Monday, February 16, 2015

Who Gave You Those Mad Skills?

You think you have mad skills? Are you amazingly good at something? Thinking it is you? Do you know where those skills, talents, gifts, abilities actually come from? Certainly you have had to practice and refine them but where does the seed of the skill originate?

There is a passage in Exodus that always gives me pause to think and reflect on Yahweh's hand in my life. He knit me together in my mother's womb, he spoke into my life, he planted seeds to bloom as I grow, he gave me the raw materials that he would later build on. This includes my skills and abilities. The passage is found in  Exodus 31, a not exciting passage as the Lord was giving Moses the details of the tabernacle that would be built. But consider this:

“See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills." (Exodus 31:2-3)

And for people who think it was a one off:

"Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you." (v. 6) 

Artisans of every stripe, whether painters or builders, bakers or pilots, writers or home makers, have this nature of highs and lows. They can go from feeling really great about their abilities to feeling lost in the darkness of self-doubt. That's because we are trying to define who we are and what we do outside of the intended purpose. Everything we have been given has been intended to bring glory to the Lord and to be focused on his direction. These are not skills and abilities that are for personal glory or fame. These are not skills to be used selfishly but are given as means to bless our God and other people. They are not to be done and stored away in secret but to be put on display and acknowledged as coming from the Lord.

Too often we take the glory for ourselves but if we want to see real skills then we need to allow the power of the Lord to flow through us, bringing those skills to the highest heights. Those skills, talents and abilities are gifts from Yahweh to be used as he directs for his purpose and glory. Acknowledge that and see what he does through you.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Are There Any Trainers Left In The Body Of Christ?

It is strange how we can sometimes completely miss Yahweh's perspective. I grew up with the thought that Israel was the Lord's only people and everyone else he considered to be his enemy. The truth is, the Lord is the Lord of everyone and everything, Israel was simply grown by him so he could reveal himself to everyone else through them. They were a nation of priests through whom the Lord wanted to bring blessings to all other nations. Everything is his:

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ (Exodus 19:5-6)

The Lord had told Abraham that every nation of the earth would be blessed because of him. At the time everyone worshiped something because the need to do so was a natural part of them, they just hadn't heard yet the truth about the Creator. But it was through this nation of priests that the Creator would manifest himself to his creation so the world would know.

The problem was, Israel did not remain a Holy people. They failed to be faithful, obedient and trusting. They looked around and wanted what everyone else had; they didn't want to be special. They eventually rejected the Lord as king and wanted a human king. Yahweh, in his grace, allowed for this, working through imperfect human vessels instead of directly with his people. Ultimately the nation failed because they became too selfish, focused on themselves instead of their God and their purpose. There are many parallels with the Church.

The Father revealed his heart to us through Jesus Christ. He manifested himself in human form, to pay the only acceptable sacrifice for our sins, so we could enter into intimacy with him. Those who accept this become members of his family, are members of the Body of Christ and are set aside as "priests" to reveal Jesus to all nations. For this purpose we have been possessed by the Holy Spirit, God himself.

The Lord has no desire to work through middlemen. He set up a class of trainers (Ephesians 4) but not in the sense of the priesthood. We have all been called as "priests". But we did not want to deal directly with our God and so we divided ourselves into the clergy and the congregation. This was not Jesus' plan or design, although in his grace, he has worked with it. But do we really want to settle for less than what Jesus desired for us as members of the Body of Christ? It frustrates me to know what we are suppose to be compared to what we are.

Are there any anointed trainers left to guide us in the path we were suppose to take? Are there any trainers equipped to train us in the Spirit, to show us how to allow the Lord to manifest himself in us? Is it possible for us to get back to our Lord and the mission we have been given as "priests"? There are nations waiting to see the Lord manifested in us.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sinners Have It Easier

“Oh, how we wish that the Lord had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3)

That was a low point for the new nation Israel. They had been removed from what was familiar, they had no idea where they were going, the idea of freedom was new, and they seemed to have less than what they had when they were slaves. They didn't have much before but at least they had something. In this position, following Yahweh did not seem very attractive.

Who of us haven't been there, wondering if following Jesus was worth it? It is the thought of the immature, those who have only begun to grow in their relationship with Jesus. It is a natural thought and one that is overcome by pressing in to Jesus. The problem comes when we entertain the thought, explore it, follow the progression.

