No Longer An Enemy

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Titus 3:3-7 (NIV), “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

We look at the world and think, “Oh, my…,” but it wasn’t that long ago that we were just like them. In fact, not only were we deceived and foolish, disobedient and enslaved, God says we were His enemies.

Romans 5:10 (KJB), “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

The Good News, for us and them, is that while we were still His enemy, He loved us so much that He paid the price to reconcile us to Him. The New Living translation says we were “restored.” That’s a big deal. Our sin separated us from God. Nothing else can.

Romans 8:35-39 (NIV), “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus became sin, so that we could bridge that gap that our own sin put between us and our Father. Then God, in His love and mercy, went a step further. He made us brand new. That old us has passed away, if we have truly accepted Jesus as our Lord. Now instead of His enemies, we are His children. We are no longer slaves to sin, we are free in the family of God. We are heirs and joint heirs with Christ! We can do what He did while on this earth, and according to John 14:12, even greater things. At Christ’s death and resurrection, He ascended to Heaven and left us the Holy Spirit. Now with His help, the Holy Spirit’s, we can do even greater works.
We just have to believe. Most of us have no problem believing that Jesus did miracles. Our issue is not belief in His power, or ability, it is unbelief in who we really are. We think we are still His enemy, still a slave to sin, still captive in this world, but we are not. We are no longer an enemy to God. As His dearly loved children, He has given us authority! Miracles should be happening where ever God’s children are! We should be seeing salvations, (the greatest miracle of all), blind seeing, deaf hearing, lame walking, addicted delivered, and lives transformed.

It teaches and preaches easier than it is walked out. I know. However, even though I haven’t reached that place yet, I am walking in the right direction. My steps may be baby steps, but they are forward. I am not standing still. Truthfully, the only way to get confident in our place is to listen to what God has to say through His word, through preaching and teaching, and through His Holy Spirit speaking into our lives. Then we stand on it, step out in faith, sure our knees may knock and our stomach may contain a few butterflies, but we do it. One pastor said it this way, “So what if you are scared. You still have to do it. Do is scared!”

I have done so many things scared! It is even comical to think about some of the things. But, I am growing stronger in the things of the Lord. I used to be shy and introverted (unless I was under the influence of a mood altering substance). I hated new schools, moving, meeting new people or anything that took me out of my comfort zone. I hated all forms of confrontation, even the good, healthy kind. Now, I am not shy. I love meeting new people. I can talk to anyone with ease. I may still get a little shaky if I have to get up in front of a lot of people, but even then, after the initial few minutes, the ease comes. I know that I am doing what pleased God, how can we not be confident in that place?

Don’t you think the rest of the world should know that they don’t have to stay His enemy?

Jesus, thank You for reconciling, and restoring us to our Father. Whenever I feel small, unworthy, or lost, I will remember that I am His child, that He loves me dearly, and that You left me Your Spirit to guide me.

Being the Family of God

God is our Father and we are His children. The world should be able to discern that we belong to God. Not by our “I love Jesus” t-shirt and bumper sticker, but by our actions and our words. They are watching us. God’s word says in John 13:35 AMP, “By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].” We start by loving one another. We are in the last days, time is speeding up. God promised to make the end quick, to shorten the time of suffering.

In Romans 13:12-14 NIV, Paul writes to the Church in Rome. (Notice this is written to believers.) “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”

I know most of us aren’t carousing, we don’t make a habit of getting drunk and we aren’t cheating on our spouses. (And if you are STOP!). So we can move on to the next couple of things, dissension and jealousy.
Dissension means -disagreement that leads to discord. Some synonyms for dissension are, disagreement, difference of opinion, dispute, conflict, friction, strife, discord, antagonism, and infighting.
Far too many churches have been torn apart by these very things. We may not be experience these things at this moment, but I guarantee you we have in the past, and Satan doesn’t have any new strategies. He uses whatever has worked before. We have to be diligent. Preventative medicine is the best medicine. He uses the “conquer and divide” tactic quiet frequently in homes and churches, even nations. Jesus told us, “A house divided cannot stand.”

