Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
13 Blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
the man who gains understanding,
He will make your paths straight. This word 'straight' here means prosperous and right. It means blessed. God will make your path straight. He will make your life prosperous. He will bless you. He will make your life right. I love that. In a world that is full of wrong, the Lord will make your life right. But what is right? What would your life look like if it were right? This is something that must be revealed by the Holy Spirit. We don't know what right is until The Lord teaches us. Too many people think that right would be having no worries, no stress, and no fear. Some believe that a right life would mean not having to worry about money. In fact, before we go too far, it is important to understand an untruth that seems to be everywhere. It is called prosperity preaching. We have a lot of preachers in our society today that basically say that God wants everyone to be rich. Let me set the record straight. God wants everyone to prosper in every area of their life, but that doesn’t mean that God wants you to be rich and it doesn’t mean He wants you to be poor. Our financial situation will affect our spiritual walk whether we are rich, poor, or somewhere in between. The Bible says that it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven. God does not want you to be rich if being rich is going to keep you out of Heaven! So when you see me using the word prosperity, don’t assume it is money. God’s kind of prosperity is all inclusive. If you are prospering in your bank account, but not your heart, you are not experiencing prosperity from God. Don’t be fooled by today’s preachers that guarantee financial blessings if you will just send your money to them. Not all financial gain is a blessing.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
This was a proverb of the day. It was used to represent something that was impossible. A camel could not ever fit through the eye of the needle. Christ is referring to outward wealth. Outward wealth without spiritual wealth is a sure path to eternal destruction. What good is it to have all of the wealth of the world when all things of this world will one day soon pass? The wealthiest man in history, King Solomon, would gladly tell us that riches are meaningless. God is not in the business of blessing us solely for the here and now. Anything God gives to us may have Earthly value but it will also have greater spiritual value. The world gives earthly blessings while harming our soul. The Lord never limits His blessing to one realm.
The blessing of the Lord brings wealth,
and he adds no trouble to it.
If all I have are riches in this life, then how can I say that God is my God? If I have outward wealth, but inward poverty, then money or my perceived ability to earn money by my own power has become my Savior. But if I have inward wealth, I don't need outward wealth. However, God says that He has given the task of storing up wealth to unbelievers who will finally give it away to believers. When believers are mature enough to handle outward wealth without being corrupted by it, He will cause those who are outwardly rich to give their wealth to those whom God has prospered with inward wealth. I will say it again. A rich man cannot enter into Heaven. But every person in Heaven will experience some level of prosperity from God while here on Earth. This includes prosperity of the heart, the mind, the body, relationships, wisdom, and yes, even money. I am not promising at all that anyone will be rich. I don't want to spend a lot of time on this right now, but it is important for us to know that trust in the Lord has the power to bring into our life holistic prosperity of God. We should never cheapen God's desire to give His children prosperity. God's prosperity is so much better than money. Money can't buy good relationships. It can't buy peace. It can't buy health. It can't buy a healthy church. It can't buy joy, love, mercy, and goodness. It can't buy any of that. However, when The Lord makes our paths straight, we inherit all of these things. They are the natural result of learning to trust God. To obtain earthly riches without God's blessing is no blessing at all. It is a curse, a trap. But when we obtain the prosperity of God, we may receive monetary blessings, but these will be the least of our blessings. We will not be tempted to worship money because it will be the last item on our list of blessings so that when money does come our way, we will not be tempted by it. Instead, we will give it away. We will give it to our children. We will give it to our church to fund the ministry. We will give it to the needy. We will give it to the poor. We will give it away for no other reason but to bless people. We will not worship money, but it will be an instrument of praise. To God be the glory!
God wants to make your path straight. He wants to bless you in every possible way, abundantly. He does not want you to have joy. He wants you to have joy unspeakable. He does not want you to have peace. He wants you to have a peace that surpasses all understanding. He does not want you to have love. He wants you to have a love that covers a multitude of sin. He does not want you to just get by; to just enjoy some good things. He wants you to prosper. He wants you to have extreme wealth in every area of your life. This includes finances, but finances are the absolute bottom of the pile, lowest of the low, the least important way that God wants to prosper you. He wants to make your paths straight.
I think of this idea of a straight path in contrast to wandering around in circles or taking the long way to a destination. The shortest distance to a point is a straight line. I can still hear my 8th grade geometry teacher standing at the blackboard. To trust the Lord with all your heart is a call to stop wasting your time chasing after empty dreams and deceitful visions. We get so tired wandering around in circles. I think of the Israelites and how they just wandered around in the desert, never reaching the Promised Land, because of their lack of trust in The Lord. It is when we trust The Lord with all of our heart that He makes our paths straight. No more wandering.
I know that in nearly every church service and nearly every sermon, we hear of how God wants to bless us and how He wants to do this thing and that thing in our life. I just spent a good deal of time in our church explaining how God wants to bless us abundantly. There are so many Scriptures that teach us how The Lord wants to do good things in our life, but everything starts with trust. Yet, so many of us have never experienced the blessings described in Scripture. The Bible describes what God wants to do, but so often, He is unable because of our lack of trust. Haven't you ever felt frustrated hearing about all that God wants to do, but not seeing any of it in your life? It is trust that opens the floodgates of Heaven. We have been taught that faith in Christ does this. Faith in Christ opens Heaven's gates for us when we pass into eternity, but it is trust that releases Godly prosperity here on this Earth. It is God's will for you to be blessed like this. It is God's will!! The question is whether or not you will really trust Him, with all of your heart. Faith and trust are two different things. We can have faith enough to have our names written down in the Lamb's Book of Life, but still not have enough trust that God would make our path straight. Unless we trust with all of our heart, our path in this life will never lead us to His greatest blessings. We will wander around, perhaps living a merry-go-round life that seems fun at first, but eventually makes us sick. Trust is the key to stop the wandering, stop the merry-go-round, stop the destructive cycle, and get on a straight path to the Lord's greatest blessings in our life.
Praise God! You can get off the merry-go-round. You can step away from the chaos. Freedom is at your fingertips. The Lord has not hidden the straight path. On the contrary, Jesus said, “I AM THE WAY.” Some people reading this do not think this applies to them. Get the HELL away from God’s children Satan, you loser! Get out of their head. Get out of their life. Today…do you hear me brothers and sisters…TODAY?!? Today, the wandering stops.
(An excerpt from my book: With All Your Heart)
"I don't trust you anymore."
I cannot count how many times I have heard this while counseling a couple. Some say this after only a few months of marriage and others, after years of pain. Trust is difficult. I remember in one session how a wife looked at me after realizing her husband had been carrying on an affair and said, "How can I ever trust him again?" This made sense. There was not much for me to say. Who could blame her? Could I just simply say, "Well, you know the Bible says that love always trusts?" No, there was nothing that could be said in that moment. Trust had been broken and trust is difficult to repair and renew. How can you continually give yourself over to someone who has proven that your best interests are not anywhere near the top of their priority list? As I attempted to gather some great and lofty spiritual principles to help this woman overcome the broken trust in her husband, she said something that has never left my mind. She said, "How can I trust anyone ever again?" The broken trust in one that she loved and believed loved her so much was now transferred into her whole life.
What do you do when you have given everything to someone and they toss you into the trash like a piece of crumpled paper? What do you do when the person you love the most and who claims to love you the most betrays you? Wounds this deep are not isolated. They affect your entire being. Not only is your trust for that person broken, but your ability to put yourself out there and trust anyone is severely damaged if not destroyed.
When we first enter into a relationship, there is optimism. However, beneath our optimism, hidden where we might not see, is the reality that we will never really know who might break our trust one day. Never! Sometimes, the people that we have trusted all of our lives will suddenly break that trust. Sometimes, and I really don't like this part because it applies to me, people who don’t even want to break that trust, they only want the best for us, will still do something betraying, hurtful, neglectful.
Trust is so difficult, and our trust is being challenged in every relationship of our life. How often do our friends hurt us? People, even those close to us, do not always carry our heart with care. Though they know we are delicate and they truly value us, they will still drop us. And occasionally when this happens, we break, life shatters.
These deeply painful moments also affect our relationship with God. He knows how badly we have been hurt. In fact, He knew we were going to be hurt. He knew the danger lurking. He saw the lying snake who was your boyfriend. He was not fooled by the boss who pretended to be your friend while stealing your ideas. He knew the other woman in the office was bad-mouthing you to your co-workers. He knew your teenager would lie to you. Long before you were born, He knew that you would be raped, beaten, forgotten, abandoned...and all of this from those you trusted. He knows every gut-wrenching, overwhelming pain you will ever experience before it happens. Yet, He lets it happen. How do we trust a God like that?
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
All of our days have been ordained. They have purpose. It is not that everything that happens to us is God’s will because the atrocities we see and hear about on the news and social media are never His will for anyone’s life. But He does take everything within each day, using it to form us and conform our life into His purposes. This is a plan and purpose that is always good and wonderful. However, because our tendency to be self-reliant, we need the hard times to bring us to our knees in prayer that we don’t fall prey to the lie that we can produce our own blessings. In addition to this, the Lord may allow evil to continue in order to reach those who would never dawn the doors of a church. Only a woman who has been raped and retained her faith can help another rape victim get through the horror. I could preach about it all day long, but I have no idea, nor can I pretend to have any idea of what that must be like to be raped. The Lord may allow temptations face a person even though He knows they will not be able to resist. And they may land themselves into prison, but there, they will find a purpose worth the pain as they minister to the forgotten of our society. They failed, but kept their faith, but their failure took them to a place where most Christians would never go. No. No. No! I am not saying that it is God's plan for these horrible things to happen to us. That is not what I am saying. But God's unconditional love for people causes Him to give all humanity the freedom to choose. If He forced us all to love Him, then He would not be loving us. This freedom to choose allows the vilest things on Earth to happen to the most innocent. God understands this and works in the most violated hearts to bring healing within and uses them to bring healing to others. The ways of God are beautiful. But as beautiful as it is to think that the Lord never forgets anyone and works to bring everyone help and support in their time of pain, the consequence of this love is that pain, betrayal, molestation, abduction, divorce, murder, war, and so many other atrocities are allowed to continue.
We don't always understand. We can't always see what God is doing. It makes no sense to us who believe that the same God who always protects allows us to be vulnerable. It makes no sense for us who believe God provides all of our needs to allow times of famine. It makes no sense to those of us who believe God never leaves us nor forsakes us to be left alone. As believers, we work hard to fight through these feelings. We try to trust God. We know that we should trust Him. We want to trust Him, but sometimes, what a steep mountain it is to climb.
Even though it is very difficult, we do have the capacity to trust. Just consider driving down the highway. Cars are passing you at high speeds with only a couple of feet away. People are texting, sleeping, putting on make-up, talking on the phone, yelling at the kids, crying, laughing, drinking alcohol, smoking dope and everything else in the world while they are driving. And we know this. We do some of these things behind the wheel of our car. At any moment, any of these distractions can cause someone to swerve over into our lane and hit us head on, but each day, we get into the car and start her up and head for work, putting our life at risk all the while trusting people we have never met.
I remember playing golf in Florida. Many times, we would come up to a green and see an alligator or two or three just sitting there as still as a statue. My friends who had grown up in Florida would say, "They're just sunning. It's okay." They would walk out to the green. They would not get real close to the alligator, but anywhere within 10,000 feet of an alligator without a shotgun in my hand is too close. They knew that these alligators ate dogs. Each year, there were a number of children who were killed by alligators in the city parks. Yet, those crazy people in Florida would still feed the alligators, take little ones home as pets, and play golf with these wild killing machines. Not me. Momma didn't raise no fool! They had learned how to move past the fears that were too much for me. I don't know if they were just plain crazy or if they trusted the alligators or trusted God, but somehow, they found some sense of trust. I stayed in the cart, foot on the gas :)
It is so difficult to trust, but we do have the capacity to trust even in the roughest situations. It's hard to trust God, but we do have the capacity. There are times when we are able to face our fears and trust God wholeheartedly. Other times, we shrink back because of a lack of trust. Trust is not constant. And trust is not controlled by an on/off switch where I either trust or I don't. Trust is a wrestling match with my fears and faith, trying to hold on to God, but still losing my grip on Him. And just because I am able to trust God completely one day, there is no guarantee that I will trust Him the next. In some situations of life, I trust a little. Some I trust a lot. Some I trust wholeheartedly. Some, I can't even find an ounce of trust within my spirit. Trust must be worked at. It is something to be developed and refined. It is an art where mastery is so far beyond the norm, we must practice it all the days of our life. But the more I can trust God, the more I can trust period. My trust in God affects my ability to trust in all other situations.
I can’t even imagine what is was like to be David. The shepherd boy becomes the King of God’s holy nation. Israel was unlike any other nation and David had to be a King like no other. As it has always been in history and continues to be, Israel was hated and more when they prospered. And under the leadership of David, they were prospering. The pressure of being God’s chosen King neither destroyed David’s enemies nor cleansed him of unrighteousness. Upon David was the pressure of leading God’s people, protecting the chosen people of God, and living in the holiness of God. And he failed. When his enemies came against Him, he surrendered to fear. When temptations appeared, he surrendered to the flesh. David was not beloved by God because he was perfect. He was so beloved because he passionately called out to the Lord when his enemies, spiritual and physical, had wounded him in the battle. He drew near to the Lord with fervor from the great depths of failure.
Jesus said of the disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Is this not the plight of all of us. We want to be faithful. We want to be strong. We want to be courageous and righteous, but we fail. What do we do then? How well do we fail?
In the 61st Psalm, David cries out, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” The secret of David’s life is found in this short prayer. “Lead me.” David understood that he could not find his way. He knew the Lord was there. He had always been there, but sometimes, we can get so far from the Lord either by our own sin or pushed out of His presence by the issues of life. To fail well, in our failure, we must recognize that we need the Lord’s help to get back. We can’t do it on our own.
“To the rock.” He is not speaking of a pebble that could be moved by the force of the waters. He speaks of a rock that is not moved. The Bible says that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When we live in His ways, He is our foundation that holds us steady, but when we move away from Him, we lose our way. We need His help to lead us to the Rock, to lead us back to His ways. Repentance requires change. The Rock of Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is faith in our Savior, but also submission to our God. We need help, but He is an ever-present help in trouble.
“that is higher than I.” He exalts the Lord. David says he cries out from the ends of the earth. He feels so far from God. Perhaps, his enemies were coming against him. Perhaps, it was when his own son Absalom turned against him. Perhaps, he had fallen to temptation. Whether this or that, he felt so far from His God. His voice was weak and frail when he called to the Lord, but in his weakened state, He gave praise. When all Hell breaks loose, our emotional connection to the Lord will not be enough to draw praise from our lips. This is a praise that comes from an emotional high. This is praise that goes against every feeling we have when we are far from the Lord. Our emotions would lead us to stress, worry, be angry. We might call out to God, but for rescue, not in praise. But if we are going to fail well, we must praise Him in all circumstances.
It wasn’t David’s music, nor his service that kept Him in the depth of God’s love. It was the way He failed. He failed with humility, repentance, and praise. If we can fail like this, what can ever destroy us?
Tired of the same old arguments, the same old mistakes, same old habits happening over and over again and messing up your life?
With All Your Heart is my new book I wrote to help people end the negative cycles in their life so that they can move into new blessings.
When Moses sinned against the Lord, He was not allowed to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, but it was the conversation He had with the Lord in that moment that teaches us how to stop wandering in circles in the desert and crossover to new blessings.
Maybe it’s the big city? Maybe it’s the time we live in? Maybe it’s the American dream? I really don’t know, but it is a dangerous trend causing a slow erosion of families.
I was preaching the other day from Matthew where Jesus asks his disciples who people say He is. Of course, Peter answers, “Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets.” I want to stop right here because for the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, for them to think that he was one of these would be a great compliment. Though they did not necessarily see Him as the Messiah, they saw Him higher than the Pharisee and Sadducees, the religious leaders of the day. It actually reflects a very high opinion they had of Him. But then Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter again answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus’ response is very telling here. He tells Peter that this knowledge of who He is has come to Him, not from flesh and blood, but a spiritual revelation from the Father in Heaven. The wonderful, high opinions of the people outside the circle of disciples were not from the Father. They were earthly and unspiritual. James compares this type of thinking as demonic. How can such good thoughts be demonic? Somehow the devil had taken the good, positive feelings people had about Jesus and used it against them. They were not calling Jesus a heretic, a lunatic, or a hypocrite. Nevertheless, what seemed like positive thoughts were the devil’s trap.
In our society today, we want good things. We have a positive purpose behind what we do. We go to work so that we can give our family good things. Nothing wrong with that, is there? We put our children into so many different activities so that they can experience all of these good things like gymnastics, football, extra tutoring to prepare them for college. These are all good things, right? But when do good and positive things become the devil’s instrument for the erosion of the family? Well, when we start treating Christ as if He is only a prophet.
