Are you certain? Why?

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians 1:6 NLT
http://bible.com/116/php.1.6.NLT

We can be confident that if God has started a work in us, that it will be completed. We can be confident,  when we look and see lives that are being filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit,  with the change that comes from seed that has been planted and watered and has been budding and growing over time into a new and changed character in a person that there is something spiritual at work inside them. And when God starts a work in someone,  He intends to complete it,  so we can find confidence in His being faithful and true.

I look to the story of Balaam and his donkey. That very same donkey that he had ridden all of his life suddenly began acting quite different than usual. It resisted the way that Balaam wanted to go because it knew that if he went that way Balaam would be killed. But Balaam was concerned about how foolish he was looking to those around him by his not being able to follow in the same path where those men with him were going. He wasn’t concerned with the why, and he didn’t think about whether or not this path might be contrary to God’s will,  he intended to follow it. So he began beating his donkey.

“But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?” “No,” Balaam admitted. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him. “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the Lord demanded. “Look, I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey.” Then Balaam confessed to the angel of the Lord , “I have sinned. I didn’t realize you were standing in the road to block my way. I will return home if you are against my going.” But the angel of the Lord told Balaam, “Go with these men, but say only what I tell you to say.” So Balaam went on with Balak’s officials.
Numbers 22:30-35 NLT
http://bible.com/116/num.22.30-35.NLT

If we know someone, especially if we have known them long enough to know their character,  the baseline of their normal behavior, we can also recognize when there is difference in their behavior that is “out of character” for them. We can have reasonable expectations for how both their emotional feelings and rational mind are going to work together to respond to a situation our circumstance, because we’ve seen the evidence and know their patterns. But there are also spiritual influences that can alter this normal/baseline behavior.

We can recognize the spiritual influence of growth and change in ourselves if we have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and we are indeed born again Children of God, because our lives will be altered and we will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is how those who are spiritual can make right judgements about whether or not someone is “in the faith”. In fact, this is how we can encourage others to have confidence that God will complete the work that He has begun.

And it is not because someone pretends that they are perfect and without sin, because those are blind, lying to themselves, without any real understanding of the ways of c Good,  but blinded by their own prose and religious attitudes. It is also not because of a strong but short lived interest in God because someone has come to the knowledge of their sin and have felt shame and guilt and reacted in emotion towards the Word of God for a short time and then turned back to the ways of the world.

Paul in this letter to the Philippians can have confidence in what the Lord is going to accomplish in their lives because he has seen the change to their character,  the change to their baseline attitudes,  the change to their desires and motivations that comes from a new heart and the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul can confidently trust in the Lord and encourage them that the Lord will complete His work in them, not just because He saw them say a prayer,  not just because he saw them dunked under water, but because he saw the evidence of true change in their lives. If we know the change of repentance, if we examine our lives and see true change and interest in following the will of God,  we can find confidence in that.

But if we are more interested in following in the ways of the world, and we are frustrated that we can’t go the way of the world, afraid that we are going to look foolish in the eyes of the world if we don’t walk that same path that they are walking – if we are more interested in our own way, we might need to examine ourselves for fruit and determine whose way and life is truth and which leads to destruction.

Just because you’ve ignored that other voice in your head because it sounds foolish and limiting and restrictive doesn’t mean that you are wise or right.

Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.
Proverbs 12:15 NLT
http://bible.com/116/pro.12.15.NLT

I wonder how often we beat and resist the very donkey in our lives that has c a message from God for us,  because we are more interested in listening to the world than God?

This is why it is important that we examine ourselves – not so that we can think that, we’ve arrived – no,  that is pride! But so that we can have confidence in the Lord that He is, at work in us and that our deceitful heart is not deceiving us.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord , search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jer.17.9-10.NLT

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you ; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.
2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2co.13.5.NLT

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Galatians 5:16-26 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.16-26.NLT

Can I trust in the Lord and have confidence that He will complete the work that He has started in you,  friend? The answer depends not on God,  but on you,  whether or not you have believed,  received and repented so that His work has yet begun in you. Because His promises are faithful and true.

I hope the answer is yes. Our I hope if the answer has been no up to this moment,  that it will be yes today and forevermore and eternity as you surrender your life to Him,  choosing to now walk in the one way,  the one truth,  the one life,  Jesus Christ.

Choose the narrow gate of our only Hope in Jesus Christ, and walk the narrow path of Faithfulness, and the Holy Spirit of Christ will come upon you and anoint you with the Love of God that pours out upon His Children.

