Monday, June 30, 2014

Why Are You Wrestling With Jesus?

Why is it so hard to follow Jesus? Because we want Jesus and our sin. Sure, we don't call it sin but anything that is in contrast to Father's character and will are sin. Following Jesus becomes a struggle when our desires are for things that don't line up with him and the Spirit brings in conviction and correction. Although circumstances may not be in our favour all the time, when we walk with Jesus, and not try to get Jesus to walk with us, we have peace, contentment and confidence. This also impacts our understanding of purpose.

I do not adhere to what some people consider to be the prosperity gospel but I do believe in Father's desire for us to be prosperous. Father's sense of prosperity is not creature comforts but the things that impact eternity and the battle we are engaged in in this place. His prosperity includes whatever it is we need to complete our assignment. I see this in the scripture when Jesus tells us to ask whatever we wish and it will be given, and in the scripture that records him as telling us to ask, seek, and knock. He was speaking to his fighters, his warriors, his witnesses in this place and he promised a response.

We don't know how the conviction of the Holy Spirit works. We don't know whose heart has been prepared. What we do know is that we have been told to scatter the seed. We have been told to go throughout the world, to every nation, and tell people the good news about Jesus. We were not told to legislate righteousness. We were not told to force people into belief. We were told to spread the seed and the Spirit would do the rest:

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. (Mark 4:26-27)

This is Jesus speaking. We don't know how the seed grows and we don't need to. We are simply told to scatter it. Then the Spirit does what is natural to him:

For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. (v. 28)

The process of conviction is as natural as the growth of a plant, but it starts with the planting of a seed. Just like we can't hear the voice of Jesus without the Word hidden in our heart, the sinner cannot be convicted without the seed. It is not your opinion of that seed but the seed itself that enables the Spirit to convict and we have been given the task of sowing that seed.

This is our purpose in whatever form it takes. It should not matter to us if we are rich or poor, have a car or take the bus, live in the best part of town or the worse. All that matters is what we do with what we have and what we say to who we are with, This is what we will be held accountable for so do you think that Father wants us spending our days seeking things of this world, which will pass away, or seeking the things of the Kingdom of God, which is for eternity? It gets a lot easier when we stop fighting against his will.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Greatest Love Story

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While were were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

As I meditate on this verse this morning there are a couple of things that stand out for me. The first is that it is in the present tense. It does not say that God demonstrated but that he demonstrates. This basic fact of our relationship with Father is an ongoing revelation. When people ask us how we know that God loves us when so much evil exists in the world, our answer is always Jesus. This is also an ongoing encouragement for us.

When I am having a rotten day and circumstances seem stacked against me, I remember Father's love by remembering Jesus. When Yahweh seems so far from me, when I can't see him or hear him, I remind myself of his love by remembering Jesus. The Israelites encouraged themselves by remembering what Yahweh did for them in Egypt. Christians encourage themselves by remembering Father's love which he demonstrates by the cross.

The second thing that stands out for me are the words "his own love". To fully understand it you must read the verses leading up to this but basically it says that my love, as great as it may be, is nothing compared to Father's. I cannot save anyone in my name. It is not my love or effort that makes a difference. Hooray that I can love sacrificially but only Yahweh's sacrificial love has the power to save. And what a love it is.

What is incredible is how Father demonstrates his own love. He does not demand that we change, reach perfection, learn his ways, or make sacrifices. Come as you are, in all your sin and imperfections. If things need to change then he will work with you on that after the fact. First he wants you to know he loves you, even as you are. He loves you! How do we know? Because Jesus died for you on that cross. He was thinking of you and how much Father wants you to be with him, because he loves you. That's how we know he loves us.

Yes, change will come because when we accept his love, the forgiveness of our sins, there is a transformation that takes place. The great thing is, when we have the revelation of his love, we want to change, we want to be transformed, we don't want to stay the same. That's how you know it is real. If that doesn't happen then it hasn't happened for you yet. But seek him. If you want this great revelation of his love, if you want to understand this demonstration, then seek his face and you will see him, in all his glory.

The greatest love story ever told is Jesus.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Which God Do You Serve?

There is a new thing sweeping the land and it is not good. One cannot help but see parallels as we read through the history of Israel and the acts of the kings. They were a people who had lost sight of their purpose because they had lost sight of their God. It was not doubt that had crept into their heart but instead the hardness of unbelief.

Throughout the gospels we read this phrase, hardness of heart, applied to various people but always for the same reason. We sometimes mistakenly consider it to explain doubt but it is not doubt; it is the hardness of unbelief. Doubt is when there is a thought that what you are seeing may not be real or does not apply to you, or it is something you can't do. Unbelief is a refusal to believe what you see or hear. It is when a person hardens their heart against something, refusing it any foothold in the realm of their reality.

We read how the disciples had such moments, when they had not yet accepted the impossibility of the man they had chosen to follow. Then it should not be difficult for us to accept that the spiritual leaders of the day also suffered from unbelief:

And He said to the man who had the withered hand,“Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man,“Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. (Mark 3:3-5)

Yes, there is nothing that grieves the heart of Jesus more than the hardness of the heart of those who shut him out with unbelief, yet this is the wave that is sweeping through the nations today. It is no longer a matter of people struggling with doubts about Yahweh's goodness or love but now it is an all out refusal to believe in him, his holiness and his righteousness. Instead, people are creating their own personal versions of Yahweh, a version that best fits their desires and lifestyles.

It is not that people want to throw away the idea of a god, they just don't want the true God who holds us accountable to his standards of holiness. They don't even like the free option Jesus gave because they like how they are and don't want to be transformed. Yes, you can't encounter Jesus and stay the same. People want a god who will benefit them but not one that they are obligated to, so they harden their hearts to Jesus. They refuse to believe and they set up their own plastic version that they can mold to their feelings and ideas each day.

So this morning I ask you, which god do you serve; one of your own making or the One True God, Yahweh? Are you suffering from a hardness of heart, accepting a god you can shape into your own desires, or do you serve the One True God who has revealed his holiness and told his children to be holy as he is holy? If you get to shape your own god then he is not Yahweh. If you are being shaped by God then you have a heart possessed by Jesus. Friends, know the difference between momentary doubts and hardness of heart and learn to stand on the Word and only the Word of God.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Define Your Love For Jesus

We like to look at what Yahweh offers us. We like to think of the Creator, always watching over us, blessing, protecting, providing for his children. God is good, all the time, and we worship him for it. But few of us give much thought to our end of the covenant with Yahweh. Oh, we know it has to do with love. Jesus told us the greatest commandment is to love Yahweh with our entire being, with all our passion, but what does love look like?

