Thursday, July 31, 2014

Living In The Promises Of Jesus

We are a blessed people who have received many promises from Jesus. It is exciting to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, seeing his plans unfold around us, to see evidence of his love every day. One can't help but be excited as we live these promises and experience his presence through them. But's the point, isn't it? We can't just know the promises or just receive them; we have to live them.

Sometimes we are like a child who has received a nicely decorated birthday present but who refuses to open it. The child may have the gift, it is in his possession, he has received it, but it is useless if he doesn't unwrap it, discover its wonder, experience it, and use it. So many Christians know the promises of Jesus but never operate within those promises. They worship Jesus for them, are thankful for them but never live them.

In Joshua 1:3 Yahweh was explaining the Promised Land to his people who were about to possess it:

"Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses." 

That's a wonderful promise but it meant that the Israelite's had to do something. It meant they actually had to walk. It meant they had to cross the Jordan river and possess the promise. It meant they had to fight battles, face enemies and put a little work into it, but still, every place that the sole of their foot would  tread would be theirs.

Today it seems we want it on a silver platter. We not only want the promise but we want the Lord to do the "walking" for us. We want to possess the "land" but we don't want to walk, let alone fight the battles. He has already won the victory for us, we just have to go through the motions as if it depended on us. Many times Yahweh has reminded us through the Word that the battle is his not ours, but he still requires us to suit up and face the enemy. He still wants us to participate.

The reason it is not handed to us on a silver platter is because Yahweh is not raising spoiled children. He is a good father who is helping his children develop spiritual muscle and good character. By making us participate in the promises, to actually live them, he is preparing us for eternity, which is his priority in us. He hands us a promise and then tells us "go up and possess it". Get active. Be spiritually fit.

Yahweh has promised to give us work for our hands and he has also promised to bless that work but it means that we have to work. There is no place for a lazy Christian in the Kingdom. There is plenty of work to be done and it is filled with the blessings and promises of Yahweh. It's time to get off that spiritual sofa you have been lying around on because there is no waiter with a silver platter coming to wait on you. Jesus has filled the fridge with all the good stuff you need but you have to get up and go get it. "Go up and possess it", "every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you".

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Falling Short

Do you understand the difference between a covenant and a contract? You will be familiar with contracts if you have ever purchased software, rented an apartment, or entered into some kind of employment. A contract is pretty well one sided, listing all the protections of one party as well as the small benefit you will receive from their services. It certainly lists your obligations. On the other hand, a covenant is an agreement between two people that has nothing to do with protecting rights but a statement what each person will do for the benefit of the other. Marriage is a great example of this.

It is good to keep this in mind when reflecting on our relationship with Jesus because we are more than willing to accept what he offers but neglect our responsibilities in the covenant relationship. I talk about this a lot because we seem to think that our only responsibility is to worship. Jesus does all these wonderful things and all we have to do is sing some songs. The truth of the matter lay closer to what Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." That is our end of the covenant: Love manifested in obedience. But this is not anything new.

If we look back to Moses, we find a couple of verses, a quote from Yahweh, that was a nice summary of what he had said to Israel. We can call this the essence of the Law:

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

This is why Jesus said it was all or nothing. Read through Jesus' words again and make note of when he specifically talks about our relationship with him. You will discover how extreme it is. He told Nicodemus he would have to experience a new birth. He told the rich young man to go and sell everything he had, giving it to the poor, and then follow him. He required the twelve to give up everything. He said that we would have to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. He said we would have to love him more than our mothers, fathers, and children. He said that our love would be seen in our obedience.

The popular worship we know is only a tiny thing in our part of the covenant relationship we have with Jesus. True worship happens every day in everything we do and say. Jesus gave his life in this covenant and we are expected to do the same if we enter into it. He sacrificially gave his all to us and we sacrificially give our all to him. Does it not sound like a marriage? We are the Bride of Christ.

Do you think we might be falling short in our understanding of our relationship with Jesus?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Gift That Cannot Be Compared

We really can't base our understanding of Jesus on any of the systems in our society, which can make it hard sometimes to understand Jesus. Things that we have not experienced before are usually understood by comparison so how do we understand what cannot be compared. The values of our society are so much lower than Jesus' that it can be hard to relate. His love is so perfect that everything else looks like hate, in comparison. His grace .... to what could we possibly compare his grace?

What Jesus did for us has nothing to do with us and everything to do with him. I think this is a point that is difficult for any of us to grasp living in a society that places value according to merit. No one has value simply because they exist. Whether you realize it or not we are constantly evaluating everyone around us and place value on them according to how we judge them.

It is sort of like the tipping system. Some people tip regardless of the quality of the service because they realize that server is being paid less than at other jobs with the boss counting on the server being tipped. Whereas, other people don't care and will only tip if the server merits it. Most of society operates on this merit system. We give back to people what we believe they merit according to what they contribute to us. If you don't believe me make note of your actions and thoughts today toward the people in your environment.

Jesus does not operate on a merit system. While we were still sinners, his enemies, he died for us. We did not merit his love. We have not earned forgiveness. We don't deserve his peace. Yet, he pours out his grace on us in great abundance. I came across this verse in Deuteronomy the other day that got me thinking about all this:

“Do not think in your heart, after the Lord your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out from before you." (Deuteronomy 9:4)

Moses then went on to list all the things this new nation had done to offend Yahweh. It was a reality check, one that we would do well to do every now and then. We are not a better people than anyone else. We are not the cream of the crop. We are not a perfect people who deserve special treatment. We have not earned some special favour to be selected by Jesus. We are simply a people who accepted an invitation that we did not deserve. The only difference between those who have accepted Jesus and those who have not is ...  we accepted Jesus. We all come from the same place, with the same guilt, with the same destination. Now our destination has been changed because we accept the free, undeserved gift of Jesus Christ.

If we understood this in a world that can't quite grasp the notion of grace, perhaps we would love a lot more and complain a lot less. People have not earned our love and probably do not deserve it, but because Jesus loved us we aught to be loving others; even our enemies.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lest We Forget

Have you ever noticed that no matter how much you have, your need is always just a little bit more. I often say, if I had a million dollars my bills would come to a million and one. I think there is a very specific reason for this. It is called, dependence.

We are a very capable people. We are intelligent, crafty, and sometimes even wise. We can think our way out of almost any situation. If we can't do it with our hands we come up with an appropriate tool. We walked on the moon, sent probes to Mars and have flung research ships out beyond the edge of our solar system. We have built high and dug low. We have learned how to manipulate our environment to meet our comfort level. We have learned to cure diseases, grow babies in a test tube and to kill others in their mothers' wombs without killing the mom. Is there any limit to our highs and lows, our good and evil? But we are also very forgetful.

