Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Has God Chosen Some To Be Saved And Some To Be Lost?

I trust what Jesus says. I find it interesting what some people say expounding on the Scriptures but when it comes down to them and Jesus' words I will always choose Jesus' words. I know a few people who have married themselves to certain doctrines that are not found in the Word, that fly in the face of what Jesus said. One of these things is that our loving Father has decided who will be saved and who won't be. This means that no matter what some people decide, salvation will never be available to them.

Can we just review here what Jesus said?

"Then everyone who has faith in the Son of Man will have eternal life. God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them! No one who has faith in God’s Son will be condemned. But everyone who doesn’t have faith in him has already been condemned for not having faith in God’s only Son." (John 3:15-18)

Look at it again. Jesus said "everyone" who has faith in him. Other translations says "whoever believes" in him. I don't need to go any further than these words. It is the promise I rely on, where I have placed my faith and trust, because of the one who said it.

My salvation is not a thing given to me because Yahweh has considered my favoured but because I believed in the one single act where Father sent the Son to die for the salvation of the entire world. Salvation is a free gift for everyone who decides to believe. We will be judged not according to our sins but according to whether we believed or not, whether we placed our faith in the Son of God, trusted his promises and accepted the gift.

Father has chosen to love the entire world of people, even in the midst of our rebellion, in all our ugliness, in all our guilt and shame. It is when we accept the promise that the promise is applied and everything is removed. None of this was done by me; my only part is to accept it, but it is my choice. Father has not chosen some to be saved and some to be condemned. He has chosen us all to be saved but it is up to us. He has given us a choice. That is what Jesus said and that is good enough for me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Being An Island Sucks

You are not meant to be alone. You are not meant to face life here on your own strength. You are not an island. You need people. More accurately, you need your brothers and sisters in Christ. That is how it was designed. It is a spiritual fact and when we fight against it, decide against it we are deciding against Yahweh. Don't do it.

A simple verse to put the truth in focus is:

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)

I make it a point not to argue against the words of Jesus. Even if I may not understand it at this moment I have found it is best policy simply to trust that Jesus is right.

There are a number of challenges with fellow Christians because each person is an individual and no one is perfect. We have certain expectations of each other and we all fail those expectations. We make mistakes, we hurt each other, we don't always follow Yahweh's instructions, we are sometimes selfish, we often try to manipulate things to our advantage. This causes hurt and when we are hurt the first thing we want to do is withdraw. This is natural to us. But we no longer allow our old nature to reign but instead support our new nature.

The first and most important aspect of this new nature is forgiveness. The only way the Body of Christ works is when forgiveness is always our first reaction. The only way we can be brothers and sisters is when we are liberal in our forgiveness. The only way we can make sense of anything is when we learn to forgive in the same manner we have been forgiven.

I am not talking about the forgiveness that says "I forgive but I will not trust you again". The forgiveness we have received from Father says "I forgive you and will continue to forgive you for eternity. I am making myself vulnerable to you and will absorb the pain in order to continue to forgive". Now if you want to talk about a definition of real love, this is it. It is that decision to not withdraw from the people who hurt us but to forgive them and to sacrifice ourselves for them, even if they hurt us again. This is love as defined by Jesus who told us to love each other as he has loved us.

If we choose to withdraw, to be alone, to isolate ourselves, it is because we have failed to understand what it is all about. It means we haven't surrendered our heart to Jesus but have simply paid lip service. This is not a physical or emotional response but a spiritual reality. Jesus transforms the surrendered heart, strengthens it to love as he has loved, unconditionally, with unending forgiveness, willing to be hurt countless times in vulnerability, always being healed by love. We are not an island and when Paul described the Church in 1 Corinthians 12 he ended it by explaining how this impossible thing was possible:

I want you to desire the best gifts. So I will show you a much better way. (1 Corinthians 12:31)

And then he gave us 1 Corinthians 13. Love is how it all works. Love makes the impossible work. Love provokes you to forgive those who hurt you and to draw close to them. These are the decisions we have to make. We have to decide not to withdraw, to stay close, and to make friends out of our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter the cost.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Either Believe Or Don't

I'm a simple guy who likes simple things and perhaps I over simplify my faith, but I don't believe so. I think faith comes down to simply believing Jesus. Christianity is not something you can pick pieces of and reject others. It's an all or nothing relationship. For example, you can't say that Jesus was a good man and yet reject his divinity. By rejecting his divinity you reject Jesus.