The Lord was leading Israel in the manner that he was because he had purpose in it. There were things he was testing and developing in them. He knew what challenges were ahead and he needed to get them to a place of dependence and trust. It is not easy to give trust during times of transition, facing the unknown, having left the familiar behind but if they were to survive to possess the new land, the Lord had to get them ready.

There are times in these transitions with the Lord that the life of sin looks mighty attractive. There are times we look at those who are enslaved to sin and think "They don't have it so bad". We begin to long for the days when we could "sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread". But that's because we stopped looking ahead and started looking back. Those who continue to look back will find a way to get back to those cooking pots but Jesus warned us:

“No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.” (Luke 9:62)

The fact is that sin is a liar. It looks much more attractive than it is. Forgotten are the consequences of that slavery, the back breaking work for the profit of the masters and none for self; no ability to make choices; no freedom to go where and do what you want. In a moment of desire we think only of the desire and fail to see the catastrophic consequences of that desire. We also forget what we have, which is an incredible future.

No pleasure from sin could possibly compare to the sweet fellowship of love we have with Jesus. No sin can provide for us as he does. No sin can give us peace and fulfillment. And no sin can promise us an eternity like Jesus does. No, there can be no going back for us because we know who loves us, who holds us and who guides us. In him we trust. With him we will go to the end.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Purpose Of Your Testimony

You need to have a testimony. The Lord wants us to have a testimony. A testimony gives witness to the existence and character of our God. It is not good enough to say "I believe in Jesus because my parents did". A testimony is a moment when the Lord does something so big in your life that he leaves no doubt in you. A testimony is something to look back at and remember in moments of doubt. A testimony is the story you tell to those who do not have one as evidence of God's existence and love. He wants each of his children to have one.

The Lord gave a testimony to the entire nation of Israel when he rescued them from their slavery in Egypt. He knew that hardship would fall on them but he was going to use that suffering to give them a testimony that they would always look back at as a nation. It was that "wow" moment and he had planned it from the beginning:

“Go to Pharaoh. I’ve made him and his officials stubborn so that I can show them my signs and so that you can tell your children and grandchildren how I overpowered the Egyptians with the signs I did among them. You will know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 10:1-2)

I don't think there is a better passage in the Bible for summing up the purpose of the testimony he gives to us.

I accepted Jesus as my Saviour at the age of seven, according to my mother's faith but I did not know Jesus until I was 19 years old, when he gave me my testimony. He allowed me to escape into rebellion, to become enslaved by many things of this world. Then he mounted a rescue where he alone saved me from destruction, when he made himself known to me in a way I could never doubt. Regardless of what becomes of me or what the world may say, no one could ever rob me of the testimony I have been given.

As I watch my children face the perils of this world, some lost in rebellion, some questioning without a testimony, I do not fear. I know what the Lord is doing because he did it for me. He is working on their testimony and a moment will come for the "wow", when Jesus will leave no doubt in them as to who he is and how he loves and what he is inviting them into. The choice will always be theirs so my prayers are that they will decide for Jesus, but I know Jesus will present them with that choice.

Once you have your testimony don't ever let go of it. There will be more to follow but it is that first one that will see you through all that lay ahead of you. Share it often and remember it well. He planned it from the beginning.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Why Seek Blessings?

Why do we seek blessings from the Lord? Why do we ask him for a good day, or the strength to make it through? Why do we seek his grace and run to him when we are in trouble? Some would say the answer is obvious: Because we need his help. Yes, but I am asking, what is the underlying motivation? Is it so that we will have a comfortable life or so we don't have to face the harshness of some situations? Is it for our benefit?

Is that what life is about for us, to be comfortable? Is our life to be spent on ourselves, our needs, our desires, our comforts? Are our prayers about us? Are the blessings about us? It is amazing how quickly we can change the selfless instructions of Jesus to be about focusing on us. If I had to summarize the gospel in a few words, I read that we die to ourselves when we accept Jesus, that we live through him, and our purpose is now the Father's will, and his will is that everyone would be saved. Can we say that we live our life with the purpose of seeing the lost saved, or are we living for ourselves and our family?

