Stealing the blessing

​And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”  Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” – 2 Samuel 12:1‭-‬7 ESV
We who call ourselves the church, I wonder how often we will find that we the rich and prosperous have stolen from the poor man? 

I wonder how many times we have received the blessing and kept it for ourselves? 

I wonder how many times when we’ve had the power to love available to us to pour out in encouragement,  forgiveness, mercy, accountability, meeting someone else’s needs, etc. but we’ve withheld something for ourselves? 
I wonder how many times we’ve withheld our prayers, time, and that portion of our income from the church to use for ourselves instead,  and in turn how many times the churches have withheld the same from those needy, destitute, aged, sick, and imprisoned so it can be used for the social club atmosphere of a self-serving religious business?

And some will read this message and get mad about it,  because the conviction comes but they are unwilling to yield to the truth in their hearts that they need to repent. They will say proudly to themselves, I don’t have to repent, I’ve accepted Jesus! And I ask,  has He accepted you,  friend? Is there oil in your lamp? Or will He say, “Depart from me,  you workers of iniquity,  I never knew you.” Is He abiding in your life today,  or are you abiding in sin? Do you know the sweet, sweet aroma of the fruit of His Spirit, or just the stench of sin,  death,  disease, worldliness, doubt, guilt,  shame and condemnation? 

If you see the area of your life that does not fit, if the Word has shined light on something in your heart that is keeping you from abiding with Him, will you cry,  “Cut it out and cast it far away,  Lord, and replace it with your Holy Spirit!  Renew me and prove yourself faithful to change me and mold me into that new creation in your hands! Please,  Lord Jesus, come live in me today! Today is the day that grace is new and that salvation comes to me and my house fresh and new!” Or will we shrink back and let the seed be stolen away by the enemy because we enjoy the mental exercise of gaining knowledge through theology and philosophy, but we still believe that it is burdensome to serve the Lord? Will we also steal the praise and worship of our living sacrifice from the Lord, expecting to always asking,  “Bless me, Lord.” But forgetting to cry out,  “Bless the Lord,  Oh my soul!”
We once were thieves, but Jesus…
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:28‭-‬32 ESV

Not my religion

​I didn’t read the Bible and then feel comfortable enough with what it said to choose it as my religion. 
What sinner could honestly do that? 
No, my eyes were opened to the Truth and I looked at the Word of God and said,  “Wow, my life doesn’t line up at all with that. I really do need Jesus!” Then I repented,  confessed,  and I am walking yielded to His instruction,  with the Word of God as the authority in my life. No, I don’t get to choose what is right and wrong,  I’ve submitted myself to a higher authority than my own opinion. 
So, please forgive me for being a fool that just trusts in God’s Word and seeks to live a life following in my master’s footsteps. No, I’m not perfect. Yes, I have plenty of opportunities each day that humble me and remind me to thank Him for His grace and mercy and to talk with Him and to walk in a different way,  close to Him on that narrow path. 
I realize that many want to add or subtract from it so they can say to themselves, “That’s okay for me to do. That’s not really a sin. Don’t judge me.” And I used to see it that way when it wasn’t about avoiding the things that keep me in an abiding relationship with Him. 
But for me it’s not just about doing good or doing bad – it’s about whether I really love Him, His way,  His will and want to be in His house and close with Him, or whether I’m happier in the world and away from Him. For me,  obedience is not an obligation,  it’s a response from the grattitude of knowing how much I’ve been forgiven,  and it’s something that wraps me up close with Him free from the snare of the enemy that separated me from the One who loves me. 
My obedience is not works,  it is the reasonable service to my King,  my Lord. Even though I will only have the ashes of this life to lay at His feet, it isn’t my ashes that matter but my heart. 
That’s why I say it isn’t a religion,  but a relationship. It isn’t a measuring myself that either leads to guilt or pride, but it is a dedication to a living God who loves me and who proves His love daily,  even breath to breath – not with just things like prosperity, health, honor in the eyes of men – but with that nourishment others just can’t live up to love, joy, peace,  patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self control. Yes, these things are learned and imparted to me the more that I remain in His presence, in His will, in His love. 
I am blessed beyond measure. Do not think me vain or proud, but please envy me for these blessings and receive them for yourself. He says seek, knock, and I will answer – so seek Him and wait for Him diligently until He returns. 