A prophet is not God. A prophet has not saved us from our sins. A prophet has not died for our transgressions. A prophet is not the Judge of our eternity. A prophet only gives advice, direction, suggestions for life. But when Almighty God tells us not to neglect our Daily Bread, it’s not a suggestion. Spending time daily in prayer, in meditation of Scripture, in fellowship with the Holy Spirit is a necessity for our life. But when we are called to intimacy with the Lord, we respond as if it is a suggestion, as if Jesus is a mere prophet. When the Creator of the Universe and the substance of everything good and perfect calls us to not give up meeting together with the family of believers, it is not a suggestion. From the beginning the Lord has called His people to meet together at least every seven days. I know…some people think the Sabbath was the old law and it has been done away with. I would remind you that Jesus said not a single letter of the law would be made obsolete. Instead, it is fulfilled. Jesus made it clear that when we gather together is not important as long as we do gather together. We need it for our spiritual health. But when we dismiss the gathering of believers because of other activities, we diminish His command to a suggestion, and the Christ to a prophet.
We become vulnerable when we neglect our time with the Lord personally and corporately. We don’t always realize it because the effect moves slow. It is more evident in the fact that our life resembles a roller coaster with highs full of strength and dips full of weakness. But this is not the Lord’s plan for us. He intends for us to get stronger and stronger. We will always be under attack, but we don’t have to be so vulnerable.
It is not that people hate the Bible, despise prayer, or have rejected church. No, all of these still hold a very high place in our hearts. It’s like saying Jesus is Elijah or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. These are all indications of the high favor people had for Jesus, but this thinking was earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. The Bible is not a good book to read. It is the Living Word of God that conditions our spirit to be able to see, know, and follow God’s will for our life. Prayer is not something to do when our football team is losing or just before a meal. Prayer is moving into the presence of the Most High God who is above all. It is listening to the source of all wisdom and gathering power from on High to overcome every attack we face in our daily life and still maintain a positive outlook, joy unspeakable, and peace transcending our circumstances. And church is not something to do when aren’t too tired or have other things to do. It is the place where we are strengthened by the communion of believers with Christ. We are encouraged, pruned, and challenged. We spur one another on to not give up living this world-changing lifestyle in the face of heavy assault from Hell.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with working, even working long hours. There is nothing wrong with activities such as football, gymnastics, or even facebook. But when these begin to replace our daily time with the Lord, and our weekly time with the Body, these positive, fun, beneficial things in our life can become the devil’s trap. I know church is not perfect, but for the most part, the people in the pews are not yelling at the preacher like parents yell at the referees. Maybe in some churches 😊, but I hope not. And facebook as the best videos to make us laugh til we cry. There is nothing better than seeing a cat frightened and reflexively leaping into the air and landing in the fish aquarium. I love that, but it doesn’t edify my soul. It does not challenge me to love better, to serve better, or to seek the face of God.
God wants us to enjoy life. He really does. God is not a stick in the mud no matter what you have heard. He likes to have fun. But earthly fun that steals our attention away from Scripture, prayer, serving, and worship will not end well.
Let’s remember that the Bible is not a Dear Abby column. Church is not an alternative activity. Prayer is not for emergencies. And Jesus is not a prophet.
Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it is a blessing and challenges you to move deeper in your walk with Christ. I would love for you to check out my new book With All Your Heart. If you ever find yourself doing things that you wish you wouldn't over and over again, I wrote this book for you.
We tend to make the same stupid mistakes over and over again. No matter how often we tell ourselves we are not going to do it again, we find ourselves doing it again. I'm going to stop yelling at my spouse. I'm going to stop drinking. I'm going to stop overeating. I'm going to get out of this depression. Well, I want you to know that God made you to be an overcomer in all things and the secret wisdom of Scripture prepares us to make the changes we need to experience a better life. And that is what this book is all about. I hope it will help you in those most difficult areas.
Let's face it. Relationships are what we seek most yet have the hardest time finding. We all want to have a solid marriage, a happy family, good friends, and peace where we work, but wanting good relationships doesn't mean that we know how to develop them. All relationship are built on love, but love is complex, right? But here are some tips from Scripture on how to start improving your relationships today.
1. Understand that love is a skill, not a feeling
The Scripture gives us a great definition of what love is. We tend to think that love is that fluttering of butterflies that we feel toward someone romantically or the deep emotional bond we have with our children. But these are feelings, not love. Love is action. Read the following passage:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. (NIV)
For example, I may have strong emotional feelings toward my wife, but if we get into an argument, the minute I lose my patience, I have stopped loving her.Of course, I still love her, but I am not lov-ing her in that moment because love is patient. I may love my children, but if, while I am disciplining them, I dishonor them with extreme anger or by calling them names, I have stopped loving them.I love them, but I am not lov-ing them.
Because love is an action that I take, it is more a skill that I can refine than a feeling that I can’t control.Love is patience and we can work to develop more patience.Love is not easily angered.I can work on not losing my temper and get better at it.
2. Be determined to love better
If love is a skill, then let’s work at it and get better. The Scripture above says that love never fails. This is a confusing statement to someone who associates love with an emotion. If you have always thought of love as an emotion, what seems to make more sense is to “fall in love” which of course means we can “fall out of love.” The word “fall” suggests that we have no control over it. But, according to Scripture, love is something I do have control over. I can choose to love and I can choose not to love. I can choose to be patient or not. I can choose to stay angry or forgive. I can choose to remain jealous or I can choose to trust. If you can accept that love is a skill and a choice much more than it is an emotion, then you are now in control of your actions and you can get better at it. But you must decide that you are going to get better. Just like I have to decide to go on a diet and then remind myself that I am on a diet every time I open the freezer and see that Blue Bell ice cream sitting there calling my name. If I am not determined, then it won’t be long before we have eaten the whole thing. Have you ever just made up your mind that you were going to do something? Have you ever gone after something with all of your heart and disciplined yourself for that purpose? The Bible says that God gives the Holy Spirit to help us:
2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (NIV)
The Lord, through the Holy Spirit has given us the power to discipline ourselves. Just like we can discipline ourselves to work harder for a promotion, eat better to lose weight, or be on time to work every day, the Holy Spirit gives us power for those things uncommonly difficult like improving how well we love. But before we can access the power of the Spirit, we must be determined that we are going to love our spouse better, our children better, our parents better, our boss better, our co-workers better, our church better, even love our enemies better. Set your mind to hone your skill of love.
3. Work hard to love without condition
When we look at the passage from 1 Corinthians, the word “love” is better translated as “charity.” The King James version of the Bible translates the original language like this:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: (KJV)
Ok, so what is charity. Charity is giving without expectation of receiving. When we promise to love someone, we are not promising to love them as long as they love us. This is typically what happens. When they lose their patience and stop lov-ing us, then we return the favor and lose our patience with them as well. This is how arguments escalate. This becomes a cycle that happens over and over again. But if we accept God’s challenge to love with charity, then we commit ourselves to keep lov-ing the other person even when they are not lov-ing us. So we remain patient with our teenager who is being rebellious. We still give consequences because the Bible says that a parents who does not discipline their children hates their children, but we discipline with a patient tone, not an angry one. They may be yelling and screaming, but you remain patient even as you hand down their discipline whether that it taking away their phone or not letting them play Fortnite. Here is what the Bible says:
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. (NIV)
To give a gentle answer is to choose to love because love is patient and kind. This reaction to someone who is angry with you calms them, turns away their wrath. But if you return wrath for wrath, you only stir up more in the other person, who then stirs more up in you, so you stir up more in them, then they…well, I think you get the idea.
If you are married, remember your vows. The traditional wedding vows were not conditional. Neither of you said, “I will honor you…as long as you honor me first.” This takes a great deal of effort.
4. Ignore feelings that aren’t lov-ing
As you begin to work at loving better without condition, it is very important to note that your emotions will remain the same for a while. You will be angry but choose to forgive. You will be irritated but choose to be patient. You will be tempted to hold someone’s past mistakes against them (keeping a record of wrongs) but choose to forgive. Our emotions come from the heart and because we have been born with a sinful nature as a result of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, our emotions are based in sin or selfishness. Our emotions are going to react in a way to try to force or manipulate the other person to do what we want them to do. For example, when we react in anger rather than patience, this is our emotions attempting to make someone stop doing what they are doing. But just because you feel something, it doesn’t mean you have to do it. You may feel depressed, but you don’t have to walk around acting depressed. You may be angry, but you don’t have to scream, yell, or even get that ugly face where you veins pop out of your forehead. Remember, it’s a choice.
Now, this means that you may feel as if you are being fake. You are not. As Christians, we have both the sinful nature in us (selfishness) and the Holy Spirit in us who helps us love selflessly. When our emotions match up with our sinful nature and we choose to act in love, we are not being fake. We are making a decision to not obey what we feel because what we feel is not helpful nor righteous.
Here is what the Lord does for us when we choose to obey the Holy Spirit instead of our sinful emotions: He purifies our heart. This means the more we obey Him and act according to the definition of love from above, He will see this as an act of faith. It takes faith because it feels as if we are just going to let people walk all over us. But the Lord promises to honor us by changing their heart and He will also change our heart. Before long, our emotions will match up with God’s definition of love. And if people resist the Lord and continue to walk all over us for an extended period of time, there will come a time when God will let us know that if we keep allowing that person to walk all over us, we are no longer lov-ing them because we are enabling them to behave in a destructive way. When that time comes, He will help us to know what to do. Until then, trust Him. Love as God loves-without condition and ignore any emotion that doesn’t match up with God’s definition of love.
5. Apologize quickly
Have you ever done something that you shouldn’t, but your pride wouldn’t let you go and apologize. I know many people like this (I might even be one of them 😊). So what happens is that we just go on as if nothing happened. The next time we see that person, we act as if everything is just fine. But to ignore the wounds we have inflicted with our words dishonors that person. We may love that person, but if we do not acknowledge what we have done. To apologize quickly, we must humble ourselves. We have to admit that we are not always right. We may even have to admit that even though we were right, we didn’t handle being right the right way. You may have to apologize to your children for losing your temper, but remind them that you are still right in what you were telling them. You just didn’t tell them with a patient and kind demeanor.
Something happens when we look into the eyes of the person we have hurt and apologize. We hold ourselves accountable and we have to confess to the Lord what we have done before we confess to the person we have hurt. And the Lord does something when we confess to Him when we have hurt others:
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)
Again, we see the Lord honoring us by doing something supernatural in us that we can’t do on our own. We can’t purify our heart. We can only obey His call to love. But when we do this, He supernaturally touches our heart and purifies us. Over time, this touch brings healing and slowly begins to align our emotions to God’s definition of love. On the contrary, the longer we wait to apologize, the harder our heart becomes as pride settles in.
I hope these five tips help you in your relationships. I would remind you that one of the best things you can do to help you follow these five tips is to get into a good church that is teaching the Bible in truth and love. Love without condition is not natural. It is supernatural. We have to receive it from the Lord every day so that we can give it every day. As we go to church, we learn how to receive this love and we receive strength to give it.
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This morning I watched a bit of the confirmation hearing for Judge Kavanaugh while he was being questioned about Senator Feinstein. He was being questioned specifically about the Roe v. Wade case which legalized abortion in the United States. The senator stated that millions of women had died through the process of illegal, back door, black market abortions because, before the Roe v. Wade case, abortion was illegal. The illegality of abortions meant dirty, unsanitary, unregulated conditions that women were exposed to. Then she said something that really struck me. She was pressing Judge Kavanaugh wanting to ensure that he would not overturn Roe v. Wade because she did not want to see the death tolls of women seeking illegal and unsanitary abortions. All I could think was what about the death toll of all the babies. There have been an estimated 60,000,000 babies aborted since Roe vs. Wade in 1973.
I know that many Christians are hoping this decision will be overturned making abortion illegal again. But we also know that reversing this decision will not stop abortions any more than Prohibition stopped alcohol in the 20’s and 30’s. On the contrary, the alcohol kept flowing and it gave rise to the black market and organized crime in America. If we know that women will continue to seek out abortions even if they are made illegal, and if we know that those places for abortion will not be regulated in any way leaving room for unsanitary and deadly conditions, why would it be good that the Roe v. Wade decision be overturned? Would it be a good thing?
To answer this question as Christians, we must understand how God sees legal abortion. The Bible does not teach that life begins AT conception. The Bible teaches that life begins BEFORE conception. Consider this passage:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. ” (NIV)
This is the Lord speaking to the prophet Jeremiah saying that He knew Him before He formed him in the womb. Though the Lord is speaking to Jeremiah, Jeremiah was a man created like every other human being. Every human life is filled with the breath of God. It is the breath of God that gives us life.
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind. (NIV)
But the breath of God is not of this world because God, the Father is Spirit, not flesh (John 4:24). The physical body we receive in the womb is formed after we have been created. We are spiritual beings with a physical body. He created us, then placed us in the womb to receive our physical body. Birth of the physical body does not indicate the beginning of existence. It is only the beginning of our physical bodies according to Jeremiah. It is for this reason that we believe that aborted babies still go to Heaven. Isaiah 7:15-16 gives us an indication of what theologians call the ‘age of accountability’ meaning that until a child is old enough to understand right from wrong, God’s mercy extends to them for eternal life. This includes the unborn and aborted. We praise the Lord for this. Nevertheless, from a Biblical standpoint, there is no controversy on when life begins. The passage in Jeremiah tells us that life begins before conception so there should be no doubt that abortion is wrong in the eyes of the Lord.
But we know that making abortion illegal will not stop abortions. From history, we know that many women would also die from the unregulated conditions of black market abortion clinics. So again, why should Christians want Roe v. Wade overturned?
The reason that Christians should want this law overturned goes beyond when a baby is actually considered a baby. To fully understand why, as Christians who accept the Bible as the Word of God, we should want this law overturned, we need to understand how God looks at nations and governments. When I sin, that is on me. But when a nation sins, there are consequences from the Lord for the whole nation.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; (KJV)
For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish;
it will be utterly ruined. (NIV)
he wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
all the nations that forget God. (NIV)
But how does a nation sin? To grasp this concept, we must understand the principle of submission and authority. When a person in authority sins, there are consequences for everyone under their authority. It is not that a child is guilty before God for the sins of his father. But the sins of his father have a direct consequence on the children. If a father is a drunk, a child does not pass by without affect, neither would the man’s wife. A couple of years ago, I signed with a Christian publisher for my books. It was called Tate Publishing located in Oklahoma. Well, I noticed things began to change and then it became clear that the company was going under because the president of the company was embezzling the money. (Here is a youtube video of the AG of Oklahoma : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYFyNY6GobY). The point is that every one of their 200 employees and thousands of authors and musicians including myself were directly affected by the president of the company. So what happens when a king makes a decision, or a president? The Lord judges a nation based on the decisions of the leadership. Our elected leaders are human, not perfect. They will all do good and bad at times. But when a nation justifies or legalizes something that God hates, the nation has sinned and the Lord will judge the nation.
Wouldn’t we all agree that the legal practice of slavery in the early history of our nation has affected our nation even to this very day. Besides the horrors endured by slaves; besides the Civil War which killed more Americans than any other war, besides the lynching’s, hangings, beatings, and the KKK that were commonplace up through the 60’s, it is still the root of racial tension in America today. When presidents decide to go to war, it effects the nation. When congress made alcohol illegal and then legalized it, the whole nation was affected. The decision of national leaders effect the whole nation. And when national leaders sin, it affects the whole nation. But this may be even more true when national leaders establish a law that goes against the Word of God. And the Bible teaches the Lord will hold that nation accountable which is why we should hope for this law to be changed. I know it will not stop abortion, but at least, it will reduce the sin of our nation.
Judge Kavanaugh is a Constitutionalist, which I like, believes that precedent should be followed, and he cited another case, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, that supported Roe v. Wade, as "precedent on top of precedent." For Christians who hoped that this judge would be the beginning of overturning Roe v Wade, it does not look good. At the same time, I am not in favor of judges ruling according to their personal agenda. This would give too much control over the entire nation to a very small group of people.
I am praying that America does make abortion illegal again, and I am praying that the church will do its part to reach out to women who might otherwise seek an abortion. Many women find themselves with child through horrific circumstances such as rape and abuse. The church should be there to counsel, not to judge. Even now with legal abortions, the church should show love to women who obtain abortions, not hate. The church should comfort for the pain, healing for the soul, hope for the future, and options such as adoption. Christians should have as much passion about helping women who have had abortions or are considering it as they have in overturning Roe vs. Wade.
But let me finish with this thought. This law will never be overturned unless there is overwhelming public support for that. This means that it will take changed hearts and changed minds and only the Lord can do this. Not only is the Lord able to do this, but He is ready and willing to do this. But His promise to heal our nation is conditional. Here’s the condition:
2 Chronicles 7:14
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (NIV)
We do a lot of blaming and I reckon politics makes it easy. It allows us to blame those with different views for the demise of the country. I see this on both sides of the political spectrum. And I will confess that I have fallen into this trap often. But the passage in 2 Chronicles makes it clear that the direction of a nation is dependent upon the devotion of those who call themselves the people of God. It is the lukewarm heart of American Christianity that keep us from seeing the Lord heal our nation. When believers turn from wickedness and seek the Lord with all their heart on behalf of a hurting and broken people in America, healing will come to America. It will not happen overnight, but the Lord will keep His promise.
