It is the responsibility of every Christian to make disciples. There is not a specific calling, category or gift called the disciplers. Did you notice there is no spiritual gift by that name? Each of us have that responsibility as followers of Jesus. It is not something that the local church does but it is what the Universal Church does, which is you and me, the Body of Christ. It is Jesus Follower 101.

You probably feel inadequate, not up to the task, unqualified for such responsibility. That's because we refuse to grow up. We would rather take the easy way, share some scripture and inspiration on FaceBook or tumblr and feel good about spreading the news of Jesus. But Jesus is not about cold, mass production. He is about relationships, the personal touch, an embrace, a listening ear, eye contact, a smile, a shared tear, the Good News, revelation, redemption and reconciliation. Do you really think that if Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son today he would have the father texting or tweeting his son instead of jumping off the porch and running to him to embrace him?

You have never been asked to do this by yourself or without resources. In fact, all the resources of heaven lay available to you. Whatever you need for the task is yours for the asking. That's the thing, it requires some action on our part. One of the most incredible verses on how we are to complete any task for the Kingdom is found in Luke 11:

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (v. 9-10)

It's sad that we don't even know enough to ask. We may not even want to ask because then we know we need to do it. But those who have decided to walk in obedience, this is your tool chest, your equipment, your great source of all things needed. But it requires action. You need to ask so that you will receive. Don't simply walk into a situation unprepared; equip yourself from Jesus' storehouse. If you need wisdom ask for it. If you need greater understanding, knock so it will be opened to you. Maybe you need opportunities. Knock and that door will open to you. I know it works, I have proven it. And if you need greater revelation of Jesus, seek it and you will find it.

I have no idea what you think you are lacking to complete the task that has been assigned to each of us but I do know you aren't lacking. It is all available to you but you need to take action to get equipped. But if you ask you need to be prepared to receive. Don't be turning the delivery man away at the door. If you knock you better be prepared to walk through the door when it opens. A lot of people knock but few are willing to be bold enough to follow through. If you are seeking you need to expect to find it, and you need to be prepared to do something with it.

We are without excuse. Time is short and more people need to hear about Jesus than ever before. They need more than words, they need to see actions of love and grace. They also need to see a demonstration of the power of Jesus. There is purpose for it, not to prove his existence but to show that they can trust his promises. We need to be prepared to operate in obedience, not limited by our own prejudices. We need to stop being hardhearted, get rid of the unbelief and move out with the full arsenal of heaven's resources. We are the true commissioners of Jesus's truth and reconciliation mission. Let's move out, fully equipped, and engage with the lost.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Keep It Simple Stupid

I'll admit it, I am a hockey fan. Because of my busy life and the low priority I give to watching television, I don't get to watch many games. However, if my favorite team makes it to the play offs I make the time to take in as many games as possible. Hockey is a game of strategy and there are several ways to approach playing it. You can concentrate on being fast and fancy or you can turn it into a physical game with a lot of hits and fights.

The last round I just watched, my favorite team decided to play fast and fancy. The other team was bigger and wanted to play a physical game. They tried to draw my team into fights but the players knew what was important and skated away. They ended up beating the physically bigger team. However, in their current round the roles have reversed. Now my team is trying to play the physical game and it cost them. They were beaten badly yesterday as the other team skated away from invitations to fight and concentrated on scoring, which they did, a lot.

This morning I was reading a portion of Scripture that reminded me that we aren't here to be drawn into fights. Yes, we are in a war but we don't fight like the enemy. We have a purpose and we contend against our enemy, Satan, for that purpose. Too many of us are getting enticed into useless arguments which distract us from our goal of making disciples.

Jesus was heading to Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him to prepare his way. As they came into a Samaritan town they were turned away, simply because they were heading to Jerusalem. The disciples were insulted and became indignant that they would be turned away. They were expecting Jesus to come into Jerusalem and be crowned king. They thought they were about to become very important people and here was this town refusing them hospitality. So they asked Jesus if he wanted them to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them. Jesus rebuked them for a clear reason:

“You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (Luke 9:55-56)

Talk about missing the point. Because they felt dishonoured they wanted to abuse their authority and destroy the ones that Jesus had come to save. I am sure you are beginning to understand my point here.

