Remember Why You Left

1 Peter 1:17-19 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

A Christian is someone who has given up on this world.  They no longer hold on to any comfort or peace that they used to derive from the physical elements that would occupy their time, money, and affection.  All of the things on earth that used to give them a “warm fuzzy” have lost their appeal.

Why?  Because it is all going down in flames!  We who are called Christians now live with a healthy fear of God because we have come to believe that He is going to hold people accountable for their lives–for the decisions that they made on this earth.  This is why we forget this world because it has only brought us judgment. The only thing that remains is the love of God that we know of because it was revealed when Jesus came.  We who love God love Jesus because Jesus is His perfect representation–this is why He called Him His Son.

So, today, like Paul, consider everything that is a part of this temporary life to be as worthless in view of the surpassing value of getting to know who Jesus is.  Every thing you try to do to improve your life today must be filtered through the blood of Jesus.  We can make our lives all nice and neat and achieve great things for ourselves and our communities that mean nothing in light of eternity.  Our priorities, goals, and decisions today must be set and made in light of the fact that only the eternal will remain.  Therefore, cut away anything in your life that does not glorify God.  Restructure any passion or goal that is out of alignment because it does not have Jesus at the top of it.  We can be tricked into thinking that there are pieces of our lives that God does not care if we do on our own.  This is a lie!  Every single second of our day can and should be committed to Jesus.  We should desire above all else to be molded and crafted into the image of God–to look like Jesus.

May your day be blessed and may you live in victory today as you shed the impulses you have to satisfy your temporary urges.   I pray today that you will live out the will of God by first and foremost giving up your will to live the way that you always have and to instead live a life totally focused on the eternal relationship you will have with Jesus.

Suffering – Part 1

If we do not start with with a correct understanding of what the Christian life is meant to be like then we will misinterpret Scripture, and consequently, God’s will.  The Jesus follower has an experience on earth that is completely different than every other type of person.  The mistake that many Christians make is thinking that they are similar to other people they just “believe” a certain way about God–but their actions do not reflect any real difference in the way they believe than a person who “believes” in something totally different.

Example:  If Jesus says that to believe in Him we must turn the other cheek, but our humanity rejects that concept and we continue to respond to mistreatment with retaliation, then we do not really believe in what Jesus says. We may like the idea of believing in Jesus, but belief is supported by action–by submission to it’s tenants.

The belief that I want to address in a 5 part series is that of Christian suffering.  The bottom line up front is that Christians are promised constant suffering while they are on earth and this suffering reinforces to the Christian that they are a follower of Jesus Christ.  If you as a Christian are not suffering then you have not embraced the call of Christ to pick up your cross daily and follow Him.  Picking up a cross entails suffering every time you do it.  The opposing belief that Christians have is that “God wants you to be happy” thereby avoiding suffering by making decisions that would secure temporary happiness within relationships, occupations, and every other area of life.  The lie of Satan in America today is that Christians have entered into a time of peace where they isolate themselves from the world and believe in Him and have a “good life”.  The problem with that is other people are going to hell while we enjoy the “good life” of peace.  If we were spreading the gospel we would be suffering and the “good life” would still be “good”…just not by the world’s standards.  It would be “good” because we would know that we are in God’s will and getting closer to entering into His presence one day.

The reason there is misunderstanding about suffering and happiness as Christians is because God truly does want everyone to be happy.  He wants everyone to be blessed beyond their wildest dreams, but the lie that Christians buy into is that God is speaking about situational happiness when he is actually referring to the happiness that comes with sharing in the suffering that comes with faith in Jesus Christ–because faith in Jesus will cost you everything that this world has to offer.

CONCEPT 1–  Pleasing God often means upsetting people.

Galatians 1:10 –  For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ. (HCSB)

Our beliefs in God are in direct opposition to the wisdom of the natural world.  Everything that a Christian stands for is revealed by God and cannot be comprehended and obeyed by someone who has not submitted their will to the one and only God of all creation. Why? Because people will always try to take the path in life that preservers their flesh when they are not being coerced to behave in a way contrary to their individual will.  When the Bible talks about “the flesh” it is speaking about a person’s humanity–their bodies, their emotions, and their will.  People do whatever it takes to experience daily happiness, but situational happiness is never guaranteed to correlate with  God’s will.  When we tell  people that faith in God means releasing control of our lives and relying on God alone for happiness we are not celebrated.  As Christians we have the responsibility of revealing the truth of God to all people regardless of how they respond to it.  Telling people that there is only one God–Jesus Christ–and that loving people though they mistreat us is one of the key aspects of Christianity, is not popular.  Living to love others is not popular.  People talk about wanting to serve others in the secular world, but when people who reject Jesus serve others they are not doing it out of a compulsion to glorify God–which matters in the end.  I will always celebrate people doing good, even if they do not believe in God.  But for their own sake, if they do not believe that Jesus is God, then I am compelled to convince them that they should submit their lives to that fact and experience forgiveness of their life of rebellion against Him because in the end their good deeds will have passed and they still have to answer to God for what they have done wrong.  Living to help others see that unless they repent from their own selfish lives and live for Jesus and live to love others, is not popular.  Especially when we assert that a lack of doing so will wind up with them being to sent to an eternal hell apart from the one and only God.

