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
What I think I have, I don’t. It seems that I have loved my whole life. It seems that there have always been people in my life that I loved. It seems like I know what love is. It seems like I have understood it and felt it all my life. It is the weakness of the English language that fails me. I know phileo love. This is brotherly love that is conditional meaning that as long as you love me, then I will love you back, but if you mistreat me, don’t be shocked when I raise my voice too and say horrible things to you. I know eros love. This is romantic, passionate love, but it is self-seeking and pleasure-seeking. The English language translates all of these as love. So it seems that since I have known phileo and eros, and these are translated into the word ‘love’ that I know, understand, have, and give love. But this love is different. It is not phileo nor eros. It is agape.
Agape is a mystery. It is a love that wants the best for everyone, works for the best for everyone and never seeks anything for itself. This is a love that I do not know. It is a mystery wrapped up in a conundrum, dipped deep into the unknown. Agape is not a feeling. It is a decision, an act. God is agape so agape comes with wisdom and knowledge, a discerning spirit to know what someone needs to know or needs to hear in a difficult moment. Whether it be a time of strife or heartache, agape is able to discern what is best for someone in the moment and work toward it as much as possible. That statement says it all. If you are tempted to believe that agape is something natural for you, think about how many times you just don’t know what to do or what to say. There was never a time when Jesus was confounded without knowing what to say, what not to say, what to do or not to do. Because agape is not natural within us, we must pursue it with all our heart. And to pursue agape is to pursue God Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Agape heals. As I seek the Lord with all my heart, my heart is present with Him. He brings healing to the places where I have been hurt the most. Healing is wonderful, but to be healed, we must be honest about our wounds and where we have been hurt. This honesty teaches us a great deal about the love of God. We are intimately familiar with our own wounds left by others so that when we present these wounds to the Lord for healing, we become more and more familiar with the healing touch of Christ. The agape that heals my loneliness teaches me to recognize loneliness in others and how to bring healing to them. If I don’t pursue the Lord, I will miss agape. To pursue Him is to allow my wounds to be injected with agape bringing healing and a knowledge of how to love others with agape.
We must pursue agape with great efforts. Agape is the power of God at work in the world moving mountains and changing lives. I can act as if I already know it, or I can get busy running after it. At some point, the Lord will reveal to each one of us the damage and pain within caused by the absence of agape. Then, we have to answer two questions. First, do I believe the power of God’s love for transformation of self and others? If I can answer ‘yes’ to this question, then I can move forward seeking after agape. The second question I have to answer is how bad do I want things in my life to change for the better? Once we decide that apape is possible within us, and become resolute in our need for a better life, better relationships, better peace and love within, we will do whatever takes to find this agape. We will allow ourselves to be taught. We will not be prideful. We will humble accept instruction from the Lord and our spiritual mentors. We will stop fighting it and start fighting for it.
Your life can be different one decision at a time as you learn to love (agape) in every moment as God pours agape into your heart by the Holy Spirit. Pursue Him and His agape will fill you. And the promise I want to leave you with today is that if we seek Him, we will find Him. #reallove
“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth. ” (NIV)
Heavenly Father, please help me to not be a victim of my own pride. Help me to humble myself realizing that I must pursue you with all my heart to love as You love. Remind me that I don’t have the power within myself to save anyone and not to harm those around me. But Your love active in me from the inside out makes me a vessel of your glory. Through me, Your love can flow freely and the power of Your love will change my life. Give me no excuses to not seek Your love and live by it more and more with each day. Thank You Lord for your real love poured out into my heart by your Holy Spirit. -Amen
Without Real Love, I gain nothing. I profit nothing. My life comes to nothing. It is amazing to comprehend the power of love or the lack to beautify my life or utterly destroy it . My ability to perceive, understand, and give real love will change the course of my life with each interaction.
If I don’t understand what real love is, which most don't, the absence of real love changes how we see ourselves, how we see God, and how we see one another. A lack of real love in our life leaves us with an inferior, conditional love. This type of love says, “I will love you as long as you love me.” This love teaches us that our value is dependent. It is dependent upon our looks, our smarts, our behavior, our sexuality, etc. The sinfulness of man produces inconsistent love which is not true love. It creates confusion. One minute those around us seem to love us and the next, they seem to despise our existence. This can challenge our own self-worth. It creates fear, anger, anxiety. Real love, on the other hand, reduces and soothes the soul The love of mankind is powerful only to distort, never to heal.
Insecurity and pride both come from conditional love. A person may feel that they are not worth anything so they will shrink back and give up opportunities out of a fear of failure. They date people who mistreat them because they believe no one else will love them. Or they may be so worried that people think less of them that they will puff themselves up pretending to be something they are not just to get someone's approval.
When I know that I am loved as God loves me, I am changed, my thoughts, my words, my steps, my cravings, my attractions, my devotions. When I am not worried about whether or not others love me, I am free to love them. I can’t love others fully when I live in fear that they won't love me. These two emotions work against one another. Living in fear causes me to analyze everything I do pointing out to myself every reason why someone might not love me.
Conditional love keeps me from accepting the opportunities the Lord may provide for me. I may not even try convinced of my weaknesses certain they will keep me from succeeding and failure is too painful. Conditional loves makes me uncomfortable to be around people who love better, unconditional. I will be attracted to people who love less because somewhere in my mind, I believe this to be love. No one has ever left me more than that. Real love seems strange. I will struggle receiving love from the Lord. Picking on myself reminding me of everything wrong with me becomes a habit. I will accept less than what God has planned for me. It is with these decisions that we choose to abandon the path God has set before us. God's path is found when we are fully aware, having fully accepted and fully adopted the real love of God. Otherwise, we make decisions based on a lie that we are who people have said we are, that because people have treated us like crap, we must be crap. We turn down great opportunities out of fear. We will seek after things the world values rather than what God values because of pride. These decisions, one by one, move us out of the plan that God has for our life.
Real Love is the essence of God’s plan for our life. The more I love like God loves, the better decisions I make in life. Full confidence that God will love me no matter what reduces fear of being rejected by others. The love of God is more than enough. We don’t need everyone else’s approval because we have God’s. Our self-worth increases keeping us from allowing ourselves to be put into positions where we will be mistreated, abused, abandoned, or neglected. We will see too much value in ourselves to let that happen again. At the same time, overflowing with the love and approval of Got, we don’t worry about what others think of us. We don’t have to impress them and this affords us the opportunity to love with authenticity without needing anything in returnl.
