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!
Looking back is easy. At least, it’s easier to see what God was doing when we look back in time than it is to guess what He will do in the future. There have been so many times in my life when what I was doing at the moment did not make sense. I would ask the Lord what He was doing. I would ask what He was trying to teach me. Many times I would say to the Lord, “If you will just tell me what the lesson is, I will gladly learn it and accept it, and then we can move on.”
But too often, I did not even know what I was supposed to learn. All I knew was that God was at work. I knew this mainly because it was what I had heard from so many pastors and evangelists in my life. I knew God was working on me somehow, but I was confused. I was dazed. I was frustrated and ready to give up, because I just could not understand what was happening.
After some time passed, things were much clearer. Sometimes, it would be the next day. Other times, years went by before I could look back and understand what God was trying to teach me or do in me or for me. Looking back is much easier than looking a dilemma in the face and wondering what in the world God is doing. Even worse is wondering, What should I do?
As a pastor, I hear this question often. People will come into my office and spill their guts, telling me everything that is going on in their lives. They give me every detail of every situation, and then, after a long time, they finally take a breath and say, “What should I do?” These conversations revolve around everything under the sun. Should I leave my husband? Should I take this job or stay where I am? Is God calling me into ministry? It goes on and on. Tomorrow seems like such a mystery. And trying to figure out what we should do_whether in certain situations or for the direction of our lives_can be frustrating.
What is tomorrow? What should it be? What should it look like? What does God say about tomorrow? The questions of relationships, career, family, and church can be so difficult. What is God’s plan for your tomorrow, and for all the tomorrows of your life? Let’s consider what the Lord says to us about tomorrow:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:13–17 NIV)
When we first read this Scripture, it is teaching us that we should not worry about tomorrow. It is even teaching that we should not make any plans. However, the Scripture also teaches us that the “noble man makes noble plans” (Isaiah 32:8). So, Isaiah is teaching us that if we are going to be noble, with a desire to live our lives producing fruit, we should make plans. We should consider tomorrow and make plans. How do we reconcile these two different thoughts that seem to contradict one another?
The point of the Scripture in James is that we should not take tomorrow for granted. We don’t know if we are going to be here tomorrow. Haven’t we been shocked and surprised when someone suddenly passes away by sickness or tragedy? Yet in spite of our surprise, the truth is that this is life. There is no guarantee for tomorrow. James was teaching us that tomorrow is not a given, and we should not assume that we will be able to do this or that tomorrow. Instead, we should be making noble plans. We should live each day, making the most of our lives. We should plan lives filled with noble things, compassionate things, excellent things_things that will last even when we have expired.
Young, Lee. Prepare For Greater Things: Understanding God's Plan for Your Life (pp. 4-6). The Journey Publishing. Kindle Edition.
When I think of the jaws of distress, I see that scene from the 1970’s classic movie: Jaws. The boat is broken and Chief Brody is at his wit’s end and has no idea what is about to happen. Suddenly, out of the water comes that monstrous shark with huge jaws and bloody teeth. I will tell you that it scared me to death when I was a kid. I did not want to get anywhere near an ocean for a long time.
The jaws of distress in my mind would be a horrible place that I would never want to be and would not wish upon anyone. But this is the place where Job found himself. He was in the jaws of distress. When we first think about Job’s plight, it would be easy to see the jaws of distress as the sudden and catastrophic events in Job’s life where he first lost all of his wealth and then his own children died. This was followed by a horrifying disease where boils covered his body. His wife scorned him on top of all of this. And if this is what is being described as the jaws of distress, then I can easily agree with that description.
But digging deeper, we see that this description comes from Job’s friend, Elihu. The purpose of Elihu’s discourse here is to bring understanding to what has happened to Job. His other three friends had told Job repeatedly that this suffering was the result of his rebellion against God in some way that he now needed to confess. Job maintained that he had not sinned and in his perceived innocence, he questioned the justice of God. Neither were right and Elihu was now setting the record straight and he explains the purpose of the suffering that God has allowed is for the purpose of ‘wooing’ Job out of the jaws of distress. Whoa! Don’t read too quickly, you’ll miss it. The suffering was not the jaws of distress, the suffering was God’s way of ‘wooing’ Job out of the life he had before the suffering began.
OMG!(I never use that, but just thought I would throw it in:) What did Elihu just say!?! Elihu is describing Job’s highly blessed life as the jaws of distress. The King James Version of the Bible translates the jaws of distress as the ‘strait.’ Elihu is telling Job that the life he had before the suffering began was considered by God to be a strait. Well, what’s a strait? A strait is a narrow path. It is like walking through a cut in the Earth between two mountains, one on each side of you. It is restrictive. It is narrow. Elihu goes on to say that God is wanting to bring Job out of the strait into a spacious, broad place. Through Elihu, God is trying to help Job understand that the life he had before his suffering began was like a strait compared to what God wanted to do in his life.
We see at the end of the story the broad, spacious place that God brought Job into. He was blessed even greater than before.
Elihu points out that though Job did not have a spirit of rebellion and that he had not committed sin, he was not perfect. Within his spirit, there was some self-righteousness. It was true that he was blameless as God had called him, but he was so blameless that he began to trust his own righteousness to a certain degree rather than trusting in the righteousness of God given to him. He acted as if he was righteous instead of a recipient of the righteousness of God. This outlook was limiting what God could do in His life. As wonderful as his life was before, it was restricted by the self-righteousness within and the Lord was ‘wooing’ him out of that jaw of distress.
