Sunday, July 29, 2007

Equalizing the Pressures

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” – Galatians 5:16

Dr. David Oyedepo, a minister and prophet of God in Ogun State, Nigeria, recently addresses a graduating class from the church’s university. In that address he stated that the greatest obstacle facing our youth today is bad company, which, considering the great evils of the day, is a profound statement.

Pastor Oyedepo told the story of a goat and a dog that were raised together. These animals are very different in nature, but because the goat was raised with the family’s dog something very strange happened. Most goats never are named. They won’t come when called, so there’s no reason to name them. But this goat, named Beauty, began to come when called by it’s name. It would also wag it’s tail like the dog. It would eat meat like the dog, which is contrary to the very nature of the animal. It would follow its master around, and in all ways began to act like the family dog.

The influences of those around us do change who we are. It’s very hard not to become like the company we keep. It’s also easier to be pushed down into the mire of worldly living than to be pulled up to Christian living. Sin is our human nature even after we are saved by God’s grace. That nature can be so easily aroused by the company we keep. But there is a way to fight this change and become victorious.

A submarine can travel deep under the water’s surface where the pressure of the water would typically crush a diver. It does so by using the principal of displacement. In order for the submarine to descend into the deeps of the water, it must be filled with air pressure equal to the pressure of the water around it. The pressure within the submarine’s capsule gives its hull equal strength to the pressure of the water outside the vessel.

Likewise, as Christians, we carry a displacement for the pressures of the world. The Holy Spirit within us gives the strength we need to endure the depths of this world’s sins. But be warned my friends! If you fail to empower the Holy Spirit within you, you will be crushed by the world’s pressures and temptations. This kind of displacement is done not with tanks of air, but with prayer and God’s word. Be sure His Spirit has displaced the evil around you before you descend into the depths of the world, or you will be crushed!

Submarines used in warfare often find themselves under fire from the enemy. When this happens, and they see that they are in danger, they begin to flee the depths and rise to the water surface. Never take on a battle of temptations that you cannot be assured to win. God gives a chance to escape each and every temptation. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.“ Take that moment God gives you to escape and run! There’s nothing wrong with showing a little cowardice when temptations are at hand! It is better to end a cowardly victor than a slain soldier!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Love On The Steps

After living in the same house for over 10 years, there are several memories as I pack and prepare to move. I was coming down the steps today from my bedroom and one very fond memory came to me.

My son was only 4 ½ years old when we moved into our two-story house. His one wish for our new place was that he wanted “a stair house”. He loved the stairs. They were like an indoor gym for him! He’d run up and down them for any reason - and for no reason. I loved the steps too, but for a different reason.

Every morning I would wake my little boy up, and try to get him dressed and ready for preschool. Some days were easy – he was ready to go! But other days, when he was tired and sleepy, he’d say “Momma, can we love on the steps?” I’d sit on the steps, and he’d crawl up in my lap with one leg on each side of me, lean his little head over on me, and I’d hold him in my arms, and just love him. I’d shower him in kisses as we sat there and just talked about the small things that life is made of.

Years later after my daughter was born “love on the steps” was something she wanted too. In the mornings and sometimes in the evening after a long day at work, she’d come up to me, and say “Momma, let’s love on the steps” with her big green eyes looking so tired. I’d sit with her and she’d tell me all about her day, and I’d tickle here to hear her giggle, and she’d have me hold her hands while she bent over backwards to look at the kitchen upside down.

Now my son is 16 and my daughter is 9. They’re too big for my lap. In fact, I’d come closer to being able to sit in theirs! It’s been a long time since we’ve had “love on the steps”. Looking back at all the times they asked and I was too busy getting dressed, running late for an appointment, in the middle of cooking dinner, or just too tired, I realize the mistake I made in sometimes saying “no, I don’t have time”.

Jesus commanded us in John 13:34-35 saying, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Often we see this verse and we forget that the “love one another” also means those closest to us. We can become so busy being Christians and following Jesus’ wish that we “love our neighbors as ourselves” that we fail to love those closest to us as much and as often as Jesus would like.

Friends don’t let another day go by without “loving on the steps” those that are dearest to you. Jesus commands it. They want it. You need it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Leggo My Ego!

