Introducing God

It’s an astonishing, yet elating discovery: God in all His glory and holiness is intimately interested in having a relationship with every one of His children.

I was fortunate enough to know a fair bit about God before actually meeting Him. But I had a good deal of fallacious thinking about Him too. We all do.  God overlooks the invariable false understandings people have of Him, at first. Faithfully, He will bring us to a lucid enough understanding where we’ll confidently be able to proclaim, “I know God—I have a personal relationship with Him!”

Many people construe the personal aspect of a relationship with the Lord to delude themselves into thinking they have a special and unique means of connecting with Him. That’s simply not true. Often we hear people saying things like: “Me and Jesus, we’ve got our own thing going.” It’s even in a song that’s actually sung in worship services. The next clause proclaims, “Me-n-Jesus, we got it all worked out.” They will believe that lie, thinking that each of us has our own formula for coming into the presence of the Most High. God Himself, however, is the one who ordains how we are to approach and make contact with Him, as well as how to unite with Him.

It is only through faith and trust in Jesus, His Son, that we can meet the righteous requirement of entering into His glorious presence. Faith and our submissive dependence on Christ are unwaveringly requisite, that we may be with Him.

Granted, once we unite with God our relationship with Him becomes very personal and there will be very sweet things that only you and He share together. For example, I myself have a pact with God. On His part, I am irrevocably saved, and on my part, I will never surrender to defeat in attempting to be perfectly righteous and sinless in the life I live, as impossible as that may be. As individuals, we may have widely diverse assignments and various paths to walk. One may be ordained to suffer great pain and loss for the cause of Christ, while another may be held up before the world as a powerfully used vessel for propagating the gospel and leading many souls across the threshold of life. The way into that relationship, however, remains a stringently singular path.

Even when time ends and eternity is ushered in, I don’t think anyone will know ALL there is to know about God: He’s simply too big and complex. He does, however, reveal the most important aspects of His being, which are essential to know if we are to interact with Him and become like Him in character. Here’s a good place to start: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

In the stillness of an empty mind, my soul inhaled the merciful goodness of God, as He revealed Himself in response to faith. I was silent before Him. The first towering wave rushed from His throne and washed over me—I found myself imbued with an awareness of His sovereignty over all things, most importantly over me. He is to be exalted, worshipped and praised. And suddenly I was acutely aware that the Lord’s omniscience causes Him to know my thoughts even before I think them. King David noted the same thing: “Before a word is on my tongue, you, LORD, know it completely.Psalm 139:4
The second wave came as what I call a thought-sensation, which this time communicated His pure holiness and righteousness. This, His glory, caused me to tremble in fright, because I am not perfectly holy. Yet within that same wave came the torrent of His love, expressing the merciful grace He had already lavished upon you and me. My quaking limbs were stilled. Fear was replaced with elation and praise! I had humbled myself, and so He lifted me up and gave me His joy and peace! (1 Peter 5:6)

God demands to be recognized as the awesome God He is. The bible indicates that we are to fear God in over one hundred and twenty five verses scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. This goes far beyond the greatest respect and honor that we would show to someone here on earth. With God we move into reverent worship and awe. Don’t fret, His mighty love casts out our fear, that we may have fellowship with Him, unafraid.

And yet, before we simply sashay up and talk to God, we’d best be aware of who and what we’re talking to. Our lives depend upon it. Often I’ve heard Christians speak of Jesus as if he were simply a bosom buddy, and that is reflected in the lives they live, as well as in their prayers. They don’t seem to realize who it is they are speaking with. I’ll be the first to admit that I was the same way in my Christian infancy. And God winked at my immature view of theology. But I don’t think any of the Apostles looked at their relationship with Christ that way. Sure, He is a friend who will never leave or forsake us. He demonstrated the tender compassion and mercy of God throughout His ministry, until He finally manifested the unrivaled love of the Father by willingly dying a horrible death on the cross, that we might again have a close relationship with our glorious God. But He is still God, and we are but children in His sight, and quite limited in our ability to wrap our heads around His majestic being. But one day we too shall receive glorified bodies.

Jesus is a friend who will never leave or forsake us. The Lord’s tenderness and compassion were clearly demonstrated until His ultimate display of God’s awesome love was manifested on the cross

To have a good relationship with God, and gain His favor and blessings upon our lives, there are some things we must first be aware of. We have to know how we are to approach Him. Let’s list a few facts.

  1. He is Omnipotent, meaning all powerful.
  2. God is Omniscient—He Knows all things, including all possibilities.
  3. Our Heavenly Father is Omnipresent: in all places at the same time.
  4. The Lord is infinite.
  5. God is eternal.
  6. He is Spirit
  7. The Most High is immutable: unchanging.
  8. Our Creator is not bound by the laws of physics, as He is the one who ordained them and did the math that is involved. He can operate outside of the laws He put into motion. If you need examples, do a study on all of Jesus’ miracles and see how each miracle He performed defies a particular law of science. Jesus was revealing that He is indeed the Creator of the cosmos, and: “The Great I Am”.
  9. God created time, and He is outside of the time He created, yet He often works with, and within time. He made it for a purpose.

And all that is just for starters.

Everything the Bible says about God is but half of what we learn once we actually come to know Him. That’s what I’ve been working at for the past forty years, and I still have a long ways to go. No, I’m not slow—He is just that vast and complex. We won’t know Him fully until eternity, and even then I’m not certain we will know ALL about Him. He’s a very big God!

Lately it’s gotten to the point that I even rejoice when God disciplines me. It reminds me of when my son was very young. Whenever he felt he was not getting enough attention, he’d do something to get my attention, like drinking Tabasco sauce from off of the refrigerator door, or pouring a cup of dirt onto the dining room table. It’s having the attention of our Fathers that feels so good. Even negative attention gives us the assurance that someone greater than ourselves loves us, and is in control.