There is no greater peon,  there is no greater prize, than to serve at the feet of the Lord and never leave His presence – and I’m not talking about one day after you are dead. I’m talking about today, now, while your service is of use in waking others to the truth.

Awake,
Arise,
Go.

Have you placed your order? What do you want?

Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy,
Philippians 1:4 NLT
http://bible.com/116/php.1.4.NLT

If we are making our requests with joy when we pray,  doesn’t that mean that we are expecting God to answer our prayers?

And I’m not talking, about the “name it claim it” kind of false teachings where they tell you to believe something for yourself hard enough until it is real. I’m not talking about using some spirit that you pray to as a genie so that your own selfish wants will be fulfilled. Many people will trade out Almighty God and His offer of salvation to serve that other master who will gladly trade them the things and pleasures of this world in return for their souls.

If I’m praying for others, aren’t those things eternal – like salvation, a fruitful life, spiritual healing and growth, wisdom,  understanding,  hope,  faith, and love – the greatest blessings that we can pray for? And if He does not take pleasure in seeing the wicked be put to death,  aren’t those prayers in His will? Aren’t those prayers for permanent blessing and change on the inside of a person going to also result in strength to overcome or persevere through their temporary situations and circumstances?

So which is better to pray for – a change in their temporary circumstances, a change of those visible symptoms evident in their lives, that indicate an opportunity for the touch of God upon their lives that can be met by the physical things of this world – or a permanent solution to the root cause behind it, a miraculous change to demonstrate His power over the whole of His creation that cannot be manufactured and imitated by the prince and ruler of this world?

And if we are praying this kind of prayer for each other,  can’t we have great joy in knowing and trusting God to answer our prayer in His time and in His will? If we aren’t demanding that He do it our way and on our time frame, can’t we trust that He knows best and that even Satan is operating within the bounds of what authority and latitude the Lord has allowed because it is for His greater purposes.

Can’t we find peace in knowing that His ways are higher and better than our own and that it isn’t about our understanding it all,  but it’s about us being faithful,  available,  and teachable. It’s about us being willing to be changed and molded on the inside so that we can go out on mission and be used to do His work. It’s about us encountering the very trials and tribulation and persecution that He promised His true followers would encounter from this world, from these unseen powers.

If we remain controlled by our carnal nature, if we are still chasing the things and temptations and pleasures of this world that the enemy has to offer us as a poor substitute for the very power that can reconcile us to God and make us Holy- how can we say that we’ve tasted the living water of eternal blessings that satisfy or thirst forever? How can we say that we have eaten from the bread of life and taken up our cross to follow in the footsteps of Christ? How can we say that we have been washed by the blood of the Lamb AND filled by the Holy Spirit of Christ who lives in us? Do we not know that to enter into the Kingdom of God that we must be born again,  that we must not settle for the Baptism of John but cry out for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, that we must be a new creation,  changed on the inside as only God can do?

So are we so concerned with the temporary things and circumstances and situations in this world that our eyes are still blind and our ears are still closed to the things of God? Are we not growing in God because we c aren’t seeking Him nearly as much as we are seeking the things the ruler of darkness has to offer us?

He doesn’t say, if you know my name,  I’ll let you in. He doesn’t say,  if you attended church,  I’ll let you in. He doesn’t say give me a part of your life,  I’ll let you in. He, says,  love me with your WHOLE heart,  your WHOLE soul, your WHOLE mind, and your WHOLE strength, and you’ll realize that I have come to live in you.

Stop trying to get yourself into heaven or out of hell for after your body is dead – and start praying that He will come into your life fully while you are still alive. There is work to be done now,  today. There are prayers that need to be lifted for others in joy. There are hurting and lost that need hope,  love,  and encouragement. There are spiritual captives that need to be set free. There are those that are spiritually blind, hungry, and thirsty that he wants you to heal and feed. There is a mission and purpose for your life that doesn’t require your human skill or talent, but that exercises the power of the Holy Spirit of Christ in you to bring the eternal change and the eternal blessings into the lives of those He touches through us.

That’s something to get excited about. That’s a real reason to have joy in prayer.

May we bless you with the only thing that we have to offer you, Lord – our lives,  which are worthless without you,  for we are nothing and our greatest  works are filthy rags – but we know that you can redeem and use us for your work that is eternal, not so that we could be proud or boast in ourselves,  but so that we might be humbled and overwhelmed by how much praise and honor, and glory and worship you deserve,  Lord. Amen.

They loved not their own lives unto death

Father, if it is possible that you can take this cup of suffering from the hands of those facing martyrdom, we pray together that you would do so.  But nevertheless, your will be done. We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose(Romans 8:28). You tell us to expect trials and tribulations while we are in this world (John 16:33) and that the world will hate us just like it hated you (John 15:18). You tell us about the narrow gate and path that few will find (Matthew 7:13) and that you are the one truth,  life,  and way (John 14:6).

