Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Suggestions For A New Years Resolution"

Each year at this time as we reflect on the year that has just past and look forward toward the New Year ahead, many of us consider making new year’s resolutions, hoping to make some positive changes in our lives. If you haven’t yet come up with a New Years Resolution, you might consider one of mine from the list below?

1. Seek God and His kingdom ways above all else.

“But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His Kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right) and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.” Matt. 6:33 Amp

2. Develop a hunger and thirst for God.

“As the deer pants and longs for the water brook so I pant and long for you, O God. My inner self thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” Pm. 42:1-2 Amp

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matt. 5:6

3. Seek God’s wisdom and direction in all things.

“If any of you are deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God, [who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him.” James1:5 Amp

“For I always pray to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him.” Eph. 1:17 Amp

4. Let peace rule in your heart and life.

“And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state)..” Col. 3:15 Amp

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in you.” Isaiah 26:3 Amp

5. Seek for a God inspired vision.

“Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God] the people perish,” Pro. 29:18 Amp

6. Praise God continually in all circumstances.

“Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.” Heb. 13:15 Amp

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

“Christmas Without A Gift?”

Can you imagine being a child and waking up Christmas morning excitedly expecting to find a large beautifully wrapped gift under the tree with your name on it, only to discover that there isn’t one? Everyone else in the family has a gift under the tree except you? The rest of the family’s gifts are beautiful and glowing, they are exciting and fun. They all seem to fit their taste and personalities perfectly. Gifts that were obviously chosen specifically for them, but there is no gift for you! How sad and disappointed you would be. How left out and rejected you would feel.

Fortunately you will never face this disappointment because as a son or daughter of man, God always has gifts waiting under his tree with your name on them. They are always available to you if you will just accept them. The first is the gift of salvation. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8) The second gift comes wrapped up in the same package as the first. It is the gift of eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) Many people try to buy or earn these gifts, but like all true gifts, they cannot be purchased or earned by the recipient. Because of His great love and grace, Jesus has paid the price for these gifts on our behalf. When we receive Jesus, (God’s ultimate gift to mankind) we receive the gift of salvation, and the gift of eternal life, all as a package deal.

As followers of Jesus, God has even more gifts than these for us. Like the variety of gifts under your tree on Christmas morning, God gives each of us specific gifts designed especially for us. Gifts tailor made according to our personality and purpose. Hebrews 2:4 call them the gifts of the Spirit. “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligent; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Rom. 12:6-8 NASV) “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then the gifts of healing, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” (1 Cor. 12:28 NASV) There is no one who is left out. God has a gift for everyone. If you haven’t discovered yours yet, look a little harder. Maybe it is just lying in the corner behind all the torn wrapping paper. Sometimes the gifts others receive may look more appealing than ours. But when we feel this way, it is no doubt because we haven’t fully discovered how to use our gift yet.

God has many wonderful gifts for you this Christmas: the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life, and the gifts of the Spirit. They were all purchased and wrapped in love especially for you. So don’t let another Christmas pass you by with your gift unopened!

“As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another…” 1 Peter 4:10 Amp

Monday, December 7, 2009

“Living From The Tree of The Knowledge of Good And Evil”

Do you know that it was never God's will for you to choose between good and evil, that you were never suppose to choose between what is right and what is wrong?

Does that statement shock you? Some of you are thinking that this is nearly blasphemous. Others of you are thinking that the Watchman has finally lost his screws, blew his cork, or fell off the deep end. You may ask, don’t we have to “know” the difference between right and wrong? Aren’t we supposed to choose good instead of evil? Isn’t 99% of what religion has been teaching us all our lives been about choosing good and avoiding evil? Hold on, I can very easily prove to you based on God's Word that the above statement is true! However the implications of this truth, (if you really get a hold of it) may rock your Spiritual world, just as it is rocking mine.

When God made man, he put him into a garden specially prepared for him. There were two special trees in this garden, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The scripture states, And the Lord God commanded the man, “you are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” And there you have it, God never intended for man to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thus man was never meant to have to choose between good and evil, right and wrong. His choice was only between life and death.

Because man chose poorly, sin entered his world, severing his relationship with God. Although the consequences of this sin were catastrophic, God used the knowledge of the difference between good and evil to bring forth His own good purposes. God used this knowledge as an act of love and grace that He imparted to us, for although this knowledge brought condemnation and shame, it also shows us that we are guilty of sin and revealed to us our need to have our relationship with God restored. (Rom. 3:19-20, 7:7) That knowledge of separation and sin is the first thing we must all see before we will take steps to mend our relationship with God.

However once we “are” born again and our relationship with God “has” been restored, we are no longer meant to live out our lives following after the “knowledge” that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil brought us. Our decisions should no longer be filtered through “is this good or bad?” We are no longer to be dictated to by “is this right or wrong?” Our minds are to be renewed so that this is no longer the question we ask.

Before Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they walked with God in the garden in the cool of the day. In other words they talked with God, they communed with God face to face. They had relationship with Him. They heard Him directly express his heart to them. They saw what God did. They knew God’s desires “for” them, and what God desired “from” them, because they “knew” Him. Likewise once our spirits have been quickened by God's Spirit, and we are a new creation in Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17); we must learn to hear God's voice teaching us His ways, and feel what His heart is communicating to ours. We must learn to see what God is doing so we can do likewise. We are no longer to be making our decisions from our minds, based on “is this right or wrong?“ Instead we should be asking, “What is God’s saying concerning this, what is His heart on this matter?”

This is how Jesus lived when He was here on earth. He did nothing based on whether it was right or wrong, good or evil. He lived his life doing what the Father would show Him to do. “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his father doing, because whatever the father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) Granted, to live out this kind of life, we “must” be able to hear God’s voice. But Jesus certainly taught that we should hear Him, for He clearly said that if we were His sheep, we “would” hear His voice. (John 10:3-9)

Living by following the Spirit and hearing directly from God, as Jesus did, is much more difficult and frightening than following the law. That is why the Israelites told Moses in Exodus 20:19, “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” It is much easier to live by a set of rules of right and wrong, than it is to follow and do what God may say to us directly. Especially in our day of relativism, when it is politically correct for everyone to make up for themselves their own idea of what right and wrong/good and evil look like.

