Thursday, May 31, 2012

By What Power?

My Utmost For His Highest

‘But we must first make sure that God’s “needs” and His will in us personally are being met. Jesus said, “. . . tarry . . . until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The purpose of our Christian training is to get us into the right relationship to the “needs” of God and His will. Once God’s “needs” in us have been met, He will open the way for us to accomplish His will, meeting His “needs” elsewhere.’ CHAMBERS

‘Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.’ (Acts 19:13-16)

Those verses describe some guys who were religious … and thought they would do what they had seen Paul do.  The only problem was, they lacked the power that comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit.  They were trying to do something spiritual without the Spirit.  It’s like a soldier going into a battle without a weapon.  Do you think that those Jewish men understood why they failed?  They had a natural understanding of a supernatural event.

‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ (Galatians 2:20)

Do you really understand the nature of your new life in Christ?  Being a Christian is not saying a prayer and then trying to do good things.  It is living your life to the glory of God .. not for self-satisfaction.  The people who were watching those men trying to cast out the evil spirits saw Jewish men, like Paul doing what Paul had done.  They could not see whether or not the Spirit of God was in them.  But when the man leapt upon them and they ran off, it was apparent that something was not right.

You cannot live the life of a Christian, successfully, without the power of the Holy Spirit .. doing things in your own power, by sheer determination … in your own wisdom.  Not going to happen.  In fact .. you are guaranteed to fail .. just as those men did … the things that you read in the Bible about the new life will never be a reality for you because you lack the relationship that is necessary to live your new life.  Paul wrote …

‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’(Romans 12:1-2)

God never intended for us to be independent agents .. but to be connected to Him through the Spirit .. Jesus told the disciples to wait for the Spirit … essentially saying, don’t try to go on by yourselves … I am sending you a Helper …. to live our life in Christ is to be totally dependent upon our relationship with Him … and

‘Once God’s “needs” in us have been met, He will open the way for us to accomplish His will, meeting His “needs” elsewhere.’  Spend time with Jesus today … Let the Word renew your mind and the Spirit lead you … and your light will shine before all men …

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Getting in the Game

My Utmost For His Highest

‘Suppose God tells you to do something that is an enormous test of your common sense, totally going against it. What will you do? Will you hold back? If you get into the habit of doing something physically, you will do it every time you are tested until you break the habit through sheer determination. And the same is true spiritually. Again and again you will come right up to what Jesus wants, but every time you will turn back at the true point of testing, until you are determined to abandon yourself to God in total surrender. Yet we tend to say, “Yes, but— suppose I do obey God in this matter, what about . . . ?” Or we say, “Yes, I will obey God if what He asks of me doesn’t go against my common sense, but don’t ask me to take a step in the dark.” CHAMBERS

We are so there!  What about you?  For the most part Christians are good with sitting in the stands watching someone else run the plays.  I mean what would you rather do … sit in the stands and eat a hot dog or get dirty and bruised down on the field?  There are all kinds of ‘good’ reasons why we don’t say ‘yes’ to God.  Again, it is not that we don’t know that it is God .. it is that we are afraid because we can’t control it.  God is not reasonable from the human perspective.  He asks us to take risks .. or does He?  Actually what He asks us to do is trust Him and not ourselves.

Isn’t it funny how we can quote scripture .. Proverbs 3:5-6 for example … and then when we are faced with the opportunity, we say “Wait a minute. How can we afford it?” I not saying that this is easy .. it requires faith … more faith than most of us are used to exercising … But before I go too far .. I am not saying, just because I come up with the idea, it’s right …  the Spirit may check us and say ‘Don’t go there.’  And He will often do it through other believers … your spouse in particular …

‘Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.’ (Acts 16:6)

‘And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.’ (Acts 21:4)

‘Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. And the Angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live." And Balaam said to the Angel of the LORD, "I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back." (Numbers 22:31-34)

When others are warning you  .. and the alarm does not come from their own fear or lack of faith .. you must listen.  To know the difference, requires spiritual discernment …

And where and how do you get Spiritual discernment?  It only comes through a close walk with God … becoming one with the Father … John 17 stuff …. Doing the will of God will always require faith … which means that we will always be challenged to act on the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen .. (Hebrews 11:1)

So are you ready to get out of the stands and put the pads on?  Because  … The game is on ….