Jesus met ten blind men and healed them all, but only one returned to thank him. Yahweh gave Israel their own land and blessed them in it, but within a generation they forgot. We have a very short term memory when it comes to the goodness of Father. Today we could be facing something terrible, ask for help, receive it and the very next day doubt his goodness when we face the next problem. Relationship is about building a mutual history of proven love and trust but it seems that our history with Jesus restarts every day, as if he has done nothing for us in the past.

It is for this reason that Moses warned Israel:

“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today,  lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them;  and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied;  when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end—then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’" (Deuteronomy 8:11-17)

Moses was telling them to keep the commandments now, making it an essential part of their living so that when times are good they would not forget why they are good. We may consider the same thing with spiritual disciplines. Our Bible, prayer, worship, stewardship and such are not just for the bad times. These are tools that keep us intimate with our Saviour. Without them we forget Jesus in the good times. Could you imagine a friend who showed up at your door only when he was in need?

Too often we neglect to remember the overwhelming part Jesus plays in our victories and success. We are not self-made people. We are sheep. We have a shepherd. We are dependent on him. We do not wander off and do our own thing. We follow his direction and do what he tells us to do. In good times he leads us to great pasture; in bad times he protects us with his staff. He is not a wish granting genie but our constant companion who does more for us in a day than we could possibly realize.Our dependence is always on him and all praise is due him. So take time each and every day to pray, study your Bible, meditate on the Word, worship, be good stewards and serve, lest you forget.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Seeing Past The Trees

It is easy to lose perspective. In fact, many of us live in a situation where we can't see the forest because of the trees. We are limited by the place where we are standing and often need to be lifted higher so we can put it all in perspective. It is not minimizing what you are facing. It is not allowing someone to say "my pain is greater than your pain". It is simply allowing yourself to see your situation in the context of the whole. We start doubting Jesus when we can't see past the "trees".

We need to always keep our life in context to who we love and serve. We are followers of the miracle maker; the one who walked on water; who spoke to the storms to quiet them; who fed thousands with a simple lunch; who brought sight to the blind, who raised the dead; who cured leprosy; who spoke life where there was only death. This is the context of our life: "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me".

We are not the first to face overwhelming circumstances, and we probably won't be the last. Moses was a man who faced a lot of problems. I don't think we can truly appreciate the "trees" of Moses' life. He was the leader of millions of people in the desert. How do you feed millions of people in the desert? Where do you find enough water? Just the shear size of the logistics of these things would be enough to cripple the minds of most leaders today. Can we blame him for questioning Yahweh's promise to provide meat for this complaining nation?

Yet, Moses was failing to keep his problems in the context of the whole. He wasn't dealing with a food wholesaler here. He was talking to Yahweh, the one who conquered Egypt to rescue his people. This is the one who parted the waters so they could escape Egypt's army. This is the one who had led, protected and provided for them up to this point. Yahweh's simple respond was meant to help Moses keep it in perspective:

“Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.” (Numbers 11:23)

Yahweh is saying, "Did I change Moses?" "Did I lose my strength?" "Has something happened to prevent me from providing like I have provided all the other times?"

I don't know what you are facing or what you have faced but I know the one who is available to get you past it. I know the one who provides, protects and leads. I know the one who strengthens, encourages and lifts up. I know the one who walks through all our misery with us to get us past it. I know his power, his love, his compassion and grace. I know he loves you and has plans for you. I know he is with you now.

Stop trying to rescue yourself. Stop trying to make sense of it all. Run to Jesus. Cry out to him. He will help you put it all in perspective. He will lift you up over the trees so you can see the forest. He will remind you that he has already accomplished everything for you so you have nothing to fear. Trust him. Let him lead, even if there are a few valleys with shadows. He is taking you to better places. Trust.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The God Of Justice

We may not always appreciate it but Yahweh is the God of justice. That means that he rewards the good and punishes the bad. He doesn't fudge the lines between what is good and evil. He also does not excuse the evil for what good he may find in a person. If you lie you are evil even if you just gave a $1000 to some charity or helped an elderly lady cross the street.

Yahweh is also everywhere at once and knows everything. He doesn't just judge our actions but also our heart. He knows our motivation for doing what we do. This is wonderful when we have good intentions but not so good when the good we do comes from a wrong motivation. How can you protect or defend yourself from such a God? We cannot afford to forget he is the God of justice:

Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins. (Leviticus 26:21)

Praise the Lord because he is also the God who desires restoration and reconciliation over justice. He will punish us for our rebellious ways if we do not repent but if we repent he joyfully forgives us of all things, and that grace abounds in our life going forward. We do not need to fear his punishment as we seek a deeper relationship with him and pour our love into him. We are now his and he has forgiven past, present and future. Oh, what praise is due him.

Everyone born on this planet come from the same root; all of us were enemies of Yahweh due to our sin, our rebellious ways. It is the state we were born into because man's actions warped Yahweh's plans from the very beginning. It is a state that we had no hope of escaping because our relationship with our Creator was broken and we had no means to repair it. But he did.

Our path was not a good one, heading toward the justice of our Creator, the judgement against our rebellion. We had no means of turning to the right or left, we did not have that power. Hell awaited us. This was not Yahweh's fault because it was we who had rebelled against him, and his character of justice demanded punishment. But his character of love, mercy, forgiveness and grace found a way to offer reconciliation to his enemies. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ he opened the door to reconciliation and restoration, but the choice was still left to us:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

Jesus said that he who has been forgiven much will love much. I remind you of this because Yahweh knows our heart, our motivation, our desires. He knows if we are sincere about Jesus or just being religious. He knows if we are mocking him by using the right words while filled with evil thoughts. He knows if we are conforming to the acceptable instead of being transformed by the incredible. It matters to him, the God of justice.

Today let's examine our hearts and test ourselves to know that our love for Jesus is sincere. Let us make sure that we are not saying we are Christian to please family and friends without even knowing Jesus. Let us make sure that we are not wearing a title simply because it is what we were born into and we don't know any different. Let us make sure that we understand our history with Yahweh, who he is, what he has done for us and what he offers, so that we can make the decision to accept it and be reconciled to him. It is far better to know him as the God of mercy and grace than as the God of justice.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Jesus Is With Us, So Live Like It

It is sad that we can live through an entire day with no thought of Jesus. We get busy, rushed, fall behind schedule or perhaps we are simply enjoying ourselves too much. We are distracted. We keep Jesus for emergencies only. Now, be honest with yourself, how often did Jesus come to mind yesterday?

I am not talking about your Bible Reading or devotional time. I mean in your regular routine, in the busyness of your day, how often did thoughts of Jesus interrupt you? How often did you stop just to have a quick chat? How many times were you touched by the sense of his presence? His presence is one of the greatest gifts we have been given and he wants us to experience it throughout our day.

