If we step outdoors in a city and look up to see the stars, they are difficult to see because of the ambient light from the city. But if we drive out to the countryside, and look up at the stars, they are considerably easier to view. Sometimes we become frustrated in our efforts to seek and experience God in the way we would like. Often though, it is not that God is deliberately hiding Himself from us, it is the ambient light all around us that is obscuring our vision.
Power, Security and Peace.
The world believes that to have power is to have security and to have security is to have peace. This is common to government and to individual alike. We strive, every day to have peace and security by having power over our circumstances. But the reality is that all power is from the Father, eternal security is from salvation through Christ, and all true and lasting peace is through the indwelling of the Spirit of God.
What is my destiny?
“Destiny: the apparently predetermined and inevitable series of events that happen to somebody or something.” (Encarta Dictionary)
Every so often, as I focus with concern upon some aspect of my life, I am reminded that most of me exists in Eternity. The “time” I live in here is essentially a created dimension for created beings to dwell in. But God exists in past, present and future simultaneously. So, even though my relationship with God is “right now” to me, the reality is that most of who I am and who I will be already lives in the infinity of Eternity.
As a Believer, my destiny is not of this world.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Why does God love sinners who, according to Him, deserve eternal damnation!? (Matt 25:41)
Most Christians will respond to this question with, “Because God is merciful.” But this is actually how God demonstrates His love for us, not why He loves us.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Wow! This scripture tells us that God’s love is unconditional! While we were still sinners and while we deserved eternal damnation, Christ died for us. In other words, because of God’s great love for us He overcame the offense that our sin was to His perfect holiness through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Jesus took upon Himself all the punishment for our sins.
But why did He perform this great work of mercy? What sense does this make? Why would God love even the most monstrous sinner that ever walked this earth?
It actually makes perfect sense and the answer is in Genesis.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
God’s demonstration of His love for us while we were still sinners is based on the simple fact that we are created in His image. It’s really all about God’s intrinsic value in Himself. When God looks at us He is seeing a reflection of the immeasurable value of Himself! This image of Himself, in us, was tarnished by sin but not entirely eradicated – as proven at the cross of Christ.
God’s original plan as initiated with Adam and Eve was that we would understand that our self-worth is determined entirely by the fact that we are created in God’s image.
God unconditionally loves the person that is yet a sinner because He has created this person in His own image. In fact, to not love all who are created in His image, sinner and saint alike would be a contradiction to the very essence of His nature.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines self-pity as “pity for oneself; especially: a self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes.”
Joni Eareckson Tada, a long time paraplegic, says that God “boldly intrudes into our self-pity, brashly calling it what it is and challenging us to leave it behind.” After being particularly difficult one day, her nurse forcefully said to her, “You get yourself together girl. Aint nothing wrong with you that a good look around this hospital won’t cure.”
Sometimes, this is exactly what we need. Not just the exhortation from her nurse but a good look around this hospital we call Earth. The wounded, the dying, the lost; they are everywhere.
Are we not called to administer the Balm of Gilead – the saving power of Jesus—the one true treatment that never fails to heal our spiritual wounds? But how will this be accomplished if we are absorbed in our own self-centered disappointment? We must choose to believe the Word of God -“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
And remember what we were saved for – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10)
If we would take God’s truth about our own future to heart, we will find ourselves becoming remarkably aware of the urgency of our present mission to this decaying world and there will simply be little time or reason left for us to wallow in our own self-pity.
Sometimes an examination of our prayer life can indicate why we have come to have fewer close personal experiences with God.
For many Christians, our prayer time can become focused primarily upon our own lives. When this happens, most of our communication to God is about what we perceive our own needs to be.
Although it is true that God desires that we come to Him for every need in our lives, we must also come to realize that “Thy will be done” must always take priority over “Give us this day our daily bread.” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4:34)
Thus, it is often the case that our most intimate and life changing experiences with God will occur only after we are finally willing to let go of who we think we need God to be. By doing so, we issue an open invitation to His Spirit to embrace our spirit with the least amount of self-centered resistance from us. By “allowing” God to be God we free our soul to know Him as He would have us know Him. Our priorities are no longer principally about what we think we need God to take care of in our lives.
Instead, we become more like Mary than Martha. Sitting at the feet of Jesus we can experience God as our friend and the lover of our soul. And this experience can never be taken from us.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42)
Christmas Eve – Innocence
The birth of the Christ child represents the coming of the Messiah – the One who would save us from our sins. From the moment he was born the salvation of mankind was the life and death mission of the holy and innocent infant Jesus.
But, unlike Jesus, not all infants are born innocent.
Responding to great conviction after being confronted by the prophet Nathan about his adultery with Bathsheba, David declares in Psalm 51, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
This is a difficult concept for many people to grasp. We observe a helpless infant and cannot imagine assigning any kind of guilt to the child. But God has. God has assigned what we refer to sometimes as original sin to every infant born into this fallen world. Through Adam “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) This scripture reveals an important element regarding how we are to understand sin. We “fall short of the glory of God.”
This concept of falling short of the glory of God is expounded upon when David also declares something else about his sin, something quite remarkable and seemingly quite inaccurate. Speaking to God he says, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”
What!? How can he say he has sinned only against God? Certainly, he has not only sinned against God but also against Bathsheba and against her husband whom he has murdered by having him sent to the front lines of a battle in order to remove him as an obstacle to taking Bathsheba. And, has he not sinned against his subjects whom he has failed in leadership by these choices?
David was a sinner that had come to great conviction before a holy God. I believe he realized at this moment that the greatest offense from any and every sin is first and foremost the offense that sin is to an infinitely holy God. That because of the infinite holiness of God even a single sin would separate us from Him for all eternity. It is not that he was trying to diminish responsibility for his sins against various people, rather, in his deep conviction he was realizing the gravity of his sin before a holy God. And so he declared, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”
But wherever sin is magnified, more grace is given to us. Regarding original sin, David did say, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” But, in verse six he speaks of a wonderful hope from God to all of humanity beginning before we are even born! He proclaims, “Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.”
In this verse David is describing the beginning of the saving mission of the infant Jesus to every other infant at the very moment of conception. David declares that God, full of mercy and yet desiring faithfulness, is already ministering the Wisdom of His saving grace, even in that secret place – the mother’s womb!
A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Christmas Day – The joy of the LORD is your strength
Very short blog today. Just a single scripture that the Lord has been impressing upon me all week for today –
Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
But, that’s not fair!!
Christians often spend a considerable amount of time and energy thinking and feeling about how unfairly other people have treated them. And there really is so much unfairness going on around us practically all the time that it can be difficult not to worry and fret over such things. With all this unfairness going on we could easily go through life focused on how we feel cheated, undervalued, abused and rejected.