May the example of these true Christian martyrs of today testify against the many false teachers of prosperity (Matthew 6:19-21),  positive thinking spirituality (Collosians 2:8), “name it and claim it” (Matthew 16:24-26, 1 John 2:14), “speak it into existence” (Philippians 4:11), that are nothing short of demonic(James 4:4),  self-centered lawlessness (Jude 1:4) seeking to make themselves fat and wealthy off of the ones they surround themselves with (1 Timothy 6:4-6). Lord, open eyes to recognize the hirelings (John 10:12) and wolves that are living off of those around them (Acts 20:29) instead of feeding and serving them (John 21:15). Chastise those seeking after the honor of men (John 5:44), the treasure of this earth (Matthew 6:19), and a kingdom of their own (Mark 10:44) – so they might repent, receive your Holy Spirit,  and instead seek your will,  your Kingdom, your righteousness (1 Timothy 5:20).

Chasten our nation that murders it’s unborn children by the thousands each day,  Lord. Empower your mighty church to rise up in revival and say, “No more. We will no longer sleep in the complacency and comfort of our grand tombs that are bought with debt and oppression and wickedness of every kind and nature. Lord, we ask you to breath life and power into us to see either the repentance of our nation, or our safe deliverance out of her before the fulfillment of her pending destruction – as she follows in the ways of Jeremiah and Lamentations, of Sodom and Gomorrah, of the great flood.”

Lord,  have mercy upon us for not crying loud enough from the watch tower, that more might have heard the warnings and turned away from the darkness and clung to the light. Use us still to share your Good News to those few who might yet repent and come to know the glories of your grace and mercy before their time and opportunity is past.

Lord, embolden us to stand firm and confident in the blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony, and our not loving our own lives even unto death. If we must one day stand beside these martyrs for your glory and honor,  may we be filled with your peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

24/7? At all times? Is that costly, or valuable?

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Ephesians 6:18 NLT
http://bible.com/116/eph.6.18.NLT

I come in contact with people who are in need almost every day. Many times the people that I come into contact know that they are in trouble or struggling,  but they are only aware of the surface level symptoms of what they are dealing with – they don’t understand the root cause or the purpose and lesson that can be gained by their coming through their situation. Much of the time,  they are blinded by the visible circumstances,  but they are blind to the spiritual ramifications.

So many of us are only concerned with the surface level, because treating the symptoms is easy and quick and doesn’t take a lot of work or preparation – it doesn’t require examining ourselves and examining the situation to see how the Word of God might instruct us and guide us to handle it in His way. It doesn’t require prayer and time seeking the Lord’s guidance.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 12:15 ESV
http://bible.com/59/pro.12.15.ESV

I know many that are homeless and needy,  and the thing that they will tell you over and over once you get close to them and get to know them personally is that you should never give cash. That the best thing that we can do is to offer  a job,  an opportunity. They will say that it is best to give them an opportunity to work for what they receive, not to just hand them money and not to just turn them away empty handed.

But most of us are just interested in what is quick and easy and is the least interruption to our daily lives. We would rather give the starving man on the corner 10 dollars out of our pocket to hide or guilt and shame and conviction over the fact that we really don’t care about this man or his problems,  we just want Him out of our lives so we can return to business as usual.

And isn’t that how many treat God as well? Aren’t we satisfied with a message once a week and maybe some money in the offering plate to get God off of our backs so we can get back to life as usual in this carnal world.

Wake up,  dying world!

Do you even know Him?

Are you even in communication with the only one who can save you from destruction?

Do you think that just because you know His name that you will be saved from the fire of His wrath?

“Not everyone who  says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will  enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who  does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:21-23 ESV
http://bible.com/59/mat.7.21-23.ESV

Are you a worker of lawlessness?

Are you participating in those things that the Word of God says shall not inherit the kingdom of God?

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
http://bible.com/59/gal.5.19-21.ESV

Or are you walking in the Spirit, washed by the blood of, Jesus, Christ,  touched by the very annointing of His Holy Spirit?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-25 ESV
http://bible.com/59/gal.5.22-25.ESV

There are only two types of trees, those producing good fruit and those to be cut down and cast into the fire.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are  ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Matthew 7:15-20 ESV
http://bible.com/59/mat.7.15-20.ESV

If we are not bearing fruit, we will be cut down and cast into the fire. Do not rest in a promise of forgiveness with no faith or belief in the one who offers it,  because that is not grace. Grace is not a license to sin. The freedom offered demonstrates to us who it is that we really serve – humbling and chastising us if we step off this narrow path, not giving us confidence to make sin a comfortable part of our existence.

