28 July, 2011

The Love Walk

Why does it appear that so many Christians struggle to walk in love? God is love (1John 4:8). When we are born-again, we are born of God as an "incorruptible seed" (1Peter 1:23). The love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Yet, so many self-proclaimed Christians are so far the opposite direction, they make the rest of us look bad. Regrettably, I often fall into that category. So, what's the deal?

We do not walk in the fullness of the new birth because we are still far too rooted in this present age. The Christian cliche, "in the world, but not of the world" does not apply to enough of us anymore. We are of the world. The "world" in the New Testament is a mindset contrary to the Word of God. I read a survey recently that said fifty-three percent of "Christians" believe "God helps those who help themselves" is a Biblical truth. That's called being worldly. And don't ask me to site the reference, it was just a random stat in a book :)

More time of fellowship with the Lord through prayer and Scripture is necessary in many of our lives. Don't go overboard with that statement; I am not condoning becoming a religious monk, and holing yourself up in a bedroom reading the Bible twelve hours a day. However, people may not be experiencing the kind of life afforded us through Jesus could be a result of not putting Him in His rightful place in our lives (Matthew 6:33). As a result, we do not know the power and authority given to each believer through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We have a religious mind-set that says "God's gonna do whatever God's gonna do," and we go about our day living however we think we should - with very little spiritual know-how.

Colossians 1:12-13 explains that we have been translated out of this worldly mindset and into God's. The kingdom of darkness is not planet earth, it is the mindset and mentality of the ruler of that mindset - y'know, the devil?   We are citizens of heaven right now. We have dominion in the earth right now because of what Jesus has done for us. Remember whatever you bind and loose on earth has been bound and loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:19). You are a citizen of heaven, act like it. Heaven has a different culture than America (or whatever country you live in). The "American Way" is not the "kingdom way," so stop trying to live in both places at the same time. You must retrain your ways of thinking to match-up with God's (Romans 12:2). The mind of Christ ("Christ" meaning "Anointed One and His anointing") is already in you (1Corinthians 2:16) and needs to be strengthened. Your spirit must be built up. These things will not be done by simply praying five minutes a day. You must make a conscious effort to give God time to work in your heart, mind and spirit through His Holy Spirit if you expect to see any significant change in your life and countenance.

You have the time. I have said it before and I will continue to say it. I have met so many unhappy, cranky, Biblically illiterate Christians. It comes as a result of being more worldly-minded than kingdom-minded. You must exchange your thoughts for God's thoughts, and watching TV, spending hours browsing the internet or (like me) listening to sports radio all day will only hinder your ability to hear from God and change your ways of thinking. Give God time to change your thinking to line-up with His perspective. Again, you do not have to become a religious zealot and read the Bible seven hours a day - that's my job. The Lord gave me this analogy for you: if you have six ounces of silver and one ounce of platinum, you may have more silver, but the platinum is worth more. That sentence needs work, but you get the idea. One hour of prayer and Scripture done right is worth far more in the Lord's eyes than if you take a day off work and give Him six sloppy hours and stop-and-go Bible and prayer. If we are ever going to grow in the love-walk God desires of us (and that is so vital to the functioning of our faith) we must spend more time with Love Himself. So get to it! ;) 

05 July, 2011

The Path of the Righteous

"But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day" Proverbs 4:18.

You couple this verse with Proverbs 3:5-6, and there is no reason for any Christian, Church or ministry to ever walk in confusion. What is the deal here? We claim that the Word is the foundation for our living, yet we do not live out these verses of Scripture I have just listed. It is my conclusion that, after the Gospels, Proverbs is the first thing new (or un-read) Christians should read. We need God's wisdom and insight if we are going to survive all the chaos of these Last Days.

The Word says that our ways, while seeming to be right, will end up in the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12). In Isaiah, the Lord declares His thoughts and ways to be much higher than ours (55:8-9). HOWEVER, He also gave us this mind so that we can ascend to His ways of thinking and doing (1Corinthians 2:16). God is not gloating over us in Isaiah, He is pointing out that He has a better way of accomplishing things in the earth. Most Christians take that as "God is going to do what God's going to do." It is another form of Christian laziness that God never intended us to live by. Do you see this? When you acknowledge God's way of doing things, it elevates your thinking and brings more light into your ways of living.

God's Word brings light. He has so many ways of accomplishing something in our lives, but so few of us (myself included) give Him enough time to show us what to do. We are instructed to avoid the "world's ways" (1John 2:15), because He has given us His Spirit to know all things (1John 2:20). We do not live like this. We follow the "American Way," which is another form of the world. The "world" we read about in Scripture is simply a system contrary to the Word of God. The "American Way" is contrary to the Word of God. Yet, that is how most Churches and ministries operate - and thus they fail. God has so many other ways of accomplishing breakthroughs for His people and, as we have already seen, they may seem counter-cultural and make no sense in our natural minds. That's how God operates! If it seems impossible, it's God.