Too many Christians treat the Bible like a super market where they can pick out what they want and leave alone that which challenges them too much. Too many Christians are battling demons when demons have no authority over them. Too many Christians are an emotional mess when their heart belongs to Jesus. Too many Christians are frightened by tomorrow when tomorrow belongs to the Lord they trust and serve. It just doesn't add up. How can we say we believe one thing and yet react like we don't?

Here is a simple verse that is suppose to be part of who we are:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

So if this is what we are told, promised, why don't we do it? We put ourselves through so much, trying to find our own solutions when it has been promised that all we have to do is pray. Many of us testify to the fact that Jesus either gave us strength and wisdom to deal with what we faced or removed the "mountain" completely.

What is the sense of worshiping a God you aren't going to trust? What is the sense living to please him if we aren't going to obey him? What is the sense of being a "stand off" Christian when the full advantage our relationship is intimacy with Father?

Believe or don't believe; that is our freedom. Trust or don't trust; that is our decision. But don't be a hollow actor, saying you believe and trust but not actually following through on it. That is simply sad. Jesus made it clear that he only accepts our all. He is not interested in a portion or percentage of us. He requires all of our heart so then take advantage of the benefits of a whole hearted belief: Trust.

Pray and petition, with thanksgiving. Jesus said, ask, seek and knock and it will be given. If you are going to believe then believe it all. Don't live half-heartedly but with all your passion. Jesus loves you with all his passion so love him back the same way.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Does Jesus Want You To Be Rich?

"Ask Jesus whatever you want and you will get it." Kinda cheapens our faith, doesn't it? Reducing Jesus to a glorified Santa Claus distracts us from what really matters. In all Scripture we need to keep in mind that Father is busy preparing us for eternity. He will deny us things that he knows will damage us and he will take us through things he knows will increase us. We don't always have to like it but we should understand it is for our benefit. So when we push the idea that Jesus is here to give us whatever our selfishness desires we undermine true faith.

So let's consider what Jesus did tell us:

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." (John 15:7)

It is so easy to take one verse out of context of the rest of the gospel. We need to remember this came from Jesus who also told a rich man to go sell everything he had, give it to the poor and then come follow him. This is the Jesus who possessed nothing. Poverty is not the purpose here but putting earthly treasures in their proper place is. So what can we take from this verse?

First, it is centered in relationship: "Remain in me". The focus is not our comfort, our desires, our wants, but our relationship in Jesus. This is the Jesus who taught that he is the vine, we are the branches and Father is the gardener who does the pruning. We only have life through Jesus so we desire what he desires and his priorities become ours. We have a Kingdom focus and not a democracy focus. What the King commands is what happens.

His commands, direction, instruction and teaching become the sustenance, the bread, that we consume every day. His words guide us, increase us and direct us: And my words remain in you. We do not live for our own purpose any more so we would never think of asking for something to lavish on ourselves. Our purpose and desire is obedience to Jesus' commands, not because we are afraid but because our love for him provokes us to obedience:

"If you love me, keep my commands." (John 14:15)

It is in this context that Jesus tells us "ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you", because our focus is not on us but on Jesus. He is our desire so we are going to ask for the things that will assist us in serving him and in obeying his commands.

I believe one hundred percent that Father provides for our needs. I can testify to many miracles in which my family was provided for, simply because we prayed. But I cannot teach or support any teaching that twists God's Word to say that he wants us all rich, healthy and spoiled. But Jesus did tell us that Father will meet our needs without us needing to worry about it but we are to focus on the things of the Kingdom.

I have been through some rough times and I am sure I will go through more. Each time I have come to know Jesus more intimately, grown spiritually, have never missed a meal, remained housed and had clothes on my back and the same holds true for all my children. Ask, trust and go all the way with Jesus because he is the only one looking out for your eternity but make sure you know the Word in context of the Word.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is The Problem Simply That We Are Religiously Minded?