There are times when we feel ill treated or even abused in situations and conversations. That does not give us the right to go all "ninja" on people. Jesus accepted this town's rejection and simply moved on to another. We are not going to win every battle. We are not going to save every person. We are not going to win every argument. But instead of unleashing a vicious attack, we need to remember that these are the ones Jesus died for because he loves them. Even if they are out to destroy him, we must respect his love for them and walk away. Yes, drop the argument, don't even do a last word thing, just walk away.

We need to be aware that sometimes the enemy is baiting us, trying to draw us into useless fights to distract us from our goal. Our goal is making disciples not winning arguments. Our goal is humble and simple, to win as many people over to the Light before the darkness is destroyed. The people we argue with aren't even aware what they are doing because the spirit behind them has blinded them. All we can do is walk away and pray. Yes, pray. It may not seem like much but Jesus told us to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us. Against your prayers the enemy has no defense but if he distracts us so we forget to pray, he wins.

It has taken us years to get mixed up in our theology and understanding of Jesus. It has taken us years to twist the selfless gospel into a thing about "me". It has taken us years to drain the power away from the Holy Scriptures so that now it rings hollow and false. We have chosen a wrong path, one without the Spirit, without a demonstration of Yahweh's power, without power. Now we fight with nothing more than intelligence and emotions and it is getting us distracted from the simple fact that Jesus died so the lost may be rescued. Nothing else matters. We don't have to prove anything to anyone. Salvation belongs to the Lord, it comes from the the preaching of the Word, from the sharing of our testimony as witnesses, and by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It has taken years to destroy but it takes one decision to be restored.

Let's stop trying to kill people with our fine sounding arguments. Let's stop making enemies. Let's start learning to walk away for the sake of Jesus' love. Let's get back to what we do best. Let us pray. Let us testify. Let us bear witness to Jesus' glory and love. Let us make disciples.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What Jesus Has To Say To Me On My Birthday

So it's my birthday. The big five zero this year. It's amazing how when I was 21 years old fifty seemed so far away. Now in a heart beat I am here understanding that age is a relative thing. My body might be 50 years old but the rest of me still feels twenty one. In fact, my body is in better shape at fifty than it was at twenty one. And oh, the lessons I have learned so far, knowing I have double that to learn before Jesus returns. Funny, the one thing that does change with age is the realization that time does not last forever. In fact, I swear that someone is stealing hours from my day because I just can't complete everything I need to do in a day any more.

When I was in my twenties, we understood that we had a lifetime to grow, mature, to build a life. We knew we would have to build it one decision at a time and many things at that age were like sowing seeds We would plant the beginning of things and expect it to grow with time. That could be a career, starting at the bottom and working up. It could be a ministry, starting with nothing and seeing the Lord grow it into something. It could be family, starting with a kiss. It could be getting into real-estate, buying a small home and eventually moving up to one the suits a growing family. Same with cars and so on. We never expected to start with an end result but always the beginning. It took patience, determination and time.

It is no different with our spiritual walk. We start off with the cross. The cross never leaves us but we need to recognize that it is the beginning point, the door made open for us. The cross is what Jesus did for us, what we could never do for ourselves. But being a beginning means that there is much more. We are like a seed that needs to grow, mature and flower so that we can bear the fruit of the Spirit. My concern is that we are trying to skip ahead in the maturing process. Too many of us want the advanced lessons before the foundation is set in place. The foundation takes time, patience and work. The foundation is the Bible, prayer, service, stewardship and such.