I don’t know if this is sinking in or not, but I am praying it is hitting you right between the eyes. The Lord has said that His plan for you is beyond comprehension. It is so shockingly wonderful that it would never have occurred to you a few years before. But this plan is found as we learn to love as He loves. And again, I remind you that the Holy Spirit has poured the love of God into our hearts (Romans 5:5). This life-changing, trans-formative love is already in us. We only must learn to perceive it, access it, and live by it.
Everything can be different. Your entire life could be changed. Some of you have given up hope that things could ever get better. Well…hallelujah…I’m here to tell you, “YES! Yes, life can be different.” As you begin to live by Real Love instead of the world's love, the decisions you will make tomorrow will undo the decisions of your past. For our God is the God who restores what the locusts have eaten. He redeems our time. He redeems our mistakes. He redeems our sin. He redeems our dreams, our future, our hopes, our joy. Yes, love covers over sin, pain, and regret and uncovers the glorious plan God has for each of us.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (NIV)
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”--
the things God has prepared for those who love him--
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ. (NIV)
Lord, I don't want a life that comes from my own wisdom that is not really wisdom at all. Therefore, I lay down my soul before you in surrender asking You to fill me with knowledge of our Lord. Help me to realize the path to everything comes only after I find Your Real Love for me. Then Lord, help me to be open to Your Holy Spirit's voice. I don't want to live any life but what You have planned for me, but I get in the way and I need help Lord. I need help first and foremost understanding the depth of Your Love for me. Let me live in the freedom from fear that comes from the full assurance of Your unconditional love. -Amen
When I first thought about this series, I wanted to say that the world had taken the concept of love that God has given us and twisted it. For example, in the world outside of Biblical principles, it is said that a man and woman should not have relations until they love one another. But the Scripture teaches us that we should not be that intimate with someone until there has been a promise of til death do us part. When a man and woman give themselves to one another sexually, it adds a depth to the relationship so that if the relationship does not last, the damage is much, much greater than if they had never had sex. If a man loves a woman truly, he will not pursue a sexual relationship with her and vice versa. Again, the world would say that if parents love their children, they will work to keep them happy all of the time. We see this in a big way in our society right now. Parents use up all of their extra time and extra money trying to give their children everything and they don’t discipline them because they don’t want them to be unhappy. But the Bible says if discipline is not pleasant, but parents who don’t discipline hate their children because they are not preparing them for the real world one day. At first, it seems that the world has simply twisted the definition of what real love is. But that is not really the case.
If we go back to Biblical language, there were many different Greek words that all get translated into the English word ‘love.’ In the American society, the love that most relationships are based on would be the Greek word ‘phileo’ which is where we get the word Philadelphia which means brotherly love. This works out to be a conditional love. It is an ‘I will love you as long as you love me’ kind of love. And if one side fails to love, the other side no longer feels obligated to do so. And because we are all imperfect struggling to love without losing our patience and holding our temper, every relationship is in trouble. But there is another Greek word ‘agapeo’ that also is translated simply into the word love, but it means something totally different.
Agapeo is a love that never stops. It is a love that says, ‘No matter what you do, I will still love you. I will still honor you. I will still hope the best for you.” The Scripture says that God is love, but the word for love there is agapeo. God is agapeo. We don’t have a word in the English language that even comes close to the meaning of agapeo. And if God is love the source of it, this is real love, true love, a Godly love. This week I want to talk about Real Love.
The love of God is the only real love. Anything that does not fit into the definition of the love of God is not love. We still have romance and we can have passion, but these are exactly that romance and passion. Real love goes beyond romance and passion. Real love is what we need. Fathers need it from their fathers. Moms need it from their moms. We need it from our spouses, our friends. But it is not easy. In his letter to the Church of Corinth, the apostle Paul gives us a definition of agapeo. Love is patient Love is kind (1 Corinthians 13). So we know that agapeo is patient so this means that as soon as I lose my patience, I am not longer loving with agapeo love. I have slipped down to phileo love. As soon as I get upset and stop being kind, no more agapeo.
I hear you. You think I am saying that we are supposed to be perfect. Well, let me just say that I don’t know anyone perfect, but the Bible does call us to be Christlike and He was perfect for 33 years under some heavy temptations. This is the standard. My standard is to love like Christ-agapeo. My goal should be to strive for agapeo every single moment of each day. I should strive to never lose my temper. I should strive to always keep my cool.
Some of you are thinking to yourself that this is impossible, but before you go there, let me remind you that this love has been poured into your hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). It is in You to give to Your spouse and everyone you come in contact with from the crazy drivers on the highway to the person who takes the last gallon of Blue Bell just before you can grab it yourself.
Everything good in our life hinges on our ability to love agapeo. It is learned. It is not natural. We must work at it. The better we do, the God in our life. The God in our life, the more power, more peace, more joy, better relationships with others, etc., etc., etc. Praise the Lord!
The Lord has given each of us His love through the Holy Spirit that it might change the way we love. If we will allow the love of God to change us and accept this standard, our life will be totally and completely changed for the better. You could ignore this teaching, but you could let it change your life, your marriage, your own contentment with life, your relationships with your children, your parents, your co-workers. It’s up to you!
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
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. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (NIV)
Heavenly Father, do not let me settle. I pray that You will help me not to give myself an excuse for not loving as You have called me to love. Help me not to be deceived by the way the world operates. I don't want a marriage like the world's. I don't want broken relationships. I don't want estranged relationships. Lord, pour your love into my heart with a double portion each day. Help me to love better each and every day. -Amen/
I have been spending a great deal of time teaching on Ephesians 4. It is such a critical passage for the Body of Christ. When we talk about the Body of Christ, we are talking about His physical body. We are talking about the Church universal, all believers and followers of Jesus Christ. We are talking about our own bodies which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and then we are talking about our local churches. All of these are the Body of Christ.