Heavenly Father, forgive our nation for justifying those things you hate. Lord, may you give wisdom to our national leaders. Help us to be cautious in personal attacks against them no matter what party they are from. Forgive our leaders for their personal sins. Forgive the church for times we have judged rather than loved. Pour your forgiveness and grace into every women who has chosen to have an abortion. Help the church seek holiness with all our heart. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your mercy. And thank you for redeeming the unborn. -Amen.
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When the Lord first established His covenant with Abram, He was clear that the Covenant was for Abram, his children, and his descendants. God’s promise was to protect and provide for Abram, his children and his descendants. Years later, when the nation of Israel was about to move into the Promised Land, the Lord again made clear that the blessings of the Covenant was generational. The Lord desires for us to be blessed generation after generation.
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (NIV)
The Lord was preparing the people to go into the Promised Land and He clearly desires that this nation be blessed for as many days as the Heavens are above the Earth. Do you know how many days the Heavens will be above the Earth? It’s not a trick question. The answer is every day. God wanted the nation of Israel to enjoy living in the land of blessing forever and ever. God wants us to live in blessing and He wants His children to live in blessing. Can we say “Praise the Lord” that we have a God who desires to bless us. He wants to release power from Heaven to make our life better in some way. Can I get an amen in the house!?!
A blessing is a release of supernatural power for good released from Heaven. A curse is the opposite. It is supernatural power working for destruction against us. The Scripture says that the Lord has set before us each day both blessings and curses. If we obey Him, we will be blessed and if we don’t, we lose some of His protection and we will find ourselves under a curse. But in this passage, God is telling the people to teach their children His laws and decrees and if they teach their children, it will ensure that their children remain in the blessing for generations. The teaching of our children is not supernatural. We are using human words and human understanding. But the Lord is telling the people that if they will teach their children, He will keep them in blessings. When we teach our children the ways of the Lord, the Lord will release power for their good. I think I want to say this again just for those in the back row. God honors us when we teach our children about Him by pouring blessings out to our children, and their children.
The Lord is not calling for a classroom education. He is advocating here for a teaching lifestyle. Certainly, as parents, we are called to teach our children the ways of God, but we are to teach as we live life. Teaching in the midst of life situations means to use the situations that we are in as examples of certain principles for living that God has given to us. Imagine teaching your children to obey the speed limit by pointing out cars that are going way too fast while you are driving as a reason for adhering to the speed limit. Our children would see how that car is not only putting itself at risk, but those around them as well. This is much more effective. Of course, it is going to create much more accountability. Once a child understands the danger of disobeying the speed limit, you know they are going to be watching how fast you are driving. “Daddy, the speed limit is not 90mph.” When we maintain a teaching lifestyle with our children, it forces us to obey the Lord more closely. And what was the promise for obeying the Lord? Oh yeah…blessings!
The Lord has tapped into our natural desire to see our children do better, be more, excel, and succeed. His promise to parents is that if we will live our life in a way that teaches our children the ways of God, He will release power to keep us in blessings and power to keep our children blessed, and their children, and their children, and …I think you get the point. When we live to ensure the supernatural blessings of God in the lives of our children, everyone gets blessed. So, are you living a life that abides by the teachings of the Lord? Are you living a life that reveals the ways of God to our children? If so, the Lord will not only bless them, but you as well. And if they do the same for their children, as they learned from you, the cycle of blessings will go on and on and on. To God be the glory!
King David: “I will build you a house instead of a tent.”
God: “I have been just fine in a tent. I don’t need a house.”
King David: “But I want to do this for you.”
God: “Fine. Do it, but remember, it is not for me, it's for you.”
Through the narrative of Scripture, we see a strange exchange between the Lord and King David. David has become wildly successful by the grace of God. He is in a majestic palace and looks out and see the Ark of the Covenant, where the Spirit of the Lord remains, in a tent. He thinks to himself, “This is not right. I should not be in a palace while the Lord is in a tent. I will build a temple for the Lord.” The fact that David thought that the Lord needed a temple revealed a misunderstanding of the Lord. And God let Him build the temple, but then gave him very strict instructions on how to build it and what it would look like. There were very details plans for every piece of furniture in how it was made to where it was placed. The Lord let David plan and his son, Solomon, build the temple because the people needed a place to worship.
We need a place of worship. We need a place where we gather together in holy convocation to lift up the name of our Lord and to remember all He has done for us. This is what the Lord established through the Sabbath. The people would come together and shout, sing, pray, and offer sacrifices in thanksgiving to the Lord. But when they became their own nation spread out from one another, they needed a place to come together for worship. The Lord made the Temple the center of all Jewish life. There were daily sacrifices and prayers. Incense had to burn continually. Sacrifices were doubled on the Sabbath. Daily people went to the Temple to pray. God declared that three times a year, every man, no matter where they lived, had to stop their life and travel to Jerusalem for the Festivals of Booths, Weeks, and Unleavened Bread. Jesus, on the 8th day of His life was taken to the Temple to be redeemed as the firstborn. At 12 years of age, he was there listening to the teachers. As He began His ministry, He returned to the Temple and taught from the prophet Isaiah. God didn’t need the Temple, but He made it the focal point of society because the people needed a place to gather and worship. But why?
As a pastor that invites a lot of people to church, I hear this all the time, “I worship all the time. I worship in my car, in the shower, at home watching John Hagee. I worship all the time even though I don’t go to church.” Well, that is good. The Bible says that our own bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. He is always with us. But the Lord could have instructed each home to build their own altar and to offer their own sacrifices and prayers at home. But the Lord did the opposite by declaring the Temple as the only place that offerings would be acceptable to Him. Why? He didn’t need the Temple, but the people did…and still do.
The precursor to the Temple was the Tent of Meeting. When the Lord led the people out of Egypt into the desert, He instructed them on how to construct the Tabernacle, which was a mobile Temple that would be moved as these nomadic people moved. The Lord said this that He would put His name at the Tent of Meeting. What’s in a name? The name represents the person. If you hear the name “Lee,” you might begin to think of someone you know who is named Lee. If you happen to think about me, you will immediately think about my bald head and how much I love Blue Bell ice cream. My name represents who I am. When the Lord said He would put His Name at the Tent of Meeting, He was telling us that He was going to represent Himself through the place known as the Tent of Meeting.
If you remember when Moses would go into the Tent of Meeting, a cloud would come down over the top of it and envelop it. The people understood this as the cloud of the Lord. It also led them in their travels. When the cloud moved, it was time for the people to move. The cloud also gave them protection from the sun of the desert. This cloud represented God’s leading, protection, and love for His people. The Tent of Meeting became the same. When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting, all the people would stand outside of their tent and wait for Moses to return. This place, the imagery and makeup of it, taught the people the character and personality of the Lord. The place helped them to understand who He was. The Temple was the same way.
It was made of wood, but the wood was covered in gold outside and inside. In the same way, the Lord left the golden realms of Heaven to come and live on Earth and die on a piece of wood, then He returned to the Heavens. He was wood covered in gold. Gold had to be purified and so does our heart. The purification takes place through the exchange of life for death. In the Temple, people brought their lambs to sacrifice. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” The sacrifices represented God’s mercy to exact justice on the innocent lamb to release the guilty man. The sacrifices had to be given that the people would understand that God has blessed them first, then they give in thanksgiving for what God has already done. The Lord gives out of love, even before we deserve it, and we give thanks and honor to Him and this process purifies our heart like gold.
When the people came out of Egypt, they didn’t really know Jehovah, the Lord. They worshipped the gods of the Egyptians. Therefore they constructed a golden calf to worship even after they departed Egypt. The Lord was trying to bring them into Canaan, the Promised Land. And the propensity of the people to worship the gods of the people groups around them was a big threat to their relationship with the Lord. The Lord told them that when they entered the Promised Land, they had to go and smash, bash, and destroy every place where the false gods of the Canaanites worshipped. The Lord said this needed to be done so that ‘they don’t worship the Lord their God their way.” In other words, the Lord wanted to make sure that the people did not worship the way the Canaanites did, but use His name. It is true, we do tend to worship as the Canaanites did. We still do it today.
The Canaanites worshiped many gods, but the two greatest were Baal and Asherah. Baal was a male god, the head of all gods. Asherah was his mistress and he had a few. Asherah was the goddess of fertility. The people believed that when Baal and Asherah were sexually intimate in the spirit world, the power of their fertility would cause the Earth to produce great harvests. They also believed they could inspire or motivate Baal and Asherah into sexual behavior by having orgies themselves. They had temple prostitutes who were there for people to come and beg the gods for a good harvest and then participate in unbridled hedonism. Then they expected the gods to do the same and produce great crops for the people.
Well the people of Israel were going to be coming out of a desert. There was no fertility. Everything came from the Lord whether it was manna from Heaven or water coming out of a rock, it was from the Lord. But the Lord knew that if the people went into Canaan, they would easily believe that this fertility, of the likes they had never seen, was because of the religion of the Canaanites. After all, the Lord had been with them, but they had not seen fertility like this in forty years, so they might think that the fertility of the land must be the result of Baal and Asherah.
It was for this reason, the Lord said, “Tear down every place they worshiped, and I will choose a place and set my Name there for my people to worship.” This is the purpose of the church. When the Body of Christ comes together, we are surrounded by things symbolic, the Word of God through Scripture, a strong presence of the Holy Spirit, and a group of people seeking the Lord with all their hearts. These are all interwoven into a place that reveals the character of our God. Specifically, we learn that while we were yet sinners, He died for us. We did not have to perform to get Him to bless us. He blessed us because He loved us. The people did not offer Him sacrifices to get Him to do anything. They did it to give thanks for what He had already done.
When we lose our habit of attending church, we easily fall into worshiping the wrong gods while using the right name. We ask the Lord for something and we may try to go to church some, read the Bible, or listen to Christian music, but then we expect Him to act because of our performance. We may not want to admit it, but when we get angry or frustrated with what God has allowed in our life and what He has prohibited in our life, it reveals an expectation we had that the Lord should do something. And why do we expect it? We expect it because we feel it is owed to us; because we have earned it; because we have performed like a Christian. But when it doesn’t happen, we behave in a way that harms our own spirit and those who may be around us when the frustration is released. We lash out. We deny people our love. We withdraw our love because of our own sadness or offense. When the Canaanites still did not get a good harvest after all of their lewd behavior, they would go further and start throwing their children off cliffs trying to move Baal and Asherah. We may not be throwing people off a cliff, but we are damaging their hearts out of our disappointment and frustrations because we have not received what we feel is right.
The Canaanite people responded to their gods like a prostitute to a pimp. They performed in the hopes that they could earn the good fortune of these gods who did not love them. But the Lord does not want us to worship Him like this where our religious activity is attached to expectations. If we do this, we will tend to go to the Lord when we are desperate and when we think things are going ok, we will not go to Him. It becomes an abusive relationship. God is not our pimp that we must earn protection and provision from. He is our Husband who has loved us with an everlasting love.
The Lord continually invites us to meet with Him, not to get something from Him, but because we love Him, and we know that He loves us. Imagine what your marriage would be like if every time you invited your spouse to sit down with you, to cuddle, to be intimate, they only accepted the invitation when they needed something and when they didn’t, they declined your invitation. This is the religion of the world, the religion of the Canaanites. We must not fall into the trap of responding to the Lord as if He is our pimp.
The Temple of Solomon was a place where the Lord set His name so that the people could understand He was nothing like Baal or Asherah. Our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus referred to His own body as the Temple. Heaven is a Temple. The church is the body of Christ or the Temple. There are many places the Lord chooses to meet with His people and we need all of them. When we neglect any one of these places He has chosen to meet with His people, we will be vulnerable to responding to the right name, but in the wrong way. There is no other god like our God!
“Always pray and never give up,” -Jesus.
He really has a way of packing a lot into very few words. His statement reveals the nature of giving up in difficult situations. If we truly believe that God is able to rescue, deliver, change, move, transform situations in our life and for those we pray for, then when we stop praying, we have given up. Oh, I know that most of us would say, “I haven’t given up.” I think that would be my argument many times, but I have to consider how the Lord has expressed this principle. The NIV translates this to say ‘don’t give up.’ The KJV translates this as ‘do not faint.’ And the word of origin comes from the root word ‘depravity.’ Depravity is the absence of something. In the context, praying to the Lord puts us in the Throne Room of Grace whereas giving up or fainting would means we have stopped entering the Throne Room of God.
In a kingdom society, when a person wanted to ask the king for something, he would be summoned to the Throne Room to stand before the king and make his case. The king could refuse to see this person. Or the king could listen, but still deny their request. But the only place to make the request was in the Throne Room of the king. In the book of Hebrews, we hear about the Throne Room of our Lord:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (NIV)
We enter the Throne Room through prayer. When we pray, we enter into a deeper level of presence with the Lord. It doesn’t mean He is not with us everywhere we go. In a kingdom, the king was their king no matter where they traveled in the kingdom, but when they needed something, they had to get before the king. God is with us always and He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, but we have been called to enter into His Throne Room, especially in times of duress, to petition Him for what we need.
We may not feel that we have given up when we stop praying, but Christ is speaking of continually going into the Throne Room of prayer to petition the Lord for our needs and others. Christ is making that case that if we continue to go back to the Lord in prayer, we will find strength for our situation. If we stop going to Him in prayer, our strength wains and we become faint. But how does prayer make us stronger and not praying make us weaker? The prophet Isaiah talked about waiting up on the Lord and how those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (NIV)
In this version, we see that those who put their hope in the Lord renew their strength. Other versions translate it as those who wait upon the Lord renew their strength. If we take this concept back to Jesus statement about always praying and never giving up, He is reminding us that when we pray, we will not always receive an answer forthwith. Sometimes, in fact, many times, the Lord delays any answer at all. He does not deliver us right away. He does not fix the situation as quickly as we ask for. He sometimes seems slow. So when the Lord seems to not give a quick answer, Jesus teaches us to keep praying and waiting on the Lord and to never stop. In this, we are putting our hope in the Lord and we are waiting for Him to respond, to act, to answer our prayers. Making us wait is supposed to make us stronger?!?
I have never thought to myself sitting in an hour long traffic delay that I am getting strong because of this. It is not the waiting that makes me stronger. It is the One with whom I wait. When I wait in the Throne Room through prayer, then I am in the presence of the Lord. The original word that is being translated into ‘hope’ or ‘wait’ depending on the version of Scripture you use comes from a root word that means ‘to bind together.’ In prayer, we are being bound together with Christ. And something is bound together, it becomes one. In the Thone Room, there is no fear, no stress, but only love and mercy for humanity. As I pray, I am bound together to the Lord by the Holy Spirit. A transformation begins to take place in me so that I begin to feel what my Lord feels. I begin to think as He thinks. I begin to respond as He responds. His concerns become mine. His plans become mine. His purpose becomes mine. Because He is pure love, when I wait with Him through persistent prayer, He is perfecting my love and eliminating my selfishness. When my prayers are shallow and trite, I undergo no transformation. I do not remain long enough in the Throne Room to be transformed. Shallow prayers will leave us shallow-only thinking of our own wants and desires.
Being bound up with the Lord increases my strength. He is transforming me to be more like Him. As He purifies my heart, my emotions are purified, and I am not as tempted to go off on someone when they have offended me. Instead, I am able to love them, even those who persecute me. As my desires become His, I am no longer so easily tempted by the pleasures of the flesh. I am stronger to resist temptation. He is pure love and being bound up with Him through persistent prayer fills me with His pure love for everyone helping me to love others better.
It is the love of God that moves Him to release power in our times of need. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.’ (John 3:16). Because of His love for Creation, He came and conquered sin, death, and Hell. The love of God releases the power of God. The Lord is always looking for vessels or conduits of His love that can testify that the power others have seen was not a coincidence or the work of devils. No, when we are used by God to let His love flow from Heaven into the lives of other people releasing power for miracles, we will gladly shout it from the rooftops that is was our Lord. Without vessels or conduits, who will communicate that the miracle seen is the hand of God. But how can we be vessels of God’s love if we don’t love like Him?
The waiting of persistent prayer radically changes us that we love as He loves making us a better conduit of His power so He is able to release more power through our prayers. It is the waiting in persistent prayer that increases God’s power in our prayers.
Jesus said, ‘Whatever you ask in my name, it shall be done’ (John 14:13). Too many of us have taken this to me that we need to be sure and include that very important phrase, ‘in the name of Jesus, we pray.’ But that is not what it means. A person’s name represents who that person is. It represents their core values, their character, their way of doing things, their way of approaching life. To pray in the name of Jesus, the heart of our prayer must reflect His values, His integrity, His love, His compassion, His mercy, His will, His plan, His desires. And this requires transformation. If we want to see power in our prayer, we must learn to pray persistently over things in our life until the Lord answers. When we stop praying for that situation, the transformation process ends and we limit the power of our prayers.
