Monday, February 4, 2019

BELIEVE IN THE ONE WHOM HE SENT



            What do you believe?  I mean really, really believe…enough to base your life on? Do you believe Jesus is truly the Son of God Who lived, died and was resurrected so we can be saved?  Do you believe He really meant what He taught? It seems many professing Christians do not believe everything He said. Instead, they are trying to make his teachings more acceptable to our society so more people will “accept Christ”. But have they really accepted Christ, the real Jesus? When we change what He said by giving our interpretation of what Jesus “really meant”, we have ceased to share the truth Jesus taught.  Oh, that instead of trying to change Jesus, we would allow Him to change us and transform us to His image.  Oh, that we would allow the “hardness” of His teachings to draw us closer to the Christ of the teachings.  When we really know Him, His “commandments are not grievous (burdensome).”
I fear we have become too much like the crowd who said, “This is a hard saying”, and walked away from following Jesus. If the first century Christians had softened all the “hard sayings” of Jesus, Christianity would have disappeared before it ever began.  But God always has a remnant of those who truly know Him, who will take Him at His Word and submit to Him. When the crowd left, Jesus asked the twelve disciples if they would leave too.  Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68, NKJV) They stayed because they believed. They believed because they knew Him.
Some of the crowd that Jesus had fed asked Him, “What are we to do, so that we may habitually be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God: that you believe [adhere to, trust in, rely on, and have faith] in the One Whom He sent.”  (John 6:28-29, Amplified Bible) We cannot do the work of God without a belief in Jesus Christ that we base our lives on. If we don’t trust Who He is and what He said, we cannot do the work of God, because we will not follow Him.  Jesus loves us so completely and undeservedly that He not only gave His life for us, but boldly told us the truth.  He never backed down to gain a convert because compromised truth ceases to be truth and loses the power of truth.  Yet real truth is there for anyone who wants it.  And only the truth can set us free.  We need to explore the teachings and examples of Jesus and begin to do the work of God.  Let’s look at His humility, because we find that many other teachings are also understood and accomplished through humility.
            Jesus was selfless.  He had no interest in fulfilling the dictates of His flesh. He wasn’t seeking fame, position or money.  His whole purpose was to do the will of the Father.  1 Peter 2:21-24 tells us that is to be our purpose also. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:  “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself [His cause]  to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed.”  We are to follow His example even unto death.  This is the humility that Jesus taught and lived.  He wasn’t setting His own agenda.  He listened to the Father.  Then He said what the Father said, and did whatever the Father told Him to do.  It was not always easy.  He proved that in the Garden of Gethsemane when He struggled against His flesh, but obeyed the will of the Father.
            Jesus was completely submitted to the Father. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19, NKJV)  We do well to follow Jesus in His humility and submission to God.  God can do great things through a submitted vessel.
            Andrew Murray said, “I feel deeply that we have very little conception of what the Church suffers from the lack of this divine humility, the nothingness that makes room for God to prove His power…Let us consider deeply how far the disciples were advanced while this grace was still so terribly lacking, and let us pray to God that other gifts may not so satisfy us, that we never grasp the fact that the absence of this grace is the secret cause why the power of God cannot do its mighty work.  It is only where we, like the Son, truly know and show that we can do nothing of ourselves, that God will do all.”  He goes on to say that humility is the “place of entire dependence on God” and is the “root of every virtue”.
            If we want God to do great things through us, we must stop trying to do it on our own.  The effort we expend is to be in carrying out what God says, not in using our own wisdom and power to accomplish our will.  The hearts of those who have a real desire to follow Jesus, are broken when we learn how far we are from His humility.  But it can also create a stronger desire to cut off self to make room for God alone.  That is what Jesus did to His flesh.  He gave it no voice, no thought, no chance to act of its own accord.  Allowing self to dictate even part of our lives is to allow pride to have its way. 
            Think of the purity of heart Adam and Eve had when they were first created and placed in the Garden of Eden.  They simply fellowshipped freely with God and obeyed what He had told them.  Why?  They believed Him.  That all changed when Satan entered the Garden and they listened to him.  They believed him and began to distrust God.  Satan had the root of pride in him, and he was able to transplant part of that into Adam and Eve through His deception and cunning. He said they could have so much more, but, instead, he caused them to lose the best and trade it for sin, sorrow, pain, lies and eternal death.  That is what pride does to us.  It strips us of our belief in God and causes us to believe in self. It removes humility and purity.
            It was pride that caused the downfall of Satan.  He was thrown out of heaven because he tried to usurp God.  He tried to be God.  He didn’t succeed.  But he still tries to sow the seed of pride in every human heart.  He told Adam and Eve that they could be like God through their own wisdom, and power.  He lied and they lost out.  Pride binds us and kills us.  Humility raises us to new heights with God.  Remember how Satan tried to pull the same scam on Jesus?  He promised Him instant comfort, fame, and worship.  Everything that appeals to the pride of the flesh. He will try that scam on you, too. But Jesus showed us and told us the way to all these things is humility, emptying ourselves of self and allowing God to fill us.
            How do we attain this humility?  Ask Jesus.  He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls.  For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”
            When some of Jesus’ disciples asked for the seats of honor in Jesus’ kingdom, the other disciples found out and were angry.  Then Jesus called them all to Him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but, whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:25-28, NKJV)  Jesus said if you want to be great in His kingdom, you have to learn to be the servant of all.
            Serving God is one thing, but serving others? What about the other “disciples” who are not as important as we are?  Let’s see what Jesus said about that.  So when He [Jesus] had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:12-14, NKJV, emphasis mine)
Take note that Jesus even washed the feet of Judas.   Which brings us to another question. What about our enemies?  I believe Jesus had something to say about that, too.  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48, NKJV)
            What do we do when someone does something “unforgiveable” to us? What did Jesus do when He hung on the cross?  And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:33-35, NKJV)  Jesus also told us, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NKJV) Hard sayings?  Yes, but they are truth that will free us!
            Humility frees us from bitterness, plotting revenge, anger, jealousy and hatred. It empties our souls of self and leaves room for the Spirit of God to fill us, lead us, comfort us, and work miracles through us. 
Believe Jesus
Learn His humility
Empty of self
Filled with God