The psalmist of Psalm 67 sought the blessings of the Lord but let's consider his motivation:

Let God grant us grace and bless us;
    let God make his face shine on us,

so that your way becomes known on earth,
    so that your salvation becomes known among all the nations. (Psalm 67:1-2)

"Lord bless us so that ..." It is a really important "so that". It explains the motivation and I am amazed that this writer understood our purpose better than us.

So that ... your way becomes known on earth. Oh Lord, let your blessings flow through us so that the world would know you, see you, marvel at you. Let us not dam up the blessings by being selfish but may we be a conduit for everyone around us.

So that ... your salvation becomes known among all nations. Oh Lord, let your blessings flow through us so others would be convinced of your love, mercy, compassion and grace. May your blessings in me be a sign post to your salvation.

Mercy, grace, compassion, forgiveness has been given freely to us and we in turn are to freely give it out. It did not cost us. I like how Jesus said it:

You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment. (Matthew 10:8)

Let us seek the Lord's blessings understanding their purpose and may he shine brightly in all that we do and in all the blessings we receive.

Monday, February 9, 2015

We Have What They Longed For

If you stop noticing sunsets you quickly forget the wonders that surround you. This is the reality of our ever changing relationship with Jesus. In the carnality of our thinking we lose our spiritual sensitivity and the things of this world look more and more attractive. Before we know it we stop seeing the miracles and signs that surround us; we stop seeing Jesus in our day. We will continue to go through the motions but now it is only religion and the relationship is lost. How can it be?

We are like spoiled children, so use to all our privileges that we lose the wonder of them. Sometimes we need to spend some time in the Old Covenant scriptures to be refreshed in our privileged reality. Psalm 61 is an example of this refreshing. The writer needed help. He needed protection and he sought the Lord. He needed to be encouraged and strengthened. He needed the presence of the Lord:

God, listen to my cry;
    pay attention to my prayer!

When my heart is weak,
    I cry out to you from the very ends of the earth.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I am

because you have been my refuge,
    a tower of strength in the face of the enemy. (Psalm 61:1-3)

The writer only needed to experience the presence of Yahweh to receive all that he wanted. And when he experienced it he desired never to leave his presence:

Please let me live in your tent forever!
    Please let me take refuge
    in the shelter of your wings! (V. 4)

Unlike this psalmist, this experience is available to us every single day of our lives, all we have to do is open our eyes to it. Jesus never wants us to be outside of the experience of his presence. He is always with us, as he promised, but it is up to us to decide to be sensitive to him. If we keep our mind and heart occupied by the things of this world, things contrary to his character, we will grow insensitive. There is nothing else for it except for us to decide every morning to love him with all our passion and to expect him to do great things through us every day.

We are a privileged people and the psalmist, prophets and all other people found in the old covenant could only dream and long for what is ours every day. So don't waste it. Live for Jesus to the fullest of all your passion and walk with him daily.

Friday, February 6, 2015

All That We Need

It seems it is hard for us to comprehend our relationship with Yahweh. On one hand we have the intimate relationship of parent child. On the other hand we are dedicated servants/soldiers in the mission at hand. Far too many of us concentrate on the first, thinking the purpose of Jesus is to enhance our life in this world. We always seem to be seeking for ourselves but we have been called to serve Jesus by serving the lost. We are to lay down our lives in love so that the lost may hear the good news of Jesus. Often it means forgoing the comfortable life.

We sometimes fail to understand that we have not been chosen because we are special. It isn't because we have some special talent or ability. Yahweh is all sufficient and needs nothing from us but has chosen to work through us. It means he is responsible for equipping us with what we need to serve him. He only requires our availability and obedience. Do you remember Moses' excuse for trying to get out of his calling?

“Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11

What a crazy question. Yahweh's response is telling. He did not try to build up Moses' confidence in his ability; he reminded him of what was important:

“I’ll be with you." (v. 12)

And that is all we need. The Word tells us again and again that Yahweh does not need anything from us. Our strength is not found in any tools we may have at our disposal. He does not need our intelligence or education. He does not need our gifts and talents. To serve him we need only trust and obey, the equipping will follow. When we step out we do so with confidence in the fact that he is with us. What were Jesus words to his disciples? After he gave them their instructions, their commission to go throughout the world telling people about the plan?

"Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” (Matthew 28:20)

And that is all we need.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Shame Of Guilt

Have you ever experienced guilt? Silly question. We have all faced guilt at one time or another. But what about guilt that overwhelms, even paralyses, preventing us from responding to people properly? What is surprising is to discover how many Christians have guilt even though they have received forgiveness. I thought Christians would be experts in forgiveness, considering how much Jesus taught on the subject.

For Christians to be paralysed by guilt means they have not understood the grace and love of Jesus; it means they have either not accepted, not trust or not understood Jesus' forgiveness. Such Christians live like Joseph's brothers, seeking forgiveness for the same thing over and over again. Joseph had already forgiven his brothers many years previous, when they first entered Egypt. Yes, they had done a terrible thing against him but Joseph recognized Yahweh's hand in it and told them that he forgave them. But it seems that all the years that followed, these brothers still carried the burden of guilt.

When their father, Jacob/Israel, died they collectively thought that Joseph would now get his revenge:

When Joseph’s brothers realized that their father was now dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us, and wants to pay us back seriously for all of the terrible things we did to him?” (Genesis 50:15)

How frustrating for Joseph but how sad for these brothers who carried this needless burden for so long. Joseph assured them:

“Don’t be afraid. Am I God? You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today. Now, don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” (v. 19-21)

Grace in all its beauty. How much more so with Jesus? When Jesus says it is forgiven, he means exactly that; it is forgiven. It has been removed from us, never to be thought of again. He has done this for all our offences against Yahweh; the past, the present, the future. His love for us is that great, far greater than we can comprehend. This too is a thing of faith, trusting that because Jesus said it, it is true. There is no place for guilt in our lives.

Forgiveness is a thing we must come to understand and accept. It is important so that we can receive and accept forgiveness but also so that we can forgive. We can never truly be forgivers of offences against us until we are able to accept Jesus' forgiveness. So, throw off that guilt and walk in the grace that has saved all those who have called on the name of Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Who Is In Charge Of Your Life?

Who is in charge? We have this great illusion of freedom but we aren't truly free. We can't do whatever we want. There are laws that we must follow. Beyond that there are all the government regulations. I can't just open a business wherever I want to sell whatever I want. There are zoning regulations, permits, permissions and approvals that need to be sought. I can't build whatever house I want wherever I want. I can't even really say whatever I want to say, as much as we say we have free speech. Free speech, within reason, we say. We are accountable for everything we say and do, and often the things we want to do are not permitted. This same lack of freedom also exists spiritually.

In many ways we are enslaved spiritually whether it is to sin or to the righteousness of Jesus. The Spirit explained through Paul:

Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, that you are slaves of the one whom you obey? That’s true whether you serve as slaves of sin, which leads to death, or as slaves of the kind of obedience that leads to righteousness. (Romans 6:16)

Now if we have voluntarily and willingly submitted ourselves in obedience to Jesus then we know that we no longer own our lives. Our longing is the will of Father so then we should not expect that anything happens by chance or that anything is meant to destroy us. The Word tells us that he uses everything for our benefit. How Yahweh works is seen in the life of Joseph.

Joseph had it bad. His brothers were jealous so got rid of him by selling him. He ended up a slave in Egypt and eventually an imprisoned slave. He had every right to think his life had gone off the rails but he stayed faithful and believing. He soon found himself in the courts of the king and soon responsible for the country. When he was re-united with the brothers who had sold him Joseph was able to say in truth:

God sent me before you to make sure you’d survive and to rescue your lives in this amazing way. You didn’t send me here; it was God who made me a father to Pharaoh, master of his entire household, and ruler of the whole land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:7-8)

"You didn't send me here; it was God." Who's in charge of your life? You? Your boss? Circumstances? Or are you willing to see how Yahweh is using you to bring about his will in the lives of others? Are you willing to see the challenges in your life as Yahweh's way of positioning you for his plan? Are you willing to continue serving with all your passion regardless where and to whom he sends you? Who is in charge in your life?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Where Are All The Miracles?

Is Jesus more than a philosophy, a collection of teachings, a code to live by, a doctrine of love? Is the Bible just a collection of laws to follow, a type of moral code? Is Christianity nothing more than a collection of stories to illustrate principles of life that might be a good idea to put into practice? Is it just something to give us a false hope in a world lacking hope? I don't believe it is but the way we live as Christians certainly makes it appear that way.

