Tag Archives: Jesus

The Depth of Personal Faith


god-is-in-control

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)

A Question About the Depth of Personal Faith

Jesus asks some questions of his disciples that seem so very simple when you read them, but they actually are more difficult for most people to put into action in daily living. This same question has an obvious answer for all that most would agree to, but evaluation is called for at the conclusion which makes the illustration of Jesus much more challenging. The question Jesus poses to them is to consider the amount of faith that they have inasmuch as God cares for nature that does not possess the capacity to exercise faith.

The question does not focus upon God’s ability to supply what is needed, but the disciple’s ability to exercise faith to receive. As the contrast is established, Jesus says to them that God clothes the birds of the air with feathers, the grass in the fields with health and nutrition, and the beauty of the flowers have no worries about their existence.  It seems almost like hyperbole that sets a contrast from the extravagant emphasis upon God’s care for natural things. Jesus emphatically states the greater importance of His care for His disciples, who cannot seem to get past their concern for immediate needs and anxiety about how or when it will come.

I think that often we worry the most because we have a concern for an immediate and pressing need along with a diminished understanding of God’s concern for our lives. This unduly exposes a primary focus upon things superseding a primary focus upon God as an avenue of blessings in life. The statement Jesus made emphatically, “O ye of little faith” reminds all readers about how out of focus priorities become in Christian living as the focus shifts on things and end states. While so much concern apparently arises as a natural human response, it is a misplaced concern with holding on to money and acquiring things first. In a stark contrast, the emphasis centers upon putting God first and focusing efforts upon seeking on His (kingdom-rule) over our heart-life to construct a life of faith. The application stands out clearly that disciples must learn that God precedes all of the material things in life.

Obviously birds don’t have faith, the ability to reason, nor does grass have the ability to worry; they simply live out their existence as they are designed. However, in a contrast disciples are given the ability to think and develop faith; then, reflect their true identity as a believer. The matter that is disappointing points to the failure of this band of disciples to spend time developing a faith life focused upon God instead directing their concerns toward the material matters of life. A lesson Jesus teaches in the story elevates the central importance of our priorities in what we are seeking in life. The message clearly speaks that disciples are to seek Him and in doing so, place their lives in a position to develop faith in Him, instead of worrying about fading material things.

It is hard to wrap our head around the idea that God is supernatural and out of a life of devotion to Him that God will orchestrate things we cannot imagine in human terms. Unfortunately, the fact that faith is developed out of the fires of life, keeps many out of focus until the day that the fire changes our life focus from things on this earth to the Father and His purpose. Today is a good day to change the focus of life and make a commitment to seek Him and His Lordship over life.

Prayer for today: Father may my faith develop a trusting, knowing, powerful faith that will take my focus off of holding on to things, money, or material goods a source of security. In the fires of my life today, develop a faithful trust in a sovereign God who can bless my life with good things as I seek you first, your reign, your rule over my life today.

Authentic Fellowship


Walk in the LightAuthenticity and transparency go hand in hand with wisdom in the way life is expressed and with whom the heart I shared. Considering that even Jesus said “not to cast your pearls before the swine”, care should be taken in the choice of people that we share our heart with through life. The piercing truth about human nature is that many people do not have the capacity to receive or understand transparent and authentic people because they are not.

Transparent people learn the wisdom of living wisely and honestly in their spiritual relationship with God, self, and others. The principle of authenticity indicates that we are first and foremost transparent in our relationship with God knowing that He recognizes us as we are and yet still in spite of all we are or are not still loves us as we are —the person He created. When we are able to be honest with God and learn to be comfortable in His presence, we have started the journey of self-acceptance and honest assessment with our self where transformation is possible. One of the keys to living that transparent and authentic life is that people learn that a life of peace with others begins with having peace with yourself. You cannot love others as you love yourself until you actually learn to love yourself in a healthy way.

If we walk in the light, the light exposes all that we are and every attitude that precedes our actions. I wonder when you look at yourself in the light of Jesus’ reflection, what do you see? Is that person someone that you can live comfortably alongside of without hiding, deflecting, or faking? Think about this: Think about this: When we live in the light of His presence, forgiveness of our sins and walking in truth and light, with God and with others, will always be natural and authentic result of having fellowship with the light.

 

Calling From God that Goes Beyond the Natural Life


Couter Cultural Christianity“11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.” (Galatians 2:11:17).