I pray that every believer would remember that being a slave of Christ means to only live out of the revelations that come from God and that each Christian would stop abiding by the wisdom of this world and mixing worldly concepts with Godly ones.  Additionally, that each Christian would embrace the idea that rejecting worldly concepts will result in suffering through emotional pain, physical pain, and a lowly view of us in the eyes of the world.

 

Where Excuses Stop — Life Begins

People treat us bad, things go wrong, life is not working out like we want…this is where the excuses begin and life ends.

At the outset, this sounds harsh, but stay with me–there is redemption.  When we are mistreated there is an emotional response that begins within us.  Justice starts to cry out and demands to shine through like the noon day sun.  However, justice is often blocked out by the clouds of unfairness.  In every moment of everyday we are involved in the reconstruction of what is just, right, and fair, because the world is broken.  We often find ourselves on the receiving end of injustice which makes the issue that much more real and important.  What this dynamic creates for each of us mere mortals is a vacuum that sucks in and steals our forward progress.  If we thought we could improve or be happy, we were wrong, because ________________ happened and now we must spend our time recovering from the emotional fallout that results from guilt, shame, regret, anger, bitterness, and sorrow.  The disappointments of life are the landmines that take our legs out from underneath us and too often cripple us from living in the fullness of what God has designed us for.  The truth is that justice fails.  It fails big time.  For some people it is enough for them to end their own life.  For others, it keeps them oppressed under the crushing despair and cycle of addiction and self harm.  Those who should be held responsible are not.  And we are doomed to live under the unyielding misery that comes with a lack of accountability…right?!

WRONG!

Just when it seems that injustice has won the day, there is a savior that flanks it–spears it–and moves forward like a champion.  That hero is OWNERSHIP.

When we get beat down it is because we are too busy fighting injustice; we cannot help ourselves from trying to defeat it.  But all the time we are fighting one injustice another one jumps on our backs.  Then another one punches us in the gut.  Even if we got one victory, the onslaught never ceases.  How can one defeat the cunning and ever so accurate jabs of injustice?  The simple answer is OWNERSHIP.  You may ask, “How can I take ownership of something that I did not do?” or “Why should I be responsible for the bad behavior of someone else?  Isn’t this akin to being a whipping post or a doormat?”

Those are reasonable questions.  Why this seems so counter intuitive is because injustice is like a magician who uses smoke and mirrors to distract its opponent from what is really going on; keeping the victim’s eyes fixed on the distraction, or the illusion. The problem with seeking justice in our daily lives, in our every problem, is that it does nothing to address the emotional wound that was delivered.  Someone was punished, someone got what they deserved, the truth was told–but we are still hurting.  ______________ still happened!  These evil magicians, once their tricks are discovered, only leave us feeling bad.  We do not feel refreshed and recharged. At best it was a wash; we wish we never would have seen it or have gone through it and hope to forget about it.  It’s like a murder getting sent to the electric chair for a crime he did commit.  There is satisfaction that justice was served, but the victim’s family would give anything for the whole thing to have never happened.  Which brings us back around to how we can take ownership during times of injustice.

The answer:  Stop trying to figure out why you are right.  Stop trying to defend yourself. Stop trying to demonstrate that someone else is wrong.  

If your default response to pain in your life was to accept it, the pits of injustice would no longer be an issue.  You could keep moving forward with your own life, your own goals, and your own dreams because there would be nothing stopping you.  When you accept everything that happens in your life with your eyes wide open you will begin to see that there are many things that you brought on yourself.  There are many things that you should be responsible for that you are desperately seeking to hide from. And then there are things that just plain suck and you were completely a victim of.

At any rate, you take OWNERSHIP of your feelings, of your behaviors–even the ones that you feel justified for AFTER you were clearly wronged by someone else.  When you can do that and not blame someone else for your actions, even if it seems justified, you will exit the fight with injustice and start living for what really matters–your destiny.  What happened to you that was wrong was a distraction.  But choose not be distracted.  Learn from it.  Accept it.  Grant forgiveness where you can–this allows you to let go of the fight.  Every fight that you step out of means that you are able to move faster down your path.

To go back and answer the questions about being a doormat and a whipping post; this is a misconception.  Now you can be those things, but taking ownership does not entail taking responsibility for what SOMEONE ELSE did.  Ownership is taking FULL RESPONSIBILITY for what YOU did.  There will be a day of reckoning, a day when justice will be served.  God Almighty will sort out every wrong doing, we need not worry about that.  Taking ownership does not let other people off the hook.  This is where we often stay our whole lives.  We won’t take responsibility for ourselves because there is something that someone else has done that we are waiting for them to take responsibility for or otherwise be punished for.  This will destroy our destiny.  This will kill every ounce of purpose and forward movement that we have.  They will get theirs in the end.  Forgiving someone does not remove accountability of their actions.  They will pay.  Or God will forgive.  But that is above our pay grade.  In this life we cannot control those things.  But if we want to live with joy and a sense of peace, we have to put to death our compulsion to judge others.