The king’s drink

Going to have me an Arnold Palmer for lunch today. 
Arnie, I didn’t know you, but I knew about you. And I love an Arnold Palmer from Chick-fil-A, and I have been drinking them even before I knew the association with your name. 
A whole lot of people in this world knew about you, were fans, knew your stats and sayings and even what you liked to drink. But out of all of those, there were probably only a few that were bold enough to call themselves your friend. And I bet there were even some that told other people you were their friend, but you never really knew them. I wonder how many people just wanted the honor and recognition and benefit of being associated with a name like “the king” of golf? I wonder how many you actually would think to yourself near the end of your life, “You know, _______________ was really a friend. He was always there with me through thick and thin.”
And Arnie, you might even wonder why I’m using your name now to share a message on the Internet when I didn’t really know you,  when I wasn’t a friend. It’s because I see the parallels to the friends of another man, not the king of golf, but the King of Kings. Thinking about these parallels,  I hope first and foremost that you had that friend who is always faithful and true and who never leaves us or forsakes us. And that ship has sailed for you. Your time is up and clearly this message is not for you. I hope that we who still have breath in these lungs know that friend, and that we don’t just know about Him, or just claim Him by name,  but that we are friends,  close with Him,  enjoying His truth,  His life,  His way – that we are not deceived into not knowing Him, into just being a fan, or into denting Him in our lives even as we claim Him with our lying tongues. 
Arnie, you have met that last breath,  and your body will go back into the ground – dust returning to dust – just like our bodies will one day ourselves if the Lord delays His return.
I love an Arnold Palmer to drink. The sourness of the lemonade with the sweetness of the tea. That perfect combination of the right amounts of both is amazing. To me, it’s like the perfect combination of Truth and Love, the perfect combination of receiving the blinding light revealing what was still dark in our hearts, along with the salty tears and blood of mercy that washes the place clean where it has been cut out and cast away by that great sword of the Word of God. And I’m hungry and thirsty for more of that salt and light, for more of those healing waters, for more light shining through and for more darkness being overcome. 

Come, have a drink with me. Don’t expect it to be so sickening sweet that you can’t bear it for long without finding the sugar has rotted your teeth – and don’t expect it to be so horribly sour that you can’t get it to go down at all. Let’s enjoy that drink made from a measure of both.

Imperfect friends, Proud enemies

​If you know you’re imperfect,  I love you. Let’s be friends. Let’s help each other. 
If you think you’re perfect and that you never do anything wrong – I love you,  but I need you to stay far away from me and my family until you get yourself some help. 
Don’t be mistaken, I know that I’m imperfect. I’m not trying to be perfect. 
But I have found a better way than remaining where I was yesterday. It is a path of change that comes in trusting a higher authority than self, in an authority who does say this is right and that is wrong, but He also says even though you are imperfect I love you, and He says I’ll help you along the path if you love me and remain with me. 
Yes, it takes a commitment, and a surrender to walk in a different way, to follow a different path, but that doesn’t make me a proud, perfect warrior in my own eyes, but should keep me a humble, obedient child in my own eyes. 
You see, He wins my battles. If you see any strength, any love, anything precious and valuable, it’s just a reflection from me standing so close to my Father. 
And if you see my pride and love for goodness and kindness and honorable things, it’s my pride in Him and His ways more than hatred for the absence of those things.
You see, my hatred for rebellion and wickedness and evil is really just because I hate the idea that anyone would miss out on the blessing of His light shine down, the outpouring of His love spilled out, the freedom from those traps set by an enemy that seeks to destroy us. 
I hate that instead of running into the light, we shrink back and cower in the dark. I hate that we’ve been eating the poisonous fruit from the thorny weeds that grow in the darkness that we have become afraid of the nourishing fruit that grows in the light. I hate that we cower in shame because of the lies of the enemy, trying to hide or deny our nakedness and rebellion instead of simply acknowledging our error,  accepting His authority, receiving His grace,  and remaining in Faith, persevering to the end. 
So, no, I’m not perfect. I trust in the Lord that I will remain above reproach, but understand that I will be kept humble by my imperfections, because I am called to share this Good News, and I am called to follow in His footsteps. 
Don’t think that I am bold enough to talk about sins and dangers that I have not encountered myself – no, I do not point and laugh at what you are trapped in – that is not what I do. Those are lies the enemy whispers in your ear to try to discredit me.
I testify to what I have seen overcome in my own life. When I speak about wickedness and sinfulness that I have seen slain and trampled underfoot, it is my testimony of His power and authority and faithfulness. It is my testimony that the old life of sin that I loved so much was a lie and a trap. I’m simply a witness to the justice handed out against my captors,  those unseen enemies of truth, those who prey on the minds of my brothers and sisters still in captivity.
Do not let your sins,  your mistakes, take over your true identity. Do not let them claim your name. When I say that all ___________ shall not inherit the Kingdom of God, I hope that you can say,  that is not my name. Child of God, that is my name. 
And if you can’t say that you are a Child of God, I don’t want to see you cast into the pit. But I do want to see the poison and wickedness overcome by the light and destroyed and replaced with what is best and perfect – even if it isn’t yet, even if it is a slow process,  even if it is in His time and not my own,  I hope and pray that you will be delivered from whatever it is that controls your desires and that you will decide to lay it down, turn away from it, and walk back into the arms of your living Father, to be led by his hand along the path that is best. 