For three years Jesus taught his disciples. They were on a steep learning curve. Also in that time Jesus did a lot of miracles. People loved the miracles. They flocked to him because of them. People love a great show. But Jesus also spent a lot of time teaching, instructing, preparing and maturing his disciples. Can you imagine what three years, 365 days a year, would have been like with Jesus, with him using every opportunity to teach and demonstrate truths to those disciples, that seemed beyond their comprehension. There is one small scripture that caused me to reflect on this.

Jesus had just cast out a demon. Now, to you and me it might seem mundane after having read it so often, but to these people it was amazing. I am sure it would be amazing to us too to actually see it rather than just read about it. That's part of our problem, we leave everything on paper instead of living it through our flesh. We too have the power to cast out demons, not just read about it. But I digress. Read this with me:

And they were all amazed at the majesty of God.
But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples,“Let these words sink down into your ears..." (Luke 9:43-44a) 

Everyone wanted the show but not the foundation. Perhaps the disciples wanted the advanced lessons on how to do miracles too but they were still struggling with the foundation. No one wants to learn the baby steps before running a marathon. No one wants to spend their time learning 1+1=2 before grasping E = mc2  . No one wants to take lessons to ride a bike, they just want to jump on and go like all the other kids. Jesus insisted that his disciples receive what he had to teach. He wanted his words to sink down into them because they would need them where they were going.

I have studied the greats, the heroes of the faith, and one thing that they all have in common is their love for Jesus. Each of them spent hours in prayer, worship and the Word of God. They tithed, were good stewards of their time, served the people. This was the foundation, the seeds planted everyday, that grew and were used mightily by the Spirit. The Spirit could use them because they made themselves ready and available to be used. If we want to do great things, be everything Jesus called us to be, to walk in the fullness of Jesus, we need to take care of the foundation.

The miracles come from somewhere. The great sermons come from somewhere. The teachings of revelation come from somewhere. The unrelenting service of love comes from somewhere. It doesn't happen with hocuspocus. You don't just wake up with it one day. It takes growth and growth happens from foundations. It comes from foundations because it is in foundations we learn to die to ourselves, to allow the Spirit to do what he wants through us, and that everything is possible with Yahweh. Without these things being the very fabric of who we are, we will never get to the advance classes. Without the foundation we will never step into our destiny with Jesus.    

Friday, May 16, 2014

What Does It Mean To You To Follow Jesus?

The mistake that preachers and teachers like me make is in assuming that everyone is where we are in our understanding of the Word of God. We spend hours in prayer and in the Word every day, looking for the Spirit's revelation of the Word for us and for our people. We often forget that not everyone is even reading the Word let alone studying it, so some of the basics are not understood. We are preaching from a certain foundation but the students do not have that foundation and often do not understand our words.

It may not seem like a big deal that I am teaching from a foundation that you may not have but it means that I see the world one way and you see it another. It means you will not understand the things I am referring to. It means you will not understand when I say it is normal to suffer for Jesus. It's the difference between a farmer and a passerby.

I used to own a small apple orchard which I looked after with much affection and hard work. If you had visited me you would have seen a lot of trees. But when I looked on my small orchard I knew each of those trees intimately. I knew which ones were strong and which ones I was nursing back to health. I knew which branches had been pruned, which had open wounds, which were fighting off pests, which I had to defend recently. You would look for fruit but I would have been watching for pests. Two different perspectives. The same happens spiritually.

Due to the fact that so many people are neglecting the Word of God we are getting major differences in the perspective of life and the world. For far too many people, Jesus is more of a hobby on the side while they put their energy into their "real" life. But here is one of the basics for you that blows that perspective out of the water:

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."  (Luke 9:23)

Jesus had just told his disciples that he was going to suffer, be rejected by the leaders of Israel, be killed and he would rise on the third day. Then he says, the same is going to happen to you. Now before you dismiss this as applying to the disciples I want you to note that it says, "The he said to them all". In other words, he turned from his disciples and addressed the multitude, which includes you and me.

