Thursday, March 31, 2016

You Are Not A Victim

It frustrates me when Christians play the part of victim. Victimized Christians do not know who they are in Jesus and it is a shame that they are wasting the precious days they have been given in this world. Paul wrote something to Timothy that is worth your consideration today. He starts with this:

I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. I’m sure that this faith is also inside you. (2 Timothy 1:5)

Paul first reminds Timothy that he has been raised and trained in a life of faith. It was demonstrated to him in his mother and grandmother. Paul encourages Timothy by stating that he is confident that this same faith resides in Timothy. Then:

Because of this, I’m reminding you to revive God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of my hands. (v. 6)

I like this. Because of this faith Timothy I am reminding you to operate in it. Live by the Spirit. Do what you have been equipped to do. The Spirit provides the equipping but we are responsible to operate in it. Then Paul writes what we all must grasp:

God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled. (v. 7)

This is not personality. Personality type does not play in your calling and equipping. Look at many of the servant's of the past who tried to get out of their calling with excuses, like Moses and Jonah. It has everything to do with the spirit he has given to us and it is one of boldness. He has equipped us with his power, his love and the power to be self-controlled. This is good stuff that we simply have to act on, in faith that it is so.

It has been this way since the beginning but even more so now that we are possessed by the Spirit of God. When Moses was about to die he addressed the nation and told them to possess the land because Yahweh had told them to possess it. He encouraged them:

Be strong! Be fearless! Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the Lord your God is the one who marches with you. He won’t let you down, and he won’t abandon you. (Deuteronomy 31:6) 

Two things right there are the source of our boldness. First, our God is always with us, going before us, always preparing the way. He abides in us. Psalm 139 states we can never escape him, even more now that he lives in us. This is for our encouragement.

The second thing I want to highlight : He won't let you down. That is a big one all on it's own and can only be understood in the context of a loving, intimate relationship. Jesus promised that he would be with us until the end of this age. He said his desire was for us to be one with him in the same way that he is one with Father. The Way, the Truth and the Life is in you. The one who declared that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, is intimate with you. The one who stated that he is the Resurrection walks with you every day.

Paul wrote that we are more than conquerors, we are overcomers. We are not victims. We are not powerless. We are not timid, because our God has given us the authority to forgive. Thank about that for a moment. The power does not rest in the hands of the offender but in the hands of the offended. Without your forgiveness, the offender will have to give account for their actions. With your forgiveness that offence is wiped away. By offering forgiveness you are also set free from the cage of victim. That is power and that is what has been given to you with the responsibility to love your enemies.

We cannot and must not live with a victim mentality. Jesus has made us greater, more powerful than people can grasp. Now walk in the boldness you have been given and dare to love where others have failed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Simplicity Of Intimacy

We are great at complicating simple things. Simplicity is not that hard but it does mean removing a lot of junk. It means cutting out the unnecessary. It means reducing life to the basics. But we like our frosting. We like the frills. We enjoy the clutter. We take solace in the noise. The problem is, simplicity is avoiding the complicated by avoiding the clutter we love.

We say that we want intimacy with Jesus. We say that we want to be strong and sensitive to the Spirit. We say that we want to live for God and God alone, but then we complicate our lives by filling it with clutter. Jesus told us this:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how terrible that darkness will be!" (Matthew 6:22-23)

Sounds all philosophical but it is straight forward. If you want God, seek God. If you want the world, seek the world. If you want God, stop entertaining yourself in this world. If you want the world, don't mess yourself up with God. If you want intimacy with Jesus, stop making love with the world. If you want to be pleasured by the world, stop playing around with God.

It is a really bad place to be, in a relationship with one person when your lusting over another. This best describes most of us in a relationship with Jesus. We want Jesus but not enough to make ourselves unavailable to other lovers. It makes for a bad marriage and it makes for a weak relationship with Jesus. It waters down our worship and makes us liars to ourselves. We convince ourselves that we are okay, that this is normal because we are "only human".

But we aren't only human.

If we had the exclusive relationship we are suppose to have with Jesus we would know that we have been changed by this marriage, that we are no longer what we once were, that we are now a new creation. The old is gone. The new has come. Jesus stated to us:

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other." (v. 24)

You can't have two lovers. You can't give your heart to two people. You can't be married and prostitute yourself and expect to maintain intimacy with your husband. In the end, simplicity is only complicated if we are double minded.

If it is intimacy with Jesus that we desire understand, it is only possible when we forsake all other lovers and devote ourselves fully to our Lord. Not complicated unless we make it complicated.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pursuing Treasure

I wish I could be perfect. But I am not. But I want to be. That's the reason Jesus hasn't given up on me.

I don't ever want to be a fence sitter. I would rather burn hot with passion for Jesus or cold due to negligence. In both conditions I am open to the Lord for encouragement and correction. However, if I just get by, think I am okay when I am actually messed up, I am a fence sitter, unteachable,  not correctable, and right in my own understanding. Jesus can't do a thing with that and he said he would spit me out.

Knowing this, I always want to be open to the direction of the Spirit, without excuse, when I study the Word. I can't decide that it is impossible to live what Jesus taught. I can't close my mind to it and say "I am only human". I can't decide that these are simply ideals. Jesus taught these things because they are the heart of the Father and so need to become my heart, through the transformation of the Spirit in me.

There are some basic things in our understanding that we are either missing, ignoring or neglecting. Here's a simple one:

“Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them." (Matthew 6:19-20)

Simple in instruction but majorly difficult in application in our current age. Don't gloss over this. Think about it for a minute. It is important because Jesus concluded this instruction with this truth:

"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (v. 21)

We were designed to be a passionate people for the things of God. When we aren't, we become dull and distracted. There are plenty of things fighting for our attention. But everything here is temporary. They have no eternal value so we should not invest time and emotions into them. We enjoy them while we have them but when they are gone we don't mourn their loss.