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.  And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’  And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.  Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Luke 13:6-9 ESV
http://bible.com/59/luk.13.6-9.ESV

Carnal person,  chasing the desires and pleasures and temptations of this world, lying and cheating and stealing and oppressing your fellow man – examine yourself for the daily fruit of your life. Is it rotten and putrid and dead in those things that we are told shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Or are you alive and bearing fruit.

Decide today who it is you will serve. And if you will serve Him,  walk with Him and enjoy His presence and His guidance throughout your day. Stay in prayer and fellowship with Him and seek His way. It is a narrow gate of only Jesus Christ that leads to salvation, and it is a narrow way of faith that proves us out as either children of wickedness or Children of God.

Is my attitude making me a slave to my job?

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.
Ephesians 6:5-8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/eph.6.5-8.NLT

Truth
I can get discouraged at my job. My statement in the past has been “if it was all fun,  they wouldn’t pay you to do it”. And there are times when I just don’t understand some of the decisions that are made because I don’t have the full picture of all of the factors in play “above my pay grade”. And sometimes my integrity can be challenged by the things that some people in the business world are willing to do to make a buck. And a times,  I’ve worked for employers who promised me one thing and then did another,  who were harsh people to work under because they enjoyed trampling others with their position and authority.  And at times in my life, these things have put me at odds with my job and I have not been grateful for the opportunity and blessing of providing for my family.

At times, I’ve found myself grumbling about this or that in the workplace – sharing in conversations with coworkers about working conditions or about other employees. At times,  I’ve found my spirit crushed under the heavy load of my labor as I see my attitude turn to negativity. When this happens,  I forget to be thankful,  to be grateful – instead,  I have let my mind soft into a perspective of expectation of how it should be. I have let myself fall into the pride of entitlement,  saying to myself,  I deserve X instead of what I am getting. And this then affects my attitude towards my job,  my coworkers and those above me in authority. And I can fall victim to all kinds of traps of the enemy, like dissention,  division, envy,  jealousy – the types of things that Galatians 5 says “shall not inherit the Kingdom of God”.

Hope
I’m so thankful for grace,  because as I dig into the Word of God each day,  and new things in my life are revealed that need the healing touch to be brought in line with His will,  I understand more and more about His perfect and righteous and holy nature. And I’m no longer crushed in guilt and shame that I have fallen short in the past,  but I’m encouraged that He is strengthening me to wage battle and see my old ways overcome. I encouraged by His promise that if I will resist evil that it will flee from me,  that if I am going through a trial that I can find strength in Him. Hope isn’t about a life of ease as much as it is about the peace that He provides to carry us through when we set our eyes on Him. 

I’m thankful that I can pay and ask Him to provide me with strength and growth in these areas of my life where I sometimes let’s my circumstances dictate my attitude – when I forget that He is in control and He has me where He had me for a reason, and that He is sending me where He is sending me for a reason.

Faith
You see,  the Lord wants me to be content with the things of this world that I have, but desperately in need of more of Him. How many times have I gotten this turned upside down? How many times when I have a want our need,  do I focus on more stuff,  more resources, more money – instead of desperately needing more of God’s miraculous and wonderful involvement in my life? I wonder how many times people trade in blessings eternal because our prayers are not “give me more of you, Lord” but they are “give me more of the world, master”. And those two prayers are to very different masters.

No one said that faith was easy,  but it is not meant to be burdensome. Yes, there is a cost to discipleship, but even though it is high in the eyes of men,  it is nothing in comparison to the glory of the inheritance of a Child of God. You see,  when we learn to love God and to trust Him,  and when we realize that He is the only peon worth having – our perspective changes because we understand the difference between the worthlessness of carnal, worldly things compared to the immeasurable value of things eternal. Our walk of faithfulness teaches us this through a combination of seeking Him, being taught by Him,  and being tested and proven by the temptations and trials and sufferings of this world.

So, in the workplace, I need to see past the discomfort of the trials and see the opportunity to serve Him faithfully – whether as a visible example to others or just a personal sacrifice of my natural response yielding to trust in Him. Sometimes my actions are visible to others and can serve as a testimony to others,  but even when unseen by others my actions are always a testimony to my heart,  because God sees all and knows all.