There is little doubt that there are challenges to get Christians beyond religious thinking into a vibrant relationship with Jesus. In some way I think it starts with a changing of the perspective of life. Is Jesus an aide to us so we can have a comfortable life here, or is Jesus the reason we live? Answering this will help us understand why people struggle in their Christianity.

Many mistakenly act as if Jesus is their "Get Out Of Jail Free" card. He is the ticket to a blissful eternal life but we get to do what we want here. Such a perspective tells us that people only know Jesus by theory and not personal relationship. Such people will struggle with trust, will be overcome by the struggles of this life and will often fail in their faith. These are those who will abandon Jesus in the storms of life. They say the right words but fail in the practical living.

Those who have entered into a relationship with Jesus have a simple understanding that they no longer live for themselves, no longer make their decisions on their own, no longer own anything and are ready to face anything trusting that Father has it all in his hands. We identify with Paul:

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

I realize that I am stuck on this verse because I think most Christians miss it. I think most of us don't spend enough time meditating on this one single verse:

"The life I live in this body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

I no longer live. I have given up all my rights. I live to please Father. The life I now live I do so by trusting Jesus and all his promises. I live by faith.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Not possible unless I have realized the truth of my giving myself to Jesus and accepting his sacrifice for my sins and the life he offers through the resurrection: I no longer live but Christ lives in me. We live by faith and people of faith are not overly concerned by the things of this earth. We know we are beautiful to Father and we are accepted by him.

Look at your life. Are you overly caught up in this culture? Are you overly concerned with your appearance? Are you affected by the opinions of others? Are there things you possess that you could not live without? Are you worried about your future? Are you occupied by more than just today? Are you hurt by the words of others? Or can you instead say that you no longer live but Christ lives in you; that you live what he wants; that his priorities are yours; that you are content with yourself and this life because it is all in the hands of Father?

Are you religiously minded or are you in an incredible loving relationship with Jesus? Is Jesus an aide to us so we can have a comfortable life here, or is Jesus the reason we live?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Mature Perspective

There are certain principles of Christianity that we know, understand and speak about a lot, but we don't necessarily understand them enough to put them into practice. I am not saying that Christianity is a matter of practicing certain behaviours. Instead it is a knowledge that certain behaviours belong to rebellion and others please Father. With this knowledge we desire to live in a way that pleases and honours Father even if we are powerless to do it. That desire is then empowered by the Spirit in us because we were made a new creation through Jesus, so we are changed bit by bit to be more like Jesus.

When I first started out with Jesus I was a very critical and judgmental person, as I find many new Christians are. It takes us a while to get our footing and to understand that how Father sees things is different then how we see it. We tend to see all the things people do wrong according to the Law. Father sees a creation he loves lost in rebellion against him. He sees a creation he wants to come back to him, to become his children. He sees with love. He would rather forgive than condemn and that is what we need to remember, for ourselves and others.

The struggle for Christians is the tension between forgiveness and justice. It sounds simple enough. If we have been forgiven we should forgive, which is what Jesus instructs us to do. He told some very powerful parables on the danger of accepting forgiveness but not offering forgiveness. Our problem is our sense of justice, wanting people who do wrong things against us to pay for those wrong things. It can take us a while to fully understand from our heart and not just our head how important it is to forgive as we have been forgiven but once the Spirit has made this a part of our character, we see everything differently.

As far as judgement is concerned, when we keep pushing in with Jesus, our perspective changes. We begin to realize that every person is susceptible to the rebellious nature of sin and we all mess up. Each of us is accountable to Jesus and what Jesus thinks is so much more important than anyone else. He knows our struggle and it is the reason that salvation is a gift of grace and not something that we earn. Because it is a gift based on Jesus' actions, the only way I cannot possess it is if I refuse it. This is true for me any everyone else.

With the truth of this accountability we need to apply this simple Scripture:

Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4)

With this shifting of perspective we become cheerleaders for our brothers and sisters instead of judge and jury. When we realize the greatness of Father's love for those who belong to him and even for those who don't, we tread with respect in the lives of others.

