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If you are born-again, the Scriptures say you risen with Christ. You are in union with Him! Sadly, we’ve mostly been taught by well-intentioned pastors and ministry leaders that we need to focus on our flesh, trying to “get right with God.”
This is so not what Paul teaches in his letters, but rather the reality is that sin is in our members – our body, or our flesh as some describe it. But, we have been raised to newness of life in Christ, and sin is NOT a part of the new man that has been born-again. Colossians 1:3 says it wonderfully:
“Since, then, you have been made alive with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
So, instead of looking and struggling with sin, look at the reality of your new man being joined to Him.
If you are looking at and are focused on the flesh, you will not mature in Him. The new creation does not sin, but rather is resurrected in Christ, having been buried with Him and risen with Him. Read the Scriptures and ask God to open the eyes of our understanding. You cannot “get right with God” through your efforts or your adherence to or abstaining from certain behaviors. You are “right with God” simply and only through the sacrifice He made of His only begotten Son. If you could “get right with God” in your flesh and by your own effort(s) you would not need a Savior.
It’s a matter of focus. Are you looking at your flesh, which will never measure up to God’s standards of holiness? Or, are you looking at Him, and at your born-again new nature which is created in His image and is in constant union with Him?
Seeing Him is the only way to effect real change in your behavior, as the Scriptures teach, “It is His grace that leads us to repentance.”
Focus: Flesh vs the New You
The choice is clear: Continue to look at your sin and your failures and your inability to change, or look to Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith. As you ponder and rest in His awesome, unfailing love, you will see more and more of His nature being a part of your life. Change will happen by the strengthening of your innermost self. Where are you focused? On yourself, or on the great God of the universe and His finished work that He accomplished in His Son, Jesus?
The Bible says that God’s ways are higher than our ways. This is so true, especially when we look at ourselves and feel and have been taught to be laser-focused on our sin and failings. God’s ways are different, calling for a laser-focus on Him. It’s simple but yet so awesome, so profound. Gaze upon the goodness of the Lord and watch the changes in your life that have been so elusive become a reality. Look to Him and to His amazing love and grace!
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On Sunday December 13, 2015, my wife Tammy, our daughter Jenny and I had the opportunity to share with the dear saints at Wilmington First Assembly about our journey this past year.
“Seeing God in the Darkness” of a diagnosis that brings fear and so many questions is a sampling of our thoughts about the journey. We hope you will be encouraged in the truth of God’s great love.
Click here to listen: http://www.wfachurch.com/messages.html
Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.
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The Lord said a prophetic word to me, “I am going throughout the earth setting things on fire. In some places it is like grass that needs to be burned so that new grass can spring to life. In other places it is like dross being burned away so that silver can shine. In other places I’m setting on fire with passion hearts that are earnestly seeking me. In every instance, I am burning away the old so that the new may come forth and that my glory may be revealed. I am burning the dead things so that my glory can be evident throughout the earth. And what is my glory? It is my love, endless, pure, blazing with passionate intensity. I am setting the earth on fire with my love.”
I heard God say this during dinner, and about an hour later was wondering if I had actually heard Him. In fact, I wondered aloud to my daughter, “If God were sitting here right now would He say to me that He’s not really setting things on fire?” Immediately, as soon as these words came out of my mouth, as we were backing out of a parking place at the local library, I turned and saw the sky – and it looked like it was on fire! I’m not kidding you, ask my daughter. The whole way home the sky kept getting a brighter orange, and by the time we crossed the major highway on our way home, the entire sky looked ablaze!
At home I shared with my wife what had happened
She said, “I saw it! The sky looked like it was on fire!” She had even taken a picture as she was walking out
of the house. It was amazing! God had let her see the same thing my daughter and I were seeing, and she captured the image on her phone so that there would be a visual reminder of His faithfulness in times of doubt.
God spoke to me a prophetic word to encourage the church that He is indeed moving on the earth. He is setting the world on fire with the purpose of revealing His great love. Then He actually heard me wonder aloud if I had really heard Him speak this to me, and within literally seconds, showed me a confirmation in the sky. Very cool!
God Is Speaking a Prophetic Word
The Bible says that God reveals what He is doing to His servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7) Even in 2014, God is using men and women to give voice to what He is doing. He is moving, burning up the things that are dead and revealing the life that is left behind. He is doing this to reveal His glory – His burning, passionate love demonstrated in the giving of His only Son for us. God is really very awesome!