Jesus has promised to always be with us and he is. Even when we forget, he is in us and we are in him, so we are surrounded, but we imagine it more like Jesus sitting in heaven, intervening when need be. We don't realize the awesome intimacy that we are in every moment of our day. We have something that Moses could not even imagine.

Moses experienced standing in the presence of the Lord. He got to see the back of his full glory. He got to experience a good portion of that glory standing in his presence and Moses knew that without this presence the nation would be lost, and with the presence they would be distinguished from all other nations. Moses did not want to go anywhere without the Lord:

“If you aren’t going with us, please don’t make us leave this place. But if you do go with us, everyone will know that you are pleased with your people and with me. That way, we will be different from the rest of the people on earth.” (Exodus 33:15-16)

Moses stood in the presence of the Lord but he was never in the Lord and the Lord was never in him; not like he is with us,

We don't need to pray that prayer of Moses because to do so would make Jesus out to be a liar, but we can pray for greater sensitivity to his presence. Better yet, we can gain a mature and intimate relationship with Jesus so that we are always sensitive to him. We can also practice his presence by purposefully having an ongoing conversation with him throughout our day. His presence is a fact. Our awareness of that fact is what is lacking.

It is crazy that Moses would rather have lived in the desert with the Lord than to go to a land flowing with milk and honey without him, yet we, who are in him, ignore him. So what distinguishes us from the other nations? Maybe some minor and meaningless actions, like going to church. This is not what Moses was referring to when he said they would be different from the rest of the people on earth. The presence of the Lord is also the realization of his love, mercy, grace and power. His presence brings strength, healing, direction, hope, determination and everything else needed in our day. The Lord is on our side and fights for us but he won't fight for a people who ignore him except on Sundays.

The Lord has done all that needs to be done to be with us forever. The ball is in our court now. It is up to us to grow this relationship, to allow him to work through us, to be hyper sensitive to his presence and his will. We were not saved to go it alone. Jesus is with us, so live like it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Our Actions Reveal Our Hearts

What is our great and overwhelming desire? Many people are not able to put it into words. Many people live without direction and purpose. Many people are propelled forward by the circumstances of their lives, not determining their course but allowing the "elements" to determine it for them. They live, eat, drink, breathe, and, eventually, stop doing all of these things, never having an understanding of why they are doing them. That was never our Creator's intention for us.

If nothing else we should at least be able to express the same basic desire Moses had:

Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. (Exodus 33:13)

"Show me your way, that I may know you." There is no greater purpose we could have than that of discovering Yahweh's way with the intent to know him. It is the reason we read our Bibles, pray, worship, meditate, serve; to discover his ways so that we may know him. We certainly don't do it to please anyone else and it is not because we think these things save us. Only Jesus saves us, but these things are means to discover Yahweh's ways so that we may know him.

How does knowing his ways make it possible for us to know him? If you truly want to know a person live with him for a week and observe what he does. Our actions, including our mistakes and reaction to them, reveal our heart. How we treat people, react in situations, plan out our days, handle interruptions, show who we are by revealing our priorities, where we see ourselves in relationships and what our values are. This is also true of Yahweh.

The entire Old Testament reveals his heart to us by showing us who he is in relation to his creation. We discover a Holy God whose standards come from that holiness. Yet despite these standards he showed grace and mercy more often than justice. He is a God of justice but his love is revealed by his response of mercy and grace. How patient he was with Israel despite her constant disobedience. He warned her that one infraction to his standards would send her exiled from the land he has given her. Instead he patiently tried to correct her, generation after generation, but she would not turn back from her rebellion until he finally responded with justice. But even this justice was a tool of correction for the purpose of restoring her, because he is a God of covenant, and he does not give up. This shows us his heart toward us, and despite our sin, he does not desire justice as much as he desires mercy, forgiveness, grace and restoration.

It is a great thing to find purpose in desiring to know Yahweh's ways with the motive of knowing him. If only this was our prayer, one that we sincerely put into action every day. To know him better is also Yahweh's desire for us. It is all part of the reason that he paid the price he did through Jesus on the cross. It was all an act of love so that we would have the capability to draw near to him, to discover his heart and to possess one desire above all others: To be with him for eternity.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Is Your Purpose?

Ever wonder about your purpose, your place in this world? Ever ask yourself the question, "Why was I born?" Ever sit in church and question why you were there? It's good if you have because the only way you will get answers is if you ask questions. Yahweh doesn't mind the questions because his desire is for us to seek. We just have to make sure we are seeking in the places he has provided the answers. Let's start with Israel.

Yahweh did not grow Israel to be a pampered nation; they had purpose:

"Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6)

As I have stated before, Yahweh's purpose for Israel was to reflect his glory to the world. The world knew there was a Creator but they did not know who. Israel was a nation grown to know him intimately and through whom the Lord would revealed himself. But Israel blew it because they made it all about them. They became so focused on themselves that they lost their relationship, dependence and guidance. There were great moments when Yahweh was able to reveal himself, such as when they entered the Promised Land. All the nations feared them because of Yahweh, but those moments were few and far between.

Then Yahweh did a new thing.

The old covenant was destroyed and Yahweh brought in a new one through Jesus Christ. In Jesus it does not matter which nation we come from because he has created a new people who call him King. There are no borders and we live according to the rules and principles of the Kingdom of God. We are not united by a common land but by the same Spirit who lives in us. We are called the Church, the Bride of Christ, the children of Father. And what is our purpose?

The purpose of the Church is no different that Israel's, only now we have a better vision, understanding and covenant to share with the world. Our purpose is still to be a nation of priests, servants whose sole purpose is to do Father's will:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Our purpose is to glorify Yahweh in everything he has given us to say and do. Our first need is to accept that he has saved us from our sin and has called him to us as his children. The second is to realize we have given up everything to follow him, to be his servants, to seek and do his will. The third is to obey; to actually do what he has commanded. Our purpose is to be instruments of his glory, so the world will see and understand the name of the Creator. Then we pray they will make the same decision we have made, to love Yahweh with all that we have and are. Enjoy your day of service.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

No More Excuses

We are a people of excuses. We know what we should do and we know the benefits but we don't do it, and we are not honest with ourselves. We have heard the same message for decades concerning the long term benefits of healthy eating and exercise. None of us are incapable of increasing our activity or of making right choices in the grocery store, but we don't make those choices. What is true physically is also true for us spiritually.

The big shocker for people is to realize that we haven't been saved for ourselves. Father is not interested in spoiling us, giving us everything we want or having life focus on us. His goal is to mature us for eternity which means we have tough lessons to live through and learn, just like in childhood. The biggest adjustment is to get ourselves out of the spotlight and to put it on Yahweh and others. First Yahweh, and as a result then others.