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We are all at different levels of maturity, knowledge and understanding. We are all wrong in some part of our understanding but we are all growing. I try to keep in mind what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi:

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. (Philippians 3:15)

We all belong to Jesus and where we are wrong Jesus will bring correction and we are not to judge those who belong to Jesus because Jesus is going to bring them into victory. And we are glad for it. Our great desire, along with the salvation of everyone, is that everyone who is saved will be victorious over everything in their lives. If this is not yet your desire it will be as you grow into it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christianity Is Not Cheap

We live in a world where the great message is that you can be and do whatever you want. Gone are the absolutes; the absolute good and the absolute evil. Now is a time of acceptance, tolerance, accommodating, respect, and broad-mindedness. We are an open society that says, "As long as it isn't hurting anyone you can do whatever you want". And it is in this environment that people create a god after their own image.

If that's what you want then go ahead but don't call yourself Christian while doing it. Christianity is not a "do what you want" religion. It is not a feel good system. It is not a something that has been developed and proclaimed based on people's opinions. It is not cheap; not by a long shot.

Christianity was birthed in the blood of our Saviour who gave his all so that we could be offered it all. It has continued in the blood of those who gave their all in return, who were not afraid of death and who refused to compromise on the truth. They sought nothing for themselves in this world because they had already received everything through Jesus Christ.

Christianity is not shaped and molded by popular thinking. It is not impacted by society. It continues on the foundation of the Bible, the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures that are the only revelation Yahweh has given of himself. It doesn't matter if you hold a different opinion. You are free to have your opinion but if it goes against the revelation of God then it is not Christian but remains your opinion.

As a follower of Jesus, centered on a relationship with him, we stand on the Word of God. If not, we stand on nothing, just a thought or opinion, which doesn't amount to much. Keep in mind that as a follower of Jesus our reality is summed up in this statement:

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

If we don't start with this then we are trying to follow principles without a relationship with the giver of those principles. It doesn't matter how good you are in following those principles, if you can't testify that your life exists only in Jesus, then there is no eternal value in what you do. Salvation does not come from what you do but from relationship with Jesus. What we do comes from this relationship but the relationship starts when we accept that Jesus died for us so our rebellion against Yahweh could be forgiven and now offers us life through him, in relationship.

Christianity is different from all other offerings out there and it costs everything. It is not cheap. It does not allow you to do what you want. It involves your death and a new life through Jesus. This is Christianity. Anything else is false and has no eternal value at all.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Just Do It!

How does anyone achieve anything great? One word: Discipline. If you want to achieve anything in this world it is going to require discipline and hard work. I am sure you have been told this countless times but it still remains true. You want good marks? Discipline yourself to take great notes and to study daily. You want to succeed at work? Discipline yourself to show up on time, know your job well, and work hard. You want to mature spiritually? Discipline yourself to ...

Obviously our spiritual walks start by accepting an invitation we did not earn and we certainly don't deserve. Jesus invited us into an all encompassing relationship with him that will change us from the inside out. Although we have done nothing to achieve this relationship, there are steps we need to take to grow and mature in this relationship. The first step is to learn.

Learning is an important step in everything. Whether it is education, driving, parenting, work, your spiritual walk, you need to learn to progress. For Christians that includes the disciplines involving the Bible. The entire revelation Yahweh has given us concerning himself is found in the Scriptures so it is vital that we know and understand them. The instruction given to Joshua still holds true for every Christian today:

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

It is great to talk about it but it won't happen by itself. We need to develop reading, meditating, memorizing and studying the Word. That's right, reading it occasionally is not going to help. That's like showing up for class or work once in a while and thinking you are going to understand everything. The only way to know and understand the Word is to be in the Word "day and night".

Like any discipline, it may be difficult to get going, especially the memorizing part, but once it is going you will discover how much it changes you, and you will long for it. Because of the Spirit using what we learn to form us, there is power in the Word of God. Without it you cannot, I say it again, cannot, develop spiritually. Just remember:

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." (John 14:21a)

In our relationship with Jesus, doing is a must. If we do not do then the learning has no value.

So sit down and work out a plan. Decide what you are reading and when. Decide a time to meditate on the Word (yes, it is different from reading and studying). Work out your plan for memorization. There are some excellent apps for your phone. Get involved with a group study and enjoy discussing what you are learning. You need this. Please, trust me on this, you need to do this to see the changes you long for.