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Jesus Name

My Utmost For His Highest

‘In that day you will ask in My name . . . ,” that is, in My nature. Not “You will use My name as some magic word,” but—”You will be so intimate with Me that you will be one with Me.” “That day” is not a day in the next life, but a day meant for here and now. “. . . for the Father Himself loves you . . .”— the Father’s love is evidence that our union with Jesus is complete and absolute. Our Lord does not mean that our lives will be free from external difficulties and uncertainties, but that just as He knew the Father’s heart and mind, we too can be lifted by Him into heavenly places through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, so that He can reveal the teachings of God to us.’ CHAMBERS

Invoking the name of Jesus … Whatever you ask in my name …. How many times do you say “in Jesus name” when you pray?  Have you thought about why you do that?  Sure the Bible says we should and also says that whatever we ask in Jesus name, God will do. Have you found that to be true in your life?  If not, why not?

‘You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.’ (James 4:3)

It is something that we must watch  … that we don’t become complacent, even, ritualistic in our praying and living.  Jesus called them vain repetitions … we say the words but the heart is not behind them.

‘And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.’ (Matthew 6:7-8)

If your heart is not in it, it’s like telling one of your children to tell the other one they are sorry for what they did to the other. Mom -- “Tell her you are sorry …. Tell her … I mean it … tell her you are sorry!”  Child -- “OK, I’m sorry”, Mom -- “Ok now your two get along.” The words are there, but the heart is not.

When you pray, does it come to your mind that when you invoke the name of Jesus that the only reason we can even approach the Father is because of the Son?  That it is Jesus who has made and is making intercession for us?  That you are covered by the blood of the Lamb.  When we say those words (in Jesus name) … we should be reminded of why we can say them to any effect and what they mean .. what they mean in light of all creation and eternity.

I fear that most often we (American Christians) say them only because that is what you are supposed to say.  We pray at meals because we are supposed to, not because we are truly thankful .. our motivation is that we want to acknowledge that God is the Provider – Jehovah Jireh .. and the food, our clothes, the table we sit at, the building we live in … they are all by His provision …

And after the prayer … do we hear the words .. Do I have to eat that?  I don’t like it, I want to eat something else  … I think about that as I watch children in Haiti pick up fruit that has been lying on the ground and eat it - eagerly … We don’t want water .. we want soda … we don’t like milk … these children beg for a bottle of water … water that won’t make them sick … Our problem in America is not that we don’t have enough … but that we have too much … It is a struggle to be sincerely thankful for what we have when we have more than we need?

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Responding to the World

My Utmost For His Highest

“If anything is a mystery to you and is coming between you and God, never look for the explanation in your mind, but look for it in your spirit, your true inner nature— that is where the problem is. Once your inner spiritual nature is willing to submit to the life of Jesus, your understanding will be perfectly clear, and you will come to the place where there is no distance between the Father and you, His child, because the Lord has made you one. “In that day you will ask Me nothing.” CHAMBERS

‘But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ (1 Corinthians 2:10-14)

There is a knowing that is beyond the reasoning of our minds.  People scoff at our faith because they cannot make sense of it.  Of course they can’t.  It is only through the revelation of the Spirit .. can we understand the things of God.  Scientists search for answers through observation and logic … but the deep answers they search for are hidden from their natural minds and can only be found in the ascended Jesus.  They use their common sense – natural minds to reason out the mysteries of God.  Because they see the things of the Spirit of God as foolishness, they discount the truth for a lie … they intentionally ignore what is plain

‘For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, …’ (Romans 1:20-22)

To me it is like I have two brains … one, in my head, that causes my body to function and the other in my heart that gives life and direction to my spirit.  That understanding sheds a different light on Proverbs 3:5-6.  ‘Trust in the Lord … and not on your own understanding’.  As you face the issues of life you have a choice  …. Read these verses …

‘There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.’ (Romans 8:1)

‘I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.’ (Galatians 5:16-17)

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.’ (Galatians 5:25)

We are supposed to be responding to life .. to the world .. with spiritual understanding .. no longer looking at life from a human perspective.  We should see people in a different light .. in the same way that Jesus saw them … looking past the surface and seeing the heart … People without Jesus .. without God’s seal on their hearts – the Spirit of God – are struggling … they know there is something missing .. they just don’t know what it is … it is the God-shaped void or as Pascal described it ..