It is more important for us to put our energy into people. We need to learn to love, not those who love us, but the difficult people, the ugly people, the self-centered people. We need to find passion to show kindness in the face of hate and patience in the tidal wave of disobedience. We have the challenge of being a living testimony to the goodness and glory of Yahweh. This means we never allow ourselves to be overcome by the things of this earth and instead allow the eternal things to shine through, like joy, peace, patience, kindness, love.

We can't use the excuse that we aren't perfect, just forgiven. This gives us a license to allow our flesh to reign instead of the Spirit. Our every waking moment should be filled with a desire to live for Jesus and not ourselves. Can you imagine what our lives would look like if we cherished the things of the Kingdom more than the useless temporary treasures of this earth? That is what we are suppose to be growing toward.

So seriously, what are your treasures? Don't be vague. Don't sit on the fence. Don't think you are okay. Make a list of everything that is important to you. Be honest. Then decide if you are following the directives of our King. If not, confess it and express your desire. Be open to change and invite the Spirit to change your perspective.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Be Bold!

Are you bold? It takes a lot of confidence to pull off bold. It helps to know who you are and to have embraced your purpose and direction. As we examine the Cross this week we should take note that Jesus did not just give himself over to death on the cross; he embraced it with boldness and determination. He knew this was the will of Father and it was his purpose to carry out his will. So he stepped forward in the confidence of the relationship.

People with experience are bold. People who believe what they are saying are bold. People who trust the authority they represent are bold. We see it in all kinds of people throughout our day from teachers to police officers, from doctors to parents. But their boldness is limited to the limited boldness of this world system. For Jesus to step out in such boldness he had to believe in something beyond this limited world; he had to believe in the plan of Father and that belief came from his relationship of trust.

Let's shift from the Cross for a minute and consider Joshua. Joshua was Moses' assistant and had been trained under him for over forty years. That's longer than the working career of most people. He got to see first hand the incredible relationship between Yahweh and Moses, got to experience the miracles, saw Moses intercede countless time on behalf of the unfaithful Jews, and became the general of the national army under the guidance of Moses.  So when Joshua was appointed by Yahweh to take over from Moses as leader, entering the promised land, he had a great relationship of trust with the Lord.

Joshua was able to step out in boldness because he knew his calling and purpose, and he personally knew the one who called him:

"Be brave and strong, because you are the one who will help this people take possession of the land, which I pledged to give to their ancestors." (Joshua 1:6)

It should be no different for us. We have been called by Jesus to more than just our personal salvation. That salvation allows us to enter into a greater relationship with Yahweh than either Moses or Joshua had with him. They were not one with God by the Holy Spirit and we are. Our boldness should be even greater because our calling is specific and directly from the Lord:

“All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20)

“It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

Boldness. That is what we have because of our intimate relationship with Jesus, knowing and understanding our purpose. It doesn't matter what anyone else in this world says, we know what we must do. Jesus had to face the cross without the support of his disciples because even they tried to turn him from it. They did not understand, but they understood after the Resurrection. Jesus had to face the cross alone, simply knowing it was Father's will. It is the same reason we can face what we must, alone if need be, with people against us. We know who we are in Jesus. We know who he is in us. And we know our purpose.

"Be brave and strong, because you are the one who will help this people take possession of the land."

"God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled." (2 Timothy 1:7)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Was Jesus Anti-Wealth?

We have a long way to go in changing our mentality to a Kingdom mentality. Too many of us are trying to live for Jesus by the standards of this world. We allow the values of this place to shape our thinking and reactions. It is hard not to when we are inundated with advertising for such things throughout our day. As well, we are now influenced by opinions we read many times a day through social media. We don't even balance this with proper Bible study. As Christians we want maximum benefit with minimum effort.

Most of us are stuck with the mentality of always wanting to better our situation. Few of us find contentment with what we have. The message we hear all the time is one of growth in our position and possessions. We fail to see this as an affront to the principles of the Kingdom that speak of greater riches than these meager earthly things.

We want more; we want bigger; we want better. That is what drives the economies of this world. The movie "Wall-e" had a good message about this; the Bible has an even better one.

Are you a Christian? Then you need to understand that you have been told by your King to put the riches of this world in their place:

Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

We read it, teach it, preach it but few find the desire to apply it. Let's be clear about this because Jesus was clear about it:

“Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

In fact, Jesus told us to see money, not as something to possess but, as something to use; a tool:

I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes. (Luke 16:9)

An important thing to understand is that Jesus stated that the rich have received their reward and there will be none to follow:

But how terrible for you who are rich,
    because you have already received your comfort. (Luke 6:24)

Jesus is not anti-wealth, it's just he knows how it pollutes the hearts of most people:

 “I assure you that it will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.” (Matthew 19:23-24)

When we are mature in our relationship with Jesus, in our understanding of the Kingdom and in our desire to serve, some will be trusted with wealth. It is something Father wants us to have so that he can use us in these areas for the salvation of souls. But he is not about to place such a burden on those who will be destroyed by it. Wealth has a way of becoming an idol for us, changing our dependence on God to our dependence on our money.

It is better to be content with what you have and seek greater things of the Kingdom, grow and mature, staying dependent on the Lord, than to run after things that will consume and destroy you. Not a new or strange message but one that most of us will politely ignore.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Responding To Hate

Belgium has been attacked today, as France was attacked, as Russia was attacked, as many countries have been attacked in the past. It is a good illustration of how Jesus has transformed us to live by a different code than this world, to have different values and to live by a different perspective. It is vital that, as his followers, we die to the desires of our first nature and live in the Spirit, with our new nature.

