Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Truth About Sinners And Salvation

You may not agree with what I am about to say but I hope you will search the Scriptures first to see if it is true. If you are a Christian it is important that you have a correct view of the world, the Church and your place in it.

If a person is without Jesus Christ it does not matter what they do. It doesn't matter if they are a murderer, liar, or cheat. It doesn't matter if they are straight, homosexual or are confused about their identity. It doesn't matter if they are druggies or alcoholics. It doesn't matter if they are bank robbers, prostitutes or white collar crooks. All that matters is that they are without Jesus:

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18)

In case you didn't know it, those are Jesus' words. He told us the judgement will be based on whether we believe or not, not based on behaviour. We are all sinners. The difference is that our sins are covered, forgiven and forgotten when we choose to believe Jesus.

The reason this matters is because this is the foundation of Christianity but we are actually preaching something different. When we spend so much time on people's behaviour we come across as if they can save themselves by changing their behaviour. It becomes about living a good life and not about the spiritual act of believing.

We can't save ourselves; only Jesus saves. It is only by the blood of the Lamb. It is all about the sacrifice on the Cross. We cannot justify ourselves by modifying our behaviour. A prostitute who stops being a prostitute is not any closer to salvation because of her changed behaviour. She still needs Jesus because:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)

We need to stop criticizing sinners for behaving like sinners, the rebellious for rebelling, and instead learn to love them as Jesus loves them. I am no liberal in my theology. Judgement Day is coming but our attitude in serving this suffering world is not going to help in the salvation of the dying masses.

The behaviour we should be concerned about are those who claim to have Jesus but act as if they don't; those who think they can still participate in the pleasures of sin while testifying to the goodness of Yahweh. They are spiritual in their talk and carnal in their thinking and behaviour. These are they people who have been deceived and are deceiving.

We speak the same truth to the world as Jesus did but we must also love as he loved. He did not concentrate on their behaviour but instead dealt with their heart condition. Behavioiur changes after encountering Jesus, not before. People need Jesus before they can stop sinning, rebelling against Father; they don't stop sinning in order to come to Jesus.

We need to stop being offended by behaviour and attitude and start telling people how they can have peace, real joy and the empty place of their heart filled with real life. We need to tell them how the burden can be lifted from them and how they can discover what real unconditional love means. Stop being shocked that sinners sin and be more amazed that Jesus died for them as he died for us. Let us stop demanding conformity and allow the Spirit to bring in real transformation.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Are You Living What You Believe?

Many of us do not realize that Christianity is not a club you join but a relationship you grow in. The entire thing is about growth but like any relationship, there are certain foundation stuff that have to be in place. If you start a relationship based on lies and half-truths it is a relationship doomed to fail. Any relationship you hope will last a lifetime must be based on love, openness, honesty and trust. You have to believe the person is who they say they are and will do the things they say they will do. These are the same principles we have in our relationship with Jesus.

A decision to follow Jesus must be based on truth. We have to believe he is who he says he is and that he will do what he has promised to do and we have to act on this belief. If we simply have wishful hope with no certainty then we will not hold tight during the storms. If we are not certain the ground we stand on is safe we will always look for what appears to be safer ground. But look at what Jesus said to Peter.

Peter just stated that he believed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus response was intended to encourage this belief and to encourage it to grow into faith:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-19)

The reason I say "grow into faith" is because faith is acting upon what we believe. If we honestly believe everything that Jesus said, faith is when we act on what he said. Now here Jesus is stating where we need to start in his relationship with him and how it should develop. The Catholic Church interprets this to mean Peter is the rock on which Christ has built the Church but the Church is built on Christ not Peter. So how do we understand this? The rock on which Jesus refers is the rock of this confession. The Church is built on the foundation of our belief that Jesus is who he says he is, that he is the Christ, the Son of God. If we do not start on this foundation we have no hope to grow in faith.

Now consider what he says here because we have misunderstood most of this. Have you ever seen the gates of a city attacking anyone? Of course not, they are not offensive but defensive. So what he is saying here is that as we are on the offensive, going into the enemy's camp to take back what belongs to the Lord, the gates of hell cannot stand against us. That is the power we have as the people of Jesus, when our relationship is based on the truth of who Jesus is. Wishful thinking will not get us there but only the bold statement of belief such as Peter made.