Father has prepared a work for us to do and that work is going to be sacrificial and self-denying. It is going to smooth out the rough edges and help us gain the character of Jesus. It is going to provoke us to love, according to the definition of Jesus. It is going to cause us to see others before ourselves. He is telling us to go and get involved in people's lives. But what excuses are we offering? Moses offered excuses:

“O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

Good excuses but not good enough to be excused from Yahweh's plans:

“Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LordNow therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 4:11-12)

We have no excuses because Father is able to make us capable of what he needs us to be. We have to remember who we are serving. We have to get to know him better. We have to trust him, to simply obey what he tells us to do.

I have shared before that I am an introvert. I would love to spend all my days surfing social media, studying and hiding behind books. Yes, books are fantastic but not when we use them as shields against the calling of the Lord. As an introvert I have to overcome some pretty big barriers to do what I do every day as a pastor. But the Lord called me, equipped me, strengthens me, and fills me with the courage I need to be involved in so many people's lives. Yes, it is definitely a struggle at times and I catch myself more than once crawling back into my shell but that is when I hear him ask, "What are you doing here?" I fully understand Paul the apostle as he writes:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

And so can you. No more excuses. No more excuses of why you can't manage the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, meditation, prayer, worship and witnessing. It's just a decision that these things are important, that Jesus is important, that people are important. No more excuses for focusing on yourself instead of on those who Jesus died to save. No more excuses for denying your calling. Read Yahweh's response to Moses again and decide to trust, leaving behind whatever shield you are hiding behind.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How Do You Know There Is A God?

"How do you know that there is a God?" Not an uncommon question and yet one that earlier civilizations didn't seem to have a hard time answering. Every civilization has always found something to worship because we recognize that we are not complete, that there is something greater than us. Yahweh created us for fellowship, that we would have a freewill to choose to love him.

Without Yahweh there is an emptiness in us that we we can't fill. We try to with all kinds of things like people, work, goals, education, sex, drugs, entertainment and sometimes idols. We have always worshiped something, sometimes ourselves, because we have a need to worship. The earlier civilization did not know what to worship because Yahweh had not yet revealed himself, so they made it up. Certainly he could be seen in nature, in all of creation, but after Adam and Eve no one really knew him. Not until Moses.

A lot of things changed with Moses because Yahweh was ready for creation to know him. He had decided to go beyond his fingerprints in creation and he wanted the world to know him personally. He had chosen Abraham and his children to become a mighty nation through home Yahweh would make himself known. But even Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not know Yahweh as Moses was about to know him.

In Exodus 4 we find that Yahweh is going to introduce himself with signs and wonders. He is not going to leave doubt in anyone's mind. He was not going to allow them to think that this was just Moses pulling a con. The evidence he was going to give them as eyewitnesses would last for generations to come. Things were about to change forever.

He gave Moses three things to do so people would know that he had sent Moses and Moses stood in Yahweh's authority. He demonstrated to Moses how he would turn Moses' staff into a snake and back again. He showed him how he would turn his hand leprous and then restore it to health. Then he told Moses that he would turn the river of the Nile to blood. Perhaps compared to what we know Yahweh ended up doing, these are small and forgettable things, but at that time they would have been very effective. Moses was going out feeling equipped for his responsibility.

I find it interesting how the enemy was there to mock Yahweh's power. When Moses performed these three signs of power and authority, the court musicians copied them with their trickery. The enemy desired to rob Yahweh of his glory. But later, they were blown off the stage when Yahweh started in on a greater display of his power as he brought in the plagues that mocked the various false gods of the Egyptians, almost destroying Egypt.

It is no different today. Jesus Christ brought in a fuller understanding of Father's heart, revealing his great mercy, compassion and forgiveness. Jesus came in authority and power. He did things that could not be explained by eyewitnesses. He revealed the glory of Yahweh in himself and he promised this same power would be in every person who followed him. But the enemy was present to mock. Throughout the ages the enemy has been present to muddy the waters, cause confusion and mock the power and authority of Yahweh.

To this day the enemy copies the message of the gospel but twists it to his own delight. He has caused people to doubt signs and wonders to the point where preachers and teachers are mocked by the world. He has made sure that there is a "church" that has the appearance of godliness but lacks the power. He has made sure that this is the respectable "church" and everything else is just a bunch of crazies. Anyone who actually follows Jesus, filled by the Holy Spirit, doing what he did, trusting, believing, walking in his righteousness is dismissed by this world, not understanding that these are the authentic followers of Jesus; those who love him enough to be obedient to his word.

Yahweh has always revealed himself in his creation. He then allowed people to know him, starting with Moses. He completed that revelation through Jesus Christ. We are now without excuse. Anyone who wants to know him can do so by simply seeking him. Jesus has made it possible to know Yahweh in great intimacy. By the Spirit it is possible to walk with Yahweh as Adam did. I know there is a God because I know him and speak with him by name. The enemy will be there to distract but if a person is honest in their seeking, they will see the face of Yahweh.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Doing Wrong With Good Intentions

I am not legalistic but I do believe that wrong is wrong and right is right. We may try to understand the wrong actions of a person by trying to understand their motivation but it does not diminish the wrong of their actions. There is a lady in the news here who ended up causing the death of two people when she stopped in the middle of a highway to assist a family of ducks. Perhaps we can acknowledge there was no criminal intent but her actions robbed a family of a father and daughter and impacted a number of family, friends, and co-workers. Her actions were wrong. There is also the problem of intentionally doing something wrong for a good purpose.

Many people love the stories of Robin Hood, who stole from the rich to give to the poor. When we strip it of its romantic notions we are left with a group of armed bandits who threatened people to steal what did not belong to them. Their noble purpose does not matter when it involves wrong action. This was the situation with Moses who wanted to do something about the suffering of his people.

When Moses went out walking that day and he saw the abuse being inflicted on his people. It provoked in him a desire to do something about it. His desire was good but his actions were wrong and could not be honoured by Yahweh. Let's not get romantic about it, it wasn't an accident, he intentionally killed a man:

Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (Exodus 2:12)

I doubt you and I would find ourselves in a situation where we would kill someone as a means to reach an end, but we may do other things that are just as ugly to our Lord. We may feel justified in destroying someone's reputation because we don't agree with something they said or did. We may cut corners, smudge our tax return a bit so we have more money to do good. We may lie to protect a friend or child. Whatever the motivation, wrong is still wrong.