Jealousy means – the act of feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages. Some synonyms for jealous are, envious, covetous, and desirous.
Jealousy can be a cause for dissension. It rears its ugly head on the praise and worship team, on the usher and nursery teams. One wants to lead and is asked to serve. One wants recognition for serving, but is asked to serve behind the scenes. We look at those who seemingly “have it all” and want what they have without walking the path they had to walk to get it. Worse of all, we see God blessing others and think they don’t deserve it, or that we are somehow more deserving.

Instead we should be happy for blessings, no matter how, when, or to whom they come. All good gifts come from the Father, to His glory. He makes it rain on the just and the unjust. He chooses. Thank God, because we would so mess it all up. If we are supposed to pray for God to even bless those who persecute us, how much more should we be praying for one another?

Romans 13 goes on to say in verse 19, “So then let us make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Mutual- when they are edified, we are edified. Why? Because we are all part of the same body.
Instead of judging one another, we need to be helping and encouraging one another. Galatians 6:2-5,” Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.” Paul is not contradicting himself here. We are to bear one another’s burdens and we are all responsible to bear our own burden.
Let’s look at it this way. In the natural, if we saw a little child trying to carry a load that was just too big and too heavy for them to handle, any one of us would take the load, take their hand, and take them where they needed to go. But if we continue to carry their whole loads as they grow, now they’re 5, then 10, then20…what’s going to happen? They will never get strong, never mature. Spiritually speaking, Jesus is the One who came along first and took our whole load, the entire burden, took our hand, and took us to the throne of grace. Then, in His wisdom, He allows us to go through some tuff stuff. It is to strengthen our faith, to learn to trust Him.

But, thankfully, He doesn’t leave us there. He knows that sometimes the load is just too heavy to carry alone. Instead of trying to play God and taking someone’s whole load, we are to come along side and help, to ease some of the burden. We do that by building them up, encouraging them and sometimes taking one small package of the big load. We help; we don’t do it for them. Just as we can’t obtain salvation for them, we can’t carry their load. In the same way we pray for the lost to receive salvation, show them Jesus by our words and actions, and even sometimes get to lead them to Christ, we also help our brothers and sisters by doing the same things. Pray for them, show them how to be strong by our own words and deeds, and always turn them to Jesus, their true strength and help.

Romans 15:1-2 AMP “We who are strong [in our convictions and robust faith] ought to bear with the failings and the frailties and the tender scruples of the weak-we ought to help carry the doubts and the qualms of others-and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us make it a practice to pleas (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him-that is, to strengthen him and build him up spiritually.”

We lay hold of God’s word. Have a blessed hope in His ability to fulfill His promises and then show others how to do it. Hebrews 10:23 AMP “So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess, and our acknowledgment of it, for He who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word.”
Verses 24 goes on to say, “And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities.” We have to be in relationship with our brothers and sisters. Keeping our eyes open to what they may be going through. Each of us also has to be humble enough to ask for help. Not expecting someone else to handle our every problem, but to come along side to pray for and shore up the week places. If there is a need we can meet, give a hand. If you are on the receiving end, don’t make it a habit of running to people. Run to God first and give Him some time to work things out, in you and in your situation. Our timing isn’t His.

When we have unity in the body, when we are joined together in bonds of love and of peace, God gets the glory. Romans 15:6-7 NAS “That with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the Glory of God.” Verse 14 AMP, “Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another also.”

Our unity bears fruit. We will see the fruit of our labor, not just in the future or in heaven one day, but right now. Our churches will be full, not of people coming out of religious tradition, but because they love God. Colossians 1:10-12 NIV, “So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” We are coming into a time when we will need the strength and power of God. We will need endurance and patience. He has already qualified us through His shed blood; it’s time for our inheritance.

A final scripture, Colossians 3:12-17.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Religion or Relationship?

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John the Baptist was quite the minister. He was a Wildman with long hair, dressed in goat’s hair clothing, living in the desert, eating things most decent people wouldn’t, and preaching to a people who hadn’t heard the voice of God in over 400 years. John railed at the religious leaders, railed at Herod, and prepared the way for the Messiah. His message was simple “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 3:2). A stiff necked, self-righteous people who thought they were special because God had chosen them, better than anyone else, needed to hear that they were sinners in need of a forgiving Father.