If any of us want to follow Jesus we first have to recognize that it is no longer about us. It is not about the benefits of being a disciples. It's not about the great blessings because we are only stewards of those blessings which are suppose to be distributed by us. We have to disown ourselves. We have to let go of our own interests, in fact, we have to completely lose sight of ourselves. Just like Jesus, we have to set our own interests aside in order to lay down our lives for the lost, to continue on with the mission. What other words can I use to try to emphasize this point?

Does that describe us? Can we say that this is our perspective of things, that we are mere servants, not looking out for ourselves, denying ourselves so that we can serve wholeheartedly with nothing held back? If we are honest with ourselves we would have to say no. We are distracted and seduced by all the pleasures of this world. We are more interested in protecting our rights, our interests than we are in sacrificing ourselves for others. There is a whole lot of repenting that needs to go on in the Body of Christ.

What about this cross thing? Jesus was heading into a period of suffering and warned us that we would have to face the same thing. His cross was his privileged duty and there was a lot of suffering associated with it and those who follow, follow in like manner. Jesus told us not to avoid it. In fact, he said that if we try to avoid it, if we are ashamed of it, that he would be ashamed of us upon his return. He said that those who would follow him must take up their cross daily.

Again, does that describe us? Most of us avoid any form of suffering associated with the mission of Jesus. If we do happen to face it we complain and whine and go on about it. Some of us are actually surprised by it. Jesus told us to stand up in it, to love our enemies, to pray for those who do persecute us, to turn the cheek. We have to stop seeing it as people coming against our "rights" and act like the apostles who rejoiced in the privilege of suffering for the Name. With everything that is coming our way we had better ask the Spirit to change our attitude or we are not going to get very far. In fact, many of us will turn back from the flames and deny Jesus instead of denying themselves. Let's not be among them.

It isn't about following a certain pastor or teacher. It isn't about being a member of a certain church. It isn't about attending certain Bible Colleges. Then again, it isn't about your financial or career success either. It isn't about the size of your house or the car that you drive. It isn't about fame or glory. It is about Jesus. It is about following Jesus. It is about him being the reason, motivation and purpose of your life. It is about you giving up the control and allowing Jesus to lead.

Does this describe us? Does this describe you? Jesus is not a hobby, he is everything or he is nothing. No half measures. We can't be in love with worship, or our studies, or the ministry, or our church, or our pastor. Jesus must be our first and greatest love from which everything else flows. If this is the case then we will have no problem walking in his footsteps, suffering daily for the sake of the mission, in obedience to the Holy Spirit. May we all lean on the Spirit to strengthen us in faithfulness until Jesus calls us home.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

There Is Something Even More Important Than Reading Your Bible

When I was teaching in school one of the more difficult classes I taught was Algebra. It wasn't that algebra itself is difficult but that there was a lot of resistance from the students. The reason they resisted was because they saw no practical use for it. History is full of interesting stories so most students don't mind learning it. English is very practical. Science is fun but Algebra seemed to them to have no purpose. It only makes sense that we would want to use our time and effort to gain skills that we can apply daily. So why do we fail to do this with the Word of God?

First, let's just repeat : It is the Word of God. It needs to be respected so when we approach it there should be a sense of awe and wonder as we open the words that reveal Father's heart to us. These are his words that he has given to us so that we could understand the history of our situation and his love for us. It is filled with inspiration, direction and instructions. It gives us many sign posts, measuring rods so that we can do self evaluations to know where we are in our relationship with Jesus and how far we are coming along in our growth. This is important stuff.

The Word is not theory but a practical guide for living. We are to hear it, read it, meditate on it, study it, memorize it but especially apply it. When Jesus was told his family was waiting for him his response was important:

My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it. (Luke 8:21, NKJV)

Not just hear it but do it. We all know what James had to say about it:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25, NKJV)

But this is not an original thought from James. The Spirit is only reminding us through James what Jesus has already told us. In fact, there is one verse that I find essential for every believer to grasp:

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

It is impossible to argue against the words of the one who showed his love to us by going to the cross for us. We have his commands by hearing and reading, but it is the obedience that is essential for the full revelation of Jesus. In our obedience we will know that we are loved and Jesus will show himself to us.