Is love just going to Church, worshiping, reading our Bible? Is love paying our tithes and helping out at the church? Is love taking part in leadership and serving the poor? Is this all there is to it? Do most of us even care enough to consider anything beyond the minimum? Isn't that the philosophy of life these days: Maximum input for minimum output?

Do you know that all Yahweh has ever required of his people is love. Jesus defined what that love looks like in a very simple sentence:

"Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching." (John 14:23)

And then Jesus stated the obvious so it is clear to us:

"Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching." (v. 24)

Obedience is the fruit of love. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures we find Yahweh looking for the one person who would love him. A simple example is found with Jeroboam. King Solomon had turned from the Lord, disobeying him concerning his wives which eventually led him to worship false gods. So the Lord decided to rip the kingdom from him and give part of it to Jeroboam, and this is what he asked of Jeroboam:

Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you. (1 Kings 11:38)

Understanding the language of Yahweh we know this to be him saying to Jeroboam, "Love me". It is our part of the covenant. But all of us would say that we love Jesus. All of us would say that we love Yahweh with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. But so many of us have no idea that this love is manifested in obedience. In fact, many of us claim love but don't even know what Yahweh has commanded. We don't know his statutes or even the principles of the Kingdom because we don't know the Word.

Our love has limits. Often it is limited to words and ideas but seldom to whole-hearted obedience. "Do what is right in my sight" is not what most of us are pursuing. In fact, in recent days we have seen great decisions in the Church based on what is right in man's sight and not Yahweh's, and yet we claim we love him. If we can understand this according to the Word then we will begin to recognize that there needs to be a great deal of repenting among Yahweh's people, among those who claim Jesus as Lord.

Can you say that obedience is at the top of your list every day? Does it occupy your mind and heart? Do you spend your day living the two greatest commandments, allowing them to define your action, because you love Jesus? It is great that we serve such a wonderful Creator but we have an obligation in this relationship; it is an obligation of love, manifested in obedience.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Message Hasn't Changed: We Need Jesus

We need Jesus. We accept a lie perpetuated by the enemy when we believe that we don't. We can have great noble intentions, lead a good life, care for people, live a simple life and still we will have fallen short of what we were created to be. Let's consider for a moment the best of the best, the cream of the crop of our humanity.

Solomon had it all. He had all the wealth a person could have and he was generous with it. He had fame because of the wisdom Yahweh had given him, and he put it to good use. He established a kingdom of peace and other nations and leaders honoured him. This was a great man who achieved what many leaders today can only dream of achieving. Yet he still fell short.

Yahweh only required one thing of him, all he has every asked from anyone:

Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you,and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ (1 Kings 9:6-5)

It's all a father ever asks of his child, obedience. But this man, who represented the best version of ourselves, with all the tools that had been given to him, fell short of that obedience. Yahweh had commanded Israel not to get involved with other nations, not to intermarry because these nations would lead them astray. Yahweh knows our heart. All his instructions were about what was best for us. But, not only did Solomon disobey these instructions, he did it in a major way:

But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites—  from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. (1 Kings 11:1-3)

Was Yahweh trying to be mean with this command? Not at all, he knows our heart and was trying to protect his people. How many children brush aside their parents' instruction and end up in hot water? Their selfishness takes over their heart. Solomon proved Yahweh to be correct:

For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. (v. 4)

This great man, who had everything a person could want as a result of his relationship with Yahweh, threw that relationship away in disobedience. This is why we need Jesus. No matter how good you think you are you are not capable of living at the level Father has intended for us. We will always fall short of his glory. Good is not good enough.

Jesus does not care about us falling short; it doesn't stop him from loving us. He didn't come to seek the perfect. He came for us. He came to pay the penalty of us falling short, to take our place. He bridged the gap for you and me so we could have the relationship that Yahweh wants with us. He also gave us the Holy Spirit to develop in us a heart like David's, one that is consumed with Yahweh, desiring to please him and live for his glory. None of us can do this on our own. We need Jesus.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Devolution Of Compassionate Ministry

In ministry we put a lot of emphasis on people's comfort. We pour millions of dollars into housing, clothing and the feeding of people. We do this because Jesus told us to do it. But we seem to put more emphasis on this than we do on the ministry of greater importance. In fact, we even put a greater emphasis on the healing ministry than we do on the more important ministry.

Jesus came to preach the Good News. That is what he desired to do and he spent a lot of time doing it. Mark records one morning in the life of Jesus that most of us seem to overlook. Jesus had spent the evening before healing people. Here he is God, walking around in the filthy result of sin, which is disease and deformity. They exist because of a fallen creation where everything is twisted and warped from the original by man's sin nature. How could Jesus not be moved by compassion and it is from compassion that he responded with healing. But it was not why he came.

Mark says that Jesus got up early that morning and went off to pray in a solitary place. Peter and the others tracked him down because the crowd had begun to form again. They told Jesus that everyone was looking for him. Who could blame them. Here was a man who could deliver them from their misery. But Jesus did not want to be side tracked from his original mission:

“Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” (Mark 1:38)

Jesus makes a clear distinction here between his purpose and his ministry of compassion. So we read:

And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons. (v. 39)

Why the casting out of demons? This went hand in hand with preaching the good news. How could anyone receive the good news if he was oppressed or possessed by demons. Jesus wanted people free to make a decision based on what he was telling them. If it was a real danger for Jesus to be side tracked by compassion, how much more so for us?

If we look at the history of the compassionate ministries around the world we will see at the roots of their beginnings a real desire to assist people out of the love of Jesus with a longing to see them discover the truth of Jesus. But over time these "charities" and churches became side tracked by their compassion and what started out as faith and love for God devolved into a humanitarian organization with the real solution for mankind's suffering being lost.

It is true that Jesus healed and served out of compassion but he never lost sight of or became side tracked from his true purpose. Jesus came so that whoever believes in him will be saved. He cast out demons so they would be free to believe. This must always remain the center mission of everything we do, even when we respond to human suffering with the compassion of Jesus Christ. If not, we are not being of any help to anyone. What matters is not the comfort of people in this place as much as their eternal destination. Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Blessed In The Doing Not In The Knowing

I have no idea what we are doing as Christians these days. It shouldn't be as complicated as what we are making it out to be. We don't have to invent anything or try anything new. Why we can't simply do what Jesus did is beyond my comprehension. It seems that we only want to use the gospel as a suggestion and not the example it was given us to be. What am I going on about? Check this out, from Jesus' mouth:

For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:15-17)

Jesus gave a wonderful illustration of servant-leadership which is the basis of the Kingdom of God. He set the example and then said, now do as I have done. But his words encompass more than this one simple act. These ares his last moments of instructions as the shadow of the cross has already fallen on him. It is a summary of all that he taught: Do as I have done. And look at what he says, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."