Even when we do try to live for God by following the law, (be it the written commandments or our inner law of good and evil) we will always find ourselves in a place of guilt and condemnation, for we will always fall far short of its dictates. If I pray two hours a day, my inner law of good and evil may say I should have prayed six hours. If I give $200 dollars to feed the poor, my inner law may say I should have given $1000. The book of Romans chapter 8 teaches us much about walking with the Spirit verses living from our minds and a set of rules. It begins, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1-2) Through grace (because of Jesus sacrifice) we have been set free from the penalty and the letter of the law. Called instead to be led daily by the Spirit. It may always be good and never evil to give your $200 to feed the hungry, but the Spirit may lead you give $1000 or He may lead you to not give anything at all. “They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:5) Following after the Spirit will always bring life, while following what we see as right and wrong, good and evil will always bring death and condemnation. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be Spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Rom. 8:6) “…for the code of the law kills, but the Holy Spirit makes alive.” (2Cor. 3:6 Amp)

When we live from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead of being led by the Spirit, we are often quick to judge others' actions based on our measurement of good and evil. We are particularly judgmental of the evil things that we “don’t” do. However, if we live communing with the Spirit, we will see others through God's heart of love, and therefore can extend them the same grace and love that God has so lavished upon us.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14)

Many things in our lives are neither good nor evil, but that’s not the proper question anyway. It may be a good thing, but is it a God thing? It may be a good idea, but is it a God idea. Being led of the Spirit in all things rather than being led by the “knowledge tree” is certainly not for the immature. I wish I could give you a three step lesson on how to do all of this, but when it comes to being led by the Spirit instead of the mind, I will admit to you that I still have my Pampers on. But what I do know is this; we must spend time in the Word. We must spend time in the Spirit's presence. We must believe we can and will hear God clearly, and then begin acting, believing, and expecting accordingly. We must be willing to “miss it” sometimes in order to “find it.” For that is how we will learn to know the master's voice from all the other voices. We did not learn to walk without falling, and we will not learn this skill without some failure as well.

As a spirit filled believer, it is time I take the sword of the Spirit and chop down the tree of good and evil that still resides within me, and resolve to diligently seek and be attentive in hearing God’s voice, and strive to be continually led by the “Spirit” rather than by my “mind.”

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. But a natural man does not accept the thing of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised of no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1Cor. 2:12, 14-16)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

“A Question For My Soul”

I wonder, if I were to be tested like Job from the Old Testament, what would I do and how would I react?

Here is what Satan said to God about Job before his testing began. “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have conferred prosperity and happiness upon him in the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth your hand now and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face.” “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has will he give for his life. But put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse and renounce You to Your face.” Job1:9-11, 2:4-5 Amp

How did Job respond to the overwhelming pain and sorry of losing all his family, all his possessions, and his health, all coming back to back? Scripture says he “fell to the ground and worshiped and said, naked (without possessions) came I into this world from my mothers womb, and naked (without possessions) shall I depart. The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away; blessed (praised and magnified in worship) be the name of the Lord!” “Shall we accept only good at the hand of God and shall we not accept also misfortune and what is bad in nature?” In spite of all this, Job did not sin with his lips. Job 1:20-21, 2;10 Amp

If such heartache were to come into my life as Job endured, would I as Satan accuses “curse and renounce God to His face,” or would I “fall to my knees and worship” just as Job did? With this in mind, I ponder the following question for my soul.”.

If You washed away my vanity, if You took away my words, if all my world was swept away, would You be enough for me..? Would my beating heart still sing..?

If I lost it all, would my hands stay lifted to the God who gives and takes away?

If you take it all, this life you’ve given, still my heart will sing to you!

When my life is not what I expected, the plans I made have failed, when there’s nothing left to steal me away, will You be enough for me..? Will my broken heart still sing..?

If I lost it all, would my hands stay lifted to the God who gives and takes away?

If you take it all, this life you’ve given, still my heart will sing to you!”

Even if you take it all away, you’ll never let me go. Take it all away, but I’ll still know…

that I’m yours. I’m still yours. I’m still yours. I’m still yours!

(The above is a song by Kutless called “I’m Still Yours” from their new worship album “It Is Well”)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

“Faith vs. Trust”

I recently heard a teaching on the difference between faith and trust. At first I wasn’t sure if there really was a difference, but I have come to believe that there is.

Hebrews 11:1 says that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So faith is having confidence that something will or has happened based on God's Word, even when there is no visible physical evidence of such. “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” Heb.11:3

True faith must be based upon the Word of God not just believing something that we think or hope will happen. But even then, our faith can fail when things don’t turn out the way we believed the Word promised they would. Case in point takes Peter. He knew that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and that the scriptures said the Messiah would become King and rule from Jerusalem forever. Bringing with Him an everlasting kingdom of peace. But Jesus was about to be arrested and crucified, so what Peter knew the Word promised seemingly was about to fail and not come to pass. Peter’s faith was about to be tested at a whole new level. Jesus knowing this, says to Peter at the last supper, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” Jesus understood that our faith could fail when things don’t turn out the way we believe the scriptures promise. Because of this seeming failure of God's promises, many people become disillusioned and discard their faith, thus Hebrews 10:35 warns us “cast not away your confidence.” We are tempted to lose or cast away our faith when that loved one dies that we believed God promised to heal, or we lose that career or business that we believe was God's purpose for our life. Faith is the bedrock of our Christian walk, but our faith can fail when difficult circumstances assault us and we feel as though God‘s Word has failed.

So what then is the difference between faith vs. trust, you might ask? I believe that trust us the next step up from faith. Jeremiah 17:7 says that the man that trusts in the Lord is “as a tree planted by the water” even when the drought comes and the wind blows this tree may sway but it will not be moved and will continue to yield fruit. Likewise Psalms 125:1 says, ”They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever.” Trust makes us as unmovable as a mountain in our faith. If we truly trust in our God, even when things don’t turn out the way we believed they would, we will continue to trust in our Father's heart, trust in His love, and trust in His Word. “For I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” 2 Tim. 1:12

The book of Daniel tells of three Hebrew men who had this kind of trust in their God. The king had made a decree that when the music played everyone was to bow down and worship a golden image of the king or be thrown into a fiery furnace to be burned alive. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had faith that God would deliver them, but they had a trust in Him that went beyond that faith. Hear what they said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Dan. 3:16-17 They did not try to defend themselves or figure a way out of this predicament on their own. They had full faith that their God would take care of them and deliver them. Yet because of their consuming trust in God, and His loving heart for them, even if He didn’t deliver them physically, they still were not going to shrink back from their confidence in Him. Even at the cost of their very lives.