Have you ever been humbled? Oh, I don’t mean in a soft gentle manner, like having someone treat you with great respect, or having a group of people do something extraordinarily wonderful for you. I mean in a kick in the pants way! I mean in such a way as to knock you off your own pedestal!

When I was in Junior High, there was a boy who was very popular named Greg. He had a girlfriend, and she was popular as well. They were the “cool” kids – the ones everyone wanted to be around. They wore the latest fad clothing, had the cool haircuts, the cool parents, the cool house…you know…they were…well…”groovy”.

I wasn’t one of those types of kids. I was the one who was a bit shy, awkward, clumsy, and very self-conscious. I was the one who was always a year or so behind the trends in fashion due to the hand-me-downs I wore. My parents were Christians, which wasn’t at all cool at the time. I lived on a farm, so my shoes often had dust on them, and I was a bit disheveled from the long bus ride every day. I did have friends, and I stuck very close to my small group of confidants.

Much to my amazement one day I found out that Greg had broken up with his girlfriend, and was going to “ask me out”. Now, this was junior high, and when a guy “asked you out” you didn’t really go anywhere. You were just “together”. And that didn’t mean you were really together, it just meant you were a “pair”. But not really a “pair” because you didn’t hang together too much for fear of being ridiculed and teased for having a friend of the opposite sex. Now that I think about it, I’m not so sure what “going out” really meant! But – it was a good thing!

Greg – THE GREG – liked me! Oh, now that gave me something to be proud about. I was in gym class sitting on the bleachers, which were the old-fashioned wooden kind, anchored in a concrete floor. Greg was sitting behind me and I was as nervous as a mouse in a cat’s house! Would he ask me while we were in gym? Would he wait to ask me in 5th period? Would he walk me to the bus? Oh! My little blonde head was just spinning!

My girlfriends suddenly became a larger group of girls, and everyone wanted to be sitting right beside me. It was a bidding war for the seat to the left and right of me. Greg might come over and talk to me, and if he did, of course they wanted to be there! All my giggly girlfriends were saying, “you’re so lucky”, “I wish I were you” and showering me in compliments. I have to say it felt good. In fact, it was an excellent time. To make myself perfectly clear, this was a very good day! My hair looked great, my clothes were still in style, and my eye shadow - electric blue - thick coat - was not creased!

The gym class activity for the day I don’t remember. What I do remember was the gym instructor calling our names to have us come from the bleachers down into groups. I was listening intently for my name. But just as she called it, she called the girl in front of me. To this day I don’t know how it happened, but as she began to rise from her seat, my left leg was going down to the bleacher beside her, and well, I ended up riding her shoulders as she stood up. That’s right. My left leg on her left shoulder…my right leg on her right shoulder.

Was I embarrassed you ask? What do you think! I had just gone from being the gym class queen to the gym class jester! Greg? Oh yeah, he was watching. He couldn’t have missed it. I was only sitting a few bleachers in front of him.

If there had been a rock lying on that gym floor, I’d have crawled under it! If there had been a tree, I’d have hid behind it! If there had been a crowd, I’d have gotten lost in it! But wouldn’t you know it…we were some of the first to be called.

Humbling experiences have a way of sticking with you. That happened over 30 years ago, and still I remember it as if it were yesterday. They stick with us because they hurt a part of us that lies very deep in our hearts…our ego. It is the center of our self-love. An ego by itself is not bad, but when you let that portion of your heart swell and grow too big, it can crowd out the love you should have for others. When you love yourself too much, you can become selfish, judgmental, and arrogant.

This kind of attitude is the exact opposite of what Jesus wants from us! In John 13:34 we read as Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you”. Jesus loved us unconditionally, without concern for himself. He gave us all that he had, right down to giving us his life as he hung upon the cross. Even today, as He sits beside our Father God in Heaven, He still shows His love by interceding for us in prayer.

Yet so often we let our egos grow to the point we won’t give each other the time of day. We ignore the waiter as he fills our glass. We forget to thank the young man who dries our window at the car wash. We complain about our fast food when it’s wrong, but never say “thank you” when the order is delivered without flaws. We get wrapped up in our own little world to the point that we don’t even want to be interrupted by our own children.

Self, take a seat! It’s time to let someone else have the limelight of our life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Getting God's Attention

I debated on the title of this article. I fully believe God’s children always have his attention. But I also believe as his children, our cries get more attention than our laughter. Just as a mother will run to her child when they cry out, God will run to us when he hears our tears fall.

