Monday, November 22, 2021

WHAT ARE YOUR CREDENTIALS?

 

The definition of credentials (according to the dictionary on my iPad) is as follows: evidence of authority, status, rights, entitlement to privileges, or the like. A lack of credentials can close doors for us. But some credentials can open a lot of doors. They can boost our status, give us special rights and privileges and back up our authority in specific areas. They can certify that we are a medical doctor, lawyer or many other positions. But when this life is over, the credentials are no longer valid.

The spiritual credentials we have are much more important than the credentials of this world. We may be ‘somebody’ according to this world’s standards, but what sort of authority, status, rights and privileges do we have in the kingdom of God? That’s what really counts because that is what is eternal. That is what we will answer for in the day we stand before God in judgment. Our meager excuses will carry no wait, neither will our earthly credentials.

The apostle Paul explained all of his credentials for being a Pharisee, a teacher of the law. This is what He said. “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.(Philippians 3:4-6)

He was a “card-carrying” Pharisee who had impeccable credentials. No one could argue against his training or his authority and right to teach the law. Plus, he had received his training from the well-respected teacher of the law, Gamaliel. But Paul found out that all his human wisdom and training was nothing. His confidence in his credentials took him in the wrong direction until He met Jesus Christ. He had put all his dependence on himself and his achievements until he found the truth in Jesus. That’s why, after listing his religious credentials, he went on to say, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.(Philippians 3:7-11)

Why did Paul give up his lofty position and prominence? Because he came to realize the futility of all his efforts and all his so-called achievements and success in the religious hierarchy. He had accomplished nothing and now it was all rubbish to him. But when He met Jesus and surrendered his life to Him, He began working in the kingdom alongside the Lord. That’s when he began to make a real difference in the world. He had rather suffer for the cause of Christ and achieve something eternal than parade around in the robes of a Pharisee and be honored by men. He called himself the servant or slave of Jesus Christ. In other words, he became totally surrendered to Him. His eternal credentials were impeccable.

Jesus also tried to help others understand the credentials God was looking for. “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men - extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.(Luke 18:9-14)

The Pharisees often performed their religious rituals for show among the people. Their clothing even set them apart as ‘important people’. They made a big display when they fasted or gave money to the temple treasury. But their hearts were not right with God. They were depending on their earthly credentials and works to save them. (See Matthew 23)

This particular Pharisee in Jesus’ parable seems to have considered himself one of God’s choice people and could not see that he was very much in need of the righteousness that comes only from Jesus. He was so sure of himself and his accomplishments that he was blinded to the truth that he was a religious sinner, not a child of God. Because he would not admit his need of a Savior, he continued in his sins, believing a lie that would keep him out of the kingdom of God.

The tax collector, which was considered one of the worst of sinners, admitted his sin and asked God to forgive him. He asked God to show him mercy (to refrain from giving him what he deserved). He knew what he deserved. And he went to the right place to receive pardon. Those who confess their sins and turn from them are justified. Those who dress them in religion remain in sin and will face everlasting punishment.

1 John 1:8-10 makes this very plain. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

Take notice that sandwiched between verse eight and ten is a chance for forgiveness, just like the tax collector received…”If we confess our sins”. Many have their confidence firmly planted in ‘self’. But there will come a day when they will face God and will finally see how sinful they really are and how much in need of the Savior they really are. If that happens in this life like the Apostle Paul’s experience, they can confess their sins, repent (turning from sin) and find new life in the righteousness of Christ. If they wait until they stand before God in judgment, then it’s too late. We cannot save ourselves. We need the blood of Jesus to cover our sins. The sooner we learn to surrender to His will, the sooner we will receive eternal credentials.

The credentials of a true servant of God are true repentance and humility (total submission to Jesus). That is what Jesus is looking for.

Jesus spoke about humility, but He also showed us His humility as He was obedient to the Father in every situation, even His death on the cross. Our repentance and submission (humility) to Him are credentials that open the doors of His kingdom for us.

Andrew Murray said that humility “is in truth nothing but the simple consent of the creature to let God be all, in virtue of which it surrenders itself to His working alone.” When we acknowledge the truth of our sinfulness and surrender our lives to Jesus, we can begin to live a life that is more abundant because it is rooted in the kingdom of God. God becomes all in all to us and He fills us with His Spirit, opening the treasures of His kingdom to us as we seek for them.