But consider this; through Christ, God’s idea of fairness has transcended our perception of fairness so that His perfect mercy could be made available to us as grace. In fact, our very salvation is based on this truth!
For example: people usually believe that if something is fair it is a good thing, but if something is unfair it is a bad thing. Makes sense, right? Not always. The most unfair thing that could ever happen to any person who has ever lived is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins. Why? Because he was perfectly holy and completely undeserving of this torturous death. And yet, it has turned out to be the best thing that could ever happen for anyone, anywhere, for all time.
So, the most unfair thing that could ever happen is actually the best thing that could ever happen and if “fairness” had prevailed, it would have been the worst possible scenario for all of mankind. If fairness had prevailed Jesus Christ would not have died for our sins and we could not have been saved from God’s judgment of those sins.
In this way, God has turned upside down our conventional idea of fairness and unfairness. Fair is still fair and unfair is still unfair but the unfairness in our life no longer needs to be viewed entirely as a negative thing.
As scripture says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
From The Jericho Blog
The Circular Plan of the Enemy for the Destruction of the Saints
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1)
The Devil’s Plan – Deception, Delusion and Misplaced Hope
Deception: fraud, illusion, or causing a false impression.
Delusion: a mistaken belief.
Misplaced hope: wrongly placed confidence or expectations.
The Circle of Destruction:
Deception leads to Delusion
Delusion leads to Misplaced Hope
Misplaced Hope leads to More Delusion
More Delusion leads to More Deception
Checkmate! The devil wins.
Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk and live in Your truth; direct and unite my heart [solely, reverently] to fear and honor Your name. (Psalm 86: 11)
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
From The Jericho Blog
Confidence: Worldly vs Christian
Worldly confidence: an assurance derived from hope in one’s own self-competence or the competency of other people – leading to pride in one’s own self or other people’s abilities.
Christian confidence: an assurance derived from hope in God – leading to humility and service to God.
Which type of confidence do we depend upon most often in our life?
11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
(Luke 14: 11)
From the Jericho Blog
An everlasting sign which will not be destroyed!
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” (Isa 55:10-13)
According to these verses, every word that God speaks achieves His purpose and accomplishes what God intends for it to accomplish – yet, God does not force us to obey His words in order to accomplish all that He desires. How can both of these things be true simultaneously!?
This is possible because God’s words are rarely, if ever, of singular purpose. The purpose of God’s words are fulfilled whether we choose to obey them or not. One of the primary purposes of His words are to save from sin those that are willing to be saved. But we can choose a secondary purpose in God’s words – those same words that are spoken with the purpose to save will someday serve the purpose of judging those that refuse to submit to them.
We have free will. God will not force us to obey Him. But we must realize that God’s words derive from both the love in His heart and from His holiness. From His Word we can choose the purpose of salvation which is the desire of His heart or we can choose the purpose of judgment of our sins because of His holiness. God would, of course, prefer that we choose the purpose of salvation. In His love, He desires the purpose of mercy to be achieved. But because of His holiness, He must also fulfill the purpose of judgment toward those who refuse to honor His holiness by receiving His mercy. Both purposes will be achieved in the end.
The phrase “Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow” can be seen as an allegory. The “everlasting sign which will not be destroyed” and will be “for the Lord’s renown” is ultimately the man and woman of God who are transformed by the living word of God. The living word that went out from His mouth and did not return to Him empty, but accomplished what He desired, and achieved the purpose for which He sent it.
The “everlasting sign” that cannot be destroyed is the peace and joy that are the fruit of the righteousness that has been purposed and accomplished by God in the souls of those who have chosen to accept the accomplishment of that purpose within themselves to the everlasting glory of God.
We exist daily in the tension between two great truths.
Proverbs 19:21 says, Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Or, in other words; man has free will but God is ultimately in control of everything!
We cannot always clearly see God’s purpose in what is presently happening in our lives. Daily we are immersed in the tension of the moment, the drama of the event, the excitement of the occasion.
Nevertheless, there are two options that are continually before us all the days of our lives. We can struggle against His will based on our limited perceptions of reality or we can accept God’s will as He presents it to us in scripture and as it works out in our daily lives.
Whether in peace or war, trials or triumphs, our destiny is always in God’s hands. God is always in control. We can’t always know or understand what God is doing. But, if we truly desire to glorify God through our lives we will need to choose with firm commitment that God’s control over our lives is the best thing for us despite the fact that we are not always able to see or completely understand His greater holy purpose.
(Isa 45:6,7) …I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.
(1 Sam 2:7,8) The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. “For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; upon them he has set the world.
12/31/2013 – New Year’s Eve
Confidence to enter the Most Holy Place
As believers, we live daily in a holy dwelling that serves as both temple and throne of the living God. That temple is within the body, soul and spirit of the unique creation God calls man. You and I are that temple; the holy place where God resides. And if we are living a surrendered lifestyle before God it is also a place where He is figuratively sitting upon His throne. God’s presence among His people is no longer confined to a Temple that was built by the hand of man. Instead, His Holy Presence now dwells in a temple that was made by the hand of God – our spirit which is born again.
When scripture says that we can have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place, it is because the blood of Jesus Christ has made us worthy to host the very presence of God within the temple of our spirit. To enter the Most Holy Place is to approach God with full assurance that we have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and that we now have unlimited access to His holy presence within. We can now be confident that the doors are always open, He is always listening and we are always welcome in His presence.
19 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:19-23)
Isn’t God infringing upon my free will?
Consider these scriptures:
The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. (Prov 21:1)
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Prov 16:9)
Certainly, we may say in response to these verses, “But if God is directing everything as closely as these scriptures state, isn’t God infringing upon my free will?”
Forty four years ago, in a Drivers Education class that I had to take before I could get my license, an instructor pointed out to us that driving was not our right; it was a privilege. The driver’s license I would eventually acquire was an extension of that privilege by the authority of the state. And with the extension of that privilege came the expectation from the state that I would assume certain responsibilities. That I would exercise the privilege of driving with due caution and respect for the lives of others. If I chose to disregard these responsibilities, I could have my privilege temporarily restricted or revoked by the governing authority of the state.
Free will is not a right. It is a privilege. And with the extension of that privilege comes the expectation from God that I will assume certain responsibilities. That I will exercise the privilege of free will with due caution and respect for the lives of others. If I choose to disregard these responsibilities, I should expect to have my privilege temporarily restricted or revoked by the governing authority of God.
Free will is not the freedom to do whatever we want. It is the privilege we are afforded that we may have the opportunity to choose to obey God.
Passion and Privilege
There was a time, early on in my Christian walk, when I believed that the most effective Christian service originated from deep inner passion. Noting a lack of fervor and general apathy for God amongst many Christians, I concluded that what was lacking in Christian ministries was strong emotion. But there came a time when I realized that human passion was rarely trustworthy, even more rarely manageable and usually quite exhausting.
