28 March, 2011

Pouring Out

"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure - pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return" Luke 6:38.

Something that is so wonderful about this and many like Scriptures, is that the Lord never puts qualifiers on His promises. Jesus simply states here that whatever you sow will indeed be returned to you in greater measure (that's the "running over" part). The world has stolen this saying from Jesus and attributed some fancy, religious, new-agey term "karma" to describe this spiritual principle. God thought of it first. It isn't some universalist theory that we all hope will happen to bad people; it is a real spiritual law. And it works.

The question to all of us as believers is,"do we trust the Lord's principles?" If we did, we would stop at nothing to sow as much of ourselves into the kingdom of God and His people. Take a look at Galatians 6:7-10:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith (NKJV)

Again, God does not put any qualifiers on His Blessing. He simply says "whatever;" whatever you sow in life you will receive back. If you sow finances, you will reap finances. If you sow friendship, you will receive friendship. If you are a jerk, you will reap... unpleasantness, to say the least. Whatever you may need in life can be obtained through the spiritual principle of sowing and reaping. It is the way God operates, and we are made in His image. He made us to need each other, and while there is an added emphasis on investing in the Body of Christ, it is God's desire that we invest ourselves into all people. 

We often operate under the assumption that we need to have others pour into us before we can give anything of ourselves. But think on this for a moment: if each member of the Body invested themselves fully into each other, then even though you are pouring out everything you have, you would have many others pouring themselves into you. Think of it financially (yes, the "prosperity preacher" strikes again), if we all took God's Word regarding our finances seriously, and gave all that we could to the kingdom of God, our churches would not be in the financial trouble they are in now. We would not be holding "garage sales" to fund our missions programs. Honestly, do you think that is how God wants to fund His Kingdom?? Jesus commissioned us to reach the world with His Gospel, and you think He cannot come up with a better means of financing the operation than having the church rummage through each others junk? If we all took God at His Word, gave to our fullest abilities (even if all we have is a "widow's mite"), and believed His promises, we would all receive "many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life" (Luke 18:30). 

This is but a taste of something the Lord has shown me this past weekend. It is a little rough, I know. I will work on it some more throughout the week. I wanted to make sure that I got it "on paper" before I forgot it. Just understand that the more you invest into God and His people, the greater the return you will have in this lifetime. Stop operating under the assumption that everything is spiritual. Of course, Jesus told us to store up treasures in heaven, but He also gave us promises for how to live an abundant life here on the earth, as well. Judging by the way things are going, we all need it. 

24 March, 2011

Your Role

"Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God" ~Galatians 4:7

I spent some time this morning reading through the book of Galatians. I am at a point, regarding the New Testament at least, where I am re-reading many of the things I have read many times before, hoping to gain a firmer grasp on the Word. I find I do not have nearly as much of the Scriptures memorized as I would like. As David wrote, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11, NIV). That is the place that I want to be. So, I returned to Galatians - one of my favorite books in the Bible. In this epistle, Paul spends a lot of time emphasizing who we are as children of God. The entire third chapter is an expose on the people of God as heirs of the Blessing of Abraham through Jesus. It explains how Jesus has broken the entire Curse of the law (the Curse Adam thrust upon us all those years ago) and how He has restored the Blessing upon us as His people. It is an exciting chapter that I think many of us have not yet firmly grasped in our hearts. I recommend a thorough reading by all of you in the near future. Then we move into chapter four...

I began reading this morning and immediately the words were jumping off the page. Galatians 4:1-7 further unfolds the transition we have made from the world into the kingdom of God through Jesus. We have been trained to think, act, plan, and live according to the world's standard of operation. We go to school, get good grades, strive to go to college, strive to get a good-paying job so that we can pay-off the excessive debt we accrued in our attempts to survive college, and then put a down-payment on a home we will likely never pay-off before our retirement. It is "the American Way," we are living the "American Dream." No wonder America is so messed up right now. The Church has adopted this attitude, as well. Churches are in-debt all over the place. Christians are struggling to find their place in this world, and are drowning in debts as they try to keep everything together. Paul calls this "bondage to the elemental things of this world" (4:3b). He is referring mostly to religion, however, our churches are teaching us how to get ourselves into trouble, so thank you, religion, you have us wrapped up in the world's ways. Jesus came in order to break us from the dependence we have on the world's system. Jesus came to bring freedom to everyone - especially the poor, the one's held captive to the world's economic system. He came to bring us sonship - with a mighty fine inheritance.