The Call of God and the Authenticity of the Gospel

Politics, nepotism, and social pressure from cultural religious networks of people are nothing new to the religious world. In fact, the context of this scripture suggest that these forces were at work placing pressure upon the early servant of the faith and many times severely hindered the work they were trying to accomplish. Look at the words of Paul as he spoke of his past life and the way he was entrenched in a religious system of belonging, controls, and social pressure creating conformity to the ideas of men, which equaled religious humanism in the 1st century. Unfortunately, those immersed in these cultural representations could not see the problems associated with these socio-cultural entrenchments because of  their ingroup affiliation that validated their life and existence. Thinking upon this morning, I am reminded of how much that churches have become social units,that are heavily influenced by traditions of the world and have moved away from a clear sense of calling from God, and have become social units that propagate cultural Christianity that is indigenous to a culture and not subjected to the scripture or submissive to God.

The Counter cultural Message

The apostle Paul presents a counter cultural message that asserts that its source is God alone. Therefore, the call of God is not a call to serve Him through contact with God and that contact with the nature of God will develop my understanding of the call and the direction it will take. Further, contact with God will assist me in gaining an understanding of what the call of God means for my life and how the call is to be measured out into definable actions. The call of God is an expression of His nature; the service, which results in my life, is best suited to me and is an expression of my nature that God has created in me and works through me. A deviation that occurred from the natural life was stated by the apostle Paul that was initiated by God—“When it pleased God . . . to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him [the message purely and solemnly expressing Him alone] among the Gentiles”

The Call and the Developing Understanding

Two challenges speak very loudly as I read Paul’s statement about the way he received and understood the message. The word revelation is overused, misused, and misunderstood by many Christians to mean some private mystical and private word from God that others have not heard. That was the heretical teaching of 1st century Gnostics, the experience of paranoid schizophrenics, as well as, other cults and mental disorders. Therefore, this application leaves a a unreliable etiology to reliably understand what revelation points toward. It is abundantly clear that the Bible is the only revelation of God that we will ever need and is the full disclosure of the supreme revelation, Jesus Christ. When Paul says that he received his message by revelation, it was not until his eyes were opened by Jesus and he could see past the temple, the Torah, the Targums, the Mishnah, and the Rabbinical writings that were a part of his enculturation. Then, as he met Jesus, his eyes were opened past His acculturation. God took the things that he had been taught in the Old Testament writings and revealed Jesus that he had not seen before because he was blinded by everything that he was absorbed in within his culture believing he was doing right and everything within him that attributed meaning, as he understood it from a human cultural perspective. Then Jesus cleared it up for him in a process of three years. As I read this, I am really aware that the word of God is of no private interpretation and God has a process of revealing His message, but it comes when we become aware of Him and separate ourselves to let His word speak to us that we might understand the revelation of God. A firm conclusion reveals that Jesus is the revelation that made the message clear as Paul’s previous knowledge was clarified by an encounter with Christ, God’s supreme revelation

Separation to Service

Service does not result from belonging to a ingroup, it results from belonging to Jesus and being devoted to Him alone. The message determines the mission and service is the overflow, which pours from a life filled with love and devotion for the Savior who calls us to a radical mission. Service is my gift of obedience in the relationship and reflections my identification with the nature of God that has been revealed to me. Service becomes a natural part of my life when I have separated myself from cultural Christianity to radical Christianity that elevates the Gospel to its proper place of priority in our life and the church. Service occurs when God breaks my will and brings me into the proper relationship with Him in order that I can understand His call, and then serve Him from a pure motivation of absolute love. Service to God is the deliberate love-gift of a nature that has heard the call of God. Service is an expression of my nature, and God’s call is an expression of His nature that invites me to participate in His work. Therefore, when I accept His nature and hear His call with an understanding ear, it is at that moment that the words that God has spoken in His word are revealed clearly.

Your words oh Lord separate me from the normal way of the world to the higher ways of God that result in sacrificial service that does not come from men or through men, but are a result of an encounter with the nature of God on the road of life. Lord, Your Word comes so quietly and so pervasively to convict my heart —Lord protect me, insulate me, and isolate me from the trappings of cultural Christianity and religious conformity that has a death grip on the church. Break the bonds in Jesus name through the power of the gospel.

God’s Call and My Response


Isaiah 1_8“1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. 6Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. 8Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. 9And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.11Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, 12And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. 13But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof” (Isaiah 1:1-13).

This morning as I revisited the message of Isaiah and reflected upon the message of Isaiah where a vivid portrayal of the personal experience described by Isaiah of being lifted into the presence of God and viewing the manifestation of God’s majestic wonder. Isaiah’s account of the ascent into the presence of the holy angels declaring the glory of God describes an experience that moves beyond any finite ability to understand the Holy place of Heaven and descriptions of God in His glory in human terms and presents an  apocalyptic of the presence of God unknown to man. In the midst of the shaking of the of the foundation of the posts of the Holy of Holies in the atmosphere of worship and the smoke of the incense from the altar God there came a profound conviction, a personal cleansing, and a prophetic call that Isaiah deeply felt and expressed a response to by accepting God’s offer.