What does God want to do in your life? His word says that it is beyond what we can imagine (1 Corinthians 9:2). This is a wonderful thought. No matter where you stand today, the possibilities with God are endless. When suffering comes into your life, keep your faith, learn the lessons being taught. Find the plan that God has for you. It is an ever-increasing plan that will render us speechless over and over again to the glory of God. He is a good Father wanting to give you more than you can imagine.
Even Jesus needed some help. Twice we see where the Lord sent angels to Jesus to help Him during a difficult time. At the beginning of His ministry and at the end of His ministry. Before Jesus really entered into His public ministry, the Spirit led Him out into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He had been fasting for forty days. I can only imagine how tired He was physically, but He resisted the devil in every way. Afterwards the Scripture says that angels attended Him. Also, as Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was struggling mentally, emotionally, but also physically. He was sweating drops of blood. This was not a spiritual condition. It was physical. The weight of His situation and the burden He was carrying in prayer for the entire human race was too much for His body and His blood vessels burst allowing blood to escape through the sweat glands. And angels came and attended Him.
As Christians, sometimes we put such a great emphasis on our spiritual walk, but we don’t always consider how our physical body effects our spirit. When we speak of disciplines, we tend to focus on spiritual disciplines – reading the Bible, praying, meditation on the Word, worship, both private and corporate. But the Scripture reminds us that not only do our souls need to be sanctified holy, so do our bodies (1 Thessalonians 5:23). But sanctification is a spiritual act and process. How can our physical bodies go through a spiritual process?
The fact that we might not fully embrace the need for our physical bodies to be sanctified is a good indication why temptations win too many battles. Our bodies desire the things of the flesh. Our body is the vehicle for pleasures of the flesh. At the same time, our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). It is just a fact that our physical body has an impact on our spiritual walk. It must then be sanctified.
There are days when I come into the office and begin to work, wanting and needing to study in preparation of speaking and teaching and my spirit is willing, but my body is weak. I am just tired. I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Usually, the night before, like most nights, I am up too late. I am usually studying at night also and again, my spirit is willing, buts my body is weak. I can’t keep my eyes open. I begin to read and I doze off. I have an unbelievable God-given gift to continue typing even when I am asleep. I will wake myself up suddenly, usually from the sound of my own snoring and I will read what I have typed. I went to the store and got my horse a drink from the fountain. My hair burned on the stove with the macaroni. I usually have great grammar. Capital letters are in place, subject, verb, and object. IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE! I have turned in some papers for my master’s classes in Christian counseling that I am sure have caused the professors to wonder if I needed some counseling. Not too long ago, I just got a note from a professor about a paper that said, “unintelligible here.” That says it all. Fatigue in my body affects my mind, my attention, my focus, and thus…my spiritual walk.
There are many things that we can do better to help our fatigue. We can go to sleep instead of staying up watching re-runs on Hulu. We can eat right. There are many foods that cause fatigue. There are many foods that can be addictive. The lack of exercise can cause fatigue. Getting sick can cause it. All of these are things that we can do something about. I know this blog is not a super-spiritual giant of a statement, but nevertheless, it is important. I am not promoting any kind of exercise program and this is not an endorsement of any kind of diet. Sometimes, fatigue is not because of anything we are doing badly, it is the result of life and ministry. Just go and ask the mother of a 6-week-old baby how tired she is ministering to her little miracle. There are many things we do for the Lord that are going to wipe us out even if we are eating right, getting enough sleep, and taking time to exercise. But even in these times, there is help.
Angels attended to Jesus. Also, angels brought Elijah hot meals to help him find the energy for his journey (1 Kings 19:5). So, let’s do all we can to get enough sleep, to eat right, and get some exercise. But here is something else that we can do. When we are tired, we can ask the Lord for help. We can ask for energy to get things done. We can ask the Lord to send some angels to give us strength to get out of bed when we are tired and depressed. We can ask for strength to go and exercise. It may seem a little silly, but the Lord who gives strength to our spirit will also give strength to our bodies when we are just flat worn out.
Jesus had no agenda but that of His Father’s. What He wanted was to fulfill His Father’s desire and vision, and to bring honor to the Father. The Father in Heaven has now poured out honor upon the Son, Jesus by lifting Him to the highest place, the name above every name, the name by which every knee will bow (Philippians 2). Jesus also poured out honor upon the Holy Spirit. He told the disciples that it was good for Him to return to Heaven so that the Holy Spirit could come to them and to us. He spoke as if the Holy Spirit were a better gift than He. And the Holy Spirit teaches us the Truth. The Truth is Jesus. The Truth brings glory and honor to the Father and the Son. This is the Trinity.
All week, we have been discussing the Trinity. I simply cannot express the importance of understanding the nature of our God, His Trinitarian nature, One God in three persons. We see that in His very nature that He loves. The plurality of His being allows Him to be the very source of love as the Father loves the Son who loves the Spirit who loves the Father and the Son. The mutual love within the Trinity is the source of love. It is also our example of what love is.
Within the Trinity, there is mutual submission. Each submits to the other. He is one being but each has their own will. We see in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Son declaring that He will yield His will to the will of the Father (Luke 22:42). The unity of the Trinity is based on love manifested through mutual submission.
I want to finish this week by adding to mutual love and mutual submission, but mutual glorification. The nature of each person of the Trinity is to bring glory to the other. There is no superlative to describe the radiance of the very nature of our God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everything good comes from Him and He is the only Light in the darkness of existence. Without Him, there is no love and no power. Without Him, we are helpless against the power of sin and death, but glory be to God, Light has dawned in our life and in the world.