Isn’t it about time we move past faith into this place of uncompromising trust? A place where we are unshaken and unmoved by what we see, but are instead fully persuaded by the “Word's” good report over and for us. Being fully persuaded that He will “guard what we have entrusted to Him.”

“Preserve me O God: for in thee do I put my trust.” Psm. 16:1

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

“Standing in the Gap”

“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” Ez. 22:30

I believe that Ezekiel 22:30 is one of the saddest, most disturbing verses in the entire Bible. The whole nation of Israel had fallen into sin and rebellion against God. It had gotten so bad that even the prophets were, “like a roaring lion tearing the prey.” and the priest “have done violence to the law and have profaned My holy things.” But God being rich in mercy and grace still desires to spare the nation. He didn’t want to pour his righteous wrath out upon them, but His justice would demand it unless He could find someone to intercede on their behalf. Someone who would weep for them, plead for them, repent for them, and warn them to turn from their rebellion and turn back to their merciful God.

What Gods was looking for was not unreasonable in any way. It was not too harsh, nor was it expecting too much. He was not looking for a whole army of people. He wasn’t even looking for a whole congregation of people. He was just looking for “a man.” One man. One single individual who cared enough, who loved enough, who feared God enough to put himself aside so he could to see what God sees, feel what God feels, and fall on his face before a Holy God on behalf of the nation. God wasn’t looking for someone special, just someone whose heart was yielded to His, someone whose heart was after His heart.

The pain in our Father's loving heart can be heard in the quivering desperation of God's voice. His pleading tone is evident as through tear filled eyes He proclaims, “I sought for a man…but I found none.” A whole nation of people and God can’t find one man with a heart after His. Not even one single man had a heart to intercede. How sad! How desperately sad! Yet I fear our present generation is not that far removed from theirs. How selfish and calloused we have become to God's ways. How comfortable we have become in our luxuries as we turn a deaf ear to the Spirit's promptings.

God has not changed; He is still looking for a man. He is still looking for a woman, who will build up the wall, and stand in the gap. He is still looking for someone who will intercede on behalf of their neighbor, their co-worker, their kids, or their friends. Maybe even their nation.

I pray that as God is seeking a man to build up the walls of His Kingdom, or stand guard in the gaps of peoples' broken lives, he won’t be forced to say, “I sought for a man…but I found none,” but instead will find us on our knees pleading, praying and proclaiming as the prophet Isaiah did, “Here I am, send me.”

“When I heard these things I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said; O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ears be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my fathers house, have committed against you.” Neh. 1:4-6

Friday, September 18, 2009

“Live Deep Within Your Heart”

The following quote is part of a Franciscan benediction that I recently read in an amazing book by Craig Groescel called “It” (A book I believe every pastor or ministry leader should read.)

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and the exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, and starvation, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

While this entire benediction should be made into a daily prayer we pray over ourselves, the line that struck me the most was, “May God bless you with discomfort…so that you may live deep within your heart.”

You see except for recent years I had spent most of my life ignoring, burying and ultimately trying to kill my heart. I thought desire was bad, for if I let myself feel desire it would lead to selfishness and lust. I ignored the pain and injustice that I and others suffered, for if I let myself feel them it might cause me to become angry and bitter. Avoidance was my defense mechanism of choice. I felt little pain, because I was so disconnected from my heart. It had been so long since I had truly examined what was inside it, I had no idea what God had placed in there or what I truly felt. Such a tragedy to live so disconnected from one's own heart. Our spiritual enemy loves to get us to kill or disconnect from our hearts. God places His plans and purposes for us deep within our hearts, we hear God’s voice speaking to us within our hearts, and the passion necessary to fulfill God’s purposes upon earth come from within our hearts. Thus we must let the Spirit in, and let Him bring our hearts fully alive before we can ever expect to live “deep within our hearts.”

When God began to open up my heart, my Spiritual life quickly experienced some dramatic changes. Once I began to locate my heart, religious things lost all there appeal, but the true things of the Spirit began to draw me like ants are drawn to a picnic. I also experienced true grace for the first time. God’s grace came pouring in on me and buried the law that had held my heart captive to fear and condemnation. (Romans 8:1-2) The more my heart is healed and set free the more I can look past my own pain and needs and begin to feel the pain and injustice that others suffer, care about the hurting and broken ones around me, and care about building God’s Kingdom verses my own.

I am still a long ways from “living deep within my heart.” Or better put, I am still a long way from living deep within “God's” heart. I can’t however live out of God’s heart until I truly “know” what His heart is. And that is surely what we need, to have our heart become like Jesus’ heart. We may know intellectually what the scripture says God’s heart is, but we don’t really “know” or “feel” His heart beating within us. For this to become reality, we must begin to do as pastor D. often encourages us, “Pray that God will show us His heart.” We also need to pray that God will help us fully locate our heart and bring it fully alive. We would surely be surprised at all the treasures that are buried there. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Pro. 4:23

I have taken on the challenge that Groescel puts forth in his “It” book; to daily pray these three dangerous prayers, and I encourage you to do the same. Ask God to:

1. Stretch you. (Pray that God will take you out of your comfort zone)

2. Ruin you. (Let God ruin you for the ordinary. Feel His purposes. Expose yourself to something that will move you. Don’t shrink back. Give in to your heart. Feed the hurt. Let it grow. Let it bother you. Invite it to overtake you.)

3. Heal you. (Let God into your heart and let Him expose and heal your brokenness)

Living deep within our hearts will drive us to our knees before a Holy God. It will mean feeling pain and heart ache over the brokenness that we see all around us. It will give us a tearful burden for those who don’t yet know Jesus. It will cause us sleepless nights as we anguish over our own sin and selfishness, as well as over the sins of our nation. It will cause us righteous anger over starvation, oppression, and injustice that others suffer. It just might mean being ruined forever for the ordinary. Living deep from within our hearts will cause us to love enough to believe for the impossible, and then step out and begin to do that which can’t be done without the supernatural.