But I’m talking about attention from a HOLY GOD. Many volumes cannot fully convey what holiness actually is, and what it looks like. My next book is on holiness and how it pertains to our sanctification, but about the time I believe I’ve grasped deep spiritual insight to pass along to others, I discover higher, more elevated planes of knowledge. The more I learn the more I discover that I have yet to learn. When we receive a solid vision in our minds of who God is, and what He is, it is simply amazing that He would stoop so low as to be intimate with you and me.

When we come to God’s character, His nature and His complex personality we do not have anything on earth to compare Him to. Let’s continue our previous list.

  1. God is pure holiness. The visible quality of His Shekinah Glory can actually be seen. But then you’d have no retinas left. The brightest, whitest light you’ve ever seen pales in comparison to God’s visual appearance—He dwarfs the sun’s lumens. In fact, the bible teaches that a man cannot see God and live. His holiness would automatically incinerate us—He’s that great.
  2. The Lord Most High sets the perfect standard for righteousness. He is flawless.
  3. God is LOVE!

While this is far from an exhaustive list, each of the above descriptions should be pondered individually if we hope to fully understand the importance of knowing these things about God, before we can actually come to know Him personally.

With that being the case, God reveals Himself to us incrementally. And the further we go with Him the more wondrous and amazing things about Himself He reveals to us.

God is so great that humbling ourselves before Him should be automatic. If we have properly meditated on His properties and virtues then our humility when approaching God should come quite naturally. Just listen to the Beloved Apostle John’s testimony about the time He envisioned our Savior, Christ Jesus in His glorified form. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” (Revelation 1:17) What does that speak to your heart about the greatness and the glory of our God?

God called Job a righteous man. But look at this righteous man’s response when our Holy God spoke to Him. “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.” Job 40:4 Then, Job found the boldness to speak just a bit more, which is a good eye opener for us. He said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  By the way, the eyes Job was talking about were the eyes of faith. Hebrews talks about this kind of faith in chapter eleven. I like the part where it reports that Moses “Saw Him who is invisible”. The only way to see the invisible is through the eyes of faith. Believe me when I say, “Along with great faith comes spiritual eyes which demand that we conform to the new didactic and divergent sights. They are highly illuminating vistas. The information the Lord offers us is gained only through a close personal relationship with Christ Jesus. (Yes, He is also our friend, but let’s not forget His exalted position.)

I garnered a good rule of thumb from a High Priest in Israel’s history. Even though Eli failed to restrain his son’s from doing wickedness and desecrating a rite God had established, and was punished for it, He had some words of wisdom to pass along.

When young Samuel heard the Lord calling to Him twice, Eli gave great advice.

 

“So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9

When we come before the throne of God we need to allow Him to be in charge. God will hear our petitions or whatever is on our hearts. He wants to help us with that, but first things first. “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” That is complete submission to God, recognizing who He is. Allow the Lord to set the conversation, and when it comes time to speak what you have to say to Him, or questions you hope to ask, you will know.

Okay, my coffee is worn off—time for a fresh pot. Blessings!

Categories: Christian Living, Faith, Growing in Faith, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Simple Steps For Successful New Year Resolutions

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It’s that time of year again when we think about the changes we’d like to make in the New Year to come. What does 2017 hold in store for you? For the most part, that’s up to you.

While setbacks, difficulties and life storms are inevitable, the one thing we can do in making better lives for ourselves is to improve who and what we are. After all that’s what most New Year resolutions focus upon. Traditionally, some of the most popular resolutions over the past two decades have included things such as: weight loss, getting in better physical condition, or improving our financial situation.

For 2017 I have 6 resolutions which all flow from the same word:

CULTIVATE

I hope to cultivate more knowledge within myself.

I hope to cultivate new lasting & mutually beneficial relationships.

I want to cultivate new muscle growth in my body.

I hope to cultivate the seeds of faith in others.

I hope to cultivate a love for healthy lifestyles in all my friends and in everyone I meet.

I want to cultivate a closer relationship with the Lord than ever before.

 

Here are Nielsen’s stats from 2015 in % of persons polled & their resolutions.

Stay fit and healthy 37%
Lose weight 32%
Enjoy life to the fullest 28%
Spend less, save more 25%
Spend more time with family and friends 19%
Get organized 18%
Will not make any resolutions 16%
Learn something new/new hobby 14%
Travel more 14%
Read more 12%
 

It appears that as a populous we’re already aware of several things that can improve our quality of life. And yet, every one of these resolutions needs a good plan on how to go about making it happen. Let’s dig into our brains for a bit and see if we can delineate the steps we will need to take in order to implement a positive change. So let’s just look at the first popular resolution listed, and then we can apply the same principles to any New Year Resolution.

There are many questions we can ask ourselves to give us the best chance of succeeding. The first is rather obvious: Why do I want this change? Deciding why will help us to envision the answer to our second question: If this improvement comes to pass, what is it going to look like? (Envision it) And a good question for number three is: How will it affect others? Or, can this benefit other people as well as myself?

Don’t forget, if we are going to be successful we need to set some goals, and in doing so we remember all the things that did not work in the past. Then we brainstorm to come up with new and innovative methods that will work for us as individuals, taking into account how well we know ourselves, our proclivities and our idiosyncrasies.