Monday, January 14, 2019

THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US




            It’s the first month of a brand new year. At 12:00 midnight on December 31st, a shift took place and we landed in another year in a second’s time.  This shift into something new usually causes us to look back at all that happened in the past year.  I suppose it is a salute to it as we leave it behind and embrace a fresh start. Or maybe it’s to glean a little wisdom from its experiences – both good and bad, losses and gains.
            God told His people to remember all He had done for them. His instructions were to repeat it often to make sure their children knew of His character, power and the miracles He performed on their behalf.  God also reminded them that He alone is God.  There is no other. Some things we don’t need to forget.
            1 Corinthians 10:11-12 tells us that all the events recorded in God’s Word about His dealings with His people are there so we can learn from them.  We can be encouraged and warned by them.  Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
            We can also learn from our own relationship with Jesus.  Our failures can teach us how to avoid snares in the future.  The times we go through trials can serve as future encouragements when we remember how God walked through them with us.  Or when we stepped out in faith and God made a way in the wilderness.  The past can be a wellspring of inspiration and encouragement, but we are not to get stuck there and refuse to move ahead.  The present and the future are vital parts of God’s plan too.
            In Isaiah 43:18-19, we read, “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” (NKJV)   Here God is telling us to step out into the “new thing” He is doing.  He has a fresh anointing, a new song, a new direction, a new season for our lives.  The Spirit of God is constantly moving us forward. Will we step out into it by faith, or will we stay in the shadow of yesterday, holding on to what was. Take the lessons learned from the past with you as you press into the path God is leading you into now.
            As we remember God’s mighty acts in the past, it should give us courage and confidence to boldly follow Him into the future.  It should help us better understand His purpose and join with Him in bringing it to pass. Never let the voice of the past keep you from hearing what God is speaking now.  It is meant to be a springboard from which we continue to see His miracles and His power at work in the present.
Just as God provided for His people in the past, He will provide for us.  Just as He used ordinary people in the past who were listening and obedient, He will use us if we are listening and obedient.  We have to keep moving along with Him and keep pace with where He is leading us today.  The kingdom of God stretches before us, and He wants to do a new thing. He cannot use us to carry it out if we refuse to move forward.
Our God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.  He is not limited by time.  He is in the past, present and future all at the same time.  That is hard for us to understand because we have limitations, but God knows the future as well as the past and present.  We can trust Him and confidently follow His leading. We can move beyond what is known and comfortable to us, because the future is known and comfortable to our God.  In following the vision He shows us, we fulfill the work He has called us to do in His kingdom.
What God determines to do will be done.  The question is, are we going to be part of it?  Are we going to look at life from our own narrow perspective, or are we going to catch God’s vision and run with it?  We need to ask God to show us His perspective. Ours is usually skewed by the world system or what we already have experienced.  We cannot follow God’s vision and our own, too.  It is time to press ahead and stop looking back, except to use the past works of God to encourage ourselves to move forward against all odds and trust Him completely.
What are we going to do today?  Paul said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:13-14)  Paul knew he had not arrived.  There was more work to do in God’s kingdom.  And he was determined to do his part.
What are you reaching for?  What goal are you pressing to accomplish? What vision has God placed in your heart for today? We can look to the past at all the men and women of faith who were godly examples and be strengthened to press on ahead.  Each one seized the moment and followed the way God told them to walk. For many of them it was something new and even frightening.  But they obeyed in faith.  That is how we, too, can work with Him to fulfill His purposes.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Wherefore seeing we are also compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 
A weight is a burden or anything that is a hindrance to us.  It may not be sinful, but if it is keeping us from reaching God’s goal for us, we need to lay it aside. What is keeping you from accomplishing God’s direction?  It could be an attitude, the things of this world, fear, pride or even seemingly good things.  A lot of things are good, but they are not the things God has called us to do. Sometimes it may be possessions that we label as “mine” that keep us from following Jesus.  Jesus did not allow weights to attach themselves to Him. He did not become entangled with the things of this world. He remained free to finish the work He started, our salvation!  He kept His perspective and knew when to say ‘no’.  He is our perfect example.
This passage also speaks of sins that beset us.  When we allow sin in our lives, we throw the door open wide to the power of evil.  And it will act as a opponent in a race or an enemy who thwarts us in every direction.  Have you ever tried to walk through a large crowd and everyone seemed to cut you off from your destination.  You try to find a space to push through, but doing so takes you farther from your goal because you have to make so many turns. After awhile, you lose where you are in relation to your goal.  You are just trying to find a place where you can walk without being crowded out of space, regardless of where it leads. The sins that beset us do the same thing.  They will turn us away from the race.  They also cause us to completely lose sight of the goal. We need to make sure we can see Jesus from wherever we are.  If we cannot see Jesus, we are in the wrong place, and need to get back in right relation to Him.  So, instead of being bent down by weights, and turned aside by sins, we are told to look to Jesus, to keep our eyes steadfastly on Him. In order to do that, we have to turn our eyes away from other things and fix them on Jesus. 
We are also told to run the race that is set before us.  Notice it is not behind us. That part of the race is over.  There is nothing we can do to change any of it or to bring it back.  We can, however, choose to start from here and run this race without sin and without weights, looking ahead and allowing Jesus to guide us through the course.  If we allow hindrances in our lives, we will bow under the weight and be unsuccessful.  If we open the door to sin, we will never make it to the finish line. The race is in front of us.  Jesus is going before us, so keep focusing on Jesus.  If we are always looking behind, we won’t see it.  If we keep our focus on Jesus, He will lead the way. 
Look to Him and reach for His goal.  Jesus had a fixed goal – the joy of completing the will of the Father.  We have that same goal.  We can pursue the way God puts before us just like Jesus did.  He finished the work and is now “set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” God’s race has everlasting rewards.