Jesus' purpose was to purchase adoption for us all into the family of God. What stuck out to me the most in rereading Galatians is the emphasis placed on sonship. The religious world over-emphasizes the servant-hood aspect of the Christian life. First of all, due to our history, we understandably have a very negative view on servanthood and slavery. Therefore, we think negatively about the words when we see them in Scripture. Paul talks about being a slave to righteousness in Romans, but that is a result of the work done in him by the Holy Spirit. Many people can give testimony to a life of sin - how no matter what they tried, it felt impossible to break their old habits. They were enslaved. Talk to these folks now, and many will tell you they cannot help but act righteously. It is being "slaves to righteousness" (Romans 6:18). It is not a form of bondage or forced servitude. The same is true in the Christian life. We are not bound into a forced service to God. We do not have to do the things we do not enjoy. We serve God out of a love for Him, not a religious duty. And we are not told that we are to suffer the entire time we are doing it. Hardships in this life are not a result of "servitude," but an adversary bent on our destruction.

It is important that we learn to differentiate the various roles we play in the body of Christ. In this life I am a husband; I am a son; I am a brother; I am a friend. Those roles do not often overlap. I am a friend to my wife; actually she is my best friend, that's why I married her. Over the years, I have become more of a friend to my brothers, and as the years continue I will cultivate a friendship with my younger siblings, as well. Yet, on the grand scheme, the roles I play in life do not overlap greatly. However, in relationship to the Lord we all have many simultaneous roles to play. We are God's children; we are Jesus' disciples; we are soldiers, we are priests, we are servants - all at the same time. That is why we encounter hardships in life, because the fight of faith rests for no one - and Jesus promises us we have the power to win each time, and that this world has no power to harm us (John 16:33, Amplified). No one role takes precedent over the other. I like how author/preacher Jesse Duplantis puts it, "I am not a servant; I am a son who serves." Paul places emphasis on our role as sons and daughters of God throughout the whole of Galatians, yet he calls himself a "bond-servant of Christ" in 1:10. He understands his role as both of servant of the Lord Jesus, and a son of the Father God. Do we understand this difference?

Christianity likes to point out that it is the only religion that is relationship-based. Unlike all the religions of the world, that have a servant-superior design, Christianity is a Father-child relationship. Yet, I hear a strong emphasis on the servant-hood aspect permeating into the pulpits. It leads to bad thinking about God. It colors our prayers - as I said yesterday. Now, do not mis-understand me. Do not take this to the opposite extreme and begin to do nothing but "pal-around" with God and lose the healthy respect for Him. If there is one thing many "religious" people have got right, it is their love for Jesus. The most horrible things imaginable can happen to Christians, and the church will have them duped into believing it was God's Will, and these folks will continue walking with Him, no matter what. These people love God! But I talked about that yesterday...

Once as I was sitting in my living room praying, the Lord told me that I did not respect Him very much, that I used Him too much as a buddy, and not as a Lord. I immediately began to confess His greatness and Lordship in my life. There are times to fall on our knees and worship and marvel at God, to give Him all that we are as Lord of our lives. However, do not forget that there is a healthy place for just having fun with Dad. The way you pray will change when you grasp the balance of a life as a willing servant of God, and a child of the Father. I like how The Message puts verse 7, "Doesn't that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you're also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance." We have access to everything Jesus bought and paid for on that cross. God is not withholding anything from us. We just have not learned how to receive it yet. I know I haven't. Eventually you will find a long essay on receiving. For now, just meditate Mark 11:23-24 over and over along with me. And in the mean time, go read Galatians, and begin to meditate on who you are as a child of God, a "serving son/daughter," and what it means to have access to the biggest inheritance in the world.

23 March, 2011


"Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward" ~Hebrews 10:35

It's been too long since I sat down to write and process many of the things the Lord has been speaking and doing in our life. Last week, I went through a "brief" chaplaincy training. Now I am able to work on the congregational ministry team - at a church I no longer attend. Oh well, it got me out of the house, gave me some added ministry tools, and was yet another strong reminder from God that I need to continue to cultivate a heart of love and compassion towards my "neighbor." It also frequently struck another thought I would like to share with any of you out in Internet Land.