For instance, in 2017 as I do my best to get into better physical condition, past experience has taught me that I will be more successful if I have a partner to constantly challenge me and keep me doing more. That’s something I need, and so I’ve set to work searching for someone else with the same resolution to partner with. Finding the right person is a smaller goal to help me reach my bigger goal of becoming more fit than ever before. Another thing I’ve learned is to set a time each day when I will do my exercises and stick as closely as I can to that schedule. That’s another small step or goal towards the big one.

Using our example let’s look at some other questions to give us ideas on the types of questions you may want to ask yourself concerning whatever your resolution happens to be.

How will my diet change? Do I have a plan for that?

How can I educate myself with the nutritional knowledge I don’t yet have?

Have I been maintaining a good circadian rhythm in my wake/sleep cycles? Past experience has taught me the profound role that sleep patterns have upon overall health, appetite, energy levels and metabolism.

Yes, you already know what needs to be done in order to bring your resolution to successful perpetuation. Only now, you’ve begun to think about the things that are important if you are to actually make it happen.

TIP: Draw out a goal map.

All the Best to You & God Bless You in 2017!

 

Categories: Christian Living, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Professor Proudy Pants

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Everyone loves a good educator—unless of course they happen to be unedifying and overly didactic all the time, even towards the waitress when ordering at a restaurant. “If you cook the veggies in such-and-such a way they will retain more of their nutrients.”(I may be guilty of that particular one myself). It seems that the chances of falling victim to foolish pride increases with the number of years one attends formal schooling.

In my sophomore year of high school I took “Electricity” as an elective course. The teacher was a brilliant electrician, but he did not have the capacity to teach. He wasn’t even capable of teaching someone how to tie their shoes. Having knowledge is one thing, but knowing how to convey that information to others is an entirely different matter. Over half of the class received an “F”, including myself. One fellow made an “A”, but his father was an electrician and had already taught him the trade. My apologies in advance, but I can’t help but convey to you this teacher’s name, because there is such irony in the fact that it too began with an “F”—Mr. Fink. That was really his name—I’m not making this up!

But again there is irony here because I actually did learn something from Mr. Fink: One way to not teach. His problem was that he was too far above everyone else to know how to teach it to us in a language we could understand. The man’s frustration caused his anger to flare up often.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m focusing on one pandemic problem that keeps any person from being able to convince, explain and teach what they know to others. It, of course is having pride in how smart we are. When we become proud in this area we will not even realize that we are communicating that fact to others. In their minds it sounds like we calling them stupid and proclaiming ourselves to be geniuses.

Prideful teachers usually already know all they ever will, because their horse is too tall for them to dismount and study the ground any further. They feel no need to dismount because they already know all about what’s down there, even when they don’t. To think another person, especially one with a lesser degree on the wall has anything of import they could pass along to them, well that would just be ludicrous. Even though they may never say that outright, that’s the way they make people feel.

It is for this very reason that some Christians make extremely poor evangelists. We can have not only an intellectual pride from what God has taught us, but we also could develop a feeling of spiritual superiority. We know our doctrine and have studied our bibles extensively. Perhaps we have been a Christian for a very long time. We have Doctorates in Theology for goodness sakes!—or, we’ve been teaching the bible for many years. I’m feeling the heat in this next one. We have a PhD from the Holy Spirit, just like some of the early disciples had.

I’ll never forget the time the Spirit taught me some fairly deep theology through an atheist. Well…if the water wasn’t deep at least he cleared up the muddiness a bit. I’m certain it was a lesson the Lord wanted me to learn well.

“I can use anyone as an instrument to teach you, pay attention.”—God

It’s odd how the more educated one becomes the more they seem to forget some of their common sense stuff and social etiquette. So here’s a checklist for us to use before witnessing to someone else, or teaching a class, or writing a post for that matter.

  1. Never stop being a good listener.
  2. Always be open to learning something new.
  3. God can use anyone to speak through!
  4. Try to learn the feelings that lie behind the other person’s beliefs. (There’s usually some past pain that shapes their thinking)
  5. Empathize with them, love them, and then lead by example.

Yes, pride of intellect can often play a huge role in skewing our testimonies. Pride causes us to not truly hear others. But it can also cause us to unknowingly give off signals that automatically switch our hearer’s ears and hearts to the off position. A very old adage fits this situation well: “They won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

So let’s save the lectures for the classroom. Let’s actually feel what they are saying, and learn where their understanding and thinking is at. Let’s make room for their past experiences and care about their feelings. Let’s find some common ground and agree on that first. Then maybe buy them a coffee, and wait for the Spirit to show us an opening to love them into the truth.

FYI: When sharing the good news of Jesus a person must first know what the bad news is. They must first understand that we are all sinners and that the penalty is death, eternal separation from God. Then, the good news will sound as good as it truly is! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16


Categories: Christian Living, Ministry, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Profitable Troubles

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One year at an outdoor revival held by our congregation a young couple came to the prayer tent where I was stationed. They found themselves in difficult circumstances and indicated they would like me to pray with them. Struggling financially, they were living in a rundown RV with no electricity. Their marital relationship was under a great strain, being battered about by hardships. In the book of Hosea God refers to life struggles like theirs as being in the valley of Achor, which means “trouble”.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” Hosea 2:14-15

Revealing the tender compassion which drives God’s heart, the book of Hosea is a story of God’s boundless love for His children. It exemplifies the closeness He desires in our relationship with Him. After God allows us to suffer in the valley of troubles, we must respond in faith, repenting where needed and learning how to trust Him more completely. That’s when His work inside us begins to profoundly take shape, and His purposes are moved forward.

God is preparing each one of us for the final culmination of His plan, which is found in the 19 & 20th verses of the same chapter.