There are times when we need God in such a way that we cannot put it into words. There are times when only the groaning of the Holy Spirit within us can interpret the cries of our soul to God. It is then that we need to look at other ways to get our Father’s attention.

Since the beginning of time God has honored the sacrifices of his people. In the Old Testament they were used as a means to find forgiveness. But after Jesus became our sacrifice on the cross, all forgiveness is ours through the blood of Jesus when we ask. Sacrifice now is a way to honor God, to put Him first, to draw His attention to us. One of those sacrifices is called fasting.

Fasting has many different flavors, but the same substance. It is the denial of self while in prayer to God. Some people go without food for days, living only on water as a fast. Others give up chocolate only, or meat. Some give up sex with their spouse for long terms, and others will give up TV, or some other form of entertainment. It’s not what you give up that draws God’s attention. After all, all these things are gifts from Him. What makes the difference is where your heart is in the sacrifice, what you do with what is being sacrificed, and what you do instead.

If I gave up all food right now, God would not be impressed. Why? Because I’m also dieting. I’d have two motives – therefore, my motive to gain God’s attention would not be pure. My sacrifice would be tainted as if I’d given God a sickly animal instead of the unspotted calf. Your heart must be pure in the sacrifice.

While giving the sacrifice, we must turn our attention to God. We need to be in prayer, Bible study, worship, and praise to Him. In 1 Peter 2:4-5 Paul says, “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ“. Spiritual sacrifices – gifts from your spirit to God – those are our offerings to God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus says in Matthew 9:13, “But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” The sacrifice does not get His attention. Mercy does. While you are not watching TV, what will your TV be doing? Okay, now this next part is going to be hard, so bear with me. Don’t turn me off. Give it away. Yes, that’s right – I went there! Give your television away – out of your house – move the beast! Is there a ministry in your church that could use it to play Christian DVD’s? Is there a shelter in your area in need of one? Give it away. Be merciful!

Are you sitting there saying “Oh my goodness! I couldn’t give my TV away! I need that TV! Oh my!” Ask yourself which you need most – God’s attention, or the TV? Remember the widow who only had two cents, but she brought them – both of them, and gave them as tithes to God. Jesus said she was the greatest giver because she gave till it hurt. She gave beyond what was comfortable.

In closing, I want you to hear what God has to say through the prophet Isaiah concerning fasting. As you read this, open your heart to His words. Read it aloud. Listen with your ears and heart to the kind of fasting that draws God near.

Isaiah 58:1-14
1 “Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God.
3 ‘ Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’
“ In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your laborers.
4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
And to strike with the fist of wickedness.
You will not fast as you do this day,
To make your voice heard on high.
5 Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the LORD?
6 “ Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 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.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
“ If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
12 Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
13 “ If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the LORD honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Lord, forgive me for all my sins, cast them far from me Father. Heal my brokenness. Bring forth the waters of your fountain of joy. Father, renew your spirit within me. Shield me from the enemy. Hear my cries, and comfort me Lord. Be ever near to me. Be with my every thought, my every care, and my every breath. Lord I desire only more of you in my life. Come closer Father. In Jesus Holy name I pray, Amen.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Greed or Need?

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.” –Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko, “Wallstreet” (1987)

Is greed working for you? Here’s a test to help you answer that question. How much money do you have in the bank right now at your disposal? Write that figure down. Now, how much do you owe on credit cards, mortgages, and other debts? If your income is less than your outgo, greed isn’t working for you – you’re working for greed. And greed does not make a good employer! You get no time off, no rest, and no rewards. It’s only perk is that for a sheer moment in time, you have a sense of ownership of something big, something you desire, something that might make you happy. But alas, it’s a fleeting moment, and then the work begins anew.

Many of us have a credit card we’d love to pay off. Each month the bill arrives like a scarlet letter. We know the news will never be good. Yet we feel trapped in the cycle. We pay as much as we can, but each month the credits outweigh the debits. The circle spins around us. It’s as if we’re sitting on a tilt-a-whirl, and shifting from right to left, unable to control our circumstances.