Love Me?

​Wherever you are, 

Whatever your struggle,

Whatever your insecurities, 

Whatever your imperfections,  

I still love you.
Words,  right? 
Empty words. 
Test me, try me.
Ask me to help you and see for yourself

 if I will push you down or lift you up, 

but be patient with me – 

sometimes we get tangled up 

and in order to stand up tall,

we must first get down into the mud together

in order to crawl out together.

 

I’m not going to hold your head underwater, 

but don’t be afraid if I ask you to swim alongside me. 
Do you see my imperfections too?

Do you know my struggles? 

My insecurities,  my imperfections? 

Can I trust you with mine? 

Can you find it in your heart to love me too?
I’ve heard that rough and imperfect stones, 

When placed under the heavy weight of stress and trial and flame, 

Will sharpen and refine and polish one another, 

Into something that appears quite differently in time,

But it isn’t quite the same at all when they are left alone. 
I know that I’m loud.

I know that I’m passionate. 

I know that I don’t like to be wrong. 

Forgive me.

Help me.
Love me?

Separation

​Loss. 

Absence.

Separation.

Not being able to hug or talk to that person you love. 
It sucks.

I hate death. 

I hate the separation that death brings. 
I hate that it is the wages of sin that leads to death. 
Yes, I hate that same sinfulness and wickedness and worldliness that I once loved, because it brings death and destruction. 
I hate that I was too often been a party to sin in my life.

 

I hate that my example and influence for years did not free the captives, did not bring life, did not lift up and encourage myself and others along a different path – a path turned away from sin. 
I used to have a god that had no problem with me being wrapped up in sin and death, because my god was no god at all,  but I was my own master – justifying my own thoughts and opinions and ideas that weren’t Godly or righteous or true. 
But I serve a new master today, and it is only by the grace of God that my eyes have been opened to not hate the law,  but to love God’s instruction – and it isn’t a license to sin or a ladder of works – it’s a new life. 
I used to SAY that I know that I’m saved, but my life sure didn’t SHOW that I know that I’m saved.  I had a type of religious awareness that was empty of any abiding relationship of walking in His will. 
My idea of being loving like Christ was just to “not judge others” so that I could justify all the sin that I was allowing to be active in my own life. But Jesus didn’t say that we should ignore the speck in someone else’s eye so we could leave the log in our own eye. No, He said REMOVE the log in your own eye so you can then help your brother REMOVE the log in his eye as well. 
Jesus said,  “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” a statement that many of “those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars” would say is “judgemental” and “not loving and compassionate and tolerant of alternative opinions”.
The Bible tells us that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2), that belief and obedience and life are unified not exclusive from each other (John 3:36).
So if we are comfortable remaining in our sin, can we say that we feel any loss, absence,  or separation from God? If we never recognized our sin removing us from His presence,  if we do not have a hunger or longing that draws us to God and away from the sin that steals,  kills,  and destroys,  can we say that we ever really knew that true love for God, for His will, for the way, for the truth? 
Can we say that we have yielded and surrendered or lives fully to Christ,  not only as “take me as I am” Savior, but also as “lay down your life,  pick up your cross,  and follow me” Lord?
If you cannot say that your life is fully surrendered at this moment, then I encourage you right now, to confess your sins, to believe Him, to choose right now who it is you will serve. And if you will do this, if you choose for your life, your whole life – desires, thoughts, words, actions, possessions,  talents and resources – to be surrendered today in your faithful acceptance of this call to discipleship as a follower of Christ,  not just a fan or a dead religious convert, I tell you, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”
Do not hear this and worry and say to yourself,  “but what if I sin” because “if Christ has freed you, you are free indeed”. Confess your sin with a true heart of repentance, with godly sorrow not just worldly sorrow, and “He is faithful to forgive”. But do not make little of sin,  do not excuse sin and wickedness that grieves the Holy Spirit and that separates you from the annointing in which you are to flow and the calling in which you are supposed to walk and the good works He has set before you. Otherwise, you might find that you have deceived yourself with religious ideas and the empty philosophies andtraditions of men, and you might find under close examination that you are not in the faith. 
Do not shrink back from the light of Truth,  from the rebuke of those wise men who both demonstrate the love of Christ and the righteousness of a holy life dedicated to God. Be afraid instead of any man who has one and not the other and calls himself a disciple of Christ. For there are many blind guides who offer either the trap of empty religious practices or the trap of justifying worldliness and godlessness by blaspheming the name and purpose of Christ’s abiding presence in His vessels on this earth – and both of those paths will lead many to their deaths. 
Seek and find that narrow gatec and the narrow path, and set your eyes firmly upon the Hope of Glory, and do NOT look back,  do NOT turn back to your old ways of rebellion, do NOT take your hand from the plow,  do NOT grow weary in your well doing,  but TRUST IN THE LORD – BELIEVE – and do not allow the whispers of doubt or temptation or trial or persecution or oppression sway you from your eternal destination – lest we find ourselves at the end of this race disqualified and deceived. 
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