As he was standing at the Jordan one day, ministering according to his calling, the religious leaders show up. Did John puff himself up, feeling self-important due to the recognition of the ‘rock stars’ of his day? Did he welcome them with open arms? No he yelled for all to hear, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee the wrath to come? Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance- let your lives prove your change of heart.” He threatened them with hell-fire, then preceded with, “Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.” (Matthew 3:9).

John is a wonderful example of humbleness. He is NOT week or wishy-washy. He does NOT compromise his message or cow-tow to the big-name-leaders of his day. He DOES admit that he is nothing and the one coming after him is everything. He even goes as far as to say that he is “unworthy to untie the shoes” of the one coming after. And as he is standing at the Jordan that day, immediately after he warns the religious leaders, Jesus shows up, asking to be baptized. Once again John proves the condition of his heart by humbly declaring that Jesus was the one who should be baptizing him. Jesus insists, so that “righteousness will be fulfilled.” John clearly is not spouting and practicing religion. He is in relationship with God. How do we know that? Because he does as Jesus asks.

God is pleased with it, saying in verse 17, “This is my son, My Beloved in Whom I delight,” and is most versions says, “In whom I am well-pleased.” Moving on from John to Jesus, we see another example of a relationship. Jesus goes on to minister to the people, teaching, healing, casting out demons and feeding thousands, all proving his relationship with the Father. He only did what His Father told Him to do and only said what He told Him to say. Teaching in the temple they were all amazed at how He taught. He taught with authority, “and not as the scribes.” What was the difference in their teaching? The scribes knew the scriptures, memorized them even, but Jesus knew the one who authored them.

The religious leaders claimed a physical relationship with Abraham. They were all about their genealogies. But God always wanted a spiritual relationship son’s and daughters who loved Him. They would give a lengthy history of all of their ancestors, stopping at “Joseph, son of Abraham,” but never went back far enough to say, “Adam, the son of God.” In fact, that was one of the issues they had with Jesus. He claimed to be the Son of God, and they called that blasphemy. How little they understood the love of the Father.

Religion can’t save. It can only give a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ that we can’t ever manage to adhere to. Religion kills.

God never wanted the law. He wanted Sons and Daughters, children to love. Relationship with Him brings life and life more abundantly.

What do you want?
Religion or relationship?

What Does God Want?