“Come close to God and He will come close to you. [recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery]. [As you draw near to God] be deeply penitent and grieve, even weep [over your disloyalty]. Let your laughter be turned to grief and your mirth to dejection and heartfelt shame [for your sin]. Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and he will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant] .” James 4:8-10 Amp

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

“Nothing Grows at 20,000 Feet”

In nature the edge of the habitat at which trees are capable of growing is known as the tree line. Once you rise above the tree line only less complex forms of vegetation are able to survive. Just past the tree line small shrubs grow, but as you climb higher and higher the vegetation simplifies until soon you find only mosses and algae. Some mountains are so high that due to the lack of oxygen and the extreme cold, no life whatsoever is able to exist there.

From the top of the mountain a climber is able to see the lushness of the valley below. In the valley, life flourishes with a wide array of species of trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers. Wildlife of all forms flourish there as well. Although the view from the top of the mountain is great, nothing grows there, and even the mountain climber himself cannot linger at the top very long, for his strength will quickly decay due to lack of oxygen.

In life we love to live in our mountain top experiences. We want to linger where we are happy, healthy, and prosperous. We want to live in that place of peace; where all is well and no enemies are harassing us or bringing us pain and anxiety. But such moments are rare and certainly don’t seem to last long when they do come. Troubles and pain seem to be our constant companions. As one issue is resolved, a new problem follows on its heals; just like one wave follows the next when the morning tide rolls in from the ocean. Pain, heartaches, fears, relationship struggles, financial difficulties, disease and death always seem to be skulking around- stocking us, waiting for an opportunity to strike. And strike they do, on nearly a daily basis.

It is in these times, when troubles are piling up on me and my heart is full of despair, that I am tempted to question God's goodness. I begin to ask God, 'where are you, and why don’t you care about my pain?' It is in these moments that I must remind myself that “Nothing grows at 20,000 feet” The view is awesome from the mountaintop but spiritual growth is absent there. It is in the valley, that abundant growth happens. If I am to become spiritually strong and mature I must use these valley times to allow God to strengthen my faith muscles and bring “beauty from pain.”

It is in the valley of fear, when I’m seeing dangers lurking all around me, threatening to destroy my family, that I can learn that “though I walk through the (deep, sunless) valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear or dread evil, for you (Jesus) are with me. Your rod (to protect) and your staff (to guide), they comfort me” Psm. 23:4 Amp

It is in the valley of lack, when the car is back in the repair shop for the third time in two months, and I don’t have the money to pay for it, that I can learn to trust Jesus for my provision. “My cup runs over. Surely only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life.” Psm. 23:5-6 Amp

It is in the valley of sickness and disease, when my body is overcome with weakness, that I must learn anew to trust in Jesus sacrifice and to lean upon the Word when it says, “with his stripes we are healed.” Isa. 53:5

It is in the valley of sorrow that I can learn to say as Job did, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Job 13:15

The scripture clearly teaches that Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Yet we are so accustomed to our lives being filled with these things that we seldom recognize their true source. John Eldridge, in his book Waking the Dead writes, "this is a world at war. We live in a far more dramatic, far more dangerous story than we ever imagined. The reason we love “The Chronicles of Narnia” or “Star Wars” or “The Matrix” or “The Lord of The Rings” is that they are telling us something about our lives that we never, ever get on the evening news. Or from most pulpits. “This is our most desperate hour.” …Things are not as they seem. This is a world at war.”

We truly are at war against the kingdom of darkness that is bent on our destruction. It desires to keep us in fear and despair, keep our hearts from being healed, keep our bodies sick, and most of all; keep us from relationship with Jesus who has the power to free us from all these things. The day will come when Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire and God will wipe away all our tears and there will be no more sorrow, pain, or death. (Rev. 21:4) These things are not part of God's Kingdom and are not His will for us. That is why Jesus taught us to pray “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matt. 6:9 Once we recognize that many of our troubles are attacks from our spiritual enemy, we can use spiritual warfare to battle back. “Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, be lifted up and thrown into the sea! And does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him.” Mark 10:17 Amp “The seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Luke 10:17 Amp

Remember, “Nothing grows at 20,000 feet,” So tomorrow when another wave of troubles come at you, designed to steal your joy and kill your heart, tell Satan that you are not falling for his tricks and bind him in the name of Jesus. Then pour the fertilizer of God's Word upon yourself and grow your way back to the mountaintop.

“All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” Roman 8:28

Monday, August 3, 2009

“I Touch The Eternal With Gloves On”

I love those moments in life when you are just minding your own business, the mind mostly disengaged and then suddenly, WHAM! Something you hear or read slams you in between the eyes with the jolt of a 100-mile an hour fastball. It rocks you back on your heals as you struggle to figure out where it came from, why it hit you with such force, and why it resonated so true or important within you.

Just such an experience happened to me recently as I was reading my daughter's blog where she had written her “I Am” poem using the same format as the one I posted below. She is very gifted at painting pictures with words, but still I was not prepared for how the Lord was about use them that morning. One line in her poem read as follows, “I touch the eternal with gloves on my hands.” After finishing the poem, I went back and read that line again. Then a third and a fourth time. I could feel the Spirit saying “linger here for I have something to say to you about this.” Why did this line so grab my attention? As I continued to ponder that line, I heard the Spirit saying to me, “The reason that line stopped you is because that is what you do!OK, I thought, but what do you mean? How do I “touch the eternal with gloves on?” Again I hear the Spirit whisper, “You are a God chaser and you desire the supernatural things of the Spirit, but you do so reservedly, and from a distance! Just one toe at a time, so you can cut and run if you’re not comfortable, or if you’re being taken somewhere you don’t understand, or are not yet prepared to go!”

Wow! I was stunned at what I had just heard. Where had that come from? I was just reading a blog, trying to catch up on things. I wasn’t expecting the Spirit to invade my day with such ardor. I knew what I was hearing in my Spirit was true. For I want to see, hear, and experience the supernatural things of God - but from a comfortable distance. I want to observe for a while before drawing too close. I want to be able to wrap my intellect around things before giving myself over to them.

The children of Israel had a similar problem as recorded in Ex. 20:18-19, 21 “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” The people stood at a distance, content just to hear what God said to them through Moses, for they feared what would happen to them if they were to enter the thickness of God's presence, and hear God's voice for themselves. They feared what would happen if they were to touch God with their “bare hands!”