I Corinthians 6:9‭-‬11 NKJV
One day, some of you will see this old body of mine pass away and go into the ground. Buy if anyone tells you that I’m dead, just smile. By the grace of God, by my faithfulness to seek a life of obedient following in His footsteps, by my Hope being securely rooted in Christ, and His love pouring out through my life as a living testimony that Jesus Christ is the one truth, one life, one way – I live today and forevermore.

Death,  where is your victory? 

Sin,  where is your grip? 

I am free,  free indeed! 

Thank you,  Jesus! 

Paint on the Canvas

Just a thought:

If it’s easy for the enemy to paint us as enemies of one another, is it partially because we have not proven ourselves to be such close friends that the paint on top would be in such contrast to the canvas underneath that it couldn’t hardly be believed?

Isn’t it quite easy to simply enhance and exaggerate colors that were already there (that show our prejudices, our mistrust, our fear, and our division), but much harder to cover up one solid, vivid color (of overflowing love) completely with another?

Will we continue to get mad at the enemy for pitting us against one another, and mad at the others for believing what is being sold about us – how we are being repainted as enemies? Or will we prove ourselves so strongly to be a friend and a servant and in unity and in love that the lies could hardly be believed?

Or will we remain content lying about our hearts and being most content to look at the world as “them” and as “us”, with as much separation between the two as possible?

white-face-black-face

#BeTrue #LoveOrHate #WhoAreYou #WhatDoYouREALLYBelieve

A lost, sinful world in need of Truth in Love, in need of the whole Jesus

​I expect in a sinful world of lost people for some to react to opportunities to riot, loot, steal, kill and destroy with those very things. And I expect people who don’t have the power, love, and self control that comes from the Holy Spirit to act like idiots and burn their own communities to the ground. 

I am not justifying it, but the Bible teaches me to expect natural man to be this way. 

I expect some people who don’t value and love and serve others,  but whose jobs put them in situations where they are afraid of dying (because they have no confidence in God to guide their steps) to sometimes unjustly shoot and kill others out of the fear, anxiety, and stress of an unknown situation that might end their life before they are ready. 

I am not justifying it, but the Bible teaches me to expect natural man to be this way. 
I expect that people who push the limits of fighting against authority,  resisting authority,  and causing a menace to society might end up at the wrong end of a deadly escalation of resistance being met with the understandable increasing levels of force necessary to bring a dangerous situation under control. 

I am not justifying it, but the Bible teaches me to expect natural man to be this way. 
Natural men reacting in the flesh will produce works of the flesh. The wages of sin are death. It leads to destruction. So none of this should come as a big surprise to us.

But don’t try to sell me that it is just a black and white thing. Don’t try to sell me that it is just a rich and a poor thing. It is a sin thing. It is a lack of love thing. It is a failure of our people, our community, our nation to turn to God, so we are being divided and conquered just as we should expect to be if we are unwilling to change. 
Those unseen enemies want us divided and conquered,  pointing fingers at each other, and running from each other in fear – but I have a different proposition to offer:
If the news shows us that races hate each other,  let’s go out there TODAY and prove them wrong, Christian,  with an outpouring of love towards that group they say you hate. You say,  but they are my enemy,  they are acting like terrorists – and I say that Jesus called us to love and pray for our enemies,  because He explained that our true enemies are not flesh and blood.
If the news shows us that the rich hate and oppress the poor, or that the poor live lazily off of the rich, let’s go out there TODAY and prove them wrong,  Christian, with an outpouring of love and support and working as if unto the Lord and giving freely and openhandedly that proves that people are more valuable than money and possessions – because Jesus told us to be satisfied with our needs being met and to sell and give to the poor and needy, for those with less not to envy those with more, and for those with more to be humbled by their blessings and convicted to help others. 
But as I call out for action, for love, for a demonstration of the very nature of Christ who you say lives and abides within you,  Christian, for that fruit that is evidence of a good tree – will it be found? 