Be a disciplined Christian; open your Bible and start today.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What Use Is The Bible?

We live in an age of instant information. You can find out about most things with a few key strokes. But not all information is good. Not all sources are reliable. Along with it being the age of information it is also the age of misinformation. Not only do we have access to more of the truth, we also have access to much fault-filled thinking. So how do we judge the truth?

It will not surprise you if I say the only way to judge the truth in all this noise is the Word of God. Of course there is a huge move to discredit the Christian Scriptures because if it can be removed then there will be nothing to stop human faulty wisdom. But for those who call Jesus Lord the Bible is our only measuring rod. It is fine if science and other sources of knowledge confirm the Scriptures but we don't need such confirmation because the Spirit confirms it in us.

Of course there will be many who will not accept the testimony of the Spirit because they reject him too. So if they reject everything of Yahweh how can they expect to see him? They don't and they don't want to, so I have no interest in their opinion of God's Word. Here is the value of the Scriptures:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)

Don't read it too quickly. Look at the order. First we use it for teaching. We have to tell people who Jesus is and what he has done for us. They need to discover the wonder of his person and his actions. We don't teach people from our opinion or what we think but according to what Yahweh has revealed of himself through the Word. We teach the Jesus of the Bible not of popular culture.

Then we use it for rebuking false teachings that are based on the self-important wisdom of man. To rebuke something is to sternly disapprove. So we use the Word to understand what is disapproved by Yahweh. It is not based on our opinion or wisdom but on Yahweh's definition of what is not approved. But we don't leave it there.

We also use the Word to correct. We don't just disapprove but we set it right with the truth. We don't just criticize but also show what is right, what is approved, what Yahweh says is his will and desire for us. It is setting aside the old "wineskin" to put in place the new "wineskin". Those who are interested in truth are not trying to defend what they have accepted as truth but instead desire what Yahweh has revealed as truth.

Then there is the training. There are specific trainers in the Body of Christ as taught in Ephesians 4:

"And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints in ministry ..." (Ephesians 4:11-12)

These trainers use the Word to train us how to live in Jesus. We do not live for ourselves but for the will of Father. However, our flesh has not given up and continues to fight for dominance. These trainers help us to learn to keep the flesh in place to allow the Spirit of Christ to have authority over us.

If we are trying to serve Jesus without the Word then we have nothing to measure what we are doing, whether it is right or wrong. approved or disapproved, truth or false. The Christian must understand that the Word is the game plan, the battle orders, the thing that reveals who Father is, who we are, what he has done for us, and how we are to live for him. So don't try to live your day without out it or you may end up in some very wrong places.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Let's Get It Right

There is a difference between trying to love Jesus by obeying him and obeying him because you love him. We misunderstand this all the time. We hear Jesus say, "If you love me you will obey my commandments" and what we end up hearing is "Obey me to love me". What Jesus was doing was giving us a means to measure our heart condition: If we love him our great desire will be to obey him. If it is not our desire then we know something is wrong.

What we often end up doing is trying to conform our behaviour to Jesus' commandments instead of allowing our heart to be transformed by his love. It is always about the heart condition. It is always about love. Jesus stated that he who has been forgiven much will love much and this is really the starting premise to the most incredible relationship you could ever experience. If we realize the wonder and depth of his forgiveness, we will not have to try to love Jesus, it will flow abundantly from us. If we do not realize the amount we have been forgiven, we will try hard but always fail to love as he desires us to love, and will will be mere actors in our obedience.

Obedience always comes from a heart changed by love, it is never a matter of obedience changing the heart. Jesus taught a lot about this:

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

Don't rush that verse; read it over a few times. In fact, it would do you well to hide it in your heart by memorizing it today. It is another key foundational understanding in our journey of faith. Obedience is not a means to an end but a measuring post to the condition of our heart. Obedience to Yahweh tells us all is well, that our love is authentic. Don't miss the results of a surrendered heart of love: We are loved by the Father and Jesus, and Jesus reveals himself to us.