It happened.  Whatever it was, it happened.  Sometimes you had a part to play in why it happened and other times you did not.  You cannot change it.  You cannot improve it–not in the historical sense.  It is what it is and you feel the way you feel.  Do not be afraid to take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for every thing that originated from you–even if those actions were influenced by whatever another person did.  In the end, you did what you did.  They did what they did.  If we take responsibility now, in the day of accountability, where God judges every person for every thought and deed, there will be no surprises, no regrets, and no excuses.

The Heart of Forgiveness

There are 4 main sections in this blog:

  1. Why Forgive?
  2. The Fake Apology
  3. Getting Walked On
  4. Conclusion

1. Why Forgive?

The heart of forgiveness is compassion–the motive behind forgiveness is restitution.  If you’re not interested in compassion or reconciliation then real apology and forgiveness is not your thing.  But it can be!!  You cannot make others reconcile with you, you cannot make others do the right thing, but that has nothing to do with your own decision to be healthy by never losing your compassion.  Maybe you think you are compassionate and desiring reconciliation, but just cannot see that you are actually more concerned with judgment?  I confess that I was guilty of the latter for many years.

  • John 3:17  For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

Judgment will come, God promises that, but only after compassion has been trampled on.  We get a chance in this life to accept the compassion of Jesus.  If compassion does not produce change then restitution does not exist–there is still enmity.  If we are not reconciled to Jesus it is not because He did not extend the opportunity to us, it is because we chose to deny Him a real apology.  Because the fact is that every thing we do wrong is an offense against God.

  • Psalm 51:3-4  I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge.

You forgive out of compassion, regardless of the other person’s actions.  This maintains your heart’s integrity.  But restitution is only made when the other person is part of the process–sometimes this is possible and sometimes not.

Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving slave in Matthew 18 and sheds light on what drives us to forgive others.  He outlines the process of Christian confrontation, apology, and forgiveness.  If there is something to remember about this parable it is this:

  • We all owe somebody.
  • When you hurt someone, you owe them.

If you owe someone an apology for hurting them and refuse to admit you are wrong, then you will pay the penalty for not doing so.  This is the way God’s economy works.  Our own denial and lack of insight does not preclude us from eventually having to see the truth.  When you refuse compassion on others you demand that justice be brought on yourself.  That is why it is so important to forgive.  We all want mercy.  We all want to escape punishment when we do wrong, but most of us shutter at the idea of other people not getting what they deserve.  This is the hypocrisy of the human race that directly contradicts perfect love.

In Matthew 18:26-27 he says: At this, the slave fell face down before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything!’ Then the master of that slave had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan.

We want to be forgiven because we cannot take back what we’ve done, we cannot–for whatever reason–make it right.  There is no way to undo the wrong thing that happened.  The only restitution that can be made is if the person we owe apology to, grants us forgiveness.  If they do not forgive us, then we are still under their condemnation.  This is what was about to happen to the slave in Jesus’s story.  The slave was about to be condemned for his unpaid debt and the only thing he could do was beg for mercy or face the consequences.  The one he owed could have refused his request for mercy, but he did not.  The reason–COMPASSION!

  • A forgiving heart is compassionate
    • It will accept a real apology, forgive the pain that has been caused, and no longer hold the debt against them.
    • When a person is forgiven, their account is reconciled and they have restitution is granted through another’s mercy and compassion.  Not by anything the debtor did to repay the debt.
  • An unforgiving heart lacks mercy
    • It will reject a real apology and require full payment/punishment for the wrongdoing, until the debt is paid.
    • It wants retribution.
    • When a person is unforgiven their account goes to collections and they are forced to make restitution themselves.   The one they owe is requiring restitution be made–they are not making any allowances or forgiveness of the debt.

2. The Fake Apology

An example of a fake apology:

  • “I’m sorry you were offended about __________”.   The one apologizing does not believe they were wrong, instead, they are affirming that the other person has no grounds to accuse them.  So why apologize?  The answer–to maintain superiority and ensure the other person understands that they stand in error.

We all do this from time to time.  Some more than others and some do it constantly.  By even delivering this type of apology we are trying to be respectful and give some credit to the other person, but we just cannot stomach taking responsibility.  We want to sound compassionate, but it is clear to the other person we are not.  Then, we walk away believing that the one who got offended for no reason has serious problems and that if they could only see the truth, they would get it.

Here’s the truth…they do have serious problems and YOU triggered one of them!  What is the reality then.  Logically, either you did do something wrong or they are projecting an insecurity onto you that has been previously introduced into their life (either by you or someone else).  So, what do you do?