Jesus called us to be something different, a new people, a new nation, to live in a new way so that the world would look in and Father would receive the glory for what they see. It is more than a love that we put on; it is a love that permeates everything that makes us unique. Let me remind you how it is suppose to look, as Jesus taught it. Remember, this cannot be achieved by our effort but instead in cooperation with the Holy Spirit:

 “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you." (Luke 6:27-31)

Unfortunately too many of us call on the name Jesus without submitting to Jesus. We think it is okay to sing his praises and curse people. We think it is okay to react to the world in our flesh while fellowshipping with God in our spirit. We think this and use the excuse that we are human. But we aren't human. We are a new creation and we have been empowered to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to live differently than the rest of creation so Father will receive glory. Stop making excuses, we are going to be held accountable. Don't hate those who want to see you dead, and don't fear them; pray for them.

“If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate." (Luke 6:32-36)

There is no creature on this planet that should compare to the forgiving and generous character of a follower of Jesus. We are possessed by his Spirit and thus live by his character. When we fail we are corrected but we are never permitted to excuse the failure. When we fail we should understand that we have weakness in our relationship with Jesus. When we are intimate with him we are strong in his character, sensitive to the Holy Spirit's guidance.

“Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.” (Luke 6:37-38)

Why do we fail to know this is how we live, react, respond? When we fail why do we think it is okay? Why do we not understand the need to reject our error, to confess and repent of it, to ask Jesus for greater intimacy to live in the manner that pleases him? If Jesus is our Master we can't just ignore his words, they were given to enable life in us. 

We are different than all the rest because we have the character of Jesus. Hate is never justified. If Jesus could ask forgiveness for those who crucified him certainly we can ask for and give forgiveness to those who do harm to us. Our calling is a higher calling of sacrificial love. So let us love those who see themselves as our enemies, those who persecute us, those who want to do harm to us; just like Jesus.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cleaning House

In the final week before the crucifixion Jesus was in no mood for fooling around. These were the last few days and every moment mattered. It makes sense then that we would pay close attention to what he said and what he did with his time.

After arriving in the city to much fanfare from those who knew him, Jesus went to the Temple. It only makes sense that this is the first place he would go; it was the center of all religious activity. More personally, it was his Father's house. Imagine the disappointment he felt when we walked in and found a market place. I am sure that every Israelite who made the pilgrimage felt a similar disappointment. It may even be the same disappointment that seekers of God today feel when they walk into some of our churches.

In his authority Jesus stepped in and chased the marketers out and told everyone who was willing to listen:

"He said to them,'It’s written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you’ve made it a hideout for crooks.'” (Matthew 21:13)

Imagine how he feels about what we have done with his Church, our mentality of marketing, which has turned the Church into big business. We can justify it many different ways but we need to ask ourselves some honest questions about purpose, perspective, power, expectation. Then we need to look at what Jesus did after he cleansed the Temple:

"People who were blind and lame came to Jesus in the temple, and he healed them." (v 14)

In the days to follow Jesus will heal many more people and will teach great spiritual insights in the Temple. Today, we have turned our Churches into social work centers, running food programs, day cares, AA meetings, exercise groups and many other great programs, to show that the Church is relevant today. Yet, we fail to do what Jesus did.

We pray with people as a way of encouraging them, but we don't have people lining up to be healed. They don't come because we don't believe it happens. It is not that they don't believe; we don't believe. God's House, the Church, is no longer a house of prayer, where God moves and miracles happen. We are a place of business, managing our money, and meeting as many needs as we can within our means.

There is a difference between good stewardship and faithless business. People come seeking and they are disappointed with what they find. They are not looking for a group to help them with their hospital bills; they want healing. They are not looking for someone to call in their loneliness; they want the emptiness to be filled with Jesus. They don't want a long list of suicide prevention numbers; they want the spirit of depression to be cast out. They aren't looking for a floor show; they want to see God.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Nothing Going Right?

There are benefits to living in obedience to Jesus. There are consequences for living in rebellion to Jesus. This is a basic fact that has been true since the beginning of creation. All Yahweh wanted from Adam and Eve was their love, and love means obedience; Jesus taught us that, in case it wasn't clear. Adam had one rule to follow: Don't eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One rule and he could not maintain obedience.

Just outside of the Promised Land, Yahweh gave some final instructions to Israel before he took Moses from them. He made it clear to them that his intention was to bless them beyond imagining so that he would be glorified through them. They would become the greatest nation. All they had to do was be entirely devoted to him, obey his instructions. He also made it clear that if they entered into rebellion against him there would be consequences; the blessings would be reversed, and everything that had been promised against their enemies would happen to them. Nothing would go right for them, even if they worked hard.

Jesus gave us many promises but he wanted to make it perfectly clear for us that only those who loved Yahweh with all they had would be considered as part of him. He was loving us with all that he had and the relationship required the same from us. The manifestation of love in our lives is obedience and anything less is a pale version of love.

Our Father's great passion is an eternal relationship with us. He paid the price for our admission and he continues to pursue those who have rejected him. He also brings correction for those who say they are his children and yet continue to rebel against him. You know who you are. We are all in that number from time to time, but he loves us enough to correct us.

This should be a good warning to us when suddenly nothing is going right, no matter how hard we are working. If everything is failing you need to examine your relationship with Jesus and your actions. If you have become distracted or perhaps enslaved by a particular sin, prosperity and success will be halted to bring your attention to this fact. It isn't a lack of love but the fact that he values eternity with us over blessings on this earth. His intention is for us to have both but he will remove the one to ensure the other.