When it looks like God is doing nothing, though you have been praying, know this: He’s doing something. He is preparing your heart to be the kind of heart through which He can release the full measure of His power. He doesn’t want to just answer this prayer. Like electricity travelling through water, He is preparing your heart to be a conduit of great miracles. Always pray and never give up!
The product of sin is more sin. When we do something that we know is displeasing to the Lord, it will always create within us a desire to do it again, a fear that we must do it again, or deceitfully hide what we have already done. Sin does not come then leave. Sin moves us, though at times ever so slightly, out of the presence of God creating a weaker communion with Him. And when we realize that it is only by the Holy Spirit our thoughts are made pure and true, the slightest loosening of our relationship with the Holy Spirit leaves us to our own thoughts and desires to the same degree. As I sin, I loosen the bond I have with the Spirit, depleting myself, one drop at a time, of the righteous thoughts of God that have the power to overcome the impure thoughts of a sinful man. And this leads to more sin.
Repentance, of course, is the key. The problem is that we don’t always want to repent. Our motivation to repent should be at the thought of the hurt we have caused the One who gave His all for us on that old rugged cross. But it doesn’t always happen this way. Many times, until the damage of our sin has hit its peak, we do not repent. This is why secret sin is so dangerous. The Bible does promise that what is done in darkness will come to light, but God’s mercy affords the unrepentant heart more time to indulge before everything hits the fan.
Our first encounter with a sin provides us with something we want. Sometimes, it even provides something that is good. The problem is that sin is counterfeit. What it pretends to give is never true, real, or lasting. We want justice, so we lash out at people who have hurt us and the sin in our anger has promised us justice. We will react so harshly that surely that person will never do what they did again. The problem is that justice without love is not really justice. If injustice is met with injustice, lacking love, the so-called satisfaction is short-lived and the effect will be the opposite of what we desire. Lashing out does not produce justice. Lashing out produces more lashing out, more loneliness, more regret. A common reaction of lashing out pushes everyone else away and pushes us into our own little dark cave.
A small flirtation outside the bond of marriage may create a pleasurable feeling knowing that someone seems interested and attracted to us. We enjoy that feeling so it happens again and again. We want to feel loved, appreciated, attractive, wanted. The flirtations seem to give us these things, but these are empty promises. These flirtations create in us a desire for more. And we only have to read the Hollywood tabloids to see how these little things that seem pleasurable utterly destroy people lives and not just those who started flirting when they shouldn’t.
Finally, we repent, but even then, the residue remains. We feel horrible for what we have done and like spiritual failures when we realize we actually pursued sin for our own gratification. The reside of our sinis the guilt that collects in the stickiness of our sin. We repent. We cry out to God. We ask for forgiveness from the Lord and to those we have hurt, but the guilt mounts weighing down our spirit. Guilt is a massive monster that destroys life. Guilt can cause more damage than the original sin we committed because it simply won’t leave. Guilt is so sticky. Every time we see the effect of our sin or see the people we hurt, it gathers strength creating a sticky, black spot on our soul. It is the residue that must be cleansed.
My wife loves sweet tea and when I say sweet, she puts a little bit of tea into a bucket of sugar. Once, I was rushing in the morning and clumsily knocked the pitcher of sweet tea she had made the night before right out of the shelf in our fridge. The tea went everywhere. But I was in a hurry. I grabbed the mop. Using the sink sprayer, I wet it down real good and mopped up the tea as quickly as I could. The floor was clean. But when I came home, I noticed as my kids walked through the kitchen, their shoes were sticking to the floor with each step. One of their flip-flops actually came off their foot stuck to the floor. The residue that I couldn’t see when I left that morning was everywhere gathering sticky strength. A large army of ants had formed a single-file line from outside the house and marched to what must have seemed to them like a paradise of sugar. This is what guilt does to us. And the larger the spill, the greater the residue. We literally stick to our sin like my kids abandoned flip-flop. The residue must be cleansed and so must our hearts be cleansed of a guilty conscience.
The good news today is that the blood of Christ is available as a cleanser of all guilt and sin. The blood of Christ shed on the cross removes even the toughest residue of guilt, no matter the sin. It releases us from our sin completely.
I had a giant, Costco-size of Fabuloso cleaner in my pantry. I got it out and filled the sink with hot water pouring in the Fabuloso. I took the same mop that only had water before and dipped it into the cleanser and mopped up that mess. When I was done, it didn’t just look clean. It was. The residue was gone. Poor ants were suddenly confused thinking it had been some kind of mirage. They reversed their single-file line and headed back out from where they came from. You see, the blood of Christ was shed over 2000 years ago, but to cleanse us of a guilty conscience, it must be applied and that is really what I want to talk to you about. How do we apply the blood of Christ to cleanse us of guilt and release us from our sin?
Let me share with you the Scripture that tells us exactly how to cleanse our guilt:
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Ha! I know what you are thinking and no, I am not saying that if you will give more money to the church, your guilt will be cleansed. No, that’s not what I am saying. In fact, you could give all of your possessions to the poor and still be hounded by guilt. Then why am I giving you a Scripture about money? Well, it’s because it is not really about money. Don’t get me wrong. It is pure and works for all kinds of giving, but the context in which Christ said these words was all about forgiveness. If you give forgiveness to those who have wronged you, you will receive forgiveness from the Lord.
We tend to think of forgiveness as a thing, like a single object, that we either have or don’t, that we either give or don’t. But in this context, the Lord is teaching us there are degrees or measures to forgiveness. I can forgive not at all, a little bit, quite a bit, or all the way. The measure by which I forgive will I be forgiven. I know, this doesn’t seem to make sense because God doesn’t forgive us by degree. His forgiveness goes all the way, no doubt. But the deeper meaning of the word ‘forgive’ is to loosen. When we forgive others, we loosen them from their sin just like the Fabuloso loosened my poor children from the giant fly trap I had created with the spilt tea. Sometimes though, we forgive just a little. We stay angry and we allow ourselves to stay angry justifying our anger. But here is God’s promise to us, the more we loosen others from their sins against us, the more we can receive His forgiveness loosening us from the guilt, the residue, of our own sin. If guilt is the residue that keeps me stuck to my sin, the blood of Christ applied is the cleanser that removes the residue.
The blood of Christ is readily available just like my ginormous container of Fabuloso, but it must be applied. When I abandon myself from all bitterness and grudges against others who hurt me, even if they don’t ask for forgiveness, it cleans the residue that we had been using to keep that person stuck as the object of our ire. We release them from their sin. The Lord rewards us with a greater ability to let Him cleanse us of a guilty conscience, freeing us from our sin. And the little devils that crept into our life form a single-file line and go back to where they came from.
Give forgiveness to those who have hurt you and it shall be given to you, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. No more guilt.
If you know anyone who may be suffering with guilt, share this with them and if you haven't already, sign up to get my blog in your inbox and you will receive a FREE DOWNLOAD of my book: Breaking Free From Your Past. May the Lord bless you and cleanse you from a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22). -Pastor Lee
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I remember the opening and closing scenes of the movie “Pretty Woman.” A seemingly homeless man, talking to himself or rather rambling, walks through the scene repeating, “This is Hollywood. What’s your dream?” The implication was that anything could happen in Hollywood and everyone should have a dream. The storyline follows a women (Julia Roberts) who has fallen on bad times and into prostitution. She is picked up unintentionally by a very rich entrepreneur (Richard Gere). The two eventually fall in love and he takes her as his wife. She goes from skid row to love and riches in just about two hours.
It is built into our human nature to dream for better times. The Scripture says that it is the Lord who gives dreams and visions in this church age by the Holy Spirit. We hope for something better. Even now, we all have dreams of things better in our relationships, our careers, the lives of our children. God has poured into us a desire for better. The question is how does better come to be. Many dream all their lives but never see anything better.
The ungodly environment that we live also promises better. The devil tempted Jesus with good food, great wealth and power, and divine intervention from God to undo our bad decisions. This world never tempts anyone with something worse. We may have knowledge that partaking in what is being offered will lead to something bad, but the temptation is always presented in a positive manner. The temptations of drugs, sex, music, alcohol, religion, money, all promise to fulfill our dreams of better. The problem with all of these things is that they are unable to give us anything good. They are unable to fulfill any dream. They may create a façade that lasts for a night or two, but then everything comes crashing down. The truth is that nothing of this world can give us anything good because every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Heavenly Lights (James 1:17, NIV).
The confusing part of all of this dreaming is that when the Lord does give to us those good and perfect things that fulfill our dreams of something better, He does so through many of the same things by which we are tempted and fooled into negative places. People, money, sex, food, wine, music, religion can all be blessings from God, but they can just as easy be traps of Hell. Each can be used to enrich our life and destroy it. Navigating through blessings and curses that many times look the same at first glance is not easy. Our inability to discern when something is a blessing or curse is the downfall of our faith, our families, our finances, our future. And what makes things even more confusing is that sometimes the Lord will use things that appear to be quite negative to prepare us for greater things. What are we to do?
The story of Joseph reveals the key of finding our way through the jungle of earthly vessels of both good and evil to find the dreams that God has given us. Joseph had a dream of being a king, a prince. But his brothers were jealous when he told them his dream because his father favored him above all brothers. They beat him, through him into a pit, then sold him into slavery. It seemed that Joseph’s dreams were gone. What we do when our dreams come crashing down will determine the rest of our life.
But the Scripture says that God was with him as a slave. He was a successful slave. He could have been such a bitter and angry soul, but instead, he continued to honor God as much as he was able in the situation he was in. He lived with character and integrity and he honored God with his obedience to God’s law. His master put him in charge of his entire household. The wife of his master lusted after him and attempted to seduce him. He did not just resist, but literally took off running, but she grabbed his cloak and he left it behind. She lied to her husband saying it was Joseph trying to seduce her. Joseph was thrown into prison.
After things had seemed to get better, everything fell apart again and now he is rotting in prison. But we do not see him with vengeance in his eyes nor hatred in his heart. But he becomes a good prisoner so compliant and helpful to the captain of the jail that he is put in charge of all prisoners under the captain’s authority. His childhood dreams seemed so far away, but he continued to honor the Lord by loving others, living with integrity, and trying to be a blessing to those around him. He just obeyed the Lord.
Soon, two of the king’s closest servants were thrown into prison. They each had dreams, but neither could interpret the dreams. Joseph, trusting God and desiring to be a blessing to others asks to hear the dreams trusting the Lord to interpret and the Lord does. Joseph’s interpretations completely come true. One of these servants is released from prison and restored to his position with the king and soon the king has a dream. The servant remembers Joseph interpreting his dream and he tells the king about Joseph. Joseph is brought before the king. Again, he does not beg for freedom. He doesn’t plead his case of unjust imprisonment. He again desires to honor the Lord by being a blessing to others. He kept obeying the Lord. His interpretation so impressed the king that Joseph was made prince of Egypt with all authority of Pharaoh bestowed upon him. His childhood dream had come to pass.
The things that seemed horrible were the path to fulfillment. No one ever would have dreamed that these things were God’s way of bringing Joseph into his dreams. And there was no way for Joseph to know either. In fact, Joseph didn’t know. He had no idea. All Joseph did was keep obeying the Lord, continually honoring Him in spirit and deed. This obedience and desire to bless others brought him both blessings and temptations. At any time, he could have lost his way had he stopped obeying the Lord and sought after temptations of bitterness, vengeance, or sex. But he just kept obeying and honoring the Lord. This obedience moved him away from the temptations and into blessings through hardship.
As we are hoping for the dreams that God has given us to come to pass, we might be tempted by instant, yet temporary gratification. We may be discouraged by hardship and pain. We may be confused that God would give us a dream then seem to take it from us. But through it all, if we will just keep obeying the Lord’s commands, honoring Him with our hearts, and living to bless others in the name of Christ, step by step, we will avoid the devil’s traps, pass through the hardships, then suddenly find ourselves in the heart of the dream God gave us long ago.
I pray the Lord gives you a spirit of discipline to obey the principles of Scripture that you might see God's dream for you manifest in your life. Please share this with someone who may feel that their dreams have been crushed. And if you haven't already done so, subscribe to pastorlee.org and receive my ebook Breaking Free From Your Past as a Free gift.
“A Kingdom divided cannot stand.” This was Jesus’ answer when accused of delivering demons by the power of Satan (Matthew 12:24). In other words, it would make no sense for the devil to send out one of his soldiers to undo the work of another one of his soldiers. This would destroy the kingdom. So then, when we see Jesus call the twelve together giving them power and authority to deliver demons, heal diseases, and to proclaim the Gospel (Luke 9:1), based on His ‘kingdom divided’ principle, Jesus would not have given this power and authority to someone on the other side. This means that Judas must have been in Jesus’ eyes a sincere follower. Many have declared that Judas was born for the very purpose of betraying Christ damned to Hell for all eternity. Yet, even this would go against our understanding of God. Would God who is all love create a person for the sole purpose of being damned to Hell? Of course not, this would violate John 3:16 that says ‘whosoever believes.’ This means the Gospel was made available to anyone including Judas. And at some point that Judas was given this power and authority, he had to be a believer. Otherwise, Jesus just sent out with His approval and anointing a man who unholy motives and an impure heart. But Jesus would not divide His Kingdom. Judas fell away. He fell from grace. He believed, then turned. How can someone be so near to Christ anointed to do miracles and deliver demons suddenly turn and betray Jesus? It is a slow process followed by a sudden leap.
Looking at Judas, we don’t know much. After he is chosen from among the many disciples to be one of the twelve apostles, we don’t know much until he is having dinner with Mary and Martha just after Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead. Mary, filled with gratitude, comes in with some very expensive perfume and pours it on Jesus’ feet (John 12). Then she lets down her hair and begins to wipe His feet with her hair. Judas can’t stand it. He raises his voice, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and given to the poor?” And we take a glimpse into Judas’ heart as he is falling away.
Judas must have thought very highly of himself to speak up like this. He was comfortable enough to chastise Mary directly and Jesus indirectly. He felt justified. He had abandoned the role of follower, student, subject and took the role of adviser, supervisor, educator. He was educating Jesus on how best this perfume could have been used. Have you ever become so comfortable with an authority figure in your life that you said something you shouldn’t? Maybe you talked back to your parents. You disrespected your husband. You gossiped about the preacher. You rebelled against God. You rejected the King.
Judas was not ignorant of who Jesus was. He had spent years with Jesus, listening to every message and witnessing every miracle. He knew who Jesus was. Judas had become comfortable with Jesus enough to chastise him, not because his understanding of Christ diminished, but because he believed himself to be higher than others, equal with Christ.
He looked down on Mary. Can you imagine? She had just lost her brother. She had been emotionally distraught. She knew Jesus could have healed Lazarus before he died, but Jesus did not come quickly enough. Her brother died. They had the funeral. She saw the body. It was real. When Jesus arrived, she was in deep mourning for her brother. But then Jesus called out to Lazarus who came alive. It is easy to see why she was so grateful and why she wanted to honor Jesus to this level. But Judas acted like it was nothing. There was no thought in his mind that he should honor Jesus. He had forgotten. He had forgotten where he was when Jesus found him. He had forgotten the sins that had been forgiven.
Those who have forgotten what God has done for them tend to criticize those who do remember all He has done for them.
And Judas, by putting Mary down, elevated himself that he became too comfortable with Christ. I can see Mary look up at Judas when he says this. But she doesn’t stop. She thinks to herself, “You don’t understand. You don’t know what he has done for me. You don’t know how much it means to me. I am not going to stop. I am going to honor Him, praise Him, worship Him. I am going to wash his feet, then I am going to dance and shout.”
Some people want to elevate themselves by putting us down, but we have got to have that attitude. “You have no idea what the Lord has brought me through. I was hopeless, but He chose me. I was angry and He soothed me. I was deceitful, and He showed me the truth. I was destined to Hell, but now I have a home in Heaven so you go on and stand there dignified but I am going to praise Him with a shout of praise and I don’t care who hears it!
Judas’ criticism just happed to highlight his own ministry. He was the treasurer. All of them had to come to him. “Can we afford this hotel room?” “Do we have enough money to give some to this widow. Judas was the man. All apostles came to him for those very important questions and he reasoned it out. This had also contributed to Judas thinking of himself more highly than he ought to.
When we focus on our own kingdom efforts, we will fall away.
When we criticize others and put them down while at the same time puffing ourselves up, that slow process has begun. We will awake one day to realize that we have drifted so far from our Lord. But as Judas was falling away, Mary was sticking to Jesus, holding strong in His presence. Nothing would move her. And what was the difference? Mary was remembering what Jesus had done for her. Judas had forgotten.
All of the forces of evil work against us every day trying to get us discouraged, bitter, angry, depressed, suicidal. We know this. The enemy is doing anything and everything within his power to get us to separate ourselves from Christ as Judas did. He may be trying to kill our spirit with tragedy or get us to puff ourselves up with confidence, but both cause us to fall away from our Lord. We must never forget all that He has done for us. If you want to stay near to the Lord; never forget what He has brought you through. Never forget what you would have been; where your life would have ended up if Jesus hadn’t found you and brought you out of the darkness into His glorious light. These memories renew our love for Him. They set Him upon the throne of our heart and fill our heart with humility. These thoughts guard our hearts from the traps of the devil to deceive us into that slow process. Count your many blessings and name them one by one. Never forget the miracles He has done on your behalf. Stick to His presence. Worship Him without apology for all that He has done. Exalt Him as King and your heart will be guarded.