In EITHER case, your response is COMPASSION!  Because here is the kicker, if you are in the wrong, you will not know it unless you assume a position of compassion (which is based out of humility).  Only then can you actually hear and understand.  Without compassion you assume a position of superiority–a moral and intellectual high ground–that you will not be shaken from.  You stand on your truth and reject any pleas for mercy because what that person needs is compassion and to be heard.  WHETHER OR NOT YOU AGREE!  If the assumption is that you are better than them you will always see their reasons for being upset as flawed and stemming from something other than you!

In a situation where the other individual has no grounds for complaint against you at all and they are totally projecting their own issues onto you, what is your response?  The same of Jesus:

  • Matthew 27:12-14   And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He didn’t answer.  Then Pilate said to Him, “Don’t You hear how much they are testifying against You?” But He didn’t answer him on even one charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
  • Matthew 5:39-42    I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
  • Isaiah 53:7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;
    like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Why be quiet and just listen?  Because it proves you don’t need to justify yourself and keeps the issue visible.

Jesus always told the truth, but when people would wrongly accuse him by projecting their own faults onto Him, His response was to take it.  He would not argue.  He would allow them to be heard.  That’s what they felt was important.  In doing this he demonstrated the true greatness of compassion.  That even in mistreatment one would not turn and seek justice over mercy.  In the end, justice will come.  We cannot stop God’s wrath on the day of judgment.  But vengeance belongs to Him.

We are to replicate a heart of compassion, patience, and longsuffering that is perfectly shown by God during the course of our lives where we engage in constant rebellion against Him.

One can ask for forgiveness without themselves having the proper heart.  This is a hypocrite.  They desire forgiveness and to reap its benefits.  They go away without receiving any consequences for their actions.  They have been shown mercy (by someone else).  Yet, when they asked for forgiveness, they did not understand that there was something that should have been learned previously–COMPASSION ON OTHERS.  In light of what they have been forgiven, they should assume a compassionate heart.  The problem is that the hypocrite either does not grasp the reality of their sinful demeanor towards others (an unconscious judgement) OR they have not really experienced forgiveness because they never truly considered themselves guilty without excuse.

  1. The ignorant hypocrite unknowingly passes judgment on others because they have not understood the depth of compassion that has been shown on them.
  2. The malicious hypocrite who is aware of their judgmental attitude is aware of the compassion they have received yet thinks that others do not deserve it, or that it is not important to show it to them.

This is tied to the concept of cheap grace.  Cheap Grace is a term used by Christians to describe a person who takes God’s forgiveness lightly and continues to sin, believing that they have freedom to do what they want without fear of real consequence.  Whereas Grace that is actually given by Jesus produces a change in the heart that does not desire any freedom to be selfish, but rather desires more and more to be conformed to the image of Christ.  But I digress!

How do you know it was a fake apology?

  • You feel judged
  • The forgiveness that is granted does not inspire compassion in the one forgiven.  Instead, the one forgiven walks away and judges others without mercy.

When a person does not want to grant forgiveness to another person, it means that they have taken advantage of the kindness, compassion, and forgiveness of another.  When a person offers a fake apology, they do not want to take responsibility for their actions, they simply want to be relieved of their burden.  They do not want to change the lack of mercy and negative behavior that landed them in the bad spot to begin with, instead they simply want to walk away without consequence and live their life the way that they want.

One who knowingly does this is to be despised above all.  They are wolves that prey on the weak and helpless.  They are the most selfish of all human beings.  On the other hand, those who unconsciously behave this way do so out of a lack of faith in God which originates from a place of pain deep within.  They do not grasp the fullness of the forgiveness that they have been granted.  They have not learned to be vulnerable, humble, and selfless because they need to have control so that they can accumulate good feelings.  The irony is that when a person has a free gift of forgiveness from God there is nothing else they need to accumulate, so forgiveness can be freely given.  They spend their lives protecting themselves; unknowingly hurting those around them because while they have accepted forgiveness from others, they have not truly understood what it would cost if they were held accountable.

3. Getting Walked On

What if the other person does not appreciate your compassion and forgiveness?  The only Biblical response is to endure.  We cannot always understand what is happening in an individual’s heart and mind when they are engaged in rebellion.  But we know that our own salvation is based on an unconditional love from one (Jesus) who endured rebellion and rejection at our own hands.  As a Christian, this is your highest calling.

Here is the idea:  Our unwavering compassion leads others to understand what true love is!  If we falter then that love fails.  And true love never fails!

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 13   Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.  Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end…Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
  • Romans 2:3-5  Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment?  Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed.

4. Conclusion

A heart that truly apologizes and truly forgives will be one that is compassionate and pays those actions forward.  A heart that offers cheap apologies is one that lacks compassion and mercy on others and is instead concerned with judgment and others getting what they deserve!

 

 

Who’s Watching You?

“You are the most influential player on this team.  If you walk around defeated, so will they.” – Facing the Giants

We are influencing someone.  Our actions inspire someone to do something.  In the home we are privileged to exercise leadership in God’s format; by his design.  To someone in your family, you are the most influential person in their life–whether good or bad.