What will you do with this? How will you respond to this glorious God who knows your name? The Father who has loved. The Son who has given His very life. And the Holy Spirit who lives within you even as you read these words. He is with you and He is calling you to unity with Himself. Unity with God fills us with Him that we might love, the we might submit one to another, that we might live to bring glory to one another never seeking our own. How life would be different if we embraced unity with God allowing His power to run through our veins in everyday life!
This next week, as you get up for another day, embrace unity with God. Declared yourself filled to capacity with the Lord as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have been baptized not into the name of Jehovah, nor the name of Christ or the Holy Spirit. No, we have been baptized into all three persons of the One True God (Matthew 28:19).
Your employees may call HR on you thinking that you are mental if you began to live for their glory and honor rather than your own. I don’t mean that you stop being the boss, but you be a servant boss just as Jesus was a servant Messiah. You help them accomplish what is good for them. Your boss may have a heart attack if you walk into their office tomorrow saying, “Boss-man or lady, just tell me how I can help you accomplish your goals. I want to make sure that your vision is accomplished.” Maybe you should have 9-1-1 set on your phone in case they do have a cardiac failure. Oh…man, imagine parents how your kids would respond to them if you began to live for their glory. What if you were to live your life as if their needs and their success was your number one priority. Who knows…they might actually take out the trash for you. Ok wives, I waited as long as I could to talk about you, but imagine if you were to live each day just trying to honor your husband even if he does not do the same thing. You will create in him a desire to be near you and to be for you. And as long as we are talking about marriage, Husbands, what if you lived your life, every moment, to glorify your wife, to honor her, to work toward her goals and desires. How would she respond? She might wonder if you are some kind of secret agent wearing one of those high-tech facial reproductive masks and pull really hard on your beard for a while. But once she realizes it is you, there might be a big kiss in it for you.
The point is that the world would be different if we simply embraced unity with God, understanding His nature, living in accordance with Him. We might actually become His Light into a dark world. Let’s be the Light.
I knew they would not be happy to see me, but he didn’t have a ride. When I was asked to give an elderly man in our church a ride to a funeral, I hesitated because of whose funeral it was. The lady who had passed away used to attend my church along with her whole family. I made some decisions regarding their family and the positions they held in the church that they simply did not appreciate. And they made it known to me that they were unhappy. One family member sent me emails calling me the devil and a snake. Another family member would follow me into the restroom before service to chew me out. Let’s just say they were not fans of mine. I had not seen the family for a few years.
The man who asked for a ride had been friends with their family for a long time, long before I arrived at the church. He loved the woman who had passed and though her and I had disagreements, she was a fine lady. I wanted him to be able to go and he did not have anyone else to take him.
When we arrived, I almost stayed in the car because I knew that seeing me might stir up feelings of anger in them and I did not want to do that especially at a funeral. But my friend used a walked and he needed help to get up the steps. We moved toward the door. I was slowly helping him up the steps and the door opened. It was the family member who had sent such nasty emails to me. To his credit, he was polite and said hello to me and my friend. At that point, it would have been very awkward and seemingly rude for me to not go into the service. We sat down in a very small funeral chapel and the service began.
Because the lady had been part of our church, there were many of my friends there who were also part of our church. After the service, we just stood around talking and visiting. I turned and there was the daughter of the lady who had passed. Of all the family, during the issues at the church, she had handled herself well. This is why it surprised me when she said to me, “I am just now getting to the place where I don’t hope for bad things to happen to you.” My flesh jumped to the top of my throat ready to release a flood of emotions out of the hurt inflicted on my family and I by the way the family had reacted to my decisions. My emotions were hot with anger and hurt. Then the ears of my heart heard the sweetness of the Holy Spirit saying to me, “Love her. She is my child.” It was just a split second, but I had an entire conversation with the Lord in my spirit. I said to Him, “She doesn’t love me.” To which He responded, “Do you need her to love you with all the love I have poured out into your life?”
I have to be honest. I didn’t like His question. He was obviously right. I didn’t need her to love me. And the vengeance my flesh wanted to release was utterly sinful and I knew it. I had a choice. I smiled at her. I reached out and gave her a hug. Oh…don’t start thinking good thoughts about me that I responded this way. Because I wanted to unleash Hell in that moment. I wanted to let her have it. It was the Holy Spirit alive in me who hugged her. All I did was choose to let the Holy Spirit rule instead of my own spirit. My sinfulness was fully revealed, and the purity of God’s love was also revealed. To God be the glory for I am a sinful man.
Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. The unity of the Trinity is magnificent, and He desires for us to be united to Him just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united. What a wonderful thing! When we look at the unity of the Trinity, we have to remember that though one God, He is made up of three separate entities. They each have their own thoughts and emotions, even in their unity. And within the Trinity we see unity through submission. God the Father, set forth the plans. Jesus, the Son submits to the will of the Father. He says, “Not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42). And the Holy Spirit remains quiet speaking on what He hears from Jesus, the Son. The Bible says God, the Holy Spirit will not speak on His own, but only what He hears from the Son (John 16:13). We cannot expect to be in complete unity with one another and with the Lord unless we seek the same spirit of submission we see in the Trinity.