Touching God under the old covenant was truly a risky thing to do. II Samuel 6 tells of a time when Israel was transporting the ark of God on a cart, (something they weren’t to do) and when the ark rocked when the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reach out his hand to steady the ark, (where the presence of God dwelled) and the instant he touched the ark he was struck dead.

When Moses asks to see God in Exodus 33, God says to him, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Tommy Tenney in his book “The God Chasers” paraphrases it this way, “Only dead men can see God.” So if I ever expect to see God, or touch the eternal with bare hands, I must be prepared to die! Die to self. Die to my pride and reputation. Die to having to understand and figure everything out with my mind. Jesus said it this way, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will saves his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) God’s Kingdom functions upside down from ours. In it, we lose what we try to save but we save what we surrender. In “The God Chasers” Tommy Tenney goes on to say, “It takes death to see Him and all I can say is, it’s a good day to die. The more I die the closer He gets. The God of Moses is willing to reveal himself to you but it’s not going to be a cheap blessing. You will have to lie down and die. He can only come close to you to the degree you are willing to die.”

Now I hope everyone understands that, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1) and “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves it is a gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8) We are not talking about a salvation issue here, however if we wish to see and experience God as Moses did, I believe that we must learn to “do” what Moses did; take our gloves off and touch the eternal “unreserved,” and “bare handed.” We must be bold enough to be like Moses and enter the thick clouds where God’s presence dwells, even when all others cower away. We must be prepared to lay our lives and reputations down, and say as queen Esther did, as she was about to enter the presence of the king unsolicited, “If I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16) Though the mountain of God appears to be enveloped in darkness, lightning, and thunder let us “draw near” for that is where God dwells. Thus it is worth the risk.

“Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:16

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

“The Changing Of A Desperate Man!”

Due to the long hours of my summer work schedule I have trouble finding time to write. Therefore I will post one of my first “Watchman Chronicles” that I wrote way back in 2003.

I have just finished reading a book by Mark Cahill called "The One Thing You Can't Do In Heaven." (If you have ever struggled with sharing your faith in Jesus, this book will both challenge and help equip you to share Christ more comfortably with every one you come into contact with, friends and strangers alike.) Having my heart freshly stirred and eyes newly opened to a lost and dying world, who is in desperate need the Savior‘s love, a world of souls that will slip into eternity without the answer, unless "we" care enough to share Christ’s love with them. My family and I were in the mall in Rapid City looking for a dress for our teenage daughter, when we saw a scrungy looking man who appeared to be homeless sitting on a bench, wrapped in a dirty blanket. I felt God tug at my heart to go talk to him, share Christ’s love with him, or minister to him in some way. I resisted and didn't do it. I told God, "I don't know what to say to a total stranger. God surely you know I have trouble talking to people I know. I'm just not ready to do that yet."

I passed this man several more times that afternoon as we made our way around the mall. Each time I would feel the Spirit leading me to visit with him, and each time I would push it away, and go about my business. Late that afternoon as we were preparing to leave, I had purchased a large cinnamon roll from a vender for our family to share on the long ride home. As I was headed through the mall toward the car, I felt God impress me again. “Give your roll to that homeless man.” I began to argue with God about giving "my" roll to a strange man. The argument continued as I approached the bench where the homeless man had been sitting. A ting of relief hit me when I realized that the bench where he had been sitting was now empty. My eyes scanned up and down the mall. Then I spotted him in the distance, slowly making his way toward the exit. “Should I run and catch up with him…? I had probably lost my opportunity to talk with him but I could at least give him my roll as an expression of God‘s love.” My feet didn’t move as I stood watching him round the corner and go out the exit door.

For days I couldn’t get the image of that moment out of my mind. I could see myself standing there watching as this man walked out the mall door and fell directly into eternity without Christ. I had done nothing to help him, show him Christ’s love, or share the gospel with him. According to Matthew 25:35-40, I had seen Jesus and let Him walk away without ministering to Him. I prayed for forgiveness for not obeying the Spirits leading. I kept thinking that what if God had brought this man to the mall that day so I could share Jesus love with him and I had failed? My fear had kept me from obedience, and had kept this man form an encounter with the love of the Almighty. What if he steps into eternity without Jesus, when maybe I could have been the last person to share Jesus love and grace with him?

As the days have passed since that encounter, I have resolved to be more bold and obedient to the Spirits leading. God has used the memory of that experience and lost opportunity to change me. I have become more aware of the hurting souls I encounter each day, be it a stranger, a store clerk, or a teenager I see at the ball game. I have definitely been changed for the better. Then one day it dawned on me, “God hadn’t sent me to the mall that day to change a homeless man! God had sent a homeless man to the mall that day, to change ME!”

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

“I AM”

My daughter wrote an “I Am” poem for an assignment for her summer college class. I thought hers was amazing. She found it a fun and enlightening exercise, and encouraged others to try it as well, and so I did. Like most guys I suppose, I am not much for self exploration and certainly not big on letting others see into my soul, but I have always known that God called me to write “The Watchman Chronicles” more for my benefit than for yours. With that in mind and at God’s prompting, I will reluctantly share with you my “I Am” poem, in hopes that it will encourage you to do some self exploration of your own. To write your own “I Am” poem, just take the first two words from each line and fill in your own ending. It can be just for fun, or you can make it into a spiritual exercise. If you choose the latter, say a prayer as you begin each line that God will help you find the truth of what is buried in your soul, not just who you “think” you are, or who you “think” you should be.


I Am

I Am a quiet, even tempered, passive servant in the flesh, but I am a king and warrior and a rebel in my Spirit!

I Wonder what my life would look like if I fully knew and did Gods will?

I Hear God’s heart weeping over the broken and over my apathy to them.

I See a world full of lost, lonely, and hurting people desperately searching for the answer to their pain.

I Want to be like Jesus, but as Todd Agnew sings, “I'm no sure what that means?”

I Am a quiet, even tempered, passive servant in the flesh, but I am a king and warrior and a rebel in my Spirit!

I Pretend because that is what people want, rather than the truth.

I Feel lost, lonely, and insignificant sometimes, and what I desire and have to say aren’t important.

