Friday, February 28, 2014

One Body

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” – Ephesians 4:1-6

Once there was a body, and it was a beautiful body from the outside to the inside.  It went places, it accomplished great things, and the people that saw it marveled at the power it had.

But one day the left knee decided it should bend, while the right knee complained, and said “It’s too hard for me to bend, and there’s nothing accomplished by it.  So I refuse to bend.”  So the left knee tried to bend alone, but could not.

The next day the left foot said “I feel need to walk into the water.” But as he started toward the water, the right foot shouted, “Stop! That’s not necessary! We should just wash ourselves here.  We don’t need to get all wet!”  The left foot could not go without the right, so he stopped.

Then the left hand felt the need to clap, but the right hand complained. “It’s ridiculous for you to make such noise! What will others think? I won’t be a part of it!”  So the left hand could not clap.

The left leg suddenly felt the desire to dance, and he said to the right leg, “Come! Please dance with me! It makes me happy!” But the right leg sat still, and frowned at the left leg.  He said “This is not a dance hall! I will not be a part of it!”  To the left leg sat down too, and was grieved that he was not allowed to dance.

Later on the left eye saw a young man sitting all alone and hungry.  The eye began to shed tears, and wanted to help the young man.  But the right eye said “Stop the crying.  He’s alone because he wants to be alone.  If he’s hungry, let him find a job!”  With the correction, the left eye no longer felt he should look at the young man.

Then the creator of the body saw what happening.  There was the body, the beautiful body of Christ, disabled by its own inner struggles.  He spoke up, and said, why can’t you just “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE, endeavoring to keep THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT IN THE BOND OF PEACE.”  Do you not understand that you areONE BODY and ONE SPIRIT, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and IN YOU ALL.”?

Jesus did not come to give division through denominations and break up the body according to petty traditions.  He came to save the world.  What we could accomplish if the entire body of Christ -  Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Nazarenes - all believers would work together as one body, working in the power of One Spirit.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What If You Were Meant For More?

“Thus says the Lord to His anointed,
To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
To subdue nations before him
And loose the armor of kings,
To open before him the double doors,
So that the gates will not be shut:
 ‘I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.
 I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who call you by your name,
Am the God of Israel.

For Jacob My servant’s sake,
And Israel My elect,
I have even called you by your name;
I have named you, though you have not known Me.
 I am the Lord, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other” – Isaiah 45:1-6

Cyrus was a great King.  He was the first King of Persia, which at the time was one of the largest empires on the earth.  But he didn’t become great all on his own. 
God had planned Cyrus’ life, and Cyrus followed.  Persia was an idolatrous nation, and God planned for Cyrus to be an overcomer.  Whereas Persians believed in two gods, one that was good and one that was evil, God’s full intent was to show Cyrus, the Medes, the Persians, the Jews, and many other nations through him, that He was the only God.

The first step toward reaching his destiny was Cyrus’ belief in God and his anointing to deliver the Jews from captivity in many countries.  God fulfilled his promise, and delivered to him Syria, Assyria, Babylon, Arabia, India, Phoenicia, and many, many other countries which made the Persian empire the controlling empire of the world.  And in Ezra 1:2 Cyrus gives God all the glory, stating that “All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me.”
While reading this passage I had to stop and think.  What if Cyrus had not given God the glory for his success?  What if he had, even for a short time, stepped out of the will of God?   Would the Persian Empire have not been created?  No, I believe it would have.  But I don’t believe Cyrus would have been king. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).  What God desires most from us is to give Him glory through our life. 

The purpose of the Persian Empire was not simply to free the Jews, but to return them to God from idolatry as Isaiah 45:6 says, “That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other”.  Had Cyrus decided to deny God the praise He deserved, I believe God would have turned over the throne to another, just as He did Solomon when he decided to take on priestly duties that were not his to perform. 
Throughout the wars that Cyrus fought, God walked with him and we are told he held his right hand.  God went before him to “open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut”.  The cities were walled, and had large double gates.  When they struck Babylon, the gates were opened by the king to determine what the noise outside the gates was all about. God went before them, making “the crooked paths straight”, easing their way.

When I look at what God did with Cyrus, I have to stop and think….what if God mean for me to accomplish more?  What if there are mission fields with foreign languages that I could bring to salvation for Him?  What if there are homeless that I could somehow bring to employment and a better life? What if I could help the addicted to be released from their addictions?  What if there are children I could raise up to be blessed by Him?  What if the things I see as impossibilities would have been accomplished by Him if I had only trusted Him to remove all obstacles?   
There’s a big difference in having faith that God will do something, and trusting Him to do it.  Faith says the bridge will hold up my car.  Trust drives over the bridge.