It is simple, true and too often misunderstood. Don't obey Jesus because he is King and you feel forced. Yahweh doesn't force us to do anything and everything acceptable to him must come from our free choice. Instead, learn to love him so that your obedience is a fruit of that love and you will discover greater truths and more exciting things than you thought possible. Let's get it right.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Spirit Is Willing But The Flesh Is Weak

Have you ever noticed how hard it can be to resist certain sins in our lives? We really want to get away from it, we pray, we confess, we repent but as soon as the opportunity presents itself we are right back into it. There is no sense pretending that we are perfect or that we have got a grip on everything in our life. If someone happens to look behind the right door they will discover what a mess some parts of our lives are in. Thank the Lord that Jesus knows and understands, and that this life is about growth and not perfection.

When Jesus found his disciples sleeping after he asked them to keep watch and pray during the most difficult moment of his life on this earth, what did he say?

"Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41, NKJV)

We recognize that he was speaking to his disciples but he was also speaking to himself. Jesus was faced with temptation in that moment, not because he was unwilling to obey Father but because his flesh wanted nothing to do with the pain of torture. He overcame that temptation by his love for Father and endured the torture that lead to and encompassed the cross.

Jesus knows exactly what we are facing when we are confronted by temptation and everything in us is screaming "run" but our flesh stays put. Someone said it this way: "To overcome temptation one should not run from it but run to Jesus." It may seem like a subtle difference but it is a big one. It indicates where we have put our eyes. If our eyes are on Jesus we will overcome but if we are looking to the temptation we will be overcome. Consider what Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians in Rome:

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1, NIV, 1986)

Our bodies are the weakest part of the process because our bodies will not be redeemed until Jesus' return. We have a new mind and heart but we are stuck in this weak vessel, which speaks loudly to Yahweh's grace and glory. If only we could see ourselves as living sacrifices, not living for our own pleasure but as servants of our God. If we could see the turning away from temptation as being part of our worship, our eyes would be focused on the object of our worship and not on the thing pulling on our flesh. John the apostle was very familiar with this subject as we recognize his message to us :

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4, NKJV)

Jesus' authority in us is greater than any spirit or temptation that belongs to this world or the evil one. Because he has overcome he has made it possible for us to overcome. Be careful where you fix your eyes.

As servants of the Creator of all things, our desire ought to be like Jesus in our attitude of service. No sacrifice is too big or too small considering the mercies he has shown us. Each day, let us offer not only our heart and mind but our bodies as well, as we get our focus off of ourselves and onto our Father. Have an overcoming day in service to our King.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why Are You So Different From Everyone Else?

There are some Bible verses that have an ability to shift our understanding so dramatically that we are unable to see life in the same manner ever again. Or, those same verses can blend in with all the other verses as we read them over again and again with no affect. It really depends on our expectations and attitude as we approach the Word of Yahweh. Let's pick Galatians 2:20 as an example:

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

Now either that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up or it didn't. It either just reminded you how different you are from everyone else or it didn't. It either put all your problems in perspective or it didn't. Christianity is not a religion like other religions. We are not trying to achieve some goal or some point of happiness or bliss. We have received everything we need in Jesus and the only thing that is happening is that we are growing into that relationship.

What other religion declares that all it's subscribers are dead, no longer living? What other religion declares that all of it's followers are possessed and only have life because it is shared with them by the one who possesses them? What other religion declares that the object of worship gave up his life so those who believed would gain a life eternal through him?

Christianity is not a code to live by, a set of rules or regulations, or a philosophy to understand. Christianity is the death of one thing and the birth of another. It is the death of all we were, a cutting off, a casting out, a separation from the old so that we can become the new, reborn, clothed anew, changed for eternity by the one who laid down his life so we could gain it all. Christianity is about dying in what we were and now living something entirely new in Jesus.

We have no life outside of Jesus. His desire has always been obedience to Father and so now that has become our desire because we live in him. What is important to him is important to us. We possess his mind and his heart because we are possessed by him. We voluntarily gave up our old life to gain this new one and now everything is new, everything has been changed, and we will never be like we were ever again.