I heard a vast amount of "bad theology" the past few weeks. First of all, those who know me -and perhaps the few of you who don't, but are kind enough to be take this excursion into my mind - should have it figured out by now that I do not like the "religious buzz words" swarming around Christianity today. Theology is one of those; it makes a relationship with God and the study of His Word out to be more of a scientific study, rather than a life-changing work of the Spirit. However, for the sake of discussion, I will use the dirty religious word. The scope of Christianity is still confused. I'll even admit that I am frequently confused. I rarely sit and write from the standpoint of "expert." I am out to find the Truth of God's Word, and why so many of us are incapable of walking in the fullness of that Truth. I have to be very careful, because some of the promises I have found in the Word are not going to line-up with the horrible experiences many believers have faced in this life. However, I am finding in Scripture that the reason many of the horrible things we experience happen is because we are incapable of fighting "the fight of faith" (1Timothy 6:12). Do we really hold God to His Word, or do we let religion "comfort" us into believing our painful experiences are "part of The Plan"?

We have learned how to do some things very well in Church. We know how to "get people saved." We all have the prayer of conversion, the sinner's prayer, whatever, down to the proper voice inflection. We can get people saved. Even when we do not feel like we are in right standing with God, we have confidence in God's Word regarding our salvation, because we have preached it over and over and over for millennia. We have developed confidence in God's promise that "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). That is a biblical promise that no one has an issue with believing and trusting - regardless of how one feels or what situations look like. We also know how to make God our Comforter. We know that in all situations we are to turn to the Lord to be our Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). We have Philippians 4:6-7 on our spiritual "speed dial" when people are in trouble. We enjoy using Romans 8:28 to justify painful moments in our lives as being "tools of God," that He is "doing a work" in us, "performing heart surgery," and so-on. Perhaps that is true. However, Scripture tells us that the primary means of God performing this "heart surgery" is through the Word, not through testings and trials (Hebrews 4:12). Yes, He does instruct us to hold fast in times of trials, so that our patience will be perfected, and our reward made all the greater (James 1:2-4, Amplified). He doesn't say that He will break our legs, cripple our bank accounts, or kill-off a loved one in order to get our attention. That is reserved for very extreme cases, involving overwhelming sin - not to mention, they are all under the Old Covenant. However, since we do not fully grasp these concepts yet, we have learned to comfort ourselves in "God is Sovereign, this is all in His timing." We know how to comfort ourselves in the Word, because we have practiced it for centuries.

What we do not know how to do yet, however, is make God our Healer. We know exactly where to go in the Word to find salvation and comfort; we know all the verses the Lord has given regarding His Lordship (many of which we mis-quote in order to give our circumstances more meaning). We have developed confidence in His ability to bring us peace unlooked-for, but we haven't built-up our confidence in God as Healer. Look at James 5:15, "and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick" (emphasis added). The Lord gives us precise instructions on how to prayer for sick people in order for them to get well. However, lots of Christians are dying today, because we do not have the confidence in God to come through for us in times of physical turmoil. I know this, because of the overwhelming number of times I have heard pastors praying for God to minister to the doctors, rather than to the sick. There is a prayer for healing written in my chaplaincy manual that does that very thing. It prays more for the physicians hands than it does to the Great Physician. There is no faith in it, there is no confidence in God's Word in it. Remember what the Lord said while He was on this earth, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father" (John 14:12)? I do not see greater things happening, I see us all floundering and dying in confusion.

Most of us are dirt poor while we are at it. We have not developed confidence in God as our Provider. We sing songs about "Jehovah Jireh," but then we reject the very teachings of Scripture regarding His Blessing in our lives. I'm not a "name it and claim it" guy, but His Word has made it clear that His desire is to Bless. The heart of God is a giving heart. Take out your Bible today (or use bible gateway right now, since you are currently on the internet) and look up these verses: 2Samuel 12:8; Psalm 84:11; Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:13; John 15:16; Romans 8:32; James 1:17; 1John 5:14-15. You will find a very brief outline regarding the giving heart of our Lord. Why is it that we are so proficient in salvation and comfort, but so incapable of receiving healing and prosperity? It is because of our confidence.