Take a moment and remember all that God has done. You may have great problems right now, but if you will allow your mind to move away from the stress, you can remember the good things God has done. He will give you power to help you do this. You will be drawn near to Him as you give thanks for all He has done. And I hope you will find strength and hope in His presence.
Please forward this or share it with anyone struggling to stay near to God. And may the Lord give you the right words to help them draw near to Him again. If you haven't already, please sign up for my email. I try to send out words of encouragement once or twice a week. And I pray for all those who have subscribed. And if you subscribe, I want you to download my book "Breaking Free From Your Past" as a 'thank you' for signing up.
Well, have a great week!
In my first book “Prepare For Greater Things,” I go back to God’s plan for our life, for my life and yours. In Scripture, we do not find any place where the Lord reveals to us who should be doctors and who should be preachers or who should live in the wealth of America or the poverty of Haiti. We can’t find the details of what to say in every situation, what not to say. There is no aptitude test in Scripture, nor a career counseling chapter to help us find our profession. None of that is there.
We do find however the principles of God’s plan for each of us. Jeremiah reminds us that God has a plan for us, to prosper and not to harm, give hope and a future. We know then that the Lord wants all of us to prosper. We tend to think of prosperity in monetary terms, but the word prosper in this sense is for you and I to prosper, not our checkbooks, not our bank accounts. But if you can’t feed your family, no matter how good of an attitude you have, you are not prospering. Living on the streets homeless, even with the joy of the Lord, is not a picture of prosperity any more than the angry billionaire. God’s prosperity is a 360 degree prosperity. God’s plan is to prosper our families, our marriages, our bank accounts, our mind, our body, our dreams, our creativity, our hard work. God’s plan is to move us in such a way that we prosper in every area of our life.
The temptations we face are to seek after ways and means that will bring prosperity to one area of our life while leaving us bankrupt in others. Except for those things that are sin in any form, the prosperity of the Lord may include the same things the devil tempts us with. The Lord promised Joshua that he would find success everywhere he set his foot. God is not at all opposed to success. The devil may tempt us with money. But God is not opposed to us having money. In fact, He said that to confirm His covenant, He has given us the ability to produce wealth. The devil may tempt us in relationships, but the Lord has said that he who finds a wife has found a good thing. The devil may tempt us with sex. But God gives a blessing in Proverbs where He says, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth: A loving doe, a graceful fawn— may her breasts satisfy you always; may you be captivated by her love forever.” Hmmm….that’s a pretty good blessing He wants to give.
This is the difficulty in finding God’s plan for our life. How can we know when to pursue something that God has promised if at times those very things He has promised are the traps of the devil?
The apostle Paul quoted the prophet Isaiah in his first letter to the Corinthians saying, “No eye has seen. No ear has heard. No mind can conceive the plans God has for you.” I love this. What hope we have in knowing that no matter where we are in our life, we can easily understand and conceive our current status which means that wherever we are, good or bad, God has more for us. He has things prepared for us that we have never thought of, plans to prosper and not to harm. Praise the Lord! C’mon! Say it. You know you want to: PRAISE THE LORD!
But the key to this plan is the very next line from the Apostle Paul. He says that this plan will be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a thing. It is not a thing that we receive from God and have at our disposal whenever we want. The Holy Spirit is a person. The Spirit can be grieved as we are taught not to grieve the Holy Spirit. I can’t grieve my computer. I can’t grieve my shirt. Things cannot be grieved. Only persons can be grieved and the Holy Spirit can be grieved. This is why the Spirit is called the Third Person of the Trinity.
I remember once when I grieved my wife (Ok, I have grieved her too many times to count, but let’s just pretend, shall we?). I was not honest with her. I hurt her. A strange thing happened. She was cold to me for a while. You see, we grieve over death. When we do things that work toward the death of our relationships, it will cause that relationship to go cold. To restore the relationship, both repentance and forgiveness are necessary.
We can grieve a relationship by not giving it the time it needs. Imagine a husband who takes a job that keeps him from his family except for one hour every week. This would grieve his wife and children. It doesn’t mean they are angry, but they are mourning the wound that new job is causing to the relationship.
The Holy Spirit is the same way. When we sin, the Spirit is grieved. But also, when we never commune with the Spirit in worship; when we don’t talk to the Spirit through prayer; when we act as if the Spirit isn’t even near, the Spirit grieves. Imagine how much I would grieve my wife if I only talked to her when I wanted sex. How much more is the Spirit who gives us life grieved when we only come to Him when we need something? How much more is the Spirit grieved when we only come to Him the three or fours hours a month when we are at church?
If we do not live a lifestyle of communion with the Holy Spirit, how can we expect to hear His voice revealing the next step for us to find the inconceivable plans of prosperity God has for us? Simply put, we can’t. This is why the Apostle Paul calls it ‘secret wisdom.’ Until the moment of choice, there is no way for me to be sure that this is God calling me to something better or a trap from the devil. But if I live in communion with the Spirit, in the moment, He will reveal it to me. He will say ‘no.’ He will say ‘go ahead.’ He will say ‘go ahead, but be careful of this or that.’ He will call me, but at the right time so it may be ‘no’ for now, but ‘yes’ will come later. But I will only receive this ‘secret wisdom’ in the moment and only if I am living in communion with the Holy Spirit.
I imagine this is why so many people, including Christians, who are not living in the plan that God has for them and I include myself in this. This most wonderful plan can only be found through the secret wisdom made available to us according to the intimacy in our relationship with the Lord through the Holy Spirit.
This doesn’t mean you won’t prosper in some ways. You will but God is a good father who wants to give good things to His children. But the 360 degree prosperity that will blow your mind will never be found.
I ran into some folks that had sort of come to our church a little bit a long time ago. The man was struggling with a very serious physical disease. He turned to the Lord and the Lord helped him heal and gave him a good wife. But then they stopped going to church, stopped seeking after the Lord. They stopped living in communion with the Spirit. I encouraged them to come back to church and he said very pleasantly, “As soon as we can get our life together, we’ll be back.” He was not rejecting God or Christ. No, he is a believer. He was not rejecting the church. He has nothing against it. But they are operating outside of a strong communion with the Lord and their blessings are limited by their own exclusion of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the person of God who will walk with you every step. And when opportunity reveals itself or a dilemma presents itself, the Spirit is the all-knowing God who can reveal to us where to take the next step, then the next, then the next. He will bring us to God’s unlimited blessings. So then…how important is reading the Bible? How important is going to church and actually listening to the preacher no matter how bald he may be? How important is passionate worship? How important is holiness?
Let God’s plan happen. Don’t grieve the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10
However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”–
10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (NIV 1984)
I hope you will take time to spend with the Lord and commune with the Holy Spirit through prayer, worship, and fellowship with other believers. Please share this with anyone you feel needs to hear it. And if you haven’t already done so, subscribe to my blog for a FREE GIFT. I am giving my book “Breaking Free From Your Past” away to all new subscribers. Check out my first book “Prepare For Greater Things.” And by all means…HAVE A BLESSED WEEK!!
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Christianity has been reduced to a once-or-twice a month appointment to hear feel-good stories from an old book and a motivational speaker with the title pastor in front of his name. It is interesting to note that while the Bible does reveal great and wonderful promises from God, it also reminds us from Jesus’ own words that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword, to create divisions even among loved ones. Jesus was all about life-change, not feel-good moments.
Nevertheless, the Christian culture at times does not seem to be enjoying a life much different from secular culture. The vices of the world are not absent from the regular-attenders of church. A message brought down from Heaven intended to transform our life has become a box checked off on our religious to-do list. But what if the Scripture really is what is claims to be-the God-breathed secret wisdom to a life ever-increasing with an abundance of love, joy, inner-peace and strength, and power to move the mountains in our life?
The title of this blog is “Let God Change Your Life Today.” The key word to this short phrase is ‘let.’ Let is permission. Let is assent. It is subscription. As a pastor I often hear people struggling in their worst moments, feeling overwhelmed. They will say something like, “I know God will not give me more than I can handle, but…” We have all said it, but we rarely remember the rest.
We use this passage to comfort ourselves in thinking that God will not allow us to experience hard times too much for us to endure. But the passage is not talking about hard times. It is talking about temptations. This Scripture is actually teaching us that God promises to never allow us to be tempted beyond the point of escape. We are talking about the temptations that come when we are in a very difficult circumstance. These are temptations to respond to the circumstance in very ungodly ways. These come in our thoughts, words, and deeds during a crisis. His promise is to give us escape, not necessarily from the issue but from ungodly responses to the issue.
The escape from these temptations is obedience. He has given us the Holy Spirit that pours power into us to change our thoughts to things excellent and praiseworthy. He has given us power to not say anything derogatory or hurtful or to just keep our mouth shut. He has given us power to ignore negative feelings and act according to Scripture. This obedience in horrible moments of life reveal our faith in God. Obedience is a statement that we believe God to be so omnipotent and omniscient that we will follow His instruction even when it seems backward. That is true faith. It is when we have displayed this true faith that God begins to work on the actual issue. We must first have a godly response, then the Lord will bring a Godly result. He promises to make the ashes of our life beautiful.
The power to change our response comes from the Holy Spirit, but He is gentle, not forceful. He is not a slave-driver, but a comforter. He doesn’t force us to receive and act upon the strength He is prepared to give. We must ‘let’ Him take control. We must turn over the authority of our life to Him, then He pours out strength and wisdom to flow through us in the drama of our life. It all begins with a decision to ‘let’ Him be our God in the moment.
His promise for those who ‘let’ Him be their God is that through the ugly, horrible, unthinkable moments in life as well as the mundane and the wonderful, He will pour into us and pour through us the power and secret wisdom from Heaven that radically changes our life for the better. God can change your life today, but you have to ‘let’ Him have control.
The prodigal had returned. Moses was back and this time he had a staff! Everyone saw him walk in to Pharaoh’s palace? What was he doing? Why was he back? What would Pharaoh do? Would he be arrested and punished for the murder he committed 40 years ago?
He met with his brother Aaron and all the people. Then He did amazing things right before their eyes. Moses threw down that staff and it turned to a snake. He picked it up and it turned back into his staff. He put his hand inside his cloak and when he pulled it out, it was leprous. But then he put it back into his cloak and pulled it out without any sign of leprosy. Then he took water out of the Nile and poured it on the ground and it turned to blood. These were the signs God had given Moses to help the people to believe and they believed after seeing these things.
No where in Scripture does it say what happened at this moment other than the people believed and worshiped because the Lord has seen their suffering. But four hundred years of hard labor as slaves to pagans. They knew the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but they almost didn’t even seem true anymore because it had been so long. But when Moses rolled in that day and did those miracles, they believed. I would imagine a feeling of being overwhelmed would have filled their hearts and minds. Then, weeping as they mourned the last four hundred years and what it had been. Then, celebration believing this is it. The Lord has sent His deliverer with powers from on high. We are going to be set free!
Little did they know it was not going to happen right away and there would be great suffering as they waited. From the first time Moses spoke to Pharaoh, all the blame was put on the people. They were punished harshly by their slave masters. They blamed Moses. They thought when Moses went in to speak with Pharaoh, it was going to be done. Their bags were packed, but then he said, ‘no!’ He said ‘no’ over and over again. The plagues started with the water turning to blood and killing all of the fish. Can you imagine the smell of it all. Of course, the blame was put on the Israelites. They were worked harder, beaten more harshly, treated with indignation for what ‘they’ were doing to Egypt. It was not until the fourth plague of gnats did God begin to limit the plague to the Egyptians. They were miracles, sure, but they were still slaves!! What do you do when God’s promises seem to never come. Deliverance, healing, renewal of hope, restoration of dreams, they all seem to get further and further as doors continue to slam shut in our face.
How can Isaiah try to tell us that those who wait on the Lord renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31) when what waiting is just ‘code’ for nothing is happening? How is my strength renewed when God is doing nothing to move things closer to what He promised me?
The Lord knew where He was taken the Israelites. He knew that He could not bless them if they continued to embrace the Egyptian culture as they had done. They needed to know His power and consequences of not following Him. Not only did they need to understand the power of God and the consequences of rebellion, they need to know how to worship Him and this required a temple made with lots and lots of gold.
Blood. Frogs. Gnats. Flies. Dead cows. Boils. Hail. Locusts. Darkness, Then finally, the last plague, the death of the firstborn of every Egyptian. With each plague, Pharaoh hardened his heart. They beat the Israelites more and more. But with time, the suffering was so great among the Egyptians that they stopped mistreating the Israelites. They realized they had better be nice or God was going to destroy them. So much so that when God told the Israelites to ask the Egyptians for their gold and silver, the hearts of the Egyptians had been turned to favor Israel and they gave them all they asked for. The Bible says they ‘plundered’ the richest nation on Earth without lifting a single weapon. Israel moved from being a slave state to the richest nation on Earth. The stripped the land of Egypt of all of its wealth.
When the construction of the Tabernacle began, Moses asked the people for offerings of gold and so much was brought that Moses had to tell them to stop giving. (This, of course, is every pastor’s dream that their church would give so much that they would have to tell them to stop giving 😊).
Some theologians think the time of the plagues lasted up to three years, but from my study, it was about a year that they waited. From the day Moses walked back into Israel, the people had to wait a year before the promise came to pass. And during this year, Pharaoh shattered their dreams as each plague ended. The Egyptians hated them more at first. They suffered more. They were beaten more. Everything seemed to get worse.
In the end, the nation of Israel trusted God enough to walk through massive walls of water that would have drowned them all if they would have collapsed. And though they struggled, they did finally abandon the polytheistic religion of Egypt to follow God with the regulations and sacrifices He put in place. They had plenty of wealth to build the Tabernacle and an army.
It was a long wait, but had the Lord delivered them the first day, the lessons they needed to learn and the things they needed to see from the hand of God would not have prepared them for what was to come next, after deliverance.
The Lord may make us wait for His promises, but we can take comfort in know that they waiting period is a time that God is setting the stage for what comes next after the promise. He is getting our hearts ready. The promise we are waiting for is not the last promise. It is not the last blessing. There is something beyond the promise that is wonderful and true, but we can’t see it and the Lord is getting us ready. If we keep serving Him during the waiting period, we will see what the Lord is doing, and our hearts will be strengthened. Can you imagine how encouraged the Israelites must have been when the plagues began to only affect the Egyptians but not them? For flies to be everywhere in Egypt, but only swarming around the Egyptians? For three days, the Lord kept any light from the Egyptians, but the slave camp had plenty of light. The Egyptians couldn’t keep a candle lit when the sun was darkened, but the slave camp had miraculous wicks. Wow! It is only when we get bitter, angry, depressed, or hopeless in the waiting period that we are blind to what God is trying to do in us. Then we are not prepared for what comes after the promise. And if we are not prepared for what comes after the promise, the promise will only corrupt us.
If you have been praying and asking, pleading with God, do not get discouraged. He is doing a greater work than what you are waiting for. Be encouraged and strengthen your hearts for the Lord will finish what He has started. He just wants to make sure that He brings you with Him to what comes after the promise.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV)
My prayer is for the Lord to sustain you with added hope in this time of waiting. And please share this message with anyone the Lord puts on your heart. People really struggle with why God doesn’t act sooner though He has promised. And if you haven’t yet signed up for my weekly blog, please do so. Check out my books Prepare for Greater Things and Breaking Free From Your Past. And pray for me as I prepare to release a new book “With All Your Heart: Ending the Negative Cycles of Life.” Pray that this book will find those who need it the most and that God can use it for His glory.
PS: I really encourage you to listen to a recent message I taught called Fertile Soil.
I remember during the heated election of Barak Obama and Mitt Romney, Christians in the pews and on social media were ablaze with passion. I believe that passion in politics is good, but especially for believers, political passion must be tempered with the truth of Scripture. We cannot lose our witness in the political arena. We are Christians first. Our greatest priority must be to help souls into Heaven, not politicians into the White House.
The question has come up more than once, “Should a Christian be a Republican? Democrat?” It is an interesting question I suppose, but my stance is that the premise of the question is flawed. We are Christians first and only with a great amount of effort can we force Christian beliefs into a box with one political party or the other. And if the passion of my politics obscures my love for those on the other side, then I kneel at the altar of the donkey and elephant, not the Christ. As believers, everything we are and do rests on one thing. Yep, you already know it. It’s love, love for the Lord and love for our neighbor. This must be our guiding light instead of the the political firestorm of the day.