This relationship has also given us tremendous responsibility as the powerful people of Yahweh. It means that we are a people who operate in the Spirit, binding and loosing. The Church is not a weak institution but a powerful instrument for Father's will. We are involved in something huge and there is no place for weak, idle, selfish thoughts. There is no place for doubts and fears. This is not a relationship of uncertainties. This is a relationship of boldness, assurance, certainty, belief, trust, and faith.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

It is time we rethink our relationship with Jesus and walk in the belief we claim to profess. It is time to be a people of action, of faith, of boldness. It is time to get out of the mud and serve Jesus as he intended us to serve him, based on the proper foundations of relationship.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Let Us Examine Ourselves

Everyone should have built into their day a period of time for meditation and self-examination. Self-examination on its own is not healthy or productive because it needs to be done in a proper context. They only proper context I trust is the Word of God. Self-examination on its own will create a sense of uselessness, failure and depression. We need to take time for self-examination but it must be done against a proper standard which also offers us hope, and that standard and hope is Jesus.

Too often we go through our day without much thought to what we are doing or saying. We are existing, surviving, making it through, and not realizing the consequences of our actions and words on ourselves and those around us. "Let things fall where they must" is our attitude not realizing we will be held accountable for every careless word and every callus action. The exercise of reflection, self-examination during meditation on God's Word, measures us against the standard of Jesus, revealing the things for which we need to confess, repent and repair where possible.

This is not a new notion:

Let us search out and examine our ways,
And turn back to the Lord;

Let us lift our hearts and hands
To God in heaven.

We have transgressed and rebelled;
You have not pardoned. (Lamentations 3:40-42)

Our spiritual journey is all about growth and maturity but if we refuse to acknowledge our mistakes we will never grow. Everything is already forgiven, that was the work of the cross, but there is a reason we have been told to confess our sins. Confession is an acknowledgement of wrong doing. It is when we say "I have messed up; I have sinned". It is when we repent of such behaviour and allow the Spirit to correct our ways. It is a time of saying sorry to people, of seeking forgiveness and making reparation if possible. It keeps us humble and moving in the right direction.

It is a healthy daily activity and attitude when done in the context of our relationship in Jesus. It is vital for our growth and maturity. It is conscience clearing and cleansing. It is tearing down mountains and filling in valleys so that our path is straight. I strongly suggest you start with today.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Do We Know What It Is To Love As Jesus Loved?

Relationship is far from easy. Even the best ones take a lot of work, investment and maintenance. We soon discover that if we do not look after our relationships they will slowly fade into non-existence. They can be complicated and at some point require us to make the decision to continue or walk away. But some of the best relationships are those that cost us the most.

Much of the philosophy today tells you to walk away from anything that isn't positive. But what is positive? I hope it is obvious that any abusive relationships should be abandoned. Emotional and physical abuse are not things that anyone should have to tolerate. This is certainly negative but much of the message from people these days is that any form of negativity should be cause for abandonment. If this is the case, Jesus would have walked away from everyone he encountered.

At some point the principles of the Kingdom need to rule your decision making, especially when it comes to relationships. According to what Jesus taught and demonstrated, relationships are not about what you get out of them but about what you put into them. Excellent relationships involve two sides who live by this Kingdom principle, but even if it is only you, that relationship is worth it because you are serving and ministering to that person. You are the aroma of Christ to them.

What is the reason you do not give up on your relationship with Jesus? It is not always easy. Many times we are asked to trust when we see no just reason to do so. Many times we are asked to do things that we disagree with. There are even times when we feel isolated and alone. So why do we keep going forward, seeking even greater intimacy? Is it not because of how Jesus served us; what he has done for us?

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

The Lord has proven his love for us many times over so when things get tough we are willing to trust him; trusting that he is for us not against us. That is the level of relationship we are to have with people. Friendship is proven in the fires of difficulties but it is built upon acts of love, mercy, grace, compassion, forgiveness. It is not easy to love everyone but you soon discover that the best relationships are those that have cost you the most.