The problem is not the credit card. The credit card can’t hurt you. Well, I suppose if the edges were sharpened, perhaps you might cut a finger, but that’s about all it could do to you. The real problem is greed. When greed takes over, we pull out that credit card and take hold of what is not ours! We didn’t really buy it. We borrowed it on credit! We stopped depending on God for our needs, and started fueling our greed. Debt makes it very easy to fund our greed, and neglect our dependence on God.

Jesus has told us as simply as He can how that we can have the things we need. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” What “things”? All the things we really need - clothing, food, shelter, and the breath of life.

But what if it’s not something you need, but something you want? What should a faithful follower of Christ do about those things? In Ephesians 4:17-24 we read the following passage:

“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

It’s a matter of which man gets control – the old one, which is the flesh, or the new one, which is the Holy Spirit living in you. Which will you follow? If you choose to follow the old man, you will give yourself over to greediness. You’ll become alienated from God through your greed. You will grow corrupt, and become defiled by your own lusts. Greed will be your master, and you will be it’s slave.

But if you choose to let the Holy Spirit living in you reign over your desires, you will have the peace given to you by Jesus himself. You will end the worries over debts you cannot pay. You will stop the dizziness of the tilt-a-whirl of uncontrolled spending.

We all want things we cannot afford. The next time you’re faced with this battle of wills, ask God for it…and then wait. If it comes to you, it was His desire for you to have it, and you can praise Him for it! If it doesn’t, you must ask yourself, if the God of All Wisdom didn’t want you to have it enough to give it to you, do you really want to own it?

The Idol In Your Wallet

An average of eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty weeks of the year, we give our energy, our minds and our thoughts to our work. We spend a great deal of our time working and laboring to make money. In a society where it can be traded for our needs, it’s a necessity. But far too often, money becomes the desire of our hearts.

Money itself is not the problem. What harm can a small piece of paper or small circle of metal do? But the love of money has a power all its own. It has the power to control the heart and mind. This comes partially from the fact that it is used to judge social stature. If you don’t have it - you’re low on the social ladder. If you have it, and have enough of it - you’re up high in social standings. Friends will come out of the woodwork when you have wealth.

The love of money can drive people to do things they would not otherwise do. It will cause people to steal and to kill. Money has made best friends into devout enemies. It makes parents become absentees as their children grow in the care of babysitters and guardians while they put in just a few more hours of overtime. It can corrupt government officials who were "for the people" and cause the most devout evangelists to turn from the God who gave them their wealth, and to the desires of the world.

Worst of all, it can cause men to steal from God. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus says “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.“ Webster’s defines Mammon as “the false god of riches”. By loving money above God, we are worshiping the false god, an idol, an idol carried not only in our wallets but also in our hearts. When our hearts are filled with the love of money, God is pushed into crevices. We are no longer loyal to the wishes of God, but seek to serve our money and social status instead. We break God’s number one rule to have no other gods before Him.

Have you ever played a game of Christian hot potato? Oh, you may have and just not known it. Watch as an offering plate is passed through a church. Look at the faces of those who are trying to quickly move the plate along. Hot Potato! Hot Potato! Keep that plate moving quickly! If it stays in front of you, and you’re not giving, there’s guilt! You can feel it, but just like most sins, we try our best to ignore it. Inwardly we’re screaming “Get away from me plate! I don’t want to feel the need to be subject to God with my income! This is mine, mine, MINE!”

Perhaps you have forsaken God’s ordinance of tithing. Instead of being good stewards of the income God has given you, have you decided, perhaps subconsciously, that you cannot afford to give to God? I beg to differ! You cannot afford NOT to give!

In Malachi 3: 8-10 God says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.“

Which do you prefer? A curse, or a blessing? It really is just that simple…unless you deny the infallible Word of God. Personally, I want to see the windows of Heaven opened for me. God, I’m ready to receive my financial blessing! And when it comes, and I know it will, I’ll recognize the Father who gave to me because I was willing to put Him first.

Put God first when you really want to keep the money. That’s called sacrifice.

Put God first when you don’t know where your next dollar will come from. That’s called Faith.

Put God first when you really have a need for the money. That’s called Trust.

That’s called worship - worship of God, not mammon.

Rebelling Against Authority

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress;My God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” – Psalms 91:1-4

He wasn’t going. No way – no how! He didn’t care who it was asking. That was one trip he was not going to make! Instead he found a ship going as far away from the town of Nineveh as he could. He boarded a ship sailing to the town of Tarshish. Maybe it was the stress of the decision or perhaps it was the lack of sleep while God was urging him to travel to Nineveh. Either way he was exhausted, and Jonah fell sleep on the boat.