The Scriptures explain it this way:

Bear hardship for the sake of discipline. God is treating you like sons and daughters! What child isn’t disciplined by his or her father? But if you don’t experience discipline, which happens to all children, then you are illegitimate and not real sons and daughters. (Hebrews 12:7-8)

This same passage also tells us that no one enjoys correction but we should be mature enough to understand the benefits:

No discipline is fun while it lasts, but it seems painful at the time. Later, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

If you are in rebellion, have become disobedient or even distant from Jesus, stop it. Repent and get back to walking in his righteousness. His great desire is to bless you so the Father will be glorified through the blessings he will pour through you. He loves you enough to correct you, so understand what is happening in your life today.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Out With The Old, In With The New

There is a failure of God's children to grasp what Jesus has done. We are trying to pour the new wine into the old wine skin. Unfortunately too many of us don't even understand the problem, let alone the solution.

The religious leaders of Jesus' three year mission on this earth were challenging why Jesus was not following all the customs of Israel, doing things the way they have always been done. Jesus responded by saying that if you put new wine into old wine skins the wine skins will burst, ruining the wine skin and the wine.

Wine skins were made of animal parts and when they were new they were flexible. New wine is still giving off gases. This was not a problem in the flexible new wine skins but disastrous in the old, which were no longer flexible. Jesus said a lot with this simple truth.

Jesus came to die for us but also to introduce the Kingdom to those who would become the children of God. He also came to show us how to live in obedience to Father, controlled by the Spirit. But the Kingdom was not like the old system which was rigid and fixed. Jesus was bringing what was alive, moving and breathing to something that had lost its life. It did not fit into the old system.

The Kingdom would be introduced into the hearts of people. These hearts could not be caged and left inflexible. It had to be able to breathe. Minds could not be caged but needed to be open to the unlimited possibilities of Yahweh. Jesus freed us from the cage of sin and the cage of man's system. At last, the Holy Spirit was bringing the Kingdom to rule in the children of God. Jesus warned us:

"I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it's not possible to see God's kingdom." (John 3:3)

The old had to die, pass away and the new had to be introduced and used. We had to become new vessels for the new wine. But humanity has a problem with remaining new and flexible. Three hundred years after the Church was birthed in the Spirit, we returned to our religious systems. During the 2 thousand years that followed Jesus has continued to want to revive his Bride. Many different awakenings have happened but within a short period of time man's desire for systems has put out the fire of the Spirit.

We currently live a form of godliness but we deny the power of God. We are content with intellectual pursuit or emotional infatuation but we don't want the power because it moves us away from the familiar and comfortable. To live by the Spirit means denying our dependence on ourselves and the acceptance of dependence of our God for all things. It means giving up control and giving it to the Spirit. It means taking off the old garments and putting on the new. It means throwing away the old wine skin in favour of the new. But look at what Jesus said at the end of this passage:

"No one who drinks a well-aged wine wants new wine, but says, 'The well-aged wine is better.'" (Luke 5:39)

Jesus knows us so well. The old established Church always tries to kill the newest move of the Spirit. We like to hold on to the old because it is familiar and comfortable. But Jesus never told us that he wanted us comfortable. I pray we will decide that whatever Yahweh wants is far better than anything we want. Obedience is the only road to intimacy with Jesus.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

It Is About Time We Start Living For His Glory

It is our nature to doubt. We don't the anything we have not seen for ourselves. At one time we trusted the news, authority, parents but now we question everything. Some of this may be goo but there is a line we should not cross and we have; we doubt our Creator. Even followers of Jesus don't trust as they aught.

Ask any Christian if Jesus heals people and you will find a wide range of answers, but the bottom line will be, "If he wills". It is recorded in Scripture that every person who approached Jesus for healing was healed. When they stated that he could heal them his reply was "I am willing". It is not faith to say "God can heal". It is faith to say "God will heal". Of course he is willing; he wants to repair all brokenness in whatever form it is found. But it is easier for us to believe in an impotent God than one who is omnipotent.

This is not a unique problem with the Church today. As we read the history of Israel we can recognize that faith does not come naturally to us. The Israelites had the constant reminder of Yahweh's presence while they traveled the desert. They saw the great miracles Yahweh did to rescue them from Egypt. They experienced his presence on the mountain. Yet, when he told them to possess the land he had given them they refused because they were afraid. There was no trust. Moses admonished them:

"But you had no faith in the Lord your God about this matter, even though he went ahead of you, scouting places where you should camp, in fire by night, so you could see the road you were taking, and in cloud during the daytime." (Deuteronomy 1:32-33)

"You had no faith in the Lord your God." What a terrible statement, yet how many of us are just as guilty. We have to make up our mind, he is either who he says he is or he isn't; he either saves or he doesn't. He says he heals. Does he or doesn't he. We can't keep sitting on the fence.

Our God loves us and demands intimacy with us. He has poured himself into us and expects us to live with boldness and fullness knowing he wants to reveal his glory through us. Just read the gospels and see what Jesus did and understand he said to go and do likewise. But we are too afraid that it is all a lie, that it won't work, that there is no power, so we would rather live with a "possibility" without knowing the reality, to avoid failure.

A life without faith is a life without risk (although there is no risk in a real relationship with Jesus), is a life without growth and is a life that does not give glory to Father. Are we not tired of this yet? Today is the day for us to stand up and start living as Jesus intended for his followers to live.

Friday, March 11, 2016

We Are Not What We Were

You are a new creation!

That is what the Scriptures tell us and it matters. It matters because it describes the transformation we have undergone and are undergoing. You cannot declare Jesus as your Lord and stay the same. We had to be changed because we have become the vessels of the Spirit of God. We cannot be one with Yahweh and stay the same.