Wives are called to submit to their husbands. Children are to submit to their parents. Fathers are to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet the Bible also says that we are to submit one to another (Ephesians 5:21). The purpose of submission is to maintain peace and unity. The Holy Spirit is able to work when there is unity (Ephesians 4:3). Don’t get me wrong. The Lord is big on us submitting to our authorities, but in times when we are the authority and someone bucks that authority be it an employee, a church member, a spouse, a child, we are to respond in the spirit of submission. This does not mean that we let those under our authority run all over us. We still maintain the standards, rules, policies, etc. However the word ‘submit’ means ‘to withdraw.’ If I am doing to respond to someone under my authority who is expressing rebellion against me, I need to do it with a spirit of withdraw not escalation. When we respond by escalating negative emotions as I so wanted to do at this funeral home, we break unity in the body and we break our unity with the Lord.
God is love. He is Trinitarian. Within Himself, He sets the example of love. He is the source of love as we have been discussing all this week. But we also see that this love that produces unity is maintained in part through mutual submission. We must submit to our authorities. And when those under our authority refuse to submit, we must respond with a gentle answer and resist the temptation to escalate the situation. This is so hard to do, so hard. But the Lord has given us His Holy Spirit to help us.
Let us strive to honor the Lord, keeping unity with Him, but submitting one to another. This is what the Trinity of God teaches us to do and strengthens us to accomplish. Let us love one another.
That the world may know that God loves them and sent Jesus as a sacrifice for their sins, this is why the Lord has called us into unity with Him. Jesus prayed that we would be one with Him as He is one with the Father (John 17:20-23). His purpose for this was not that we would experience the source of pure, unconditional, life-changing love. That we would experience such glory is simply a result of His plan of saving the world from their sins. He wants none to perish but all to come to salvation (2 Peter 3:9). But what can draw us out of our sin? As believers, we understand sin to be something horrible and ruinous. But the Lord says that He is attempting to ‘woo’ us away from sin (Job 36:16). Woo us? Seriously?!? I have to be wooed away from these things that are destroying me? Well…frankly, yes. I must be wooed.
Sin is wrapped up in the pleasures of the flesh. Anytime we act upon making ourselves feel better in a way that goes against the Scripture, we are loving the flesh and loving sin. We may be Christians and claim to be married to Christ, but we have a mistress and her name is sin and she is found in the flesh. Anytime I can satisfy my flesh, my spirit becomes weak and lazy. Jesus asked the disciples to pray, but they sought the pleasure of the flesh and they fell asleep (Matthew 26:40). Oh…I realize it was in the middle of the night, but they could have chose to pray standing up, walking around to keep their body from sleeping. Instead, they allowed their bodies into a comfortable position facilitating their fatigue taking over their bodies. They satisfied the flesh. Whether it is sleep, drugs, sex, food, fame, success, pity-parties, attention, when we seek these over the work of the Lord, we have engaged in a salacious affair with our mistress. Our heart belongs to our flesh and the Lord pursues us as a passionate spouse wooing us away from our adulterous ways back to His arms. He must ‘woo’ us. He loves us. He is kind to us. It is this love and kindness that draw us out of our sin and into a faithful relationship with Him (1 John 4:19, Romans 2:4).
For those who know Christ intimately, it is difficult to understand why the world cannot see the love of God for them, but they cannot. They see God as restrictive because they are in love with the flesh. God calls them to deny their fleshly passions and desires and seek a higher love with Him. It seems to the world as if God wants to keep them from enjoying life but just the opposite is true. It is a dark cloud, a darkened understanding of who He is that keeps them from seeing the love He has for them. But God has a plan.
He, being the source of Love as a Trinitarian God, calls us to complete unity with Him, with one another, and with the world. As we become One with Him and in Him, His love becomes our love. This unity with the Triune God allows pure love to flow through us as we interact with everyone around us. We are the plan. We carry the love of God piercing the darkness that steals the world’s understanding of His goodness. We are the hands, feet, embrace, words, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, hope, and love of God face to face with the world that they might know that God loves them and has sent Jesus as proof of this love. The unity of believers with the Triune God, who is the source of pure love, is God’s plan for saving the world.
As we continue to study the Trinity, it is important that we don’t miss the point of yesterday’s post. God is love. His very nature is love. As a single being who exists in the plurality of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the interaction between these three entities reveals love. It is the source of love. The Father is not the Son, but loves the Son. The Spirit is not the Son, but loves the Son. The Son is not the Father, but loves the Father. The Spirit lives to help Christ accomplish the goal of the Father. He does this willingly because He loves the Father and shares the same goal. In Isaiah 61, which Jesus later quotes about Himself saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” Then He says, “because the Lord has anointed me.” The Father anointed the Son with the Spirit, but the Spirit was already on Him because they have one singular cause, completely united in goal and method. They each serve one another. Jesus served the Father, but the Father directed angels to attend to His Son and finally exalted His Son to the throne of Heaven. Each caring about the other, working together, united, submissive one to another for each to bring glory to the other. This is love.
A study of the relational movements between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reveal pure, unadulterated, divine love. And there is no other place, person, thing, idol, relationship anywhere that reveals what true love is. There is no other god like our God!! There is no love outside of the presence of our God. One might could say that other gods love, or that people love, and I suppose from a philosophical standpoint, I can agree with this, but none can say that the source of love is anywhere but with our God.
Why is this so important for us to know? The Scripture says that without love, we are nothing. Love is the most powerful force (1 Corinthians 13:13). It is not sacrilege to say that love is the most powerful force because GOD IS LOVE. Love changes us. Love changes others. It changes the world and it changes eternity. Love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
Love is the opposite of selfishness which could be said is the root of sin. In pride, we seek after those things we want. When we are more focused on what we want than giving to others what they need, sin is the result. The sting of death is sin. Love overwhelms selfishness. It destroys the spirit of vengeance, anger, lust, jealousy, selfish ambition. Love conquers all sin. And the fact that our God is THE SOURCE of this love and power renders everything and anything else in existence powerless without Him. All authority and all power and all love comes from our God.