Don’t think for a minute I am suggesting that Christians should not be involved in politics or that they should hold their opinions. That is not at all what I am saying. After all, Jesus commented quite a bit on the politics of His day, but all of His words were framed in the priority of our relationship with God. His goal was never to start a revolution against the government, but to speak truth about God, even in the realm of politics. The Pharisees tried to trick Him into becoming an enemy of Rome and Caesar through a political question of taxation. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s,” He said. (Matthew 22:21). He was very critical of the religious, ruling class of the Jews calling them out as hypocrites. The Bible says that whatever we do, we should do it with all our heart and to the glory of God. This includes how we participate in the current political environment. We learn from the prayer of Jabez that we should ask the Lord to increase our territory or sphere of influence so we should speak out and we need Christians running for political office. Participate or not to participate is not the question we need to ask ourselves about our politics. The question is how to participate in the political system within a framework that will still exalt the name of Jesus Christ.
I have friends, Christian friends, on both sides, that I talk politics with, but this is not the norm. There is a spirit in America using politics to tear the church apart. It is so easy to get caught up in the most recent issue that we elevate our political cause above the Great Commission without even thinking about it. Our conversation, even political conversation must be salted with grace and love (Colossians 4:6).
Full disclosure, I fall very far right on the political spectrum, but that does not mean that I despise every liberal point of view. I believe in lower taxes and a smaller government. That’s just me, but I would be foolish to think that every tax hike is somehow ungodly. We need a military. We need to protect our nation and our citizens those that want to do harm. I also believe strongly that there are also people who need some kind of government assistance. At the same time, I don’t think it is good to give something for nothing unless they are physically unable to work.
The problem with government is that it is forced to make society one size fits all. In other words, to govern a large population, systems have to be put in place that fit the majority. There is simply not enough manpower to deal with each situation on an individual basis. To stop corruption for the most part, the government would have to deal with things on an individual basis. How else could we stop social security fraud but to have an investigator assigned to each person to make sure they are being honest and not forging documents or having little jobs, unreported, on the side? How can we make sure people do not cheat on their taxes except to have an investigator monitor each person 24/7/365? You know, because maybe they had a side job that paid in straight cash, or maybe a high-powered lawyer figured how to game the system and save their client from paying legitimate taxes that everyone without a big-time lawyer has to pay. It is impossible for the government to govern on an individual basis. It is impossible to stop all crime. It is impossible to stop all fraud. It’s impossible to help everyone in need. Until there is a new Heaven and a New Earth, sin will remain in the hearts of men and women therefore immoral and unethical behavior will exist.
Just because someone is old enough to legally drink, it sure doesn’t mean they should! Just because someone is old enough and managed to drive well for 15 minutes for their test, it doesn’t mean they should be allowed to drive in public!! Can I get some ‘amens’ here or what? Just because a couple got a blood test and some rings, it doesn’t mean they should get married. Someone should have responded when the question was asked, “Does anyone here have a reason why these two should not marry…” Someone should have stood up and said, “I got a list.” Instead, people hold their peace to be polite only to watch the train wreck later. But what is government supposed to do? Should the justice of the peace also go through 6 months of marital counseling with the couple before marrying them? Should the DMV assign an agent to every new driver to secretly tail them for 6 months while they are on probation? Is everyone over the age of 21 responsible enough to drink? NOOOOOO!!!! But the government can’t set up an office to interview people to assess their emotional and mental state before giving them a license to drink. Instead, they set up a law stating a person must be 21 to drink legally. The point of the law is to stop the atrocities that happen while people are under the influence, but they still do. Our nation could raise the drinking age to 65, but by the time they passed the law, there are people who will still do something stupid at the age of 70.
As long as we are talking about this, let’s talk about gun control. Just because someone took a class to get a license, it doesn’t mean they are responsible enough to have a firearm, but who is going to decide that? -The checker at Walmart in the sports and hunting area? Of course not. And just because someone doesn’t have a license to carry a weapon, it doesn’t mean they don’t have three or more weapons on their body. I will stand up and defend the 2nd amendment every time. But to defend the 2nd amendment, I have to allow for some people legally obtaining firearms who simply do not have the maturity to get a gun. At the same time, the answer is not to ban weapons. There have been weapons since the beginning of history. Why? Well, people had to eat for one thing, but whether it was a wild animal or a wild gang member, people have also needed to protect their families. People can make weapons out of anything. Doesn’t anyone ever watch ‘Locked up.’ Prisoners take bars of soap and cotton balls and somehow make a shiv to take someone out. And if all weapons were confiscated, even if that were possible, are we going to make everyone wear boxing gloves filled with marshmallows because it seems that people get killed from beat-downs as well. Are we going to confiscate rocks, bottles, steak knives, cars, trains? The answer to violence is love. A ban on instruments of violence will never stop the violence. Does anyone remember prohibition? We tried to stop all alcohol sales. Not only did the government’s effort to ban something it deemed harmful not work, but the government inadvertently created the Mafia who had guns and killed people to keep the flow of alcohol going.
Oh, ok preacher, then you don’t think there should be any restrictions on cannibus then, don’t you? AHHHhhhh!! This is what I am trying to say. One law can not possibly cover every possible scenario pertinent to that law. And the government will never be able to monitor every moment of every person’s day no matter how Big Brother it gets. There are many drugs that are good on one hand, but extremely dangerous on the other hand. It’s crazy. It is as if each side is so afraid that the other side will take over the nation, the whole world even, that they cannot agree publicly with something they agree with privately because if they let the other side have an inch, they will take 10,000 miles.
This is why, as Christians, we cannot allow our political leanings to outweigh the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. As individual Christians, we do not assume that every situation is the same without any exceptions. The salvation of our souls is an exception. The law of sin and death was moved aside so that we can have eternal life. In the same way, we must value the individual and seek to do what is best for that individual in every situation as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Any governing body, however, is forced to create systems, laws, by-laws, etc. to manage the institution. Whether we are talking about the military, politics, or even the church. As believers, we are called to pray for our leaders and obey the law. But in my daily life, I must love each person in the moment, the way they need, as much as I am able.
Christianity doesn’t fit nicely into politics like a puzzle piece. Governing bodies try to manage all their members whether it is a small church or the United States government, but Christians are first interested in the salvation of the individual before the management of the masses. We need laws and governments. Otherwise, it would be mass chaos. During the election of Barak Obama and Mitt Romney, I had Christians tell me that they could not vote for Obama because of his stance on abortion, but others told me they couldn’t vote for Romney because he was Mormon. What is the alternative? -to not vote? -Surely not! It happened again with this last election. As Christians, we should be politically active, but we mustn’t ever think that what a Christian should do in any given moment is always, without fail, going to fit perfectly with a party platform. Nor should we try to force politics to fit our belief system. Christianity and politics are not lovers. They are distant acquaintances and nothing more. We need government for our nations, our states, our cities, our churches, our organizations. But let’s always remember that government manages the masses. Christians leave the ninety-nine to go after the one.
And by the way, do you realize it is illegal to hold your cell phone while driving even if you can still maintain control. But to take a sharp object covered with eyeliner and stick it right up in your eye with one hand while holding a cup of piping hot coffee in the other hand while driving with your knee is completely legal??? Do you see the insanity of the laws we create? The point is that too much passion in politics can tear the church apart. In political matters, let’s listen to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God more than a politician with an ‘R’ or ‘D’ behind their name.
Let everyone else hold fast to the letter after their name whether a 'D' or an 'R,' but as the body of Christ, let's hold fast to our name-Christians. Our platform was not written by a committee of politicians, but by the One, True God. Let's give more weight to the Word than the speeches. Let's be Christians who vote and not voters who go to church.
And above all, pray for our nation. Pray for your leaders no matter their party. We are called to do this by the Scriptures. Hate no one. Be patient with everyone. A Church United in Christ is far more powerful to save our nation than Republicans or Democrats. Let's save the nation.
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Late at night around their dining room table, we sat for coffee, tears, and way too much pain for any couple to be experiencing. “We need help,” is what she said on the phone and I jumped in the car and drove to their home. They were Christians, but their marriage was falling apart. Christianity doesn’t guarantee anything but Heaven after we die. Being Christians does not guarantee a happy marriage, a happy home, or anything else. Being a Christian does open the door for us to receive the promises of God which include a happy marriage, a happy home, and so much more. God did tell us that His plans for us are even greater than what we could dream or imagine. Finding this plan is not so easy and He reveals it to us step by step through the transformation of the way we think about life.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV 1984)
Most marriage start off heading the wrong direction but neither spouse realizes it at first. That honeymoon period of the relationship can be so deceiving. Each spouse works very hard to make sure the other only sees the best of who they are. It is a continuation of the courting ritual. I have known women who for the first several months of the marriage went to bed with full make-up on so that their husband would not see them without it. Wow! You can’t do that forever. At some point, he will see you without makeup and you will see his nasty underwear. It’s just going to happen. Then, what do you do?
I want to share with you what I believe is the #1 secret for Christian marriages to get on track for the wonderful, abundant blessing God has intended for their marriage to be. You see, the problem with the dating/courting and honeymoon period of the relationship is that we are doing everything we can to be attractive to the other person. Our goal is to be liked, appreciated, and loved and we work very hard at this. Women spend hours getting ready and men try not to burp at the table after dinner. Like I said, we put a lot of work into this. After a while we stop trying so hard, but our goal in the relationship remains the same. We want to be liked, loved, appreciated, respected, doted on. And this is our goal.
If your focus in the relationship is whether or not you are being loved, romanced, respected, appreciated, you are taking a long walk on a short pier. You have fallen into the trap set by Hell. Like a mouse excited to see a tasty piece of cheese right in front of them, the thought of finding someone who will love and appreciate you, you are about to get snapped!
The problem is your focus. You are focusing on the wrong thing. In fact as long as you focus all of your energy and attention to being loved, your marriage will never be what God wants for you. We say it in our vows, but by the first dance of the reception, we’ve lost it. Most people enter marriage with the hope and expectation of finding someone who will love them, but this is not God’s design for marriage. God’s design for marriage begins and ends with all of your efforts being focused on loving your spouse not being loved by your spouse.
The #1 secret to a super-fantastic marriage is to change your focus. Stop expecting and trying to get the other person to love you and focus all of your energy on loving them no matter what they do in return. Wait!! Don’t stop reading now!!
As Christians, do we not love Jesus? We do, but why? The Bible says we love Him because He first loved us. I didn’t wake up one day and love Jesus. No, it is as I realize how much He loves me, even when I am sinning and not really loving Him back, that I am drawn to Him. Don’t you remember the woman who wet Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair? Jesus said about her, “For those that have been forgiven much, love much” (Luke 7). The more I see how God loves me when I am not showing love to Him by my sin or neglect, the more I want to be near Him. When I know there is never condemnation from Him, no matter what I have done, He is my safe place where I run in times of trouble. We all have a need to be loved and we are drawn most to those who love us consistently without condition. This is human nature.
When we chose our spouse. We did not promise to sit there on the couch eating Cheetos and twinkies while they loved us. No, I believe the promise was to love them…to love them. The foundation of marital bliss is found in our promise to love them for better, for worse. If we stop being patient and kind, lose our temper, and bring up the past, we have stopped loving them. And if our response to their worst is to give them our worst, the marriage is doomed to be mediocre at best. But if we keep our promise and focus every day on loving them instead of being loved by them, then we are loving them as God loves us. This will draw their hearts back to ours. This change of attitude and effort changes everything little by little. The most pivotal moments in your marriage are found in your response to your spouse when they have failed to show you the love you desire. If you keep loving them even then, giving yourself no excuse, your marriage will blossom into what you desired when you stood before the preacher to say, “I do.” If you withhold your love and pour out your disappointment, anger, resentment, or neglect in these times, your marriage will never be the source of extreme joy God has intended.
Each morning, let your focus be on how to love your spouse better, and all the more when they struggle to show you love and appreciation. The more they experience this love, their hearts will be drawn into you. The depth of your love will more than you ever thought it could be. Now, go and change your marriage.
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When famine fell on Israel, King David asked the Lord why and the Lord said, “It is because of the bloody house of Saul; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” The Gibeonites had been people who had signed a kind of treaty with Israel, but after some time, Saul, for reasons we don’t know attacked this people and nearly destroyed them. Ok, well, I can see that the Lord might punish the nation of Israel with famine as a result of the king doing something so horrible. But God’s reason for the famine was not just what Saul did because He told David it was Saul’s bloody house.
The word ‘house’ means family. God was laying blame on the children and grandchildren of Saul and not just Saul. We can’t say that God would blame and punish the descendants of Saul without cause. We don’t know what they did, but we know that they were ‘bloody.’ They were harsh. Perhaps they had taken the lives of others. The incident of Saul attacking the Gibeonites may have been the point at which the spirit of anger, arrogance, and bloodthirstiness satiated this family. We simply do know. God’s law was that the children could not be put to death for the sins of the father and vice versa. The Lord would not now call for this law to be broken. There was a ‘bloody’ spirit in the sons and grandsons of Saul and it was passed down from Saul.
The spirit by which we live our life directly affects those we interact with. And the more often we interact, the more influence the spirit in us attaches to other.
I remember not long ago, accidentally cutting someone off in traffic. It is not something I normally do. I try to drive friendly and cautiously, but on this day, my brain was in la-la land. Anyway, I waved as a form of apology as we are passing one another on the road. His response to my gesture, was pure anger. He flipped me off and then sped up and cut over into my lane causing me to swerve and hit my brakes. I have to tell you that my feelings of regret for what I had accidentally done quickly gave way to a vengeful spirit wanting to speed up and do the same thing to him that he had just done to me. I actually sped up and started to follow him for a few seconds before the Holy Spirit slapped me out of it. That man’s spirit attached itself to me.
Hang around a person who complains all the time and you will begin to complain about them. Grow up with an angry dad and you may grow up to be an angry dad. If your mom is harsh with you, you will learn to be harsh with others. If you are hated by people, you will hate yourself.
This is iniquity. It is sin unchosen. I did not make a clear choice to go after that man to cut him off. No, my emotions took over in a sinful rush. I didn’t choose it. It was just suddenly in me.
For Saul, the spirit in him passed to his children and grandchildren. The Lord clearly warned us in the middle of the Ten Commandments that the iniquity of the fathers would be visited upon the children. The way I live my life will affect my children.
King David went to the Gibeonites and asked them what he could do to make things right so that the curse on the land could be removed. They asked for seven male descendants of Saul to be hung and their bodies left exposed in a place that everyone would know it was because of what Saul had done. And this is what was done.
Two of these men were sons and the others were grandsons. The mother of Saul’s sons was named Rizpah. She was a concubine, a sex slave. The laws prohibited concubines to be treated harshly, but they had no power over how the family was run. Her children were Saul’s children and she had no say. She watched as they came and took her sons and hung them. She knew they were not pure, but she also knew it was because of the environment that they had been raised.
One of the most difficult things about parenting is watching our children suffer at the hands of others when we have no control to stop it. Years after the fact, a mother may find out that her husband was molesting her little girl. A mother may be so lost in her own world that she neglects her children but the father still has to take his kids to her every other weekend per the court papers.
Rizpah’s sons died and hung out in the open. Dead bodies would be allowed to hang as a sign of the curse upon a person. What do you do when you see death and curses fall on your own children? How do you change things? How do you help them change? How do you remove the curse?
The consequences of their own behavior, born out of their father’s behavior, was for them to be executed, bodies left exposed until the rains came to wash away the famine. Rizpah, their mother, spread out a sackcloth and stayed with the bodies making sure the birds of the air and the beasts of the field did not tear their bodies apart. She stayed until the rains poured.
She did not remove their bodies. She allowed them to suffer the consequences for their actions. If we want to see death and curses removed from our children, we must allow them to suffer the consequences of their actions. Sometimes, because we know that the reason they are the way they are is because of us or because of some other person in their life, we want to protect them from the consequences of their actions. We want to give them excuses. We refuse to let Dad spank. We coddle our children too much because we think their mom has a bad temper. We challenge and blame every teacher and coach that tries to discipline our children. But this only hurts our children and allows the death and curse to remain. We all need consequences. This is how our Heavenly Father parents us.
The sackcloth that she laid out was a sign of mourning. She was mourning their death, but we must mourn the places in our children’s heart that have been touched by death and curses. Though we allow for consequences and give consequences for their actions, we still need to be compassionate for what they have been through. We can’t let this compassion run a muck by giving them excuses for their actions, but we must love them through the consequences. We should discipline in love. When other authorities discipline our children, we need to support the authority while making it very clear that we love our children though we can’t accept their behavior.
The bodies of her children were not torn apart by the wild animals. If we do not parent with both consequences and compassion, our children will be torn apart in their spirit by the issues in this life. They will have no stability. They will be helpless against the attacks of the god of this world like dead bodies hanging above a pack of wild dogs. The consequences that we both give and support along with our compassion to help them through this time brings mental, emotional, and spiritual stability to withstand the spirit of death and curses.
It will not happen overnight. Rizpah stayed until the rains poured. The rains bring new life, new growth, a new season. Whatever our children have suffered, whether at our hands or others, the Lord has a new season waiting. The famine will not last forever in their life, but they need someone to stay with them, walking with them through the consequences with love and compassion. They need someone who will not give up on them. They need someone who will stay, never giving them excuses, but never abandoning them either. They need someone to love them as God loves us all. He gives consequences and allows them, but walks beside us in compassion helping us to overcome.