Jesus has never and will never give up on us. We know it, he has proven it and we move forward in that confidence. So now, be that friend to someone else. Be the person that people know they can trust to never abandon them even in the midst of their stupidity. Everyone needs someone to love them at their worst, so show them the sincerity of Jesus' love by loving them as Jesus has loved you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Who Gets To Make Decisions In Your Life?

There are a number of perspectives and attitudes that we accept as normal but which have no part in our Christian walk. Those of you who are students right now are facing it. Some of you who are considering changing jobs are facing it. Some of you who are simply deciding what to do after work are facing it. Who gets to make the decision in our lives?

The obvious choice is us, but we have to ask ourselves how influenced we are by this age of the individual. Everyone assumes that we get to decide the direction of our life and that Yahweh will use whatever we make available to him. There are tons of books on the subject of decision making and most come to the same conclusion: "Do whatever makes you happy". But that is the fundamental problem with this thinking; we are not here to be happy.

There is only one book I consider to have the authority to set the foundation of my life and that is the Bible, the Word of God. And there is only one who has shown us the way and has set the example for us and his name is Jesus. He stated that he said nothing and did nothing in his own authority but only that which they Father had given him to say and do. There are also Scriptures such as this:

Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)

This is why we need Jesus. We were born in rebellion to Yahweh. It is natural to us and no matter how hard we try to live up to his standards, we can't do it without help. That help came in the form of Jesus who sacrificed himself to remove the barrier between us and Father. He also sent to us the Holy Spirit for plenty of reasons but one of the big ones is so that he could remain with us, in us. He gives us direction, strength, power, and energy to do Father's will. But a rebellious attitude can be hard to shake off, even when we are singing songs of love.

To do what we want, when we want, how we want is part of our natural rebellious attitude, and as long as we think we are the "captains of our own destiny" we will find it impossible to get rid of. It is only in a daily humble attitude, recognizing we no longer belong to ourselves and that our entire desire is to do the Father's will, that this rebellion will die as the Spirit expunges it from us. But it requires an attitude of cooperation and a desire for the one who is above us. Not always easy in our culture but we belong to a more ancient, powerful and superior culture; for we are citizens of the Kingdom. Our ways are no longer our own as we learn to walk like Jesus, as he directs, for the Father's purpose.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Defining Success

We are a foolish people. I can't think of a better word for us considering what we put ourselves through. We have this wonderful heavenly Father who loves us beyond our imagining. He is so much on our side that everything else pales in comparison to his love and support. He has told us that he has plans for us; plans to build us up, not destroy us. He wants us to succeed on our spiritual walk, and he has told us that he uses everything we go through to benefit us so that nothing is a waste.

Yet, we are determined to destroy ourselves with worry, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, depression. We insist on fighting our "own" battles. We rarely check with Father about anything and then, when we do end up in trouble, we insist on telling him how to help us, refusing to accept anything else. We walk around with these perceptions of life and when they don't match up with Father's will we get angry at him; as if we get to tell him what to do.

We need a better glimpse of Father's heart for us:

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

What did Jesus say?

“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14)

But don't miss this part. In fact, I suggest you underline it, commit it to memory, and remind yourself of it every day:

Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance. (Isaiah 55:2)

Jesus asked the simple question:

 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36)

As long as we try to live by the values, priorities and system of this world we will struggle with contentment and peace. When we accept that we belong to a different place, that Jesus is constantly present with us, and that Father is fully committed to our success, we will know peace and contentment.

Some of you are facing pressures at work, school and home to be great successes but the only success that matters for all eternity is your relationship with Jesus Christ. Make sure that you are living Father`s will and he will equip you to succeed at what he has called you to do. Insist on your own will and you will have to succeed in your own strength but it will come at a great cost. Jesus wants you to have life in great abundance. Learn to trust, obey and relax in him.

Monday, September 22, 2014

What's So Wrong With Wanting More In Life?

Can we ever have enough? Is there ever a point where we say "I am content with what I have?" It just seems we are always looking at that supposed greener grass on the other side of the fence. Instead of being thankful for what we have we long for what we feel we are missing. It is hard to be happy, to find contentment when we think life, or maybe God, is holding out on us.