Fathers/Husbands

You have been given a mantle of responsibility, of leadership, by God, that requires you to stand out in front and lead by example.  Undoubtedly, mothers have influence as well, but God has ordained men to be the heads of families, for men to be the ones that the family learns how to be like Jesus from and how to love the world.  Every child and every wife should feel that their husband knows the Lord more than they do. How can a father be expected to teach his family if the family (mother or children) is more knowledgeable about spiritual things?  What if students knew more than their teachers?  This implies that the Lord grants understanding and discernment in a different way to the father.  Certainly the woman possess these things, but not in the same way that the man does.

Fathers and husbands are strong.  Not always in a physical sense, but many times they are.  But even if their physical strength is lacking, they possess a strong inclination for the well-being of their flock.  They are born with a sense of confrontation that drives them to defeat anything that seeks to harm those under their care.  The leading man in the house should be seen and known as one who protects his family and sacrifices everything for them–his life, his food, his possessions, and anything that would make the family more vulnerable to attack from something or someone outside.  Spiritual or physical attack.  What distracts you from being this man of leadership?  Get rid of it.  Claim your responsibility and shoulder it with pride and enthusiasm.  Every wife and every child will see your dedication, submission, and commitment to your ordained place in life and will be inspired to fulfill theirs as well.  Just as they watch you, you are watching someone too.  Is it Jesus?  If so, it will be evident.  Is it your friends, yourself, culture–mankind?  If so, it will be evident?  Just remember, that rebellion in God’s kingdom is not met with ungodly discipline and condemnation.  It is met with peace, long suffering, patience, and love.  Always teach the truth, but be patient and always encourage your family to follow the right path; never crushing them for insubordination and never frustrating them to the point that they want to give up because you have made it impossible to reach your standards.  Never waiver on truth and always leave room for reconciliation and change.  Remember God’s patience with you as he molds you into the leader you are called to be and do the same for those under your charge.

Mothers/Wives

Your children are watching your every move; they need and depend on you so much.  You are the intermediary between them and their father.  When they were born, you handed the child to them (in a manner of speaking).  You present the child to their father as a gift; as one who has been shaped and formed by you.  They have been given to you for a reason.  They fall directly under your sphere of influence.  Whereas the father is expected to raise and carry the standard for the whole family and oversee the family’s purpose, the mother is expected to engage in the physical, spiritual, and emotional development of their children first and foremost.  Again, fathers do this as well, but when in a heightened position of leadership one is unable to rub elbows with those below them to the degree that lower level leadership can.  By design, that is truth.  Fathers set the standard of love by interacting with their wives and children in a Christlike way, by serving them through sacrifice and personal devotion, teaching the whole family the precepts of the Lord.  Mothers have traditionally, by God’s design, spent the most time with the children, and are called to demonstrate not only a commitment to truth and love, but to pass on a bond that can only come through a mother’s love.  Fathers do not give birth and cannot possess the same connection to their babies that mothers can.  It is impossible.  Nature declares this truth.  Look at almost any animal in the world and you will see the difference between the roles of a mother and a father.

This teaching is not popular today, but it is straight from the Bible.  Straight from the Apostle Paul who wrote the majority of the New Testament.  Wives and mothers should not be the gatekeepers to their family’s spiritual, physical, and emotional well being.  This is the father’s role–meaning that he ensures that these areas are being taken care of.  At times he may have to come in close and correct, encourage, and fill in the gaps where the mother is not able.  Perhaps the mother was not cared for by her parents and was never enabled to love the way God would have her to.  THIS IS THE WHOLE POINT.  YOU WATCHED YOUR PARENTS. This mother learned by watching her mother and her father.  This process should lead to the mother gaining understanding of her role and eventually rising to it.  How blessed are children and a husband who experience a wife and mother who has taken her place in the family and is always seeking to fulfill her leadership role as the one who directly helps/assists in the growth and development of her family.  She can do something that her husband cannot if she is operating in a Biblical way.  She gets to have a connection with her children that the husband will not, if she is operating in a Biblical way.  Why do you think the athlete on T.V. always exclaims “Hi mom!”?  Be the mother to your children that God has ordained you to be and be the wife to your husband that God has ordained you to be and seek nothing more.  For this is your calling and what an amazing and special one it is.

Conclusion

Realize that someone in your home is watching you.  The way you act is the way that they will act–why would you expect something different?  What does this inspire you to do?  Hopefully you recognize the need to fully submit to the Lord and his guidance so that you can pass that spirit on to whoever is under your charge.  If you try to go alone, or follow worldly advice and passions, then you will demonstrate to those who are by default, your followers, that an ungodly and selfish way of life is acceptable.  We are a family of God and we have a map of how to successfully be one–the Bible.  This world has its own understanding, but we do not follow the world.  Look in the faces of those in your family who belong to you and picture them behaving, speaking, and feeling the way that you do.  If that is unsettling, change it.  Ask the Lord for strength to humble yourself and submit to Him.  Jesus desperately wants us to unify as a family so that we can show everyone how to truly love others unconditionally; which can only be accomplished when we view others as more important than ourselves.

