Thursday, October 20, 2016

Our Responsibility with the Word

II Timothy 2:15 (NASB) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Chances are that if you’ve been in the church for a while, you’ve heard some variation of this verse. My concern is that we’ve gotten so accustomed to it, that we don’t really focus on what it’s saying anymore. We’re throwing around opinions and politics like they’re gospel, while the word of truth is being perverted and misunderstood. We have gotten so good at cherry picking the parts of the Bible that we want to beat people over the heads with that we’ve forgotten the pieces that we’re violating on a daily basis.
We are guessing and supposing, rather than seeking God for His divine revelation. The Holy Spirit is available to help us understand and interpret how to apply the verses that we have abused. By reading and studying the Scriptures in context, we gain a better and more thorough understanding of what they mean. We have a responsibility to handle the Word of God accurately. There are people looking to us for spiritual guidance and help with applying the bible to life. We cannot hastily interpret Scripture without properly studying and praying. It doesn’t work that way. There is no magic formula; it takes time in the Word with prayer and meditation.
When you know better, you do better. I am doing better. If I’m not sure, I research, study, pray, and ask questions. Our opinions are not going to hold water at the pearly gates. We have to rightly divide the word of truth (as the King James Version puts it). There are even suspect things being said across sacred pulpits. Preachers and evangelists are humans; mistakes are made. Don’t take anything at face value. Look it up, research, pray, meditate, seek God for the answers. By all means, don’t agree with something if you aren’t sure. Saying “Amen” is your agreement. The last days are approaching, and we need to be diligent about sharing our faith – and sharing it accurately.
I challenge each of us to hold the other accountable. If you catch me using Scripture incorrectly, call me on it. I don’t want to cause anyone else to stumble. We owe it to the Kingdom to do our best to represent it well. We can’t afford to be the reason someone falls away from the Truth. Jesus Christ died for all of us and each of us, and we owe Him our best. Let’s encourage one another to do and be better. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Follow Directions

Leviticus 10:1-2 (NLT) Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they disobeyed the LORD by burning before him the wrong kind of fire, different than he had commanded. So fire blazed forth from the LORD’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the LORD.
Just because something is good in your eyes, doesn’t make it what God asked you to do. Don’t tarnish your anointing with disobedience. When God has anointed you for a certain task, it is yours to perform (not alter, assign, transfer, delegate, etc). Your anointing comes with specific instructions.
Nadab and Abihu had a particular job in the Tabernacle. They took it upon themselves to alter that job, and it cost them their lives. Somehow, we think that God’s instructions don’t apply to us either. We insist on doing things our own way, no matter what God has commanded. Particularly in the church, we do things that are pleasing in our own eyes. We are so consumed with filling seats and offering plates that we don’t always stop and seek God’s will.
We assume that since we are doing good work that God is okay with our methods. That isn’t necessarily true. Every good thing might not be a God thing. John 4:24 states that those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth. In spirit and in truth means God’s way. We can’t just throw anything at God, and expect Him to take it as a worthy offering. God is holy, and He must be approached in the way He has commanded.
We have it so much easier than the Levites. We have Jesus Christ. We can hide ourselves in His righteousness, and allow Him to consume our fleshly faults. We can be holy and acceptable to God through a relationship with His Son. The Holy Spirit is a free gift that we obtain with that relationship, and He helps us daily to fulfill our calling. He will keep us if we choose to allow Him. We don’t have to be guilty of burning the wrong kind of fire before the LORD.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Real Freedom

There are plenty of believers who are enslaved to what they think they have to do to be good Christians. That isn’t why Jesus came. The freedom He died to afford us is absolute. We are not only free from sin, but we are free from religious bondage. Trying to follow a list of rules and acceptable activities for Christians is futile.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, what was His answer? It wasn’t a laundry list of do’s and don’ts. His answer was about relationship with God and with each other. Of course, when we love God and others, there are things that we will certainly do or not do based on that love. That might look a little different for each one of us. We can’t judge other people by what we would or wouldn’t do – only by what God said. More often than not, we are judging people based on manmade, religious standards.