We can go to college or university and study everything that has ever been written about the Word of God and yet fail to enter the Kingdom because we have not known enough to do the Word. Jesus spent three years with his disciples for a reason, that they would learn from him and do the same thing, which they did. When we look at the likes of Peter and then later Paul, we see how their lives followed that of the Master. So what don't we understand about this?

If we want to follow Jesus then we need to know Jesus, what he taught and the example he set. We need to be possessed by the Spirit in power just as he was. We have to love the unlovable just as he did. We have to go to them and not wait for them to come to us. We have to tell everyone that the Kingdom is at hand, to repent and to receive Jesus Christ. We need to let go of any claim we have on this world and operate from the Kingdom. We have to be surrendered morning, afternoon and evening to Father's will, seeking nothing for ourselves and always for Father's glory. Then we will be blessed.

"You should do as I have done to you." We are not isolationists. We don't remove ourselves from those who need Jesus. We give ourselves wholeheartedly to the mission of salvation. We put all our resources to that aim. If we are doing any less then we are not following Jesus' example. If our needs come before our neighbour's or our Father's will then we are not following Jesus. Anything less than our all is falling short of the example he set for us. It is simple but no one said it would be easy. It requires total surrender each and every day with no time off.  "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." It will cost you everything but you will be blessed in the doing, not in the knowing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Serving Jesus As He Wants

All Christians are in love with the idea of serving Jesus. He has done so much for us, how could we not want to do so much for him? The problem happens when he takes us at our word. It is like when someone tells me that they want to help but then they tell me what they are not willing to do. A real offer to help is to help with what I need to have done, not what they perceive I need done.

When we tell Jesus we want to serve him it is never to be according to what we are willing to do but what Jesus needs us to do. To serve is our choice but what gets assigned to us is the Lord's choice. This is what causes the conflict, when the Lord's needs do not match our expectations. That is when we begin to resist Jesus. We see an example of what we do almost daily in an incident with Peter.

Jesus was demonstrating a potent lesson in the type of leaders he had trained them to be, but Peter did not understand:

He came to Simon Peter, who asked Him, “Lord, are You going to wash my feet?” (John 13:6)

Peter's idea of leadership did not match up with what Jesus was demonstrating. He had a fixed idea of what power looked like and how a king should behave, yet here was their king washing their feet?

Jesus answered him, “What I’m doing you don’t understand now, but afterward you will know.” (v. 7)

I am sure this is how Jesus responds to us most of the time. Many lessons we face cannot be understood in the moment because we have not yet gained a mature perspective. This is why we trust Jesus. We may not understand today but a day will come when we will understand the purpose. It is enough to trust that he loves us and desires the best for us. Yet, we react like Peter:

“You will never wash my feet—ever!” Peter said. (v. 8)

There are so many things that we refuse to do, so many directions we refuse to take, so many words we refuse to speak because we do not understand. We want to do what we are comfortable with, what we are familiar with, what we understand. But our service to Jesus has many purposes. He uses our service to bring blessings to others. He takes great joy out of fellowship with us in our service. And, he grows us, maturing us in the process of our service. For this reason he calls us to serve where we can't rely on our own strength and have to draw closer to him to receive his strength.

If your desire is to grow into the full measure of Jesus, stop resisting him. Stop saying never. Stop the wrestling. Trust is the cornerstone of our relationship with Jesus and without it we cannot serve him. So let's put away the pretty sentiment and get down to work. He has called you to something beyond your ability. Trust him and step into it. Serve him well.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What Is Sin And Why Do I Struggle With It?

Maybe our problem is the way we define sin. Maybe that is what all the confusion is about. It seems that we are confusing the fruit of sin with the root of sin and we need a little education from the Word to better understand the parameters of our discussion. Let's start with this fact:

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

And just for good measure we shall add:

"If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (1 John 1:10)

So something everyone in this world has in common is this fact that we have all fallen short of Yahweh's glory. None of us can ever claim that we have never sinned against Yahweh and thus having sinned stand guilty of our rebellion. But consider the root of all our behaviour, which is rebellion against Yahweh:

"All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)

The lying, stealing, cheating, sexual immorality, hatred, murder, and all the rest are only the fruit of sin. Just as love, joy, peace, hope and all the rest is the fruit of his love in us, all the negative stuff is the fruit of our sin nature which is rebellion against Yahweh. How is sin defined? "We have turned, every one, to his own way." That is the best definition you are going to find. Our actions are only the fruit of the root and the root is a heart that is turned to it's own ways instead of the righteous path of Yahweh.

All the epic battles in your life have come down to the struggle between your selfish nature and Yahweh's holiness. Eve's sin was a selfish act, when she put her wants ahead of Yahweh's instructions. David's many sins stemmed from the same source as has every sinful act committed by every single human in history.

Only Jesus has made it possible for this bondage to be broken so that we can make ourselves slaves to Yahweh's righteousness. If that is not your desire you will continue to stumble, struggle, and war against yourself. Peace is found when we swim out to the current of Father's will and allow ourselves to be carried along, swimming with the current instead of against it. Understand the source, the root of the fruit that is produced in your life. Is it the good stuff produced by the Spirit in you, or the rotten stuff that comes from your heart rooted in rebellion? If you can understand this root, you may discover you have been sinning without knowing it, blocking your destiny with Yahweh. Discover it, confess it, be set free from it, and begin to soar as you were designed to soar.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

You Can Fool Some Of The People Some Of The Time ...

We may be able to fool a lot of people but we can't fool our moms and we can't fool Yahweh. Our moms have been studying us since the hour we were born. She has watched over us while we slept, watched us while we ate, watched us while we played. She knows what every facial expression means. She doesn't listen to our words as much as the tone in which they are spoken, our expression and our body language. But as good as moms are they are limited to what they see and hear, they don't actually know our heart. Yahweh, our Creator, knows our heart.

Yahweh once told the prophet/judge Samuel something important that he repeated on several occasions and that Jesus also taught concerning:

“Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

This should be both encouraging and frightening. It is encouraging that even when we mess up Yahweh knows the sincerity of our love for him. This is why he continued to favour David even when he had to severely correct David, because David was whole heatedly in love with Yahweh. He desired to live to please him even though there were moments of colossal failure. That should teach us something concerning our relationship with Father and his love.