Love
And all of the strength to overcome,  all of the strength to see His will fulfilled in our lives – it all comes from love. It comes from a Godly love,  not some carnal perversion of lust that the world would offer us as a poor substitute. You see,  love is not about self, love pours out onto others. Love is like an annointing oil,  it is like living waters that spring forth from inside us to fill our cup to overflowing and spill out over the lives of others. Love is receive from God,  who first loved us – and it has a multiplying effect when we are willing to receive it and share it with others.

You see, everything in this world is finite and numbered – so that if you give me something,  I have taken it away from you and you have less in turn. But when I share love with others –  true, selfless, sacrificial love – both the give and the receiver end up with more in their hearts,  because love springs forth from the Holy Spirit of God who is infinite and all powerful and Almighty.

And if we love God,  then we will do His will,  we will obey His commandments.

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.
1 John 2:3 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1jn.2.3.NLT

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36-40 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.22.36-40.NLT

All of the law depends on loving God with our everything and loving others as ourself.

An attitude of “What can I do to serve?” instead of “What do I deserve?”

A perspective of being the humble servant, instead of thinking that we have the right to be a demanding master.

Help me today in my workpiece,  Lord, to bear your Holy Spirit and to walk in your will as a humble and willing servant,  working for you,  thankful for all of my many blessings.  Amen.

How to hate your family

Luke 14:26-27 AMP
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters–[yes] and even his own life also–he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.
http://bible.com/8/luk.14.26-27.AMP

Most of us look at this passage in wonder,  maybe in amazement. I thought that Jesus was all about love. I thought that we are supposed to love one another. Now I’m being told to hate people?

But we have to look at it in context. This passage is talking about discipleship. It is talking about our lives becoming more intoxicated with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-19), as He becomes greater and we become less(John 3:30), and as we persevere the distractions and temptations and trials that stands between us persevering and carrying our cross and following Him(Luke 9:23, Matthew 10:38). We are each called to be disciples,  and we each have a mission and a purpose.

Matthew 10 lets us know that in this spiritual battle,  even those closest to us will be used and influenced by the enemy to get in the way of the work that the Lord has planned for us, for us to acknowledge Him publicly –

“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.  But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’
Matthew 10:32-36 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.10.32-36.NLT

So when even someone that we love gets in the way of the Lord’s work and prose for our lives,  to give Him praise,  to serve Him faithfully – we have to understand that there are things in their lives not yet surrendered,  there is sin not yet swept out of the temple,  they’re are strongholds in their lives that are allowing the enemy to influence and use them against us(Ephesians 6:12). So we don’t hate them with anger. We might hate how the enemy is able to influence them and use them as a stumbling block, we might even respond with a bold rebuke(Proverbs 17:11).

But it is not because we do not love them. If the hate is not in love,  then it is not righteous, it is not Godly,  it is not just,  and it is not from the, Holy Spirit and it doesn’t serve God.

Let me say that once again. If the hate is not in love, it does not serve God. (Romans 12:19)

Even though we are to be peacemakers(Matthew 5:9),  there are times where there is clear opposition and rebellion and a lack of yielding to God’s will. At times there is clear absence of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life and instead of joy, patience, and love – there is hostility,  quarreling,  dissention and division, evidence of the very things that the Word of God tells us “will not inherit the, Kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

And when we encounter this type of spirit influencing our loved ones, when we see the evidence of something the, Lord says is “unto death”, that “will not inherit” (1 John 5:16) – shouldn’t we care enough to give warning (Ezekiel 3:18-21)?

You see, our loved ones will probably receive it as hateful,  as judgemental,  as abandoning them when we choose God’s will and purpose for our lives over them. Part of this is because those closest to us have the hardest time seeing past or many faults to the Christ alive and shining in our lives.

When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.”  And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.
Matthew 13:53-58 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.13.53-58.NLT

If those closest to Jesus denied Him,  can’t we expect similar doubt and unbelief from those closest to us? Can’t we expect opposition and persecution and war within our own households and families? Doesn’t He tell us to expect the world to hate us (John 15:18-25) and oppose us?

Christ is not telling us to hate them the way that men hate in anger – He is telling us to hate them in love – to love Him so much, that our love for ourselves and for others is low in comparison. This is so that if they are in opposition to His will and purpose that we will be able to stand bold and confident in His Word, keeping Him first in our lives.

We are to remain in the true vine (John 15:1-17) and realize how love can cover even hate when it is centered upon the will of God (1 Peter 4:8). If we speak boldly out of love, it is loving – but if we speak proudly wanting to prove we are right, we are in error and sin ourselves(Proverbs 6:16-19).

It is truly a narrow path.