A deeper understanding of the word brought me to the realization that ministry from simple gratitude was far more effective and pleasing to God. Over time I came to realize that service to God was a privilege that had very little to do with deep passionate feelings. Being grateful for the privilege of serving God eliminated the need to summon up great quantities of positive (or even negative) emotion in order to minister. Instead of using passion as the primary energy for service to God, I was able to begin ministering from the peaceful assurance of gratitude for all that God had done for me.
Today most of my emotional energy for ministry is from gratitude for the many privileges that I have received by the grace of God.
Here are some of those privileges:
The privilege of becoming a child of God –
John 1:12 But all who have received Him, to them–that is, to those who trust in His name–He has given the privilege of becoming children of God; (WEY)
The privilege of service –
1 Corinthians 9:18 What are my wages then? The very fact that the Good News which I preach will cost my hearers nothing, so that I cannot be charged with abuse of my privileges as a Christian preacher. (WEY)
The privilege of suffering on His behalf –
Philippians 1:29 For you have had the privilege granted you on behalf of Christ–not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf; (WEY)
And finally, the privilege of eternal reward –
Revelation 2:7 “‘Let all who have ears give heed to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches. To him who overcomes I will give the privilege of eating the fruit of the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of God.’ (WEY)
Experiencing God through the everyday, ordinary things of life
God is the God of real people. He wants every member of his body to hear his voice. I recently read a quote that said “God is a virtual blabbermouth.” I agree 100%. God is always speaking. Unfortunately, much of the time when God is trying to communicate with us, we are not really listening.
Quite often, we miss what He is trying to say to us because we have our own agenda regarding what we want to hear from Him.
We assume that what we want to hear from God is the most important thing that we need to hear from Him. By doing this, we prioritize our own agenda and close our spiritual ears to what God might actually be trying to communicate to us.
Other times, we are so busy with the ordinary tasks of life that we miss His voice; usually because we incorrectly assume that God just doesn’t use these tasks to communicate with us. But God does use the ordinary aspects of our life to communicate with us. In fact, these were and still are His primary means of communication with us.
Consider the following examples of how Jesus constantly used the ordinary, everyday things of life to communicate great Kingdom truths to very ordinary people.
Women grinding corn, heating the oven, making the bread, sweeping the floors, mending the clothes, the value of money, children at meals, children in bed, flowers, chickens, sheep, oxen in a pit, foxes, eagles, small seeds, trees, sowing and reaping, wheat and corn, the marketplace, buying sparrows, bargaining, measuring, children at play, the sea, a dragnet, fisherman, a nobleman, and ancient king, weapons, cattle, slaves, land, robbery, marriage, death, wealth, hospitality and many more.
What if we were to live our lives as though God were present and available to be heard from in every place and in all situations? Wouldn’t this transform everything – every moment, every activity and every encounter with others?
Jesus said: I will be with you always, even until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
Trusting God With Tomorrow
Most of us go through life praying a little, planning a little, jockeying for position, hoping but never being quite certain of anything, and always secretly afraid that we will miss the way. This is a tragic waste of time and never gives rest to the heart. There is a better way. It is to repudiate our striving for control and rely instead upon the infinite wisdom of God.
Our insistence upon seeing ahead is natural enough, but it is a real hindrance to our spiritual progress. God has charged himself with full responsibility for our welfare and stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to him. (A.W. Tozer)
God encourages us to trust Him in the dark.
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.
17 But those who trust in idols,
who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’
will be turned back in utter shame. (Isaiah 42:16)
A Wisdom Greater than the Wisdom of Solomon
In 1 Kings 3:12 , God told Solomon –
“I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.”
But then later in King Solomon’s life, in 1 Kings 11:1 -8 we read –
“King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.
As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites.”
(This was a man who had received a gift of wisdom unparalleled in the history of mankind!)
“ So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. “
Solomon was given a wise and discerning heart for discernment in administering justice. He was told that in this kind of wisdom there had never been anyone like him nor will there ever be. But Solomon did not possess the kind of wisdom available to us through Christ Jesus. Solomon was the recipient of a special gifting of wisdom by the Spirit of God. But he was not a recipient of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the way that brings transformation of the soul to believers who live in the New Covenant.
Only the people of the New Covenant have this special presence of the Holy Spirit available to them. We have available to us, as Paul says, “a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” The gifting that Solomon had received certainly helped to persuade him to make proper administrative choices along the way. But, it was not enough to save him from himself.
We, however, have been and are being saved from ourselves because we are “in Christ Jesus” through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And in this way, Christ has become for us Wisdom from God. A Wisdom greater than the wisdom of Solomon.
(1 Cor 1:30) It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.
Trusting God in Everything
We know from the Bible that all of God’s attributes are “absolute.” This means that He is not lacking in any way.
Here are some of the attributes of God as revealed in the Bible; He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Self-sufficient, Transcendent, Immutable, Eternal, Self-existent, Infinite, Holy, Graceful, Merciful, Faithful, all-Wise and perfectly Loving.
Or, in other words; God is all powerful, all knowing, everywhere at once, needs nothing, above all things, unchanging, everlasting, not created, unlimited in His attributes, perfect in holiness, grace, mercy, faith, wisdom and love.
If we believe what the bible reveals to us about the almighty nature of God, then it would seem to be clearly obvious that anything other than trusting God in every area of our lives would be absurd and ridiculous.
Based on these facts, are there parts of your life that are absurd and ridiculous?
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
Isaiah 2:22 Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?
Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
The Psychology of Advertising
In the last couple of years I have watched several television shows describing the very calculated and complex psychology of advertisements. Advertisers put countless hours, money and effort into developing psychologically based commercials and ads with catchy slogans to convince us that the products they are trying to sell us are trustworthy, dependable, necessary for our well-being and even essential for us to be accepted by others. These products and their slogans can be especially attractive to us because of the deep spiritual yearning within our souls for someone or something we can depend upon for a sense of permanency, security and positive personal identity.
This someone or something is God.
But, recognizing this hungering in our souls, advertisers shrewdly promote a substitution for the permanency and security of God with the temporary dependability, happiness and trustworthiness of a material thing.
So, we shouldn’t be surprised that many of these advertising slogans really describe God as well as they describe the products. And we shouldn’t really be surprised that some of the most famous advertising slogans also represent many of the things that God wants to be to us.
God is like Bayer aspirin – He works wonders.
God is like Ford – He’s got a better idea.
God is like Bounty – He’s the quick picker upper.
God is like Maytag – He never breaks down.
God is like American Express – Never leave home without him.
God is like Campbell’s Soup – He’s mmmmm good.
God is like U.S. West – He wants us all to be connected.
God is like Folger’s coffee – He’s worth waking up to.