The Body of Christ must finish the work the Lord has given us to do. That is the church universal, our local churches, and individual believers just as the body of Christ finished the work on the cross. We must seek the Holy Spirit for He gives us strength. This means we must work hard to maintain unity in the Body of Christ. Again, that is anywhere two believers are gathered together. Fighting and arguing with other believers is the delight of Satan. Today, I want to finish this teaching on the Body of Christ. Starting next week, I will be teaching on Real Love and what that is. I hope these are meaningful to you. Be sure to share them with anyone the Lord lays on your heart as you read.
The final step for the Body of Christ to finish its work so that we will endure the suffering and take part in the glorious resurrection one day is to build up one another in love. Our local church does not exist in isolation, neither does our denomination. We must help local churches who are following Christ when we are able. The church in the US has been very blessed financially and we have used this blessing to send the Gospel all over the world. Now, the church in the US is in decline and those other nations are now sending their own missionaries back to the US. This is the Body of Christ and we must love it.
And if you want to grow up, endure the suffering without letting it win, you must love the church. I know that we always say that you don’t have to go to church to get to Heaven and this is true. But that is your afterlife. Your right here and now is important to. If you don’t grow in your faith right now, the issues of this life can steal your faith. Remember the parable of the sower. Jesus spoke of some seed falling on rocky ground. These represent people who first come to the Lord, but when trouble or persecution comes, they fall away. How do we and how can you ensure that the trouble and persecution that will come to all believers as we stand for Christ will not cause you to fall away. Well…the answer is loving the church, building one another up. As you build others up, your own spirit will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. And as others build you up, support is established to help one another through the hard times. This is what the Body of Christ is supposed to do and each of us must love the Body.
Going to church, singing the songs, and listening to the preacher does not necessarily build up the body. Love is an action and if we are to love the Body, we must act in love. At the very least, say hello to people at church. Give them a handshake or perhaps a warm hug. Don’t walk into church with a negative attitude. That just brings others down.
Even though you can go to church and not love the Body, to some degree just being in church loves the Body. When people see that many people are gone from church, it is disheartening. It does not give us courage, but it discourages. Did you know that people who were considered ‘good attenders’ to church used to miss church one to four times a year. Church attendance has become so sporadic that a ‘good attender’ misses no more than twice a month, 24 times a year. Wow, have times have changed and perhaps this is why we are seeing Christianity decline. We are not doing the work of the Body. Jesus went around preaching, teaching, healing, loving. We are wrapped up in our own lives too much now. Could it be that we are not growing, getting stronger by building one another up, and when the storms come, we are tossed back and forth by the wind and waves.
To really love the Body, we should get involved. Volunteer somewhere in the Body. Work with children helping them to grow in their faith. Work with the youth. They may be the most vulnerable of all demographics of falling away from the Lord. Be greeter or an usher. You can smile or set up chairs, can’t you? This is how we love the Body.
There are some neurological diseases that will suddenly cause one part of our body to stop functioning as it should. A saint in our church is right now progressing in his Parkinson’s disease. His hand shakes violently all the time. He has debilitated him significantly.
The church is the same way. When one of us chooses not to grow spiritually, it affects all of us. When one church gets far from the Gospel such as Westboro Baptist Church, doesn’t it affect how unbelievers view the church? When a well known preacher is caught with a prostitute, it hurts the image of all churches. As the Body of Christ, it hurts our reputation with the unbelieving world.
Let me finish this teaching with this. If you want to live a life that changes the world one person at a time, you must become part of the Body of Christ. If you want to overcome all of the suffering and pain of this life and keep your peace, joy, and love, then work for unity in the Body of Christ through the Holy Spirit. And finally, if you want to finish the work God has prepared for you, actively love the Body of Christ. Don’t just go to church. Be the Church. Build one another up in love. Volunteer to help others to have positive experiences at church and grow spiritually themselves.
But if you want to live a defeated life, without power, without strength; if you want to live a life that does not change the lives of people around you for the better, then make church, the Body of Christ, a low priority in your life. Rarely go and when you do, just sit there and don’t help or love on those around you. Make sure to argue and fight with other believers over things that have no eternal bearing. All of these will help you to be overcome and overwhelmed without hope.
Don’t be defeated. Be strong. Overcome. Help others to do the same. And for goodness sake…love the Body of Christ. The Christian struggle is not about you personally overcoming. It is about all of us together helping one another to be more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (ESV)
“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (ESV)
Heavenly Father, draw me away from myself. Many times, it is easy to turn into myself rather than focusing on loving others. Remind me each day Lord that You have put me where You want to use me in the lives of others. Keep my eyes open for the opportunities to serve You ministering to others. And let me not be prideful that I would not listen not consider Godly counsel from others. Teach me to love the church, which is Your body. Let me love those who are easy to love the same as those difficult to love. And may we all grow together. -Amen
My middle son is leaving for the Navy in just a few days. His mom and I are super-proud of him. We were shocked when he told us he wanted to go into the Navy. I remember my mother telling me a story about when he went and stayed with them. She was watching him in the driveway. He must have been just four or five years old. He would ride his big wheel down to the edge of the driveway. Then he would stand up and begin to yell, waving his hands all around. After a few moments, he would get back on his big wheel and ride back up the driveway only to do it again and again. My mom went out and asked him what he was going and he said, “I’m going to work.” She said, “What is your job?” He said, “I’m a preacher.”
At his young age, he had seen me jump in the car and go to the church and then stand up yelling, waving my hands and this was his understanding of what I did. Pretty humbling 😊. What do you do Lee? I stand up in front of people yelling and waving my hands. That’s hilarious. My son was too young to really understand what was going on.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus did not begin his public ministry until he was 30 years old? We remember when he was only 12 years old that he stayed back in Jerusalem even though his family had already left for the journey home. Where was He? He was in the temple. The Bible says that he was listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at His understanding and His answers. It seems that He already was poised to be a great teacher, but He waited another 18 years before His public ministry was birthed at a wedding in Cana. But why? Well, for one reason, 30 years old was the age at which a man in the Jewish culture could be a Rabbi, but I think there is another significant reason. He was not mature yet.
Too much of our life is messed up because we are not mature yet. Scripture teaches us that if we are not mature, we will be like infants tossed back and forth by the waves and wind of cunning people as they scheme against us. The Body of Christ must be mature. The 12-year-old body of Jesus Christ grew and was built up by his nutrition, love, and natural development from child to man.