Love boldly, even if that means hate, because there is no middle ground in this battle.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
John 3:3 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.3.3.NLT

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.  And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.  But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ”
John 3:3, 18-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.3.3-21.NLT

Are we more concerned with doing what God wants, or with what we want?  Are we only comfortable with the idea of God as long as we can keep Him locked away, and under our control, and separated from those areas of our lives that we have deemed off limits to, God?  Are we getting in the way of what God has planned for the lives of those around us by being a stumbling block,  a hindrance,  a distraction from their living, and serving God? Is our life a living example of a born again Child of, God, running joyfully into the light,  or are we comfortable remaining in the shadows?

Are there times when our own family might be loving us even when we received it as hate?

Remember, a message of truth sounds like judgement or condemnation when we are in darkness, but it is revealed as the healing and renewal of conviction and repentance as we step into the light of His amazing grace.

God bless you friend, may you love and hate in His will, recognizing the true enemy, and standing firm and bold in His love.

Obscene, foolish, coarse – or thankful?

Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.
Ephesians 5:4 NLT
http://bible.com/116/eph.5.4.NLT

I have had a rebellious nature that ruled my life and controlled me and led me into all kinds of bad decisions and unwanted consequences in my life. If someone told me, “You can’t do that” – an urging deep inside would tempt me to want to do it. It would tell me,  “There’s nothing really wrong with X, it isn’t hurting anyone,  there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do it. It isn’t going to hurt you.”

Yes, for many,  this is  a familiar voice. A voice that starts out saying, “It’s okay to do X as long X as it is in moderation – as long as it doesn’t control you” and then continues on with “just one more time” or “just a little more” once it has a foothold in our lives.

And if our prose and direction is all based on ourselves and what might be good or bad for me,  it is easy for us to listen to this voice. It is easy for us to fall into the dangerous trap of moral relativism where our minds can justify all kinds of things based on the situation, because there is no firm foundation in what is true – no firm foundation for what is right and wrong regardless of situation and circumstance. When we make ourselves the center and the focal point of our decisions,  we will be pushed this way and that way by the winds of spiritual influences (both bad and good) as they fight for control, and we will be battered like a small boat among crashing waves of the storms of our circumstances.

But when we decide that we love God, and that we are thankful for His offer of grace – thankful for grace made known to us through His coming in the flesh as Jesus Christ, His death upon the cross, and His resurrection to Heaven – thankful for His blood sacrifice that washes us clean from our sin, and clothes us in His righteousness – this changes or perspective.

It changes or perspective from:

What can I do?

To

What can I do?

And you’ll say, “But there is no difference in the two. They are the same words.” Yes,  they are the same words, but the two sentences couldn’t be any further from each other in their meaning and their message and their intent.

When I say “What can I do?” And I’m focused on myself – when I only see the world as my playground – the question becomes about what I’m allowed to do versus what I’m restricted from doing. The law becomes a curse that is keeping me from the things that I want to do because my life is only about my own desires and the fulfillment of my own life through the pleasures that I can grasp hold off during this short life.

But when my focus is on thankfulness towards God, then the question “What can I do” becomes about loving and serving God and loving and serving others. It starts a journey of discovering the certainty and narrow direction of God’s divine instruction that we would not choose if we were only concerned about ourselves.  It reveals the stumbling block of “freedom in Christ” that reveals the true desires of our hearts. Because if we want to use the promise of grace to cover our sins and continue in them (so that we will not be punished) then we are foolish, and in error,  and we do not really know God or love Him – we are just filling ourselves about who is the Lord of our lives and who it is that we truly serve.

You see, how can we hate the divine instruction of the Word of God,  but say that we love the Word of God that came in the flesh to walk among us as Jesus Christ? How can we decide that it is okay to twist and pervert,  to add and subtract from the Word of God,  so that it fits our own opinions and purposes and selfish desires and tell ourselves that we are walking in light and not stumbling blind in the darkness? Only a liar, only a deceitful heart, only those slippery words sliding off the tongue of a prideful enemy of God – only someone deceived could take that position as they try to lay waste to the firm foundation of the Word of God. Only someone not interested in serving God and seeing God’s Kingdom Come,  His Will being done in their lives – but instead seeking their own way,  their own will.

Haven’t we all fallen guilty of this at times? Isn’t the enemy tricky? Doesn’t He try to twist the Weird of God and use it against us so that we justify our own will and desires over what is right in the eyes of the Lord?

And don’t get me wrong, you cannot earn your way into heaven by trying to earn God’s favor because of your “good works” – because He tells us there is only one that is good, and that is God. But you can say,  “God, come live in my life, lead me along your narrow path, guide me in your ways,  use me for your work. Send me out and go with me. I am grateful for your grace and I want to learn to love you and serve you more each day. Thank you,  Lord. My life is yours.”