God is like Tylenol – He’s the pain reliever most people turn to. (Or ought to, anyway).
God is like Nestle’s – He makes the very best.
God is like Coke – He’s the real thing.
And God is like Hallmark – He cared enough to send the very best.
But unlike the products that are advertised, God never wears out or breaks down. With God, you never get a lemon. He is the God, who, sort of like the Eveready Battery Bunny – just gives and gives and keeps on giving.
– “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” – the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. 1 Cor. 2:9-10
Struggling with a bit of pride lately?
Try this one on:
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Cor 4:7)
Most of us have been indoctrinated throughout our lifetime with the prideful concept of godless self-determination – not a reliance upon God, but, instead, a reliance upon our own strengths and capabilities.
Self-reliance is considered a personal strength and an admirable quality by most of society, but it is poison to the soul that would depend upon God. The soul that is strongly self-reliant is neither led by God, nor truly submitted to God. Thus, for the self-reliant, there is no rest (Heb. 3:16-4:11).
Here is a very challenging scripture:
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; (Mat 10:37)
This scripture is about abundance of intimacy in our relationship with Christ. It is not being suggested here that we forsake our families, our loved ones. But we are being told that we must love God above everything and anyone else. Now some may say, “But that’s really difficult. God is way out there somewhere, while people are near to me.” But that’s not really true. As Christians, God is near to us. He is actually in us while everyone else is actually out there somewhere.
The simple truth is, that we cannot and we will not have a deeply satisfying, intimate relationship with Christ if we love anyone more than we love Him. If we would love God the way Jesus says we must, we will need to surrender the unhealthy dependencies that we often create with one another, giving up the life we are trying to experience through striving for the acceptance of others.
Fullness of intimacy in relationship with Christ cannot take place if we are obsessed with striving to be loved and accepted by other people.
A Mission from God
In the movie, “The Blues Brothers,” the brothers go around telling people that they are on “a mission from God.” It plays out quite humorously in the movie.
Elwood: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.
Jake: Hit it!
Ironically, Christians really are on a “mission from God.” In fact, a mission similar to the one given to Moses!
Moses was resistant to his mission from God.
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exodus 3:13,14)
What Moses was called to do is what we are now called to be about in our everyday lives as Christians. To be so available to God that our mission statement would be “I AM has sent me to you” to all the people we interact with in our lives.
But to make this sort of commitment in our lives requires a wholehearted willingness to obey God. Moses had 40 years to consider such things from the time he fled Egypt to the time God called him to go back again.
To be able to live the life of “I AM has sent me to you” requires that we also spend some time examining what there may be in our lives that resists the mission. What kind of thinking, what sort of beliefs in our heart resist embracing the daily mission of, “I AM has sent me to you”?
How can we relate to an infinite God?
That God is limitless in His infinitude means that He cannot be measured within the boundaries of human comprehension. Whatever we make our infinite God to be in our own minds, He is always something more than the most that we can ever comprehend.
How then, can we relate to an infinite God?
By the exercise of faith.
By the exercise of faith, God’s children have been allotted the privilege of encountering a measure of the magnitude of God. By faith, it is possible for the finite and the infinite to coexist in harmonious union and relational communion. By the exercise of faith, that which was seemingly impossible is replaced with endless possibilities. By faith we are able to access the inaccessible, overcome the insurmountable, and cast into the ocean the immovable mountain.
Still, for finite beings like us, faith often requires some Spirit-inspired imagination. Webster’s Dictionary defines Imagination as: “The faculty by which we can bring absent objects and perceptions forcibly before the mind.”
Notice how similar this is to a biblical faith definition – Heb 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Holy Spirit inspired imagination makes it possible for us to exercise mental faith in a God who is infinite and thus incomprehensible in His entirety. God-inspired imagination needs to be cultivated, treasured and protected because it is a bridge to the place where God lives. It is a means by which we are able to establish a faith-based relationship of intimacy with a God who is at once here with us, and yet, everywhere else at the same time.
Imagination is vital. It is simultaneously the avenue, and the vehicle upon the avenue, and the fuel that energizes the vehicle upon the avenue of effectual faith-based relationship with an infinite God.
Sometimes it’s a Popularity Contest
Psa 4:2 says, How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Delusion is the product of a self-centered determination that is wholly absent of godly inspiration. Delusion’s source is self-centered unbelief. Delusion has always been rampant within religion because of the self-centered insecurity of man. It is no different today. In fact, the low self-esteem of some religious leaders is often the hidden motivation for their ministry. Gaining the esteem of man helps to soothe personal insecurities. The honor given to them because of their position can be a psychological band aid. The ego is boosted. The emotions are medicated. And Spirit inspired direction is replaced by popularity contests.
In some theological circles, there is such a desire and emotional addiction to personal popularity that the spiritual eyes and ears of the leaders are virtually blind and deaf to the voice of God. They crave the complimentary voices of men more than they desire the approval of God. They lift each other up with words of admiration – using the politics of religious flattery to secure allies amongst themselves.
You have probably seen these things – but you may not have recognized them for what they were. But Jesus did.
In speaking of the Pharisees, Jesus said:
“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ (Matthew 23:5-7)
In which Jesus do we trust?
Pontius Pilate offered the people a choice; Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 27:16, Jesus Barabbas was called a “notorious prisoner.” In Mark 15:7, Luke 23:19, and John 18:40, Barabbas was “among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection,” a revolutionary against the occupying Roman forces. So, in effect, the people were being offered a choice between two “Saviors,” one political the other spiritual.
At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him! (Matthew 27:16-18, 21-22)
The people were offered a choice between two leaders, one offering spiritual renewal and salvation and the other offering political and military action aimed at national independence. They chose the latter. In the Book of Revelation, chapter 13, the world once again chooses a political / military figure instead of Christ.
He is called the Antichrist.
Godly leadership in its truest form always requires a perfection of the art of “following.”
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus issues his last gospel command to his disciples – it is called; The Great Commission.
But what was Jesus’ first command to his disciples, a command which they were also to obey and perfect for the rest of their lives?
It was, “Follow Me!”
Matthew 4:18-22 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Godly Leadership in its truest form always requires a perfection of the art of “following.”
(John 1:35-37) The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
True followers are also truth followers. If the “Lamb of God” was the way of truth, then these men willing to follow that truth. Truth following is the method by which godly leadership is developed and matured.
In the eyes of God, we are seldom meant to be who we think we are.
(John 1:40-42) Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
Most of us have a lifetime of identity in our name. And we might not appreciate being renamed by a stranger that we had just met!
Jesus changed Simon’s name to Cephas, the Aramaic word for stone, because Jesus foresaw that Simon Peter would become a pillar and a foundation stone in the building of the first century church. Jesus renamed Simon according to God’s plan for his life.