I Touch God when I love His children.

I Worry my faith won’t work and that it won’t be strong enough, “in the day of trouble.”

I Cry for young people whose lives are being destroyed by Satan’s deceptions.

I Am a quiet, even tempered, passive servant in the flesh, but I am a king and warrior and a rebel in my Spirit!

I Understand that the Bible is God’s infallible Word and will, and that everything it says is true, even when I don’t comprehend it.

I Say what God teaches me, in order to encourage others in their walk with God.

I Dream of a day when my will for me will be fully the same as God’s will for me.

I Try too hard and think too much.

I Hope my life will make a positive difference for the Kingdom of God.

I Am a quiet, even tempered, passive servant in the flesh, but I am a king and warrior and a rebel in my Spirit!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

“Grace To The Humble”

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” James 4:6

As Christians it is easy to pass right over a scripture like this, for we seldom think of ourselves as being proud. When we think of someone being proud, we think of some loud mouth rap singer or star athlete spouting off about how they are the greatest. Or possibly some atheistic politician or scientist who think they have the answer to our problems, and that anyone who believes that God has the solutions to life’s difficulties is archaic and weak minded. However when one considers the seriousness of the above verse it is worthy of some further personal scrutiny.

What does it mean to have God resist the proud? According to Webster resist means to “strive against,” or “have success in opposing something.” I don’t know about you but I don’t need God opposing or striving against me. Life can be tough enough with just Satan resisting me, and God on my side; I certainly don’t want to be in a position to have God resisting me as well.

The other side of the coin is this. While God is busy resisting the proud he “gives grace to the humble.” Grace is defined as “unmerited or unearned favor.” Who doesn’t want and need God’s favor, especially in a world full of evil, chaos, death, and disease?

The determination of whether I am proud or humble cannot simply be based upon what I think or feel to be true. For whether I receive God’s favor, or meet God’s resistance is at stake. By necessity I must use God’s Word to determine God’s mind as to what “He” considers to be pride and humility.

As I searched the scripture concerning this issue, I discovered some interesting things. Whenever God refers to the proud it is always in the context of someone who does not believe or obey his words. An example would be Pharaoh in Ex. 10:3 where God says to him, “how long will you refuse to humble thyself before me? Let my people go that they might serve me.” For Pharaoh to humble himself and put away his pride would mandate that he submit to God’s will and do what God Word demanded of him. Deuteronomy chapter 8 likewise teaches us that humility has to do with keeping Gods commands, but it also shows us another interesting picture of what God’s view of humility really consists of. God says he fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna and gave them water from the rock in order to humble them. “who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; who fed thee in the wilderness with manna…that he might humble thee.” Duet. 8:15-16 At first the question perplexed me as to how God providing for all the needs of the Israelites was a way of humbling them? How was giving them food, water, and clothes that didn’t wear out supposed to make them humble? I just didn’t get it. However after much prayer, meditation and some wisdom from my wife, the answer was a new revelation to me of what God’s view of humility really looks like. God humbled the Israelites by making them completely dependant upon Him. Without God’s daily provision of food and water they would have quickly perished in the harshness of the wilderness. Thus we see that the second definition of humbleness is to be completely dependant upon God. Trusting God as ones only source, ones only answer.

We see these same two definitions of humility in the text surrounding our key verse. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God..” James 4:6-7

“God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Casting all your cares upon him; for he careth for you.” James 5:5-7

To be humble therefore is to submit to God and his will, obeying his word; and then casting all our cares upon him, trusting and depending on him as our only need, source, and answer. To be fully humble in this manner would necessitate that we go to God for his wisdom and direction for every decision and in every situation that we find ourselves on a daily or even a hourly basis, then trusting and resting in his loving sovereignty to work things out for our good.

By contrast to become proud is to forget God and what he commands and to instead follow and depend upon our own beliefs, abilities and desires. “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees….Then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Duet. 8:11/14 NIV

We often have this idea that to be humble is to be this weak spined, self-loathing doormat of a person who spends their days with their head low in self-reproach as they repent continually for their sin and unworthiness. This is not humility at all. In fact the opposite is actually true. If we have been born again by faith in the blood of Jesus, and yet see ourselves in such a worthless, and useless manner we are actually walking in pride, and not humility. For the scripture teaches that if we have been washed in the blood of Jesus, we are beloved children of the most high God. (Luke 6:35) We have been made righteous and holy, and are kings and priests that will reign upon the earth. (2 Cor. 5:21 / Rev.5:10) So for us to believe something contrary to this is to say that whom “we” think and believe we are, supersedes whom God says and thinks we are, and that, my friend, is pride in its fullest degree. Being humble is not about seeing ourselves as a lowly slave who must bow and cower before a harsh master, but instead seeing ourselves as God sees us; as sons and daughters of the King of the universe who are loved with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3) and have been given power and authority over the enemy and all his works upon the earth. (Matt 10:1,8 / Luke 10:19) Man may see you as arrogant for having such an exalted view of yourself, but God will see you as humble for believing who “He” says you are.

So what is the grace or unmerited favor that the Word says the humble (those who believe and do what God says, and are depending completely upon God as their only need) will receive? Deuteronomy 8:7-9 says it this way, “The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills: A land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; A land in which you shall eat food without shortage and lack nothing in it; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper.” In other words Gods desire is to bring us into a place within his kingdom where there is nothing missing and nothing broken in any area of our lives. Jesus said it this way, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance, to the full, till it overflows.” John 10:10 Amp

Let us strive to put away pride and seek genuine Godly humility for, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

“A Crumb Is All You Need”

In Matthew 14 the Bible tell us that once while Jesus was traveling near Tyre and Sidon a Canaanite woman came to Him crying and saying, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” (vs. 22) Jesus seemingly ignores her and gives her no answer. She apparently was not put off at all by His lack of interest in her, for the disciples then come to Jesus saying, “Send her away, for she keeps crying after us.” (vs. 23) It is unclear to me for sure, but based upon Jesus response to them, the disciples may have wanted Jesus to help this woman just in order to get her to go away; but at any rate they were obviously getting annoyed by her loud and persistent cries. Jesus response to their request was, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (vs. 24) In desperation the woman presses past the disciples disapproval and resistance, then falls at Jesus feet worshiping him, and cries the simplest of all prayers, “Lord, help me.” To this humble request Jesus replies, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (vs. 25)