Application of the Vision

While pondering the events described and reflecting upon the events from the personal experience of Isaiah, I am impressed that at the heart of the matter that when God lifts people into His presence, the first response should be recognition of their sinful state and conviction  about their part in the condition of the world followed by heartfelt repentance in humility in the presence of the glory and majesty of God. I am challenged to consider that when God calls for a response, it really, it doesn’t really make any difference what anyone else does, thinks or says, I am only responsible for how I respond to God’s invitation to respond to His call. IT is the only thing that is important.

The Voice of God and Response to the Call

Many times while thinking about the calling of God, I have overlooked the central and most compelling component relating to the call of God resting in the attributes and character of Him who calls to service. Every day there are many things calling and demanding my full attention, but none more important than the call of God to transformation and service and to follow Jesus and live the gospel. Obviously, some of these things calling for my attention will be answered out of necessity and others will not even be heard because they are insignificant to the purpose of God. However, the call of God is revealing of the nature and desire of the person whose call to service from the heart, to a king, in a kingdom, to a way of living that transcends human reason or ability. Therefore, I recognize that I can only understand the call when I share the divine nature in measure with the one who issues the summons to service. As a result, I must not be deceived for the call of God is the expression of God’s nature, not mine or for my glory, but His alone. God providentially has woven the tapestry of His calling into my life so  I can understand and discern the nature of His call and learn to distinguish His voice from other things calling. It is the revealing of God’s voice through His word about definable concerns; therefore, it is meaningless to seek others opinions about God’s specific call. The way I process of the call of God and the direction that it takes me should be kept exclusively between He and I.

As such, I am reminded that the call of God is not a reflection of my nature or my personal desires and my temperament are of no consideration. As long as I dwell on my own qualities and traits and think about what I am suited for, I will never hear the call of God clearly. Nevertheless, when God brings me into the right relationship with Himself, I will be in the same condition as Isaiah on the mount of the Lord. Isaiah, who was so attuned to God because of the great crisis he had just endured and the call of God penetrated his soul with the burden to go and be a witness of the glory of God. Therefore, I am convicted and convinced that the great majority do not hear anything but echo of personal desires for existence. When we do not attune the heart to the voice of God calling, it is because we have not been brought to the place or conviction, repentance, and willingness to hear the call of God and be to be profoundly changed by the burden to go for Him.

“Lord, allow me into your presence that I may feel the convicting power of your glory. Let me be attuned to Your voice”—that is my prayer. I am willing beyond all my expression to be obedient to go as I hear you speak. May I I be your willing and obedient servant in a time of great crisis to bring truth to a dying nation and a crippled people who have lost their way.”

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What God Wants More Than Anything Else


Woman at WellIf somebody asked you to describe the Christian life in a few words, what would you say? If somebody asked you, “What does God want from us more than anything else?” What would you say? If you said moral devotion, if you said ethical behavior, if you said religious ritual you’d be wrong. The essence of the Christian life describes a relationship characterized by love and affection expressed in a covenant relationship of eternal commitment

The Bible says indicates that, as God’s people we are the object of God’s unfailing love. God made you to love you. He made you to be an object of His love. He wants to have a relationship with you. That means that you are created for having a relationship and, as a result, the most important thing you can know in life is that God loves you. Moreover, the most important thing that you can do in life is to love Him back.

Jesus said it like this in Matthew 22 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Nothing is more important. If you do this, you will fulfill your primary purpose in life. If you learn to love God and you let God love you, your life has fulfilled its meaning, its purpose. If you miss this part of your life, your life is a failure. Because you have missed the very reason that God created you and put you on earth – to love and be loved.

There is a concept in the Bible that describes expressing love to God —“worship”. We think of worship as a ritual or routine or something you do in a church. No. Worship simply means expressing love to God. Any time you are expressing love to God, you are worshiping whether you are by yourself, in a small group, in a large crowd or wherever. When you express love to God in any way, you are worshiping.

You may have noticed that sometimes, for some people it is hard to say, “I love you.” Sometimes we feel it; we just do not know how to get it out, how to say it. Therefore, we do not know how to express our love to our children, to our wives/husbands, to our friends and neighbors, the people we work with or even to God. It is somewhat difficult. Why does that happen? Why is it sometimes hard to say, “I love you”?

Life Experience: You may have been raised in a very non-expressive home where there was love or maybe there was not and you just did not talk about it that much. You did not frequently say, “I love you.”

Maybe you were taught to stuff your emotions, push them down, and hide your feelings. Maybe you have been hurt in the past and you say, “I don’t want to get hurt again so I’m not going to tell anybody I love them.” Alternatively, maybe you are resentful of hurts in your past so you say, “I don’t want to love God. There are things in my life I don’t like.” However, maybe you just do not know how to express your love to God.