In God’s eyes, we are seldom meant to be who we think we are. We are meant to be who God has called us to be. His calling is our future. His calling is our new identity, our new name to Him.
Is Pride the opposite of Love?
Here is the great discourse on love from 1 Corinthians. We have probably all heard these verses read at a wedding to symbolize the beginning of a selfless, committed relationship of love.
(1 Cor. 13:4-7) 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
But what happens if we replace the word “love” with the word “pride?”
Pride is not patient, it is not kind. It does envy, it does boast; for it is – pride. It is rude, it is self-seeking, it is easily angered, and it keeps records of all wrongs. Pride rejoices in evil and avoids the truth. It protects for selfish reasons, it cannot afford to trust, it is its own hope, and it perseveres only for personal gain. (Compare to 1 Cor. 13:4-7)
Effectually, the qualities of pride seem to be the opposite of the qualities of love! Where there is much pride there is little godly love.
Humility is the road to the Promised Land
Personal humility is a godly leadership quality that reflects the proper attitude of the heart from which we may cultivate the necessary faith to enter our Promised Land. The humble of heart will experience faith as a guiding light on their journey to the fullness of their inheritance in Christ Jesus.
By virtue of faith, the humble heart is not bound by the vagaries of indecisiveness nor is it directed by the force of prideful self-determination. It is able to be steered by the wind of the Spirit and restrained by the conscience of Christ. It turns to God for direction and returns to God for sustenance.
The heart of the humble trembles with eager expectation as it kneels before the cross of Christ. It has come to a place of limitless opportunity. A place of transformation for the soul. A place that leads from the portal of dying to self to the attainment of holy vision and purpose.
The cross of Christ is the guidepost of the humble heart; it points the way to the place of new life. By this guidepost the humble of heart will understand the way to their inheritance.
And they will enter their Promised Land.
(From: The Inheritance – Entering Our Promised Land by R. Thomas Brass http://jerichoministry.com/inheritance.html)
For His Name’s Sake
In Matthew 19:29, Jesus declares, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”
But, what does “for my name’s sake” mean?
John Piper, in his book The Pleasures of God says, “His name is who he really is, especially, who he is for us.”
It seems then, that when God says that He is doing something for His names sake, He means He is doing it to bring revelation of Himself to mankind and of course, to bring glory to Himself.
Piper goes on to say that “when we bring our affections in line with his, and, for the sake of his name, renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join his global purpose, God’s omnipotent commitment to his name is over us and we cannot lose, in spite of many tribulations” (Acts 9:16 Romans 8:35-39).
Are we willing to live this kind of life for Jesus? A life lived for the sake of the name of Jesus? A life where, in the grand scheme of things, we cannot lose?
Point / Counterpoint
I Am So Starving
By Brittany Birnbaum
Oh, my God, I am so starving. I swear, if I don’t get something to eat in like two minutes, I am going to die.
I cannot believe how completely famished I am. Why do we have to wait for Tyler to get home from soccer practice? I want to eat now. It’s almost 6:15.
I didn’t even get to eat lunch today. Erica and I had to sign up for kick line tryouts at noon. We got to the cafeteria way late and we weren’t about to stand in line with the sophomores. All I had was a Twix and half a bag of Fritos. Plus, the stupid machine was out of Diet Coke.
No, I did not still have those carrot sticks left at lunch. I ate them all after second period. Duh.
Did you hear that? I can totally hear my stomach making these weird growling noises. I think I’m going to faint.
Please, please, please let me eat now so I can go up to my room–I have a ton of people to call tonight. It’s so lame how you make us all wait to eat dinner together. Erica always gets to eat by herself in the living room with the TV on.
If we’re going to wait this long for Tyler, he has to load the dishwasher. I did it last night and it was totally nasty because you made that lasagna and I had to scrape all the gunky cheese off the pan.
I am so totally starving. You know, it’s against the law to treat your kids like this. You could get thrown in jail by the social-services people for this kind of abuse.
Oh my God, what are you taking out of the oven? Is that, like, salisbury steak? I could seriously puke just looking at that. You actually expect me to eat that? Yeah, right. Like I’m really gonna put that in my mouth. I’ll be in my room if I get any phone calls.
Ugh. I swear, I could just die.
I Am So Starving
By Kitum Asosa
My God, I am starving. If I do not find something to eat soon, I will surely die.
Hunger consumes my life. My young body is hunched and weak, as if I were an old man. Some days, I pass the time by counting my bones.
I would walk 100 miles through the desert to reach a handful of millet. The sight of a sparrow carcass would make my mouth water, if only I were not too dehydrated to salivate. I have not eaten a full meal since the last rain which caused a few precious patches of field grass to sprout. Soon, there will be none of us left.
I am so very, very hungry. I grow thinner and thinner, as my body starts to digest its very self. The last thing I ate was a small lizard. This was 6 days ago. I gave half of it to my only remaining brother. I did this to return a favor: Last week, he discovered a piece of tree bark and shared his bounty with me. Unfortunately, my body was so unaccustomed to food I was soon doubled over in pain.
They say it is almost the New Year, but I do not know if I will live to see it. My stomach is swollen as if I were pregnant. I joked with my brother about this yesterday, rubbing my bloated belly and calling it “my little one.” My brother did not laugh. He lowered his head and cried.
My legs are like sticks and my eyes nearly sightless. I am careful not to allow myself to daydream about the harvest feasts of my youth, for my weak heart might race and burst in my chest. Those who are still alive have taken to swallowing dirt and rocks in an attempt to stop the hunger pains. Oh God, why are we made to suffer so?
My only distraction from the constant, gnawing hunger is the chill that runs through my bones. Even in the sweltering heat, I am cold. Perhaps I will soon die of pneumonia. This would finally quell the pangs of hunger.
I long to live, but even more, I long to die.
From – http://www.theonion.com/
The Lord’s Point:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky Phil 2: 14-15
Sometimes churches are like Frankenstein.
Sometimes churches are like Frankenstein. Different parts of the body are brought together and assembled, not by the Spirit of God, but by the passion of man. Then, they are electrified to life by the force and talent of a charismatic leader. The assembled body interprets this force as from God.
This creature often glories in the wonder of itself more than it glories in God. It marvels in the power of its might and reach, instead of truly seeking God’s will and direction. Unable to dwell in peaceful assurance, it will always fear that the villagers may one day appear with lighted torches looking to destroy what the genius of man has created.
Eventually a castle mentality is constructed to “protect” the body which has now become a church kingdom rather than a Kingdom church. Brides of Frankenstein may even be created in the form of church plants bringing a sense of validation and purpose to the original body.
He who has an ear, let him hear…
Exposing the “little gods”
We have all embraced the little gods and they have embraced us.