You would think that after such an answer the woman would have gotten discouraged at the least and most likely offended. She could have said to herself in an angry tone, “Did He just call me a dog?!! Who does he think he is! Just because I’m not a Jew does that make me unworthy of his time and attention?” At this point she very well may have stomped off while muttering something unrepeatable under her breath. But no, Jesus answer to her didn’t dissuade here in the least. “Yes Lord, she said, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (vs.27)

This response is very revealing, for it tell us much about this woman’s heart and faith. She obviously understood that Jesus was the Messiah, and must have had revelation of His love and mercy. For although she understood that she was not worthy of the Messiah‘s time or attention, she claimed Him as her master, thus like the family dog, was bold enough to expect at least some crumbs. The woman’s answer to Jesus was essentially this, “No, I’m not worthy to take what belongs to the chosen ones, but your power, authority, love and mercy are all so abundant and great, that just one little crumb of your power; just one tiny drop of the leftover glory that might spill out after meeting the children’s needs, is all that is necessary to take care of my problem.” This response was so bold and faith filled that it moved the Messiah’s heart. Her trust in who Jesus is and in His amazing power and grace kept her seeking Him when others would have simply given up. Because of her persistence and faith she received the miracle she needed.

I don’t know what problems or difficulties you are facing today, but you don’t need all of Gods power and glory to meet that need. When it comes from the Masters’ table “a crumb is all you need.” But as children of the most high we don’t need to wait like a dog, for a crumb to fall, for all that the Father has is at our disposal. “My son, the father said, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” Luke 15:31 Be like the Canaanite woman and press into Jesus, cry out to Him, don’t let the disapproving glares or words of the disciples keep you from worshiping at his feet. And when it feels as though Jesus is ignoring you and isn’t answering your cries, don’t give up, seek Him all the more persistently. His heart will be moved as he sees your faith and you will receive the wholeness you desire.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:16

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jer. 29:13

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

“Terrorist of Love!”

I love my country and am very interested in what is going on politically in the USA, however I purposely avoid talking about political issues in this blog. This is due to the fact that I believe true change will never come through a political process but only through the power of Gods Word and through the person of Jesus Christ. Voicing a political view is void of power, but Gods Word is “profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, and for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action.) 2 Tim. 3:16 Amp. Therefore I prefer writing about spiritual issues using God‘s Word to infuse life and power into it, however I feel a recent news release is worthy of my attention.

Last week the new head of Homeland Security issued a report that stated that “I” am considered by our government to be a threat as a possible terrorist and should be watched because of my stance against abortion. (According to this report besides pro-lifers, those concerned about immigration, gun control, and recently discharged veterans are all possible terrorists). If the worldview that leads to such thinking weren’t so serious it would be completely laughable. No mention in this report of Muslim extremist groups doing military training within the U.S. borders, but be sure to watch grandma who donates part of her social security check to “Right to Life.” Hello!!!

At first I was quite upset by this report, but as I began to look at it through the lens of Gods Word, I began to see it in new light. This is just a minor form of the persecution that Jesus said would come to all who follow after Him. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18 Jesus is the author of life and so it stands to reason that those of us who stand with Him for life, in opposition to the pro-abortion culture of death, would be opposed and “feared.” But why do they fear us? I doubt they understand it, and certainly wouldn’t admit it if they did, but God puts a fear into the hearts of those who oppose His ways and His people. It was true for the Israelites about to enter into the promise land and I believe it is also true for us today.

“There shall no man be able to stand before you; the Lord your God shall lay the fear and dread of you upon all the land that you shall tread, as He has said to you. Deut. 11:25 Amp

"Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you." Deut. 28:10 NIV

No one would fear someone unless they recognized that they have power; and as born again followers of Jesus Christ, indeed we can and do have power! For Jesus said, “But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,” Acts 1:8a Amp He also said, “Behold I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.“ Luke 10:19 We need not fear those who would oppose us, but stand firm knowing that God will fight for us. For as we just read, if we stand firm in faith, “no man will be able to stand before us” and “we will have power over all our enemies and nothing they do will (in the end) harm us.”

In order to get their worldview redirected, what the officials at Homeland Security need is a good dose of the fear of the Lord. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Pm. 111:10 Instead of fearing Pro-Lifers, what Homeland Security should fear is the creator of the universe who will not stand by forever and watch as millions of His most innocent and dearly loved children are being slaughtered each year with the governments full support and encouragement. God loves every one of these children and had a plan and a purpose for each life. But God’s love is not just for the children of abortion, for the women that have these abortions are as much victims of abortion as the babies themselves; for many are wounded and scared for life. It is not enough to just be against abortion without offering the women who are caught in these difficult situations the love and support that Jesus Himself would give if He were physically present upon the earth. We are His hand and His feet and need to use them to offer loving support for the alternatives to abortion, and the emotional and spiritual healing needed for those suffering the painful aftermath.

If loving and standing up for the unborn children who are helpless and have no voice of their own; and if caring about and for the women who are wounded by abortion, makes me a terrorist, than you can call me a terrorist of love. For love is what God has called me to do, and that indeed is what I will do!

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Pro. 31:8 NIV

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God” - “If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” 1 John 4:7a, 11

Friday, April 10, 2009

“The Great Exchange!”

When my son was in grammar school, like many kids he loved to play baseball. His dream was to grow up and play professional ball on the same team as Ken Griffey Jr. When he wasn’t playing baseball he collected baseball cards. So as you might imagine his goal was to collect every Ken Griffey Jr. card ever made. Although he loved receiving cards of other great players, he would use them to make a trade to get the Griffey cards he desired. If he got a Mark McGwire or a Sammy Sosa, he would trade it for a Griffey. Though the monetary value of the cards may have been similar, an exchange was made in order to receive a card of greater value to him. As adults we do the same thing on a daily basis, we exchange our money for goods or services that are of value to us. We exchange one thing of value for another thing of value.

When God sent Jesus to earth, in a fleshly body, where he was crucified on a cross, then died and rose again, an exchange was also made. But unlike trading a McGwire for a Griffey, this exchange was not a fair or equal trade in any way. For in this exchange mankind received only benefits, giving nothing of value, while Jesus took all the harm. In this great exchange orchestrated by Gods’ extravagant love and grace, Jesus was made our sin and we were made Jesus’ righteousness. In other words, our sin was exchanged for God’s righteousness.