You and I say we follow Jesus, so this means we should be following his example. Scripture says he did all things well. A simple example: Should the instrument of all Creation have to pay Roman tax? I wouldn't think so, but Jesus did because it was the right thing to do: Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. So why should we think we don't have to pay our government tax? Another example: The enemy offered Jesus several short cuts to avoid the cost of the cross but Jesus dismissed each one of them by putting the Father first. Perhaps he could have justified his actions with his good intentions, but wrong is wrong. The cross was the path he had to take and in obedience it is what he did.

It can be a real pain doing things the right way sometimes, but doing it the wrong way is always ugly and unacceptable to Father. He has purpose for his methods. If Moses had been allowed to lead an armed rebellion, the Lord would not have been revealed to the world and Israel would have kept all the glory for herself. They may have gotten their freedom but at the cost of how many lives and to what end? Without being the servants, the people of Yahweh they would have been a nation like any other nation and the world would not have known her Creator. Now just imagine what would have resulted if there had been no cross, no empty grave, no Holy Spirit.

Don't do short cuts. Don't try to do good by doing wrong. Take the long hard road. Do what is right no matter the cost. Allow Yahweh to accomplish what he wants to accomplish by walking in righteousness. Doing it right matters to how you will feel about things, your conscience, and to Yahweh's glory. Don't fall victim to the temptation of the easy way, the short cut, the fast solution. Follow Jesus and walk according to the example he set for us. To God by the glory!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How Do We Measure Success?

How do we measure success in the Kingdom of God? We know how it is measured in the world: position, fame, wealth. There are not many accolades for the faithful mother and wife who successfully raised her children and supported her husband. Neither are there accolades for the faithful father and husband, who worked all his life in the mines to provide for his family. But oh how the tributes pour in for the actor, singer, dancer who accidentally took too many drugs and died. Any death is a loss to those who loved them but consider our reaction to understand how we measure success.

Success in the Kingdom looks much different than success in the world. It must when the Bible celebrates the success of a prisoner while in prison. Of course I am referring to Joseph. I think sometimes we need to put the Bible heroes in the context of today to appreciate Yahweh's methods of growing and developing individuals. We look at Joseph and we appreciate the story, we recognize the injustice, we note his attitude but we miss some significant things.

The greatest thing about Joseph was that he blossomed wherever he was, in whatever situation he faced. In each stage of his journey he met with success. He wasn't considered successful only at the top but in every moment of his life. His brothers sold him into slavery. He had every right to moan and complain but Joseph gave himself to his situation. His was faithful in his relationship with the Lord, he obeyed his master and he worked hard. Due to his attitude the Lord prospered him so that whatever he put his hand to was successful. He earned the trust and appreciation of his master. But that didn't prevent bad things from happening.

Through no fault of his own, Joseph found himself in jail. Another injustice, another opportunity to moan and complain, but instead Joseph submitted himself to his situation. Because of his incredible attitude the Lord was with him and whatever he touched prospered during the many long years of his imprisonment:

The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper. (Genesis 39:23)

Joseph did not wait for circumstances to be favourable. He did not use any excuses. Joseph understood his relationship and responsibility to the Lord and gave himself to it. Is it any wonder that the Lord trusted him with the physical salvation of nations during the great famine? Joseph proved himself faithful in whatever circumstances he was in so the Lord was able to trust him with greater things. His heart was tested and he proved faithful.

Some people would look at this and say that Joseph was successful because he became a great and important man but that is not how we are to measure his success. Joseph was successful because of his obedience; everything else was just window dressing or the fruit of his obedience. Success in the Kingdom is not measured by our accomplishments or the prosperity of our projects. Success in the Kingdom is measured by our obedience to the Lord. It is by this obedience that the sincerity of our heart is measured.

Our obedience is not dependent on the right circumstances or the perfect opportunities. Our covenant relationship with Jesus means we vowed to love him in all situations, circumstances and opportunities. Our love is proved sincere in our obedience, no matter how hard it is to obey. The Lord is testing our heart, looking to see if we will be faithful with the small things to know if we can be trusted with the greater things. What is important is that we remain faithful and obedient in all things so that we are available to him at all times. Obedience equals success in the Kingdom of God.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Not All Marriages Are Equal

Who gets to define marriage? Should it be the Church which represents the Creator of marriage, or a government? Why does the Church require the government to issue a permit when it is a covenant witnessed by the Lord? Why not allow the government to have the secular version with its contracts while the Church deals with the covenant relationships between followers of Jesus? I believe it's the direction we are heading in anyway.

I know there is the issue of not being able to search data bases to make sure the couple is eligible to be married, as in they are not already married to someone else. But surely the Church could develop it's own data base to register a Church marriage. I don't know about everywhere else in the world but here in Canada the government doesn't see any difference between people who were married in the Church and those who have been living together for a year. There are no advantages to a government issued marriage permit.

The reason I bring it up is because the government  sees the Church as nothing more than another officiant, on the same level as a judge, clerk, or anyone else authorized to solemnize a marriage. Yet, we know the difference because a marriage has nothing to do with the government and everything to do with Yahweh. The government sees marriage as a legal contract but the Church understands it to be a covenant.

A contract is set up to protect people. It is usually one sided, to protect a persons' rights. Look at any software licensing agreement to see what I mean. A covenant is about what you are going to do, to give, to act for the benefit of another person. It has nothing to do with rights and privileges and everything to do with your vow to the other person: "I take you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part." Notice, it is what the husband is vowing to do for the his wife, and then she vows something similar, and they call on Yahweh to be the witness to this covenant. This is marriage. Covenant puts the focus on the other person.

It is the same relationship we have with Yahweh. It is not a one sided thing or even a contract we have with him. He has promised to focus on us and we in turn promise to focus on him. Let's use Jacob as an example. He had just left his father and mother in search of a wife when he encountered a vision of Yahweh. In this vision Yahweh made a vow to him, the same as he had made to his father and grandfather. He promised him land, that his family would become a nation, and that all nations would be blessed because of them. He promised that he would be with Jacob, would protect him wherever he went, and that he would bring him back to this land. Now look at Jacob's response and his end of the covenant:

“If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” (Genesis 28:20-22)

This is covenant. Consider us with Jesus. Look at all the things he has done for us, not for himself, in this covenant relationship. We often refer to these things as blessings but they are what he has vowed to us, those who enter into covenant. Our part is to say that he is our God, that we give ourselves fully to him, love him with our entire being, focus only on him, to obey, to worship and to serve. We are not always faithful to our vow but praise the Lord he is faithful to his.