On the other hand, if we are faking it, Yahweh knows. We cannot mock him. If we are trying to live a good life with no real relationship with Jesus, he knows. Salvation isn't about being good or being kind; salvation is about accepting and receiving the sacrifice of Jesus for us. It is something born out of conviction and repentance. It is the most honest and real moment of our lives. Yahweh knows the difference between a sincere and insincere heart.

Jesus taught a great deal on the heart condition. He taught us that it is the place where we harbour sin before it is acted on. He taught us:

“What comes out of a person—that defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries,greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)

Along the same lines he stated:

A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. (Luke 6:45) 

We may think we are fooling everyone but Yahweh knows and in the end he is the only one who matters. As much as our moms and dads love us, they cannot save us. As much as our friends may love us, they cannot save us. As much as the world may appreciate us, it cannot save us. Salvation is only through Jesus, who loves us more than everyone combined. But do you love him? Do you love him with all your heart? Do you love him enough to obey him? Even in your failings, do you desire to live exclusively for him? He looks for sincerity and he cannot be mocked. He knows your heart and by it he judges you.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Spirit Trumps Flesh Every Time

Let's be frank about the current condition in the Church: Unless there is a radical change in our perspective we are going to see continued major splits over biblical teaching. Far too many of us are interpreting God's Holy Word according to our flesh. We look at it to justify our established pattern of thinking. We are not coming to it to be changed, to be transformed into the character of Christ. We want to use it to back up our version of love, so the parts that don't agree with us we dismiss.

The Christian life is not about us getting what we want while trying to be good. It is just the opposite to such a self-centered philosophy of life. The Christian life is about dying to our flesh and living in obedience to the Father's will. But people really don't want to hear that. They just want to shout at Yahweh that they are willing to serve him on their terms. In truth, they aren't shouting at Yahweh because they don't know him to shout at him. They know of him through traditions but their acting out they are shouting at the Church : I will serve Jesus as long as I get to do it as I want to do it". Listen to Jesus:

The Spirit is the one who gives life and the flesh doesn’t help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. Yet some of you don’t believe. (John 6:63-64)

The flesh doesn't help at all. I don't need to list all the issues splintering the Church right now, I think you are well aware of those to list them yourself. But as you list them, mark beside each one whether it is a flesh issue or not. We can all think for ourselves and I pray you are possessed by the Spirit that you are able to think in spiritual terms. You should be able to discern these matters for yourself. Is it a bunch of people who want what their flesh desires and all that Jesus offers, or is it those who have been crucified with Christ and who no longer live according to the desires of their flesh but it is Christ who lives in them?

You see, we live this life in these weak bodies only by faith in the Son of God. We deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. We live here in this place according to the Spirit and truth not according to the desires of our unredeemed and deceptive flesh. We have to live in these bodies by faith in Jesus, what he taught, what he did, how he directs us now, by the power of the Spirit, because if we try to trust our own desires we will be lost again to that from which Jesus set us free. Jesus has given us life by the Spirit which is not life by the flesh.

The real question is, will we believe Jesus over the flesh that gives no life at all? Will we receive the life the Spirit gives.

I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity,promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:16-21)

For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you.But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Romans 8:5-9)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How Sovereign Is Our Sovereign Lord?

How sovereign is our sovereign Lord? If we could answer this for ourselves we would stop trying to be so independent from him. I know, we think we are dependent on our Father but too often our dependence is reserved for crisis moments. When the "seas" are calm we just go on our merry way "doing whatever we think is best", just like the times of the Judges in Israel when they refused to recognize Yahweh as king. If we would recognize the sovereignty of Yahweh we wouldn't have to always go through the rough patches to learn our lessons. He is over all things and uses all things for our benefit.

So how sovereign is sovereign? Do you realize that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father wills it? Salvation is pretty basic stuff and yet it doesn't happen unless Father decides it's going to happen:

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)

It is a good thing that Dad wants everyone to be saved but it is also good to recognize that it is offered according to the Father's timing, We don't understand that timing, why it has to be a certain way but it is best that we trust Father. He is in charge. We don't need to twist arms. We can but we shouldn't. Let me share my testimony with you very briefly as an illustration.

I was raised in a Christian home, attending church and Sunday School, but I never encountered Jesus. At age 18 I walked away from the church, aware that the Lord had given one year to make up my mind. My pastor did not pursue me. He told me later that the Spirit told him to leave me alone. I thank the Lord he was sensitive and obedient to the Spirit. He and the church prayed for me as I quickly got mixed up in all kinds of things that introduced me to the "pleasures" of the world. It was a really strange thing but during this time I was made aware that the Lord had planned for me to be a pastor.

Then a year later, almost to the day, I woke up to the presence of the Lord. I heard him say "enough", and suddenly I was filled with the awareness of my sins. I was overwhelmed with the conviction of the Spirit for what I had done against Jesus. He spoke so many things to me from the lessons I had learned from the Bible in church. He brought it all back to my remembrance. I was aware that I had a choice but I didn't want't a choice. I quickly slipped out of bed and lay prostrate on the floor, wishing I could melt into the ground.

Then the Lord touched me with his love and I realized the sweetness of his forgiveness that was available to me if I wanted it. I wanted it! In an instant I confessed my sins, asked for his forgiveness and pledged my life to him and in that same instance all my guilt and shame was gone. I rose from my face a new creation and I was keenly aware of it.

If my pastor had chased me down it would have ended much differently. I needed to be drawn by the Father. I needed an encounter with Jesus myself. I needed my own faith. I needed to become deeply aware of what Jesus was saving me from. He knew my character, my mind and my heart and he knew how to present me with salvation in a way that I would never doubt him or turn away from him in the future. Every moment of doubt rushes me back to that moment and I am renewed. It was like Israel's Egypt moment.

Sometimes I think we forget that salvation belongs to the Lord and the timing is up to the Father. It's not about us. As long as we are faithful in our witness, in our testimony, in our seeding, then the Spirit will do the convicting according to Father's will. But don't use this fact about sovereignty as an excuse to neglect our role in the mission. He still told us to go throughout the earth as his witnesses, making disciples. But remember, we are only the sowers and not the Lord of the harvest.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

God's Power For Salvation

I cannot fathom how anyone can say they are a Christian and then dismiss the Bible. We have such incredible deceptive teaching permeating the Body and we scratch our heads wondering how people can believe the lies. They can believe it because they have thrown away the Bible or shot holes all through it so there is no longer a solid place to stand. And it is catching on like wild fire because it allows us to create our own beliefs and our own god who will allow us to do whatever we think is best. We have learned nothing from the history of Israel.