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”  [Blaise Pascal, Pensees #425]

And there is only one thing they can do to fix that … accept Jesus as Lord.  The next time you are dealing with someone who is difficult … with someone who has disappointed you … maybe hurt you … look at their heart .. understand that they are in an eternal struggle .. and what they need is salvation … and if they are already saved .. what they need to do is to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh … As Jesus hung on the cross, He said “Forgive them Father .. .they don’t know what they are doing!” (Luke 23:34)

I pray that God will fill you with His Spirit and give you wisdom and understanding and you will show the world grace and mercy so that your light will shine bright drawing others to Him.

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Present of and the Presence of the Spirit

My Utmost For His Highest

‘The Holy Spirit’s influence and power were at work before Pentecost, but He was not here. Once our Lord was glorified in His ascension, the Holy Spirit came into the world, and He has been here ever since. We have to receive the revealed truth that He is here. The attitude of receiving and welcoming the Holy Spirit into our lives is to be the continual attitude of a believer. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive reviving life from our ascended Lord.’ CHAMBERS

Do you understand that it is the presence of the Holy Spirit in you that is the enabler for your new life?  The Lord ascended and the Spirit descended and took up residence in every Believer.

‘Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

‘In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.’ (Ephesians 1:13-14)

‘But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He (God the Father) saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’ (Titus 3:4-7)

‘This is He who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.’ (1 John 5:6-7)

‘Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He (that would be God) who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He (That would be the Spirit)  makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.’ (Romans 8:26-27)

Sometimes I think that we treat the Spirit like we treat our appendix … we know we have one, but it doesn’t really do anything.  Some Christians are charisma-phoebes, meaning that they don’t want to talk about the Holy Spirit much for fear they will be thought of as emotional or charismatic.  But just a cursory reading of the scriptures I cited above shows you how important the Spirit is in our new life in Christ.  Leaving the appendix analogy aside for the moment .. think about your shoes .... but maybe you have some footwear on right now.  Until I mentioned it, I am 99% certain you could not feel your shoes on your feet .. but if you looked down .. there they are!  It is the same with the Spirit .. we may not ‘feel’ the Spirit .. but He is there … we were sealed by the Spirit .. He lives in us.  How do you know?  That is what the fruit of the Spirit is about (Galatians 5:22-23) … the Spirit connects us to the Vine … ‘Abide in Me (Jesus), and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.’(John 15:4-5)

Final Note.  Some years ago I was attending a Promise Keepers conference in Little Rock .. my last one as a PK staff member.  At the hotel I happened upon Dr. Henry Blackaby (Experiencing God).  He was a speaker at the conference.  We chatted for a while and I mentioned the challenge of not running out of ‘spiritual gas’  to which he said .. ‘Oh, we have the living water flowing out is us .. it will never run dry.” To which I added .. ‘but we can turn the tap off’.  The Word says ‘Do not quench the Spirit.’(1 Thessalonians 5:19)  That is the Spirit that is in you.  The Spirit gives life, but we must yield to His leading, His teaching, His rebuke, His correction …

Do it today ….

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Talking to the Father

My Utmost For His Highest

‘Our thinking about prayer, whether right or wrong, is based on our own mental conception of it. The correct concept is to think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts. Our blood flows and our breathing continues “without ceasing”; we are not even conscious of it, but it never stops. And we are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect oneness with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is. Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life of the saint. Beware of anything that stops the offering up of prayer. “Pray without ceasing . . .”— maintain the childlike habit of offering up prayer in your heart to God all the time. […] The danger we have is that we want to water down what Jesus said to make it mean something that aligns with our common sense. But if it were only common sense, what He said would not even be worthwhile. The things Jesus taught about prayer are supernatural truths He reveals to us.’  CHAMBERS

