A, B or No

Have you ever had someone ask you if you’re this or you’re that — proposing a type of multiple choice question to you as if those are your only options — when your answer may not fit either of those options? Where they want you to confirm and show your support for either a simple answer of A or B, but the complexity of the situation may have you answering outside their question with a “No”?

The first thing that comes to mind is political parties. Yes, there are people that are die hard fanatics for a certain political party versus another and who will blindly follow whatever propaganda is fed to them by those handing out the manipulations and the agendas. But many rational, reasonable and wise people can see the corruption and wickedness on both sides of an issue. In fact, any judge with time on the bench will tell you that the true rarely lies exclusively on one side or the other side recalling of the events of a dispute, but it is most commonly found “somewhere in the middle”.

I love how Joshua 5:13-15 provides us with a wonderful picture of this type of interaction. Joshua encounters unexpectedly a man with a drawn sword and asks in a way — Are you A) for us or B) for our enemies? Expecting a confirming answer from this warrior…

Let’s stop right there for a moment, and let’s try to make this a little more real. Imagine you are about to go into your favorite football game between your team and their rival, and this impending moment is foremost and up front in your thoughts. You see another person within a block of the stadium carrying a football, but not wearing the colors of either team. And you ask, “Are you for the Clemson Tigers, or are you for the Alabama Crimson Tide?”

This more familiar situation might make the ego-centric nature of the question be revealed a little easier — because I’m not sure how many of us have commonly encountered unshielded men with drawn swords in our day to day lives (at least if we are talking physical reality and not metaphorically speaking). Can we see that the question of A or B in these situations imposes upon others that what is most important and familiar to us in a situation — most assuredly must be important to them as well.

We make these types of mistakes with other people constantly — labeling people as friend or foe when they are really just stranger or acquaintance, stereotyping and judging people wrongly, etc. And we also make these same types of mistakes about God.

How many of us fools pray “trying to get God on our side” of an issue or problem or challenge, and never talk to Him again until we need to place another order at the metaphorical drive-thru “have it my way” fast-food prayer line? Missing out altogether on who is God and who isn’t in this equation, and missing out on the work that prayer is meant to do within us more often than around us.

Some of these bratty children that I see demanding things from their parents, and some of these bratty adults that I see and hear demanding things from society and others, some of us in our wants and desires — need to hear a surprising “No”.

Some of us need to understand that our personal perspective may be blocked and hindered because we have been only considering A or B, me or them, etc. — when the right answer is “No” and our response is instead, “What does the Lord have to say to His servant?”

And when we reach this place of holy surrender, we aren’t just standing upon holy ground where we can stack up stones to create an altar or marker that others can see. We are establishing a point and time in our lifesong where a true miracle of correction, revelation, repentance and spiritual victory has been won. Amen.

Related Reading:

  • Genesis 4 & 5
  • Psalm 4 & 5
  • Joshua 4 & 5

Yes Sur

The word render means to “provide or give”.

This reminds me of a few verses from the Bible:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33‭-‬34 ESV

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! – Matthew 7:7‭-‬11 ESV

“Render, Oh God!”

Sometimes we find ourselves with a wrong mindset about our relationship to God and His to us, even in our time of great need. When we want God to “render” for us through our requests “our will to be granted in heaven” this is not from a right mind or a right heart. See, He is master and Lord and He makes the decrees and commands, not us.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
James 4:3 ESV

“The render is freed by the sur”

The prefix sur means “over and above”.

See, when we address that prefix “sur” and put God “over and above” our lives — when we truly want “His will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, it is then that the “surrender” takes place that opens the floodgates of heaven.

Many would take just this one bold verse in Malachi 3:10 with hopes to use it for their own gain and prosperity, as if they could “bind God by His promise for their own profit” — but let’s see the whole of its context. God is not the means by which men would manipulate a “spiritual” financial transaction for the increase of their own will and purposes and power and honor to be increased upon this world, No!

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord . But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.'” Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
Malachi 3:10‭-‬18 ESV

Master, Lord, these words when speaking of God and not self — are either heard in the ears of the wise as beautiful to you — or they are beasts as hatred and condemnation in the deaf, blind, fools who inhabit the earth.