Christianity isn't suppose to be like that. Jesus brought us to a different perspective, mentality, place of existence. He first told us to stop putting our priorities in the temporary things of this world. He taught us that the Kingdom's values are different. Then he transformed us into a new creation, filling us with his Spirit, and making us capable to live as he had lived. What he taught was not suppose to be an outside edict conforming our behaviour but a heart transformation that provoked the fruit of change. The problem is, this fact is not always explained to Christians as they struggle with the pull of this world and their changed heart.

Listen to this wisdom from Proverbs:

Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;

Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8-9)

There is much wisdom here. Just imagine if we could apply it. Imagine accepting to live with what we have. Imagine being able to resist the temptation of credit cards. Imagine being able to live with Yahweh as our provider, recognizing him as a good provider and not longing for things he has not provided.

It is not a matter of money being evil, although it is a root of evil. Jesus told us to use money as a tool, to control it, use it and not become enslaved to it. We get off track when we think we are suppose to provide for ourselves. Yahweh opens the doors of opportunity and closes them as well. He provides through the harvest but he also sometimes has to send manna. When we go searching outside of his provision we are disrespecting him, telling our Father he is not a good provider.

Maybe someday perhaps we will understand this but as long as the system of the world continues to dominate the Kingdom in us, we will continue to struggle to be content. Jesus should be sufficient and most of us claim that he is. It takes real honesty with self and the conviction of the Spirit to know the real condition of our hearts.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Word As The Word Is Enough

I can't deny it as I look in the mirror: I have a lot of experience under my belt. I am not saying I am old but I am more old than I am young these days. I find myself now asking the Lord for a lot of grace when I hear people, just starting out in life, so strongly expressing their opinions on things they have barely experienced. But neither is experience all that it is cracked up to be.

Experience really depends on what you do with it. You can experience the same mistake a hundred times but if you are not willing to be honest about it you will never gain anything from the experience. Life is always about learning and growing. Often the learning comes through "breaking" and "melting" moments of our lives but there has to be a vulnerability, a willingness to be broken. But beyond broken, there must also be a willingness to be healed.

There are far too many broken people in the world. There seems to be even more in the Church. Brokenness can be a very good thing as long as we understand that the purpose is to move out of it with greater wisdom than we went into it with. The problem is that many people prefer to remain broken when Jesus wills us to be healed and made whole.

For those who do seek healing in their brokenness, it is my experience, the Word of God is essential for comfort, understanding, healing and growth. We don't need anything outside of the Word as it is sufficient in itself. Many stay in their brokenness because they seek comfort in the wisdom of this world or they try to add on to God's Word, but God's Word is fantastic as it is, all on it's own:

Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.

Do not add to His words,
Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6)

Yes, it has been my experience that there have been days I have looked in the mirror and seen what a liar I was. All of us have tried to leverage God's Word to our advantage but Jesus will never allow us to remain in such a state. He will rebuke us, correct us and bring us to the truth of the matter. It is for our benefit. I hope we are able to be honest with ourselves and Jesus in those moments.

There is a lot of unhealed brokenness and a lot of liars-to-self walking around in the Body of Christ. The best way to ensure that we are not in this number is to allow the Word of God to be the authority of Yahweh in our lives. Allow it to not only break us but to bring healing as well. Allow it to reveal the hidden things, to convict, correct, encourage, comfort and grow us. The Word of God is the tool of the Holy Spirit as we are shaped and molded into the character of Jesus. So allow it to happen without adding to it. The Word as the Word is enough.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Do You Need Correction?

I bet you don't like to be corrected. None of us do. Even when we know we are wrong we would rather just let it pass unnoticed, to fade away, to be forgotten. None of us like to face our mistakes, take a good look at our actions and be corrected for them. Yes, correction is vital for our growth as a person, in relationships and in our preparations for eternity.