Recently, it was in the news of how a couple had kept their children malnutrition and chained in their home. When the police finally came to rescue the children, they found that one child was 29 years old, but she looked 12. The point is that even the natural development of our human body can be stunted without the proper nutrition and love.
In the same way, the Body of Christ must follow the body of Jesus. We must grow strong and become mature ready for ministry and ready for the attacks of the enemy. But what is the nourishment that helps us to grow. In a previous blog, we talked about the food of Christ was to do the will of the Father and this must be our food as well. We nourish our spirit by doing the work of the Father. But we also need love. Love comes from unity within the Body. Love comes from the unity that comes from be equally yoked with other believers. Without this unity in the Body, we are on our own in the world. Like an abused child unfed and unloved, we will never develop. The wind and waves of life will overtake us. We need to be united to the Body, in the Spirit, in the faith, and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. Fighting among believers delights the devil. Whether it is two board members fighting with one another or a husband and wife insulting each other during an argument, the devil loves it. It weakens us. It keeps us in discord. It keeps us distracted so that we don’t focus on the food of our spirit. We are too busy with our own issues that we don’t do the work of the Lord. And we isolate ourselves. We lose the love that comes from the unity of the Spirit. We are weakened and made vulnerable to the schemes of the devil to kill, steal, and destroy from our life.
If the Spirit is the strength of the Body, then discord among the Body dislocates us from the Holy Spirit that holds us together. In fact, when we read the Scripture, we really see that peace within the Body whether it is your church or your family is more important that who’s right in the issues that we fight over.
Our victories in this life and the strength we have in the battle can be directly traced back to our maturity within the Body. And maturity requires nourishment and love, doing the work of the Lord and putting forth all effort to keep the peace within the Body. I don’t want to delight Hell. Yet fighting and discord with other believers makes Hell party like it’s 1999 (I know, I just showed my age with that one.) I don’t want to be an undernourished, abandoned child chained to a bed in Satan’s basement either. We must find a way to not let the issues of life become more important than peace in the Body through the unity of the Spirit.
Get my book Prepare For Greater Things
It is great for those struggling with the circumstances in their life and why God would allow some things to happen. I wrote it from the heart after my best friend from high school shared with me his struggle to understand why God would allow Him to get cancer. I hope it is a help to all who read it. -Pastor Lee
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)
Lord, I get too upset over things that just don’t matter. I give the devil not just a foothold, but sometimes I invite him in and give him the good chair in the living room of my heart. I hate this about me. Remind me of how patient you are with me even when I wrestle with you. Remind me of how patient you are with me that I might be patient with others. Help me Holy Spirit to resist the temptation to argue to the point of breaking down the relationship. Unite my spouse and I. Unite my children and I. Unite my brothers and sisters in my church. Unite us all with Your Holy Spirit and let us grow up as a strong and powerful Body ready to fight and win the battles against the principalities of darkness. -Amen
Let’s be clear. He was not killed. I realize that Roman soldiers flogged him and crucified him and that this kills most people, but for our Lord, He was not killed. No, they did not take His spirit, He gave it up on His own free will, not the will of the High Priest, nor the Jews, nor Pontius Pilate, and certainly not that liar, the devil. He decided when life would leave His body. No one took it from Him. No one forced out his spirit. He was never in bondage to the enemy, but humbled himself by choice to be a sacrifice for us.
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (NIV)
When he gave up his spirit, the body died. The strength and the life of our physical body comes from our spirit. It is the breath of God within us keeping our heart pumping and our blood flowing. When the spirit is gone, the body falls dead.
In the same way, the body of Christ, the Church, receives life, strength, and vitality from the Holy Spirit. When the Church grieves the Holy Spirit, the Church goes into cardiac arrest. A Church without the Holy Spirit is dead, dead, dead. As the body of Christ, we must remain in unity with the Holy Spirit above all things. After the resurrection, Jesus said it was good that He was returning to Heaven so that the Holy Spirit could come. The Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth, empower us for life and ministry, and convict us of sin. Jesus had spent three years teaching the disciples every single moment of the day using everything around them as object lessons trying to get them to understand, but in the end, they still did not get it. They argued with one another over who would be the greatest. Judas betrayed. Peter denied. All but John scattered. After the crucifixion, they were afraid and hid. But when the Holy Spirit came, everything changed.
Full of power and life, they spoke out, preaching the Good News without fear of their own death. They did miracles. The Church, the Body of Christ was birthed with the coming of the Holy Spirit. We must remain connected to the Holy Spirit individually and in the Body if we are going to live life as God intended, without fear, bold in our faith, changing the world one soul at a time.
Too many of us are more concerned with who is right and who is to blame when things happen in life. In America right now, we are living in a scapegoat society. No one looks for the solutions to the problems, only someone to blame. It is true from Washington D.C. to the workplace, to our personal relationships. Everyone is running after their own desires and when they don’t get what they want, they need someone to blame. It’s even true amongst Christians. No wonder churches split and shut down. We have forgotten our first priority must always remain unity with the Holy Spirit, not being right, not getting what we want, not saying things that divide, but keeping the unity with the Holy Spirit so that we can remain united in the Body. Once we get disconnected from the Holy Spirit, the Church loses its life, it’s strength, it’s vitality.
The Holy Spirit is love and love doesn’t tear down, it builds up. Love doesn’t judge and criticize, but hopes and believes. Love doesn’t show favoritism, but loves everyone, rich or poor, beautiful or not, white or black, male or female. Love always trusts giving people the benefit of the doubt, being ready to forgive an offense. If we don’t love, we push away the Holy Spirit, the source of our life, our love, and our miracles. Christians fighting without attempting to find unity are telling God to step back and stay out of it. We are told to let our conversation to be full of salt. Salt preserves and enhances taste.
Are the words coming out of your mouth working to preserve relationships or destroy them? Are your words making people’s lives taste better or turn bitter?
When we do not put unity in the Spirit first and foremost above who is right, who is wrong, what we want, what we don’t want…we are thinking pretty high of ourselves. When we escort the Holy Spirit out the door by the way we speak to people and treat them, we must really think we are something special that we can handle life without the presence and power of God. We think we are all that and a bag of chips with salsa, jalapenos on the side.