The Autonomic Nervous System ( involuntary nervous system) acts as a control system functioning largely below the level of consciousness, and controls  heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, salivation, perspiration, pupillary dilation.  We don’t have to tell our heart to beat … God took care of that in our design …

‘For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.’ (Psalms 139:13-14)

In the same way … prayer should be so much a part of our being that we don’t even have to think about it … it just happens … it flows out of us … Think of praying as talking with God … now .. if God is most important in our lives … (Matthew 22:37-38).  Wouldn’t you want to spend time talking to Him?  Do you relegate talking to Him when you give thanks for the food you are about to eat … we tend to think of that as compulsory conversation … when in fact it is acknowledgement that God is the Provider …. At night before you go to bed or maybe with your children … you tell them “it’s time to say your prayers”…. It’s always time to say your prayers .. to talk to God.  We teach people to allocate special times to talk to God … maybe on Sunday morning with ‘every head bowed and every eye closed’.  Corporate prayer is good … ritualistic prayer … is not … Jesus said …

"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:5-7)

What if whenever you talked with your spouse you said the same thing ….”Good morning honey how are you.”  You would not be much of a conversationalist would you!

If God is always present .. and He is … If the Holy Spirit lives in us … and He does in every Believer … If we have been given free access to the Father through the Son … and we have … then why would we want to limit ourselves in the relationship?  Self-focus is one thing that comes to mind …  The lack of spiritual maturity because of indifference is another possibility … or maybe it is just because no one has ever told us otherwise ..

Prayer is a vital part of our spiritual life .. it should be natural and frequent … take time to talk to the Father .. and if you’re not sure of what to say … don’t worry … He loves the sound of your voice … Dad’s always like to hear from their children …

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Acting the Fool

My Utmost For His Highest

‘As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and physically gratifying possibilities will open up before you. These things are yours by right, but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights, and let God make your choice for you. God sometimes allows you to get into a place of testing where your own welfare would be the appropriate thing to consider, if you were not living the life of faith. But if you are, you will joyfully waive your right and allow God to make your choice for you. This is the discipline God uses to transform the natural into the spiritual through obedience to His voice.’ CHAMBERS

Sometimes God will lead us to places that seem to be contrary to what is ‘best’ for us.  It is a place that requires us to exercise faith in Him.  By human standards, it does not make sense for us to go there.  When we are living a life of faith, we must be careful about calling things foolish …. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Discerning what is of God and what is not requires us to be spiritually aware of what is happening around us.  We must listen for the Spirit to say “This is the way, walk in it.” And then we must walk in it … Hebrews 11:1  “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You Are Not Your Own

My Utmost For His Highest

‘Jesus summed up commonsense carefulness in the life of a disciple as unbelief. If we have received the Spirit of God, He will squeeze right through our lives, as if to ask, “Now where do I come into this relationship, this vacation you have planned, or these new books you want to read?” And He always presses the point until we learn to make Him our first consideration. Whenever we put other things first, there is confusion…..We say, “I will not trust when I cannot see”— and that is where unbelief begins. The only cure for unbelief is obedience to the Spirit.’ CHAMBERS

Some years ago the phrase “What Would Jesus Do? Or WWJD” became very popular among American Christians.  It was meant as a reminder that whatever we do in this life should be done with Jesus as the first consideration.  As Christians .. we belong to God … Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Now that is not to say that we live that way.  Too often obedience to God is a consideration but not a determination.  And sometimes not even a consideration.  We should not treat obedience to the Word as a choice but a way of life.  It is so easy to yield to the flesh … to respond in the same way that those without the Spirit do … When we are told that we are to be salt and light … it is not some of the time .. but all of the time … It is about being aware of who we are all of the time .. some Christians don’t have a ‘Christian’ thought all week until Sunday.  Their Bible is something they carry to church … the rest of the time .. it sits on a shelf or table waiting for the next Sunday …

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” –The Crisis, Thomas Paine.  Paine was one of the founding fathers of our country .. but was also a harsh critic of the Christian faith.