Earthly credentials can deceive us into believing we are ready for eternal life. But the credentials needed to enter the kingdom of God are true repentance and humility, not something we can do on our own. Once we get those credentials, then we can begin to receive added credentials that are eternal. They include authority, status, rights, and entitlement to privileges that only children of God can receive. We have the right to approach the throne of God, the status of being God’s children as His heirs, authority over the enemy, and more privileges than I can name.  He even transforms our fallen nature to a new nature that is in His image.

.

So, what are your credentials? Are they rooted in this world? Are you still counting on your best efforts and religious rituals to save you? Or are your credentials rooted in the kingdom of God?

It is not wrong to have credentials in this world. To practice law or medicine or many other careers, certain credentials are required. But we need to place the greater emphasis on our spiritual credentials. Our eternal life depends on it.

 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins

and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

"MY SERVANT"

 

A servant is a person who is working in a subordinate position under the authority of a superior. They are at the service of another either voluntarily or involuntarily. Servants carry out the plans of their employer. God chose many men and women to be His servants down through time. They are considered great people of God. Let’s look at some of the servants He was able to use for His purposes and His glory. Some are well-known, but some may surprise you.


MOSES

And He [the LORD] said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD will make Myself known to him in a vision and I will speak to him in a dream. But it is not so with My servant Moses; He is entrusted and faithful in all My house. With him I speak mouth to mouth [directly], clearly and openly and not in riddles; And he beholds the form of the LORD. (Numbers 12:6-8 AMP)

            Moses was a trusted servant of God. God was able to speak “face to face” with Moses unlike anyone else. Although reluctant at first, Moses was an obedient servant of God. He listened to what God spoke to him and followed His words. In all the years Moses followed the Lord, there is only one reference of disobedience.

God used Moses to bring His people out of Egypt. He had planned this deliverance long before Moses was born, and it was carried out to fulfill the promise He had made to Abraham many years before.

            Long before Moses was ever born, God had told Abraham: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.(Genesis 15:13-14)

Moses followed God’s will and accomplished all he was called to do. He not only delivered God’s people, but took part in the fulfillment of the promise God had made to Abraham. He was part of something much bigger than what he could see. He was working with God to fulfill His Word to Abraham and to fulfill what He had spoken to Moses. The past sets the stage for the present and God is in control of it all. We can join Him in fulfilling His plan.


DAVID

God also spoke to His servant Samuel to anoint David as king while Saul was still sitting on the throne. A lot of years went by before it actually came to pass. But after Saul and his family were killed in battle, Abner said to the elders of Israel, “In time past you were seeking for David to be king over you. Now then, do it! For the Lord has spoken of David, saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David, I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and the hand of all their enemies.’ ” (2 Samuel 3:17-18 AMP)

When David became king and God told him that he would have an everlasting kingdom in his family line, David remembered the past that had brought Him to this day. He said “What one nation on earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself, and to do great and awesome things for Yourself and for Your land, before Your people whom You have redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, from nations and their gods? You established for Yourself Your people Israel as Your people forever, and You, O LORD, have become their God.” But there was more to come. David recognized He was just one part of the fulfillment of God’s total plan. Yet he looked back at what God had done, what He was doing, and what He would do in the future. He saw it was all related.

God strategically places His servants, those who will be obedient to Him, in places where they can be used to bring about the purposes of God. How exciting it is to be part of what God is doing in the earth. Every one that truly serves God according to His will is a link in the chain that began back in the Garden of Eden. Now David is part of that chain linking this great nation to the coming King Who would be forever on the throne. This King is the Lord of Glory Who was born in the flesh through David’s lineage, and Whose Father was God.

 

JESUS

Luke 1:32 speaks of Jesus saying, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.”

God’s promise to David of an everlasting kingdom is fulfilled through Jesus. Yet, even Jesus Himself came into this world as a servant. He was under the authority of His Father. He spoke what the Father told him to speak and did what the Father told Him to do.

Matthew 12:18 says: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.”  Jesus brings all of us who surrender to His Lordship into God’s nation (kingdom).

            Yet, even Jesus spoke of Himself as a servant of His Father as He came to this earth in human flesh. He said, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)  He also said, “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 20:27-28)

And He invites us to be servants of the Father. We can be a link in the chain of God’s kingdom in this earth. It is a great honor to work alongside God.

 

THE PROPHETS

God said, “Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have [persistently] sent you all My servants the prophets, sending them daily, early [and late].”

            All of these knowingly and willingly followed God. They put aside their plans and desires for their lives and joined together with others who were a link in the chain of God’s servants who were used mightily of Him and rewarded greatly. They were part of moving the plan of God through toward its fulfillment. Now it’s our turn to keep the flow going.