The mixture of consequences for their actions and compassion for their suffering removes the curse, washes away iniquity, and brings a new season. The sign of a good parent is not a child that never suffers consequences. The sign of a good parent is a child who has learned to overcome the hardships of life and still maintain their faith, their integrity, and their honor.
The stone rolled shut and there was darkness and death. Jesus’ body, lifeless, wrapped in linens filled with spices and a cloth over his face. The shouts of ‘Hosanna’ were still in the air as the crowd turned on Him crying out ‘Crucify Him!’ He died quickly. Pilate was surprised, and his legs did not need to be broken. (If the ones being crucified did not die quickly enough, the Roman soldiers would break their legs to keep them from being able to take deep breaths causing them to drown more quickly from the internal bleeding caused from their wounds.) The sky turned black. Jesus cried out, then it was over. A great movement, a great man with great love murdered by those He had come to save.
Their weapons were words. They lied about Him. They made false accusations. They mischaracterized to put him in a bad light. Have you ever been murdered by the lies people tell? Have your heart bled out from the false accusations, hatred, and jealousy of others. There is no real tomb nor is there a real stone rolled into place, but the darkness and death we feel in our spirit is real. What do you do when people turn on you and even your closest friends deny you?
The Good News is that Jesus did not stay in the tomb. The Bible tells us of resurrection power by which His Father in Heaven drew Jesus out of the grip of death. Preachers will shout that when Jesus died and rose again, He conquered sin, death, and Hell. And to be certain, He did! But we mustn’t be confused by the terminology. There was no battle. Jesus nor His Father in Heaven struggled. They did not break a sweat. They simply willed it to be so. There is no power in Heaven or Earth, neither the depths of Hell that could have stopped Christ from reviving His own body to return to life. This is resurrection power. It is so far beyond the power of the Enemy. He was helpless to stop the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This resurrection power is the same that is at work within us as believers of Jesus Christ. And when we find ourselves locked in the tombs of death, there is no power strong enough to keep us from running out of the grave. No devil, no witch, no hex, no momma, no daddy, no husband or wife, no job, no lie, no gossip, no angel can keep us locked in the tombs of our life. We have been filled with the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. It is only when we choose not to live in this power that we find ourselves stuck in the darkness of our own depression, anger, self-pity, jealousy, sadness.
When Christ came back to life, it would seem that He did so in the tomb. When the disciples ran into the tomb, they found the strips of linen laying there discarded. While the cloth that had been wrapped around his face in preparation for burial was folded up neatly. Jesus took special care to fold this piece of cloth while the strips of linen filled with spices were laid aside. These two things teach us much about how to put the resurrection power of Christ to work that we might come out of our graves.
As discussed in the previous blog, the strips of linen filled with spices represent our reputation. Jesus received 100 pounds of spices where the regular man might only receive one pound of spices. This was an indication of how much His followers thought of Him. At the same time, He was murdered because of so many hating Him. It is for this reason that we may discard what others think about us. We can not let what people think of us direct our life whether they are flattering us or demeaning us. We live for the audience of One, our Father in Heaven.
But the cloth that was folded reveals the second part of this truth. Most of the time when teachers or rabbis passed away, their face would be wrapped in their tallit or prayer cloth. These were fabricated according to Old Testament instruction with tassels on each corner. A tassel is made out of the fringes of fabric gathered together. The fringes along with the knots tied in the fringes within the tassels were to remind the people of the 613 Old Testament laws. It is a reminder that we must be in obedience to the Lord. But more than this, these were the prayer cloths. Jesus would have taken this cloth many times and pulled it up over his head for prayer. In doing this, teachers would tabernacle themselves with God in prayer, intimacy with the Father. This cloth, the symbol of intimacy and prayer with the Lord was honored while the linen with spices was set aside.
We tend to stay in our tombs because we honor the wrong things. We honor the linen with the spices. In this day an age of facebook, we want to see how many ‘likes’ we get or followers we have on Twitter. Not to demonize these, but this is a microcosm of our society and how we all live to please people. Or should we ever feel like we will never please people, we will live in defiance and rebellion to them. Either way, their opinion of us is dictating our life. But Jesus teaches that we should not give so much honor to what others think, but instead, it is our intimacy with the Father that we should honor.
The woman from Mark, chapter 5, with the issue of bleeding saw that Jesus was coming by and she thought to herself, “If I can just touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.” The Hebrew word for ‘tassel’ is translated into the English word ‘hem.’ She was trying to touch these tassels on his prayer cloth.
Why didn’t she want to touch Him? Why His tassels? More than likely, it is because she had heard many times the words of the prophet:
But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. 3 Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the Lord Almighty. (NIV 1984)
The Hebrew words for ‘fringes’ was tied closely to the words also translated into ‘rays’ and ‘wings.’ These tassels were sometimes referred to as the wings of God. This woman believed these tassels to be the wings from which healing would come. Again, these represent our prayer life. This woman fought through the crowds to touch the tassels. When was the last time you had a fighting attitude about your prayer life? When was the last time that you were willing to fight through your crowded calendar and your events so pressed in to make sure you had time for prayer, worship, meditation, and intimacy with the Lord?
I really don’t even like asking the question because I convict myself. But this is the key to coming out of the tombs of God. Intimacy with the Lord brings power for healing, power for freedom, and power for the future. Take some time right now and carve out some time for prayer and intimacy with God and get ready to run out of your grave.
“I am not going to do it! I need to lose some weight. I need to think about my health.” This is what I was thinking as I pushed away the butter-chess pie to the middle of the table. I had already eaten half of it and it was RICH! But my eyes would not move away. My heart began to pound. I thought to myself, “How often to I eat at Furr’s?” (This is the only place I know where I can get it.) That piece of pie seduced me with sultry eyes and a smokey voice calling to me, “Just one more bite…” I was suddenly unaware of any of my surroundings. Lost in a new world of butter-chess wonder, I sat frozen. The Cowboys were actually winning on the television just above me, but it didn’t matter. The tension was building and my blood was pumping. Everything came to a climax as the waitress said, “Can I take that away and clear some space for you?” Why must she be so mean?!? I blurted out my answer the my fate was sealed.
Some things are so difficult to throw away. They seem to be something good and something wonderful, but it is a lie straight from the pits of Hell and no, I am not just talking about butter-chess pie.
When Jesus came back to life after spending three days in the depth of the Earth, the Scripture says that He took the cloth that had been wrapped around him and just laid it down as if tossed without care, discarded to the floor of that tomb. Not so the piece of cloth they had placed around his face. But the cloth that had wrapped his dead body, he frivolously flung to the floor.
These were the strips of linen that those who loved him had filled with 75 to 100 pounds of spices. A common man might be wrapped in linen with one pound of spices, but Jesus was so well thought of by His followers that they overloaded the strips of cloth. It was a sign of honor. It represented His reputation in their mind.
When I first began to study this, I wondered why the face cloth was folded neatly, but these strips of linen were just discarded as if they had no value though so much had gone into them. And we know the Lord does nothing by accident. Before He leaves the tomb, He folds up one piece of cloth and throws away these spice-filled strips of linen. They had been wrapped tightly around His body, but now He disrobed and tossed His reputation to the side as if it didn’t matter what people thought of Him. It was not the first time He had done this. Philippians says that He disrobed His glory to make Himself of no reputation when He left Heaven to fill the womb of a modest woman. At the last supper, He disrobed again and placed a towel around his waist. Leaving his reputation on the floor even as Peter objected, the King became the servant. At his death, before the grave cloths, they removed his robe with great care. It was the robe they had placed on Him mocking Him as the King of the Jews. He diminished Himself to criminal on the cross for our sins. And now, before He breaks out of the tomb, He lays aside the opinion of people.
Our care of what people think of us must be tossed to the side if we ever want to live in the power of the resurrection. Though Jesus was loved by some and they wrapped him in such spices, others hated Him, crucified Him, and then He was placed in the tomb. The tombs of life remind us that we will never please everyone. We will never be liked, much less, loved and approved by everyone. There will always be those who think highly of us and others who want to tear us down. To care too much about what they think is like the grave clothes that wrapped Jesus’ dead body keeping Him limbs from moving freely. The purpose of those dark tomb moments are to reveal to us that we might care too much about what people think. In the darkness, we are alone. We can’t hear the cheers nor the jeers. We are there alone with the One who never leaves us nor forsakes us, even in the tombs. To roll away the stone, we must learn to live for His opinion alone. We must throw our reputation away.
I don’t mean to say that we don’t want to have a good reputation. But to live for the approval of people is a tomb. It brings death. We must live to please God and in doing so, some will think highly of us as we love them and live with integrity. Still others will despise us. If the world hated Christ, why do we take it so hard when people hate us. Allowing their opinions to weigh us down, keeping us from moving into God’s plan for our life is something that we must push away. And sometimes, it is the flattery of others that we must push to the middle of the table. If we let their compliments affect us to much, it is like eating the rest of that butter-chess pie. It tastes good, but for the rest of the afternoon, you will be laying on the couch moaning and groaning in discomfort. Trust me on this one…I know firsthand.
Let us humble ourselves, making ourselves of no reputation just as Christ did. When we learn to live like this, we will defy the spirit of death trying to destroy our life. Instead, we will live in the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One of the most devastating moments of my life, or at least it seemed that way at the time, was January 21st, 1979. We were living in a small apartment in Las Vegas, New Mexico. I was nine. We were watching my beloved Dallas Cowboys play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIII. The Steelers had dominated the game and begun to celebrate on the sidelines what seemed to be a sure victory. The Cowboys and Roger Staubach, though, refused to quit. They scored twice in the closing minutes of the game but fell short. I walked out of our apartment and began to scream and cry and cry and scream. My world had just been crushed. There were others in the apartment building who were letting out victory shouts for the Steelers. I hated those people for several months 😊. I would not have my revenge until Super Bowl XXX when the Cowboys defeated the Steelers. They beat them down deep into the dirt of infamy, leaving nothing but their tears like dew on the grass. There was nothing left of them. They were beat. They were nothing. They were the losers and we were THE WINNERS! HAAAAAA!!!! ….Sorry, got a little carried away there.
One thing I have noticed in all of my years as a sports fanatic is that the fans of the winning team always celebrate. They always celebrate! I remember when I moved to San Antonio and I had the chance to go to David Robinson’s last game. The Spurs defeated the New York Nets and Jason Kidd for the NBA Championship. The city went nuts!! I had never seen anything like it. The other thing I have noticed is that the fans of the losing team are always distraught because of the loss of such a big game.
In Scripture the Apostle Paul used the analogy of sports to address life after death. It wasn’t football. I am pretty sure football as we know it did not exist in Biblical times, but had there been, the Cowboys would have DOMINATED!! But this was during the times of the great competitions soon to be known as the Olympics. Paul spoke of running a race and winning the race to teach us truth about the death of believers:
1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (NIV 1984)
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. (NIV 1984)
When a person dies with faith in God, they have won. They didn’t win something trivial like the Super Bowl which has no eternal significance. No, they have won the good fight of faith. We recently lost a very good friend. His name was Art. This man was such a good man. He lived to be like Christ. In his fight for cancer, every person who walked into his hospital room could not leave until Art took them by the hand and prayed for them. If I was there, as his pastor, he would ask me to pray. He was not afraid of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord had given him so much influence for Christ. One can’t help but ask, “Why?” Why did the Lord allow Art to be taken? He was still young. It certainly seems that many people needed him in their life. For many, he was probably the only example of Christ in their life.
Haven’t you asked this of others who have gone on to be with the Lord? Death of a loved one can easily challenge our faith because it seems unfair, too soon. But what can we learn of Paul’s teachings? These that we love have fought the good fight and they have won. They are champions. They are champions forever. They are champions of life and champions in death. They wrestled with all the temptations, hardships, and heartaches and valiantly fought off every attack and they won. In Heaven, they understand this. This is why the angels usher the dead into the glory of Heaven (Luke 16:22, NIV). The angels become the entourage of the victor receiving eternal rewards. But here on Earth, because we don’t see the other side, we are like the fans of the winning team, but instead of celebrating their victory, we mourn the end of the season. Imagine the city of San Antonio becoming down in the mouth at the end of Game 6 because the season was over instead of running around like wild banshees in the street in celebration.
I have never seen an interview after a championship game where a reporter asked the winning coach, “Do you wish you would have lost the game?” Of course not, winning is the goal. Heaven is the goal. We struggle because the length of the season for each life seems to be different. A young teenager taken in a car accident or a child loses their fight with cancer and we struggle. They should have had more time. From this side of Heaven, we can say that, but when I think about how hard life is and how it seems to become more difficult the older I get, maybe the Lord favored them by saving them from the exceeding pressures of life that come as we age?
As we stood around Art’s bed and prayed with one another after his passing, Pastor David mentioned in his prayer that Art was in Heaven, I thought to myself, “You won Art! You are a champion forever!”
If we look at the death of believers as Paul teaches, it does not take away the pain nor the ache in our heart. It hurts knowing they will no longer be with us. As a Hospice Chaplain, I have sat with many families, months and years after their loss and they still hurt and they still cry. Many have apologized for crying because it has been so long since their loved one passed. My response is always the same, “What would it say if you didn’t cry? What would it say if it didn’t hurt?” Our tears memorialize and bring honor to those we have lost. There is a time to mourn, and it is not a set time. We should never let others set the time for our mourning. We must mourn and we must heal. We have to trust the Lord with this process and not some kind of dictated time frame of what is acceptable to others. After someone we love dies, life is never the same nor should it be. The mourning process transitions, but we will always mourn their loss. I know they celebrate in Heaven and we should celebrate with them, but we must mourn also. Mourning is evidence of our love for them, and their place in our heart.
The key to holding on to our faith is not allowing our inability to see through to the other side of death to cause us to believe that God is unfair or unkind. Instead, we should see that the Lord has shown great favor to our loved ones by delivering them from the struggles of this life. His favor has taken them to a place without regret, without tears, without fear, and full of the love of God.
Sometimes, it feels as if the Lord has been unfair to us because we needed those people in our life. We might feel that those we lost were our strength, our stability, our soul-mate. It is not unusual to feel this way, but not seeing them physically every day doesn’t mean they are not with us? With all sensitivity, I would say that they will only be absent from our life if we allow it to be so. The life we have lived with them is a gift and those memories should be cherished as greater than gold. They had such a great influence on our life and meant so much to us, but they continue in this still. They are in our heart. They are in our memories. With great kindness, the Lord will remind us of them when we need that memory the most and we are strengthened. We are encouraged. We feel the sadness again, but their spirit lives in our memory.
My best friend from high school died just a few short years ago. I dedicated my first book “Prepare For Greater Things” to him. He lost his battle with cancer but fought through some powerful temptations from Hell and held tight to his faith. He is a champion in Heaven. I think of him often and the Lord brings memories to my mind. I can’t help but think, “I can’t wait to see him again.” Whoo! Hoo! What a day that shall be!! This is God’s purpose for those who are left behind. Our love for those who have passed will draw us near to Him, near to Heaven, and near to those champions we no longer see.
In our pain, let us cheer them on. In the heavy ache of our heart, let’s celebrate their victory. In sadness, we thank God for His mercy to take them when He did. We fight for our own faith because of theirs. We thank Christ for making a way for them into Heaven and helping them hold on to their faith. And soon, soon, we shall stand arm in arm with those we have lost, before the throne of God, celebrating our victory over this life by the grace and mercy of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
It was a crazy thing the Pharisees asked for. After all, Jesus had just fed over 4000 people miraculously not to mention all of the other miracles He had performed. The Pharisees approached Jesus as if the only way He could truly be the Messiah would be if he performed a miracle for them right then when He asked. They were asking Him to prove Himself to be the Messiah. Jesus dismisses them and gets into the boat with the disciples. He tells the disciples to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees.
Of course, the disciples do not understand what Jesus is telling them. They think He is pointing out that they forgot bread for their journey. Then He tells them they need to watch out for the teaching of the Pharisees.
We could spend all day detailing all of the different beliefs of the Pharisees. They were religious, true, but spiritual, no. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs meaning they looked clean on the outside, but they were filled with death. But let’s not go too far off the farm. In this context, the teaching of the Pharisees was that Jesus was only Jesus if He could perform a sign or a miracle. There is not a set word for this type of teaching, but it is a teaching that is everywhere. People are constantly faithful to the Lord until He does not perform the sign they desire such as a new job, cancer healed, a dead one come back to life, whatever. Then, if God doesn’t do it, they fall away. They lose faith. But as we talked about yesterday, Jesus is Lord whether He decides to do the exact miracle we ask for or not. He does the miracles He chooses based on His plan for everyone involved. Sometimes that means a miraculous healing and other times it does not. We struggle with this, but when we fall away, we are adopting the teaching that the Pharisees are promoting in this passage.
Jesus is telling the disciples, the beginning of the church, to be careful of the this teaching and compares it to yeast. Now, I am not a baker, but if you have some fresh-baked cookies that need to be taste-tested, I am your guy. But from what I could gather, yeast is a powdery substance. Just a few flakes of this powder in dough will spread all through out the entire batch of dough as the dough is kneaded. Wow. Jesus is saying that what the Pharisees was a dangerous teaching that could spread the church as easily as yeast through a batch of dough. This is how false teaching are. They easily spread throughout the whole church.