Obviously we can't obey the commands of Yahweh in our flesh. If that had been possible Jesus would not have had to die for us. However, what is impossible for man is possible for Yahweh and is the reason why we have the Holy Spirit. Salvation has been won for us by Jesus but our maturity comes about by our cooperation and obedience to the Spirit. He is with us to empower us to grow in our obedience. I so enjoy Ephesians 4 for its explanation of the process:

His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. (v. 12-13, CEB) 

We are suppose to be growing in order to reach spiritual maturity. Hearing, reading and doing the Word of God is essential to this growth. The doing is possible through the Spirit in us. This maturity is important, especially in these end days for in this same passage we read:

 As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ,  who is the head. (v. 14-16, CEB)

People are confused today because they don't know the Word so they can't obey the Spirit. People are going by their emotions and rational thinking. Because it makes sense in this world they assume it is what Yahweh wants. We don't have to guess or assume at what Yahweh wants, he has already written it down for us. We just need to obey in our relationship with Jesus and by the power of the Spirit in us.

Yes, stop reading this and go read your Bible. Then get up, go out in the Spirit and do what Jesus has commanded. In this way you will demonstrate that you are part of his family and you will receive even greater revelation of him as he reveals himself to you. More importantly, Jesus will be glorified through you.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Growing Up Isn't The Easiest Thing To Do

Anyone can become a Christian with a simple prayer but not every Christian steps into their destiny to become everything Jesus has called us into. There are two large words that most Christians do not fully understand. The first is justification which in simple terms means what Jesus has done for us - our salvation. We had nothing to do with it because he did it all for us. Then there is sanctification - which is our walk, growth, progress to maturity, to become everything that we were meant to be. This takes effort and cooperation on our part as the Spirit works on us. But so many of us ignore sanctification and just rest on justification.

Salvation was the easy part for us because Jesus did all the heavy lifting but spiritual maturity takes effort and is the reason most Christians avoid it. Maturity is a huge subject but I want us to consider only one small but important aspect of it today. I want us to consider the heart.

Many of us know the parable of the sower which I think should have been known as the parable of the soil. You know that Jesus spoke about four conditions of the soil. The first was hard packed, a pathway, where the seed did not enter and the birds carried it away. The second was filled with rocks, preventing the seeds from growing deep roots, so when the sun beat down on the tiny plants they withered. The third was full of weeds so, when the plants tried to grow, their life was choked out. The last was good soil. Often we concentrate on the first three types of soil but I want us to consider the fourth.

First of all, this is not about salvation, it is about spiritual growth. The good soil has already been prepared to receive the seed. When we approach the Word of God we should always spend a few moments examining our heart condition. If we read and study the Bible at all we often do it without thought as to whether we are prepared to receive it. We read but our mind is off, wandering about on other matters. Either the seed doesn't go in at all, or it only goes so deep because we haven't cleared away our doubts. What does go in gets choked out because of all the things we are worried about or that our heart is occupied with. Sometimes we simply rush it, so we can get onto the next thing, like checking our FaceBook or Tumblr. These things all need to be cleared so it is just us, the Spirit and the Word.

The growth of the plant is all about Christian maturity which is a process. In the parable, the seeds grow into plants, first growing their stems, then leafs appear, and eventually the fruit which must then mature and ripen. From these few seeds a harvest is produced. This is done naturally, with no effort, as long as there is good sunlight and rain because the soil is already good. It is not so in the reality of spiritual growth, which requires patient endurance:

But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15)

Here we simply see the word "patience" but the original language conveys a greater sense then the passive sense of patience we think of today. It is the same word that we find in Matthew 10:22 :

And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

That sense of enduring until the end, going the distance, completing the task, setting the hand to the plow and not looking back. It is the endurance that presses on no matter the obstacles found in the way. It is a vigorous patience that supports the fruit of Christian character that must be produced in the maturity of relationship with Jesus.