But there were some that God called His servants that were unknowingly fulfilling God’s prophecies and were the catalysts of turning God’s people back to Him.

God’s people had forsaken Him. And although He warned them over and over through the prophets, they would not return to Him. “Yet you have not listened to Me,” says the LORD, “so that you have provoked Me to anger with the work (idols) of your hands to your own harm.”

 

NEBUCHADNEZZAR

So God used Nebuchadnezzar to conquer His people and take them away from Jerusalem. God said, “I will send for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant [to enact My plan], and I will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these surrounding nations; and I will utterly destroy them. This whole land will be a waste and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:7-11 AMP)

God used as His servant a pagan king to punish His people for their sins. But after 70 years He used another pagan king to return them to their homeland that God had given them. As a result, they never served idols again. Cyrus did the Lord’s bidding without even knowing Him.

 
CYRUS

God said, “It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd (ruler), And he will carry out all that I desire, Saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall [again] be built,’ And of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall [again] be laid.’ (Isaiah 44:28 AMP)

“This is what the LORD says to His anointed, to Cyrus [king of Persia]… For the sake of Jacob My servant, And of Israel My chosen, I have also called you by your name…There is no God except Me. I will embrace and arm you, though you have not known Me, That people may know from the rising to the setting of the sun [the world over] That there is no one except Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:1-6 AMP)

What does God say when He sees us? Can He say, “That is My servant!”? Are we listed among the servants of God, carrying out His Word as He speaks to us? Are we following the path of Jesus?

Jesus gave up His privileges to do the will of the Father. “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

If we want to be great in God’s kingdom, we need to be servants!

 

Monday, September 27, 2021

THE HELMET OF SALVATION

 

            In Ephesians 6 we are given a list of spiritual armor that we are to put on as the people of God. This armor protects us from the attacks of Satan. Each piece protects a specific area. One of the pieces of armor that I believe is desperately needed in our generation is the helmet of salvation. A helmet covers the head. It protects the mind with which we can reason and make decisions. This helmet is the salvation of our minds and, therefore affects every part of our lives. Salvation is deliverance, rescue, recovery and escape from a darkened mind. Our minds can be saved or redeemed from the penalty of sin. The penalty of sin in our minds is darkness. We are born incapable of understanding spiritual things. When Adam and Eve sinned, their minds were darkened. Where there had been enlightenment, there was darkness. Their minds came under the penalty of sin along with their bodies. So that is how we are born, with darkened minds.

In Ephesians 4:17, Paul tells the Gentile Christians they should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind. They were not to continue following in their usual customs and thought, because it was fruitless.

The word “futility” means ineffective, useless, frivolous [because they have no eternal value], incapable of producing any results. When our minds are set on the things of this world, they are on things that are frivolous and ineffective regardless of how well we succeed in them, because they are not eternal. He continues on in Verse 18 saying, “for their [moral] understanding is darkened and their reasoning is clouded.” 

Have you ever had to drive through heavy fog? There are some places that it is nearly impossible to see, especially in low lying areas. When I used to drive to work, there was one area that would cloud my vision almost completely. It was hard to make out the traffic light right in front of me on some days. Without the enlightenment of God’s Spirit, we cannot see clearly. Our spiritual vision is cloudy.

Our minds need to be redeemed just like the rest of us. When we have redeemed minds, we think differently. The fog is lifted. Instead of thinking in natural terms, we begin to think on spiritual terms.

Ephesians 4:22-24 puts it this way: You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Salvation is deliverance from sin and the penalties of sin. It is our redemption. The helmet of salvation covers our minds, freeing them from slavery to sin.

Our little grandson has a helmet he wears when he rides his bike. It’s just a small bike, but the helmet will protect (or save) his head from danger if he falls. But sometimes, he will just ride his little tricycle instead, because he doesn’t want to go through the trouble of wearing his helmet.

            The helmet of salvation will protect our minds from the Fall. It will bring us renewal. And it will protect us from the onslaught of the enemy against our minds. Because he fights for our minds on a daily basis. We may think it’s easier to go without it sometimes, but it’s not easier in the long run. We need to always keep our helmets on!

Our minds should never be left open and vulnerable to the ideas of the devil. If we let our minds idly wander, Satan will send his thoughts our way. We may have a random thought shoot through our minds and we say, “where did that come from?” We need to quickly cast aside every thought that comes from the enemy.