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The plan of God is so simple, yet so beyond our humanity to fully comprehend. It is multi-layered, the peeling away of layers granting us an un derstanding of an additional glorious part of His plan. Paul refers to it as the “mystery of Christ.” God is constantly willing to reveal to us another level of the depth of His love, grace & majesty.
All He requires is faith, believing in what He accomplished through the finished work of Christ. Yet we are taught that it is our behavior, some adherence to a set of Christian standards that pleases Him and gives us peace and success.
This is rooted in self-focused thinking
“Religion” could be a more relevant characterization, wherein the challenge is for the flesh to attempt to live up to the standards of God. (Many times not actually the standards of God, but rather denominational admonishments or cultural imperatives for Christians). Teaching is commonly heralded that holds forth discipline, accountability and “right living.” Scripture teaches us that in our flesh is no good thing. Any focus other than simple faith and belief in the love and grace of God, and in what He accomplished in His plan through the finished work of Christ, is just plain wrong. We are to believe and receive what He determined to be satisfactory, and what He accomplished in and through His Son. The entire book of Hebrews details God’s plan, and assures us that He is satisfied; there is no further sacrifice to be made. There is no further work to be done in securing for us a place of right-standing with Him. Right from the start in Chapter 1, the point is made that the work of Christ is finished – “when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father. He is not busily going about the task of trying to fix things. He cried, “It is finished” as He died on the cross. God’s plan had been fulfilled. The sacrifice for sin for all eternity had been made. God was – and still is – satisfied!
It is imperative that those who are on the journey of the Christian life, know and believe in God’s plan, and accept that He is satisfied.
This is foundational to growing in relationship with God. Jesus said that eternal life is “knowing Him” (John 17:3). Relationship is based on many things – trust, acceptance and communication to name a few. “Knowing God and His Son” is relationship – the relationship that Jesus died to make possible to all who believe. It is impossible to engage in relationship with God if there is doubt regarding His love, His grace, or His satisfaction which flows from His Son’s sacrifice for our sins. Focusing on trying to please Him when He is already pleased is an exercise in frustration, and takes the emphasis off of Him and His goodness, and places it on us. Talk about wrong! It is an affront to God Himself to think that we can undo or add to what He did in the giving of His Son – allowing Him to be subjected to violence, shame, mocking, and a most horrendous death. Teaching that certain behavior or a certain amount of giving or a particular act of service can move God to a greater degree of satisfaction with us is nothing short of insulting. God had a plan. He implemented it. It is beyond our humanity to fully understand it – “His ways are higher than our ways” (Isaiah 55:9). He gave His Son and fulfilled every one of His requirements necessary for us to have life abundantly and eternally. He has “blotted out our transgressions and remembers our sins no more!” (Isaiah 43:25)
What is our act of obedience under His plan? Simply to believe!
Believe and receive His love and rest in the finished work of God through His Son. It is simple, almost too simple for our rational minds and sin-focused doctrines to fully accept. But it is God’s plan, and He IS satisfied. Begin today to throw off everything that might hinder you from simply believing. Today can be the beginning of experiencing eternal life…knowing Him like never before. Let the new journey begin!
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Men often get excited about the verse in Ephesians 5 that instructs women to submit to their husbands. But it also says for husbands to love their wives even as Christ loved the church. This is the greater calling, because His love for the church compelled Him to lay down His life. Husband, if your wife is not submitting to you, perhaps it is because you are not loving her with the love of Christ. Are you laying down your life for her, abandoning selfishness and always trying to get what you want? Just as we love God because He first loved us, so shall our wives be drawn to us as we demonstrate our love for them on a daily basis. Just as we endeavor to please Him as a natural response to the revelation of His great love for us, so shall our wives respond to our love for them.
Here are some practical ways that we can walk out the calling to love our wives as Christ loved the church:
- Pray for them. The most important thing we can do for our wives is to pray for them – often. Pray for their safety, their health, and mostly for them to see the great love and grace of God. Pray for them to have wisdom and to be secure in who they are. And pray for them to have a great awareness of the presence of God in their life. As we pray for our wives, we are walking tangibly in our role as priest of our home. Submission to authority is much easier when those asked to submit know that they are being prayed for, cared for, and battled for in the arena of prayer.
- Serve them. What?? Yep…serve them. Somewhere along the way we men got the notion that our wives are also our cooks, maids, nannies and housekeepers. Even if they work outside of the home as we do, there is this idea that it is their responsibility to cook for us, wait on us, and clean for us. Not to mention also take care of our children for us. We come home, change clothes, settle into our favorite chair, click on the television and wait for the evening meal to be prepared and served. What kind of message does this send? Jesus Himself got down on his hands and knees and washed the feet of His disciples. His character and His nature are to serve, and as we understand the reality that He lives in us, it will become our character, also. Practically speaking, why not cook a meal, or wash the dishes, or fold the clothes? (On a regular basis) These acts of service will speak more loudly than saying “I love you” mindlessly from our perch on the couch.