Really, what does He want? You could ask dozens of people and get dozens of different answers. Those answers would range from- obedience, praise and worship, money (tithes and offerings), time, energy, loyalty, attention, commitment, and the list could go on. All of those things are true, but doesn’t that make God sound like some ego-maniacal, dictator who lounges on a throne demanding attention and glory? Who wants that for a Father?
Simply put, God wants you. I know cliché. But He wants your heart. He asks all of those other things from you because those things benefit us. Let’s break this down a little. God doesn’t need your money, but He asks us to give 10% (tithe for the running of the Church and the support of the staff) and offerings (to help others), because He knows that “if we give, it will be given back to us”. (Luke 6:38). Also when we give to God, He promises to “Open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing” (Mal 3:10). God wants us to praise Him because praise “stills the enemy and the avenger” (Ps 8:2), it makes Satan shut up and stops his actions against us. He asks us to work because He works with us (I Cor. 3:9). He doesn’t sit while we work, in fact “He works while we wait.” We work because the Church toilets need cleaning, those little noses in nursery need wiped. Those things bring us together as a family.
God is love! He doesn’t just possess, show, or talk about love, He is love. It is the very nature of God (I John 4:7). That’s why He loves everyone. He loves the drug addict, the prostitute, the serial killer, the child molester, everyone! But don’t be deceived they are not His children, or part of His family. His children are the ones who have surrendered their lives to Him. Those are the ones he promises to take care of. Because He is love and He wants all to be His children, He asks us to work together with Him to build His family. He doesn’t want this love to remain one sided. What does it benefit them if He loves them, but they never experience love for Him? Those others who have Satan as their father (and they don’t even know it), they need to be reached. They need to know God’s love. How can they be reached if we aren’t co-laboring with Christ.
Our ‘work’ for God, those things all mentioned in the first paragraph, and any other thing God may have asked of us, should come out of our love for God. If they are coming out a sense of obligation, duty or fear, the motivation is wrong. Even worse if they are coming out of self-righteousness and pride, it’s going to be harmful to you instead of helpful. What motivates your work? It’s easy to “grow weary in well doing” (Gal. 6:9) if we have the wrong attitude. I know I’ve been there. I’ve screamed in my head, “What do you want from me!” on more than one occasion. I had allowed the thoughts to take root in my heart that I was doing so much for him already, but that somehow that wasn’t enough, that He was demanding more. That I was lacking. Those are just a bunch of ugly lies, God doesn’t demand, we have a choice. At my worst moments of fear, illness, weakness and depression, God patiently reminded me that He loved me, that He wasn’t asking for a slave (being forced), but that He wanted a daughter who served from a heart of thankfulness and love. I had gone back to Egypt (slavery) when He wanted me in the Promised Land (a place of rest, provision and peace).
God showed His love for us through the ugliness and the shame on the cross. Jesus not only poured out His life’s blood on that tree, but also His great love and longing for us. When we know Him, (not know about Him with our reasoning mind, but know Him intimately in our hearts), we understand what He wants. He wants a relationship with Him, two way conversations, and fellowship. He wants us to spend time with Him, not in work or service but in relationship. Get these pictures in your head. First think about how you feel when your child obediently cleans their room, to the best of their ability. Now think of your little one sitting on your lap, with each of their little hands on either side of your face, looking into your eyes, and saying “I love you”. Which one touches you more?
Sure their room needs cleaned and we have to teach them responsibility, it’s for their own good after all (sounding familiar?), but first we want their love. The Church needs cleaned, bills need paid, and the lost need reached. But first and most importantly we need to accept God’s love for us, and love Him back, build a better relationship with Him. We don’t do that by work, but by sitting in His lap. All of those other things will get done and with the right motivation. Sounds easier, freer, and way more fun!
“Yes I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3

Lessons from the Life of David

I love reading the Psalms. Many of which were written by David. His is a “Man after God’s own heart” according to God himself-mine too. David is real in his worship to the Lord. He isn’t perfect and tells us all about his faults, fears and sin. After committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband (along with several other soldiers) murdered, he writes Psalms 51, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love: according to your great compassion blot out my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” He remembers his days as a simple shepherd boy in Ps. 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me to lie down in green pastured; He leads me beside quiet waters.” David lets us know when things got tough for him, Ps. 69, “Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters and a flood overflows me. I am weary with my crying, my throat is parched; my eyes fail while I wait for my God,” and then David always hopes, expects and declares God’s salvation, “O God, in thy greatness of thy loving-kindness answer with thy saving truth.”
David may have begun his life as a simple seventh son of a shepherd, but his heart of thanksgiving, his desire to see God, his determination to magnify the Lore, were all things that God could use. Was David perfect? Obviously no, ask his multiple wives, his concubines, his children…but God used David mightily. He wrote songs and praises to his God. He conquered the enemies of God as a mighty warrior, and he ruled as King over God’s people for 40 years.
Another lesson to learn from David, he didn’t work his way to the top. He humbly watched his father’s sheep and when asked came and sat at the feet of Saul, who was tormented by evil spirits, to play his harp and bring relief to his king. Before he fought his first real battle, if you disregard the lion, bear and the Giant, Goliath, God anointed the simple shepherd boy with the heart of worship as King. Even after Samuel anointed David, he was content to wait for God to place him on the throne. He steadfastly refused to harm Saul in any way, contrary to the advice of his own men. He repeatedly said, “Touch not God’s anointed” and even killed the messenger who came to proclaim the death of Saul and take credit for his undoing.
We are all human, including the great men and women of faith that we find in Scriptures. They feared, sinned, got weary and sad. They lost heart, friends, family and some even their lives. But like David, they loved God, and were willing to be used by him. So to me, the most important lesson to be learned from David is to keep your passion for the Lord white hot, fan the flames of love that is in your heart by praising Him, even when things aren’t going as planned or as hoped for. Wouldn’t you want to hear the Lord say, “That’s a man after my own heart” about you?