“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in loving-kindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord. (Hosea 2:19-20 NAS)

 God loves us so much He wants to marry us! After experiencing His provision of peace and strength and comfort through the valleys of life’s difficulties, we are more prepared for the completion of our union with Him. On the other side of hardship and suffering, when we’ve grown to trust God’s love for us and yearn with every fiber of our being to please Him, He begins fitting us for our white bridal gown.

A year later in downtown Indianapolis I saw that same couple I had prayed with. Both have grown tremendously in their faith. They said, “We are more in love with each other now than ever before.” Then they added, “God is good.”

If you find yourself in the valley today, know that God is working in your life to draw you nearer to Him. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b

Prayer

Lord, I know you have a reason for everything you allow. Please give me strength and patience to endure what I must. Thank you for teaching me about your faithfulness and what is involved with trusting you. In your Son’s holy name, amen. 

Please note that the above image is not the same couple that is referred to in this post. They are simply good friends, “Bill & Bonnie” holding one of my devotional books. Blessings.

Categories: Christian Living, Growing in Faith, Romantic Love, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Living Waters’ Presentation

Free movie: The Atheist Delusion

with Ray Comfort

Click Here to watch on YouTube: Atheist Delusion Or watch it right here:

This blog is not associated with Living Waters Ministry… Well in a way we are connected because I too am in Christ and have the same commission to make disciples, and to disciple believers. Living Waters encourages us to share this movie with others. Go to LivingWaters.Com for more information, and to see their many other resources.

God Bless You!

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Becoming One With God: Salvation

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I have shared God’s simple plan of salvation in many different ways over the years, but today I was led to write it out again, in a little different way. Sometimes I have no idea why God leads me to do particular things, and I’ve learned to just go ahead and do whatever it is He puts on my heart to do. Perhaps this post is meant for a specific person, or it could be for hundreds. Whatever the case, God knows and that’s good enough for me. I’ve taken off my writer’s hat in order to make this message clear and plain, because God’s word is what gives it power and not my skills.

I was asked by a friend on Facebook: “How do we become one with God?” Providing the answer involves more than what I could put into a comment on social media, and it struck me that the following questions are bound up in that question: How are we saved, and how do we walk in the Spirit, and be insured against the loss of eternal life?

When Paul and Silas were arrested and placed in the inner parts of a dungeon-like jail, God sent an earthquake that caused the chains to fall off their ankles and wrists. All the doors in the prison flew wide open. The jailer or C.O. in charge assumed all the prisoners had escaped, which by Roman law would have meant a certain death sentence for him. He was getting set to take his own life when Paul shouted out, “Don’t harm yourself, we are all here!” Acts 16:28

That jailer was filled with relief and wonder. He knew why these two men were in prison and that they were preachers of Christ Jesus. So he ran to Paul and Silas, fell on his knees and cried “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Verse 30)

The answer Paul and Silas gave is the gospel: the good news in condensed form, though we may need some clarification. “They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Verse 31)

Salvation is based upon the most simple of concepts: Belief. But we must understand what it means to Believe. The bible calls it FAITH.

Let’s say that you, me and lots of other people are all in one large room, and if we stay in that room we will most certainly be killed. There’s a bomb set to go off, but nobody knows at what time it is set to detonate. That’s a bit like life on earth, because Jesus’ return is coming and nobody knows when. There are many doors that lead out of this room, hundreds of them. But every single door except for ONE will also lead to our death—eternally separated from God.  Only one door will save us.

But then Jesus comes in and says “I am the door! Come through me and you will live!” There are also many other voices all shouting, “No,” and they are all pointing to different doors saying, “Follow me, this is the right way!”

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

 

Now I want to tell you that the devil believes Jesus is the way to eternal life. Satan believes that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, because we are all sinners. Romans 3:23 tells us: For all have sinned…” AND “The wages of (the penalty for) sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23

The demons believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and that He died for our sins and rose from the dead. But they and the devil are not saved. You see that’s a different kind of belief.

The kind of belief that saves us is the kind that includes trust in Jesus. I must trust that Jesus is the right door to go through to be saved. I cannot stay in that room or I will die. I must make a decision, but I must also act upon that decision. In other words, I must actually go through the door!

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” John 10:7.  I must go into Christ, and when I do, Christ comes into me—to live with me on the inside, in the form of God’s Holy Spirit. He is sometimes called the “Spirit of Christ”. That’s when we become one with Him. This means I follow Him. He is my leader and guide and I do things His way. At least I try my best to do that.

How? How do we become ONE with God through Christ Jesus? First we simply tell God in our own words that we believe in Jesus. We believe that the blood He shed on the cross paid for our sins. I tell Jesus that I believe He died for me personally. And that He rose back to life. And now I am going to give myself to Him. “Lord Jesus, I now belong to you—show me what to do.”

His answer is that we keep on trusting that He is the way. If I really trust Jesus I’m going to do my best to live in the way He tells me I should live. Now we cannot do this perfectly, and we will get to that in a little while. Because God knows we are weak and that sometimes we will still sin. He has done something about that for us! The blood Jesus bled on the cross covers my past sins, my present sins AND even the sins I might commit in the future! But this is not a license to sin!!

I must WANT with all my heart to be pure and holy like He is. When we want to be like Jesus, God begins working inside us, changing us little by little to become more like Jesus. Jesus said, But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 And He also said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6.

You see it is my desire to be righteous that begins God’s work of changing me, so that I actually start becoming righteous and holy like He is. The greatest satisfaction and contentment any person can ever have is found by doing God’s will—by being united with Him. I remember thinking how dull and boring the Christian life must be. But it wasn’t until I gave my life to Christ that I learned what real living is all about. He gives life to the fullest and it is intensely satisfying!