- Listen to them. Oh boy. I know this is a tough one for a lot of us. We men are not by nature the best conversationalists. We prefer the black and white, say it and move on. Or better yet, just don’t say it at all. If we have to have a conversation with our wives, our “fix it” radars kick on and we are half-listening, half-searching for a solution so we can get whatever the problem is solved, and return to our non-conversational comfort zones. [pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Here’s a secret: Our wives don’t want us to solve their problems. They want us to listen.[/pullquote]
They want to know that they have our attention. Listening shows we care. It shows that they matter to us and that what they are saying is more important than what is on television or on the computer.
- Honor Them. A while back I was with a group of men and was amazed to hear the negative words that were being spoken by a couple of the guys about their wives. It was very disconcerting. I have made it a point to never speak negatively about my wife. It is dishonoring and totally inappropriate. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says love does not dishonor others. Our Lord’s love for us is honorable, He speaks words of hope and life and love to us. So should we use our words to honor our wives. When speaking to others about our wives, we should honor. When speaking to our children about our wives, we should honor. And when speaking to our wives, we should honor. Here’s a verse to help you get started with words of honor: Song of Solomon 4:1a – “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!”
The key to enjoying a marriage relationship wherein our wives respect us as husbands is in us loving them as Christ loves the church. He died for the church, and likewise we should die to ourselves for our wives. As we come to understand the awesome love God has for us, we will be able to walk in that same love for our wives. If we see God as demanding performance from us in order to earn His love or His presence in our lives, we will transfer that mentality into our marriage relationships. We will place expectations on our wives that say, “I’ll love you if…” Rather let us receive God’s awesome, unconditional love and grace and live daily with our wives in that same love and grace. It will change our marriages in profound ways. Proverbs 18:22 reminds us “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.” Let’s love our wives deeply, passionately and selflessly…the way He loves us.
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“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” (Rev 19:11-13)
What a picture of Jesus Christ the king! Much of Revelation 19 is devoted to John’s vision of Jesus as the conquering king. I am intrigued by the statement, “He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood.” Commentaries are split between the blood being that of his enemies, or that of himself.
In line with the latter, I believe the blood represents the sacrifice of Himself, the laying down of His life. It represents His having paid the full price for sin, while never having known sin. He conquered death, hell, and the grave and thereby has the full legal right to be the King of Kings.
I also believe the blood on the robe is a constant reminder for all to see. It heralds that He gave His life as a ransom for all. It is the eternal signature of God’s love and forgiveness. As we gaze upon Him, we cannot help but see that He is not only the king, but also, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
His kingship was legally obtained through His having paid in-full the wages of sin. Because He knew no sin, He rose from the grave victoriously, death could not hold Him. Sin’s penalty could not hold Him. And the good news is that He gives this same victory freely to those who believe. “…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)
Sadly, it is common for many to feel like the rider on the white horse is coming after them. Religion teaches that He is angry and ready to judge without warning our smallest faults and largest failures. This mindset says, “Yes He died for our sins, but our human propensity to fall short is really greater than His fulfillment of God’s justice on the cross.”
Let us remember that it is by His grace that we have been born-again into His kingdom. It is His grace that “teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions…” (Titus 2:12) And it is His blood, an eternal reminder on the robe of the King, which has redeemed us and brought us to the place where “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” We are His bride, and He is deeply and passionately in love with us.
The rider on the white horse is the king and lord of all. He wages war against His enemies and is victorious. We who believe are not His enemies. He has redeemed us and called us His own. His reign is forever, and so is His love. As it says in Revelation 19:7, “Let us rejoice and give Him glory!”
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A while back, during the worship service in our church, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the time the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water. I was reminded that there were 12 disciples. Why didn’t the other 11 venture out onto the water with Peter? I thought of 3 possible reasons:
- Fear. Perhaps they saw the waves and fear kept them glued to their spots in the boat.
- Amazement. Perhaps they were amazed at what was happening with Peter. After all, he was walking on the water!
- Watching. Perhaps they were just caught up in being spectators, not even thinking, “Hey, I can do that, too!”
The Lord said to me that He wants us to get out of the boat and walk on top of our fears. Don’t let fear glue us to staying where we are in life. Step out. It may be scary, but the key is keeping our eyes on Jesus. As long as Peter kept his gaze on Jesus, he walked on the water.