It is embarrassing to be wrong but it is even more embarrassing to continue to be wrong; to repeat the same mistake over and over again. We need someone who is strong enough in our lives, who we give permission to help us learn and grow from our mistakes. As children it was our parents. As adults we need to choose someone. Ultimately it is our Father who ensures that we receive correction, not for punishment but for growth:

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor detest His correction;

For whom the Lord loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights. (Psalm 3:11-12)

The writer of Hebrews tells us that we should be encouraged by the correction of the Lord because it means we are legitimate children. Fathers only correct their own children. So we should be concerned if we are not receiving correction:

But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. (Hebrews 12:8)

No correction is meant to destroy us. The Lord does not want to destroy but to build us up, to mature us, to prepare us for eternity. No one enjoys correction but under Father's loving hand we can be assured that it is for our good, our benefit.  Don't hate him for it but rejoice that it is a sign that you are a legitimate child. Don't try to avoid it but embrace it as a natural part of our development.

We are not perfect. We mess up. We need to be corrected. We need to be kept on the right path. We need to be told where we were wrong and what we can do to correct our actions. We need it and the Father does it because he loves us. He loves us, we can trust him, even in the correction. Without correction we will end up independent, spoiled children, cut off from our inheritance because we thought we knew better than our Father. Don't go there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It`s Not Always About Prosperity

I am not a prosperity preacher, believing very much that Christians have been called to suffer for the sake of the gospel. However, that suffering is not as some consider suffering. Instead of suffering maybe it is better to understand it as sacrifice. It only makes sense. Love is not love unless it has called us to sacrifice. As Christ put us before his own needs, this same love compels us to put others ahead of our own.

Yet, there are certain spiritual laws that are in place that cannot be ignored. One of these is that we are to love and honour Yahweh above anything else in our life. Jesus made it clear as he told us that our love for him must be greater than any other, including for our wife and parents. The Word also tells us that doing this allows everything else to flow as Father intends it to flow:

Honor the Lord with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;

So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)

I know that with the garbage that is out there right now there is a push back against anything that even remotely smells of prosperity teaching, but this is the Word of God. Jesus taught this in a better depth when he told us not to chase after the things that people of this world are consumed with, but instead to seek the things of the Kingdom. He said when we have our priorities right it allows Father to provide for us everything that we need.

Some Christians pride themselves in not chasing after the prosperity teaching yet their hearts are not right in this matter. They may not be trying to get rich but they are still getting their priorities wrong. They still chase after the things of this world so they can pay the bills, setting aside their spiritual priorities. This is wrong and it will stop the flow of Father's blessings.

Many people don't tithe, using a long list of excuses, but tithing, or lack of tithing, reveals the condition of our heart toward Yahweh. We honour our governments and whoever else we owe money to, but we hold back our tithes, considering it not to be a spiritual thing. We treat it as a business thing and unfortunately the Church treats it this way as well. But it is a matter of love and honour and when it is lacking it blocks our heart from receiving from Father.

The difference is, the Word does not tell us to tithe so that our "barns" will be filled but that filled "barns" are the natural blessing of a people who honour Yahweh. It is about relationship, love, honour, respect, and if that is not the foundation of our life with Jesus, we will never come into the fullness of this relationship. This is obviously not a full teaching on this subject because there is much to be said on the physical and spiritual blessings that result from a proper heart condition, but it is a nudge in the direction of considering the matter more fully.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

We Have The Knowledge, So What Is The Problem?

Lack of knowledge is not our problem; lack of application is. We have more knowledge available to us now than at any other point in history. I am not speaking of the knowledge available to the elite of academia but of the general masses of people who occupy this planet. More information is available at our finger tips than can be found in the city library. But has it made us any wiser? Are we any better off because of it?

The same can be said of the Church and the general population of Christians. We have more teaching on the Word of God available to us than at any other time. More teaching videos, recorded sermons, blogs, books, dvds and blue rays, stuffed with incredible teaching and revelation. But it all amounts to nothing without application. The Word of God is not about acquired knowledge but holy living.

We have all the answers. We know what we need to do to be strong in the Lord and to be used by him. It is not new just unused. Our failure is not knowledge but wisdom. Our failure is the application of the knowledge we have gained. I know I am repeating myself but I am desperate for me to understand and apply this fact, and maybe you know what I mean:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

You know this. You have studied it. You have memorized it. You might even have it on a poster on your wall. But how many times have we failed to apply it and paid the price of sleepless nights because of it?

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. (v. 6)

You have told other people to do this. You've sung about it. You have taken notes from countless sermons on this. But how many times have we failed to apply it?