We will never “arrive” at perfect righteousness in this life. If we could do that we would no longer need a Savior. We most definitely cannot be perfect in these bodies we live in. God however, views us as being perfect, because we are in Christ, and He is perfect. We have the righteousness of Christ given to us. He took our sins upon Himself and carried them to the grave and buried them there. All our sin! It’s the best deal anywhere. He takes our sins away and gives us His righteousness, Praise God!

So we must trust in our Savior to cover our sins with His blood. On the day Jesus returns to take us home He will give us new spiritual bodies that do not sin. I’m really looking forward to my new body!

I must decide that I am going to die to my old sinful self. I’m going to put the old me up there on the cross with Jesus. And I am going to live the new life that He is giving me. Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

When our old self tells us to do things we say, “No” and we follow what God’s spirit and the bible tells us to do. God will lead us into the right decisions. We deny that old sinful nature and all the wrongful ways we used to say and do things. Instead, we now follow Jesus. When Jesus said to take up our cross, it means that there is work that He wants us to do. But we don’t work for our salvation—that’s already been given to us for free. We are saved by grace just because we believed and trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.

But that doesn’t mean we have no work to do. No, He saved us so that we would work. The salvation is free because we had faith. But if we really did have faith to be saved, then we will also have faith to do the good works. The very next verse after our last one is this: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

The first of that work is to begin changing to be like God’s holy Son, Jesus. But it is actually God doing the heavy work, we simply cooperate with what He is doing inside us, and we must WANT IT. This starts in our minds. That’s why our mind needs to be focused on Jesus, on righteousness and holiness and all that is good. That’s what we are aiming for: Holiness, so we keep our eyes on Jesus. This is one reason it is so important for us to read our bibles. It helps us to stay focused on Jesus. And in this dark and sinful world it can be very hard to do. But we have supernatural power from God to use in our lives. It is used for only one thing: to obey God and do what pleases Him. He also gives us supernatural peace and joy and love! He has given us His Spirit to live inside us and He gives us life! We can die to our old selves because the Spirit is constantly giving us new life. We are united with Him and have become ONE with God as a part of His big family in Christ.

 

Here’s a key to pleasing God: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2 The things we like will gradually begin to change, along with the things we love.

Here is another key verse about being saved: “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die…” Romans 8:13a Living according to the flesh means that I still love my sin. But once we come to know how good the stuff God has to give us is, we begin to love righteousness, holiness and goodness—we love Him! We begin to hate sin just as He does. Even though we may sin at times, we hate it and we can’t stand ourselves until we take that sin to God and confess it. He loves you! And God has promised: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1st John 1:9

As Christians, our sins are already forgiven. But we confess them as the Spirit reveals them to us, and this keeps our relationship with the Lord strong and it clears our consciences. Now back to Romans 8:13b “…But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”  If I am saved, I will be trusting Christ who is in me. I will live my life day by day and minute by minute following Him, obeying Him, trusting Him. But remember, God has made allowance for our mistakes! Those future sins are covered too, if in fact my heart is SET on HIM. The very next verse says: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”Romans 8:14-15.

“Abba” means “Daddy!” When we experience God’s love for us we no longer have to fear His fiery judgment, because we know He has saved us and is working in us, and through us. We are His children and we love Him back by doing our best to please Him, just as we should do with our earthly fathers.

If you understand nothing else, please understand this: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

 

The following is a very simple prayer suggestion. If you agree with it, please pray this from your heart to God.

“Heavenly Father, I know how desperately I am in need of your grace on a continuing basis. I believe in your Son Jesus and the work He did to save me on the cross, and I believe He has risen from the dead. I accept you Jesus, my Christ, to be the master of my life. Thank you for covering my sins by the blood you shed on the cross. Lord Jesus, please help me to deny what my sinful flesh wants to do, and instead to obey you and your Spirit inside me. Please help me to understand the bible as you speak to me in my heart. Help me to be quiet enough to listen, to sit still and just meditate and think about verses of scripture, and let you transform my heart and mind. I want to be holy. I am now one of your sons, oh God, my Father, and I want to be like your Son Jesus. Help me to live the way you want me to live. And please teach me more and more each day.  Also Lord, I ask that you will help me to know the right person here on earth who will encourage me and help me understand the bible, and who will love me and help to disciple me. Thank you my sweet Savior, in Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.”

In obedience to Christ, we need to be baptized into Him, and into His church. We confess our faith in Jesus in front of witnesses. “With your mouth you confess and are saved.” This is an outward act of obedience which proves our belief. We are commanded by God to be baptized into Christ. Even though Jesus was perfect and had no sin, He was baptized by John the Baptist. I believe this was an example for us to follow.

God Bless You!

 

Categories: Christian Living, Salvation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Love—It’s All In Your Head

love

Part One: Love and the Human Psyche (By the Scientist in Me)

Part Two: Loving Loved Ones Who Are Hard to Love (By the Minister of Christ in Me)

 

Love & the Human Psyche

Neuro-Psychiatrists tell us the human brain is hardwired in a way that we crave intimate relationships—that we long for love. Yet often those relationships end so horribly in heartache. A bad relationship leaves our fragile psyches bruised, or even completely shattered. Once bitten by love, some fear a repeat of that emotional trauma so much that they close themselves off and never again open themselves up to love.

A young man attending college sees a beautiful woman in class, and immediately he is attracted to her. Several weeks pass, and he’s made a few heart-felt, yet feeble attempts to speak with her, but every time he sees her the attraction is intensified. Something has been happening within the neural network of his brain.