So yes, some Bible verses open our eyes in a dramatic way to understand what has transpired with the surrender of our life. Now we are in the deep fellowship that Father has desired to have with us from the beginning. We cannot live like those who belong to this world because we now have the mind, the perspective of Jesus Christ. We have been crucified with Jesus. We no longer live but Christ lives in us. The life we live in these bodies we live by faith in the Son of God. We have been changed, transformed. We will never be like we were ever again.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Keeping Your Eyes On The Prize

I write a lot about perspective because perspective matters. How we see the world shapes our understanding and our decision making process. We all have limitations to our perspective which means we all have limitations to our understanding. A two year old sees life much differently than a 6 foot tall adult. Someone in India is going to see life differently than someone in France. Someone who has traveled the world will see the world differently than someone who has never been outside of their hometown.

Christians need to understand that they see everything differently than those who are not in Christ. Part of our struggle is maintaining this different perspective because the perspective of the world is overwhelming. It is also difficult for those Christians who do not want to stand out but would rather just melt into the background of every day life, because our perspective makes us stand out. Remember this fact about what we have experienced:

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

Our values, priorities, goals, direction, purpose are all contrary to those of this world because we have a Kingdom perspective, one that is oriented to eternity and to our King. We are not self-made, self-directed, self-purposed. Ours is the perspective of a gladsome servant, happy to lay down our lives in whatever manner the King requires. Our goal is not a happy life in this place but a joyful one in eternity with our King. It was this fact that enabled Paul the apostle to write:

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

I think most of us understand what Paul called "light affliction" which makes any of our days look like walks in the park. The degree of difficulty doesn't matter nor does it matter that we are free of difficulty. All that matters is that we maintain the proper perspective, "while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which as not seen".

To maintain the proper perspective we need to be in the Word daily, enjoy intimate moments with Jesus, and refresh ourselves in the fellowship of believers. Do not wall yourself in from the world because it is to the world we have been sent, but neither look for support, encouragement or refreshing there. You cannot be encouraged by a contrary perspective and maintain yourself in the Lord. You cannot serve two masters. Continue to refresh your proper perspective in the Lord and keep your eyes on the prize.

Monday, November 3, 2014

We Are Not Without Hope

Have you ever seen anyone happy about going through tough times? We all face them. We all have had our hearts broken, torn apart, stomped all over. We all have faced financial challenges and lost sleep not knowing what we were going to do. We all have faced some sort of bullying and intimidation. We have all been students and had to face the impossibility of it all. We all have had to walk through those dark valleys not knowing where we were going and what it would result in. But have you ever seen anyone glad to be in such times?

We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 4:3-5)

We take pride in our problems? Paul the apostle obviously came from a different planet. Our perhaps he lived in a completely different reality, with a different set of priorities shaped by a vastly different perspective. Most of us will never live what Paul went through and yet we have been invited to live in his same reality; a reality based on the principles of Jesus Christ, governed by a set of spiritual laws provoked in us by the Holy Spirit, made possible by the re-birth we experience through Jesus. Let's consider three statements Paul made before this declaration concerning troubles.

Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (v. 1)

Our new reality states that we have all that we need in Jesus. Because we are guaranteed eternal life, the forgiveness of our sins, we have peace. When we understand the value of this great gift and its importance over everything else, nothing can disturb the eternal peace that is ours.

We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him. (v. 2a)

Praise the Lord, nothing he has done for us is dependent on us. We are in his grace. All things are covered. When we mess up all we have to do is confess it to him to keep the relationship honest but the sin is already covered. It may feel awkward at first because all religion says that you have to pay penance, that there must be some cost for that sin but Jesus paid our cost. We stand in his grace. Oh the wonderful peace we possess.

We boast in the hope of God’s glory. (v. 2b)

Amen! Ours is a living hope every day. We get to experience hope in the best and worst of times. If the sun fails to rise today we still possess hope because Jesus Christ has done it all and we possess his promises. And all of this is worked out in us as we mature in the challenges of living in a fallen world.

We are being perfected for eternity by Father. He is using everything we experience to benefit us. We are in a process of growing up, maturing, so we can grow into the fullness of Jesus. This is why we can laugh and sing and rejoice when the storms are upon us, because we know who Jesus is, who we are in him and what we possess. Trouble benefits us because Father transforms it that way. Trouble produces stuff in us. Trouble produces, endurance. Endurance produces character. Character produces hope. It is a vastly superior reality in which we walk with Jesus.

You are not without hope!