We also need to be careful what we subject our minds to. Psalm 101:2-3 is an amazing passage from King David. He says, “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.  I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes:”

Notice he said he would walk within his house with a blameless heart. So many think once we are at home, we can do anything, say anything, watch anything and we are okay. We are to be the same in the privacy of our homes as we are in church or anywhere else. Do we set any wicked things before our eyes? What about television? IF you found a decent program, what about the commercials that bombard you? What about the internet and all the other social media sites? What about movies with all kinds of sinful behavior? Do we give evil images access to our minds by opening the door? Once a thought has been planted in your mind it’s hard to get rid of it. We are to be careful what and who we allow access into our lives and our thoughts.

Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Just because our minds are saved, it doesn’t mean that trash cannot come in. Satan still tries to blind our eyes from what we know to be true. He tries to put his thoughts in our minds just enough to make us question truth. If we entertain His meddling, the next step will be to try to question what God said and we come up with the devil’s twisted version of God’s Word and begin to live by it.

            Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But I am afraid that, even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted and led away from the simplicity of [your sincere and] pure devotion to Christ. Simplicity is that which is in its purest form. The gospel is definitely in its purest form. It is clear and simple. And that is how we need to receive it, accept it and live by it.

We need to take every precaution to keep Satan from corrupting our minds. If he does, it will change who we are.

My phone got a virus and at first there were just a few simple interruptions. Then, before I knew what was happening, it practically took over my phone. It added things it wanted to add and removed what it wanted to destroy. My son fixed it. And told me to be careful about what I went into. He also put a filter program on it to delete viruses.

God’s Son fixes our minds, too. But we have to keep our helmet on and be careful what we allow into our minds.            

1 Corinthians 2:16 says “For who has known the mind and purposes of the Lord, so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ [to be guided by His thoughts and purposes].” So let’s not let anything else get in there and clutter it up.

In Romans 15:5-6 Paul writes, “Now may the God who gives endurance and who supplies encouragement grant that you be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify and praise and honor the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As part of the Body of Christ, we are to have one mind and one voice! If we want to all be of the same mind, we need to all have the mind of Christ. If we all have the mind of Christ, we will have one voice. We will all speak the same thing.

Guard what you think and what you meditate on. Don’t let just anything take lodging in your mind. Keep your helmet on securely. Protect your mind carefully.  Make sure it is set apart for Jesus and not wide open for enemy infiltration. Bring every thought into subjection to Christ.

Isaiah 26:3 tells us, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” The word “stayed” means committed or focused. We have to train our minds to be focused on Christ.

At the television studio we have monitors that face us most of the time. If we don’t stay focused on what we are doing, every little movement on the screen will capture our attention and divert us from the gospel we are sharing with the viewing audience.

Keeping our helmet on means we are focusing on Jesus and not allowing our minds to be pulled away by the ways of this world, or our focus to be turned to other things.

 

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6

 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

RESTORING THE RUINS, CLEARING THE RUBBLE

 

    There was a time when the people of God (Israel) became so rebellious against God that He allowed the city of Jerusalem to be conquered, the walls torn down and burned, and the people taken into captivity into Babylon. The walls had been built around the city for protection from enemies that would destroy them or lure them away from God who was their ultimate protection. They rejected God, and their walls fell. They were there for seventy years before God released them to return to Jerusalem.

When I look at the people of God today (the Body of Christ) it seems the walls have been breached, not by a military force, but by being lured away from the truth of Jesus Christ.  Slowly but surely, the pull of the world, false teaching, and the absence of the Spirit of God among us have caused us to rewrite the teachings of Jesus to suit our culture. His Word (Truth) and the power of the Holy Spirit are our walls of protection. Little by little over the years, the walls have been torn down and burned in many areas. But we don’t have to continue to live in the midst of debris and burned walls.

Jesus said that the gates (power, authority) of hell would not prevail against His Church. In other words, He said the devil’s kingdom would not triumph over God’s people. God always has a remnant that has not bowed their knee to the gods of this world. Maybe you are one of them. I hope so. There is a lot of work to be done, but God is with us.

With so much compromise and erroneous teaching that has been imbedded in our minds over the years in the name of Christianity, what can we do to rebuild the walls and restore the whole Body of Christ back to order? The walls that need to be rebuilt are not to alienate us from the people in the world. They are to keep us safe from the power of Satan and his demon spirits as we take the true gospel to the world. They are to keep the gospel pure so that people can be set free in Christ.