And this is a different perspective. This is a perspective of loving and serving others. This is the perspective that comes from belief – not belief in our head about an idea or concept of God or Jesus Christ,  but belief in Jesus Christ,  in the Word of God, in a relationship with a living Christ who commune with us and teaches us and guides us through this gift of the Holy Spirit.

So when it comes to coarse jokes, or cursing, or gossip, or lying, or anything else that we know is not glorifying to God – don’t we want to avoid them and instead demonstrate our thankfulness to God?

But you say, “That will just make others uncomfortable around me if I’m acting self righteous and won’t participate in things like that.” There is a difference between being righteous and being self righteous. Being righteous means that we have put on His righteousness,  undeserved and unmerited,  and that we are thankful and that we walk in a spirit of grattitude for what Christ has done and is doing in our lives. This perspective, one of humility,  does not offend others – in fact, many will recognize their own struggles in your wanting, and striving, and trying to live a better andnote faithful life while not judging others for their own imperfections.

Self righteous look much different than the humble,  gentle,  kind servant that Jesus Christ presented as our example. Self righteous looks like a pointed finger, condemnation,  accusation,  pride – someone feeling comfortable trying to sit in the judgement seat themselves over others. Self righteous pride is what got Satan cast down from heaven with a third of the angels – and he goes about roaring like a lion looking for someone to devour. So we don’t have to bite and tear like wolves or roar and devour like a lion, we are meant to leave the judgement to Him.

So you don’t hear me using the word obedience that much by itself,  because to the lost it is a word that reminds them off the curse of the law because they don’t yet understand the beauty of it. They, areonly thinking oftheir attempts at outward compliance to thelaw that hasalways failed them and been a curse and a burden because of their fallen nature. Instead, I speak of thankfulness and grattitude, because these will overcome the darkness,  they will overcome the hatred of the letter of the law which leads to death – and replace it with a love for the Word of God, a love for God,  a love for the Spirit of the Law. And once we decide to walk in that Spirit, the law is fulfilled by the fruit that it now bears.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Galatians 5:22-26 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.22-26.NLT

“It’s not about how much you got – it’s about how much you appreciate it.” – My Wife 

These words aren’t just wise words for our children to understand,  a lot of us adults can learn from this lesson as well. We’ve received an amazing gift,  a Savior born this day.

We’ve received so much – mercy,  forgiveness, grace, adoption into the family of Christ – and I hope that today we appreciate it. I hope that we see past the commercialism and the ritual and the presents under the tree, and the food on the table. I hope that we appreciate that greatest gift of all, because He is the only gift truly worth receiving and talking hold of and claiming as our own.

Thank you,  Lord. Teach us to appreciate you,  to know you,  to love you – and nor just one day a year,  or just one day a week – help us remember you, and walk with you. Because that restored relationship,  that fellowship, that pouring out of your Spirit into our lives is truly something worth appreciating.

Good News

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Luke 2:8-21 ESV
http://bible.com/59/luk.2.8-21.ESV

Anger

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT
http://bible.com/116/eph.4.26-27.NLT

Truth
All of us experience anger. And some of us are better at hiding our anger,  but hiding it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are controlling our anger. If we hide or anger over something and press it down inside, it can result in unforgiven and bitterness in our hearts towards the person that was responsible for making us angry. These things are not good and can become the root of all kinds of weeds growing up in our lives – they can become a spiritual foothold for the enemy to take hold of a part of our lives.

Also,  if we allow our anger to rage and burst forth towards others in a response that is unloving,  impatient, and unkind – we are allowing our amber to control us and we are missing an opportunity to react by trusting in God. We are missing an opportunity to let His light shine and poor out the annointing of His love into the world. We are producing bad fruit that isn’t nourishing or healing for those around us.

And don’t think that I’m saying that you can’t vent your anger at all or that you can’t force yourself to keep from reacting. We don’t want to vent thoughtlessly and cause harm,  but there is a way to respond correctly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And we don’t want to foolishly hold onto our anger and let it fester,  but there is a way to handle it wisely by trusting in the Lord.

Hope
Let’s remember the persecution that Jesus Christ faced at the cross. And do we see His reaction to His accusers and His persecutors? He prays, Father forgive them, because they don’t understand what they are doing.