Start out fresh this year determined to run the race that is set before you.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

FOR UNTO US A SAVIOR IS BORN



            What is the definition of a “good person”?  Is it someone who has high morals, takes good care of their family, is honest, loving and gives to others?  Those are certainly good qualities, but they do not constitute a good person.
THE BAD NEWS:  Jesus said no one is good but God. (Matthew 19:17)  So, that leaves us out. Romans 3:10-12 tells us “There is none righteous, no, not, one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside [gone out of the way]; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” What God calls good and what we label as good are two very different things. That is a problem. The fact is we are all born into this world with a sin nature that is a barrier between us and God because He is holy, righteous and good.  There is nothing we can do to rid ourselves from this sin nature no matter how hard we try.  It calls for our death and eternal punishment.
THE GOOD NEWS:  Although we have no way to remedy the problem, God has made a way, an astonishing way!  The good news was delivered by the angels to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth.  Remember the words of the angel?  Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord…  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Did you grasp the magnitude of the angels’ announcement? First, this message is for everyone!  The shepherds, the innkeeper, Mary, Joseph, you and me.  Everyone!!  The good news is that God has not set His will against us. His will and intentions toward us are good. 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” So, Jesus, the Christ, came to bring peace between us and God, to remove the barrier. We had no means to broker that peace, so He did it for us. God took on human flesh, lived a perfect life and died a brutal death on the cross in our place, taking our sin upon Himself so that we can be freed from our sin nature.  He rose from the dead so we can live our lives on this earth as He lived His, then be with Him forever when this life is over.
            “For he hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that webeing dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
            Imagine God, the one true God of the universe Who is perfect in holiness, taking our sin for us, so that we can be like Him.  What love the Father has for us!  He loved us when we didn’t know Him, didn’t love Him and were steeped in sin inside and out.  He provided the remedy for us to receive eternal life instead of eternal death.
THE RESPONSE: It is up to us to respond to this incredible, eternal gift.  Our response determines the life we will live on this earth as well as our eternal destination, whether it will be heaven or hell.  To receive this great gift, we must come into agreement with God to the fact that we are sinners.  Then we can turn from sin and surrender our lives to Jesus, allowing Him to change us to bear His image of righteousness rather than our image of sin.  With His Spirit in us, our desires change and we will choose to live the way He lived, sharing this “good news of great joy” to other people, putting others before ourselves, being sold out to do the will of the Father. Jesus provided the way, but we must make the choice.  We can come to Him or walk away and reject His offer of peace.
            After the shepherds saw the angels and heard their message, they had a choice to go back to life as usual or to pursue Jesus above everything else.  They responded with believing hearts. True believers act on what they have heard, and that is exactly what they did. The shpherds found the Messiah just as the angel said, as a baby in a manger.  They met Mary and Joseph face to face. They were not content to only hear the good news.  They acted on it. Once they did, they made this news “widely known”.  They aggressively shared the good news. That’s what it means to believe.  “And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” (Luke 2:18, 20) The news is still good – the best we could ever have! Once we have heard, it is time to meet Jesus face to face and surrender our lives to Him.  The provision of our salvation was up to God.  Our response is up to us.

Just to think!  We were not seeking God, but He was seeking us!  He made the first move.
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6
We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!