“For he (God) hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Cor. 5:21

Because Jesus was made sin, and “the wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23) Jesus had to then pay the penalty for sin. Thus He was beaten, ridiculed, then nailed to a cross where He died, and descended into hell for 3 days; all to pay for sin that you and I had committed. When He rose from the dead on the third day, He had not only overcome sin on our behalf, but also had overcome death for us. So not only was our sin traded for Jesus’ righteousness, but also our death penalty was traded for His eternal life. The following is just a partial list of what was transferred in this great exchange.

He took our sin. We received His righteousness.

He took our death. We received His life

He took our hell. We received His heaven.

He took our shame. We received His authority.

He took our weakness. We received His power.

He took our sorrow. We received His joy.

Wow! What a deal, what an exchange; you will never make that kind of a trade on Wall Street, or any where else for that matter. Because of His great love for us, Jesus gave up the glory, majesty, and power of heaven and became lowly and poor to make available to us the power, authority, and riches of His kingdom.

“For you know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Cor. 8:9

There is one thing however that God did received from this great exchange, God now has a family. God is holy and just, and therefore cannot have fellowship with sin and darkness; because of man’s sin, our relationship with God was severed. Through the exchange that Jesus made on our behalf, fellowship between God and man has once again been restored. We can now become His children. He no longer has to love us from a distance but can have intimate relationship with us through Jesus Christ. God has done all that is necessary to take sin and death out of the way, making a relationship between He and us both possible and available. The outcome of this relationship is now however dependent upon us; but just like trading a McGwire card for a Griffey card, the exchange cannot take place until both parties agree to it. In order to receive the benefits of this great exchange, we must by faith believe that the blood of Jesus has paid our sin debt and then accept it in trade for His righteousness. There are no unwilling participants in the family of God. You too can participant in this great exchange, the question is, have you?

“But God demonstrated his own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 NIV

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Sunday, March 29, 2009

“Expecting Favor!”

How would you like to find favor awaiting you everyday and in every circumstance you find yourself? You walk into work and your boss comes hurrying over to you with a smile on his face and announces, “I have decided that I am giving you a 25% pay raise and an extra week vacation.” Then when you go out for lunch you find the restaurant packed to the hilt but the moment you arrive the waitress motions for you to come forward past all the other waiting guests as she ushers you to the best table in the establishment. Your food comes in record-breaking time and then as you prepare to pay you are told that an anonymous guest has already paid for your meal. After your lunch you make a quick stop at Wal Mart to pick up a couple things. As you pull into the parking lot a space opens up right at the front door. Once you have picked up your items you see that the check out lines are long and slow, but as soon as you step in line, the store manager quickly summons an employee to open a new register just for you. Everywhere you go you are met with preferential treatment and all your needs are over abundantly cared for. Living a life filled with favor would be an extraordinary thing, yet God’s Word tells of a supernatural favor that is possible for those who trust not in the arm of flesh but solely in Gods grace.

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8

The above verse is one of those scriptures that we often read but don’t really grasp the magnitude of what God is actually communicating to us. The word grace means unmerited favor, and Webster says abound is “to overflow” or “be in great plenty.” So for God to make all grace abound toward you is to have your life overflow with unearned favor. Look at the adjectives used in this verse.All grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things.” Not only can God make all favor overflow to you, but so much so that in all things and at all times we will have all we need. This verse is not just talking about physical things, but “all sufficiency in all things” would certainly include the physical. All means all; body, soul and spirit - physical, emotional, and spiritual. The Amplified Bible says it this way “And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and what ever you need be self-sufficient (possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation.)”

Why would God direct such supernatural favor toward us? The Word makes it clear that it is so that we will have all we need to fulfill the purpose that God has given us to do. “that ye…may abound in every good work.” Favor always comes with an assignment. God’s favor is poured out upon us not for our own selfish consumption, but so that we will be fully equipped to accomplish Gods purposes upon the earth, and that we might display His glory and goodness.

Now I realize that this verse does not “promise” that all grace will always abound in our lives. It says that God is “able to make all grace abound toward you.” Just as grace for salvation of the lost soul is available to all, yet only a few accept this gift; in like manner, I believe that there is much more grace and favor available to us than most of us ever experience. While we certainly can’t earn our salvation, which comes by grace, our part in salvation is to believe what God’s Word says and receive by faith what Christ has made available to us. Likewise to receive the grace talked about in this verse, we must first believe that God desires to pour favor out upon us, and than have a willing and humble heart ready to receive it. I suspect that there are two main reasons we don’t experience much of this available favor.

1. We don’t “really” believe what the Word is promising, nor have confidence in the Fathers love concerning us.

2. God knows our hearts and sees that we would spend this favor upon our own lusts, thus drawing our hearts away from Him, rather than in accomplishing “every good work” and bringing praise and glory to His Name.

So how do we prepare ourselves to receive God’s favor? A good place to start would be by diligently seeking the Lord with all that we are and surrendering ourselves to His will. Our will must become the Fathers will. Secondly, we must begin to speak faith filled words. I am not talking about a name it and claim it gig. I am talking about speaking what the Word says; believing and claiming for ourselves what the scriptures say is God’s will, and what the scripture says is available to us and through us as kings and priests of the Most High God. As Dr. Kenneth Hagen once said, “Faith begins where the will of God is known.” For years I often believed and spoke a bad report over myself. I figured that if I was in a hurry to get somewhere, I would have a flat tire; or when I receive a little extra money, something would break down that would consume more than the little extra that I had gained. And guess what? My faith worked perfectly, for what I believed and spoke usually did come to pass. I am learning to no longer do that, but instead to always speak and expect favor. God’s Word is filled with promises of who we are in Christ, and what the cross has accomplished for us. Let’s choose to allow them to renew our minds, fill our hearts, and flow continually from our lips. .

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Eph. 3:20

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also: and greater works than these he will do: because I go to the Father.” John 14:12 NAS

“You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock…Your baskets and your kneading troughs will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. The lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but will flee from you in seven. The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouses of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many but borrow from none. The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I gave you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never the bottom.” Deut. 28:3-7, 12-13 NIV