We are the body of Christ. When the Spirit is kept out of our church services, our daily walk, our disagreements and arguments, our plans, we are already dead. Without the Holy Spirit, I am already condemned-dead man walking. And in the Body of Christ, when we let little things get between us, we are digging our own grave to bury the church deep even covering the steeple topped with a cross.
Why don’t we stop fighting over things that really don’t matter? Why don’t we work for peace rather than vindication? Why don’t we let things go, forgive, and love one another? And may the power of the Holy Spirit fill the Body of Christ so that nothing can kill it, nothing can overpower it. Instead we will endure our cross revealing the love of Jesus Christ and the devil outwitted, outsmarted, and undone.
Get my book Prepare For Greater Things
It is great for those struggling with the circumstances in their life and why God would allow some things to happen. I wrote it from the heart after my best friend from high school shared with me his struggle to understand why God would allow Him to get cancer. I hope it is a help to all who read it. -Pastor Lee
SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 4:1-16
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (NIV)
Heavenly Father, too often I have let little things kill deep love. I have gotten so upset over things that did not really even matter. I have become offensive and mean. I have walked away. I have retaliated. I have created division in the Body by the way I have responded to people. But Lord, I don't want to be like this. I don't want to have division and struggle especially with the people that I love the most. Help me Lord. I am desperate. I want things to be better.
Open my ears to Your Holy Spirit reminding me that I have power from on High to respond in a loving way no matter what has been done or said. I have power by the Spirit of God alive in me to put the relationship above the issue. Teach me to be ok when I don't get what I want. Teach me patience when people don't do what I believe they should. Route out of me divisive words and action. Help me to hold tightly to You more than I hold on to anything else in this world. Teach me that holding on to You is loving my neighbor, loving my enemy, loving my family, loving the church, and loving myself.
Thank you Lord for Your Strength, Your Spirit in me.
The term Body of Christ has become synonymous with the church, but we do not always fully understand why the Lord has determined the church to be the body of Christ. Jesus body grew to maturity, starting his public ministry, healed, taught, rebuked. He was adored as the Messiah riding on the foal of a donkey into Jerusalem. He was betrayed, flogged, tortured, humiliated, and finally crucified. Then, His body rose from the grave, coming back to life completely healed. His body ascended into the Heavens and is now seated at the right hand of God on the Throne in Heaven. This is what His body has done and experienced and the Lord has declared us to be His body.
Jesus’ physical body in Scripture is to be modeled by the Church in every way. The writers of the New Testament understood this acutely and wrote about it often. But one thing that Jesus said had to do with the food that His body needed. His answer transcends His physical body and moved into the space of the universal Church of Jesus Christ forevermore. He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34).
The Bible says that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). The joy spoken of here was Jesus’ knowledge that only by the crucifixion could a way be made for the children He loved to escape the power of sin and death to be with Him eternally. He found joy in the sacrifice because He knew the implications. He was strengthened and empowered by this thought to withstand and endure all that happened to Him. His food, His nourishment, His sustenance was found in doing the will of the Father and finishing the work He had been given by the Father. Without finishing the work, He would have starved. His spirit would have died had He given up on the work the Lord had presented Him with.
The Body of Christ in many ways has got it all backward. We look for preachers and worship leaders who will feed us, strengthen our spirit, give sustenance to our soul. We want to be ‘fed’ we say. We will leave one manifestation of the body of Christ and go to another to be ‘fed.’ And certainly, we know that we need to be taught and we need to find a place where we can learn and grow spiritually. But knowledge of the Word and the beautiful connection with the Holy Spirit in worship is but the appetizer. It simply whets our appetite for the main course, the possibilities of God in our life when we do the work He has given us. The Church is anemic today because so many of us have passed on the main course. We are weak, underdeveloped, and malnutritioned. This is why we are tossed back and forth by the wiles of the devil. Our strength is gone. Well, I say Church…it’s time for the main course.
It is time to do the work of the Father. It is time to finish the work. It is good to hear a good sermon under a dynamic preacher. It is good to lose ourselves in worship as we sing about our “Good, Good Father.” But this is the chips and salsa (That’s what we do in Texas!!). These are not the main course. The main course is doing the good works that God has prepared for each of us to do. There are people who need to hear the Gospel message right at work. There are neighbors who need prayer. There are homeless who need food. There are the lonely who need to laugh. There are the forgotten who need to be remembered. People walking into church need a good smile, maybe a hug as well. Children need to be taught. Teens need to be loved. The babies need to be rocked. There are so many places and ways that we can do the work the Lord has given us to do. We must finish the work. Imagine how built up and strong we would be if we would see service as the main course that gives us the most vitamins, minerals, protein, and carbs for our souls to grow strong.
Jesus was a carpenter. They worked with very heavy woods without all of the machinery we have now. Carpenters were in good shape, muscular. It is time for the Church to get healthy, to get strong, to get in shape, to be muscle-bound, pecs pumping, guns blazing, six-pack carrying, triceps bulging ready to do the work of the Father. We can’t get in shape, get strong, get powerful, unless we eat right. Let’s stop skipping the main course. Let’s do the work of the Father. We have been anointed to preach the Gospel, to bless the forgotten, to love the destitute, to teach the students, to embrace the sinner, to do the work of the Father. Pull up to the table. It’s time to eat!
-Get my book Prepare For Greater Things
It is great for those struggling with the circumstances in their life and why God would allow some things to happen. I wrote it from the heart after my best friend from high school shared with me his struggle to understand why God would allow Him to get cancer. I hope it is a help to all who read it. -Pastor Lee
At the very end of Jesus’ life, we see His body ripped to shreds. He was absolutely mutilated. The Bible says He was not even recognizable as human at the end. The Romans were experts as torture and they had an uncanny ability to create horrifying pain. When Jesus was flogged before His crucifixion, the soldiers would have used a cat of nine tails. This was a special whip with nine strands of leather. In each strand, there were pieces of metal and bone that would deliver a blow, tearing and ripping the flesh. Pontius Pilate ordered that Jesus be flogged in the hopes that those wanting Him to be crucified would be satisfied if He were beaten thoroughly. However, when Jesus re-appeared before the crowd, the soldiers had put a robe and a crown of thorns on him stirring the anger of those who wanting Jesus to die for claiming to be the Messiah.