I for one stand on the Word of God and I desire nothing else. Call me a fool. Call me an idiot. Call me whatever you like but I will not depart from it nor will I be ashamed of it. I stand with Paul who stated:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

The gospel is power. My opinions and cute stories are not going to save you but the power of the truth of the gospel will. We can try all we want to persuade people but we cannot save them. I cannot save anyone in my name even if I had The Paul Van Buren International Ministries. The only thing that will save is the Gospel of Jesus Christ To Save The World Empowered By The Spirit ministries.

Don't belittle the Word. Don't be afraid to share verses. Don't think that there is no power to change hearts and minds. It is even more powerful when you live the Word, allowing the Holy Spirit to do it through you. That's what it is going to take now to reach people in this age. The whole world and part of the Church is dismissing the Word, discounting it, creating their own separate beliefs. They no longer believe in the worth of the gospel and yet Paul wrote:

For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. (v.17)

But I guess that is the real heart of the matter, isn't it: People do not want to know the righteousness of God. They don't want to know there is a right and a wrong because they would have to do something about it. It is better to remain in ignorance or just dismiss the truth and be able to do what you want. The only problem with this thinking is that opinions do not change the truth of Yahweh; it doesn't change the Words of Jesus; it's not going to save you from the fires of hell.

We cannot bring people to Jesus according to our opinions because if we do we are having them build their house of faith on sinking sand. Salvation comes through the truth of the gospel. Do we know that truth? Is our life built on that truth? Are we capable of sharing that truth with others without our opinions getting in the way? Are we capable of sharing the gospel without commentary so that the full power of it touches the hearts of those who need it? It is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Purpose Of Life

For far too many of us Christians, there isn't much difference between who we were before we met Jesus and who we are since meeting Jesus. There is something wrong with this picture because one of the signs of salvation is a changed life. Sure, we go to church now. We are learning to sing worship songs. We may have even gotten involved with a prayer meeting or a Bible Study but our perspective and attitude are still the same. We just don't see any difference.

What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of following Jesus? What makes the difference?

The difference happens when it is a sincere response to Jesus' great act of love and grace. It is a sincere response to the Father calling us. It is a sincere response to the Holy Spirit's conviction of our sin. It is a heart response because of Jesus. It is also the realization and acceptance in that moment that things have to change, that we have to change, and it is a surrender to the Spirit to allow that change to happen.

What I dislike is when we make it out to be about what we can do. We turn it into a self-help program where we try to change ourselves. The only place that gets us is the disappointment of failed conformity. Jesus does not want us to conform but to allow him to transform us into his character. He does that through conviction, circumstances, people, the Bible, a changed perspective. It doesn't happen all at once but is more a series of practical life lessons that we progress through until we are called home. We never stop needing to grow.

The important thing to realize is what Jesus was talking about in John 6:27 as he explained the purpose of life:

Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him. 

Yes indeed, we have been given a new set of principles and a new perspective. Study to learn the principles of the Kingdom and allow the Spirit to change your perspective. Cooperate, seek it, ask for it, knock and you will see the changes. Don't be content where you are, desire more of the Spirit, but don't try to do it yourself. There is an incredible thing the Spirit is doing in you, a supernatural thing that you need to give him room to do. Your part is to seek it out, to pursue the things of the Kingdom, which are foreign in this world, and then trust. Trust even when it doesn't make sense.

Just don't stay where you are. Don't accept the non-change. Don't be content with the status quo. Jesus saved you for so much more than what we are settling for in this world. Hear his voice as he calls you to deeper things.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Believe Or Don't Believe

All I want for people is that they would step into the flow of Yahweh's blessings for their lives. So many people are needlessly suffering from worry, fear, anxiety, sleepless nights, depression, directionlessness, lack of hope and a whole pile of other ailments that do not belong to them. That is not Father's plan for us and it certainly is not the reason Jesus gave his life for us. He gave his life so that we would have life in abundance. We are also making him out to be a liar because he promised us peace.

Obviously all his promises were conditional, based on a relationship of love and obedience. It is a relationship of trust. Jesus promised and we trust that his word is true. But therein lies the problem, people not longer trust the Word. I understand the world but there are far too many Christians that I speak to who say they do not fully believe in the Word of God. How can you not fully believe? It is not something you can divide up into truth, half-truth, lie. Either you believe or you don't. Jesus actually had some words to say about this.

Jesus was explaining his authority, found in John 5:

I do not accept glory from men, but I know you—that you have no love for God within you. (v. 41-42)

Jesus did not care what anyone said about him. It was not a popularity contest. He did not come to seek his own fame or glory but to serve his Father in love. Let's check our own motivation. Are we following the Father's will or are we trying to shape the Word to our own agenda? That's a very good question that most of us fail in answering.

I have come in My Father’s name, yet you don’t accept Me. If someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. (v. 43)

Basic problem here: if a person does not accept Jesus then they can't accept his promises. People will believe the most ridiculous things, such as the stars telling you your future, or that money can really satisfy that deep longing within. Yet, we can't accept that we are all mess ups and our Creator, who created us for himself, would pay the price to bring us back to him. We struggle that the Creator of the entire creation could become part of his creation. It really comes down to this, do we believe Jesus?

How can you believe? While accepting glory from one another, you don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God. (v. 44)

Yes, that is the crazy part, we worship people who can play a part on television or in a movie; we worship people who can play an instrument or sing a song; we worship people who can kick a ball, shoot a puck, or swish a hoop, but we can't worship the one who gave us life and has offered us eternal life with him. Looking at it from Jesus' perspective, we are crazy.

Then Jesus brings it down to the simple fact of the matter:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, because he wrote about Me. But if you don’t believe his writings, how will you believe My words? (v. 46-47)

If we don't trust the Word of God; if we don't see each word being inspired by him; if we cannot accept that this is Yahweh's revelation of himself to us, then how will we ever believe? Some would say that they believe but not everything is from Yahweh. Tell me who is going to pick and choose, and if you are going to do that how are you going to decide what to believe? How can you believe in Jesus and how can you decide what to believe about Jesus if you do not accept his written revelation?

It's funny, isn't it, that all the liberal "Christians", the ones that dismiss sin as a cultural thing, all believe that we have to pick and choose from the Word. I find it amazing how these Christians just happen to line up with society's measurement of norms. Yet, those who seem to be at odds with those norms are the Christians who stand by the divinely inspired Word of God. I also find it amazing how Jesus and then the apostles warned us that this day would arrive.

Don't deceive yourself or let yourself be deceived. Believe the Word or don't believe the Word but don't fool yourself that you can have a foot in both worlds because Jesus said you can't. It doesn't work that way.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What Is A Good Dad?