So not all marriages are created equal. Not all are considered as covenants. Not all call on Yahweh as their witness. So why should the Church participate in what is nothing more than a shadow of the original? Why marry people who are going through a ceremony for the sake of tradition instead of truth? We are at a stage in history where we need to burst our little bubble, realize the world has changed and start drawing the difference between the sacred and the secular. Leave the world to call it what it wants but we know the real beauty of marriage is found in the covenant relationship that a man and woman enter into for the benefit of the other person, calling on Yahweh as their witness to their vows of love.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What To Do About Fear

Fear. It is a terrible emotion. It paralyses our rational thinking. It sometimes has a root, has substance, comes from a real situation but most of our fears are mere shadows; things that might or could be. Fear is often related to tomorrow, found in the unknown, coming from a position of uncertainty. Fear often prevents action, causes us to lay down our arms, makes us run away. Fear is a bully.

Fear is often a shadow that is dispelled by Light. Where it wants to bind our hearts, faith wants to free us. Where it wants to prevent us from moving forward, trust will propel us onward. Fear is a natural response to things beyond our control or knowledge. We all have it from time to time because none of us know what tomorrow holds; none of us can guarantee tomorrow; none of us have anything beyond this moment. But the Light dispels all such shadows that provoke fear because the Light tells us:

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

But perhaps that is the real root of our fears, that we do not know Jesus as we aught. Knowing Jesus is not going to prevent the fear from trying to come on you but leaning on Jesus will certainly send the shadows scurrying away. Our confidence is never found in our ability or anyone else's because we will always fail ourselves as will other people, but the Lord never fails. The above verse is a very famous verse but people do not always note the one before it:

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." (v. 8)

This is about relationship, intimacy with Father. It is about walking with Jesus all the time and drawing on his strength. Fear should be a sure sign to us that the relationship is not as intimate as it should be. It means we are weak and we need to be reminded of our true source of strength. The Word tells us again and again that our confidence cannot be found in our own strength or intelligence because we have no real strength, however Yahweh is our backer, our encourager, our provider and our source of confidence because he is our strength.

Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me." We can only do that in a covenant relationship, when we trust that he is focused on us as we are focused on him. Fear may come upon a Christian but it can't stick to a lover of Jesus. We may not be able to see what is going to happen tomorrow but we do know who holds tomorrow and us in it. Dispel fear with faith, trust and obedience. "Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Love Demands Our Best

How long do you think a marriage will last when a husband offers his wife only the leftovers of his day? He gives his energy to his work, his time to his friends, his emotions to his interests and then whatever is left he gives to his wife. To her he is always tired, has no real time for her and shows no interest in what interests her. No one is going to put up with that for long. If we are capable of understanding this about intimate relationships then we should be capable of grasping why Yahweh wants our best, not our leftovers.

We read all the time, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength," but we see the reality of it demonstrated in Abraham. Yahweh was entering into a significant covenant with this man. He had chosen him to start a nation who he would use to reveal himself to his creation, so Yahweh had to make sure that Abraham was the right man. How does Yahweh know? He tests our heart.

Abraham's son Isaac was the promised seed from which Yahweh would grow the promised nation. Everything rested on this lad. How Abraham must have loved this son of the covenant. So to test his heart, Yahweh demanded that Abraham sacrifice him. Knowing Yahweh as we do today, we know that such a thing is an abomination to Yahweh, but Abraham did not know what we know now. So he headed out to do as he was commanded. How heavy his heart must have been and how confused his thoughts.

He got as far as tying his son, placing him on the alter, and pulling the knife on him to end his life before Yahweh put an end to it. So, Abraham was serious about his relationship with Yahweh. His love manifested in his actions; actions of trust. He was willing to obey even to the point of sacrificing what was most precious to him, trusting Yahweh had purpose and reason in this thing. Yahweh said to him:

“Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (Genesis 22:12)

We look at that in the context of today and we are shocked but that is because we have watered down the demands of Yahweh. We have tamed our version of the Creator of all things. We are wrong to do so. Look at Jesus' teachings and see the extreme of them. We play the love card with Jesus all the time, portraying him as peaceful, kind and loving. He is all that and more but the love he describes is not a tame love but an all demanding love. Nothing can come ahead of it. Nothing can be considered more precious. In simple terms, Jesus is everything or he is nothing. Yahweh is not willing to have our leftovers; he wants our best; he wants all of our time, all of our energy, all of our affections, all of our intellect.

Maybe we should all re-read our Bibles and highlight all the extreme parts. We may then discover why Paul, the apostle, wrote: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in this body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What Do We Do With The Circumstances Resulting From Our Sin?

Wouldn't it be great if "forgiven" also meant "forgotten". It does for Jesus but for everyone else it only means forgiven. It is hard for us to forget so there will always be natural fallout for our sins. There are also natural consequences for our sins. You have sex with your girlfriend and she gets pregnant. It is great that you have repented and forgiveness is yours but there is still a baby that needs a father. The Bible is filled with examples of the natural consequences of sin. Abraham is a great example.

Abraham had received a promise of a son who would be the seed of a great nation. However, sometimes Yahweh takes a bit of time to bring things into play. Abraham's wife, Sarah, was getting on in years and really was beyond having a child. She decided to give her servant, Hagar, to her husband so they could have a child through her. That wasn't the deal. It isn't what Yahweh had promised but Abraham was no different than you and me. He got impatient waiting and decided that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to help Yahweh with the promise.

Sometimes we read these things in the Bible and fail to understand that these were real people, with real emotions. What Sarah thought would be a simple matter turned out to be something that broke her heart. It caused problems in the relationships in the family. Her servant started to think she was better than Sarah. Now Sarah had a rival for her husbands affections. She also didn't think it out very well because she really didn't think she would get pregnant even though Yahweh had promised. When she did, and after her son was born, the real trouble began.

Abraham had cursed his own life with the decision to get Hagar pregnant. Life was not pleasant for him at home:

And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing. Therefore she said to Abraham, “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac.” (Genesis 21:9-10)

Sarah was mad. It is never a good thing to try to live with an angry spouse. It is very unpleasant for anyone, but Abraham had no one to blame but himself:

And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham’s sight because of his son. (v. 11)

It was hard for Abraham because he loved Ishmael. Just because it was wrong and it was sin does not mean that emotions are not legitimate. That is what is so hard about sin, it results in very real things that threaten to crush us. Sins of the heart, those involving the entanglement of emotions, are the hardest. Abraham could see no way out of this. So take a real good note of the grace, mercy and compassion of our God:

“Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed.” (v. 12-13)

This was not Yahweh's original plan but he loved Abraham and because Ishmael was Abraham's son he was going to look after him and grow him into a nation as well. But the promise was still going to be through  Isaac because he was Sarah's son too, and that was the original promise. Yahweh was bringing relief to Abraham by telling him to focus on Sarah, his wife, and he would care for Ishmael in Abraham's place.