This means that our perspective, attitude and understanding of life are also transformed. This impacts us in many ways. Just to name a few, our compassion increases, our actions become rooted in love, our possession by possessions is broken so we easily act in generosity with the things we have been loaned. It is not as the world teaches, that acts of love and kindness change our heart, but instead that our transformed heart changes our actions.

Knowing and living this makes it easier for us to understanding the Scriptures that warn us of such things as:

"Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil." (James 3:16)

It would be fantastic if our transformation was complete but it is an ongoing thing. Let's understand it this way: The capacity for this transformation is complete, so we are capable of great spiritual growth, but we have to grow into that capacity. There will be days that we fail and allow the old nature of jealousy and selfish ambition to undermine the work of the Spirit. But the nature of our relationship with Father (because of Jesus) is such that, by his grace, we can confess it, repent of it and release it because it was already forgiven on the cross. But don't dismiss it so quickly yet.

Jesus came to destroy the work of the enemy in all its forms. Before he ascended he told us that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, and then he sent us out in this authority. He gave us the same mission Father gave him: To destroy the works of the enemy. That is our purpose here.

Such works include but are not limited to sin, illness, any form of brokenness, which includes things like jealousy and self ambition. You have been given authority in Jesus to destroy these works. Wherever they exist disorder and evil exists. You are a warrior, a mighty warrior in the Lord, and it has been given to you to destroy all strongholds of the enemy, and that includes the ones that try to take root in you.

Your heart and mind are not in control; they are subject to the Holy Spirit. If you give them control then your emotions and intellect will always lead you back to the old nature. They need us to keep them subjected to the Spirit of God. That is the oneness we have with him. If you think you are in charge you are in trouble. If your emotions are given free reign, you are in trouble. Jesus speaks to our spirit and our spirit speaks to our mind and heart, and as warriors we keep our heart and mind in submission to his commands. In this way we are mighty Kingdom warriors, destroying the works of the enemy wherever we are in the moment.

We are not what we were; we are a new creation.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

God Isn't A Man

A person cannot simply ignore God. A decision needs to be made and once made we need to allow that decision to invade every aspect of our being. The basic question is, do we believe that we can trust God? I don't think that the basic question is, does God exist? Given the right circumstances, the vast majority of people on this planet believe there is a God. They may be deists but they won't deny the God part in our creation and well being.

Most people have yet to discover who this God is and may even think he is impersonal and out of our reach. They are wrong, but it may be what they believe. It still comes down to the question, do we believe we can trust God? Can we trust him to keep his promises? Can we trust he is who he says he is? Can we trust he is for us and does not secretly want to kill us? Can you believe that God actually answered this?

Let me move from the impersonal to the personal. God is real, present, compassionate and forgiving. His name is not God (a title), but "I AM who I AM". We translate this as Yahweh, Jehovah or LORD. Now Yahweh, who is far from impersonal, loves us very much and has done everything he can to bring us into an intimate relationship with him. Here is his answer to the question, "can he be trusted":

"God isn't a man that he would lie, or a human being that he would change his mind. Has he ever spoken and not done it, or promised and not fulfilled it?" (Numbers 23:19)

Every super hero we create we create with a flaw because we cannot stand perfection. Every god we have created we created with flaws; we cannot believe in perfection because of our own imperfection. Yahweh is not like that. He is not created after our image. He is the Creator, so far beyond us it is hard for us to accept him. He is perfect, flawless and trust worthy. He made a decision to love us at the very beginning and no matter what it has cost him he has not backed down.

He has proven himself over thousands of years to be as good as his word. When he promised blessings they were received. When he promised correction it came. But like any relationship, a person cannot be seen for who they are until you spend time with them. I can tell you that Yahweh is trustworthy because he has never failed me. That may be enough to start you seeking him but my testimony won't keep you strong; you have to have your own.

When you make the decision to repent of your rebellion against Yahweh and to follow Jesus Messiah, you receive the promise that he will be one with you, that he will never leave you and will be with you to the end. It's like a wedding vow. But that vow will be tested in the reality of life, with all its complications. It is in living your life in Jesus that you gain a testimony and discover that he is trustworthy. There is no easy way.

You cannot ignore Yahweh. Jesus told us there is no fence sitting, a decision must be made. He wants intimacy with you. He wants to know you and wants to be known by you. He has laid it all out for you, giving his very best and he says "I am as good as my word". Will we make the decision to trust him?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Living Large In The Lord

Boldness is a mark of those who know who they are in Jesus. It has nothing to do with our intelligence, abilities, knowledge, skills and everything to do with our relationship with Jesus. When we realize and live the reality of his promises we step out each day in the confidence that we go in his strength and presence.

We've been lied to about not knowing the will of God, of not knowing the direction to take or the decisions to make. Jesus made it all clear and the only reasons we would not move forward is due to a lack of will on our part, laziness, or lack of a relationship. Moses is a great example to demonstrate this fact.

I have no doubt that Moses would have known about the Hebrew God growing up, as all the Hebrews did, but there was no revelation. None of them had a revelation. Yahweh had only revealed himself to a choice few and none of them were in Egypt at that time, or alive. It was Moses' heart to see his people freed but without knowing Yahweh he did what he thought was best and it got him in trouble.

Forty years later, Moses had a personal revelation of Yahweh through his burning bush experience. In fact, Moses went further than anyone else, being told what God's name was; "I AM who I AM", translated as Yahweh, Jehovah, and written as LORD in our Bibles. Even in this experience Moses was hesitant, offering up three excuses of why he couldn't accept Yahweh's call. He did not yet know Yahweh intimately. Moses at the end of Deuteronomy is not this same Moses. He had been transformed by an incredibly intimate relationship with "I AM who I AM". Moses' confidence was not in himself but in everything he had witnessed his God do:

"By this you will know that the Lord sent me to do these deeds and that it wasn't my own desire." (Numbers 6:28)

Skip ahead. Peter is another person who was completely transformed by a growing relationship with Jesus. Peter of the Gospels is not the same Peter of Acts. The receiving of the Spirit had much to do with this (the same Spirit we have received) but experiencing three years of intimacy with Jesus also helped, so that Peter did what he had seen Jesus do. Who could doubt the boldness of spirit that possessed Peter.