Saturday, November 10, 2018

LEST I BECOME A CASTAWAY



            I have started a lot of things in my life that eventually fell by the wayside.  I have begun and ended diets, running or walking for exercise, sticking to a strict time-management system and a few other things.  I was excited about the ideas in the beginning and wanted to do those things.  I had good intentions, but they were clearly not a priority in my life.  Other things took precedence, and they were abandoned. 
            There is one thing I never want to let go by the wayside, and that is my relationship with Jesus Christ.  He has been my priority since I was eleven years old, and He still is.  All healthy, growing relationships require time, loving and giving.  If we do not make our relationship with Christ top priority, it will fall by the wayside.
            The apostle Paul was determined that his relationship with Christ would be foremost in his life.  In 1 Corinthians 9:26-27, he said, “Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service].” (Amplified Bible)  The King James Version says, “lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”  Paul wasn’t talking about training to become a great athlete.  But he knew if he allowed his body and mind to dictate his life, he would lose out in his relationship with Jesus.  So, he determined to make his body serve his spirit instead of the other way around.
That is easier said than done. There are times we know we need to draw aside and be with Jesus, but the busyness of life says we don’t have time, not right now.  Or when God speaks to us to do a certain thing and we put it off because we are afraid.  Doing what we know is right will cost us physically, financially, and emotionally. Sometimes it is difficult.  Those are the times we need to tell our bodies and our minds that they will serve the Spirit.  They cannot have their own way. 
It’s easy to give ourselves a break and rationalize how the demands of this life keep us from fulfilling the things of the Spirit. Paul was ruthless in keeping his spirit strong, and he was always ready for whatever lay ahead.  He knew how easy it could be to get soft on himself and lose his spiritual strength.  We need to be careful, too, not to relax our guard and become unfit for the kingdom of God.  It doesn’t happen all at once.  It is a gradual decline when we let our relationship with Christ take second place.
Paul knew the temptations and faced them head-on.  And he knew the time to prepare for service in the kingdom of God was not fifteen minutes before a “ministry opportunity”. Sometimes he didn’t know fifteen minutes in advance where he would be or what he would be doing.  He seldom knew just when an opportunity would present itself, so he had to stay spiritually fit.  That means “working out” during private times.  Prayer, worship, reading and meditating on the Word of God to keep spiritually strong and in tune with God. Without becoming one with Jesus, we cannot follow His directions. Paul also knew “ministry” took on many different manifestations.  One day it may mean preaching to a small, obscure group of women who were meeting at the river bank.  Another opportunity could bring him before a king to plead His case and share the gospel. Yet again, he could find himself in jail.  Whatever occasion presented itself, Paul had to be ready.  And the only way to be spiritually fit is to deprive the body and soul so the spirit can be strengthened.
Paul faced much opposition in his life, but his earthly life wasn’t his priority, so he could call them “light afflictions”. His connection to Jesus and obedience to Him was top priority.  His body had no choice in the matter, but to follow Christ.  Paul said, I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)  He went on to list some of his afflictions. “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”  (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)
Paul did not set out to become a well-known, celebrated person in the kingdom of God. Those who do will seldom be selfless and commit themselves to the conditions Paul often found himself in for the sake of Christ.  Paul was not trying to impress people with all his knowledge of Scripture, his pedigree or the numbers who came to hear him preach.  He had already gone down that road and found it empty and leading him in the wrong direction.  He considered it all garbage once he came face to face with Jesus Christ.
Serving in the kingdom of God is full-time, regardless of who we are. We either serve Christ or we don’t.  It’s not enough to obey Him only when it’s convenient.  A true disciple gives their life to follow Jesus. You may have a secular job, but as a Christian you are called to be serving in God’s kingdom on that job.  Every minute of every day, we are ambassadors.  Our lifestyles, our words, our attitudes, all reflect the One we are representing, Jesus Christ.  We have to be ready at a moment’s notice to share our faith.  That requires a relationship with Jesus that transcends all other priorities in our lives.
Many times God chooses someone for a particular work.  He sets them aside for that work and places His Spirit in them in a distinctive way.  They may begin to operate in that work with joy and humility, following the leading of the Holy Spirit.  But the humility and eagerness to serve can be tainted if the focus turns from the glory of God, to the glory of self.  Paul knew that.  That’s why he was so determined to keep himself spiritually fit and close to Jesus. 
Just as Paul gives us a strong example of one who gave himself up to serve God in complete obedience, King Saul is an example of failing to remain humble, obedient and true in his service to God.  He was chosen to be king of Israel, the very first king.  He ruled well for a time.  But when he placed his position and prestige before the glory of God, the prophet Samuel reminded him of the time he was not full of pride, but of humility before God. He said,  “Is it not true that even though you were small (insignificant) in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel?” (1 Samuel 15:17, Amplified Bible)  Now Saul had turned to a pattern of rejecting God’s Word.  He listened to the Lord’s voice through Samuel, but then took matters in his own hands, what he thought was best.
            After yet another act of disobedience by taking part of the spoils of battle, Saul tried to cover for himself by rationalizing the reason he disobeyed.  He placed his human reasoning above God’s instructions, and when he was faced with his disobedience and rebellion, he treated it as nothing.  He was more concerned how he looked before the people than the fact that he had defied God.  He had disobeyed before, but this time Saul learned the drastic consequences of his rebellion.  Samuel said, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”  (1 Samuel 15:28) 
God may choose to use us greatly at some point, but we must be watchful that we don’t allow it to cause us to place ourselves on a pedestal and rob God of His glory. When the Holy Spirit works through us, we cannot take credit.  We are only earthen vessels.  He is the Treasure.  The vessel is disposable.  The Treasure inside is eternal.  Saul discovered when the Spirit of God left him, he was helpless and hopeless.  It had not been his wisdom, valor and strength that brought him success.  He had seen success because God was with him.  Now he was destitute.  He had no one to give him directions.  Yet he still tried to keep up his image as king of Israel.  He even went so far as to go to a witch for help.
If we feel as though we have to keep up our image, we may resort to means outside the leading of the Spirit.  If we are purely following Jesus, we will do whatever He says regardless of how it affects us.  God knows better than we do.  We don’t have to warn Him about the pitfalls that may lie before us.  He already knows. Our part is to trust and obey, to be one with Him and His purpose.
Oswald Chambers said, “It cannot be stated definitely what the call of God is to, because His call is to be in comradeship with Himself for His own purposes, and the test is to believe that God knows what He is after.  If we are in communion with God and recognize He is taking us into His purposes, we shall no longer try to find out what His purposes are.  If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the leisureliness which ought to characterize the children of God.”  Oh, may we trust the wisdom of God!