Some of the most popular movies are those that add a bit of magic to life. We love to escape from our boring, mundane and grey world by slipping into fantasy, even if it is for a mere few hours. Yet, we deny the fantastic colours of life that are demonstrated to us in the Word of God. We reduce Jesus to a philosophy and the Bible to a collection of laws to follow. We strip away all the power, the wonder, the miraculous, the spiritual. After all, it is easier to believe what we can put into practice than to believe in what we cannot see.

I want us to think of Joseph for a moment. He was nobody special, just a guy like you and me. He had a lot of tragedies that he had to face and he was at a really low place; a slave, imprisoned in a foreign land for a crime he hadn't committed. But Joseph was a man who had experienced the unexpected from Yahweh through dreams and he had been given the gift of dream interpretation. Little did he know that this gift would lead him to ruling Egypt, a land in which he had entered as a slave. But Joseph never for a moment thought that this gift came from himself:

“It’s not me. God will give Pharaoh a favorable response.” (Genesis 41:16)

Now if we fast forward to Daniel we discover an even more amazing thing. Again, Daniel was a prisoner in a foreign land but Yahweh had lifted him up to a position of importance. He too was a receiver and interpreter of dreams. Only this time the king didn't just want an interpretation. The king wanted someone to tell him what his dream was without being told. Again, the servant of the Lord did not take credit for what was from Yahweh:

“Sages, enchanters, dream interpreters, and diviners can’t explain to the king the mystery he seeks. But there is a God in heaven, a revealer of mysteries, who has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the days to come! Now this was your dream—this was the vision in your head as you lay in your bed:" (Daniel 2:27-28)

Now fast forward to the first century Church where they were just learning who they were in Jesus, what this new creation looked and felt like. Empowered by the Spirit, who all of us have received from Jesus, each believer was given a demonstration of the Spirit. They were no longer members of a grey world but a colourful Kingdom:

A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)

That's you and me, empowered by the Spirit, to demonstrate the reality of Yahweh to a dying world. But to operate in the Spirit we must walk in the Spirit. We have to become intimate with him every moment of our day. The thing about these people I have mentioned is that they were completely sold out to Yahweh. I doubt you would find them in a movie theatre, a Super Bowl game or anything else that would distract them from their relationship with Yahweh. The reason we don't see the power in the Church today is because we are too distracted. We have allowed the world to become so loud in us we can't hear the Spirit so we settle for living laws and discussing philosophies.

The Spirit is calling us back, calling us to repentance and sanctification. He is calling us back to our mission and purpose. He is calling us back to our first love, our Lord Jesus Christ. Are we brave enough to respond?

Monday, February 2, 2015

God Is With Us

Are you aware of the presence of the Lord? We have the knowledge he is with us, the Bible tells us that he is. There are even times when we feel moved during worship or during a really good sermon but many people do not have a daily awareness of Jesus' presence with us. There are lots of reasons why; busy schedule, occupied mind in other things, lots of tv or music, worries, fears, uncertainties. All kinds of things keep us from the awareness of Yahweh's presence. It is a shame because it is one of the greatest gifts he has given to us, fellowship with him.

Being aware of his presence is also being aware of all of his promises. It is a reliance on him for strength and wisdom throughout the day. It is important to understand that just because we have thought a thought does not mean that it is the Spirit speaking to us. If we have ignored him for weeks, neglected the Word, haven't given him a moment in days, why would we think we are sensitive enough to hear the Spirit? It is those we open themselves to the awareness of his presence who often hear from him.

Consider Joseph for a moment. Here was a man so fixed on Yahweh that he even received dreams and visions from him. His brothers hated him but even when they sold him and he ended up in slavery Joseph did not lose his awareness of Yahweh:

The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man and served in his Egyptian master’s household. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful. (Genesis 39:2-3)

That's the amazing and important thing here: It is obvious to people when Yahweh is with us. This is Joseph, pre-Jesus, pre-Holy Spirit. So how much more should we be aware of the presence of the Lord, us being possessed by the Holy Spirit? How much more should people be able to see that Yahweh is with us because of the Spirit in us?

We should be seeking the awareness of his presence throughout the day so we may have success in everything we do in Jesus' name. It isn't about us. We should be seeking this so that we can serve people in the strength and wisdom of the Lord. His presence should permeate us so that he is able to impact everyone we come into contact with each day. They should be able to look at us and know the Lord is with us. Seek his face today.