He thought he’d escaped. God had not yet revealed himself to the people of Tarshish so it seemed the perfect destination to get away from God and His demands. But God was watching. The clouds darkened, and settled above the boat. All light was gone from the sky. The seas began to roar and the waves crashed against the little boat harder, stronger, and taller.

The boat was rocking because Satan was knocking! By rejecting the authority of God, Jonah had set in place his own destruction. God had removed the umbrella of protection put over his prophet, and Satan was at the gate - prepared to attack!

The men in the boat were afraid for their lives. They were looking for places to hang on, looking for a way to stay afloat should their boat capsize. Then Jonah told them about his journey from God - his attempt to run. Jonah said to them in Jonah 1:12, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” Jonah already knew in his heart even before the storm started that he was wrong in running from Almighty God. His heart told him so! A child doesn’t purposefully disobey a parent without feeling guilt. But now that God had removed the umbrella of protection, he was willing to admit his mistake.

As soon as Jonah was thrown out of the boat the seas became calm, the waves stopped rushing the ship, and the clouds dispersed. Jonah had stopped running. He was no longer going to Tarshish. In fact, he wasn’t going anywhere but a water-filled grave unless God rescued him! But that’s exactly what happened! A loving God, who forgives all our sins, placed him in the belly of a whale, and took him safely to shore.

Just as a potter must bring the clay under his submission to make it useful, God has to bring us under his submission as well. When the clay refuses to be molded, it’s tossed aside. Without the potter’s attention it begins to dry out, to crumble, to lose it’s strength, and become nothing more than dust. If the potter does not return to the clay, it becomes completely useless.

God uses different situations to mold us by the authority we allow him to have over us. When we rebel against that authority, we give place for Satan to enter into our lives. Satan is very familiar with rebellion! If you remember, he led the rebellion in Heaven that caused one-third of all the angels to be cast down with him. He knows how to orchestrate your rebellion as well. Just as he whispered into the ears of the angels he’ll whisper into yours!

“If God really loved you, would he allow this to happen? Surely He doesn’t love you as much as he loves Sister Saintly! Look how wonderful her life is!”

“You’re worthless. You can’t do anything right. What does God need with a servant like you? Let someone with talent do the job.”

“The church folk don’t like you. Those people are probably talking about you behind your back, and just wanting you to quit! And you know Brother Bigmouth said you had no talent! Brother Badnews even told you so!”

Friends, Satan is bold – he has nothing to fear! He thought nothing of trying to tempt Jesus Christ in the wilderness. Keep in mind – he was completely aware of who Jesus was. This was not their first meeting. Jesus was in Heaven when the rebellion began, and was with God when Satan and his minions were cast out. Yet that did not discourage him from trying to tempt Jesus. Don’t think he won’t come after you if you allow the umbrella of protection to be lifted through your insubordination to God!

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…“ – James 4:7-8

Friday, July 20, 2007

Spirit Breakers - Faith Makers

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-3

Living in the great state of Kentucky where there are so many horse farms I have to say I do believe they are the most beautiful animals God ever created. Their strength, their beauty as they run through the fields, the way their mane and tail fly with the wind – all show their magnificent beauty.

Wild horses, which are not found in Kentucky, are equally beautiful. There’s something completely breathtaking to watch a large herd of these animals roam the meadows and rest by the streams. These horses, in contrast to the tame horses of Kentucky, have a strong spirit within them. They are fierce, and may bite, kick, or even trample you if you get too close.

The difference is in their life experiences. Where a tame horse has been broken slowly from birth by the owners’ insistence in feeding it by hand, saddling it, and riding it, a wild horse has none of those experiences. For it to become tame, a cowboy or rancher has to pursue the horse, and take it through great trials of its spirit to break it down and create in it a horse that can be trusted and used.

Christians often have to go through these same types of trials. It may come in small doses, such as harsh words from friends or a short-term financial problem. These bring you closer to God because you realize anew your dependence upon him. As He brings you through them you realize He does care, and He is there to help you. The short-term little trials are endurable, one by one. This kind of growth is very much like something my Granddad use to tell me: if you pick up a calf every day from the day it was born until it becomes a cow, you’ll one day be able to actually pick up the cow. You grow, bit by bit, little by little, and in many situations, with very little hardship.