"I'm a man but I can change, if I have to, I guess." The man's pledge off the Red Green show says a lot about how we see men and fathers in society today. Men, if you are a bit confused about what is expected of you take courage that you are not alone. Society seems to be confused about a lot of things these days. They can't even decide what is a male or female so the fact that men are being kicked to the curb should not surprise us.

It has already been noted by many commentators that fathers are the most picked on position and relationship in society today. We are under attack in sitcoms, children's television shows, adult shows, novels and anywhere else possible. Moms are the intelligent super-hero-like character, with great wisdom; the protector of the family. Dads are portrayed as bumbling idiots who typify the great failings in a family, the one who usually leads them on misadventures. Even the beloved Berenstain Bears dad is the idiot and the mom is the rescuer. If kids are told this enough times guess what they are going to grow up believing.

It isn't just how we are portrayed but what is expected of us. Dads used to be the providers and protectors of the family. Together with mom they formed an incredible team, raising a balanced family. I know, it sounds like I am going back to the 50's and painting an ideal picture. There have always been imperfections, imbalances and abuses but nothing compared to today. The one thing everyone needs to accept is that dads play an important role in the family and need to be encouraged to fulfill that role. If we keep portraying poor dads, lowering our expectations, then that is exactly what will be produced.

What makes a good dad? One who portrays the character of Jesus in his daily living, in public as well as private. The foundation of a good father should be found in Matthew 22:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’" (v. 38-39)

The greatest thing a father can do for his children is teach and then demonstrate what the love of Jesus looks like. Anyone can get mad and take vengeance. Any father can punish his children. But it takes a real man of God to love as Jesus loves:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

This kind of selfless love can only come from a heart that is surrendered and dedicated to Jesus. It is only possible in a heart where the Holy Spirit has been given the freedom to work. It is only found in a heart where the owner knows and lives the truth that he has been crucified with Christ and no longer lives but Christ lives in him.

O praise God that we are nor reliant on this confused society to define the role of a father. Thankfully we have the example of our heavenly Father who defends, protects, and sacrifices for those he loves. Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit to enable us to be the dads our children deserve even when we mess up from time to time. Thankfully ours is not a selfish love that depends on our children loving us. Yes, even in the face of rebellion from our children, we give ourselves to them, never give up on them, and long to see them safe, healthy and mature.

To the good dads, I salute you sirs for keeping your head when all around you people are losing theirs. Thank you for the great example you set in the face of the pressure of our society to change you. I encourage you to go deeper with Jesus so you can resist the storm.

To the failing dads, I say, it is never too late. With Jesus on your side you can turn this ship around and sail into the waters where you family desperately needs you to be. With Jesus your heart can be transformed from self-focused love to self-sacrificing love.

And too all the dad haters out there, I say, we love you anyway and you need us, even if you don't realize it.

May Yahweh bless all the dads today with the wisdom to know how important they are and what their role truly is in their family.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Who Has Your Allegiance?

Tell me something, if Jesus showed up and healed you of some great affliction, would you believe he is who he says he is? Would you then hold his authority above all other authority and decide to follow him no matter what? It's amazing how many don't. It's amazing how many people have been changed for all eternity by the Son of God and yet they give their allegiance to other authorities.

There is an incident in John 5 where Jesus encountered a man waiting to be healed by the waters of the Pool of Bethesda. He had been there for years because he had no one to lift him into the water when the water was stirred. Jesus asked the obvious question "Do you want to be made well?" The man said he did but he had no one to help him. Jesus made quick work of it:

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. (John 5:8-9)

The problem was this happened on the Sabbath. Carrying his bed was against the man-made Sabbath rules so the man was called out on it. Immediately he explained he was only following the orders of the man who had healed him. So here, at first, this man recognized the authority of Jesus. After all, he did heal the him. The leaders challenged the him and asked who it was that healed him but the man did not know. You might think that would be the end of it.

Jesus sought the man out again and said to him:

“See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (v. 14)

What was there about the man's heart that Jesus decided to seek him out again to instruct him in this manner? What sin did this man harbor in his heart that remained even after the body had been healed? We can see his heart had not been changed because right after Jesus left him he went straight to the authority to tell them it was Jesus who had healed him and told him to carry his bed on the Sabbath. Was this because he was afraid of the Jewish authorities or because he did not like the condition of his heart being exposed?

Following Jesus in this world is not the easiest thing we will ever do, not when we do it right. We have been instructed to obey the authorities of this place but it is also clear that Jesus is above all authority. Jesus told us that if we loved him we would obey him. Jesus' instructions supersede all other instructions by the authority in this place. But often it is easier to give in to what we are more familiar with and what is immediately in front of us. This is going to become more important in the near future as the authority will become more influenced by the sin nature than by the holiness of Yahweh.

We know that China is cracking down on house churches but do you know it is also happening in Canada and parts of the US? Do you know that in some cities it is against the law to have a Bible Study in your home? It has been against the law in many Canadian cities for years now for street preachers to preach on the streets. In the part of the city in which I live, the city refuses to give out permits and zoning for any new churches. Churches, that change neighbourhoods by the good we have been commanded in love to show to our neighbours.

So who do we owe our allegiance to; the authority that is governed by the sinful nature, or to the Holy One who went to the cross for us? When they tell us to stop preaching and teaching in Jesus name, to whom do we listen? To whom did the apostles listen? In one region in China the authority is tearing down churches and removing crosses. They are about to forcefully end 32 house churches. Do we think for a moment that this will stop the spread of the gospel? Of Course not. In China the Christians know to whom they owe their allegiance and they are not going to back down.

The Christians of China have had decades of persecution and oppression to build their spiritual muscles. In North America, with all our ease, we have grown fat and lazy in the Church, so much so we waste our time on debating the Word of God. We have allowed man's thinking, philosophies, speculations to dilute the Word without defending it. There is such confusion now, we have to wonder, will there be anyone left to stand for Jesus in the coming trials? I ask you, to whom do we owe our allegiance?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Seek Your Own Revelation

We can't live off of someone else's faith. That is the weakness of the Church, we either put too much emphasis on the corporate experience or not enough. We must always keep in mind that we are an individual unit within the context of the whole. As individuals we are responsible for our own spiritual health and fervor. We cannot exist within the whole unless we have our own relationship with the Head. We all need to know and have experienced Jesus for ourselves, not live off the pastor's experience, or Joe's or our parents.

There is an incident in Scripture where Jesus had an encounter with a woman at a well. In this conversation Jesus revealed the woman's sin and offered her salvation. The fact that he had knowledge of her situation gave him legitimacy in her eyes and she marveled at him. Then she did what comes natural to anyone who first encounters Jesus, she ran and told everyone she knew about him. Then the whole town came out to see what she was talking about. Evangelism 101.