We know that we can have an incredibly intimate relationship with Jesus. He desires it and has made it possible. We also know that the vehicles of such a relationship is prayer, Bible meditation, worship, service but do we apply this knowledge? Do we set aside the things that have no eternal worth to lay up treasures in heaven? Do we do everything we can on our part to cultivate an intimate relationship?

We can't blame Jesus. We know the blame lies with us. We know that we suffer because of our own neglect. We know we suffer because of our inaction. We know that he seems so far away and detached because that is what we have done. We have the knowledge. We know what to do. Is it important enough to us to apply it? To be wise? To take action? Lack of knowledge is not our problem; application is.

Monday, September 15, 2014

More Than A Sentiment

If you are like most Christians you have a few encouraging verses on the walls of your home, or the desk of your office or maybe even in your car. These verses have spoken to you at some point and you wanted to be reminded daily of their significance. Yet, we so often fail in going from being moved to being changed. The Word of God was never meant to make us feel good but has been given to be part of our transformation. Those verses must go from our walls to become part of who we are.

A few days ago I was writing about Psalm 73, pointing out that the awareness of the presence of the Lord changes everything. Today I want to pick it up again a little later in the psalm. Remember that this psalmist was struggling with why evil is permitted to exist in Yahweh's creation but standing in the presence of the Lord changed his perspective. The psalmist was repenting of his selfish perspective and then penned this:

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.

You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory. (Psalm 73:23-24)

To realize that no matter our attitude, the Lord is always with us, is a great place to be in our revelation of Yahweh. We have even the greater revelation that while we were still sinners Jesus died for us. The presence of the Lord has been promised to us in the same way of our salvation. Our foolishness, pride, vain ambitions do not frighten him away. He is at hand so that when we turn to seek his face he is right there. All he desires is to forgive so he can have intimacy with us. He holds our hand. He guides us and he waits to receive us into his glory.

It's as we walk in the reality of his presence, of his desire for intimacy, we too can begin to measure the worth of this relationship:

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.

My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (v. 25-26)

It is a great sentiment but if that is all it is to us, something to hang on the wall to inspire us, we are missing the reality of the Lord's presence. Jesus has promised to never leave us, to be with us until the end of the age; not a sentiment but the reality we live every day. When we are open to him, seeking him, desiring him, turning to him, leaning on him, dependent on him, trusting him, we experience the reality of him holding our hand, the truth of him guiding us with his counsel, and we gain the assurance of him receiving us into his glory.

The presence of the Lord is our daily reality. When you live it the Word will come alive to you and your clouded reality in this place will be transformed into the living reality of our loving and awesome Father. More than a sentiment.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Looking For Air In A Season Of Adjustments

Since taking over The Snack Shack as a church ministry life has been all about adjustment. Adjustment to keep my spiritual disciplines. Adjustment to guard some precious wife and family time. Adjustment to finding ways to be available for people. Social media commitments. Blogging. Home schooling commitments. Financial adjustment. Health adjustment. Energy adjustment. I have not yet found the key for all these adjustments.

On top of this, Melodie-Joy is struggling with her job. Not that it has anything to do with her but it seems she just can't catch a break. She feels the financial and time constraint pressures (managing a job, two babies, two full time students and two part time). She is a wonder woman but the adjustments are not easy.

All this to say it is a time of crying out to the Lord for strength, assurance, energy, direction and hope. In the flesh things may look a bit dark but we are not directed by our flesh. We are so thankful that we can wake every day knowing that our hope is real and ongoing each and every day. Our future is not crafted by our hands but by the Lords. I am not the captain of my own destiny and I make a conscience effort every day to keep it that way.

Jesus did not promise me comfort or ease and I have not sought for it, although there have been times I have longed for it. Life can never be about taking short cuts to make it easier for me. Jesus did not take short cuts and there was purpose in everything the Father directed him to do, and I am a follower of Jesus. Having failed in the past, I press on with a desire never to fail him again. And that is all we can do. Press on with a passionate desire to serve him truly and always.