And if we think to ourselves,  yes,  but that was Jesus Christ,  He is God, it’s no surprise that He had the power to forgive them even in that circumstance. Let’s look what Stephen had to say to the Pharisees and his reaction during his being brutally killed:

“You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.” The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage.  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
Acts of the Apostles 7:51-60 NLT
http://bible.com/116/act.7.51-60.NLT

You see,  Stephen speaks of the Holy Spirit,  the divine nature and love of God. He doesn’t speak about religious practice and hypocrisy and pride being the way to enter heaven. These Pharisees had plenty of those things that they were clinging to that convicted them and made them angry when they heard Stephen’ words. And their reaction was to be controlled by their anger – and even so,  over words of truth spoken about them.

But Stephen,  filled with the Holy Spirit, reacted to their hurtful actions towards him with love and forgiveness. These are two very different ways that anger was handled. Don’t think that Christ or Stephen were empty of emotional response. Don’t think that they were removed to some meditative plane of consciousness so they were escaping the pain and the persecution. They suffered trial and tribulation just as we will suffer if we choose to follow in His footsteps. And we suffer because the wickedness of the unseen powers of this world rail against the power of love and forgiveness being poured out upon those that are His.

But we aren’t asked to face and fight this battle alone. No, we, are given the same companion that filled Stephen,  the same Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the tomb, the same power and authority that lived and moved in the lives of His apostles and disciples andsaints who have died in His name and faced persecution throughout the ages. Yes,  we are promised the gift of His Holy Spirit, and that is the source of our Hope.

Acts 2:38 ESV
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

John 14:26 ESV
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Romans 8:26 ESV
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,

Acts 1:8 ESV
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Faith
So what is faith, if it is not a restored relationship with God through the gift of His Holy Spirit? Isn’t it a daily walk with the Lord,  sharing in our lives,  moment to moment,  decision to decision,  thought to thought, action to loving action?

But some of you will say that I’m speaking so high minded that I sound proud, or far away, or on some road that you cannot reach. But friend,  I’m not talking about a burdensome chore of HAVING to talk with God,  or HAVING to recite prayers, or HAVING to study the Word of God. I’m talking about a new heart that He gives us through the Holy Spirit where we will WANT to be in His presence.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

You see,  it isn’t our striving to meet the requirements of some list of rules, otherwise we could take credit for earning it ourselves – and even if we did it,  we would have to admit that we hated the law and only did it out of obligation,  not because we loved the beauty of the law or God or others,  but because we hoped to earn some reward for ourselves. But that is not the way of God,  but is the way of men who try to build their own stairway to heaven,  doing what seems right in v the eyes of men,  but that in the end leads to destruction – because it is still centered on self,  on pride,  not on love – not filled with the Holy Spirit,  the very divine nature and essence of God Almighty,  who is righteous and just and powerful and Almighty also merciful and forgiving to the humble.

You see, faith is about understanding and demonstrating our position before Almighty God, not of a proud, honored savior of ourselves or of others – but as a humble servant at the foot of the cross,  undeserving,  unworthy, but recognized by God as worthy, as valuable, as having a purpose and a mission to fulfill through His power,  through His Holy Spirit that lives in and manifests through us as vessels,  as emissaries,  as representatives of Christ on Earth.

Love
And this relationship,  this abiding with the Holy Spirit doesn’t produce pride and haughtiness, it produces humility and love. It produces the same servant’s heart that Jesus has towards the lost. Not one where we should look down upon the lost and broken but that we should love and serve them. And if a rebuke is to be given,  it is for the proud,  and the hypocrites,  and the oppressors,  and those who think themselves powerful and strong – because our safety is found in loving God and loving one another – in acknowledging our desperate need for a Savior.

Yes, if we love one another, it is because He first loved us – He gave us this new heart – He filled us with His Holy Spirit – He is guiding us and teaching us His ways. This isn’t religion that we practice,  it is a relationship that we live – and the sweet aroma that it produces is love.

And if it produces love,  then isn’t that the very anti-venom to anger? Isn’t that the very cute for hatred and bitterness and unforgiveness and jealousy and all kinds of footholds for the enemy? You see,  we have not gotten off track from our topic of anger,  in fact we have done exactly as we should,  we have looked past the distraction and the trap of the enemy, we have handed it over to Him, and we have seen it crushed beneath the authority and power of His Holy Spirit that lives in us.

Do not fear anger,  do not fear opposition,  do not fear persecution – because if you fear God, you walk in His authority, you walk covered by His righteousness, you walk with Him in Spirit and Truth. And if this is you, friend, I bid you to GO – because we are on mission and there is a world in need of healing and salvation and redemption and deliverance that only this Good News of Jesus Christ can provide.

Go, love others in the best way that you can,  by sowing the seed of His Holy Spirit into the lives of others.

Sow Truth.
Sow Hope.
Sow Faithfulness.
But above all, sow Love.