“…lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A RENEWED MIND




A pastor friend of ours was teaching on the belt of truth mentioned in Ephesians 6.  He made the statement that truth brings order to everything. As Christians, we already know that. Yet we don’t always take it to heart and apply it to our lives. The simplicity of those words is astounding. Every part of our Christian life is held together by the truth, the Word of God.  If we want order in our lives, we will stay in the realm of God’s Word. 
Numerous passages of Scripture tell us the importance of the Word in our hearts and minds. Let’s look at a few and see how to integrate the Word into our lives.

For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?
But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16, NKJV)

When we saturate our mind with the Word of God and hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ. He is the Word.  And the Word is Life.  And in that Life is Light. He is all in all. (See John 1:1-4)
We have the written Word of God to guide us and teach us.  We also have the Holy Spirit Who brings the Word alive to our present situations, reminding us what God says. We activate the Word of God in our lives through faith, believing what the Word says and acting accordingly. If we learn and act on what the Word says, the Word will do His work through us. We will have His life and light within us, no longer walking in darkness.
For anyone who wants to walk according to the Word of God, there will be opposition.  Most of this opposition begins in the mind. Satan tries to steal our thoughts and divert us from the Word of God. He attacks our minds with doubt, fear, unbelief, unrest, clutter, resentment. It is important to fill our minds with what God says, not what the enemy says! When Satan makes inroads into our minds, he causes us to feel hopeless, fearful, confused or apathetic.  But those are feelings.  They are not facts.  So we need to base our lives on the facts of the Word of God.  We need to learn how to weed out the harmful, unsettling, useless thoughts and fill our minds and hearts with life-giving thoughts.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, NKJV)

Walking in the flesh simply means our lives are dictated by our soul which is our mind, will and emotions. But we can choose to be dictated by truth, by the Word of God.  That’s where the warfare comes in. When Satan brings thoughts to our minds, we can entertain them and follow through on those thoughts, or we can draw on the Word for direction, and then bring those thoughts and feelings into obedience to the Word.  No matter how we feel, we can choose to walk according to truth.  When we submit ourselves to God, we are resisting the devil (bringing every thought into captivity to Christ, the Word) and Satan will flee from us. (See James 4:7)

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

“God is not the author of confusion, but of peace”.  (1 Corinthians 14:33)

When Satan tries to plant confusion, fear and feelings of helplessness in us, we need to uproot them immediately before they begin to grow and bear fruit. Those feelings are not born of the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God does not direct us in that way.  When those feelings come to us, it’s time to stop and seek the Word. He gives power to overcome fear, love that leads us in the path of the Father and a mind that is led by the Word, which will bring a sense of peace and unity with Him.  We can have a sound mind.  One that is complete in Christ. The Amplified Bible says it is a mind with “sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].”
            Allowing our minds to wander without restraint can be detrimental to having the mind of Christ. The default mode is one of evil because it follows the pattern of fleshly feelings and desires rather than the Spirit of God. Left alone our minds will entertain all kinds of thoughts, many which will lead us in a wrong direction.