This is why, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays that we would be united with the Trinity of God. He prays for us that we as a church may be one just as He and the Father are one. Understanding the significance of the unity found in our Triune God, this is an unbelievable prayer. He is asking the Father to help us to be united in this same power, the same love, with Him. And through the Holy Spirit, the Lord has given us the strength to be united with Him in this love.
We are not pure. We are infected with sin. Moving into this love and remaining there is a battle for us. For the Triune God, there is no struggle to remain in this love. It is His nature. He is love. But for us, we must be grafted into this love. We must actively put forth effort to press into Him that we might become One with Him. It is a lofty goal to be united with God in this way and to love like Him, but it is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. We must lean on the Holy Spirit as our helper to resist temptations to satisfy our sinful nature and press tightly into the presence of God.
So, with that being said, my question is simply, “How well do you love?” Are you actively putting forth effort to press into our Triune God that you might be united with Him, loving like Him? Do the temptations to satisfy selfish desires overshadow the love of God in you? Selfish desires lead us into emotional, mental, and spiritual bondage, but God, Love, sets us free. There is no greater freedom than unity with one another and with God in perfect love. It is a fight to remain united to Him, but I, for one, will tell you…the blessing that comes from unity with God and one another far outweigh the struggle to resist our own selfishness. We must fight the good fight, seeking daily perfect unity with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We have been called to participate in the Divine Nature of God. Stop and think for just a moment about this. The Lord, and His nature, being Divine is something that we can share in. We are called to be joined together not simply with God, but in His nature. As He is, we are called to be. And the Lord would not call us to this if He were not able to make it happen within us. We must present ourselves before the Throne to receive His touch, but He is the transformer. He is the change agent. He births us again in the Spirit and He cleanses us of everything that is not Divine, that is not of Him. This is our goal. This is where we seek to move, to be in the Divine Nature of God. We immerse ourselves in Him that His nature might become our nature.
In this life, the sinful nature will not be eradicated. For the sinful nature to be eradicated, it must be crucified in Christ and this daily. Even the Apostle Paul found himself struggling with the sinful nature doing those things he despised and did not want to do. Yet, we are called to move more and more into the Diving nature of God seeing with His eyes, understanding with His mind, operating as He operates. It is not a switch that we simply turn on and remain in that state forever. On the contrary, it is a fight where we must pull together all of our strength to hold tightly to Him as all the forces of Hell work to pull us away. But how can I fight to hold on to Him and His nature if I don’t understand it? And how can I understand the nature of God until I understand His nature, the way He is made up. We must understand the doctrine of the Trinity.
Yesterday, we spoke of the three persons of God. He is the Father. He is the Son. And He is the Holy Spirit. He is all three in His one existence. But let’s go deeper. It is not simply that our singular God is plural in nature. The nature of God is found also in how each of these essences interact with one another.
God, the Father, who calls Himself, Elohim, the plural form of the word ‘deity’ in Hebrew, declared in the Garden of Eden, the plan of salvation. He spoke to the Ancient Serpent, the Devil, saying “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. You will strike His heel, but He will crush your head.” The Father designed the plan. We know from John 3:16 and many others that God sent the Son. “For God so loved the world that He sent…” Jesus, the Son went. He was sent by the Father, but when the Son knelt in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed to the Father, “not my will, but thine be done.” Jesus is God. We established this yesterday. And the Father is God. This too was established in yesterday’s post. Though they are equal, the Father is above the Son in position. The Son lives in submission to the Father. This might be difficult, but there are many authorities in our life that have a higher position than us, but that does not mean that person is somehow more valuable than I am or anyone else. We are all equal before the Lord. This is why the Scripture says that God shows no favoritism. He doesn’t value anyone more than anyone else. We are equal. You are equal with your boss before the Lord, but your boss holds a position that is higher than your position on Earth. Jesus was submissive to the Son.
When we think of submission, we tend to think of it in a human sense. A wife may not agree with her husband, but she will submit to Him. She might not be happy about it. She may not rejoice, but she will choose to submit to her husband as the God-ordained head of the household. The relationship between the Father and the Son is different because there is never a disagreement between them. God sent the Son and the Son submitted to the Father, but the Son desired to be sent as much as the Father wanted to send Him. There is no disagreement between them because they are one essence. Jesus was submissive, willingly submissive. God, the Father sent Him, but there was no argument.
I remember when my parents wanted me to invite this one kid over for Christmas because his parents worked. I thought to myself, “I do not want to invite him over. He’s hyper. He will break me toys.” Yet, I submitted to my parents. And yes, he broke my toys. When I say toys, I mean the only one I cared about that day. It was a six-million-dollar man action figure. Yeah…yeah! I know many of you want to call it a doll. A doll is female, but an action figure is boys. BOOM! THAT’S WHAT I’M TAKING ABOUT. But I digress. The point is that I submitted. Are my parents worth more to Him than I am? Absolutely not! But the Lord put them in a position above me and they put me beneath their authority, so I submitted.
But with Jesus, though the Father is above Him, they want the very same things because they are one in the same. And just as the Son is submissive to the Father, so the Holy Spirit is submissive to the Son. The Holy Spirit speaks only what is given Him by the Son (John 16:13). The Spirit is also submissive to the Father. The Father also sent the Spirit (John 14:16). The Father sent the Spirit because the Son asked Him to do this (John 14:16). The Spirit is submissive to the Son and the Father. The Son submits to the Father.