His body would have been so weak, but then He was made to carry His own cross. This was a very heavy beam. Many people died from the flogging that Jesus took. And not everyone was both flogged and then crucified. What Jesus endured was excessive brutality. Yet we read in the Scripture that the flogging did not kill Jesus and neither did the crucifixion kill Jesus. He was not killed. He gave up His spirit. He decided when the time would be that He would surrender His spirit and his body die. Just before He gave up His spirit, He said, “It is finished.” He finished the work the Lord had given Him to do. He could not allow the flogging, nor the crucifixion kill Him so that He could finish His work.
And we are the body of Christ and the Lord has prepare for each one of us, good works prepared for us since the beginning of time. And we too, face spiritual, mental, and emotional death all day long. Some Christians also face physical death all day long. Yet, like Christ, we can not allow ourselves to be destroyed. The flogging of persecution that can destroy our faith, kill our joy, and end our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is a very real truth, but we must not let it kill us. We have much to do, things God has prepared for you and me, specific to our life, that we must complete. Therefore, we must not ever allow ourselves to be destroyed, but we continue on in the strength of the Spirit fighting the good fight of faith doing those things that God has called us to do.
There are things that God has prepared for you to accomplish in this life. These things are specific to your life and others are dependent upon you to finish the work the Lord has given to us. We must finish the race. We cannot quit. We cannot allow the nails and the wood of this world kill us. We fight past it, continuing to do the works of the Lord until we finish the work He has given us. Is there anything in your life that is keeping you from doing what God has called you to do? Have you been distracted by pain or pleasure and stopped doing the work the Lord has given to you? It is time to fix our eyes upon the author and perfecter of our faith, hold on through the floggings and crosses of this world and finish the work He has given us.
Isaiah 52:13 - 53:6
See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him--
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness --
so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (NIV)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, if I am honest, the pain of this world can be unbearable. Remind me that I am part of the church, the body of Christ, exposed to the floggings, beatings, piercings, the hammer and nails of this world. Yet, I have this power deep within me and if I endure, the power that is You will manifest. If I let the things of this world destroy me, you will not be seen in me. Help me Lord to know where You want to use me and how You want to use me and give me strength to endure the hardships and keep serving You. Help me to finish the work You have given me to do as a man, a Father, a Husband, a Friend, and as a Servant of the Most High God. -Amen!
Long life. Riches. Honor. Pleasant ways. Peaceful paths. Does any of this sound good? Isn’t this what the whole world is searching for? I know the American dream is about success and making something out of your life, but it tends to mean to do well financially, but doesn’t God want more for us than money? I know that I included riches in the list and then acted as if this is not about money. The word for ‘riches’ means increase. It doesn’t mean that it is God’s intention that everyone become a billionaire, but it does mean that everyone can live a life of increase where their financial situation increases throughout their life. God wants long life, riches, honor, and peace for every soul. For the wealthiest businessman on Wall Street, the crack babies born in the worst situations, and the slave sold for a price. God wants and provides a way for everyone in every position and lot in life to have peace, pleasantness, honor, and riches.
How does the Lord intend for us to receive these into our life? We can’t say that it is work because a slave can work very hard yet at the end of their life, they have nothing to show for it. We can’t say that these come from having a good job or a good wife or good children. There are many people with good jobs one day and gone the next. There are plenty who have a wonderful family, but never experience riches, honor, peace, and long life. How about going to church? Surely if you go to church all your life, God will give these to you? But again I have to answer ‘no.’ Going to church every time the doors are open, praying every day-twice a day, worshiping, singing your heart out in full submission to the Holy Spirit. I have known so many church folk that fit this description, but they still did not receive these things that God has made available. Alright, I have made you wait long enough. Let’s look at how God wants to deliver these things into your life:
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed. (ESV)
There you go. It’s wisdom. Ok, I know that some of you are thinking already that this excludes you because you are not very wise. If that’s you, let me direct you to that very first line. It says blessed is the one who F-I-N-D-S wisdom, and the one who G-E-T-S understanding. No where does it say that the wisdom of God is a spiritual gift given only to some, but not others. It has been hidden the Bible says, but unlike the Amazing Race, the prize does not go to the first one to find it. There is a abundance of God’s wisdom for all who find it.
This is different from intellect. This has nothing to do with your IQ score. You don’t qualify with high SAT scores. There is no AZVAB for wisdom. I remember when I was playing football, my college coach yelled at me once, “YOUNG, YOU ARE AS DUMB AS A SACK OF ROCKS” He was probably right, but even I, a dumb sack of rocks, can find the wisdom gifted by the Creator of the Universe. We only have to go out looking and find it. Ok, you ready to start looking. It’s like a giant hide-n-seek game or marco polo in the pool (by the way, did you see that marco polo commercial for Geico-hilarious!). So gather up your equipment and whatever you need for this journey. Ready. Set. Go.
Hey, didn’t you read the first post in this series. I already told you where God has hidden His wisdom. It is hidden in Christ. In the second post, we went a little bit deeper. The wisdom of God is found in Christ because He is the love of God manifest and He is the Truth. Wisdom without love and without truth is the love of man and man is dumb, D-U-M-B, dumb! The more we know the person of Jesus, the more wisdom we will find, the more understanding we will get.
For a beautiful life, full of peace and increase, I don’t have to be super-smart. I don’t have to be politically connected. I don’t have to know the right people or go to the right university. I don’t need to be smart and I don’t have to be talented even (though I know all of you are super-talented). You need only to draw near to God and the Holy Spirit will fill you with the mind of Christ. You will have the wisdom of Jesus Christ, who is God forever and ever. I don’t have to have the perfect past or be from a perfect family. Maybe you are divorced or come from a divorced family. Maybe your past reads like the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted. It doesn’t matter any of that. Starting today, the more you get to know Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit fill you with the love of God and the mind of Christ, you will get wisdom and experience long life, riches, honor, peace, and blessings. Well, what are you waiting for? Get goin’
He said, “Tomorrow!” Can you believe he said tomorrow? That is hilarious. Maybe he just loves frogs. I don’t know but he said, “Tomorrow.” One of the craziest things in Scripture that will never be used as an example of wisdom happened in Egypt during the tug-o-war between the Pharoah and Moses. You remember that the people of Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for centuries and then the Lord sent Moses to deliver them out of that place. Moses was given power by God to perform miraculous signs to convince Pharaoh. But each time Pharaoh would refuse to let the people go. And when he refused, the Lord rained down curses. One such curse was that of frogs. All of the sudden after Pharaoh had again refused to let God’s people go, the Lord brought frogs from out of the Nile river. Now, the Egyptians worshipped frogs. It was against their belief system to kill the frogs or even accidentally step on the frogs. The Lord brought in a tsunami of frogs. They were everywhere. They were in their sheets, in their cereal, all over the floor, everywhere. I am sure they rolled over in bed and found themselves smooching a big, green frog. Pharaoh knew that God would listen to Moses so he called Moses and asked him to get rid of the frogs and Moses said, ‘I’ll even do one better than that. I will get rid of them, but I will let you decide when the frogs will be gone.”