Love has a way of rewiring our neural network. We meet someone, and similar to a virus, they occupy and alter our synapses. This causes our brain to release chemicals that produce arousal, attraction, or obsession. That special person becomes an ever present distraction; we can’t seem to focus upon anything but them. But we are not simply thinking about them all the time. Our brain is building a model of that person—a simulation of who and what we believe them to be. Our mind is actually predicting what they think, or rather what we want them to think, and even how they feel. So let’s say we’ve begun a relation with them. It may go well for some time.

Then suddenly our illusion of that person meets who they really are. Our simulation of them and reality finally collide like two trains heading in opposing directions. That person had no chance whatsoever of living up to our expectations of them, because we had a false view of who they were. Our mind was in love with the depiction our brain created of who that person was, rather than the actual person. This brings up the all important question: Did we ever really love their true person, or were we simply in love with our perception of who they were?

 

Loving Loved Ones Who Are Hard To love

(Previously published in “Christian Focus Magazine” June-July issue 2013 pg.42)

 As Phillip sat across from me with his elbows on my desk, his face in his hands, the quaking voice he emitted dripped with disappointment and sorrow. He was adamant that his wife Maria had changed completely after they were married, saying that she was not at all what he had expected her to be. When I also spoke with Maria, she said almost exactly the same thing about Phillip. Then, counseling both together, we discovered that they each had held very unrealistic expectations of the other, as well as a false view of each other from the beginning.

If we do not love God first, and understand our desperate need for the grace He gives, then the people we love will never meet our expectations of them. We will expect conformity to an illusion of what the perfect candidate for that particular role or relationship looks like.

When we come to Christ and see ourselves with clarity in the light of His holiness, how utterly detestable our own sinfulness becomes to us! It is only when we see ourselves for who and what we truly are that we can know what unconditional love is, for God has sent His own Son to die for us while we were yet sinners, while we are still in that wretched condition. The question is then begged: Do I really love this person who is so far from my illusion of what they should be? Our answer lies in the question: Has God demanded that we conform to a pattern of perfection before He loves us, or after His act of grace and mercy, after He has proven His love? He loved us first, and then acted upon that love with grace.

Speaking of our old sinful nature, Paul writes in Gal.2:20 “I am crucified with Christ”. In dying to the old self, we crucify our illusion of who and what we ourselves are, and of what that loved one should be. The weakness of the flesh perpetrates and perpetuates these illusions in our mind. The Spirit of Truth, or Holy Spirit, reveals truth. Jesus Christ is the truth, (John 14:6), and ALL truth can be found through a relationship with Him.

 

Expect your expectations to change!

 

With our illusions shattered by the illuminating reality found in Christ, we can decide to love unconditionally. We must begin granting grace and mercy to our loved one. Suddenly, our expectations are pure. They have not been lowered, but are now reasonable, having grown out of an accurate knowledge of who we really are, and hence who they truly are. We are now empowered to lead them to the same truth in Jesus to make the changes they need to make. We certainly cannot judge them (we are or were in the same condition) and we can now truly love them, for our disillusionment—the breaking of our illusion, has given us the ability, the power to love them into change.

There are 3 steps toward our loved one becoming what we need in that relationship.

Know the truth found only in a relationship with Christ Jesus.

Love unconditionally as we have been loved by God. 

And grant them the same kind of grace we have been given.

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Romans 16:20

Phillip and Maria just had their second child. After fifteen years of happy marriage, they say their love for each other has now grown to a beautiful maturity, and life together is wonderful, thanks to Jesus Christ.

 

 

Categories: Christian Living, Romantic Love, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Be Prepared

be-prepared

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” General Sun Tzu

I keep a slogan hung on the wall above my desk where each morning it reminds me of how important it is to start the day out right. It is the Latin slogan “Carpe Diem,” which means “Seize the Day.”

Though I’ve not yet reached dinosaur status, I’m far enough along to note how the longer one lives the more time seems to accelerate. The exceptional brevity of this life is especially noticeable when we juxtaposition it against eternity. There’s a sense of urgency to make the best use of the smidgen of time we’ve been allotted to prepare for the real life that is yet to come.

There have been days when I felt so rushed to get somewhere, or to accomplish what needed to be done that I neglected my quiet time with God. I was just now mentally comparing that forgetfulness with taking off on 200 mile drive and forgetting to fuel up the car. Those days never went the way they should have. I was not plugged into my source for all things needed, and my focus was all wrong, because I began thinking horizontally instead of vertically. It doesn’t take very many days like that to understand the seriousness of approaching every day under God’s direction, with eternity in mind.

Living in a sin cursed world makes it so easy to forget who we are in Christ Jesus. I need to prepare for whatever each day holds by first consulting the one who already knows what lies ahead.  Whenever I start out right I am more joyful, at peace and confident. I get more accomplished, and can see great purpose and significance in everything He leads me to do. It’s the best way to really make the day count for something. Even if it’s your job to scrub toilets, you can do the best job possible and make them shine, because you are doing it for the Lord. Whether I am teaching a class, building something, or simply cleaning up my dog’s poop off the side of the road, it is for Jesus, and that gives it importance. What a tremendous difference our perspective makes! When I remember to pull into the spiritual fueling station of God’s word, I am more productive—I can really seize the day!

One of the things I’m reminded of each morning as I read my Bible and pray, meditating and listening to God, is that I am a child of a king. We will one day reign with Him. We don’t have to fear what may lie ahead. Besides, we know there’s a subtle and powerful adversary out there just waiting to try and trip us up. Since we know it’s coming, it is prudent for us to prepare to face temptation. Only a fool would go into battle against a Goliath like Satan without careful preparation, having some form of protection, and a weapon.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” SunTzu

In Ephesians 6 we are told of the gear we’ll need to do battle in the spiritual sense. Yes, you’ve heard of this before. It’s called “The Armor of God”. We first show up and then suit up. Verse 11 tells us: Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Let’s briefly review each piece of armor. And please remember that if any one of these are missing, that’s the precise place where you will be attacked. The devil is a seasoned warrior—he knows how to take advantage of the slightest weak area in our defenses.