Many of the people of Israel who went back to Jerusalem seventy years later found that the walls of the city still lay in ruins. Nehemiah was still in Babylon and was the king’s cupbearer, but when he got word about the condition of his people in Jerusalem, God stirred up his heart. Nehemiah began to pray and repent of his wickedness and that of his people. Then, with the king’s permission and blessing, he left his post and became governor of the people in Jerusalem. He led the people to rebuild and restore the walls.

            When Nehemiah told the people what God had sent him to do, they said, “Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” Every individual was called to do their part so the work could be accomplished. If the work of God’s Kingdom is going to be done, each of us must do our part. That means we have to work in unity with the Holy Spirit and God’s people.

What keeps us from rising up and rebuilding our spiritual life, or building in the lives of other people? Is the job too overwhelming? Are we discouraged to the point of apathy and unconcern? Are we unwilling to put forth the effort? Are we content with the rubble all around us and the absence of the Spirit of God? Maybe we are just used to things as they are, and we have come to a point that it doesn’t matter to us anymore. We say, “well it’s been like this as long as I can remember; no use trying to stir up things now.”

Where are the Nehemiahs of today? Where are those who will begin the work to rebuild what the enemy has destroyed? Who will rise up and repent of apathy and disobedience so the work of restoration can begin? Is God stirring up your heart? Don’t let it settle back down into apathy again. Rise up and build!

As the people built, each one began restoring what was close to where they lived on the wall of Jerusalem. Each one took responsibility for their part. Some did more work than others, but it was according to their ability that they worked.

Piece by piece (person by person), we can rebuild. The work begins first with us as an individual. There needs to be repentance from slackness, negligence or disobedience to the will and Word of God in our own hearts. Repentance brings change. Then we can help others.

Do we feel that it’s too late to change things? Look at the spiritual devastation in our churches, our homes, our cities, our nation. I cannot believe that there is nothing we can do to bring light to the darkness, order to chaos, and restoration to the ruins around us. We cannot blame all our problems on politics. It is the responsibility of the people of God to work on the wall where it is burned and in ruins. When the true Church, the body of Christ, says, “Let us rise up and build,” we will begin to see a change in our surroundings. We will not have a perfect world, but we can make a difference. If we will just purpose in our hearts to strengthen our hands to do the work of the kingdom of God, then we will see results. When the teachings of Jesus are held up by the Church once again, we will begin to see change around us. When the power of the Holy Spirit returns to our own hearts and our churches, we will see a difference. When love for the lost and for fellow believers is evident, then people will see that we are truly disciples of Jesus Christ.

When there is rubble all around us and the very wall that was supposed to protect us has been burned, it is hard to take a stand, but it is necessary for us all to do our part and rebuild to the glory of God. It’s time for us to rise up as one to do the work of God and rebuild what the devil has stolen from us. It is not about us, but about the purposes of God being done through us.

When we try to rise up to accomplish the work we are called to do, Satan will come against us, just as enemies came against Nehemiah. But Nehemiah simply said, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.”

Nehemiah’s trust was in God; not the king, himself, or the people. It was not pride that caused him to answer as he did. He stood on truth and his faith in God. He had seen how God had given him favor and brought him this far. He believed God would finish what He started. He explained to these governors of other provinces that they were not the governor of Jerusalem, he was! They had no legal right over the city, no share in the city and no memorial (historic claim) there.

When we rise and start to build in the kingdom of God, Satan will accuse us, make us feel foolish for believing we can make a difference and all kinds of other things, but he has no right over us. God is our governor, not him. Satan has no legal right over us - no authority. He has no say-so in the call of God over our lives. He has no claim in the Kingdom of God. So we can arise and move forward.

We need to start with what is close to us. We need to do what is within our reach. If we wait until we can attain “great” things in far-away lands, we will never accomplish anything. Matthew Henry said, “If everyone will sweep before his own door, the street will be clean.” We need to get serious about sweeping in front of our door! That’s where we are right now. First, we need to sweep our own lives, then we can help others.

Take a look around you. What needs to be restored? What needs to be rebuilt? Be honest with God and with yourself. Are you doing your part according to your ability? Are you aware of the sin and ruins around you?

You can’t come against evil with evil and win. You can’t fight in the natural and win. Truth, the power of the Holy Spirit, the true Word of God, Love, Joy, Peace, Light, and Life are what we need to bring to our world. It is what Jesus brought to our world. These will combat lies, powerlessness, false doctrine, hatred, sadness, fear, darkness and death without us “firing a single shot”.

             If we don’t do the good work God has called us to do as His people; keeping His Word, His teachings, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and walking in the Spirit, the walls will not be rebuilt. And the fate of the church will remain like that of Jerusalem with the people going through their daily routines and religious duties among the rubble and ruins, resigned to a life of compromise and defeat.