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  (Genesis 6:5)

Our mind is the framework of who we will be, what we will do, how we will respond to circumstances around us.  It creates, imagines, determines and processes our responses to situations. It will guide us, or we will guide it by activating the Word of God in us by faith. This framework is the structure that determines the course of our lives.  It is either shaky and unsettled, or built on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, the Word.  We are born in default mode, but we do not have to live in default mode.  We have a choice.

 do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
(Romans 12:2)

Our minds are renewed when we fill them with the Word of God.  Being conformed to this world means we are allowing our mind to run in default mode. We are following our feelings and our own thoughts.  But we can be transformed to walk in the light of truth.  The power of the Spirit and Word in us transforms us, and the Word continues working mightily in us as we are surrendered to Him.

“…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

            The Word works in us by revealing areas in our hearts that need to be changed.  They are dealt with by allowing the Word to cleanse us and bring us into agreement with Christ. As we act upon what we read in the Bible, we are growing and being established.
Jesus spoke these words as a prayer to the Father shortly before He was crucified.

Sanctify [set apart] them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17, NKJV)
           
            We are set apart from the world to live in the kingdom of God and to be conformed more and more into the image of Jesus. Paul spoke to the Ephesians about those who lived in default mode.  Their minds were darkened to the truth and they lived their lives in darkness and evil. Then he said this:

 But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”.  (Ephesians 4:20-24, NKJV)

Choose life, light and order.
Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