The little gods have whispered many promises to us. They have told us they will make us whole and happy! The little gods are convenient. They are the fast food of the soul. They help us to control the circumstances of our lives. They guide and protect us, comfort and soothe us. They even help to satisfy our fleshly desire for the respect and admiration of others. Who could blame us for embracing the little gods?!
The little gods have become an integral part of the way we think and the way we feel about ourselves and about life. To forsake all of our little gods would be to forsake most of how we feel, think, and act from day to day. We do not naturally desire to be separated from the familiarity of our behaviors and beliefs. Familiarity feels to us like safety.
If we are honest with God and with ourselves, we will admit that we don’t really want to stop depending upon all the little gods. To stop depending upon them entirely would mean that we would have to stop depending upon ourselves – and our own determinations to get what we want, when we want it! That is how we have always endeavored to feel safe and comfortable and satisfied.
The little gods:
All the things apart from God that I depend upon to gain attention, recognition, admiration, respect, acceptance or self-esteem can become my little gods.
the style of the clothes I wear,
the car I drive,
the house I buy,
the area of town in which I live,
the toys that I own,
the places I choose to eat,
the people I hang around with,
the demonstration of my physical abilities,
the proficiency of my mental capabilities,
the quality of my verbal eloquence,
the way in which I spend my money,
the way in which I earn my money,
the way in which I invest my money,
the financial security from my money,
the charities to which I have given my money,
the funny jokes I tell,
the important job I have,
the prestigious club to which I belong,
the important organization I lead,
the sacrifices I have made,
the things I have accomplished by the work of my own hands,
my years of dedicated service to the church,
the ritzy places I shop,
the gold jewelry that adorns me,
the furnishings in the house in which I live,
the popular guy I go out with,
the pretty girl I date,
the successful husband I have married,
the prize wife I have wed,
the education I have earned,
the parties I am invited to,
the people who admire me,
the reputation I have among my peers,
my boss’s opinion of me,
my pastor’s opinion of me,
my wife’s opinion of me,
anyone’s opinion of me,
and the list goes on and on…
How many little gods do you worship?
Jesus said, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12: 28-34)
The Transformation of the Soul
At salvation, our spirits were born again, but our souls (that is: our mind, our emotions, and our will) still need to be transformed through God’s grace into the image of Christ, so that we might experience inwardly, God’s promised rest.
The transformation of the soul begins to take place through our willingness to submit to God combined with a genuine sorrow for our current sins (James 4:7-10). We must confess our need to be progressively sanctified in those areas of our lives in which we still believe ungodly lies and partake of sinful behavior. We can then invite and rely upon, by faith, the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to reveal and tear down any ungodly belief systems which have, within us, become rebellious strongholds of godless self-determination.
It is only by our recognition that God, through His great power, must do for us what we cannot do for ourselves that we are able to apprehend the grace necessary to experience this transformation of our souls. Though we may have an ardent desire to be surrendered to God’s will, our desire does not sanctify us. Though we may zealously do many great works of service, which bless many people, we are not sanctified by our zeal.
Holy Christian living is not just how much we desire to please God, it is also how much we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us inwardly, so that our desires may originate from a truly godly motivation. Christian living is not only about what we must do – though we must certainly make every effort to separate ourselves from evil influences that may lead to temptation and sin. But, even more importantly, we must continue to believe and receive by faith in what Christ has already done for us, making available to us the power for godly Christian living! Through this process, we can begin to experience significant inner transformation.
“𝙃𝙚 𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙞𝙩 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙖 𝙬𝙖𝙨𝙩𝙚, 𝙃𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙢𝙚𝙙 𝙞𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙗𝙚 𝙞𝙣𝙝𝙖𝙗𝙞𝙩𝙚𝙙…”
Apparently, God created Adam and Eve as adults. So then, couldn’t He have created the earth as an “adult” also? Even in six actual days? If Adam was created, for example, at an equivalent to 30 years of age, couldn’t the earth have been created as equivalent to millions of years of age? If God did this with Adam and Eve, couldn’t He have done the same with all of creation?
If Adam was looked at by a doctor in our time, wouldn’t the doctor say that Adam was obviously an adult? Scientists, geologists, etc., look at the earth today and conclude that it is millions of years old. Couldn’t they be correct about the appearance of the world even though they may not agree that it was supernaturally created by God in 6 days?
Some may say, “But this would be deceptive of God to create an earth that appears to be millions of years old!” Really? Was it deceptive of God to create Adam and Eve as adults?
Wouldn’t this satisfy much of the differences between young earth creationists, progressive creationists, gap creationists, intelligent design proponents, etc?
Maybe it’s all a bit simpler than we have made it out to be.
Isa 45:18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; he is God; that formed the earth and made it; he established it, he created it not a waste, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
The Bridge between Heaven and Earth
I once saw a sign in front of a church which read, “Jesus built a bridge between heaven and earth using three nails and two pieces of wood.” That bridge between heaven and earth is, of course, the cross of Christ. After our salvation, we might also look at the expanse between heaven and earth as representative of the distance between a personal experience of holy living and the present state of our soul.
While in this life, we must continue to cross over the divide between heaven and earth on the cross of Christ. This journey is a process by which our souls are renewed through the surrendering of our old ways of thinking. It is sometimes referred to as “dying to self” (Eph. 4:22-24; Gal. 6:14-16; 2:20, 21; Rom. 8:13,14). Though we have been given new life in our spirit through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, our souls must continue to die to self in order to be raised up into new life. This same bridge, constructed with three nails and two pieces of wood is the bridge that we must use to journey from fleshly sinning to holy living.
It is how we grow up to be healthy Christians.
Lies are the Doorway to Temptation
A lie, once believed, has a way of increasing through the agency of vain imagination the desirability of that which is evil.
Just as with Adam and Eve, it is lies that we have come to believe that cause the temptation to sin to have such power in our lives. Our susceptibility to temptation will always be proportionate to the depth and strength of the lies we believe in our inner being. Root out the lies by repenting of them and surrendering them to be destroyed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the strength of the temptations associated with the lies will greatly diminish!
The Shame Tree
Shame is like a tree with many roots underground, but slender trunk and very few branches above the surface. Pride is like a great tree with long branches reaching upward from a portly trunk, but very little root structure.
The wind comes and blows mightily against the shame tree. Some dead branches are blown off, but the roots remain firmly entrenched. Then the wind comes and blows against the pride tree. The whole tree comes crashing down, with its shallow roots exposed for all the world to see.
Which tree is more resistant to the Spirit of God? The one that displays itself boldly to the world or the one that hides itself safely beneath the surface?
Repentance is not something which one can originate within himself…
Sometimes, in shame and exasperation, we erroneously believe that God has not freed us from our repetitive sin patterns because we have not felt bad enough about our sin, or we have not tried hard enough by our own efforts to become free (Eph.2:8-9). We often believe that if we could just feel ashamed enough about our sin, God would respond by empowering us to overcome the sin (Rom. 8:1; 10:11).