Now, I don’t know what time of the day this conversation took place. The Scripture doesn’t really say, but I am thinking it might have been in the morning. When else will you be most ready to get rid of frogs but after being unable to sleep because they were jumping all over you all night. Anyway, the point is why didn’t Pharaoh say, “Right now. I want them gone right now.” Foolishness!
These are the kinds of decisions that we make all the time and afterwards, we think to ourselves, “What was I thinking?” These kinds of decisions can make our life very difficult. In the moment, we decide to do something stupid with our money, something stupid relationally, something stupid that changes everything. The good news today is that the wisdom of God is available for all of us right now. He has made it available. He has revealed it in His Son, Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can receive God’s wisdom into our life for long life, peace, prosperity, honor, and riches.
The Bible talks about two different kinds of wisdom. There is the wisdom of man that is compartmentalized as we spoke about yesterday. Then, we have the wisdom of God that is all-encompassing bringing success to your overall life not just certain aspects of it. We need to the know the difference between the two before we can start catching our brain before it make another big, dumb, stupid mistake.
In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (That’s a very long name for a tree 😊). But that ancient serpent came into the garden and began to speak to Eve. He said, “Did God really say not to eat of this tree? He just knows that this is going to make you like Him knowing good and evil.” Eve fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. She took a bite, then gave some to Adam who took a bite. Then they were kicked out of the garden. But why? Wasn’t Eve simply trying to obtain the very things that God wanted her to have?
Didn’t she want wisdom? Isn’t that a good thing? After all, God praised Solomon for asking for wisdom instead of riches or fame. The devil told her that eating the fruit would make her like God. Isn’t that a good thing to want to be like God? Ok, here’s the deal. She was going after good things, but by disobeying the commandment of the Lord, she was going after these good things without God. She was not loving anyone. Instead she was being selfish. She was believing the lie of the Devil. She was going after good things in a bad way. She was doing it without God, without love, and without truth. And there it is: the wisdom of man.
The wisdom of man works to make decisions with the goal of obtaining good things, but obtaining them without God, without love, and without Truth.
Relationships trying to find love, but foolishly they ignore the Truth and they disobey the Word of God. They may have worldly love just as much as they have the wisdom of man, but worldly love is not more real love than the wisdom of man being true wisdom. Real love is patient, kind, forbearing, keeping no record of past mistakes, always trusting, always hoping. But if a couple treats one another harshly when each one really needs to love the other by being patient, and kind, ready to forgive, not bringing up the past, then they are not really loving each other in that moment. They are trying to do it without God. When there is sex before marriage, it is foolish. The vulnerability of intimacy is rewarded only when accompanied by an unconditional love proven by a commitment to stay til death do us part.
Anytime I make a decision without loving others first or make a decision that ignores the truth of God’s word, that decision will most often end up bad, foolish. And let’s face it, we have enough foolishness in the world already for us to add some of our own. Get wisdom!
I have done some stupid things in my life. I am not proud of it but I will be honest about my own stupidity. I remember once when I was a child, 8 or 9 years old, I was riding in the back of a car. It was kind of a fancy car and it has a cigarette lighter in the back seat. I know….you just realized how old I am. Focus man! It was one of those lighters that had a button and when you wanted to use it, you would press down the button and it would heat up the lighting pad. When it was ready, the button would pop up and you could then use it to light your cigarette. No, I was not smoking at that age. I wanted to see if it worked. I am not sure what would have made me think that it didn’t, nevertheless the testing began. I pressed the button. I waited. The button popped up. I lifted the lighter and looked inside. To my surprise the lighting pad which was made up of concentric circles of metal was not even red. I thought to myself that it must not be working since the metal has not heated to a red-hot temperature. So, I did what many boys would do (I won’t say girls). I tested it by sticking my finger onto the lighting pad as if it were my very own cigarette. Concentric red circles burned into my fingertip and smoke rose up from the lighter. Ok, not so smart, but at least I knew it worked after that.
The Bible says that we should get wisdom even if it costs us all that we have. Wisdom is the ability to look at a situation, a dilemma, and know how to respond, what to say, what to do that will bring success. Since we are constantly throughout every day making one decision after another, it makes sense that wisdom is so important. But before we can take hold of wisdom, we must understand there is not one single type of wisdom.
The wisdom of God and the wisdom of man co-exist I the crux of every quandary we may find ourselves in. And to be certain, they are not the same. The wisdom of man is one-dimensional. The wisdom of man, when used as a reference for decision-making will lead to compartmentalized success. For example the wisdom of man allows a man to make billions and billions of dollars, but through five marriages and divorces while making all that money. This is what creates confusion for most of us. The wisdom of man is not impotent. It does bring success, but the success is limited to a small area of our life to the detriment of many others.
The wisdom of God on the other hand is comprehensive. It is not wisdom specific to specific modalities of life. It is a wisdom that is applicable to every of life. This is the first lesson of understanding the difference between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of man. When you see yourself making decisions that are leading to success in one area and a slow erosion in other areas, the wisdom of God has been overlooked.
It is also hidden. The Bible speaks of the wisdom of God a mystery to be revealed. In Proverbs, the promises of wisdom are long life, riches, honor, a pleasant abundant in peace and joy. But we must find this wisdom. The Lord has revealed it already to those who will seek it, but it is nothing like the wisdom of man. If the wisdom of man is the club of a fire ant, the wisdom of God is the planet Jupiter multiplied infinitely. The Bible says that God has revealed the wisdom of man to be utter foolishness so don’t think that the wisdom of God is anything like the wisdom of man.