AS A LITTLE CHILD




            When my sister and I were little girls, we liked to swing.  I especially liked the swings my Daddy hung from a limb high up in a huge tree in our yard.  It wasn’t like the little metal swing sets.  If you wanted to swing high on those, you were in danger of turning the whole set over.  The swings Daddy hung from the limb were sturdy boards supported with strong chains. We could swing as high as we wanted to with no limits!  Our goal was to swing so high that our toes would touch the leaves on the branch above us. We achieved that goal often, and it felt like we were flying!
            When is the last time we have tried to reach the limb above us?  When we grow up, we lose our childlike qualities.  And certainly we are supposed to mature as we gain wisdom and experience, but there are some qualities from our youth we need to reclaim for the kingdom of God.  Coupled with wisdom and experience, they can be dynamic.
            The solid foundation of those swings provided us the liberty to go higher than we ever had before with the small swing set.  A firm foundation in God’s Word and the experience we gain as we walk with Him provide us with the liberty to be free in God’s kingdom. This world’s foundation is like one of those little metal swing sets.  It will give way from underneath us.
            On one occasion, Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  “He called a little child and set him before them, and said, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self – your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:3 Amplified Bible)  Children live in simplicity.  They live life in its purest form seeing the beauty of God’s creation, trusting, and free from the worries of this life.  They have no ulterior motives and no agenda.  They take life as it comes.
            In another passage, Jesus said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever does not receive and welcome the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”  How can we be childlike and yet mature Christians?  After all, Paul wrote to the Ephesians “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.(Ephesians 4:14) If we look at some of the typical qualities of children, we can see where we need to be “as a little child”, not naive or foolish, but childlike.  Living life in its purest form, trusting our Heavenly Father and free from worries.
Jesus spoke of the humility of children. They are not arrogant or hypocritical.  They don’t pretend to be what they are not.  They are real.  What you see is who they are inside and out.  The quality of being real in this generation is almost lost in the drama of social media and ‘reality’ TV shows.  As adults, we tend to try to please those around us at the risk of displeasing God. We need to be real through and through, in our worship, in our relationships, in our homes, in our churches.  God knows who we are, no matter how we try to hide it.
Children are forgiving.  If there is a disagreement between them, it is usually forgiven and forgotten within minutes.  They don’t naturally carry a grudge or allow bitterness to form in them. We need to relearn that quality.  As adults we tend to carry a lot of baggage that we are not designed to carry. If we want to be forgiven, we must be forgiving.  It cleanses our souls of bitterness and resentment. Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15)
Another trait of children is that they are trusting. Little children depend on their parents and don’t worry about things.  They don’t worry about how the bills will be paid or where the next meal will come from. Children don’t hesitate to ask for what they need, and they sincerely expect to receive it.  They go to their parents and say, “I’m hungry; feed me.  I’m afraid; protect me.  I’m cold; shelter me.  I’m hurt; heal me.”  Their dependence is not on their own abilities, but in the one who is taking care of them. How different we become as adults.  We feel the need to be self-sufficient rather than running to our heavenly Father. Of course, Scripture teaches us to work to provide for our families, but we don’t have to worry about things.  We can trust Jesus. He said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33) Do we trust Him?