But shame cannot purchase grace. Faith is the tool we must use to apprehend the power of God’s grace for repentance. Faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross and faith in Jesus’ resurrection power through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts to bring freedom to our souls. Ordinarily, we fail to comprehend this truth, because we have “fallen away from grace” through a persistent attitude of self-reliance that has infiltrated our religious beliefs (Gal. 5:1-5).
We must always welcome Godly conviction but we must also realize that we can never, solely by the efforts of our fleshly wills, come to full repentance. William Evans, in The Great Doctrines of the Bible states, “Repentance is not something which one can originate within himself, or can pump up within himself as one would pump water out of a well. It is a divine gift. How then is man responsible for not having it? We are called upon to repent in order that we may feel our own inability to do so, and consequently be thrown upon God to perform this work of grace in our hearts.”
Freedom from the sinful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that have developed in our lives is in great part accomplished by asking and believing on God to circumcise our heart by the power of the Holy Spirit, (“…and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code” Rom. 2:29) removing bitter roots (strongholds of judgment toward self and others) (Heb. 12:15), and severing the ungodly weeds (behavior and belief systems) which have grown up from these roots.
Apart from this reliance on the power of God, we will find ourselves wandering through a spiritual desert, searching for rest, frustrated by our inability to gain freedom from our repetitive behavior patterns.
When we finally surrender to the truth and invite the Holy Spirit to do this work of grace in our hearts, we will begin to experience a true repentance that leads to peace, joy, and fullness of life.
And the Word was God?
John 1:1 In the beginning was the (logos) Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Logos: of speech; a word, uttered by a living voice, embodies a conception or idea.)
Jesus, at the beginning of creation is called the spoken Word who was with God and also was God.
But how can Jesus in the essence of His being, be synonymous with His own spoken Word? Or, in other words, how can what Jesus speaks be the same as what He is?
In another place in scripture we read that God is love. But when we read that God is love, this does not mean that love is God. Words are not Jesus – He is the Word.
He is the Word that is spoken from His own mouth because that word is perfectly consistent with His Divine nature. His word is absolutely good in every way just as He is absolutely good in every way. Whatever Jesus speaks, it is spoken perfectly in every way and becomes a perfect representation of who He is. And because there is no variation in His word from absolute truth, His words also contain absolute power to accomplish whatever is spoken.
So, effectively, the person of Jesus is inseparable from His spoken word because His word is perfectly synonymous with the essence of His being!
Isa 55:10-11 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Many of us have spent our entire lives striving to obtain and maintain a positive self-image for ourselves. We have succumbed to the great social delusion that striving to maintain an acceptable outer image through self-effort is what will make us acceptable, lovable and worthy, inwardly.
There is a better way:
-Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. Psalm 34:4
Does God desire our wholehearted and uninhibited praise and worship?
“Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His.” -Ps. 30:4
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord.” -Ps. 95:1
“Sing praises to our King, sing praises!” -Ps. 47:6
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” -Ps. 95:6
LIFTING OF HANDS
“Lift up your hands in the sanctuary…” -Ps. 134:2
“Therefore I desire that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands…” -1 Tim. 2:8
“Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!” -Ps. 47:1
“Let them praise His name with the dance…” -Ps. 149:3
“Praise Him with the timbrel and dance…” -Ps. 150:4
“Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with high sounding cymbals!” -Ps. 150:3-5
“Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the Lord on all kinds of instruments…” -2 Sam. 6:5
Q. How should we come into the presence of God?
A. “Come into His presence with singing. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, bless his name.” -Ps. 100:2,4
The bible teaches that God dwells in the praises of His people. (Ps. 22:3)
Q. Should we praise the Lord in a public church meeting?
A. “My praise shall be of You in the great congregation.” -Ps. 22:25
“In the midst of the congregation will I praise You.” -Ps. 22:22
Q. Who should praise the Lord?
A. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord, Praise the Lord.” -Ps. 150:6
“And all flesh shall bless His holy name…” -Ps. 145:21
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; Laud Him, all you peoples.” -Rom. 15:11
Q. Is it possible to praise the Lord too much?
A. “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” -Ps. 34:1
Q. Won’t the visitors of our church be “turned off” when they see the whole congregation praising the Lord?
A. “He has put a new song in my mouth – Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.” -Ps. 40:3
Q. Should we worship the Lord in our homes?
A. “…Let them sing aloud in their beds.” -Ps. 149:5
(Even heaven will be filled with continuous, “loud” praises to God.) (Rev. 14:2,3,6,7; Rev. 4:8-11; Rev. 19:1-10)
For Every Action There Is An Equal And Opposite Criticism
This is a semi-humorous saying that describes something basic about human interaction – no matter what you do, someone will find something about it to criticize.
Jesus put it this way:
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” Matt. 11:18-19
So, what should we do about all the criticism? As Jesus said, “wisdom is proved right by her actions.” Meaning, basically, that we are to humbly “Trust in the LORD and do good” (Psalm 37:3) and the Lord will sort it all out in the end.
“Man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”
A.W. Tozer – The Knowledge of the Holy
The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? Ps 113:4-6
It’s a Bumper sticker life…
“If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.” Also known as… “It’s been lovely but I have to scream now!”
If anyone ever deserved to feel this way, it was Job!
The story begins in Job chapter 1…
It’s the beginning of Job’s day – Maybe the worst thing he might be thinking is – “Instant human. Just add coffee” He’s got a great life going!
Job 1:1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.
Job 1:2 He had seven sons and three daughters,
Job 1:3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
Everything seems to be going very, very, well…
Job 1:13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house,
Job 1:14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby,
Job 1:15 and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Alas, the occasional raiding party. An occupational hazard in Job’s line of work. Still, things are going pretty well, overall…If he happened to be thinking in bumper sticker lingo, he might be thinking…Hey, “The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.”
Job 1:16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Um, okay… things are certainly not going as well today as he had hoped. Again, If he happened to be thinking in bumper sticker lingo, he might be thinking something like – “It IS as bad as you think, and they ARE out to get you.”
Job 1:17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Bumper sticker reaction – “This is not the first day of the rest of my life. This is the worst day of the rest of my life…” or… “Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.”
Job 1:18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house,
Job 1:19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Now, if Job were a bumper sticker believer, this might be the time for Job to express a bumper sticker attitude like – “We are born naked, wet and hungry. Then things get worse.”
Job 1:20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship
Job 1:21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
Job 1:22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
The Bad News is that in this life it does often seems like “If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.”
But the Good news for Christians is that God is still for us despite the immediate state of the circumstances that surround us. Rom 8:28 declares – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Job declared his faith in this truth by responding to his tragedy with the declaration – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” – probably the best bumper sticker saying of all!