Paul was another of the great servants who operated in boldness. But Paul said that he considered anything he was and had before Jesus to be a lose. In other words, he was not reliant on his privileges, contacts, education, finances and instead placed himself in complete dependence on the Lord. Paul wrote many times in a similar fashion of Moses, that he did nothing in his own strength but in the strength of Jesus.

For our own convenience we have let go of this boldness today. We do what we have the resources to do. We do what we know how to do. We do what we want to do. We are bold in ourselves which means we are not very bold. Where is there faith in our lives? Where is the God column in our budgets? Where is the impossibilities of our projects? Where is God's glory in our lives? No where because most of us do not live intimacy with Jesus and so do not live by his strength.

I was challenged by the Spirit this week with a very simple thought that came in while I was talking a few things over with the Lord: "You are not living large enough for my glory". The same thing I just said to you was presented to me: He asked me, "Where is faith in your day?" "Where are you letting me show myself?" "For what am I getting the glory?"

It comes down to: Do we believe or don't we? If we believe then we are called to live big, in boldness, trust and faith, giving all the glory for what is produced to our Father, because that is the Son's desire. And if that is his desire, isn't it enough for those who say they love him? Are we living according to our ability or his?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Leadership : Not What You Think

One of the greatest problems facing the Church today is our attitude toward leadership. It goes beyond our expectation of perfection from leaders, even though we make allowances for such imperfections in others. No, it goes to the very foundation of understanding leadership in the body of Christ. Let's start where we should, with Jesus:

“You know that those who rule the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around.  But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.  Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave— just as the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Here we find our first problem with leadership in the Church that is modeled after the world. Those chosen by the Spirit to be "leaders" are chosen to be servants. They aren't CEOs or small governors. Instead, they are modeled after Jesus, leading as he led, by serving. We see this clearly in Ephesians 4:

He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ  until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

The purpose of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is not to set up a group of elite priests so everyone else can sit back and take it easy. No, these individuals are set aside for some of the toughest and dirtiest work in the Church, to help babies become mature adults, so that s mature adults they can be busy with the Kingdom work. These "leaders" are nursemaids, tutors, examples, mentors. They are those the Lord sends to walk with people for a while on their journey, helping them to understand and to grow. They are not the heads of the Church. There is only one head and his name is Jesus. They are not businessmen or managers. They are diaper changers and hand-holders. They are prayer warriors and those who are able to instruct with the Word, to correct, admonish, warn, encourage, lift up, cheer on.

These people deserve our respect and support because they pay a very high price for their calling, or at least the ones who are being servants are paying a high price. It is a privilege to have them in our lives even if they are a pain in the neck because we don't always like what they say. Scripture tells us:

Obey your leaders and do what they say. They are watching over you, and they must answer to God. So don’t make them sad as they do their work. Make them happy. Otherwise, they won’t be able to help you at all. (Hebrews 13:17)

The sense of leadership here is the same as Jesus conveyed. What good is a teacher if you are unwilling to learn? What good is a councilor if you are not willing to follow the council given? What good is an apostle, evangelist and such if you are not willing to trust?

We get too caught up with perfection for those called to serve in these callings, but they are people like all the rest of us. They will mess up and we must trust that Jesus will correct and restore as he does with all of us. I am tired of seeing us running our churches as people in the world run their businesses. We are missing the mark and we need to seek the will of our Lord in these matters.

If you are tempted to criticize your pastor, keep in mind what happened to Moses. The elders misunderstood Moses and could not understand the cost of his calling, the price he paid all the time to advocate for them with Yahweh. They came against him:

"You’ve gone too far, because the entire community is holy, every last one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the Lord ’s assembly?" (Numbers 16:3)

O Lord, forgive them, they don't know. How often have our pastors prayed that over us? We criticize what we do not understand. We don't know how many nights of interrupted sleep they have had. We have no idea how many crisis they are walking through with people. We have no idea the weight of the many activities that they carry. They are servants and they do not need us to make their load any heavier. How much better for us when we make their service a thing of joy.

We need a better understanding of spiritual leadership in the Kingdom of God.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Overcoming The Pull Of Our Troubles

Going through a rough time? There are plenty of things in this world and in our life that can be difficult to face. If we choose, we can fixate on these things so they become the major thing in our life. We can know that it is not a healthy way to live but we have no real power in ourselves to turn from it. Often it is like an accident scene on the highway. We don't really want to look but we are drawn to see what happened.

Christians should have an advantage over such things; we have something much bigger to fixate on. When we consider how big our God is everything else should fade away. As we consider such verses:

"Before the mountains were born, before you birthed the earth and the inhabited world - from forever in the past to forever in the future, you are God." (Psalm 90:2)

we are overwhelmed by our God's foreverness. What are our problems compared to his forever glory? But it goes beyond his largeness.

We have a God of great compassion and that compassion is for us. Even before considering Jesus we can see it in the Psalm that follows what we have just considered:

Living in the Most High’s shelter,
    camping in the Almighty’s shade,
I say to the Lord, “You are my refuge, my stronghold!
    You are my God—the one I trust!”
God will save you from the hunter’s trap
    and from deadly sickness.
God will protect you with his pinions;
    you’ll find refuge under his wings.
    His faithfulness is a protective shield.
Don’t be afraid of terrors at night,
    arrows that fly in daylight,
    or sickness that prowls in the dark,
    destruction that ravages at noontime.
Even if one thousand people fall dead next to you,
    ten thousand right beside you—
    it won’t happen to you.