But then there are those “other” trials. There are the trials that tear at your heart, that weigh on you like carrying an iron rod across your back. These are spirit breakers. They can break you down and cause you to crumble. They can leave you feeling far, far, away from God. You may become depressed, cry for days, feel like all hope is lost, and just wish you could sleep through life.

James says to “consider it pure joy” when these occur because they test your faith. It’s through perseverance that our faith will grow. You can count it all joy! You can look at it as a blessing! The key to this is you have to look past it: past the pain, past the fear, past the heartbreak, past the hardship. Look toward the deliverance through faith. Even when the deliverance has not yet come, you can know based on past trials and His Holy Word that God will not forsake you. He is there, and He cares. He will bring you through it all as a victor if you will just reach out for His hand. Pray for strength, pray for mercy, pray for his guidance, and praise Him in the storm.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Setting Aside the Grace of God

“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” – Galatians 2:17-21

The passage above was written by Paul as an exhortation to Peter. Peter had been known to not eat with the uncircumcised Gentiles due to his Jewish upbringing. Several of the disciples were moving into another room while the Gentiles ate as well. Paul, being a Gentile, recognized this, and responded to Peter in these verses. Paul questioned him as to whether we, being saved sinners, should try to follow the old laws to receive our justification as if we were still living in sin.

When we choose to follow laws instead of Christ we burden ourselves back into the bondage we were freed from. Sure, being a saved sinner does not give us the right to live in sin! A saved sinner will – because of his changed nature – not want to live in sin. But friends, the prayer of salvation does not perfect us while we live in the flesh.

However, we, being saved, should not worry about whether God is going to convict us of eating unworthily, or dressing in defilement, or sacrificing incorrectly. Instead, God grants us grace, and we live in that grace, asking forgiveness when we fail, but not living in fear of failure. Our failure is inevitable even while the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Our bodies of flesh and this wicked world will set traps for us, and we will fall into them.

Paul said “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” A converted sinner has died to sin, and has been granted a new life in Christ, the savior who loved us, and gave himself for us. We have been made righteous which means “right with God” through the blood of Jesus, which was shed for our sins. That is the grace and love of God in action!

Sin to a non-believer is an obstacle, a boulder, a stone wall that prevents them from reaching God. But for a born-again believer, sin is like a pebble in our shoe. When it’s there, it’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel right. We start to walk differently to avoid the pain. The longer we leave it in the shoe the more pain it brings. Left long enough, we may stop walking all together! But the minute we sit down, remove the pebble (through a prayer to God for forgiveness) the pebble is gone, and so is the pain.

Friends, don’t “set aside the grace of God”. Remember that we can claim forgiveness through prayer to our father. Strengthen your life through Christ and God’s forgiveness, and don’t live in fear of the sins you will commit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Walking in the Spirit

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:16-25

Within every saved sinner there is a continual battle. It’s a battle between the body and the Holy Spirit which dwells within us. They want us to do different things, to have different ideas and thoughts.

Many saved sinners have never felt the joy of their salvation because they continue to live in the flesh – letting their body control their thoughts and their actions. Where the body is at work, the Holy Spirit will take a back seat. He’s not going to come up against you and say “Enough! I demand you let me make your decisions because that is what is best for you!” and take control. Oh, if only that could happen, how much better off we’d all be!

Galatians 5:19-21 gives us a long laundry list of the desires of the body, and how they may manifest themselves. These “works of the flesh” it says are evident – easy to identify. The list varies in extremity according to our standards. Few of us would ever consider murdering someone, but many of us have felt envious or jealous. These are manifestations of the body over the Holy Spirit. These things happen because we do not adhere to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

But if we keep reading and look at Galatians 5:22, we read the things that are created from the working of the Holy Spirit within us, which are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”. When we exercise the Holy Spirit that lives within us, allowing it to rule our hearts, minds, and body, we will see these “fruits” in our lives.

Often I feel we sit back and say “Here I am God, give me patience! Give me peace! Give me longsuffering!” But the Bible teaches against that. James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Rather than just asking God the gardener to give us the fruits, we need to grow them.