            There are no limits in a child’s mind.  Their imagination becomes the reality of their own world where they can slay the dragon or overcome all odds to become a princess.  In their minds they are strong and can run fast, so they don’t hesitate to run in the race.  They hardly notice that they came in last, because they were too busy running.  The kingdom of God needs to be our reality, not this world. We need to be so busy running His race that we don’t know who came in first.  When we begin to read God’s Word and let it soak into us, when we open our hearts and minds to God’s Spirit in us, we have no limits.  Oh, as we get older we feel physical limitations, but the Spirit of God in us has no limits. The Holy Spirit can still plant thoughts and ideas into our minds.  We just need to catch His vision, then run with it.
            Children are curious, inquisitive and open.  They are geared to learn…and to ask a lot of questions.  They don’t just want you to tell them how to do something, they insist “let me do it!”  Knowledge isn’t enough.  They want to experience it.  When is the last time we asked God “what are You doing? Can I help?  Can I be part of it?”  That’s how Isaiah became a prophet.  He went to the temple and was in the presence of God. It was there he heard God say, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for me?”  Isaiah said, “I’ll go.  Choose me.”  (my paraphrase)  When is the last time we entered into God’s presence, felt His heart, heard His voice, then volunteered to work with Him?  To go where He goes, speak what He speaks and do the works He does? When we are hungry for God’s wisdom and righteousness, we will pursue Him and He will equip us.  Then He sends us to the field to work out that knowledge, and there we get experience.  Then we can train others.
            Most children are adventurous.  They don’t weigh out what people will think if they do a certain thing.  They just do it.  They take a risk and don’t even realize it is a risk.  They have no idea what protocol means, much less follow it.  Now foolishness can cause problems and needs to be corrected, but there are times that protocol can keep us from following the leading of the Holy Spirit.  If you think about it, Jesus didn’t exactly follow protocol, either. How does being adventurous look when you combine child-likeness with wisdom?  Jesus listened to what the Father told Him and did it.  He trusted His Father to handle the fall-out when there was risk involved or when He broke the traditions of men’s religion, which was often.  He wasn’t afraid to journey into deep water when He needed to.  He just walked on top of it!  We can too.  Wisdom comes through the Word, and hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Once we know He has spoken to us, it’s time to move. We tend to avoid any risk or anything that would keep us out of certain circles.  But we are called to hear, believe and follow.  When we hear Jesus’ call, do we argue with Him like Moses argued with God?  Moses weighed out the risk factor, what people might say, the mental idea he had that he was not qualified to do the job, the unbelief of the people he was asked to deliver, and the probable failure rate of the mission.  Do we do that? Or do we hear, believe and follow?  Following Jesus is not reckless.  Following our own imaginations and ideas is very reckless. Behaving foolishly will tarnish not only our reputation, but the reputation of God in the eyes of those who see it. There will be times we need to seek confirmation from a wise Christian friend to be sure we are hearing from God. And, of course, we need to have the leading of the Spirit and be in conjunction with God’s Word. But once that is settled, we need to move out as God opens the doors.
            Children are open to what they are taught.  They believe what we tell them and usually act accordingly.  When I was a little girl, maybe four or five, there was a big old two-story abandoned house next door to us.  Our parents told us not to go under the house to play because there was a well under there and it was dangerous.  I did not hear the word ‘well’.  I heard ‘whale’.  Granted, I misunderstood what they said, but the fact remains that although I could not wrap my little mind around the prospect of a whale living under a house, I still believed them. So I never played under that house.  Sometimes Jesus’ teachings may not make sense to us, or His callings may take us beyond our comfort zone, but we can trust Him implicitly and act accordingly. 
            When you take these childlike qualities and combine them with the wisdom and experience of age and the power of the Holy Spirit, you have a more complete picture of a Christian. One does not replace the other.  Rather, they balance one another.  The childlike qualities keep us humble, fresh, trusting, and energized, while the wisdom and experience keep us from acting foolishly.  It’s the door to living in the kingdom of God.

“…whoever does not receive and welcome the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”