One of the most powerful and encouraging verses concerning this subject was penned by Paul the apostle in one of his last letters as he sat in a Roman prison. After all he had been through, Paul simply stated:

"For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day." (2 Timothy 1:12)

At the end of that, that is what it is all about. If we every lose that relationship, nothing else has any worth. May we experience and operate in the assurance of our relationship with Jesus today. God bless.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Presence Of The Lord Changes Everything

We all have our share of problems and each person thinks theirs is greater than any others. One thing you can be sure of - today you will face difficulties. Jesus even warned us that life would not be fair to us. The thing is, make sure you are not the source of your troubles. We have enough to face without causing unnecessary pain to ourselves.

Now I am not trying to be a downer today because along with the facts of life is the reality of our part in it. When we are facing difficulties we have a few choices in the direction we will head. We can choose to fight it, complaining all the way. We can choose to deny it until it destroys us. Or we can deal with it using the tools Jesus has given us.

One of the greatest gifts we have been given is the constant abiding presence of the Lord. We may not always remember and we may not always practice his presence, but when we do, he becomes our greatest source of strength, encouragement, and wisdom. There is a line in psalm 73 that always reminds me of this fact. The psalmist was struggling over the apparent prosperity of the wicked and he could not understand until he humbled himself and entered the presence of the Lord:

When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—

Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end. (Psalm 73:16-17)

Too often we make our struggles harder than they need to be. Father never intended for us to face anything on our own. But all too often we try to take short cuts in the relationship. We will fire off a few quick prayers and expect the situation to be removed, but Father wants intimacy. He will resist us so that we are forced to take the time to consider the situation. He will delay the response until we realize what we have done and come into the awareness of his presence. He is always present but we are often too busy with life to notice.

Taking the time to be aware and to sit in Father's presence is the greatest step we can take to overcoming the difficulties of our day. Whether Father removes them or gives us the strength to overcome them, it starts with our relationship with him. The presence of the Lord changes everything, and the joy we experience from knowing he is with us is the perfect way to face every new day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Do You Hear The Spirit Speaking?

Too many of us Christians don't know what we are talking about. We live by word of mouth, not bothering to go to the source directly. We may read the Scriptures and perhaps attend Bible study where we enjoy great discussion but how much time do we spend in meditating on the Word; allowing it to sink in deep, to shape our perspective, thinking and actions? In such a crowded society, with so much to "do", I don't we do it at all.

To love Jesus is to love his Word and to love his Word is to desire to be shaped by it. I like the progression of Psalm 19:

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;"

It is so profound that it changes our soul.

"The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;"

It impacts our thinking,making us wise.

"The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;"

It frees us from from the ugliness of self, bringing joy to out heart.

"The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;"

It clears away the fog of the sin of this world and allows us to see.

"The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;"

In a world in constant flux, it never changes.

"The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

In a world that continues to redefine right and wrong, good and bad, the Word of God remains the correct revelation of Yahweh's holiness.

How can we say that we love Jesus and then ignore our only source of revelation? The Word of God is a book unlike any other and is understood through the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit. In other Words, when Jesus possesses you, he teaches you as you meditate on his Word. So as the psalmist indicates, it should be precious to us:

More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)

Let's not forget accountability. The Spirit uses the Word to guide us, speak to us and correct us. If we are not hiding the Word in our heart, what does the Spirit have with which to speak to us?

Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward. (v. 11)

If you seriously want to follow and serve Jesus then learn to be in love with his Word. If you want to hear clearly from the Spirit, meditate on it, memorize it, allow it to be hidden in your heart so you can hear him speaking to you.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Danger Of Morality Thinking

Morality apart from Jesus has no value. That is a truth to keep in mind as we progress through life. It is good to be good but it has no eternal value without a relationship with Jesus. Stay with me for a second here as we process this reality. The psalmist wrote:

O my soul, you have said to the Lord,
“You are my Lord,
My goodness is nothing apart from You.” (Psalm 16:2)

Our salvation is not found in ourselves because it is a free gift offered to us by Jesus. We can do nothing to save ourselves. Living a good life, being good, being kind, being a nice person is all well and good but it has nothing to do with our salvation. Our salvation begins and ends with Jesus because he is the only one capable of giving us salvation. What does it take to be saved? Believe and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In other words, admit you are a sinner, that Jesus wants to save you from that sin, and believe that he has. That is it.