Let me give you some example of other bad theologies that have crept into the church:
The theology of Hollywood: I love it that we are having more Hollywood movies that are Christian movies. But I have also noticed that most of these like every other movie, television show, have a crisis and before the end of the movie, the crisis has been resolved. And usually it is resolved by some miracle of God.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a HUGE believers of miracles. I have seen many firsthand of all kinds. I remember in my grandmother’s church, there was an old man, or at least he seemed old to this 9-year-old kid. He was always in a wheelchair. His daughter would roll him in and he always sat right across the aisle from me. One day, during a service, he suddenly stood up, told his daughter to get into the chair and he rolled her up to the foyer. From that time, he always walked. Once at the church I am pastoring right now, a man who was not completely blind, but he said he could barely see. He was always led around by his wife. One Sunday, he suddenly started to walk toward me by himself. He said to me, “I can see.” Wow. There was no altar call. I was not preaching. We did not pray for him. He wasn’t anointed, but suddenly, during worship, his eyes opened. I believe in miracles.
But I also believe in the sustaining power of the Lord to keep me from being broken from very difficult valleys in life without delivering us out of those valleys. The apostle Paul experienced this when he asked the Lord to heal the thorn in his flesh. Instead, the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient.” You see, sometimes God sustains without delivering. And sometimes, the deliverance comes through death. For those who know well the Scripture, we understand this, but for those who are not believers or for those who are still shallow in their knowledge of the Word, the pattern of Christian Hollywood movies could send the wrong message. And in fact, I believe it has. The church today struggles in faith during times that God is choosing to sustain us and not deliver us. It is a dangerous theology to teach whether directly or indirectly that God does both at His prerogative. He is God. He can handle the situation anyway He chooses.
The theology of love: Now, God is love. Love is good. Love is powerful. But love is defined by specific behavior, not an emotion. My son was attending a Christian university and the theology professor openly stated that He believed that because God was love, that the crucifixion meant that every soul would be saved and none would go to Hell. How can a loving God send anyone to Hell? And since God loves the whole world, no one will go to Hell. This is bad theology. God doesn’t send anyone to Hell. He simply provides a platform by which souls can choose. I don’t think anyone would choose Hell…well, ok maybe a few people out there might actually choose Hell. It is a crazy world. But most people would never choose Hell. But the choice laid before us by God is that we can choose Him or by not choosing Him, we have chosen Hell. The idea that since God loves everyone, no one will be sent to Hell is bad theology. Yet, this teaching has infiltrated the church.
The theology of gay Christianity: Gay Christianity simply says that a person can be openly gay, in a monogamous relationship and as long as they also love Jesus, homosexuality is perfectly fine with the Lord. This is bad theology.
When God made Adam, He breathed into Him. We know from Scripture that God is spirit and the word breathe comes from the same origin as spirit. So the illustration of God breathing into Adam helps us to understand that God put Himself into Adam. But God never breathed into Eve. Eve came out of Adam. She became the perfectly opposite of Adam. Some of the attributes of God are more present in men while other attributes of God are more present in women. God intended for men and women to be equal, but opposite so that they would complete one another. Homosexuality missed the mark, accepts a lesser potential by excluding one sex. This is why the Lord is against it. But as we can see so many of our mainline denominations and so many Christians have allowed this theology to creep into the church so that homosexuality is become more and more accepted in the Christian church. This is bad theology. God is always moving us toward the greatest potential for His plan in our life. Anything that accepts a lesser potential for God’s good, pleasing, and perfect plan for our lives is referred to as sin. This includes not only homosexuality, but promiscuity, adultery, and sex before marriage.
As believers, we must always check everything with Scripture and we must learn it well, studying it continually, to do what Jesus told the disciples. We must guard against the false teachings and theologies that are creeping into the church.
5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”
8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (NIV 1984)
Lord, give me insight and wisdom from your Holy Spirit to be able to recognize and to dispel teachings that set themselves up against the Truth of the Word. Give me discipline to not only leave these teachings, but to help others avoid those while finding the truth. Help me discipline myself not just to go to church, not just to listen to sermons and teaching, but to study the Word for myself asking the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you as well. -Amen
He had just fed over 4000 people miraculously with seven loaves of bread and just a few fish. What an amazing miracle! Then here come the Pharisees saying, “Show us a sign.” Seriously, did you not just hear that Jesus just fed over 4000 people with just seven loaves of bread and a few fish? Where have you been Pharisees. Nevertheless, the come to Jesus and they ask Him for a sign.
He performed a miracle for the 4000 because he had compassion on them. The Pharisees were not coming into His presence with humility, but pride. Jesus was not compelled to perform any kind of miracle.
The Lord loves to do miracles for His children who love Him, but He does not do miracles to prove Himself. When they asked for a sign, he reminded them that when they look at the sky, they can tell what the weather is going to be like. Jesus was telling them that they were able to see what the weather was going to be based on what they could already see meaning that He did not have to do any miraculous sign to prove that He was God. Like the sky, the proof of His deity was in plain sight.
Sometimes, we just want to see the big miracles. We want to see God do for us what is impossible. And our faithfulness to the Lord seems to hang on His doing the miracle we are asking. We may not say it out loud, but our spiritual mood changes when God doesn’t perform the signs that we want. This is why Jesus called the Pharisees wicked and adulterous. When our faithfulness and worship to the Lord changes based on whether or not He has done what we think He should do, He likens it unto an unfaithful spouse who is not happy with how things are at home so they look elsewhere.
I want to take today and remind you that He is God whether He performs miracles or not. If He heals the cancer or doesn’t, He is still God. Whether you get the job or you don’t, He is still God. Whether your marriage gets better or ends in divorce, He is still God. The proof that He is God has nothing to do with the signs He may or may not perform. Jesus’ point was that the proof of who He was as plain as the clouds in the sky.
The Pharisees had all the writings of the Old Testament filled with prophecies proving Jesus was the Christ. The prophet Malachi had written that there would be a prophet who would come before Jesus preparing the way. John the Baptist claimed to be this man. He was certainly a prophet. All the people saw him as such. But when asked if he was the Messiah, he claimed that he was the one who was to prepare the way. Then when Jesus arrived at the river, John said in the hearing of all the crowd, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Everyone heard this. Then all the miracles and the teachings. Jesus, at one point, even stood in the Temple, reading Isaiah 61 which spoke of one coming with the power of the Holy Spirit, told the people that today, this passage was fulfilled.
They knew from Micah, the prophet that the Messiah would be born in the town of Bethlehem and from many prophets that the Messiah would be in the line of David. And of course, Jesus was born in Bethlehem and both Mary and Joseph were descendants of King David.
Now, how many other teachers in Israel at that time were declared by John the Baptist to be the Messiah, claimed to be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 61, did all kinds of miracles, was born in Bethlehem, and who had both a Mom and a Dad descended from King David? Hmmmm….let’s count how many men could check off all of these boxes….1. That’s right. There was only 1 man. There had never been a man before Jesus that fit all of these prophecies and so much more. It should have been as clear to them as it was the clouds in the sky. Even the common, non-priestly folks recognized him as the Messiah as he rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey. This had been foretold by Zechariah as well. Because this was a highly-religious society where every day the stores of the Old Testament and the words of the prophet were told and re-told, everyone recognized all the signs which is why they shouted Hosanna waving palm branches meant for a king when Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day. The point is that it was plain as day that Jesus was the Messiah. No signs or miracles were necessary for the Pharisees when they asked for one.
And for us it is even more plain. We not only have the Old Testament prophecies, but more have been fulfilled since His death and resurrection. The New Testament are first hand accounts of those men who walked this earth with Him and those they mentored and trained. Everything in the Bible points to one truth-Jesus is the Lord Almighty. He is God. From the very beginning, it has been made plain to us through the prophets and early disciples. Over 40 different men authored 66 different books/letters over a span of 15 centuries that do not contradict one another, but all lead to the same true-Jesus is Lord! How many other prominent religious figures that have claimed to be God have had the same number of books written about them, that so many prophecies fulfilled, who claimed to be God, documented to have died for this claim, and documented to have been seen again after His death. No other religious figure in history has anything close to this many people over this span of time pointing to them as God. Mohammed sure doesn’t. Buddha certainly doesn’t.
Listen, He is God whether He answers your prayers or not. To act differently before the Lord when He doesn’t do what you want is fickle, like a wayward wife. We must acknowledge from what has been made plain to us that Jesus is God and no matter what He does or doesn’t do, He is worthy of our worship. He is God and there is no other!
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He replied,“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. (NIV 1984)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach me that who You are today is more than sufficient enough for me. I thank you for the times when you have overwhelmed me with blessings and miracles. But help my faith to be resolute when I am in the valleys of life. And Lord, be with all that I know struggling in the valleys to hold on to You-to You and not to your promises. -Amen
That was some piece of fruit in the Garden of Eden. The plans of the Almighty God, Creator of Everything that has been created, were undone by a single piece of fruit. Of course, it wasn’t the fruit, it was the rebellious act of Adam eating the fruit that changed everything. Eve was deceived by the serpent, but Adam was not. He simply chose to disobey the Lord for the sake of his wife. To this day, Paul says, married folks are tempted to live to please their spouse more than pleasing God, but we will leave that for another day 😊.
One single bite and the blood of all mankind was poisoned with death. I don’t mean that all mankind died physically because we are still here. Every person has been born with a spiritual blood disease. Sin runs through our veins and as natural as there is blood in our veins, there is sin in our heart. What a piece of fruit!
How powerful is this spirit of death that from one single bit of a piece of forbidden fruit comes hatred, discord, deceit, murder, molestation, divorce, betrayal, abandonment, racism, abortion, child abuse, arrogance, jealousy, gossip, vengeance, rape, wickedness, demon possession, debauchery, perversion, drunkenness, witchcraft, and every kind of evil in this world. In this context, we see the vast influence of the spirit of sin and death. Even the best of us are full of sin. The Bible says that if we claim to have no sin, we are liars. That includes the most holy of holy people. The Spirit of Sin and Death is so massively powerful. We are so easily moved to sin, but we must fight with great effort to resist sin because of its great power to influence and pressure us into those words, thoughts, and deeds that would dishonor our Creator.
The Bible says that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The depth of that statement is so easily missed. Yes, we all know that we were sinners and that Christ died for us, but what we have failed to see is the weight of our sin. Jesus died so that whosoever might believe in Him would be rescued from the power of sin. This means that if every soul ever born chose to believe in Him, the punishment He received on the cross would cover every soul. But it also means that if only one person through every age of time chose to put their faith in Him, the punishment He had to endure would have been the same. One tiny little sin of ours, like the small sin of Adam’s bite of forbidden fruit, is so wicked that Christ still would have needed to endure all of the same punishment. And how many little sins have you committed? (I know sin is sin, but I am just trying to prove a point.) One little sin merits total denial into the presence of God for all eternity.
On top of this, the Lord attempts to help us understand how badly it hurts Him when we commit even one little sin. He refers to Himself as our Groom and we are His bride, but we are an adulterous bride. Each tiny, itsy, bitsy, minuscule sin hits his heart as if his brand new bride just cheated on Him. I have never lived through this. My wife has not cheated on me. I can only imagine the feeling of betrayal and pain. Many of you reading this have been cheated on by your spouse. You know deep pain. Imagine if the affair would have taken place at the height of the honeymoon period of the relationship. This is the analogy the Lord has given us that we might understand how deeply He has been hurt by us, yet while we were still sinning, with the knowledge that we would continue to sin, He gave up His life to save us from the punishment we deserved.
Understanding the deep cut into His heart that comes from one single, tiny, little bitty sin is important. It gives us insight into His love. As badly as we have hurt Him, His love for us is greater. And when we finally gather a good understanding of this love, we are filled with the power of God, a power greater than that of the spirit of sin and death. Real Love is the embodiment of the full measure of God’s power, able to overcome and undo all wickedness and evil.
This is how God loves us. This is Real Love. And when we learn to love with His love flowing through us, imagine the power within us to exact transformation in those we give this love to. It is life-changing. I know it is life-changing because this love has changed my life. If I have nothing but the love of Jesus, I have everything.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV)
Heavenly Father, I am blown away every time I take time to consider this love that You would die for me. Write this wonderful knowledge on my heart. Speak it to me in Your beautiful whisper into my soul. When the hard times come, speak louder into my spirit. When I try to walk away, remind me of Your love for me. Baptize me in your love daily. Then Lord, as Your love overflows in my heart, let me love as You love. Let me have Your patience, Your kindness, and Your grace. Let this power break the power of sin and death in my life and let me live a life that breaks that same power in the lives of those around me. -Amen.
When I first started this series, I knew that this one would cause people’s eyes to fall out a bit because of the way our society has defined love, yet this point has been repeated to me more than any other from this series as having meaning and helping people in their relationships. Well….here goes.
Real Love is always one-sided.
OK. Hold your horses! Don’t blow a gasket! Let’s walk through this. The Bible says that even pagans can love those who love them. Agape is about loving those who don’t love you in return. This leaves us with a one-sided love. We don’t like this because we naturally have a phileo-type of mindset that says if you don’t love me, then why should you expect me to love you in return.
Just think about it. When someone is rude to you, is it natural to be polite in return. For a little while my wife was working at a call center and a gentlemen called in to get information about an account. However, he could not answer the questions to verify his identity so she was not able to give him the information. Of course, this was a policy of the company to protect against identity theft. Well, the man did not accept it and said to her, “Well, you are just not the sharpest pencil in the box.” WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY TO MY WIFE!?! I’LL COME OVER THERE AN OPEN UP A CAN OF WHOOP YO BUTT IF I HAVE TO! Well, that is how I felt when she told me about it. Of course, I wasn’t there. “What did you do?” I asked her. “I followed the protocol which of course was to remain polite,” she said.
When she first started working there, she went through a great deal of training to be able to handle a call like this. In the corporate world, they understand that it is not a natural thing to respond to rudeness with kindness. I would imagine that most corporate call centers first have to get their employees to understand that responding to rudeness with rudeness is not ok. This goes against every fiber in our being as people. We want people to do the right thing and when they don’t, we feel justified and right to respond in a way that is well….less than loving. But agape responds with kindness and patience no matter how someone may treat us.
Now, I know where your mind is going. You are thinking that we are just supposed to let people walk all over us. No, no, no…that is not at all what I am saying. In fact, the Scripture says we are not to cast our pearls before swine. In other words, we are not supposed to keep giving the best part of ourselves to someone who is just going to trample on us over and over again. We can stand up for ourselves, but do it with kindness, patience with a desire to bless the other person. This is agape.
The Bible says that Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. This may sugarcoat it a bit. God compares sin to adultery. The prophet Hosea was commanded by God to keep and love an adulterous wife. This was to help the people understand how God feels when we sin. He feels like a husband cheated on. How many times do we sin? Each time, it is as if we just had an affair and cheated on our Heavenly Husband and it hurts Him. So while we were laying naked, having relations with another lover (sin), Jesus gave His life for us. Now, I don’t know what you think about that, but it is a love that is one-sided.
Now, before you stop reading writing me off as some loon, let me remind you that it was this one-sided love that transformed you and I. It is an understanding of the depth of God’s love for us that changes us. The depth of God’s love is more visible in the face of our adulterous affairs with sin. And when we are able to realize just how much He loves us at our worst, then we begin to realize just how deep is the love of God. It is a strange thing to be loved when we are hating; to be loved when we are betraying, to be loved when we are in rebellion. This love is powerful. It draws the sinner back to His Creator. We are not forced back to the Lord, we are loved back. And this same power is released by God through us into the hearts of others when we love them in the same way. It forces them to be softened or in order to resist it, they must harden their hearts to a new level. When we harden our hearts, destruction is sure to come soon. God’s hope is the combination of this agape love given to us without measure even at our worst and the consequences of hardening our hearts will bring every soul back to Him and His saving grace.
Loving as God loves with this Real Love is the best hope we have for the sweetest relationships with those we love and care for. Loving them with patience, kindness, honor, with a desire to bless them though they may have just cursed us melts hearts most of the time.
But like the corporations, we must develop self-discipline to not only respond in word as we should, but to have the right attitude in our heart as we respond correctly. Word and heart work together. If the words are right, but the heart is wrong, nothing is hidden from our Lord. If the heart is right, the words will follow for our words come from an overflow of the heart. Working at a call center, we might be able to discipline ourselves to say the right thing, but when it is someone we love who is hurting us, the pain creates a huge temptation and to respond in Real Love in both word and attitude, our hearts must be transformed by the love of God first.
To love with Real love, we must first be transformed by the Real Love of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NIV)
Lord, first, I am overwhelmed at a love that would run steady in the face of my multiple affairs with sin. I am blown away and I am so thankful to be loved as You love me. This love is what I crave and it fills my heart with joy. Help me to receive it more and more each day that I may love as You love. And I know as You flow through me with agape, Your power will become evident in my relationships. -Amen
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