We have not developed confidence in God's Word regarding all areas of life. We have clung to Scripture regarding suffering and assumed that God is trying to keep us down for some strange reason. I know that God desires humility, I know that His desire is for us to make Him the Source and the Standard of all things. I know the Book, so I also know that God wants us to have faith, first and foremost; and that self-abassment (false humility in painful circumstances) is not what he means by being humble. Look the biblical definition of faith, "Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses" (Hebrews 11:1, Amplified). Faith is a now thing, that gives us complete confidence in God and in His Word - that He will do all that is therein.

Do you have absolute confidence in all of God's promises, or have you let religion teach some of them away? We are not good about believing God for Him to heal us and our loved ones. We pray Him out of our prayers for healing, because we are so scared of getting our hopes up and having them dashed. I know that is true, because I have been there. I know that is true, because people have died "believing." And what about "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away"? God rebuked Job for that attitude, because it is't really true. If we could all get together and begin to "practice" the things of God, we would develop the kind of confidence necessary to get things done. According to 2Peter 1, it takes a "true knowledge of Him" to bring about "everything pertaining to life and godliness." The tools to live in full victory are found in a true and unwavering knowledge of God, Jesus, and the Word. It is going to take a group effort on our part to build confidence in all of Scripture, not just the easy parts we have mastered over the centuries. I cannot do this by myself. Like I said, I am not yet an "expert" on this topic. My financial situation is so overwhelming at times that I can hardly breath. It takes a growing confidence in God's promises that I shall reap the things I have sown. I have sown as much as I can, I need my return soon. If I am not careful, I will kill-off or hinder my harvest. The Word says He will prosper me in all that I do; I have to be confident in that. I do not need my harvest in "the sweet by-and-by," I need it in the rotten here-and-now. We all do.

Stop praying for doctors and economists (well, don't stop praying for anybody, but don't pray for them only). Pray to the Healer, pray to the Provider. Develop confidence in His Word regarding Blessing. He has pressed this hard into my wife and I these past weeks, because we really need it at this moment. I have a hunch that many of you out there do, too. Your employment and IRA and retirement funds cannot be your source of supply, because they will run out. The world's healthcare system is liable to kill you off before you hit 120 (Go read Genesis 6). If we do not begin to develop faith in all things we will not live out the fullness of the Blessing of God in our lives (Romans 15:29). Do not let past failures bring you down; do not let past experiences cloud your judgment, but rather take the attitude given us by the apostle Paul, "forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13b-14). We all need to begin acting as if every word of Scripture is true. Jesus questions us all, "when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Well...?

07 March, 2011


I admit, I am rambling a bit here, but since so few people actually read this thing, I don't care. It's my blog, and I will ramble if I want to. :) 

"[F]or God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" ~1Corinthians 14:33

I have wrestled with this notion for a very long time: why are we so confused? I grappled with it all weekend, laying awake late into the evening, meditating on the fact that Christianity is a boiling pot of confusion. Does that sound too harsh? To broad? Take a look at the scope of the church today: Catholics are changing the Bible to read that Mary was not a virgin, but a "young woman;" Christians are suffering from the ill-effects of this world's economy - even though Jesus told us that we shouldn't; churches are suffering from increasing debt - mostly because the congregants ignore God's direct command to tithe; the people of God are battling (many of them losing) with addictions, divorces, suicides (that's when you lose)... Um, what is going on here??

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you from being My priest" ~Hosea 4:6

Many of us are aware that, the more we know about God the more victorious our lives will be. However, God makes it clear that for many of us the issue is not our lack of knowledge, but our rejection of knowledge. What do I mean by that? Well, last time I checked, those "prosperity preachers" so many Christians despise (Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, etc.), yea... They're rich. You're broke. Who's rejecting knowledge here? Now, do TV stations use the spiritual law of sowing and reaping to try and con people into funding their ministries?? Yes. Does that mean they all do that, or that the basic biblical principle is untrue or "out of context"? Of course not! The Bible makes it plain that God is out for your good in all things - including finances. You can stay broke if you want too, but it has nothing to do with whether or not God is moving or intervening in your life. He has sent us men and women with a calling to bring the people of God out of the financial mess they are in. If you reject these ministers of the Gospel, because what they say does not fit with what your religion or life experience testify to, get over it. Stop rejecting the revelation knowledge God has provided for you, because it "just doesn't make sense," or "I do not God wants us to live like that." He does, go read His Word.