The call is not to make ourselves gods and to make God our servant, but to truly lie down in surrender and find ourselves truly sons of God. Because we are either surrendered sons of God or you are sons of another father.

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Matthew 6:24 ESV

And

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:4‭-‬10 ESV

This I will RENDER unto the Lord – my praise, for He has heard my prayer and granted me a surrendered heart:

I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
Psalms 56:12‭-‬13 ESV

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord , I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. O Lord , I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord . I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord , in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord !
Psalms 116:12‭-‬19 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.116.12-19.ESV

Conformed? Or Transformed?

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

The word conform means things like abide by, follow, accept, obey, go along with, fall into, fit in, age with, be like, and be consistent with. The original Greek word is συσχηματίζω (syschēmatizō) is used only twice in scripture and gives a very similar message in 1 Peter 1:1

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
I Peter 1:13‭-‬16 NKJV

Yes, Romans 12 as a chapter is about “Being a Living Sacrifice”(v1-2), “Serving God with Our Gifts”(v3-8), and “Behaving like a Christian”(v9-21).

In fact,  verse 9 tells us what Godly love looks like –

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. – Romans 12:9 NKJV

The world would ask us to be accepting, tolerant, and conformed to its evil ways – it would say that wickedness is love, because that enemy is a liar and there is no truth in the father of lies.

True, Godly love is to see the good and cling to it and encourage it in people,  and to resist the evil. It is to conform to the ways of Christ. Christ did not leave people in their same broken and sinful lives – His touch and His words changed lives. It either pushed the hard hearted enemies of truth and love into a deeper fury against Him – or it transformed and healed and delivered people’s life to something radically different than before and they grew more and more in His way.

Christ does not say,  come accept my religion,  say a prayer, get baptized in water,  and then go back to fitting in with the ways of the world. He doesn’t say,  keep doing evil and coming back again and again for forgiveness once a week or on holidays to hear about me.

He says,  come, surrender your whole life to me, turn away from evil,  and be transformed to be like me.

He says, come, be set apart for holy use, by the Lord God Almighty,  who loves you enough to pay an ultimate sacrifice to bring you into His family.

He says, I have a purpose today, for the world to see something quite peculiar and different in your life – because they will see Me, My ways, reflected in your transformed life.

A transformed heart and mind produces a different life – a sober, obedient, holy life. And if this type of life seems distasteful to you, then I encourage you to ask yourself who it is you are really deciding to serve today with your life. If you want to serve the Lord,  if you want to call upon His name, if you want Him to hear your prayers, do not remember that sinner of your past, repent, turn to Him, and walk in righteousness, you saints, you children of God. You are freed, your chains are broken. You need not walk powerless,  but strong and bold.

Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Isaiah 58:8 NKJV

I encourage you, do not doubt in the strength of the Lord to deliver you from the flesh to walk upright in the Spirit. Do not put on that old title of Sinner unless you have become a proud hypocrite. Put bear the title of Saint, Child of God, boasting only in what He has done for you. Stand tall,  not in your own power, but humbled by His mercy and His Godly love that is alive in you.

Clean hands, Pure heart

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered. 
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Psalm 32:1-2 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.32.1-2.ESV

We all have had dirty hands before. Did we just leave them dirty,  or did we wash them until they were clean? Did we just run some water over them but not scrub them clean? Or did we diligently wash them with soap and water,  getting all of the filth and grime off of them,  even from underneath or fingernails,  because we know that the filth and germs are not good for us?

Isn’t it the same with our hearts,  our Spirit,  our soul? Isn’t it clear to us that it needs to be washed by the blood of the Lamb,  by our faith and belief and following in Christ’s footsteps,  turning away from the filth and enticements and ways of this world to walk in a new way,  bearing the fruit of His Holy Spirit?

So we must encourage one another,  to not play around with empty religious practice by just running our flesh under the water but never really intending our lives to be delivered,  surrendered, washed clean – but to instead seek that fully surrendered, born again life that is renewed daily by the redeeming power of the blood, by the strength of Christ who lives in us,  by the renewing of our minds as we seek God’s will for our lives.  

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord ?
And who shall stand in his holy place? 
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully. 
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
Psalm 24:3-6 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.24.3-6.ESV

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which  is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of  himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
Romans 12:1-3 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/rom.12.1-3.NKJV

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

Not my way. Please, not my way.