 

LET US RISE UP AND BUILD AND LET THE GLORY OF GOD BE SEEN.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

WHAT WILL THIS GENERATION DO?

 

            The generation that God miraculously brought out from Egyptian slavery was ungrateful, unbelieving and rebellious against God and His commandments. Because of their rebelliousness, they were a generation that died in the wilderness without completing their journey. They had seen all the plagues that came to Egypt while they were kept safe in nearby Goshen. They saw the miracle of the Red Sea parting and actually experienced walking through it on dry ground. They saw their enemies destroyed. They received manna to feed them in the wilderness, quail to give them meat, water from a rock and countless other miracles. No doubt, God was providing for them and protecting them. Yet they chose to blind their eyes to the miraculous provision of God and focus only on the hardships they encountered. Most of their “hardships” were caused by their rebellion against God. After all the miracles He showed them, they still didn’t trust Him.

This is what God says to us about them. “Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.” (Psalm 95:7-11)     

            I began thinking about that lost generation who wandered in the wilderness until they finally died, and I compared it to our generation. They were constantly looking fondly back at Egypt, the place of their bondage. We keep fondly looking back at the world, the place of our bondage. Instead of submitting to God and trusting Him, they took things in their own hands time after time. I see some of the same rebellion, unbelief and sense of entitlement among us today. Are we going to settle on being a lost generation, or will we rise up and do something about changing our idleness, rebellion and unbelief before we go to our graves?

Several years ago I was talking to a pastor, and I told him that I was tired of “church”. He was a little shocked until I explained what I meant. Then he understood. I told him I was tired of church politics, people trying to push their way to top positions, seeing powerless lives, witnessing performances instead of worship and watching as the Word of God is set aside for a more up-to-date, comfortable version. Just because we are active in church, it doesn’t mean we are pleasing God. Our generation seems to have a form of godliness, but denies the power of true godliness. When will we shake ourselves and see that the power of God has departed from us just like it did from Samson? When will we see that we are weak and have no effect on the world? Instead they are having a profound effect on us. When will we catch sight of the multitudes around us that are dying and on their way to hell because the church is sequestered in their four walls and is no longer shining the light of love and compassion into the world? There is a tremendous difference in “church-goers” and Christ-followers.

Please don’t come to the conclusion that I have written off the church. Much to the contrary, I want to see us rise to our rightful place and see the power of God returned to our lives. I love and need the church and God’s people, but if we are honest, we will admit the church in general needs to be awakened. The church is made up of the people who are united with God and with one another. But we have become separated from the power and purpose of God and desperately need to return to following the example of Jesus Christ.

One of the books that I read often is “In His Steps”. I am moved every time I consider the magnitude of the promise those people made when they purposed in their hearts to make no decisions without first asking, “What would Jesus do?” Yet shouldn’t that be normal life for every follower of Jesus? Isn’t that the pattern the first disciples followed? And they changed the world. Those who made that decision in the book found that it made a drastic difference in how they saw themselves and how they lived their lives. It turned their lives upside down. It changed their city and then went beyond that. Things they had never had a second thought about doing were suddenly being examined through Jesus’ eyes, and the results were startling. Some lost jobs, some their position in society, others gave up luxury to work among those who were in dire need of a Savior. These people realized they were not their own, but were bought with the price of Jesus’ blood. Their determination to follow Jesus cost them their reputations, their cash flow and their own desires, but they found when they became selfless, it was actually freeing instead of restricting. There was a close camaraderie among those who chose to walk like Jesus walked, and they experienced the Spirit of God in their midst when they gathered together, just like the early church. Where are the prayer meetings where there is actual earnest, effective prayer? Where are those who have a strong desire to know more of Jesus, to the point of putting aside other things? Where is the selflessness that Jesus taught His disciples? Even they, like many in the church today were arguing over who would be greatest in the kingdom of God. They were missing the point. They were thinking of the kingdom of this world rather than the kingdom of God. I would like to see us challenged to take up our possession in God’s Kingdom so we can begin to move in the power of the Spirit and change our world.

            Many people say they are following Jesus, but they are walking apart from His teachings, and they are not serving others. If we think of everything that happens in light of how it will affect us, we are walking the wrong road. We are to think about how it will affect the kingdom of God and the lives of others. Jesus said we are to be the servants of all. We are here in this world, not to partake of its glory, but to point others to the glory of God. If we work for our own glory, once again, we are walking on the wrong road. Jesus was not self-serving. If he had been, we would still be lost.