Now let's look at what the Scripture says:

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” (John 4:39)

That's always encouraging when people believe because of your testimony. But some of these people did not leave it there. They wanted more:

So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. (John 4:40-41)

Even better, they have encountered Jesus and received the Good News he preached. That is where we want to get people, believing because of their relationship with Jesus not just because of our testimony. Our testimony is great but it only opens the door to a wonderful relationship with Jesus. Look at what they said to the woman:

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

Bingo! This is what we need everyone to experience, their own revelation of Jesus Christ. If people try to live off of my testimony they may last for a bit but eventually it will fade. They will be assailed on every side and eventually overcome because there was nothing to sustain or protect them. But when people encounter Jesus for themselves, they experience daily renewal in that relationship.

It is similar to the saying about teaching a man to fish as opposed to simply giving him a fish. We can simply give our testimony which is a good beginning place and satisfies the need short term, but when they encounter Jesus they have everything they need for all eternity. Let's encourage each other to go higher, deeper and wider with Jesus until we have attained the full measure. There is so much more that we have not even begun to understand about him, but one thing we know, "he loves us and gave himself for us".

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Jesus Called You To Be A Fundamental Extremist

What makes you get out of bed in the morning? What is your motivation to move throughout the day? What is your "joie de vivre"? I am sure the answers to these questions are as varied as the people contemplating them. But should they be? If we are Christians should not our motivation for getting out of bed be the same? We have the same Lord. We are united by the same Spirit. We live by the same Kingdom principles. We have the same mission. But do we have the same focus?

There was a point in ministry when Jesus' disciples were encouraging him to eat. Jesus responded that he had food that they did not know about. When they questioned him about someone else providing for him, Jesus replied:

"My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work." John 4:34

Jesus said the reason he gets out of bed every morning is to do the will of his Father, to complete the work assigned to him. This is where most of us disconnect. "Having faith is fine, going to church, worshiping, even talking to friends about Jesus, but to make Jesus our reason for getting out of bed is a bit much." This is our failure to enter into the fullness of relationship and service. We don't want to get "unbalanced" or be an "extreme fundamentalist". That's funny. From my take on Jesus' instructions, the only type of followers he wants is extreme fundamentalist.

Jesus spoke of us loving Yahweh to the extreme - all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our strength. Jesus spoke about loving him to such a degree that all other love would appear to be hate. He told us that he measured our love by our obedience.

Jesus also told us that we have to love extremely. We are to love each other as he loved us and we all know that he died for us because of that love. He told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, which he demonstrated. He told us to offer the other cheek whenever someone strikes us and he said if someone takes our coat to give him our shirt as well.

So it shouldn't surprise us to read that Jesus considered obedience to his Father's will the thing that sustained him in his day, all the way to the cross. I have experienced the same sense. I have been given some tough tasks and as long as my hand was on the plow I was amazed how much I was sustained in completing them. It is not a physical thing to be understood but a spiritual phenomena: doing the will of our Lord becomes our motivation to the point of lifting us above all circumstances that would try to haul us down.

There is plenty of mental illness these days and we are coming to better understand things like depression. It used to be that we would give some quick fix cure for feeling the "blues" but many people go beyond the "blues" and face a major problem. Jesus provides healing for this and all other things that are disorders in what Father created. On top of this, those things will never touch us again when Jesus becomes our "joie de vivre".

As society moves in the opposite direction to Yahweh and sinks further into the darkness of its rebellion, more people are going to lose their motivation, more people are going to be lost to depression, more people are going to live very confused lives. Even Christians, those who profess Jesus as Lord, will face such things if they are not "extreme fundamentalists".

It is not a matter of "putting it on" but being so surrendered to Jesus that the Spirit produces the extremes in us, so that we love as Jesus loves and serve as Jesus served. When we are this in love with Jesus then nothing else matters to us than obedience to him. This passion along with the truth of the Word is what is missing from believers today and it is a balance. You can't have passion without truth because then lies will undermine you. You can't have truth without passion because then there is no application of the truth.

I pray that we can discover what Jesus had, the sustenance found in doing the will of the one who loves us beyond measure. Then the world would really be able to see Jesus.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Problem Is Simple, So Is The Solution

What are we doing? Honestly Christian, do we have two clues what we are doing here? We seem to be of two minds, trying to have one foot in heaven while carving out a niche for ourselves in this world. No wonder we look so spastic as we stretch ourselves over questionable teaching, making the gospel dangerously thin and substituting truth with something that resembles truth but that allows us to live a little more comfortably. Well, if you have ever read the Word you will know that Jesus didn't call us to be comfortable.

What is our purpose? I prefer to take life instructions directly from Jesus:

"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)

I like the CEV wording:

“Come with me! I will teach you how to bring in people instead of fish.”

There are lots of Scriptures that confirms, clarifies and verifies Jesus' direction to us to go, be witnesses for him, to testify about him, to make disciples. This is our purpose and everything we do comes from and returns to this root. Isn't it funny how 90% of Christians have never led anyone to the Lord and evangelism seems to strike fear in the heart of every follower of Jesus.

The reason people shy away from our primary mission is because they do not realize the power that has been given to us or the power of the Scripture. The reason for this tragedy is that people have not cultivated a strong, personal, powerful relationship with Jesus. We worship (for some it is vain worship) but we leave off the first part of Jesus' instruction, "Follow me". We are busy with the doing of relationship (bible reading, prayer, worship) without entering into the purpose of it, which is relationship building.

We need to have a personal revelation of Jesus, to encounter him so that we are able to have the depth of relationship that Paul wrote about:

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20a)

This speaks of relationship; deep communion throughout our days, where we have died to ourselves and we allow Jesus to live through us. It takes spiritual maturity to come to this revelation which shifts everything in our life. We have a notion of it when we come to Jesus but it is a revelation we have to grow into in order to walk in it. Can you say you are walking in it? How about the rest of it?

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

We can't grow in Jesus and we can't walk in our purpose without this truth pumping through us. This is the working out of Christ's power in you through relationship in him.

The reason we are lousy witnesses and we are terrified to testify about Jesus is because our relationship is weak and we are not standing on the truth of Jesus. We have a notion about him but we don't know him. We follow some loose fitting rules, a moral code of sorts but it is more from our churches than it is conviction in relationship. We can't say we know Jesus when we don't read his Word or fellowship through the Spirit in prayer. How can we obey him when we don't know his instructions and yet obedience is how he measures our love for him. "If you love me you will do what I have commanded."