We get it wrong when we push morality before relationship. We are saying being good will make us worthy of salvation. We probably don't think that way but it is how we act and how we present. We must remember that Scripture tells us "While we were still sinners Christ died for us". We were not required to be righteous, morally fit to receive salvation. It is hard sometimes to keep it straight in our thinking.

I have a couple of children who have yet to receive Jesus. I am not happy with how they have chosen to live but their actions are only a symptom of their lack of Jesus. Should my concern be about their actions or their heart condition? The fact they are without Jesus should be the topic of my prayers and my conversation, not an effort to convince them conform their actions.

"My goodness is nothing apart from you" should be the overwhelming message in the Church. Too many unsaved people are sitting in our pews thinking they are okay because their behaviour falls into the acceptable norm. True goodness springs from a heart possessed by Jesus Christ; we don't gain a possessed heart by our goodness.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Our True Nature Exposed

There is nothing new under the sun. The tools may have changed but the motivation and the outcome have been witnessed countless times. There is no great deed that has not already been done. There is no sin that has not already been committed. There is nothing you can do that will surprise or shock Yahweh. There is nothing happening now that has not happened before.

As we watch society slip further into darkness we need to understand it has always been there. The things we are seeing in the open have always been there behind closed doors. The unholy scenes we see displayed on our television screens have always been in the heart. Realize for a moment that what you are seeing is feeding an awakening appetite or we wouldn't tolerate it. All we are seeing is the pretending coming to an end and the true nature of things being revealed.

The fool has said in his heart,
There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1)

"Good" is defined by Yahweh. Good can only take place from the seed of Jesus. The only good that has any eternal value never grows from the wicked heart of man unless that heart has been transformed by the blood of Jesus. Any good thing we can manage on our own is tainted by the human condition in which we were born.

The psalmist wrote the truth about the condition of our kind since the expulsion from the garden. Left to ourselves we are fools. We have been corrupted by the evil of our rebellion. We have done abominable things as defined by our holy and perfect Father. No matter how hard we try, the things we intend for good are corrupted by the evil of our heart. 

But Jesus changed all of this.

Jesus made it possible for Father to declare that we are holy; that we are perfect; that we are righteous. Those who choose to be covered by the sacrifice of Jesus are transformed from the corruption that had enslaved them and are made as a new creation. We can't do it on our own. We need Jesus.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

You Are Not Perfect But You Can Desire To Be

We know we are not perfect. Not one of us is without sin, mistakes, faults, imperfections, so none of us can afford to point out the failings of others. If there is any love in us we should have a desire to see people succeed, not fail. Yet there is something in us that rejoices in the failings of others and for some reason makes us feel good about ourselves. Maybe such failings cause us to forget our own for a moment.

The strange thing is,when we accept Jesus, our sins, failings, mess ups, from our past, present and future are all forgiven and covered. But this does not negate the fact that Father wants us to seek his righteousness. He wants us to throw off the attractions of sin's system and walk in his ways, even if we stumble in doing so. He wants our hearts desire to be the things of the Kingdom. Job reflected:

I have made a covenant with my eyes;
Why then should I look upon a young woman?

For what is the allotment of God from above,
And the inheritance of the Almighty from on high?

Is it not destruction for the wicked,
And disaster for the workers of iniquity?

Does He not see my ways,
And count all my steps? (Job 31:1-4)

Job had a heart desire to walk in righteousness. He knew that Yahweh was occupied with him and Job desired to honour him with his life. He knew he wasn't perfect and it was for that reason he began each day with sacrifices, to cover his failings. Jesus has covered our failings with one sacrifice so we don't need the system of sacrifices, but that does not mean we should not desire to live the righteousness of Jesus.

Allow the sacrifice of Jesus cover your failings and sins but you guard your heart. Make it your great desire to honour Jesus with your living. Do what is right. Live by his instruction. Seek his face daily. Love as he loved. Sacrifice as he sacrificed. Desire to do good. And when you fall short, confess it and trust Jesus. Father has declared us to be perfect and holy according to his grace, so do your best to walk in it.