There is an urgent need for people who are lost to see who Jesus is, and that can only be done through God’s people. He has entrusted His mission into our hands. Our greatest desire and purpose should be to bring glory to God and to actively participate with Him to bring about the salvation of souls and the teaching of the gospel so others can grow in Christ once they come to know Him. How can that happen unless God’s people live in surrender to His will? What gets in our way? Is it selfishness, ego, love of money, prestige, or rebellion against God? Let’s lay aside all the weights and the sin that keep us from doing God’s will. Let’s ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”

We live in a dark world that is looking for purpose in the wrong places and not finding it. We know the answer, yet they remain in darkness because our light has grown dim. Are we failing at our purpose? After all, where does the light come from? Jesus said we are the light of the world. So, why is the world dark? Because God’s people are not shining the light of Jesus Christ. It’s time to wake up and fan the flames of Jesus’ light within us. Just imagine the darkness that can be dispelled if every child of God will enlighten their part of the world! I realize that not everyone will come to the light, but we are to shine anyway. There are some who are waiting to hear our message. If we are not letting people see the kingdom of God through us, we are not glorifying God. But all that can change. Even Samson was given another chance to redeem himself.

Will we be the generation that takes their ease and lets souls slip into eternity lost? Will we be the generation that is hardened by the world and slips into the darkness? Will we be the generation who leaves no link to the gospel for the next generation? We don’t have to be.

We can change the world with truth, justice, love, compassion and the power of the gospel message. We can renew our vow to follow God’s Word no matter the consequences. Are we willing to humble ourselves and empty ourselves of all self-will and allow God to give us a fresh anointing? Are we willing to give ourselves to Him completely? We need to keep in mind that we are in the kingdom of God for the purpose of showing God’s glory to the people who don’t know Him so they can come to Him and be saved.

Psalm 92 says, “I am anointed with fresh oil [for Your service].” If we will choose to be who God has called us to be and do what God has called us to do, we can experience that fresh oil. And we will find that it is consistently replenished by the Holy Spirit as we pour it out to others. Let’s ask God where we can be of service to Him. In what mission is God inviting you to join Him? Don’t hesitate. Go with Him.

Those who have the fresh oil for His service will “flourish in the courts of our God. [Growing in grace] they will still thrive and bear fruit and prosper in old age; They will flourish and be vital and fresh [rich in trust and love and contentment]; [They are living memorials] to declare that the Lord is upright and faithful [to His promises]; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.(from Psalm 92, Amplified Bible) 

 

It’s time for the Church of Jesus Christ to rise up and be seen as His glorious Church, showing God’s glory to the world!

           

 

 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

ARE WE LIVING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD?

 

             You can visit most countries simply by obtaining a passport to travel there. There are specific steps you have to take and certain information you have to give in order to receive permission to enter the country. But as long as they approve your credentials, you will be allowed to go in for a visit. The kingdom of God is vastly different. You cannot even look across the border and see the kingdom of God unless you are born into it. There is nothing we have that can secure our entrance there. Our credentials are severely lacking and there is nothing we can do to change that. But Jesus did something to alter our situation. He took all our sin and unrighteousness on Himself and died in our place. His death paid the penalty for our sins, but we have to make the choice to repent (turn from) our sins and turn to Jesus, surrendering our lives to Him. Then we are born again. We know when we are born again because there is a tremendous change in us. We might not be able to explain it in words, but we know we are different.

            Being born again is to believe in Jesus - Who He is, His works, His words, His mission, His commandments. It is to choose to follow Him, to walk as He walked on this earth and to be submitted to His will. If we are truly born again, it has altered our lives and changed the way we see everything. It changes the way we think, act, and speak. It should change our relationships, our priorities and our mission in life. It gives us entrance into God’s kingdom because we are now children of God.

            What happens when we turn from our sins and surrender our lives to Jesus? What changes? Our spirit is awakened, enabling us to see and operate within the kingdom of God right here and now. Paul put it this way in writing to the Ephesians. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” We are now in the kingdom of God just like Jesus was and is. Are we living fully in the kingdom of God?

            We tend to think we cannot live in the kingdom of God until our bodies die, but that is not what Jesus said. Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.(Luke 17:20-21 NKJV)  

Jesus taught us through example to function in kingdom principles now. He came in the flesh to show us what the kingdom of God is like and how it operates. He showed us, even though He was flesh and blood, how we can live in God’s kingdom and this world at the same time. What did He do? Let’s look at what Jesus said He came to do.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” And He accomplished His mission. Then He delegated that mission to His disciples, and because the Holy Spirit was given to them, they were able to work by the same power and wisdom that Jesus had to spread the gospel and do mighty works. They followed Jesus’ pattern. We have the same Holy Spirit and the same mission. Are we living in the kingdom of God?