There’s a big difference in being obedient to God, and fully giving Him charge over your life.  Being obedient is to follow what God’s word says.  Giving Him full charge is to lay down your life at His feet, and ask Him to take it up and show you how to live it.  Giving Him full control means that He determines your future, what you will do, where you will live, and who you will become.  Proverbs 16:9 says “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” What if we allowed God to make the plans?  Wouldn’t that help make the crooked path straight?
Cyrus trusted God with his future, and God accomplished great things through Him.  Ask God what He wants to accomplish through you. 



Saturday, February 22, 2014

Removing the Wall

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” – Romans 8:1-6

One of the most beautiful things Jesus said in the Bible was when He spoke to the woman who was brought before him by the religious leaders to be stoned.  She had been found “in the very act” of adultery.  While everyone wanted to condemn her, even to death, Jesus did not.  His words to her in John 8:11 were “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”  Let us realize that Jesus echoes those very same words to each of us.  While He does not condemn us, He asks that we turn from sin.
Romans 8:1 says there is “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit”.  Notice the capital “S” in Spirit, which makes this a noun representing the Holy Spirit.  To be “in” Christ Jesus is to be covered by His righteousness through faith in Him, through salvation.  Salvation is a time in which we repent (confess) our sins to God, believing in Jesus as the son of God to be our savior and redeem us from our debt of sin.  At the time of salvation God gives us the wondrous gift of His Holy Spirit, living in us as our guide and our comforter (Ephesians 1:13-14, John 16:13). 

Prior to salvation, we were on our own, trying to be good and do right based on our own merits.  Even though we are born with sinful natures, we do know doing good things is better.  When Adam and Eve at of the tree that brought sin, it was the tree of “The Knowledge of Good and Evil” (Genesis 2:16-17).  And just as they proved, our flesh is weak, and we simply cannot be good consistently.  We lust after things that aren’t right because our very nature is evil (Genesis 6:5, Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8). That’s why the gift of His Spirit is so important. He “leads us into all truth”, guiding us from what is bad into what is good (John 16:13).  You see, salvation doesn’t just give you a ticket into Heaven and write your name in the Book of Life.  It changes you from the inside out.
Your wants change, the way you view life changes, and the way you view others changes.  God is love, and His Holy Spirit gives love in a heart that may have never known real love.  The change doesn’t work itself to the surface of our lives overnight.  But it is at work, changing how we react to life’s challenges, to others, and even to our God.  We learn to love Him and others more and more by letting His Spirit guide us.  Having the Spirit of God inside you changes everything.  The Holy Spirit is a helper like no other. 

Sin creates a wall between us and God.  It’s a wall in the heart, unseen.  But it shows up in our actions.  When we live with sin in our lives we don’t want to be with people who talk about God, to read our Bibles, to watch religious TV, or even hear Christian music.  Our tastes are for things that please the flesh, not the Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is not in us, and our flesh rules.  When we do those things, coming near His Spirit, we only feel burdened, which is because of our sin.  James 4:4 says that ”friendship with the world”, the world being synonymous with sin, “is enmity with God” and “whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”.  Consider the consequences of making Almighty God our enemy.  Nothing good comes from that!  The consequences do show up in your life.
The greatest change that comes from not walking “according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”, obeying the guidance of the Holy Spirit from within, is that the wall is broken down.  We no longer have God as our enemy on the other side of the wall.  He can be our Father, we can be His children, and we can be intimately close to Him. 

Yes, salvation gives us eternal life in Heaven instead of Hell.  Heaven is a wonderful part of the gift of salvation - especially considering the alternative!  But life – even life in Heaven - would be nothing but a burden if we didn’t have peace with God.  Life and peace is the prize of living in the Spirit.  When there is no wall - there is no separation from God.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Faith as Deep as An Ocean

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior."

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Faith without active trust is empty.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Clanging Cymbals Are Annoying

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-2

My son used to play drums, and early on when he was learning I can remember the sound of a “clanging cymbal”.  It wasn’t pretty.  In fact, when the rest of the music was good, it was sort of annoying.  It cut into the music like a dull knife, knocking out of memory the soothing sounds of the rest of the music.  But as he learned to play the drums better, it was the cymbals that made all the difference.  They were the sounds chiming into the rhythm of the bass and the snare that made the music seem full and well rounded.

There’s a lot of clanging cymbals out there.  There’s a lot of prophecy not spoken in love, a lot of profound Biblical understanding that is spoken in condemnation.  The message is the same, just like the music was the same.  But without speaking it in love, no one wants to listen because it’s just annoying, and cuts like a dull knife.  Correct the church, but do it in love.  Lead the lost to Him, but do it in love.

Of all the spiritual gifts that God gives, let us desire most the gift of love.  It is love that makes us most like God, who is love (1 John 4:8).  The absence of love creates an annoyance when we express our faith.  We can prophecy, we can apply our hands in healing, and we can express our faith.  But if we cannot do it with love, we fail to employ the gifts of God as He does. 

“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” – 1 John 4:16