The belt of truth. God’s word, the Bible is our sure source of truth. When we are grounded and founded in His truth we don’t have to fear. It is difficult to deceive someone when they know the truth. We ourselves do not deceive; instead we reflect the light of God’s glorious truth.

The breastplate of righteousness Once Christ justifies us in the sight of God and His righteousness has been imputed unto us, we guard our righteous status. We do not return to the filthy sinful ways of the world that we have been cleansed from. This requires remaining in constant contact with the water of God’s word which cleanses us daily. We need that daily cleansing because we are going to make mistakes.

Feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, We must always be ready to share with others how they too can be reconciled unto God. We must carry the Gospel message of salvation to the world. We must be able to share with others the scriptures which pertain to how we are saved.

 

Shield of faith, Faith is the catalyst that activates God’s power in our lives. Power to resist temptations and power to live a joyful and peace filled life. Faith is our shield against the attacks of evil: Believing completely and then acting based upon that belief.

The helmet of salvation, We must first be saved, establishing our citizenship in the Kingdom of God, which includes a myriad of benefits. We must confess our need for God’s grace and receive the gift of salvation by placing our faith in Christ Jesus and in His work at Calvary and at the grave. Our response to salvation is then obedience to Christ (We did say He is now our ‘Lord’, right?). We do so out of love and appreciation.

The sword of the Spirit, The sword of the Spirit is the word of God, alive and active. It is sharper than any two edged sword. It penetrates even to the dividing of the soul and spirit, the joints and marrow, it judges (discerns) the thoughts, intentions and attitudes of our heart. God’s word is a very powerful weapon against evil, in defending righteousness. But never use it against God’s own people. We learn to skillfully use God’s word to build people up. (But there’s also a time to tear down.)

We must carry God’s word in our hearts and minds if we hope to be victorious over the adversary’s schemes. Every day we must fine tune our focus in the light of a close relationship with Jesus Christ. The more time we spend with God, seeking His presence, the more power we assimilate into our lives. God is all-powerful. We need that power in our lives. It is a rough, tough world out there. But we don’t have to face it alone. Here’s a handy checklist.

  1. How is my focus today?
  2. Are my spiritual eyes open and perceptive to the underlying causes and effects going on around me, and within me?
  3. Did I spend some quality time with my sweet Lord today?
  4. Did I read my Bible and take it into my heart?
  5. Did I speak with Him and seek His counsel, His wisdom, and His purpose for me today?
  6. Did I start out clean and fresh, asking God to forgive my sins of yesterday?

If I’ve done all these I’m ready to:

CARPE DIEM – SIEZE THE DAY!

 

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Hearing God’s Voice

This painting by Winslow Homer stirs up some great memories. Homer was a man who like me was enamored with all things outdoors.

rapids

Whether rappelling off cliffs, shooting rapids in a canoe, or performing perilous covert missions, I’ve tasted adrenaline more times than I can count.  But there’s no doubt as to the one activity that remains the grandest and most exciting adventure that continues to enrich me. Call me a thrill seeker, an adrenaline junkie or simply an adventurer, the labels do not matter to me.

So far I’ve had a life filled with wild, wonderful and inspiring adventures, and have traveled considerably. Some of the sights would scare the fleas right off of a hound dog, such as staring down the wrong end of a high caliber gun, or chasing a gang of robbers through the back alleys of Dongducheon Korea. Then there were the vistas where you feel privileged just to be there and take it all in. At times I was melted into a humble state of awe at the genius of God’s creative handiwork. One of my favorite discoveries was an underground river in Utah shooting out of the side of a horseshoe shaped canyon to form an above ground river far below.

But beyond question, the experience that was the most sensational for me came for the first time 29 years ago. It was quite unexpected how that simply communicating with God would be such a transformative and powerful thing. And it has been copiously repeated ever since then. Oh I had talked to God before then, but never felt I had the connection to really hear from Him. Yet, all it took was a full surrender to the Lord, and to capitulate with all my heart. That may sound like a cliché Christianese statement. But it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Yes, life is complicated.

There is one point that I hope to stress, and that is: If you’ve never been absolutely certain that God was talking to you—intimately interacting with you, then you simply have not yet lived. It’s still difficult for me to get my head around the fact that the Creator of this vast universe cares enough about every little individual person that He wants to have a close relationship with us. He gives life to the fullest!

Jesus said it in these words: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10b (KJV).

The New Living Translation puts it in today’s language: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Ninety percent of the time God communicates to us He speaks through His word, the bible. But then He confirms our understanding of His answers, through circumstances, and often through others. Whenever I’m truly in tune with God’s will, the answer comes in all three ways: first through the bible, then things happen in a way that illustrates that truth, and then some person actually speaks that truth without me saying anything to them about it.

Few are the times I have actually heard God’s voice in my heart and mind—twice for sure. But that was not so pleasant, because both of those times were in a negative. The first time was an ultimatum that literally scared me straight. My whole body was quaking. I was all set to commit an embarrassing sin when I heard the Spirit speak a bible verse. The words could not have come any more clearly: “Choose ye this day whom you shall serve.” I hadn’t read that verse in years, but was familiar with it as words God had spoken to Israel through Joshua. Another time it was simply one word: “Stop!”

I had planned to do my best to describe those moments spent with the Master, and how spectacular communicating with God can be, and how wonderful and loved it makes me feel. But there is no describing it. You’ll just have to experience that for yourself.