This is the compassion, mercy, grace of our God for those who choose to trust him. Jesus told us not to worry about common things like food and clothes when we seem to be lacking. He told us that our Father knows what we need and will provide such things. So instead of adding worry to our day, chasing after the things Jesus promised, he told us to seek the things of the Kingdom.

Our problems belong to this world but we don't. We are citizens of the Kingdom and our hearts are possessed by the Kingdom. We live by a different set of rules and principles. When we set our heart and mind on these Kingdom things then we will be possessed by the peace Jesus promised he had given to us. And he cared enough to point out that he doesn't give as the world gives.

That sounds great in principle but we have to live the practicality of what Jesus taught. That requires making choices throughout our daily living. We have to choose to trust him, to live by his words, to live in intimate relationship, to be possessed by his joy. Remember, the joy of the Lord is our strength. This means the gladness we have in knowing God will sustain us in whatever we are facing.

The best thing is we can seek his council for action and direction. We are not orphans. We are the children of God and he looks after his own. So instead of staring into the abyss of your troubles, fix yourself on the wonder of our God, allowing your mouth to be filled with praise and watch and see how quick our Father is to act on your behalf.  

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Fringe

So often I hear people saying that believing in God requires blind faith but this just isn't so. Our God is very visual, loving to do things that reveal who he is and setting reminders to provoke memory. We find this throughout the Old Testament, especially in the various festivals that marked important events in the relationship between Yahweh and Israel. We also find this in the New Testament as Jesus broke the bread and passed the wine telling his disciples to do this in order to remember.

If you care to read the New Testament carefully you may note that Yahweh never asked people to believe blindly. There was always some kind of manifestation of God or his power and then people believed. Even when it comes to the receiving of the Holy Spirit there is a manifestation that often either provokes us to tears or to laughter.

However, there is an every day manifestation that acts as a reminder that we almost always overlook. In the Old Testament, Yahweh gave a daily reminder to his people to help them stick to the narrow way:

"This will be your fringe. You will see it and remember all the Lord's commands and do them. Then you won't go exploring the lusts of your own heart or your eyes. In this way you'll remember to do all my commands. Then you will be holy to your God." (Numbers 15:39-40)

We have been given a fringe of sorts as well; we call it the Bible. It is suppose to be part of our adornment, as we spend time in it daily. Spending our time there will keep us from exploring the lusts of our heart and eyes by reminding us of our first love: Jesus. It constantly points us to Jesus and reminds us that we are holy because we are possessed by him.

Our effort will never keep us from sin but when we are daily renewed in Jesus' love for us and ours for him, we will never want to sin; we will never want to speak against anyone; we will always want the best for everyone; we will always want to honour our Lord with our words, actions and thoughts. It is not because of the threat of hell but because we want to honour him with all our heart that will keep us on the narrow path. And where we are weak and stumble, his grace will carry us home.

Without our "fringe" we will wonder away, because that is our nature. Without our "fringe" we will fall into the many pits of sin because we are that dumb. Without our "fringe" we will fall victim to the many false gods of this world because we are that short sighted. Our God knows us, our unfaithful heart and our imperfect nature. This is why he gave us the visible, tangible Bible as our "fringe" and why he is always with us, never forsaking us.

We can't do this on our own and our Lord is only too happy to visually remind us that he is with us. Open the eyes of our heart Lord and help us overcome our unbelief. You are visible to your children every day.

Friday, March 4, 2016

I Believe; Help My Unbelief

Most Christians read the Bible and believe it. But often we only believe that it is possible; we don't believe where it is a reality in our day. Now, you and I won't be honest enough to admit it but all we have to do is look at the way we live and we know the truth. We believe it but we need help with our unbelief.

The Israelites believed Yahweh's promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. They believed because of what they saw. They believed enough to follow Moses through the parted waters. They believed enough to travel the desert with no food. They believed enough to commit themselves to God's Law. They believed right up to the point of actually acting on their belief. At that point, when Yahweh commanded them to possess the land, their unbelief overwhelmed their belief.

It takes someone who is completely sold out to walk in the promises of Yahweh. It is someone who looks full into the reality of their testimony, of what our Father has done up to this point, and decide he is worthy of their trust. Caleb was such a man. He considered the power and miracles he had seen up to this point and made the decision that Yahweh was as good as his word. He told the people:

"The land we crossed through to explore is an exceptionally good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he'll bring us into this land and give it to us. It's a land that's full of milk and honey. Only don't rebel against the Lord and don't be afraid of the people of the land. They are our prey. Their defense has deserted them, but the Lord is with us. So don't be afraid of them." (Numbers 14:7-9)

Ten of the spies that Moses had sent could only see the obstacles. They admitted that the land was everything that Yahweh had promised but the could not see "the Lord is with us" as their advantage. Caleb saw what strength they had to overcome these obstacles because of the fact that the Lord was with them. He believed and his belief overcame his unbelief.

Jesus did not promise us an easy life. He did not promise us everything on a silver platter. In fact, he promised us that the world would hate us, that we would have enemies and there would be persecution. But he did promise us a victorious life, that we would overcome through him. He promised us joy and peace. He promised that we would stand against his enemies and that we would be more than conquerors. He promised us strength for every day. He promised to go with us as he sent us out. He promised us power by the Holy Spirit. And he promised us authority over demons and illness.

Jesus told us to pray the Father's will "on earth as it is in heaven". He promised that we could ask for anything in this battle and we would receive it so we could carry on. By the sounds of all these promises, he intends for us to be mighty warriors, filled with the laughter of his joy, bold, fierce and unwavering in the mission he has given to us.