The same thing applies in the realm of healing in our bodies. The Scripture tells us what to do in times of illness in our lives. "Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up" (James 5:14-15a). What part of that do we still not understand? The Scriptures tells us to pray over those who are sick, anoint them with oil in Jesus' name, and believe for them to be made well. We don't do that. The churches I have attended in my life do not do this, at least. Instead, I hear Christians pray for - the doctors... Um, when did the Bible instruct us to pray for the doctors to avoid errors? That is called doubt; it is double-mindedness. It tells me that the individual is too nervous to pray for healing, because "what if it doesn't happen?" James teaches that this type of attitude will render you fruitless and ineffective, "For that man ought not to expect to receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (1:7-8). Doubt will kill you.

Why do we all use the same Book, and yet come up with countless ways of thinking and living in regards to our life with Jesus? Because we are rejecting knowledge; we are not operating in the Spirit of the God of peace; we are not spiritually discerning. Sadly, we are not taking the Bible as seriously as we should.

How do I know this? Because I am constantly experiencing Christian people telling me that I take too much stock in what the Scriptures say. I have heard it said that many Christians put too much gravity on Jeremiah 29:11, and that God really does use hardships as teaching tools in our lives (from the stand-point of He is the author of our pain - in direct opposition to Isaiah 54:15, I might add). We are a confused people. We have all the answers we need in the Bible. We claim it is God's Word, yet we reject the parts we do not like. The odd part about this is that I am not talking about the uncomfortable part regarding our sin nature, but the wonderful parts about all that God is trying to accomplish in our lives.

Who could possibly see a problem with the teaching of Jesus redeeming us from the Curse of the Law?? The Curse of the Law is the list of curses found in Deuteronomy 28. Galatians 3 tells us that Jesus was made that curse for us so that we would not have to walk in them. Yet, I have encountered many Christians who oppose this view-point, because, after all, "we join in Christ's suffering" (Romans 8:17-18). Jesus went to the cross so that we do not have to, so it is obvious that this line of thinking is confused. We suffer the pangs of watching this world slip deeper into darkness, that's what suffering with Christ is all about. We suffer with Jesus, in that we are partakers of His victory (now, not when we get to heaven). "The only suffering for a believer is the spiritual discomfort brought by resisting the pressures of the flesh, not a physical or mental suffering. Jesus has already borne for us all the suffering in the natural and mental realms" ~Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Jesus isn't suffering in any other way (physically or mentally), and He doesn't expect us to die on another cross.

There shouldn't be Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Calvinists and Episcopalians. There should be the Church of Jesus. Jesus prayed that we would be one in the same way He and the Father are one. Do you understand just how united that is? It is a single entity. We aren't even close. We try; we claim our differences are not that big of a deal, it's simply a style-thing. What happens when we get to heaven? Do you think there will be a Catholic Corner, Wesleyan Wing, Lutheran's Loft? It's going to be one big Pentecostal Party. How do I know that? Because I have read the New Testament. Peter was a Pentecostal preacher. We need to get on board with what Jesus desires for us. We need to "get it" regarding how He wants us to live our lives, and all that He has offered up for us. He sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). He said that if we continue in His Word we would know the truth and the truth would set us free (John 8:32). He said we have everything we need for life and godliness in a full knowledge of Him and our Lord Jesus (2Peter 1:2-10). Time to throw a lot of the academia out the window, and get back to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith ~Hebrews 12:2 (that was a great churchy-last-line! Too bad I am not done yet).

Hopefully I will get into some of the topics that has many Christians so confused. We should have more money, we should have more direction, we should be healthy, with life-spands reaching triple-digits. I'm sick of being confused. I am tired of guarding myself against teachings in my own Church that are in direct opposition to the written Word of God. I am fed-up with academics watering down the precious promises God has given us. I am tired of the sleepless nights, the headaches, the hopeless moments. I am tired of losing, especially when God has given us the tools to live in absolute victory. Time to walk in truth. Time to end confusion (meh, that line was just ok...).