That said, many Christians are like the ‘summer soldiers’ … they like the worship and singing on Sunday because it makes them feel good .. they forget what the preacher said before they leave the church parking lot, and then they struggle with living the Christian life the rest of the week.  Do you think I am cynical?  Please don’t.  Think of me more as a guard on the wall.  When I see danger, I call the alert.  We are in a spiritual battle that is played out on the battlefield of our everyday existence.  Make Jesus your first consideration and then your determination … Living our life in Christ is more than wearing a WWJD wrist band .. toting a big Bible .. or have a fish symbol on the trunk lid of your vehicle .. God actually expects us to obey His Word in everything we do … Go figure!

‘For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart-- These, O God, You will not despise’. (Psalms 51:16-17)

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Then The World Will Know

My Utmost For His Highest

‘God reveals in John 17 that His purpose is not just to answer our prayers, but that through prayer we might come to discern His mind. Yet there is one prayer which God must answer, and that is the prayer of Jesus— “. . . that they may be one just as We are one . . .” (John 17:22). Are we as close to Jesus Christ as that?’ CHAMBERS

In Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, the opening sentence is “It’s not about me!”  We marvel at nature ..some even worship it .. the harmony .. the beauty … it is a wonder … as Christians, we know that God designed it that way .. but we also know that God created us to be in harmony with the rest of His creation .. but more than that, to rule over it … Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." (Genesis 1:26)

He created us with the intent that we would fulfill our purpose, the purpose that He gave us.  Well, you know what happened next, we (Adam and Eve) had a better idea .. which was really a lousy idea … And as the song says, “The beat goes on”.  Man is still trying to figure it out on His own.  God reached down through  His Son to restore mankind .. One of the evidences that God uses that Jesus is the Christ and that He is God is unity … Fallen man is prone to division … cultural, economic, racial, moral, religious … everywhere you look there is division among the people.

People unite around causes .. but the commitment is fragile .. they are bound together by their will … which can change depending upon their circumstances … But the unity that Jesus refers to in John 17 is beyond race, culture, economics, religion, or morality.  It is based upon God’s design for mankind … created in God’s image … unity by design not by decision.  Unity based upon our relationships with God the Father, through Jesus the Son, but the bond of the Holy Spirit.

16 They are not of the world (fallen man), even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

How important is this unity … it is unity that will give testimony to Jesus and the Gospel … This unity means that when Brothers meet the first thing they respond to is not the color of their skin or the country they happened to be born in .. the first time … but the family they were born the second time …

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.’ (Galatians 3:26-29)

‘Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.’ (Colossians 3:9-16)

It is this unity that testifies to the world.  I cannot tell you how many times someone has asked where I come from .. meaning .. ‘I know you are not from the South so where did you come from?’  Even as Christians .. we want to catalogue those we meet .. put them in their proper place in the context of their old nature … The answer is, I came from mom mommies’ tummy … but God knew me before I was formed in her womb … even then He knew my name … and now I have been born again by His Spirit and Faith in Jesus (Romans 10:8,9)  Being in Haiti .. the ethnic and cultural difference stands out … The people don’t have to wait for me to speak, they just have to look.  Is it a barrier to the Gospel? Yes .. it is if those differences keep us from focusing on what unites us.

I would hazard to say that if a Christian is interested in what makes us different, then they are not interested in what binds us together.  And that worldly focus is further proof that unity in Christ is supernatural and when achieved is a witness to the world.

So how do we get there?  You know … don’t you?  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:18) And ‘[…]  be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.’ (James 1:22)

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Are You Trusting In?

My Utmost For His Highest

‘The great concern of our lives is not the kingdom of God but how we are going to take care of ourselves to live. Jesus reversed the order by telling us to get the right relationship with God first, maintaining it as the primary concern of our lives, and never to place our concern on taking care of the other things of life. “. . . do not worry about your life. . .” (Matthew 6:25). Our Lord pointed out that from His standpoint it is absolutely unreasonable for us to be anxious, worrying about how we will live. Jesus did not say that the person who takes no thought for anything in his life is blessed— no, that person is a fool. But Jesus did teach that His disciple must make his relationship with God the dominating focus of his life, and to be cautiously carefree about everything else in comparison to that. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Don’t make food and drink the controlling factor of your life, but be focused absolutely on God.”’ CHAMBERS

I heard a great sermon yesterday about world views … how we interpret life, …. how we live and what we believe is based upon our world view.  That is really what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 6.  Are we willing to put the full weight of our trust on God or do we rely on something else .. maybe as a plan B. The principle is that we should not partially trust God … Why did Jesus address this?  Because He knew it would be a problem for us.  That we would want to trust, not completely in God, but in God + something else.