Or just talked about,  thought about,  philosophized about but never followed? 
Will the only touch of Christ for so many lives be only to wither the fig tree that has no fruit to offer? Will the door be found shut? 
I hope and pray that we will humble ourselves, not only in long winded prayers, but in loving demonstration towards one another the good works that He has laid out before us along this narrow path. 
If your idea of grace prevents you from serving the Lord, if it leaves you enslaved to your sin, if you find your vessel empty and devoid of that promised Holy Spirit,  if you find your religion falling short of that new creation and renewing of your mind to be like Christ, either repent and yield today and decide to serve the Lord your God, or clear the way – for the enemy knows that his time is short and that His defeat is already accomplished. 
Chose your side or clear the way, 

Awake and arise or depart into the darkness,  

you who are either asleep or dead,

You who have decided through your indecision and doubt, 

Hear my cry and repent, 

Receive the breath of life,

Hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, 

Decide today, 

For every knee will bend, 

Every head will bow,

And every tongue will confess, 

That Jesus Christ is Lord.

You have chosen? 

Then do not look for me to strike you down,  brother,

I am not the accuser or the judge, 

I am only a Herald of the message of God, 

I leave room either for the mercy or the wrath of the Father, 

For He knows the hidden desires of men’s hearts, 

He knows the underlying motives and intentions of men,

He will being everything into the light that is hidden, 

And the secrets will be revealed for eternity. 

Where will you stand? 

Or will you sit? 

Or will you weep at His feet? 

Or will you see His face? 

These are the questions that I wonder whether others even wonder about? 

And if our thoughts are set upon eternity,  dear Christian, then how can we miss the opportunity to love today,  to testify today,  to walk with Him, in His will and purpose today? 

Is there some greater calling on your life,  than to BE Christian? 

Through Faith

​By grace THROUGH FAITH.
Faithfulness is not our works,

It is Him working in and through us. 
Faithfulness is not burdensome, 

But is a natural reaction to receiving an amazing gift of grace.

 

Faithfulness is birthed in Hope and grattitude,

That comes from BELIEF in our hearts, 

And drives KNOWING in our thoughts, 

And fosters REPRESNTING in our words, 

And confirms BEING in our actions,

By blossoming into the fruit of Love,

That aroma so pleasing to the saint, 

And so enviable and provoking to the sinner –
Love for God that is also a turning away from selfishness, 

Love for godliness that is a turning away from sinfulness, 

Love for serving others that is a turning away from complacency, 

Love for sharing this Good News that is a turning away from our being ashamed of the gospel, 

Love for conviction and discipline that is a turning away from our rebellion. 

Matthew 1:2

1:2  Ἀβραὰμ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰσαάκ Ἰσαὰκ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰακώβ Ἰακὼβδὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰούδαν καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ

1:2. Abraam gennaō Isaak de Isaak gennaō Iakōb de Iakōb gennaō Ioudas kai autos adelphos 

1:2 Abraham [“father of a multitude”,father of the faith] fathered Isaac [“to laugh”], then Isaac fathered Jacob [“heel-catcher or supplanter”], then Jacob fathered Judah [“he shall be praised”] and his brothers [brethren].

From the root of Abraham, we see Isaac whose name means to laugh or “he laughs” – it is from the Hebrew root יִצְחָק which is a sporting/mocking type of laughter – one might suppose a laughter of disbelief or pride. 

How interesting!

Especially interesting when we examine the name of his half brother יִשְׁמָעֵאל Ishmael = “God will hear”  

There are so many questions that we can ask when we see the name of Abram changed to Abraham, the name of Isaac who was not given a new name, the name of Jacob changed to Israel, and then the twelve brothers who made up the tribes of Israel alluded to by the mention of Judah, who wasn’t the eldest brother, but the fourth child of Jacob and Leah.  

So many questions:

Why didn’t Isaac get a new name?

– My thoughts: It was prophesied to Abraham that he would have a son and his name would be Isaac, so this name was already given to him by God. Whatever name his parents might have had in plan for him was supplanted by the name prophesied to Abraham when his wife Sarah laughed. So Isaac started out with his “new name” day one.

Why was Judah mentioned instead of Ruben, the eldest?

– The lineage of Jesus Christ was through Judah and Tamar, and Christ was the son of promise.

-Reuben’s inappropriate behavior towards Bilhah, led Jacob to give his birthrite away.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn,

My might and the beginning of my strength,

The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.

Unstable as water, you shall not excel,

Because you went up to your father’s bed;

Then you defiled it;

He went up to my couch.”