They also each glorify one another. Jesus called upon the Father to glorify Him as the Son so that He, in turn, could glorify the Father (John 17:1). The Father is bringing glory to the Son and the Son to the Father. The Son also gives glory to the Spirit. He tells His followers that it is good that he is leaving them to go back to Heaven, because then they will receive the gift of God, the Holy Spirit. Then He builds up the Spirit saying the Spirit will lead them into all Truth. There is submission between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Though they are one God, each submits to the other with respect to their position. And each is working to bring glory to the other. Jesus wanted to glorify the Father by serving Him and obeying Him and directing people to Him. But then the Lord, the Father, after the Son glorified Him, lifted Him up to the highest place and set His name above every name so that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.
This is the nature of God.
He is mutually submissive. He mutually glorifying. He is mutually edifying. This is how the Lord can claim to be love (John 14:6). It is not that God loves though He does. It is that God is love by His Divine Nature. Within Himself, if there were no other life-forms, God is love. Each person of the Trinity loves perfect the others within the Trinity. There is no other god of any religion that can claim this nature.
Other religions have a singular God, unlike our plural God. The thing about a singular life-form is that within themselves, they are not love nor can they love without an object to love. They are incomplete. They can love when they have an object to love, but without this object, they cannot love. God, our God, needs nothing outside of Himself in order to be able to love. By His very nature, His Divine Nature is love, pure and unconditional love. There is no other god like our God (1 Samuel 2:2). There is no Rock like our God 1 Samuel 2:2). There is none like you Lord (1 Chronicles 17:20).
I once heard someone say, “It doesn’t matter what you call him as long as you believe in God.” It is the Divine Nature of our God that separates him from every other imagination of humanity. He is who He is and there is none like Him. He is above all.
Many religions use the Bible. But not every religion who uses the Bible believe in the same God. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses use the Bible, though it is a specific translation for them, they do not believe in the same God. It would seem that they believe in the Jehovah that we read about in the Old Testament, but they don’t. This is made possible by a few strategic changes in the translation of the Bible, but it is not the same God. Also, the Mormon Church calls itself The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It appears since they use the King James Version of the Bible in their worship that they are worshipping the same Jesus that Christians worship, but this is not true. Their Jesus is not our Jesus.
For both religions and others like them, the name is the same, but the nature of God or Jesus is different from what Scripture teaches. The difference is found in the doctrine we refer to as the Trinity. Most people have heard this term and they know that we believe in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but few Christians actually understand the nature of God and why it is important to know and understand. They don’t understand how it changes our life. I am going to be focusing on the doctrine of the Trinity this week. I hope you will share these with others. This is such an important understanding that every believer needs to have.
The word ‘trinity’ is not in Scripture anywhere. This term did not develop until much after the death and resurrection of Christ. It came about as a result of groups such as the Gnostics who began to teach that Jesus was not God. Today, there are mainline religions who run closely parallel to Christianity, but they deny this doctrine. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is the Son of God and they believe in God, the Father. However, they do not believe that Jesus, the Son and God, the Father are unified in any way. And they believe the Holy Spirit to be a force, but not a life-form of any kind. The Mormons or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also believe in Jesus, but they believe that Jesus was conceived by a celestial father and mother. In addition to this, they believe that any of us can become gods and then, in the afterlife, if we were married at the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, we can have children who will populate a planet of which we can be a god. The Trinity is a doctrine that is unique from every other religion.
The early Christians, including the writers of Scripture, were so in tune with the doctrine of the Trinity that there was no need to develop an apologetic stance to critics. It was simply the way it was explained to them by Christ and the Holy Spirit and it was how they explained it. Consider this passage from the letters of Paul to the church in Corinth:
2 Corinthians 13:14
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (NIV)
Here we see Paul speaking a blessing upon the church in a way that specifically lays out the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are unique, yet together make up the One True God. He speaks of the grace of the Son, the love of the Father, and the fellowship with the Spirit. Other religions would call Christianity polytheistic claiming that we believe in three gods and not One God. But the doctrine of the Trinity is One God, made up of three separate persons or essences-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Our belief in one God is clear. Over and over again, we are told to love God. We are never commanded to love our God, but to love God. And throughout the Scripture, the writers reinforce this belief in one God. Christianity has but one God.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder. (NIV)
Yet, when the writers spoke of this God, they interchangeably speak of God as the Father, God as the Son, and God, as the Holy Spirit-three in one. Three unique entities who together make up one God. Look at the following passages where each entity is referred to as God:
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (NIV, emphasis added)
Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. (NIV, emphasis added)
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” (NIV, emphasis added)
From the very beginning, the Lord established the plurality of His singleness. Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning was God…” The word for “God” here comes from the Hebrew word Elohim which is plural for Eloha. Eloha means deity or God. But as the Holy Spirit inspired the written Word, He chose Elohim, plural for a deity, to describe a God who was singular. This is a difficult concept for our finite minds, but the One God in which we believe as Christians is trinitarian. He is God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Our God is not their god. Our Jesus is not their Jesus.
Every. It’s all in the word. All. Complete. When the Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights, there is that word ‘every.’ Like a good father, the Lord both disciplines and blesses. Like a kind stranger, He brings gifts to those He wants a relationship with. Whether a believer or an atheist, every…every….every good and perfect gift in this life comes from the Lord. Life, beauty, love, success, wisdom, ice cream…every good and perfect gift fall from the fingers of God into our life.