That is how Jesus sees us but is it how we see ourselves in him today? Is that how we will live today? Will we possess the land today?

O Lord, help our unbelief!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Know Jesus; Know Yourself

We lie to ourselves all the time. We try to convince ourselves of an alternate reality because we are not willing to be honest when we are faced with our own failings and faults. We lie to ourselves when we say it is well with our soul, knowing that we are far from where we are suppose to be with Jesus. We even rationalize our sin, saying Jesus understands, as we throw ourselves under the power of that sin.

We may be kidding ourselves but we are not kidding our God.

Do we forget how we are connected with him; Jesus in me and me in Jesus? He is not some deity or power who stands at a distance; he is one with us, knowing all out thoughts, emotions, plans, ideas, dreams, desires, longings, sins. He knows us and wants us to know him even more. So when we ignore him, lie to ourselves and place ourselves under the power of sin again, we break his heart.

The Word of God has been given to us to reveal God to us, to teach us, to rebuke, correct and encourage. When we study it, looking deep into it's depth, some amazing things happen. The Spirit speaks to us, warning us when we are going astray and encouraging us in the right direction.

A couple of the warning signs that things are not well with this relationship is when we are plagued by fear and anxiety. When we are strong in the Lord we know he holds our future and we do not fear the unknown. When we are lying to ourselves about this relationship, we find it hard to think of the unknown, to face major obstacles, to even consider our future. We are overcome by anxiety, fear, helplessness, a sense of not having the resources to overcome. It isn't anything new.

We should be able to identify with the Israelites as they faced the command to move into the Promised Land, the first time. This was the generation who were possessed by the slave mentality and could never seem to go beyond it. These were the whiners, complainers, rebels against Yahweh. Not having a solid and growing relationship with the Lord is shown in their reaction to the command to possess the land:

"All the Israelites criticized Moses and Aaron. The entire community said to them, 'If only we had died in the land of Egypt or it only we had died in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our children will be taken by force. Wouldn't it be better for us to return to Egypt?'" (Numbers 14:2-3)

See where fear of the unknown takes us? We imagine the worse case scenario. It was Yahweh who had promised this land to Abraham's children. It was Yahweh who rescued them in power from the slavery of Egypt. It was Yahweh who was defending them and feeding them in the desert. It was Yahweh who went ahead of them, leading. If they had only examined this relationship they would have marched boldly into the land, as their children would do 40 years later. Instead they allowed themselves to be led by fear.

If we are weak, filled with fear and anxiety, it is because we do not know who Jesus is, what are his promises and who we are in him. Paul reminded his student Timothy:

"Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

In another place the Spirit reminds us  "we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed". Fear and anxiety do not belong to those who are growing in Christ but to those who are lying to themselves.

Know the Word. Know the promises. Know the Lord. Know yourself and be honest. We are all going to get there in the end if we do not let go.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Forgetting The Power Of Our God

It is amazing the short term memory with which most of us suffer. We certainly live in the moment, forgetting the experience that has gotten us to this place. Yesterday we were praising the Lord for his great provision, the amazing way he took care of our need. But today we are back to wringing our hands because we have no idea how we are going to overcome today's challenge.

We all do it.

Maybe we don't do it all the time but we are still guilty of setting aside our trust in the Lord during certain key periods of our lives. Even Moses had his moments. I say even Moses, not because he had something greater than us but because he had seen so much. He didn't have Jesus or the testimony we have, but he had hands-on experience with the provision and deliverance of Yahweh. Yet, we find this in Numbers:

"The people I'm with are six hundred thousand on foot and you're saying, 'I will give them meat, and they will eat for a month.' Can flocks and herds be found and slaughtered for them? Or can all the fish in the sea be found and caught for them?" (Numbers 11:21-22)

The people had been complaining against Yahweh because they had grown tired of manna and they wanted meat. They were in a desert where they could not plant crops and where there was very little to hunt or trap. Yahweh was sustaining them with food from heaven but they wanted meat. Being in a desert we can understand Moses question about Yahweh's promise of meat for so many people for such a long period of time but we should not forget to whom he was talking.

"The Lord said to Moses, 'Is the Lord's power too weak? Now you will see whether my word will come true for you or not.'" (v. 23)

Is the Lord's power too weak? How many times have we heard that same voice ask us this in the darkest moments of our lives? Jesus told us that what is impossible for humans is possible for God. We need to remind ourselves of this fact every day, whether we need that reminder or not. When we live in that reality, the reality of the Kingdom, every day, then when those occasions happen upon us, we will walk through them without fear, anxiety and doubt.

It can help to keep a little note book and record all the things that Jesus sees us through and to review these things once a week. It is a good reminder of his power, ability and goodness. If we think about it for just a moment, we have made it through every crisis we have ever faced. He always sees us through but instead of crossing the finish line bruised and battered he wants us to cross in great triumph, with praise on our lips.

It may be difficult for us to understand but Jesus wants us to succeed. It is true that he loves us but his great desire is to bring Father glory. Our success brings Father glory. Our triumph over tragedy, our victory over fear, praising in the dark times, walking amidst our enemy with heads held high and a heart full of love are just a few of the things that brings Father glory through us. Jesus has a vested interest in our triumph over all things. Moses understood this in the desert, that the failure of Israel would rob Yahweh of his glory, but there were small moments when he forgot that everything is possible for God.

If you forgot today, it is okay, you can still smile because Jesus loves to remind us just how good and great is our Father. We are loved. He is for us. His desire is to see us succeed in all things and to live a life of great victory. It doesn't mean there are not dark valleys and things to overcome. After all, it requires a battle to have victory.