*REMEMBER THIS:  We have all learned by our parents how to live ungodly and selfish lives in some way.  Every human being has sinned and has passed their failures onto their children.  But the humility that comes with submitting to the Lord will be your greatest asset as you work through those difficulties, that confusion, when you are fulfilling your role of leadership in the family.  Jesus will guide you through those bad habits you learned from your caregivers, but He requires you to own it yourself.

Stand Out and Be Different

One of the great tragedies in life is that people give in and conform to what those around them communicate is suitable, appropriate, and comfortable.  Starting from the presupposition that we are all made in the image of God and that our standard for living is having the mind of Jesus Christ and walking out the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.), there is no way that anyone should give up their God given right to live out the individual purpose that the Lord has created them for.  Based on this platform, never forget that:

  • People do not define what you are worth–God does.
  • People are selfish and often do not care about you–God does.
  • People are as different inside (purpose) as they are outside (looks).
  • Following rules, laws, and being obedient to those in charge is NOT sacrificing your uniqueness.
  • Your autonomy is meant to be expressed in the context of community.
  • Standing Out and Being Different should always lead to unifying others in the name of Jesus.
  • Our unique gifts, given by the Spirit of Jesus, are not for us.  They are for others.
  • Not being silenced by those who oppose you, when you follow the Lord’s purpose for your life, is your calling.
  • Where people want you to be silent and change is where you must remain consistent, vocal, and unwavering.
  • Where we separate from everyone else is where we connect with God and where we make the greatest impact for His kingdom.
  • Those who answer the individual call of God on their lives become part of a family that uniquely serve one another by owning and unleashing the special way that God has given only them, to love those in their community.
  • Those who are not following the Lord will always try to snuff out your individuality as a child of God.

For you and for me to live out our purposes, that are defined by God Himself, we must develop a habit of not seeking the approval of other people.  Does this mean you become a rebel?  Do you live as one who has no authority?  Absolutely not.

Remember that before one can actually live out their God given purpose they must first submit to the Creator.  Moreover, the Scriptures clearly teach that submitting to the Lord also entails submitting to governing authorities (Romans 13), one another (Ephesians 5:21-22), and to church leadership (Hebrews 13:17).  The idea here is that when you are submitting in the aforementioned ways, you are submitting to the Lord because He is the one who created the human authority.  But no human authority overrides God.  Sometimes it is necessary to obey God and disobey men because the authority is in error and their directions are sinful (Acts 5:27-29).  But we must take care not to revolt against ungodly leaders who demand we obey their commands.  We are to follow orders.  We are to do what they want.  We are to give up our own desires and follow their rules and laws.

  • Ephesians 6:5-8 says Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart.  Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord.

That is, until they ask us to deny Jesus, His love, and His commands.  In these instances, we must not obey.  Instead, we must do what is right before the Lord and suffer the human consequences of our rebelliousness.  But we don’t rebel because we don’t respect them, or because we don’t think they care for us.  This is not part of our command from God.

Going back to being a rebel.  We cannot be rebels to God’s authority or those He has placed in authority over us–except when they ask us to disobey Him.  In this sense, we become rebels and are often mistaken for troublemakers because we refuse to follow the ungodly expectations of men who follow their own interests rather than God’s.  This was the case for the Apostles in the book of Acts as they went from town to town.  They were constantly accused of stirring up trouble and were often beaten and eventually killed for their lack of conformity to their culture.

CONCLUSION

When you feel all alone in this world because you have decided to embrace the uniqueness that God has wonderfully created you for–REJOICE!

  • Be a reject–by the world’s standards.
  • Be different–by the world’s standards.
  • Be misunderstood–by the world’s standards.
  • You are different individually–as Christians who have been gifted by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-7).
  • You are different corporately–as a church who is separate from the world (Jn. 18:36).

But love the world and die for those who reject you.  Then you will truly be like your Creator who so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but live forever! (Jn. 3:16)

  • Jesus said:  I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27; 35-36).

 

Can You Hear the Truth?

Are you concerned with truth?

Is it more valuable to you than all the comfort in the world?

When we want truth in our lives we are seeking to live in light of God’s Word…not our desires.  What we selfishly want to hear is something that would gratify our emotional, physical, and relational needs.   We want “good news” that tickles our senses–we do not want to experience any unpleasantness.  But the truth often hurts because it confronts our errors.  The problem with a self focused person is they will never be truly happy. They can never consume enough to feel full.  But truth satisfies–it has an end; a fixed position. You know where to stop.  If we didn’t have truth, we wouldn’t have anything worthwhile to preach–it would all be up to every individuals’ desire.

Consider 2 Timothy 4:2-4  Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new.  They will turn away from hearing the truth…

But the truth is not a respecter of persons.  It is not concerned with feelings.  It is simply a fact.  We change it to fit our needs, but the truth never really changes.  It remains consistent so we can see it and hear it for what it is and can always come back to it.  Now, when we become aware of the truth we can wield it in such a way that hurts people, but this is not from the Lord.  Truth is elixir of life.  If we can hear it, see it, understand it, and most importantly–apply it–we are truly cured.