The first step is to realize that there is more to our relationship with Jesus than just our salvation. Our salvation is the beginning point, but maturity is our destination. Jesus has taken care of our salvation but now we need to cooperate in the condition of our heart so that the Word can produce a great harvest in us. 

Hardness of heart has to go. We limit the Spirit to what we see instead of understanding we have been called out of the ordinary to follow the water walker, the giver of sight, the healer of brokenness, the restorer of life. We follow the miracle man and are in turn the people of miracles.

Doubt needs to be dug up and thrown aside. We have to stop doubting everything the Spirit plants in us. Often those doubts are of the goodness of the Lord toward us. Why are we so thick about this? Paul said, if Father loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us, why would he hold any lesser good thing from us? Remove the boulders of doubt so the roots grow down deep. 

Kill those weeds of fear, anxiety and busyness. Stop rushing in and out of the Word. Honour the fact that this is the Word of God, not some newspaper or magazine. This is what the Spirit uses to teach and grow us into maturity. Respect it and start putting greater trust in what it has to say than what the world is saying.

When we have prepared the soil the Spirit will do the planting but don't forget that the work has only begun. If you want more of Jesus, a greater relationship, more power, a closer walk, better understanding, maturity, then you are going to have to work with the Spirit on the matter. Like any great project you will always hit obstacles so you will have to be determined that the end goal, the destination, the product is worth the price. The many faithful men and women who have gone before us testify that it is worth it, as they gave their everything in the effort to mature in the Lord. It's time for us to grow up in Jesus.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Don't Conform, Be Transformed

It is not what you say or what you do that are the most important thing in your life, but who you are. It is from who you are that everything else flows. This is why trying to change our behaviour is an exercise in futility. We may be able to change for a short period of time but eventually we will slide back to the nature of our heart. It is not unlike healthy living.

There is a difference between healthy living and dieting. Dieting is a short term solution for a long term problem. It doesn't deal with the underlying problem of an unhealthy lifestyle. It deals with a symptom instead of the disease. Healthy living goes to the heart and changes perspective and attitude. It is a complete change of lifestyle with a change of eating being part of it. It cannot be applied from an outside pressure but must be a personal conviction that everything has to change. It is a good metaphor of the Christian experience.

Christianity is not about "dieting"; a short term solution for a long term problem. It is not about conforming our behaviour or our vocabulary under the pressure of an outside force. That is just an act of self-improvement and soon enough a person will slip back to their natural selves. Our problem is our nature, the condition of our heart. There needs to be a change of perspective, a change of attitude, a change of heart and that only happens with the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

We cannot hide our true colours, our true nature for long, and it soon becomes evident to everyone, although not everyone will admit it. We tend to like people even when we know that things aren't quite right. We consider if they are going to church everything is okay but we have a lot of "conforming" people in our pews who need to be told that they need the transformation of Jesus. The reason their condition is obvious was taught by Jesus:

For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. (Luke 6:43)

A healthy tree is going to give you healthy fruit. A diseased and dried up tree is going to give you diseased and dried up fruit. The life filled and led by the Holy Spirit is going to bear the fruit of the Spirit. The life filled and controlled by sin is going to bear the fruit of sin. Not everyone attending church is bearing the fruit of the Spirit and there is a reason for it. There is no getting around it. One is a transformed life, the others is attempting conformity.

For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. (v. 44)

We are known by our fruit. It is not the fruit that defines us but we who define the fruit that is produced. An apple tree produces apples, not an apple that makes it an apple tree. Behaviour and words do not make us a sinner, it is being a sinner that produces behaviour and words. An apple tree cannot produce oranges just because it wants to; there would have to be a transformation of its nature. A sinner cannot be righteous just because he wills it. We need the transformation that Jesus offers.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. (v. 45)

We have sayings such as, "a leopard can't change his spots", but still we fail to understand it. We were born a sinner. By nature we are sinners, in complete rebellion against Yahweh. We see the evidence of such rebellion all around us today but fail to recognize it in ourselves. Knowing that we do bad things we try to improve ourselves, change our behaviour, our vocabulary, our attitude. But we can't for long because our true nature is always going to reveal itself. The only way to become a "good man" is by the blood of Jesus Christ. No other way will do; not conformity, self-will, self-improvement, thinking good thoughts, or acts of kindness. Jesus said he is the only way.