Many people simply will not understand this nor will they accept it. But what about you? Do you believe this? Well…do you?
In Matthew, Jesus said that if we will seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, the Lord will add good and perfect gifts to our life. When we seek the gift itself, we deny the one who provides. Sure, because He is kind, He still gives us good gifts even when we seek the gift first, but inevitably, we forfeit other gifts because we seek the gifts instead of the Giver.
The essence of God’s provision is shalom. Most of us understand shalom to mean peace, but it is a comprehensive peace. It is a peace that comes from blessings in every direction. Not that we don’t have struggles. These are just part of life. But a lack of shalom allows for blessings in some directions, but to the detriment of others. We find blessings at work, but our home life begins to fall apart. We find blessings financially, but emotionally we suffer. But when we seek first the Kingdom of God, He provides so that, despite the struggles, oaverall we prosper this way and that, every direction. This is simply God’s promise and we know that He keeps His promises. His principles are true. But do you believe it?
I want to say that I believe it in my heart. I can say without a doubt that I know it to be true. I have absolutely no doubt, but my flesh betrays me. So often, I take my eyes off the Giver and focus on the gift and the next thing you know, I am seeking the gift. Of course, it is my fault when I take my eyes off the Lord. Not only am I sure that God is the Giver of all good things, I am also quite sure of my own sinfulness. I struggle. But this is why the Lord has given me the Holy Spirit, to help me stay on the right path, to keep my eyes on the Giver, to discipline my focus each day. It is not as if I don’t have everything I need to keep my eyes on the Lord, the author and perfecter of my faith, because I do. I have everything I need to overcome sin and death, my hangups, weaknesses, temptations, everything. He has cleared the way for me. He has done the work. He did just what He said. He has provided for all who seek Him first an abundant life.
I think this is my New Year’s resolution. When I am thinking about it, it is my everyday resolution. But this year, I am resolved to be more disciplined with the help of the Holy Spirit to keep my eyes on the Giver, to seek Him first, to push away temptations. The more successful I am at this, the Lord will take care of the rest.
What about you? Will you resolve to focus more, be more stringent in staying focused, put forth greater effort to push away temptations to focus on the good things in life instead of the Good God in Heaven? C’mon, let’s push forward into the Kingdom of Heaven and the abundant life Jesus literally died for. It’s a new year and a new opportunity to enjoy the abundant life God wants for His children. Shalom!
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (NIV)
Heavenly Father, I want to thank You for preparing the way for me to find You. Truly, you are the Way. And thank you for being so kind and generous to me with all you have done. And I am amazed that You desire more for me than I can even imagine. Help me keep my eyes on You and let no vile thing steal away my attention. -Amen.
One of the most poignant moments in Scripture is the conversation between Christ and Pontius Pilate. Jesus says that “everyone who listens to Him are of the truth” to which Pilate responds, “What is truth?” What is truth? The world we live in now proclaims that truth is unique and individual to each one of us. There is no definite truth. It’s all relative. Relative truth leaves us ungrounded, without anchor, tossed back and forth by the issues of life. Our world is in a free-for-all for lack of truth. Relative person allows each person to take their own moral high ground and no one can argue one way or the other. There is no right or wrong. There is no morality. There is no way, but many ways.
The doctrine of Jesus Christ flies in the face of this philosophy when He simply says, “I am Truth.” He is. Truth is contained. It is within one space. It is set. It is a person, a person who does not change. Truth is eternal and right. This truth, not the personal relative truth sets us free. Relative truth gives us justification to remain imprisoned in our own sense of backward morality.
Truth is Christ. Christ is a mystery. God who holds every universe in the palm of His hand come in the flesh bursting through the womb of a virgin. He walks the Earth, teaches in parables declaring those who have ears, let them hear. All heard, few understood. Jesus is the most prominent man in history, the most treasured, yet the most rejected. He is the most followed and the most hated. He has truly fulfilled the prophecy of causing the rise and fall of many. People either get Jesus to the point their whole life is changed or never fully understand Him, and this is Truth. Truth is not clearly seen anymore than Christ is clearly understood. For those who know Christ intimately, it is a wonder how others can not understand. Yet for those who do not understand, devoted followers of Christ, to them, are bigots and homophobes. And this is truth, easily found and evasive all at the same time.
This is a serious matter considering that Truth is what sets us free from all of the hangups and strongholds in our life. We can’t be free from our failures to love well until we first find the truth. Truth must be found for freedom to manifest. Most remain locked up in their iniquity losing hope of being free from those things that make life so hard.
How can something be so clear and so muddied at the same time? It is because truth is spiritual. Those with the Spirit of God, while operating in the Spirit, find the truth. They are of the truth. Those without the Spirit or those with the Spirit, but for the moment, not operating in the Spirit, cannot see it. This is the conundrum. Truth is not evident to all. It is shrouded and hidden and must be found that we might have freedom.
Pulling back the veil, finding the revelation is not done by any other means but to have the Spirit of God and to operate in the spirit of God. This is a behavioral, cognitive, and spiritual act and nothing less. Jesus said that if we “abide in His word,’ we will be His disciples. A disciple is someone disciplined to do a certain thing. The Word of God is to be used to help us discipline ourselves to a certain lifestyle, a certain behavior, a certain pattern of thought. This keeps us in the spirit and there we find truth. To fully immerse ourselves into this lifestyle requires faith. It is faith, a core belief, that this way of behaving, thinking, feeling, and moving has been handed down by an all-knowing God who will lead us to a new freedom. Faith moves us to give ourselves to a lifestyle. But what moves us to faith?