Our responsibility is to love. I have never felt so free in my life as when I decided to stop following religion and start following Christ alone. When I chose to love people like Jesus did, I was free of judging them. That, my friends, is real freedom. That’s what will allow you to live more abundantly, as Jesus Christ intended you to live. The organized church has burdened its members with so many rules and taboos that people are leaving in droves. Some denominations are trying to figure out how to recapture whole generations of people that have disappeared.

This is not a new issue. Based on conversations that Jesus had in the Bible, religion has been burdening people for a very long time. Religion cannot offer salvation; only relationship with God through Jesus Christ can do that. If you’re reading this, you have the opportunity to start living in the freedom Jesus died for you to have. You no longer have to be a slave to sin or religion. You don’t have to follow a list of things to do or not do. All you have to do is love God and love people. You love them and love them and continue to love them. Just like Jesus loves you with all your flaws, you love others unconditionally as well. Stop trying to identify their problems, and love them.

It’s time for you to be free of having to be perfect. Because that’s what you do when you point out someone else’s flaws, you pretend to be perfect. Don’t stress yourself trying to hide your struggles from the outside world; show them that you’re in need to a Savior also. Love people all the way to the feet of Jesus. Love them to life! Live in the freedom that Jesus offers you every day by grace through faith.

Matthew 22:36-40 (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.”

John 10:10 (NLT) The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

On Being Good Enough

Comparison is a beast of a concept when it comes to human beings. Someone else has more mindful children, has a better position at work, lives in a bigger house, has a more luxurious car, wears a smaller size, has less debt, takes longer vacations, and on and on. We are continually comparing ourselves to other people. It gets worse when we compare and think that WE are better than someone else.

When it comes to God, we are all the same. He does not compare us to one another. He does not say that Bob is better than Molly. God does not look at how nicely you clean up compared to your neighbors. Jesus Christ is the standard. How are you lining up with Him these days? Don’t try to compare someone else to Christ; just yourself. Are you following His example? Are you obeying His commandments? Are you living like He did? Are you loving like He does?

If you want to compare yourself to someone else, compare yourself to the you of your past. Have you made any progress compared to who you were last year? Last month? Last week? Yesterday? There is a real war being waged in our minds when we focus more on other people than on being more like Christ. The enemy would have you focused on being good enough to compare with other people. The truth is that you’re already good enough because we are all the same on the level playing field of God’s grace.

You will never be good enough by striving after things. You will never be good enough by being wealthier, skinnier, or stronger. You will only be good enough by accepting Jesus Christ by grace through faith. God only sees you as good enough through the blood of His Son, which blots out all your sin. Stop fooling yourself that you could ever be good enough on your own. There will always be someone else to envy that way. Trust God. Accept Jesus Christ. Live abundantly in that relationship.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Follow Jesus

We don’t need to ask the question, “What would Jesus do?”. We already know what He did from the account we have in the Scriptures. If everyone who claimed to be a Christian, actually followed Christ’s example, we would live in a much different place. Instead we have an abundance of greed, pride, arrogance, and hatred.
If you think about it (read about it, study about it), Jesus is a champion for the underdog, the outcast, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the poor, the neglected, the undervalued, the rejected, the social pariah, the unwanted, the derelict, and the broken. This list is nowhere near exhaustive, but you get the point. Jesus is a champion for us all in whatever state we happen to be. Jesus Christ offers us grace for the journey. Yet, we have a problem extending that grace to people we deem to be unworthy.
If we are believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we should be growing spiritually. We should be reflecting the image of God’s Son in word and deed. Who do you represent? Sometimes we just don’t do a very good job showing the world the love and grace that God has shown us. Take inventory of your attitudes, words, and actions toward other people. Do you treat people like Jesus would? Maybe they don’t deserve grace; neither do you! That’s why it’s called grace.
Jesus did not require that we clean ourselves up and get our acts together before He would love us and save us. Grace is unmerited, unearned, undeserved. That’s the whole point; no one can boast that s/he worked hard to obtain it. Because God is who He is, we are not consumed. Because God is merciful, gracious and loving, He sent His son to die in our place. How we treat others is about who we are, not who they are. Are you grateful for all that God has done for you? Show it. Be more like Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Strong Enough

If you’re like me, you tend to internalize, compartmentalize, and bury pain, disappointments and problems. We pretend that nothing bothers us, and we are strong enough to endure anything on our own without any help from anyone ever. Eventually the built up pain and suffering gushes out unexpectedly. Sometimes we lash out at other people in anger and frustration; sometimes the pain leaks out through our tear ducts at the most random of times. Other times, we might even just completely shut down and become unable to function. Whatever the reaction, the diagnosis is clear: we are not strong enough.