Jesus told us:

For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (v. 45)

It isn't about what we say or what we do but instead who we are. Who we are determines what we do and what we say. It is out of the abundance of our heart that we speak. If that abundance is Jesus' righteousness then these words will be righteous. If the abundance is from a non-transformed heart then it will be evil that we speak. It's as simple as that.

Monday, May 12, 2014

You Seriously Want To Live Like Jesus?

How much do you seriously know about what Jesus taught? What is governing your life? What principles do you live by? How are you following Jesus if you don't even watch him? Do you realize that we live by a completely different standard than this world? If we know that, why are we living by the patterns of the world instead of the principles of the Kingdom?

The Kingdom of Jesus is much different than anything we find on this earth and, although there are many benefits we will not receive until the world to come, some things can be lived here and now. There are principles that have been put in place that, if acted upon, will improve our living, but they come at a cost. We have to let go of what we see and trust what Jesus told us.

One of the Kingdom principles could be considered the original anti-bullying policy. During Jesus' ministry, society was greatly divided. There were Jews and Samaritans, Pharisees and Sadducees, Herodians and common folk. They hated on each other. Each thought they knew better but they were focused only on their own interest. There was a great deal of judgment; hurtful, adversarial, causing damage to leading a good spiritual life. Jesus made it clear that we do not adhere to such patterns but instead live by a new governance:

Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

People who think they are in a better position than others, with better knowledge, better revelation, better standing with Father, better conduct, often bully those they think are in a lesser position. This blocks any further spiritual growth and maturity in these people because it doesn't work this way in the Kingdom. Such hearts cannot grow.

It seems a bit odd that we get to decide what measure we receive but there it is. "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." If you don't want to be judged by people, stop judging them. If you don't want to be condemned, don't go around condemning others. If you want to receive forgiveness for all the stupid things you do, forgive others for their stupidity. What measure of this you receive from others will depend on what measure you live by. Jesus said to make it a generous measure:

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. (v. 38)

People often use this in a financial sense but in context it has to do with our liberal generosity in not judging, not condemning and forgiving. Give forgiveness in a generous measure and it will be given back to you in the same measure. This is where we discover the incredible generosity of our Lord. That is the nature of the Kingdom, generosity in all things. It will be a good measure.

When measured out, it won't be fluffy, you won't be short changed or cheated in the matter. It will be packed down, like flour and sugar, so that as much as possible will be fit in. It will be shaken, like grain, so that it will settle together and as much as possible will be fit in. It will run over, wine and oil, so that it will be full capacity. That is generosity. But if that is what you want measured out to you, you need to be sure that is exactly how you are measuring it out to others; pressed down, shaken, and running over. Many will gladly do this with finances but will be scrooges in the things that matter most.

Each of us should have a great desire to be known as a generous people because Jesus has been incredibly generous to us. Any of us who think we have deserved his love, mercy, grace or forgiveness, are sadly lacking in a correct understanding and perspective. When we realize how generously it has been poured into us we will want to see the same being poured into the people we influence. Father will supernaturally touch their hearts and we will receive the same back from these people.

Considering this and playing back the events of last week, most of us will feel shame in the way we have treated others. We have not acted properly as citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus. Ask for forgiveness and consider this a new day to begin to live with a better understanding of how the principles of the Kingdom work. Give generously to others. Invest in them, because it is an investment. Throw away judgment and condemnation, which divide, and measure out a generous portion of love and forgiveness. Do it and be amazed how people change and your relations improve. Watch how many people will want to know more about Jesus.