Allow me to caution you, however, that Christ is the sweetest addiction. It is strange though, how easy it is to get out of the habit of meeting with Jesus everyday for that fix. And the reason is that there are spiritual forces of wickedness at work. They hope to break our good daily habit of spending intimate times with God. When I skip just one day, the following day I seem to forget how awesome it is, and before I know it, it’s been a week. The power, joy and peace we gain by being filled with the Spirit every day can disappear in a flash, like a soap bubble in the sun, as soon as there’s a break in that habit.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” We feed on Him. Just as we must feed our bodies every day we must also feed our spirits, lest they atrophy and starve to death. Christ is our spiritual sustenance, and we cannot benefit from a relationship with Jesus unless we are constantly nurturing our intimacy with Him.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Instantly, as soon as I cease relying on Him, and I don’t consult Him on every decision, that’s precisely what I produce: “Nothing”.  That is, nothing of eternal value. We must remain in Him and the only way to do that is to maintain an attitude of prayer—maintain an open line of communication and fellowship with the Lord. We talk about meeting with Him in the mornings. But we are a part of Him and should not have to MEET with Him, as we’ve never left His presence! As for coming to Him in the mornings, this is to search for sins of the previous day, and confess them in order to cleanse our consciences, and keep our relationship good and strong. And this morning tryst is also for checking in with the boss for specific works He has for us to do each day. Perhaps there’s something we need an extra jolt of power for that day. But most importantly it is to ensure that we remain in a state of constant surrender and submission to our glorious benefactor and God.

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:38

I hope you can see what makes life such an exciting and never ending adventure. It is remaining in Christ and having our spiritual senses awakened to perceive the Lord’s communication to us as individuals. But He also speaks to us corporately.  “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

Categories: Christian Living, Faith, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Warning Signs

assorted 003

We’ve known the man in the above image (Doug) for many years, and have often ministered to him and his needs. He is a homeless drug addict, and he is just one of a myriad of individuals just like him that I’ve done my best to help. His sign reads “Down but not out.” To know Doug is to realize the irony of that statement. Doug gave up a long time ago.

I’d like to open a topic that’s a little different from my normal posts, just this once. So for a moment, allow me to switch hats, that I may share foundational information gleaned from Psychology classes, addiction treatment seminars and experience.

Physical pain is a faithful messenger, heralding a problem that must be addressed. It’s the harbinger of a difficulty which requires action. As infants we quickly learn to avoid pain. It took only once to discover that fire is hot, don’t touch it. Doing the wrong thing gets you a stinging swat on the behind, so do the right thing.

On into our adult lives we are programmed to recoil at the very prospect of physical pain, though most of us have learned how to live with it. These days it is not so much the pain our bodies feel that frightens us. We can tough through that, at least to some degree. Heartache and mental anguish, however, are what is most dreaded. These are far worse and quite difficult to alleviate.

Nobody is alone in this quandary of learning to deal with emotional wounds. Nearly every alcoholic and drug addict has, at the root of their addiction, some mental nightmare from which they hope to flee. So often we find ourselves numbing the pain by travelling down a rabbit hole into a dark world that offers false hope for relief. Some people may abuse sex or become addicted to pornography as a means of feeling better. Some even resort to damaging gossip addictions. Various drugs are a quick trip to an illusory wonderland. There are some who never return from the darkness, because they’ve found false relief. They’ve gone through the rabbit hole and come out the other side to find another world: A place where all their dreams come true, and fantasy becomes reality. To come back means to feel the pain all over again, only then, it is exacerbated. This world of their own making is seen only by them, and outsiders are unable to perceive their blissful paradise. Outsiders see only the reality of a lost soul suffering delusion.

In my mind this points to one glaring issue. It appears to be largely overlooked by various community organizations and agencies who work with at risk youth and adults. Early detection is essential in the prevention of drug and alcohol addictions, and more importantly in teen suicides.

Identifying life situations which activate traumatic emotional response is key to early preventative treatments. Some examples are broken homes, long term illness and many other stressors. Identifying potential markers and learning to recognize early warning signs is mandatory if we hope to offer preventative assistance.

We already know the big issues that lead to these social ills: Broken marriages, single parent homes, long term illnesses, chronic pain, bullying and psychiatric issues are among the top dilemmas which cause young people to seek artificial peace. But there are others as well. These issues activate a response, a need for relief from mental torment. How many teen suicides may have been prevented if a teacher, a counselor or doctor had recognized the key indicators of emotional upheaval and addressed them? Parents also need to be aware. We need more educational programs for parents that teach them to recognize the ‘problem-indicators’. This will help tremendously. Yes, there must be a plan of action in place. Treatment begins through conveying knowledge to the sufferer. The following three very simple, yet key pieces of information is what the potential sufferer needs.

  1. They are not alone. (There are people who care about them.)
  2. Others are experiencing the same thing they are. (They must not isolate themselves)
  3. Help is available. (Any kind of hope is better than no hope.)

These three key pieces of knowledge alone, though they seem obvious to us, are the 3 biggies which cause problems. Do not take it for granted that people know these things. Knowing these can buy enough time to get the person in contact with the right help. And maybe prevent many addictions or suicides. The difficulty is in convincing the sufferer of these truths. Support groups are highly beneficial, and in a group setting, many times the patients come up with alternative plans to soothe what’s going on inside. Isolation is the largest cause of people responding in the wrong way to their intense inner misery.

Questions to consider

What are the signs to look for that a young person may be at risk?

Who do I talk to when I notice someone is at risk?

What help for them is available in my community?

Do I have the phone numbers for help on hand?

Do I care enough to help?

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

Categories: Addictions & Suicides, Ministry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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