It is possible to do good without knowing Jesus. It is possible to spread love without knowing Jesus. It is possible to have a happy life without knowing Jesus. But it is not possible to obey him without knowing him. It is not possible to be empowered for his great work without knowing him. It is not possible to do eternity work without knowing him. It is not possible to enter into his glory for ever and ever without knowing him.

As always, it is a simple matter. All we have to do is walk in the truth of it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How To Avoid Confusion About Your Walk With Jesus

Man, things are as confusing in the Church as they are in the world. As people attack the Word and decide to ignore some areas and lift up others, it become unbalanced. If you poke holes in your ship you are going to sink. If you say that God's Word is not God's Word or that there are sections we can just ignore then we have to ask ourselves, by what do I base my faith?

The first level of understanding is quite simple. Here it is:

The Father loves the Son and has given him everything. Everyone who has faith in the Son has eternal life. But no one who rejects him will ever share in that life, and God will be angry with them forever. (John 3:35-36)

So there you have it, if you believe in Jesus you have eternal life. If you don't believe, you continue on the road to your destruction. You don't get eternal life with Jesus. We know this as justification, the thing Jesus did for us that we can't do for ourselves. I think most people accept this fundamental understanding.

Where we have lots of confusion is in the actual relationship, the growing up part, the maturing. what we call sanctification. This is when we are being transformed by the Spirit into the character of Jesus, the character of a child of Yahweh. It is when we start looking like daddy. Without getting into the advanced stuff, there are a few things Jesus told us that should at least point us in the right direction. First:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)

This is simple in principle but the real challenge is to avoid the world's definition of love, to grasp what Jesus meant by love. Hopefully as we grow in intimacy with Jesus we are also growing in our revelation of love. What Jesus is saying here is if we follow these two commands we are fulfilling everything Father desires of us. There are tons of scriptures that act as measuring rods so we can see how we are progressing.

The second basic teaching from Jesus that points us in the right direction for spiritual growth is:

If you love me, you will do as I command. (John 14:15)

A little later on Jesus repeats himself but expands on it:

If you love me, you will do what I have said, and my Father will love you. I will also love you and show you what I am like. (John 14:21)

And this is where the most confusion comes it. We have been called to obedience, not self thought. We have been called to obedience, not self-will. He didn't tell us to do whatever we think is best. Jesus held up the authority of Scripture and said he didn't come to abolish it but to fulfill it. Our responsibility is to learn what Jesus taught and do those things.

When we try to interpret Jesus' words for ourselves or when we search the Scriptures to justify our own thinking and desires, we will always run into trouble. The trouble will always be our flesh, the part of us still anchored in this world. It will always gravitate to selfishness and that is a lot of what we are seeing in the Church today. There is out and out rebellion against the authority of the Scriptures, which means rebellion against Jesus..

Jesus told us he was giving us the Holy Spirit as our teacher, comforter, corrector, the one who brings conviction. In order to walk in obedience we need to learn to hear his voice and be determined to walk with him and not ourselves. We have to not trust our flesh and only trust what the Spirit is teaching because he is training us and transforming us for eternal glory. He does this through the Scripture so we need to know the Scripture. But as long as we want what we want we will never learn to walk in obedience to all of Jesus' instructions.

So, on paper, and in theory, it is simple because Jesus has done all the work and all we need to do is cooperate with the Spirit and grow up. It is our flesh that complicates it and requires us to put in a lot more effort than what we have been doing. However, if you are meditating on the Word day and night, learning to pray in relationship every day, and are developing a rich worship privately and corporately, everything else will fall in place. You will see a great abundance produced through you for the benefit of others because Father is glorified when much fruit is produced through you. It is his desire for you.

Throw off the confusion and walk in obedience with the Spirit, in the truth of the Word, and amazing things are going to happen.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Jesus Deserves More Than being Fit Into The Cracks Of Your Day

How's your day shaping up? Lots of stuff to do? Another busy one? Maybe not. Maybe it is just the opposite for you. Maybe you have nothing to do. Or maybe you do have something to do but you are avoiding it by reading this? Most likely the third one, right? Life is busy. We have lots of things to organize, plan and do. On top of that, as a Christian, you need to fit in all the God-stuff. Hmmmm, have you ever stopped to think we have it backwards?

What were we created for? What did Jesus die on the cross for? Was it not for fellowship, friendship with Yahweh? So you would think that we would want to fill our day, not the cracks, with him. If that is our purpose, fellowship with Yahweh, should we not be trying to fit everything else in around him? There's a thought for you to chew for a bit.

Jesus has a way of turning everything on its head for us. He takes things from the surface and goes to the depth of understanding with it. So it shouldn't surprise us to know that this is what Jesus taught about life:

Don’t spend all of your time thinking about eating or drinking or worrying about life. If you do, the final day will suddenly catch you like a trap. That day will surprise everyone on earth. (Luke 21:34-35)

It feels like that sometimes, doesn't it, like you are caught in a trap? It is an activity trap, time crunch, schedule controlled life. It is horrible because we have not been designed or wired this way. We have been created and saved to be filled with Yahweh. We are surrounded by him. Scripture says that Christ is in us, and we are in him. He is in and all around us all the time so that we can have the pleasure of rich fellowship with him.

Jesus also taught us not to be worried over the basics of life but instead to put Kingdom things first. He said when we do this Father will provide all the other stuff. Put Yahweh first and everything else will come into place. He told us this for a reason; we get distracted very easily. It is like the whole human race has ADD. We get distracted from Jesus with the least little thing. Jesus warned us that it is a serious matter. He said if we get distracted by these lesser things, the final day will be on us without us noticing. He told us to pay attention:

Watch out and keep praying that you can escape all that is going to happen and that the Son of Man will be pleased with you. (v. 36)

Watch and pray, not be distracted and play. Life has become a thing of working so we can afford to play. It has become entertainment. It has become self pleasure. It is anything the enemy can use to distract us from our purpose and mission. If he can't use pleasure he will use worry or fear. There will always be something to distract us. But if we can turn it upside down and see the day belonging to the Lord for the purpose of fellowship then we will ask him for the wisdom to get everything else done.

It is a matter of choice. Relationship must always come before works. Jesus wants and deserves our time and attention. He says it is also for our good, so we can be sensitive to the spiritual realm and see what's coming. Considering how many times he warned us about this, I take it to mean it is a bad thing for us not to be paying attention. Sort of like someone living in Louisiana not listening to the radio, not watching the news, not talking to a neighbour, not having a clue of an approaching hurricane. Everyone else is putting away the things from their yard, boarding up windows, taking shelter while but that one person is blissfully living out their life unaware and unprepared.

The storm is approaching. Are you paying attention?