And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Mark 14:36 ESV
http://bible.com/59/mrk.14.36.ESV

His will, not ours.

How many opportunities are we missing out on each day because we are satisfied living in our own will instead of seeking God’s will?

If Christ is our example of the way,  the truth,  and the life – an example of sacrifice, an example of being radically different and set apart from the ways of the world – why do so many “Christian” lives look more like the world or look more like the Pharisees and so few truly remind us of Christ who was willing to lay down His very life so that we might know a renewed relationship with God.

There are areas of my life where I have let bitterness creep in,  and it is because I haven’t surrendered that area and trusted that it is the Lord’s will. When I want to serve the Lord, provide for my family, and serve and witness to the world around me – at times, the sheer amount of work to be done can be overwhelming.

You see, the harvest is great,  but the laborers are few. I see many laboring hard to build a bigger house,  while the very beams cry out against them as others suffer in need and want and addiction and separation from the eternal salvation that they need to redeem and renew their lives. So few seem to actually be laboring for the Kingdom of God, instead gathering up treasures for their own kingdoms and pleasure and comfort. 

And many that appear to be laboring for the Lord are doing nothing more than acting as hirelings. They aren’t sold out to the will of God,  they aren’t gratefully serving the Lord their God, they are seeking reward for themselves. How many wolves are running in packs,  dividing the flock in dissention and division against each other so they might devour them?

How few will withstand the trials and sufferings ahead,  Lord?

How few will prove themselves faithful and true that call upon your name,  Lord?

If I count myself amongst the few,  is it through pride that I foolishly cling to such a reward? Or do I humbly and wisely claim it as a gift and a promise?

You alone are faithful and true,  Lord.

You alone are worthy.

Wash us clean,  oh Lord.

Let us know your presence in our lives.

Do not let us disgrace your Holy name.

Let us be set apart. Let us be the salt and the light.

Through the power of the Blood of the Lamb, let us be reconciled to your will. Let them see past us and see you. Let us lay down those things that are not honoring you,  Lord. Be the force of change in our lives that we so dearly need.

Let us pray for one another and be strengthened.

Let us share revelation with one another and be sharpened.

Let us serve one another and be loved and touched by the hand of God,  the very body of Christ, at work.

Come,  Lord Jesus Come!

Your will be done in our lives,  not our own.

All things are possible for you, Lord.

Be the power and strength overcoming those enemies in our lives that get in the way of our bringing you honor and glory.

Deliver us from evil,  lead us not into temptation – your will be done,  Lord Jesus.

Refine us, remold us into your image,  Lord.

We are your humble servants,  Lord. Even in our weakness, let your strength and mercy and glory and honor be evident. Your honor and glory,  not mine.

Praise be to God, may my life be a blessing unto the Lord!

Praise God,  He has heard my cry and all things are possible through Him who strengthens me.

Praise God,  He is sending laborers. Are you a new laborer,  friend? Are you seeking first the Kingdom of God? Are you ready to answer the call? Step out with us in crazy faith, drink of the cup of His will, and let’s see this world changed by the breath of God within His people,  rising up to new life in Christ.

Assume the Position

In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1pe.5.5.NLT

The correct spiritual position is looking up,  reaching up,  towards God.

Whatever changes this position of honoring God is a distraction and a danger.

Continue reading “Assume the Position”

Do we just “like” Christ? Or are we Christ-like?

1 Peter 2:24 AMP
He personally bore our sins in His [own] body on the tree [as on an altar and offered Himself on it], that we might die (cease to exist) to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.

image

Jesus Christ is the Word of God,  come in the flesh, to live among men,  to demonstrate the Spirit of God’s Holy and divine instruction, as a contrast to the law of man that hard hearted people without understanding had twisted for their own selfish purposes. He demonstrated love, joy,  peace,  patience,  kindness,  goodness,  faithfulness, and long-suffering in the example of His life. He showed us the Truth of the written Word of God to not be a rule book to be followed out of obligation, but that we should love God and love others,  so that we might follow and obey His will in grattitude for the grace that has been extended to us. He did this to show us that He is the truth, the life,  and the way.

Continue reading “Do we just “like” Christ? Or are we Christ-like?”