The wisdom of man is a trap of the devil set out in the open with a big, fat, piece of cheese on it waiting to snap down on our necks. The wisdom of God is beneath and covered needing to be revealed. It is not that we don’t know where to find it or how to find it. The location has been revealed. Like a treasure map with “X” marks the spot, we know exactly where it is. But it is a journey. It is a trek and some of the terrain is not easy. So, you are only going to find it if you are willing to go an the adventure seeking, searching, following and studying the map. So, with this first post of the week, let me just ask you, are you willing to do the work to go and find it, get it, wisdom? Do you really want long life, riches, honor, pleasant and peace-filled life, prosperity? Do you really want it? I can’t tell from that look on your face. Well, assuming you really mean it, let me take you deeper. Scripture teaches us that the wisdom of God is Jesus Christ. God has put all of the elements of this wonderful wisdom into the person, the mind, the heart, and the emotions of Jesus Christ. So are you willing to do the work to seek Him out, to get to know Him, to know how His mind works, His emotions run, and His decisions fall? You will never find all those things promised by the wisdom of God unless you seek out the heart of Jesus Christ. Dig deep and uncover His humanity and His deity all wrapped together and there wisdom abides.
Everyone suffers. We do not suffer the same. I was having a rough day today. The trash men refused to pick up my trash and it was overflowing. I had to leave work to stuff some trash into the trunk of my car and bring it to the dumpster in the church just so that I would have some room to put more trash until the trash man comes again next week. As I was leaving, I ran out of gas. Now, before you start thinking that this was all my fault, let me splain. Recently, our car was reported to have a recall on it. After taking it to the dealership, they put a brand-spanking-new engine in it. It was crazy. The car already had over 100,000 miles on it, but they fixed me up with a new engine. It’s like I have a new car. The one thing though is that something is amiss with the gas tank. My gas gauge today showed me to have just barely under a quarter of a tank of gas. The pointer was still touching the quarter-full line, but I ran out of gas. This is the second time I have run out of gas without the gas light even coming on and this time it was worse. I had to wait in traffic giving hand signals to oncoming traffic to get them to move around me as I waited for my son to bring me the gas can from the garage. He called, “The gas can is empty Dad.” Are you serious???!!! We left my car right in the middle of the street while we went to get gas. Finally, I get it going and I am finally heading to work. The phone rings. “Dad, I locked myself out of the house.” I have to turn around and go back to the house. And this was just the beginning. If I had any hair, I would have pulled it out this morning.
When I got to the office, I asked, “Is anyone else having a bad day?” I wanted to co-miserate. Somehow, it makes us feel better when we know that we are not alone in our suffering. My wife though pointing out a man walking outside in the cold said, “At least you aren’t having to walk everywhere in this freezing cold.” Well, that’s true.
The Scripture says to endure hardship as discipline. When we go through difficult times of suffering, we have a choice of how we will process the suffering. We have a choice of how to assign meaning to that suffering. We can use suffering to justify anger, sin, hatred. We can use suffering to garner attention with a big ole’ pity party. We can use suffering to convince us that God doesn’t care, doesn’t love, or doesn’t like us. Suffering can mean to us that we are cursed and hated by God and people.
Processing suffering may be one of the most significant things in the life of a Christian. God calls us to process suffering as disciplines from our Heavenly Father. He is using the suffering to reveal to us that which is in us that is not right with Him. “How does the Lord want to use this to purify my heart, cleanse my unrighteousness, mature me to the next level?” This should be our first question when things go wrong. My first question was, “Am I alone in this suffering?” I obviously have never thought that I alone suffer while others don’t and I certainly have never thought that my suffering was worse than others. I got a pretty good life going. Nevertheless, a simple thing like running out of gas should be received as a means of revealing something in me that is not right. A lack of patience, an abundance of pride, these were brought into the light. I acted as if I had to get all of these things done and if I didn’t get them done, the sky was going to fall. How foolish I know, yet this was in my reaction. Will the church not continue on if I don’t get to the office on time? Will the whole of Christianity be utterly destroyed if I don’t send out a devotion? Silly, I know. But I must be honest about myself even if I am petty. (Hope you still love me 😊)
Not only must I process it as discipline, I must endure it. I must stand up under it. Suffering produces opportunities for me to choose God instead of my flesh. Isn’t this the match and rematch of all suffering, the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of my flesh? As believers, we must crucify our flesh. We must kill it with choosing faithfulness to God and rejecting the passions and desires of the flesh. My flesh may want to lash out at someone in an attempt to relieve the pain they have caused, but I kill the flesh when I choose to forgive, to overlook an offense. My flesh craves a night of drunkenness to help me forget, if just for a little while, the pain of this life. I kill the flesh when I choose to seek the Lord in my pain and praise Him through it. This is endurance.
Resisting the discipline manifests in the indulgence of the flesh in whatever form that takes in the moment. My Heavenly Father is attempting to direct me in the right direction. Call it a time-out, a whoopin, a spankin, a grounding, a restriction, a lecture. Call it whatever you want, if I reject it, in that moment, I am also rejecting the Lord as my Father. Like a rebellious teenager, “You can’t tell me what to do! I am going to do what I want!” The prodigal son stomps out again to play in the mud with pigs.
I remember once when I was about to spank my son. He was squirming all around trying to escape the long arm of the law if you know what I mean. I was holding on to his arm so he wasn’t getting away, but his butt was dancing around from right to left like he was going to be on Dancing with the Stars. In my wisdom, I simply said, “If you don’t let this happen and keep trying to avoid it, I am going to miss.” Haha! You know what I am talking about. The Lord has created us with a special place for whoopings. That wonderfully padded place cushioning the blow of Dad’s hand. The pain increases significantly if Dad misses.
The same is true with our spiritual discipline that comes through suffering. Process it as anything but an opportunity to grow, it’s like Dad missing your rump. Pain will intensify and last longer if we squirm.
What suffering are you experiencing right now? For some of you, the loss of a loved one, or a terminal diagnosis. Others are just hangry. All suffering can be useful in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit helping us to kill the flesh and live by the Spirit. How are you responding? Are you angry, impatient, throwing a pity party with hats and a cake? Or are you letting the Lord form you with integrity, character, love, and holiness. My advice: Stop squirming!
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