Finding Grace In A World Demanding Performance


Take time to look at people in terms of their humanity and not their failures.Forclosure House - The Day After (28)

A truth that might be understood about how we look at others is that when we see others at the point of their need and have compassion: giving grace, reflects our own sense of need, realizing that we also need grace at times in our lives.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” that was targeting an attitude that would characterize those who understand their culpability, have sense of their humanity, and potential for failure which results in humility about who they are.  It is a truth that it is very hard to extend grace to others when you have no understanding how much a human that you are or how failure may have characterized our existence.  How we look at others says something about the impact of humility upon our character. People are human and fail at times in life and if the only people who we are willing to give grace to are people who look like us and fit into the cookie cutter that we have made of our view or brand of church-ology, we will never be of any help to anyone except a select few and we may miss a rare opportunity to be incarnational in how we respond to people.  Jesus looked upon the multitude as sheep without a shepherd.  Most people need a shepherd that can see them as they are and realize that there is a felt need that needs intervention that expresses grace.

Use what you have to be a blessing to someone else who may need a hand up.

One of the most profound things that you can do for someone is not to give an expensive, costly gift that is beyond your ability, it is the act of showing that you care enough about someone else to give what you have, what you can, and what helps the person. If you have ever been desperate with nowhere to turn, no one to call, stranded with no where that you feel that you can turn to get help, and God places an angel (messenger) in your path who does not know you, but chooses to help you because they have been in that exact spot before, then you may understand a hand up.  The unfortunate thing is that many Christians are so self-absorbed and detached from others–that all that they can see is their own need.  What people need to know more than they need your money, food, or time is to know that you see them as a person and that you have a genuine concern that will do more than talk about being missional.  To give people a hand up means feet on the ground—using what you are and what you have to offer to show what people need the most, loving concern that shows.

Finding grace in the holidays will come when grace has found us and we come to realize that people all around us every day need a touch on their lives that communicates that I accept you like you are and I am willing to give of myself, giving grace that connects with the felt need of another person .  Everyone needs to experience salvation, redemption, sanctification, and empowerment from God to live an effective life.  The best expression of love that is demonstrated gives with no expectation of receiving anything for the giving. Giving love with no strings or conditions is a choice made reflecting the Grace that God gives in loving us. Loving without expectations the act of Grace reflecting a character that seeks the best for the one being loved freeing the person to give love freely. (John 3:16)

Spirituality: Striving and Developing on the Path


When Jesus said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24), there is the reminder of discipline involved in continuing to walk day after day in a committed Christian life.  It is a formidable challenge to consider to not to allow the shadows and underbrush overshadowing the walk to hinder  progressing toward the goal that is just ahead on the jagged road called strait.

The grim reality presented in what Jesus said,  “Strive”, indicates a life of resistance against elements that are always present, which constantly oppose success toward a direction called the “strait gate”.  The truth is that, unless there is a tenacious commitment to embrace the calling of the “strait” direction with total dependence on God, it is not likely that striving in human effort alone will keep you on the path. Nevertheless, what is apparent indicates that there is a ongoing struggle to live in a “strait” way, but the question remains about what the struggle is with?

Is it the struggle with the road of life chosen or a struggle with the way the road leads life?

A calming reminder from the psalmist says, “the ways (steps) of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord (Psalms 37). Comfort and assurance are given to us living on the path of righteousness indicating that it is a ordered way – God is involved in every step taken.  The confidence given from the psalmist affirms that there is not a step taken or resistance faced that He has not already prepared for in our steps.  On the path, a discovery comes that there is a way that seems right, which may feel right, looks right –the path of least resistance.  At this place of understanding, a decision has to be made to have trust during the struggle or to give way to the temptation to the impulse to run away from the “set path”, the ordered way, which is “strait” and characterized by “striving”.

A challenging concept in the statement comes as Jesus says, “Strive to enter” A question that arises is what exactly are we striving with, while entering the “strait gate?”  Many people see this as a struggle in becoming a Christian, or the struggle in surrendering to Christ. However, what must be noted is that striving is a continual struggle on the “ordered path”.  If it is believed that God gives salvation freely, it is hard to accept that this is struggling for salvation.  It seems that the struggle is pointing to an important understanding about what we struggle with the most in life,  surrender of control to live under control to God alone.  Our striving is not with God, salvation, or receiving grace – it is a struggle with a thing called depravity that haunts the soul of man with unbelief, selfishness, and a propensity toward a disobedient and unfruitful lifestyle.  It is a struggle with self to a life of surrender.