Ever heard the phrase "God won’t put more on you than you can bear"? That’s a lie from the pit of hell. (The Bible states that God won’t allow you to be TEMPTED beyond what you are able to handle, and then He makes a way of escape.) How will we ever learn to trust Him if we could handle everything without Him? What would be the need of an all-sufficient God if we were all-sufficient humans? We are not omnipotent beings, and we need to recognize our need for a Savior who loves us, cares for us, and offers us rest. We don’t have to do it all. We are physically and emotionally incapable of doing it all. Jesus tells us to come to Him with our weariness. He is our hope and our strength.

Don’t worry if you fall apart because you’re buried under. Bring all your broken pieces to the Master. Maybe bring them sooner rather than later to avoid a complete meltdown. Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you. He will lighten your load when you aren’t strong enough to carry it. He will not only carry your burdens, but He will also carry you through whatever you happen to be facing. He is more than strong enough.

1 Peter 5:7 (NASB) casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

Matthew 11:28 (NASB) "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Beauty for Ashes

In Greek mythology, the phoenix is a bird that combusts and dies, only to be reborn from its ashes. The bird is decrepit and aged, ugly and pathetic at the end of its life cycle, but when it rises from the ashes it is vigorous, beautiful, and whole. Beauty can arise from destruction. Sometimes we get so caught up in assessing the damage, that we lose sight of the splendor of rebirth and regeneration.

It is God’s natural order that new life springs up after the barrenness of death and decay. Spring follows winter; trees sprout new, green leaves, flowers bud and bloom, and grass once again begins to grow. God will turn your mourning into dancing and give you beauty for the ashes. Your season of decay, destruction, and desolation will give way to new life, magnificent glory, and wholeness. God won’t leave you tattered and broken in the ashes.
Keep your eyes on the One who created you from nothing. He is able to recreate you from the same nothing. Even if your friends or family have left you to rot in a desolate wasteland, God will never give up on you. He makes everything beautiful in its own time (Ecc. 3:11), and He will make you beautiful at the time He has appointed for you. Don’t give up; God’s promises are sure. You will arise from the ashes whole, beautiful, and stronger than you’ve ever been.
Isaiah 61:2-4 (NLT) He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

This Is War!

Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons. If you are wondering why you feel so defeated when facing the problems in your life, you should check your weapons cache. Recognize that Satan is real, demons are real, and spiritual warfare is real. You can’t fight spiritual wickedness in high places with earthly weapons and methods. Sometimes we have to fight, and sometimes we have to stand still while the Lord fights our battles. Do you know when to do which?
The Bible is more than just history, parables, and examples. The Word of God contains battle strategy for every situation that we could ever face. We have to understand how our enemy operates in order to recognize and resist. As long as we believe that Satan has horns and a pitchfork, we may not realize that our obstinate co-worker or willful child is being used by the cunning, slick, deceptive, and ultra-intelligent fallen one. We’re bringing slingshots to a war with nuclear missiles.
It is time for us to equip ourselves for the battlefield in the world, our homes, our jobs, and our minds. We have been playing church for far too long. There is a war going on! We have become desensitized to the wiles of the devil, and he is gaining ground all around us. We are calling sin by every name in the book but sin, and our souls are suffering. Take some time to brush up on your battle plans; study God’s Word. I challenge you to go back to memorizing Scripture like we did as children. Hide the Word in your heart, so the Holy Spirit can bring it back to your remembrance when you need it.
Prepare yourself for battle!

Ephesians 6:12 (NASB) For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

2 Corinthians 10:4 (NASB) for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.