Jesus said  "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (riches or material wealth).”(Matthew 6:24)  Jesus spoke number of times about this pitfall .. the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18) and the parable of the man building bigger barns (Luke 12) come to mind.  How does that apply to us?  Like Chambers suggests .. We are not told that we should do nothing that God will do everything .. but we are to look to God as our source of everything .. give Him the glory and not rely on some other source … If you find yourself saying .. I know what God said… but …. That is a pretty good indication that you are serving two masters.  You are double minded …  ‘[…] a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.’(James 1:8)

Imagine that the God who created you, knew what was best for you and told you … all you had to do was trust Him and do what He said was best.  That is what He told Adam and Eve.  Do you remember how that worked for them?  If the first humans had a problem with it .. what makes you think that you won’t?  Or more correctly .. aren’t.  The struggle between world views starts when we accept Jesus and receive His Spirit .. (2 Corinthians 5:17).  It’s not like you had 100% trust in God and then somehow it became corrupted.  When you were born, you had a corrupted world view and then Jesus came into your life and you gained a new perspective.  That doesn’t mean that you immediately shed what you used to believe and trust in.  There is now contention within you .. your new life in Christ and your old nature are at odds with each other.

For many Christians .. they just live with it.  They believe that trusting in something other than God is normal.  They really don’t worry about what God thinks of it .. they should!  So what does God say about that way of living?   nothing good!  I could probably write a book on this subject .. but will resist the temptation …

The way that you grow in your faith and trust in God is by drawing near to him, meditating on the Word, and being intentional in your actions. The more you pursue God, the more spiritually aware or sensitive you become.  In that heightened spiritual awareness you will see the choices more clearly. Every day you have opportunity to place your trust in God.  Read Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 20:7 and Joshua 24:15 …

‘Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.’ (James 1:16-22)

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Standing at the Entrance

My Utmost For His Highest

‘But many of us prefer to stay at the entrance to the Christian life, instead of going on to create and build our soul in accordance with the new life God has placed within us. We fail because we are ignorant of the way God has made us, and we blame things on the devil that are actually the result of our own undisciplined natures.’ CHAMBERS

Have you ever met an adult who was mentally handicapped .. meaning they had matured physically but their mental capacity had not kept pace with their physical growth.  In a similar way, Christians can be spiritually handicapped. They may have received Christ as Lord years before.  They may have been members of a church for years, maybe even decades. But they have chosen to stay at the entrance to the Christian life. By not making the practice of the disciplines of the faith a priority, they have stunted their spiritual growth.  Paul said … And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?’ (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

Spiritual maturity is not something reserved for a select, but an expectation for every Saint.  When we choose to remain infants .. we miss the great blessing of our faith.  We stop looking at our faith in the context of our flesh and begin to consider our flesh in the context of our faith.  There are not many Christians who would disagree with the notion that what the Bible says is true, but there are many who live their lives and hold attitudes that suggest that the Bible is not true.  While we should not expect people who do not have the Spirit of God to understand spiritual things .. and so live in ways that are contrary to the Word … we should expect Christians to understand them.  If they don’t … it is because they have chosen to stay at the entrance and not to venture in.

There are a number of social issues in our country that are clearly contrary to the Word.  The Word does not change .. “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8)

What is right and what is wrong in any culture is determined by the will of the people .. if they use the Word as their guide, then the Word will be evidenced in their laws, if not .. the definition of right and wrong will be determined by the whim of the generation.  As a whole, the people of this country have turned to themselves for wisdom … There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.’ (Proverbs 14:12)

‘And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ (Romans 12:2)

We must resist the temptation to yield to the culture .. to accept a lie as truth … to believe the that culture’ values somehow trump the Word of God.  As Christians we are called to renew our minds through the Word of God .. living our lives in a way that demonstrates our belief … going beyond the entrance …even to the foot of the Cross …

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)