He also said that He wants to do amazing things in each of our lives. Sometimes we are so caught up in what is happening to someone else, we are simply amazed. Sometimes we are even envious. Again, He wants our gaze to be on Him. He wants to do great things above and beyond what we can ask or think. Let’s allow Him to be amazing in our lives, too.
And finally, He said that just sitting back and being spectators is not what He wants from us. We are all called to participate in the kingdom. We are called to fix our eyes on Jesus, and let Him begin and end our faith. This requires action, getting out of the boat, and walking by faith in Him.
Get out of the boat. Look to Him. Believe Him to do the amazing. And don’t be a spectator, be a participator!
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You are so ready. You’ve been looking forward to this moment all week. The table is set with the finest china and crystal. The aroma of the meal fills the house, energizing your sense of expectation. You know I’m coming to visit, and you can’t wait. In all likelihood, I am bringing you a gift – something that you know deep down is going to be very special. All your attention is focused on our time of fellowship and communion. The doorbell rings. You invite me in and you are so happy that I have arrived. And there it is, a gift wrapped just for you. Then, without warning, you suddenly get distracted. “It’s time to move on to something else,” you lament. Dinner is forgotten. We have no fellowship. After a while, I excuse myself quietly, leaving with the gift I had for you, which you have forgotten in your attentiveness to some other item on your agenda.
Sad isn’t it? Yet this scenario is played out week after week in many if not most church services across America. We gather together for worship. Jesus is with us as He promised. His presence begins to manifest in response to our corporate worship. The Holy Spirit is there; ready to impart a gift or gifts to many. Those who are spiritually sensitive know that God is ready to move. Then, without warning, it’s over. We move on to the next agenda item, leaving the Holy Spirit and His gifts to be ignored.
This is good, right? After all, do we really want to interrupt our agenda and allow mere members to be vessels the Holy Spirit moves through? What if the pastor never gets to preach his sermon? What if we take the offering in the wrong place, or miss the funny announcement video? We worked hard on this agenda and we know what’s best for our meetings. What if we lose control?
We groan about the lack of miracles and manifestations of the gifts in the church. Yet we never give opportunity for them. In many cases the church has moved from being an overflow of godly men – elders praying and crying out for God to move, to a sterile, carefully planned meeting. It’s not that the gifts are not there, it’s just that we never take time to open them.
It is time for the church to get off the fence. If we are not going to let God move, then let’s not call ourselves charismatic, spirit-filled, or anything else that would give people hope that we will let Him move. But if we genuinely want to see the awesome, amazing, New Testament church be what it can be, then let’s throw our agendas away, stop letting “creativity” determine what a meeting should look like, and just let the Holy Spirit move. Trust me; He has good things for us. His gifts are awesome. He might just have one for you.
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2 Samuel 9:8 says, “Mephibosheth bowed down and said, ‘What is your servant that you take an interest in a dead dog like me?’” Through the years religion has taught us a response not unlike Mephibosheth’s response. It teaches us that, even though we’re in Christ, we are still evil, and we’re unworthy. In essence, like Mephibosheth, we see ourselves as “dead dogs.”
But thank God for King David! His treatment of Mephibosheth is a picture of God’s grace, mercy, & unconditional love, based only on a covenant. For us, it is the New Covenant made between the Father and His Son, of which we have been made partakers. We can eat at the King’s table because He says so.
Religion says to be fearful of an angry, judgmental God. Religion says “keep short accounts with God.” Nowhere is that phrase found in Scripture, but it sounds right and feeds our natural mind’s logic that says surely we’re not really forgiven. “Surely there has to be a part for us to play to keep our spot at the King’s table.”
Yes, we do have a part to play. And that part is to believe, to gaze upon Him and be transformed by our minds’ being renewed in His grace and love. “His grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness.” It is amazing how simple it is.
Mephibosheth thinks David wants to kill him when David wants to bless him. Mephibosheth saw only his brokenness and unworthiness. Many times we look at ourselves and see the same brokenness and unworthiness. But through Jesus’ horrid sacrifice on the cross, the Father has forgiven everything! He beckons us, “Come boldly to the throne of grace! Rest your head on the chest of Jesus like John did. Rest and eat of Heaven’s best!
Like Mephibosheth, we are lame. We are lame yet we are eating at the King’s table. Though we are unable to “walk” in perfection, we are eating at the King’s table. Why? Because the King says so, that’s why. It really is amazing how simple it is.
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