John 8:31-32  Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Those who are not truly His disciples will not hear the truth because their hearts are not for Him–they are for themselves.  Consider Matthew 13.  After Jesus tells the parable of the sower.  He explains how the truth is spread to people with different “soil” which the truth seeds are sown into.  He describes how the soil is a metaphor for the condition of their hearts and that the only hearts that will respond to the truth are those who “hear and understand the word, who bear fruit and yield…” (Mt. 13:23).  The heart is a picture of our desires, our affections, and what we truly love.  The parable explains that every heart that does not receive the word of truth in a way that produces a change/result, though they heard the truth, it did not yield any change in their life, which means their hearts were hard (Mt. 13:15).

Jesus said in John 18:37  I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice. Pilate’s response in vs. 38 is “What is truth?” 

The entire New Testament describes the tragic story of how the Jews thought they knew the truth, but really didn’t.  When Jesus came He tried to get them to see that He was God and that they needed to worship Him and follow Him–that all the prophets who spoke of a coming ruler were talking about Him.  That’s when they killed Him.  They did not hear the truth and they did not want to hear the truth.  They wanted to believe what they wanted to believe and it cost them their souls.

CONCLUSION

If you were confronted with the truth, would you adapt yourself to it?  Would you give up everything in your life that does not align with it?  When you are unwilling to change because a principle that is undeniably from God is hurtful to your position, your emotions, or your goals–you are in unbelief.  You are in danger of judgment.  When we repent and believe in Jesus Christ we give up our rights to believe what we want and we assume a submissive and learning position.  We are no longer the lords of what is right and wrong in our lives, we are slaves to HIS truth and we give up everything to find it.

The value of truth is found in the parable of the Pearl of Great Price:

Matthew 13:45-46  The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.

  • Of course we know that the Pearl of Great Price is Jesus!

What Can Jesus Do? The Answer = Size of Your Faith

Your belief about what Jesus is capable of, will determine how content and full of peace you are in this world–not what He actually does, but what He could do.  Faith in Jesus is not concerned with the demonstration of power.  Faith in Jesus is demonstrated by the peace drawn from the conviction that His power will be used in your best interest.

What is happening in life that hurts?  What situation causes you to become anxious and worry?  Which person do you know who makes your life difficult?  Guess what…God knows and He is guiding you through that dark path.  If you believe He is there, even though you can’t see Him, and if you love Him, then you will be convinced that the darkness you are experiencing is what He wants you to experience, or else He would save you from it.  It boils down to what you believe He has the power to do and embracing your current situation because if He desired you to not endure it, you wouldn’t.

Here’s an example of this relationship.  If I bring Michael Jordan to a 2 on 2 game of basketball against 2 of my friends, I know that Michael and I will win.  I know that Michael would win without me, playing against my 2 friends.  He does not have to prove that he could dunk the basketball from the free throw line to demonstrate his ability.  Based on his reputation and my belief in him, I know we would win and I would have no fear.  Now if my friends started scoring some points and got ahead of us I would get confused and wonder what in the world was going on…after all, I’ve got Michael Jordan on my team.  But I would know that he was letting them win.  I wouldn’t know why, but I would know it was on purpose.  Maybe Michael is trying to teach me a lesson about something, if he didn’t tell me I wouldn’t know at the time necessarily, but I would know it was intentional because I know Michael’s power and ability.  Jesus loves me and the purpose he has for “letting the others win”, whatever that looks like, is for my good and for others to witness His power through me–the power to believe in what is greater than seeing a demonstration of power–belief in who God is and what his intentions are for me.  We have to come to grips with the reality that our victories may not be seen on this earth.

Are you about to die on the open sea?  Why be afraid if you believe in Jesus? Someone might say that it is normal to be afraid of such a frightening situation!  But believing in Jesus is not normal.  That belief grants you peace that surpasses human understanding (Phil. 4:7).  If you are going to die then it is God’s will.  If you ask for deliverance and are not delivered then it is His will that you not be delivered and you know that your faithful suffering is like an aroma to God that communicates your trust/faith.  If you pray for a person in your life to change and they don’t, then you know it is not God’s will that they change–at least not in order to alleviate your suffering.  You can have peace in the darkest valley of life knowing that the God of the universe has not plucked you from the painful circumstance you are in, but that He could.  So you know that if He has that type of power, to do anything you could think of, then if He has allowed you to endure the pain of your life, that power to endure rests on you because He is with you in that valley.  Consider Psalm 23:1-4

  • The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right path for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

This Psalm is not a song of praise to God for never making life hard when we are following Him.  It is a Psalm of submission.  One exclaiming that the green pastures, the right paths, are sometimes treacherous and hurtful–leading to our death (either physical or emotional).  But our joy and faith rest in the fact that no matter where we go, Jesus has taken us by the hand and is leading us there–which means He is with us and we are at peace.