Be encouraged by this. We may mess up and sin, going off the path of Yahweh's will, but he always has a way of bringing it back on track. We may change the circumstances by our sins but Yahweh is greater than all things and nothing frustrates his will. We may have to face uncomfortable situations for a while but we are stilled loved by Yahweh. Just make sure you have truly confessed your sin and repented, seeking a restored and vibrant relationship with Jesus. That's all Yahweh really wants, so that he can work through you.

Whatever the circumstances resulting from your sins, surrender it to Jesus and he will work the Father's will on it, and it will be good. Just look at the fore-parents of Jesus and you will see the circumstances through which Yahweh brought about his will. Don't forget that Yahweh is not a man; we should never place our limitations on him. The best thing you can do is trust Jesus..

Monday, July 14, 2014

Standing For What Is Right

The last thing most of us want to do is stand out in a crowd. Given the choice, the vast majority of people would simply like to "live and let live" and continue living a peaceful life of blending in. We don't like conflict so we do what we can to avoid it, even if it means agreeing with the disagreeable. Whatever it takes to maintain peace. Except, followers of Jesus can't do that. We can't blend, we can't remain anonymous, we can't agree with what is disagreeable for the sake of peace. We tend to stand out in a crowd.

We live by different rules, by a different standard, by a different definition of good and evil. We are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and, like him, we must speak the truth, even when people don't want to hear it. We don't force anybody to do anything, that isn't Father's way, but we do need to let people know they have a choice. I know we would rather not draw attention to ourselves but, we are here as examples of his grace. That doesn't mean demonstrating perfection, because it doesn't exist in us, but demonstrating his power made perfect in our weakness. Consider Lot for a moment.

Lot, the nephew of Abraham, chose an interesting place to live. Sodom was a city that had lost its moral compass and did whatever they felt like doing. We only get one glimpse of Lot in this context but consider what we are told. He had just housed the visiting angels when all the men of Sodom showed up to rape them:

Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. (Genesis 19:4)

Notice that it was all the men, of every age, of every social standing. Yes, an interesting place in which Lot had chosen to live. But these angels had come under Lot's hospitality and the desert law of hospitality meant that they were under his protection. He had to do everything he could to protect them. So Lot told these men that what they planned to do was wicked and he tried to reason with them, but a heart bent on sin cannot be reasoned with. It is here I want you to notice how these wicked men describe Lot:

“This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” (v. 9)

He keeps acting as a judge. Obviously this was not the first time Lot spoke out against their unrighteous living. Even at this early stage of the developing relationship with Yahweh, enough had been revealed that Lot knew the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, holy and common. Imagine the conviction that Lot must have felt in order to find the courage to speak out against a city.

I am not saying that we need to go on the rooftops and shout out the sins of this world. Such an approach rarely works, causing the sinful heart to become even harder. However, in our sphere of influence, in our Sodom, we must stand for the righteousness of Jesus. As far as it depends on us, we cannot allow good to be called evil and evil good. As much as we might fear it, we must be willing to stand out in a crowd, to allow the light of Christ to shine in and through us, as we set the example in word and deed. We cannot compromise the Kingdom for the sake of maintaining a false peace. Remember, Jesus did not come to bring peace, except to the heart of the forgiven sinner.

My brother, my sister, let us stand on the righteous ground of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Importance Of Being Hospitable

As our social media life expands it appears our face-to-face relationships are starting to slip. When is the last time you had a dinner guest over or had someone sleeping on your sofa? Hospitality was always an important thing for Christians and still is in some places, but many of us have been letting it go. Remember Hebrews 13:2?

"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." 

No earth shattering revelation here, but still important when it comes to loving kindness. If we are given an opportunity to take someone into our home, to shelter and feed, we have no idea what agent of the Lord we are blessing. In blessing them we are blessing our Lord.

Remember Abraham, as he sat near the great trees of Mamre three men came upon him. Abraham suddenly took on the role of a servant, being a great host to these angels. They went on from Abraham and encountered his nephew Lot in Sodom and this is the reception they received from him:

“Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” (Genesis 19:2)

These are excellent examples for Hebrews 13:2. But it isn't just a good idea to be hospitable, Jesus indicated it is his expectation of us. In the great passage of Matthew 25, Jesus gave examples of actions that bless him when we bless others:

"... for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in..."

There are further commands in the epistles, but I will only mention two:

"Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." (Romans 12:13)

"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." (1 Peter 4:9)

Simply put, our home belongs to the Lord and is to be made available to others. If he sends us people to care for then we are under the obligation of love to take them in and care for them, rich or poor. Hospitality is not just for those who need help but also an extended hand of friendship to any traveler. In fact, they don't even need to be travelers. Have someone over after worship service today and see how the Lord will bless others through you. Practice hospitality as a manifestation of Yahweh's love.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Blessed To Be A Blessing

It seems that no matter how many times Scripture deals with it we are insistent on getting it backwards. Israel got it wrong and so many others have up to our present day. We insist on looking for blessings for ourselves whereas Yahweh's intention is to bless others through us. Jesus taught from that attitude, Paul stressed it and we find it throughout Scripture. I am going to use one simple verse from the early days to emphasize my point.

We all know Abraham was a man blessed by Yahweh. He was called out from his country and told to go to a new land. He was told that if he obeyed Yahweh he would be made into a great nation. We see how the Lord blessed him, multiplied his possessions, and made him a man of great influence in a foreign land. But have you examined exactly what Yahweh promised?

"I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing." (Genesis 12:2)

From the very beginning Israel was intended to be a blessing to the world. The Lord never just pours his blessing in to be stored up and lived on. Consider the manna he sent in the desert. It wasn't sent once a week but every day. It was a blessing renewed every day. His blessings are renewed in us every day so that they are like a flowing stream, not to be dammed up but to be freely shared.

When Jesus gave his authority to his disciples and sent them out to minister, he told them:

"Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)

We have received tremendous blessings of love, grace, forgiveness, compassion, and these we are to give to others freely. But we have also been blessed with power. Jesus told his disciples to use that power freely to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons. It wasn't about them but those the Lord was sending them to, to bless.Whatever gifts of the Spirit we have been given we are to be generous in the sharing and bless those to whom the Lord has sent us.