            Another thing Jesus showed us is that God’s kingdom is a place where the will of God is always done. If it requires a miracle, there will be a miracle. If it requires the teaching of a hard saying, we need to be bold to teach it. If it requires compassion and sacrifice, then we are to have compassion and make the sacrifice. We are always to be completely dependent on and obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit within us. He will lead us into all Truth and help us to do the will of God.

It seems we are missing something of the power and wisdom of God’s kingdom. And we don’t have to. Maybe we need to re-learn what it means to live in compliance with the principles of God’s kingdom even while living in this world. Start putting it into practice one step at a time. If His commandments seem hard, even unreasonable, that only shows how far we have strayed from God’s Word and how ingrained this world is within us. Go back to the gospels and compare what you do and say to what Jesus taught. Compare His responses to others to your responses. Using Jesus as the example to follow can seem overwhelming, but we can do it by yielding minute by minute to the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

When we are born again, our citizenship is in the kingdom of God. We are in this world but not of it. Yet, we are ambassadors from God’s kingdom to this world. According to the dictionary, an ambassador is “a diplomatic official of the highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative.” We have been delegated to speak and act on God’s behalf in this world. How are we doing? What depiction of God is this world seeing through us? We are to be following the example Jesus gave us and walk, talk, love, rebuke, and act like Jesus. If we don’t, no wonder the world rejects Him. They are seeing an imposter.

We have at our disposal the power of God’s kingdom. We need to learn to use it for the glory of God and for the salvation of people who as yet don’t know Him. We have the Word of God that too many don’t have. We have understanding into the things of God’s Spirit by the Spirit Himself and we need to share those things with others.

Why should we follow the principles of this world when God’s principles are clearly stated in His written Word and in our hearts? Why should we turn away from the work Jesus calls us to? Why should we continue in sin when the Truth has set us free? Why are we not telling others about the kingdom of God? Why do we not see the power of the Holy Spirit move through us when He has been given to us?

 We start out our new lives wanting to know what God says, what He has made available to us and what we can do to please Him. Over the course of years we see other Christians who are not as faithful in their walk with Jesus. Their lives are powerless and mostly focused on this world, but they have positions in the church and seem to be okay. So we get lax by following their example instead of using Jesus as our pattern. Then we pass on to the next generation our watered-down gospel, and their influence is even more diluted in their lives as they pass down a hardly recognizable gospel to the following generation. Just how far have we come from the teachings of Jesus concerning the kingdom of God? It’s time to return to the Bible and take Jesus at His Word. There are many well-meaning paraphrases of the Bible today that just may be watering down Jesus’ words. Be careful to read a valid translation. We are neither set free or commanded by the opinions of others, but only by the Truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the life. We need to be cautious so as not to be misled by opinion. It is a narrow way that leads to life. If we seek out Truth and allow Truth to set our course, we will be safe.

When we read something in the Bible that convicts us of our need to change in that area, do we allow Him to change us? When the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts to do a certain thing, are we quick to obey His voice? Or do we compare what He asks of us to what others are doing?

We need to open our eyes to see what we do, what we give priority, what we neglect in the light of God’s Word. Are we bringing His kingdom among us like Jesus did, or have we fallen back into the pattern of this world? Be careful not to get so acclimated to this world that no one can catch even a glimpse of Jesus in you.

            As this world gets darker and darker, we need to shine the light of God’s Truth brighter than ever before. If we are not careful we can be lulled by the rhythms of this world and turn our eyes back to accomplishing things here instead of in the kingdom of God. That is a mistake, because we come in and out of this world like a flash. But what we accomplish here for the kingdom of God will last forever. This world lures us in to make us comfortable here, but God draws us closer to Him. Let’s never forget our position as ambassadors in this world. We may say, “well I know where I’m going, so I don’t care what happens.” But what about all those who haven’t heard the gospel? Where will they be?

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14-15)

            Pray and ask God what is your part in reaching the world for Christ. We are all called in different capacities to get the one work done – sending the gospel into all the world. Do we still feel our responsibility for lost souls? Do we still have compassion for those who have not heard? Do we recognize the blessing of God in our lives for those of us who know Him?  Freely we have received, we must also freely give.

Are you living in the kingdom of God?