Believing God’s word is primarily about pleasing God, not ourselves. Scripture says, “He makes known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure.” When we are motivated to please God more than we are motivated to be pleased ourselves, we will not suffer long-lasting disappointment over the circumstances of this life. This relational dynamic is also powerful in freeing us from disappointments of the past so that we may believe God in the present.
Relevant scripture: The Three Visitors
Genesis 18 9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked Abraham.
“There, in the tent,” he said.
10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
Because Sarah was focused more on herself than on pleasing God, (“will I now have this pleasure?”) she allowed her view of past and current circumstances to produce skeptical disbelief. Disbelief, the inability or refusal to accept that something is true or real can lead to Unbelief; incredulity or skepticism especially in matters of religious faith.
Mathew Henry Commentary: “Sarah thinks this too good news to be true, and therefore cannot, as yet, find in her heart to believe it: Sarah laughed within herself, Gen. 18:12. It was not a pleasing laughter of faith, like Abraham’s (Gen. 17:17), but it was a laughter of doubting and mistrust.”
When we are serving God primarily for His pleasure, a deeper understanding of our sonship through Christ and the “mystery” of His will is revealed to us.
Ephesians 1 In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
The Dangers of Self-Pity
A definition of “self-pity”: “A self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes.”
The reason self-pity is so destructive is that pride is at the root of it and it causes us to focus too much on ourselves. God is certainly concerned about your hurt, but He doesn’t want YOU to be overly concerned about it.
“There are few human emotions as warm, comforting, and enveloping as self-pity. And nothing is more corrosive and destructive. There is only one answer; turn away from it and move on.” – Dr Megan Reik
Matthew 16: 24-25 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Are we overly focused on our personal appearance?
So was Lucifer. It was his downfall.
“‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold;on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
Being a Difference Maker
The time to make a difference is now. Time and opportunity are rapidly passing us by. It doesn’t matter whether you think Jesus is coming back tomorrow or a thousand years from now. Now is the time to take heed of the exhortation in the book of James; “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
This is it. You do not get a second chance. You only get one try. One life to live on this earth. Take heed and receive this exhortation because you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. For your life is truly like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
The time to make a difference is now.
What was so great about John the Baptist?
“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Mat 11:11
How can this be? What was this declaration of John’s greatness based upon? Was it based upon all the miracles John did? What miracles? Was it based upon the invading armies or occupying forces he overcame by faith? No. The Romans continued to thoroughly occupy Israel.
I believe John the Baptist was, according to Jesus, greater than any other man born before him because he persistently spoke the truth by the Spirit of God and did as God directed him without needing to seek the approval of man.
John the Baptist was a forceful man who forcefully advanced the kingdom of heaven. And because of this, he was publicly rejected by most of those who were in positions of established religious and political authority at the time.
So what did he do? Did he withdraw, depressed and disappointed that some very important people really didn’t like him very much? Did he soften his exhortations so as to blend and bend with the preferred political correctness of the time? No! He continued to speak the truth as led by the Spirit of God, without looking for or needing the approval of man.
This is how the Lord measures greatness.
Self-deception is the easier path
Sometimes we are deceived because we honestly don’t know any better. But other times we are deceived because to be deceived is more comfortable and convenient than following the truth.
We will be responsible before God to know the difference.
“They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12
Disqualified to serve God?
The devil wants you to think that you cannot be effective in advancing the kingdom of heaven until you stop falling into certain patterns of behavior in your life.
The enemy of your soul wants you to declare “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Even more, he would like you to be convinced that you’ve fallen and you shouldn’t get up – that you don’t have the right to get up! But God has a different plan. God’s plan is Basic Toddler 101.
Here’s how it works:
1. You fall down.
2. You get up again.
That’s right; you fall down and you just get back up again. Over and over and over again! It’s the Basic Toddler technique for learning to walk. This is the technique that God requires of us. You are qualified to get up every time you stumble because of the grace of God through which all of your sins have been forgiven. We must not allow fear, disillusionment, past disappointment or feelings of personal inadequacy to rob us of bringing glory to God through the advancement of His Kingdom on this earth.
It is, in fact, through imperfect people that God expands His kingdom. We are those imperfect people – we who are being perfected. And it is through us, we who are undergoing the process of being perfected, that the kingdom of God is advancing! Perfection is not required. But an active commitment to the process of being perfected is required.
But, active commitment means getting back up again. We are not actively committed to serving God if we are sitting down in a state of self-imposed disqualification.
Ambition and Humility
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Phil 2:3
One of the most common adversaries we will encounter along the pathway to surrendering our lives to God is selfish ambition. Our workplaces are typically a place of anxiety and fear and jealousy and backbiting and every kind of treachery that arises from the sin-influenced ambitions of man.
Selfish ambition is the arch-enemy of healthy Christian living. It is to the soul what Lex Luther is to Superman. It is the fly in the ointment, the yeast which spoils the batch. It was the center of gravity in the lives of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time and it is the bane of much of Christianity today.
Jesus was both famous and powerful. But Jesus’ ambition was to demonstrate godly humility by being lifted up before the eyes of all men for the glory of God – on the cross. This was his life’s ambition.
And it should be ours.
As James 4:10 teaches us, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Treasure the light you have been given from above. Much more can be made of it than we commonly attain to.
Men do not commonly treasure the heavenly light they are given. Instead, they consider the light of their own understanding their treasure. It is the commonality of men that as Rom 1:22 states, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…”
God does not open the understanding of people who desire the darkness which is the light of their own understanding more than they desire truth. Eventually, these people will probably criticize God for not giving them more light, even though they were unwilling to act on the light they were given.
As Christians, we ought not be found amongst these ranks.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light. (2 Samuel 22:29)
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Phil 4:12-13
The apostle Paul says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Does this mean that in any and every situation in his life, Paul had to turn to Jesus and pray, “Oh Lord, give me the strength to do this thing, Oh Lord, give me the strength to do that thing?” Who could live their life effectively like that?
Paul wasn’t repeatedly asking for a temporary strengthening. Instead, He is revealing to us that his willpower is no longer his wrestling partner. He has found contentment through the person of Christ that has been formed within him through the process of surrender and abandonment to God’s will!
Paul is fully dedicated to carrying out God’s purposes no matter what they may be. As a result, he contentedly experiences daily, the strength and force of God’s will working through him.
Godly contentment is freedom from the burden of striving to be in control of our lives.
4/9/2014 – from the Jericho Blog
The Two Kingdoms
In whose dominion do we actually live each day? The dominion of the kingdom of the world or the dominion of the Kingdom of God? Have we become subjects of the Kingdom of God by the blood of Christ only to be ruled inwardly by the daily chaos and confusion of the kingdom of the world?
The kingdom that rules us inwardly is the kingdom that has dominion in our lives.