Christians "throw the dice" too often. Prayer has become nothing more than asking God for something ans seeing what happens. If we see an answer to prayer then we assume God said yes. If nothing happens, we assume God said no. Ephesians tells us this is foolishness and not how the Christian ought to live (Ephesians 5:17). God is not hiding anything from us. Faith is necessary to accomplish anything in the spirit-realm. Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17), not heard. The Word should be pumped into you over and over and over again.

How much time do you give God to show you anything? His Word is what illuminates the path of the righteous. You take one step and it gets brighter; take another, it gets brighter still. "You never know what God is going to do" is not a Scriptural statement. I have fallen prey to this too many times, myself. As you grow in God, your path in life should get brighter. If things still seem unsure all of the time, then you are walking in darkness and confusion; more time with God and less time with everything else under the Sun is needed to receive clarity regarding your situation. Things should be getting done in the Body of Christ. People should be healthy, wealthy and wise. If you are not, it is a violation of your Covenant with God. Religion will tell you otherwise. That is why I do not bother with religion. I want Jesus.

01 July, 2011

What About the Change?

"Many observers have concluded that the church, far from being counter-cultural, does not look much different from the unchurched" ~Greg Ogden.

Religion does not transform you; it only conform you. It conforms you to a set of ideals, a list of rules, a doctrine or theology of life that must be followed in order for one to remain "in the faith." That's a big reason why we have so many broke, sick, unhappy and mean-spirited Christians. It has become too much about "being right," rather than being transformed. We are not being transformed in our thinking they way we are instructed to (Romans 12:2). That is primary battlefield the devil fights us on - the mind. Wrong thinking produces wrong feelings, which produces wrong decisions. Many Christians often think the roughly the same as the did prior to making Jesus Lord of their lives. Folks like me, who grew up in church their entire lives, have not had much emphasis placed on trans-formative thinking.

We still think very worldly. In the Scripture, "the world" is meant as a system. It is sinful man's way of doing, thinking and living. It is not the rock we live on. Many Christians think in the same worldly confines as non-believers. It is the "got to get a good job to make good money to provide for the family and have a good retirement one day." None of those are Biblical mind-sets. Most of the time, it seems as though the only difference between Christians and non-Christians is swearing. I have known some very unpleasant Christian people in my life, but they would never swear. Swearing was the end-all greatest sin in the world. Folks would be rude, arrogant, unpleasant, elitist, gossips... But if you ever said a swear word in their presence they would go all Super-Christian on your... rear-end. Yet, I have known the sweetest, kindest, most forgiving, welcoming folks a person could ask for; they would "cuss like a sailor." Is this the best we have to offer the world? We need mind-renewal...

Transformation is found through a right understanding of the Scripture. Remember, the proper way to divide the Scripture is with other Scripture. It is vital that we take what the Word says and live like it is actually true (because, obviously, it is). I have not seen many Christians talk, act or live like 2Corinthians 5:17-21 is actually true. They keep talking about how sinful and unworthy they are in the Presence of the Lord; that they have no idea why God would so much as look at them, let alone use them for anything. This is totally contrary to Biblical thinking (e.g. 1John 3:10). While it is true that you will never achieve absolute Christ-like perfection this side of Heaven, you can get a lot closer than many think. In fact, you are called and equipped to do so (Ephesians 5:1, Philippians 1:27, 2Peter 1:3, 1John 2:6).

The Bible instructs us all to act like God. God's character is holiness, and we are commanded to follow suit (1Peter 1:16). God is love (1John 4:8). To imitate God is to imitate love, both to Him and to all those around you. God so loved the world that He gave (John 3:16). To imitate God is to be a cheerful, generous giver - to give God your very best in all things, at all times. You are made in the Image of God (Genesis 1:27), Who calls things that be not as though they were (Romans 4:17). To imitate God is to use words of faith with purpose and power to effectually change the circumstances of your life and the lives of others. The list can go on for a very, very long time.

Where is this change? How is it that so many observers in the world see no difference between Christians and non-Christians? Divorce rates are nearly the same on both sides. We are struggling financially the same way as non-believers (which is a violation of our Covenant with God). We die of the same diseases at the same young ages, despite the promise that by His stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). We watch the same movies, listen to the same music, dress in the same way, and talk about the same issues as the "world" - without the "cussin'." We need to take this more serious. We will stand before Jesus one day. What we do to change things now will effect how pleasant that first conversation will be.  

Ogden goes on to say, "those hostile to the church may not affirm what you believe, but they can't argue against the way you live."