I don't think many of us have problems with this until it comes to our wallet. So often we can gauge our spiritual maturity by our attitude with our finances. With the rich young man that came to Jesus, it was his stumbling block and Jesus knew it. It is why he told him to get rid of it and then come follow him. Money is not ours to possess but a blessing we are stewards over. It doesn't belong to us, and like the Macedonians, we should hear when the Lord says to share the blessing, even when we have little of it:

For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. (2 Corinthians 8:3-5)

But not us, because we have it backwards. We think that it is all about us. He don't see that we have been saved for others. We don't see that we have been blessed for others. We don't see that our life is about others. We honestly think it is about us and other people are missing out on an experience of Jesus because of it. Let's pray that the Lord will be gracious and show us more clearly his desire for our days and that we will deny ourselves for Jesus and others.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Open Your Eyes To The Tricks Of The Enemy

It is amazing how we move through our day without much thought to what is happening beyond what we see. We worship our awesome God but set our minds against any thought of the unseen. We very much live "what you see is what you get" which is a bit frightening considering the forces that are at play. We don't seem to appreciate how much the enemy hates us and plans to destroy us any way he can. It isn't even so much about us as it is about what hurt he can inflict on Yahweh by hurting us.

Now I am not talking about being fearful or looking for demons behind every rosebush but we do need to consider our words and our actions. We need to consider the things we watch and participate in. We need to recognize the motivation behind some of the things that will come against us today. We need to consider how the enemy twists things for his own evil purposes, especially to bring confusion to the mind of a believer. If we are not solid in our reading and studying of the Word of God then we are wide open to the enemy's attacks of influence.

The enemy will use anything he can get his hands on to destroy the things of Yahweh. He loves to steal symbols of love and covenant from Yahweh and distort them for his own purposes. Just consider one of the most prevalent symbols of our day:

I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. (Genesis 9:13)

The rainbow is an ancient symbol of Yahweh`s covenant, with all living creatures, that he would never again send the flood waters to destroy:

It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. (v. 14-15)

The thing about this covenant symbol is it is a symbol to remind Yahweh of this covenant:

The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. (v. 16)

And this covenant is not just for us but for all living flesh on the planet. Now we have taken this ancient symbol and have turned it into something that represents the common, the unholy, a manifestation of a rebellious heart. You don`t think this was prompted and orchestrated by the enemy of our soul? Of course it was. If we can't see the obvious what hope do we have of seeing the subtle?

The enemy is defeated but he is hard at work to bring as much pain as he can to Yahweh. Don't let him use you today. Set your heart and your mind on the things above, not on this world. Fix your eyes on Jesus and be determined to run the race with all you have, trusting Jesus to provide all that you need. It is true that we can't do it in our own strength, which is why our relationship with Jesus must be strong and growing stronger, because we do it in his strength.

Understand what you are engaged in today, stand your ground, pray without ceasing, and allow the joy of the Lord to be your strength and his peace to be your constant companion. Do not fall for the twists, turns and lies of the enemy. Live by the Word of God. Open your eyes!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

You Should Rule Over It

Life would be so much better if we would just listen to Yahweh. It isn't like he has just left us on our own. We were never meant to go it alone; it was always his plan for us to be with him in our journey because we need him. If we could understand and accept his wisdom life would be much better for us. Looking at the beginning of things gives us a clear example of this.

Adam and Eve had already rebelled against Yahweh. They had been sent out of the garden and they had started having children. Cain and Abel were the first and their parents raised them well. They knew Yahweh well enough to want to honour him with offerings, but they still had much to learn. Cain's offering wasn't quite up to par, or perhaps it was his attitude. Whatever it was, Yahweh saw something that concerned him and like any good father, he warned Cain:

He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:5-7)
Cain was mad, not understanding that Yahweh was teaching him something here. Like so many youth, he could only see it from his perspective and refused to learn. Instead, he allowed his emotions to take over and lead him in a direction that would bring a lot of pain and destruction. It is hard when emotions take over. Once we give them authority over us it is almost impossible to reign them in.

Yahweh was very tender and compassionate to Cain, pointing out that sin wanted to have his way with him. Like a good dad he tells him that he has to gain control over this thing and not allow it to dictate to him. Any time we allow emotions to rule over us, we wake up the next day filled with regret. In a fit of anger we say things that should never be said; we do things that should never be done; me make decisions and declare things that only produce bad seed. We may not see the results immediately but those bad seeds are going to produce bad things at some point on our timeline.

Cain could not gain the control of which Yahweh had spoken to him and that emotional sin led to the murder of his brother. It seemed such a trivial thing but it is amazing how small things can escalate into large things when emotions lead us into the path of sin. Thousands of years later we still need to hear the council of Yahweh as he tells us that we should "rule over it".

Jesus has given us freedom and authority over such matters in our life. Anything that comes from the root of sin has lost its power over us because Jesus has freed us from the iron-fist slavery of sin. We are no longer the victim of our emotions. Instead, we have become slaves to his righteousness so that we no longer have an excuse for not ruling over that which once ruled over us. It is only a lack of application and discipline on our part. All we have to do is hear Jesus say, "Go and sin no more", believe he made it possible by giving us his power and authority and walk in the authority he has given us over all such things. Emotions are a wonderful thing but they no longer rule over us when we have given ourselves to Jesus.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

When Is Our Offering Not Good Enough?

I can't really understand why people have a problem with tithes and offerings. I guess they get all caught up in where it goes and how it is spent but that really isn't our problem. Whoever receives the tithes and offerings are accountable to the Lord for them, but we are accountable in our relationship of love for offering them. And let's be clear, tithes and offerings have nothing to do with a law and everything to do with love and appreciation.

Cain and Abel knew nothing of a law but had a desire to honour the Creator:

And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LordAbel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. (Genesis 4:3-4)

It was natural for them, in their relationship with Yahweh, to want to honour him. It should be natural for us also, who love the Lord. But we need to be careful in our attitude of honouring because this isn't just anyone, this is the Creator of all things. Love requires our best and Cain had not yet learned this. Abel brought his best and Cain brought without much thought:

And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. (v. 4-5)

It's just like us to project our failure onto other people instead of facing it and learning from it. Listen to the tenderness of the Lord's correction and hear the voice of a Father who just wants his son to learn and do better next time:

So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (v. 6-7)

Sure the Lord was disappointed with Cain not giving his best but he knew Cain could do better. That is what he is like with us. He wants our best because that is how love manifests itself. A husband who only puts in a partial effort in showing his love for his wife is lacking a manifestation of that love. We may even conclude that there is a lack of love but there is also a potential for a greater love to grow.

Many of us love the Lord but we struggle to see that manifested in our actions. Perhaps it is a lack of understanding of what we owe him. Perhaps we think that he will accept whatever little thing we bring; it seems to be the truth of the current attitude in the Church today. But when we walk in the Spirit, having communion with our Lord daily and live for his will alone, it is only natural for us to offer our best in time, talents and finances. We simply do not want to accept the thought that Jesus would reject anything we bring but that's because we worship a fanciful idea of Jesus instead of the biblical truth.

Yes, let us come and worship, but let us make sure that our offering is a true reflection of our heart for Jesus.