Why would I choose to believe in something so strongly to change everything about my path in this life? The short answer is love. Understanding the love that Christ has for me moves me to place my life in His hands. If He would leave His celestial home to enter the flesh of man to face all the temptations of this life specifically to resist them breaking the power of sin upon mankind, then accepting God’s punishment for the sin of all the world on a piece of wood with nails thrust through just so that the opportunity of freedom is available for any who might choose to take it, how deep must His love be. If He loves me like this, I can put my life in His hands. I choose to my life in His hands. I choose faith. Faith lived out in thoughts, feelings, and behavior open my eyes to the truth that sets me free.
There is no other path for truth. We must truly have faith His words, His Word, directs us to the right heart, the right mindset, the right steps, to find Truth, freedom, and abundant life. Before freedom, there is faith. Before faith there is love. Because He loved me first, I love Him. The more I know Him, the greater I trust and put my faith in Him. Suddenly, there it is, Truth that sets me free. And now it is clear, Truth is a revelation from God given to those who believe. Our freedom from those things that steal our joy, our hope, our love, and our future is based on how much we truly have faith in God’s ways of living and thinking. How much do I believe? How much faith will I have? How disciplined will I become? How free will I be?
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (ESV)
Heavenly Father, simply, help my unbelief. Let me live as You call me and set me free from the things of this world. -Amen
For Christmas, we were going to have some company visiting so the declaration was made that all bedrooms were to be cleaned. Of course, this is a parental declaration that should not have to be made on special occasions because rooms are to remain clean all of the time, but you know how that goes. So the declaration went out. Shortly thereafter, I saw my 12-year-old son sitting relaxed enjoying himself so peaceful and calm before the Xbox with Madden on screen. I said, “Is your room clean?” “Yep,” he replied. So naturally, I walked into his room to verify. “Come in here. There are clothes over here. You have trash on your shelf. These shoes need to be put away.” And the list went on. I have to give him credit though, he had done a pretty good job. Having raised three boys, these moments are familiar. Though not this time, there have been other times when a son of mine who would argue. I would dispel great fatherly wisdom, “Your room is not clean.” “Yes, it is.” “No, it is not. I just went in there.” “I already cleaned it,” one of them would say. Then like a great philosopher, I uttered wisdom their young and feeble minds were yet incapable of grasping, “It is clean when I say it is clean!”
They would stand there in astonishment and befuddlement attempting to recover from the vast wave of wisdom and authority laid out before them. It was the same look I had when my father poured out this age-old axiom born at the beginning of time. Not until I stood before my own flesh and blood in their yet unclean rooms did enlightenment strike me. I had made the same argument when I was just a child and stood confounded before the sage I called Father as he divulged astuteness so rich, “It is clean when I say it is clean.”
I do a lot of counseling both online through email and in office. I had thought to name the counseling part of my ministry Truth counseling. I eventually settled on Journey counseling, but Truth was the first thought. This was perfect name because the issues in our life that keep us from experiencing the abundant life God has prepared for us come from beliefs we have shrouded in emotion but lacking truth. The Bible says that the truth shall set us free while at the same time reminding us that the heart, the seat of all emotions, is deceitful above all things. In my own life and in counseling, the conversation between father and son repeats itself time and again. The truth is there, but the difficulty of grasping the truth as truth is so difficult. We want to say that what we feel is truth and the Glorious Father proclaims, “It is truth when I say it is truth.”
King David from the Old Testament, you remember him, the guy who slay Goliath, struggled with this very thing. He had committed some greatly atrocious sin, adultery and murder, but how he came to a place that he could do such things was a complete mystery. He knew what he had done, but he could not understand why.
Wow! That is so descriptive of the human experience. We know our sin, but we don’t understand why we are accepting of our sin. Of course, there is the pat answer that we are sinful. This is true, but we each have our own experience. We know that we promiscuous and we shouldn’t be, yet we continue. Why? We know that we are rebellious and disrespectful, and we know this is wrong, but we continue. Why are we ok with continuing in some behavior that we know to be harmful and wrong? Well…I will suggest to you that it goes back to what we believe to be true compared to what God has declared as truth.
In my mini-book, “Breaking Free From Your Past,” I deal with this more extensively. I hope you have read it and shared the free download with all of your friends and family. When we learn God’s truth, the only real truth, and allow it to eclipse what we believe to be true, the chains of our past are broken giving us the freedom to live a new life in the abundance of God’s plan. This is a basic principle that must be applied to the specifics of our life and everyone is different.
The mystical part of truth is that sin has put a veil over the eyes of our heart so that to find it, the veil must be lifted. In other words, a person cannot simply read the Bible and know the truth. The nature of the truth is not wrapped up in the Textus Receptus. No, Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” Truth is something that must be sought after and revealed. Without a knowledge of truth, we can never find God’s good, pleasing, and perfect plan for our life. The lack of truth in a person’s life keep them in bondage without the freedom to really live.
Tomorrow…we will delve into the path of finding the Truth as defined by the Lord.
John 13:31 - 14:14
When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (NIV)
Lord, I am tired of wrestling with myself. I am tired of struggling with the parts of me that I hate. You have declared freedom for my soul now I ask You to help me live in that freedom. My prayer is David's prayer: Give me truth in my inmost place and create in me a clean heart oh God. I can't do it without You Lord. I know this full well. I have tried my whole life and I can't do this on my own power. Save me from myself that I might become who You created me to be. -Amen