With any growth process, you start with a seed. What seeds can you plant today to grow your love? Can you befriend someone who desperately needs a friend? Can you give a hug to someone who’s hurting?

I was in a restaurant a few weeks back and watched as a young mother attempted to have a conversation while taking care of her young baby in a high chair. The little girl looked to be about a year old. As the mom was talking to her friend, the baby dropped her spoon. The mother – without breaking her conversation - reached down, picked up the spoon, dipped it in her water glass, wiped it off and handed it back to her daughter.

This happened at least 7 times as I watched in amazement. Not once did mom look at her daughter and point a finger with a frowned face and say “NO! Enough!” Each time she would simply go through cleaning the spoon and giving it to her daughter. She patiently let her daughter play, and patiently retrieved that spoon each time it was dropped. Undoubtedly this mom had been planting seeds of patience, and her crop was coming in beautifully!

Until we can grow our Spirit fruits, we will find our life produces thorns from the flesh. God has given us the Holy Spirit to be our comforter and guide. But if we’re not letting Him guide us, there will be no comfort – only inner turmoil as the flesh and His Spirit wrestle for power.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Victory through Small Steps of Faith

The next time Satan steps up to the plate and tries to swing his bat at you stand on the mound! Stand, and stand strong. Until you can, you’ll never know the power of God to rescue you from Satan’s attempts to defeat you.

There are times in life when we are faced with trials that we just feel hopeless and helpless to overcome. We feel as if the battle is already lost before we even go to war. We don’t see a way out, we can’t find the answers, and we can’t see how God will create the solution.

This is when you simply must stand. You have to stand on God’s promises to see you through. Look for those promises throughout God’s word. Ask Him to reveal them to you, and He will. Study the promises and understand why the promise can be trusted and accepted. Understand why it is promised individually to you. These are means of growing your faith in God. Your faith must increase for you to win any spiritual battle. And yes, they are spiritual battles. For a child of God, there is no other kind (Ephesians 6:12).

Here’s an example of how you grow your faith through Bible study. When you enter a trial, it’s common to have a certain amount of fear. Where does the Bible talk about fear, the emotion you have? Remember in Psalms 23:4 it says, “I will fear no evil; For You are with me“? From this verse, ask yourself how you can be sure that He really is with you? Study that thought! Where does it say “I will never leave you nor forsake you”? Find it and read it (Hebrews 13:5). What gives you that promise? Determine if it was made to you by reading more of that passage and those around it (Hebrews 12:28).

Continue studying that train of thought and meditation until you have exhausted it. When you’ve researched every corner of that thought, start back at the beginning with your feeling of fear. If that’s still what you are feeling, you need to keep studying about fear!

What else does the Bible say about fear? In 2 Timothy 1:7 it says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Take this verse apart and study it. If God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, who does? What kind of power does God give us? What kind of spirit of love does God give his children? How do we attain a sound mind? Continue studying. You’ll soon find you have no fear left in you. Then you can fully understand the feeling of standing on God’s promises. There’s a sense of peace and accomplishment that ensures your victory as you stand hand in hand with Christ on that mound, eye to eye with Satan, daring him to swing.

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Small steps of faith will grow you into a victor in Christ. Take every opportunity when you’re struggling with trails in your life to grow your faith. Remember – it’s not on the mountaintop we grow, but in the valley.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Are you Reacting or Responding?

Trouble will come your way. If you’re a Christian, it is a certainty. At all times you are either coming out, in, or about to enter one of life’s storms. This should be a point of praise! It’s only during the trials that life brings us that we can grow stronger in our faith. But far to often we cannot give praise for the trail because we’re not able to accept it for growth.

Christians either “react” to the storm or they “respond” to it. As an example, when you are sick, you go to the doctor, and he prescribes a drug. But the medication can have two very different effects. If the body “reacts” to the medicine, it shows a negative effect. There may be a rash, dizziness, sleepiness, labored breathing, or even a complete allergic condition created by the medication. But if the body “responds” to the medicine, healing will take place. The medication does what it is suppose to do – it cures the problem.

When we receive trials, we are to prove our faith with Christian actions. We are not to react emotionally from our anger or our frustration. We are to stand on the faith that we have in God, and rest in His promises. Sure, it sounds easy – resting on the promises, leaning on God, listening for His voice. But try doing it when your marriage is failing, when your children are late getting home from a date, when your friends become your enemies, or when the doctors are saying “It doesn’t look good”.