Matthew 10:29;30; says “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent…So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

The idea is NOT this:  Because you are more valuable than 2 small birds worth a single penny, God will not let anything bad happen to you.

The idea is this:  Because God cares enough to “sign off” on the death of every small bird, you can guarantee that what happens with you is fully under His control, SO…don’t be afraid!  The trial in your life is your ministry at this time.  Rejoice!  God may not remove the trial from you.  Will that prove that He is not that big after all and will you constantly question God’s love for you?  Will that make you question His power and existence?  Or will you humble yourself and understand that your suffering is justified in His eyes.  That your pain glorifies Him.  That any issue you have had in life is meant for your good and to show His great power.

It is not about what He does, but what He can do.  If we live our whole lives believing that He can do ALL things but never receive a physical sign of that power, we will be truly blessed–that is faith.  What else can you believe?  He is real.  He is the Creator.  The fact is that physical deliverance does nothing for the soul.

In Matthew 8, Jesus encounters two types of faith:

  1. Little Faith
    1. His own Jewish disciples
      • Matthew 8:24-26  Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping. So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!” But He said to them, Why are you fearful, you of little faith? Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.
  2. Greatest Faith
    1. A Roman Centurion
      • Matthew 8:8;10 “Lord,” the centurion replied, “I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. But only say the word, and my servant will be cured…Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith!

In these examples, the disciples were in the presence of God but were not comforted by that fact.  They were focused on their immediate trouble and forgot who they were following.  They forgot who was in the boat with them.  Obviously Jesus wasn’t concerned…He was sleeping!  The disciples should have taken a page out of Jesus’s book, pulled up a pillow, and caught up on their sleep.  But they couldn’t, they were terrified that they might die.  However, they could have peacefully rode out the waves like their Master–THIS IS US!  If we are on the stormy sea, if we are in the dark valley of the shadow of death, we can sail through it without a care if we look next to us and remember who is in the boat!!

On the other hand, look at the centurion.  He was already convinced of Jesus’s power before he demonstrated it, the centurion did not need to see it which is why he simply said all that Jesus needed to do was speak the words and it would be done.  That was his faith.  We so often want to see it, but the centurion was past that.  He believed with all of his heart.  Had the centurion been in the boat, I bet that he would have been snuggled up with Jesus asking for a pillow.

 

 

 

Embrace Dishonor for Jesus

Acts 6:41b (HCSB)  …rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonored on behalf of the name of Jesus.

Under command of those who hated the name of Jesus, the apostles were beaten and shamed in front of everyone.  What was the response of the apostles?  To rejoice!  These were not sadists.  They did not desire punishment or physical pain, but when it occurred, they knew that they had not deserted Jesus as they had in the Garden of Gethsemane.  This time, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they stood for Jesus without apology and without fear of what man would do to them.  We have this same Spirit within us that gives us the power and ability to withstand persecution.  In fact, dishonor is part and parcel of living as a Christian and should come to no surprise when it happens.  We do not desire to be rejected, but can we say that our response is rejoicing when it does?  In our American culture we are often quick to assert our rights, but I wonder if we miss out on some of the fellowship with Jesus and other Spirit filled Christians when we do not endure dishonor with peace.  God is so great, that as a tool used in his Kingdom work, we know that we are honorable in His eyes, even if we are discarded as worthless by the world.

Philippians 1:8-30 says:  Not being frightened in any way by  your opponents.  This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance.  For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.

Paul is clear that when we believe in Jesus we will suffer at the hands of those who do not.  In Philippians, he encourages the saints while he awaits possible execution for his faith. In Acts, the other Apostles went back to their Christian family and told of how they were able to endure the same mistreatment as followers of their Lord and Savior–Jesus.  My prayer today is not that we would suffer, but that when it comes, in whatever form, we would perceive our rejection as connection to Christ, rather than mistreatment from men.

When Jesus Calls

Matthew 4:21-22  Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

If you believe in Jesus that means you have been drawn to Jesus by God the Father–you’ve been called (Jn. 6:44).  This is the general sense in which you answer the call of repentance and testify that Jesus Christ is who He claims to be.  When this happens your life completely changes and you are now set on a new road in life.  The brothers in this passage immediately left their material possessions, their job, and their security and simply went with their Lord.  They started a new life.  Unless we are willing to abandon everything else, we are not able to answer the call of Jesus.  We cannot stay with the boat and our father (so to speak) and also follow Jesus.  Consider this quote from Jesus:

Luke 9:61-62  One said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

What Jesus is really showing here is that to follow him there can be no excuses.  There can be no other affection that would compel you FIRST to say:  “Let me do _____ first.”  Jesus says that if this is your response, you are not fit to be His disciple.  If we have answered the call to Jesus Christ we must remember that our dedication to Him is extreme and it is complete.  All other things in life are a distant 2nd to Him and all things are subject to being cut out of our life if Jesus requires it.