If we are to grow spiritually, we must respond to the trials that come our way with the courage to wait for God to instruct us. James 1:2-3 says “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Our patience will grow as we wait on God. Our faith will grow as we see God work to solve our problems. If you can trust him with the small problems today, one day you will be strong enough to trust him with the big ones.

Are you reacting or responding to the trials you have in life? Search your heart and you will find the answer. Search God’s heart and you will find the cure.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Spiritual Authority of Heaven

“What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. “ – Psalms 8:4-8

From the beginning there has been a structure of leadership in creation. In Psalms 8 we read that God as creator has made man “a little lower than the angels”. We also read that he has put us over the animal kingdom. But have you ever wondered why the authority structure of God’s kingdom is set as it is? Understanding this can release to you the ability to move up that ladder of Kingdom leadership.

God, at the top of the chain of command, is fully spirit. In Genesis 1:2 when God begins creation, it says the “Spirit of God was hovered over the face of the waters”. God is Spirit.

Creation itself was performed as a corporate affair. When the creation of man is discussed, those present said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Who was in attendance at this convergence of creators? It was the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.

As we discussed, in Genesis 1:1 we hear that God was present. In John 1:1-3 it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” The Word is Jesus, God’s Holy Son, and this title is used repeatedly to describe Him in the Bible. We can also be assured that the Holy Spirit was in attendance because when Jesus tells His disciples that He must go away he tells them in John 14:16 “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper“. The Holy Spirit was in residence with God right up until the moment in which God sent Him to earth to be a comfort and support for His people. Therefore, we know that the Holy Trinity – three in one, created us.

Whereas God is fully Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is fully Spirit, Jesus is uniquely different. Jesus, once fully Spirit, was made flesh and took on the mortal body of man. He was contained in a physical body for a short time to endure the same pain and suffering that we endure. Jesus, when He became man, gave up some of His stature in Heaven for a short time to become one of us. When Jesus spoke of His coming resurrection He said in John 14:28, “If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.” Jesus was acknowledging the greatness of Father God over that of Himself.

God was greater because Jesus was still in a fleshly body. And to this day, He is still within that body. We’re assured of that when the Angels spoke to the disciples in Acts 1:11 at His ascension and said “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” When Jesus returns he will physically arrive in a cloud.

Angels, though fully spirit, are subject to Jesus. They are under his authority. In 1 Peter 3:22 we read that Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him”. The angels were even created through Jesus as the rest of the world. In Hebrews 1:4 we read that Jesus was “so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

Demons are also spirits – unholy spirits. Where do they rank on the social ladder of Heaven? They also rank under the authority of Jesus, as is shown when he drove them into the heard of pigs in Matthew 8:29. The demons spoke to Jesus before he came to them and said, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” The demons themselves spoke to the deity of Christ by announcing Him as the Son of God. They then requested of Jesus that they be allowed to go into the herd of pigs. Jesus spoke only one word – “GO!” – and they went into the herd. Therefore, demons rank lower than Jesus.

But what about mankind? Where do we rank within the authoritative structure of Heaven? Friends, hear me well! Understanding this can unleash on your life the power to overcome the greatest obstacles you can face. It can cause you to rise a victor each day, and sleep at peace each night. But at the core of the answer remains one vital question: Who do you call Father?

If you are born again through belief and confession of Jesus Christ as God’s risen Son, you possess the Holy Spirit – given by God. He lives within you as stated in 1 Corinthians 6:29, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” We, being “owned” by God, are His children. In Galatians 4:6-7 reads “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” By the grace of God, we have His Holy Spirit within us, and are become heirs with Christ. We are made perfect in Christ. Through belief in Him and acceptance of Him as our Savior, we have become the children of God.

So…here’s where you rank on the ladder of spiritual authority:

If you are become joint heirs with Christ, God calls YOU son or daughter as well. God is on your side!

If you are become joint heirs with Christ, your are a Brother or Sister to the Savior Himself.

If you are become joint heirs with Christ, then YOU have power over demons as Christ does.

If you are become joint heirs with Christ, then YOU can call the angels and they will come just as they will answer to Christ.

Arise, children of God! By the possession of the Holy Spirit within you, you have victory in this world! ! Claim your victory in Christ!