31 October, 2011

In The Wake of Abundance.

Economic downturn. Recession. Unemployment rate. These are terms that have filled our world for many years now. At the rate things are going it doesn't look like, in the natural, these terms will be leaving the forefront of our society anytime soon. However, they are not terms that should be affecting the Church. God is a God of abundance. Yesterday, one of the pastors briefly touched on this notion when he said, "all that God has is at my disposal." It is true; though we often do not act as though we believe it. God has given us His Spirit, Who Jesus said will "take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:14-15, NKJV, emphasis added). That's a lot of stuff...

Psalm 65:9-13 describes what happens when God steps on the scene. These are economic situations that are being described here. They are areas that bring supply to people. When God moves upon the earth, everything flourishes. God is a God of abundance.  It is modeled in the life of Jesus. When Jesus called His disciples, He did not simply pull them away from what they were doing. When we picture the calling of Jesus' first disciples, we usually see in our mind's eye a group of fishermen dropping nets and walking away from the shore without so much as a word to anyone they had left behind. Peter was married; I doubt his wife would have handled that very well. In Luke 5, we see that that is not what actually happened. We see that Jesus had already established some kind of relationship with Peter and his associates (Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law in Luke 4). After spending time teaching the crowds, Jesus asks Peter to let out his nets for a catch. Peter, though skeptically, obliges - to the largest catch he and his business partners had ever received. You see, before calling them out of their line of work, Jesus abundantly provided the financial means for these men and their families. That is how God operates. When God moves in your circumstances abundance flows.

So, why isn't this a reflection of our lives today? Look at the story again in Luke. Peter listened to Jesus. Though it did not make much sense to him, he obeyed. There are many things we see in Scripture - particularly in the life of Jesus - that do not make sense. Unfortunately, that has led as to assume that there is only some "spiritual" meaning behind the stories of Jesus. While the spiritually aspects are true, it is also important to just do what Jesus says. If He says you have whatever you say, watch what you say. If He says nothing is impossible to the one who believes, start believing. If He says you reap what you sow, start sowing! Do what Jesus tells us to do. Follow the Word (it would help if some Christians would actually read it). God will see to it that all endeavors are supplied for when we are following His instructions. Are the situations you are facing a result of your obedience to God, or your own ideas? God has given us dreams and desires, but if we take it upon ourselves to see them through we will fail. If we try to do our own thing because it "seems right" the results can be severe (Proverbs 14:12)

We have been led to believe that God does not always abundantly supply. That "barely getting by" is still getting by, and that is all God promised us. That is a lie if ever there was one (try reading 2Corinthians 9:8 and Philippians 4:19). When you get in line with what God is saying and doing, you cannot help but be Blessed (which means "empowered to prosper"). That doesn't mean the devil won't fight you. The fight is on. Jesus told us that we will receive 100-fold "with persecution" (Mark 10:30). But God always causes us to win (Romans 8:37). God is only a "barely getting by" God if you expect Him to be (or if you stick your fingers in your ear and hum when people read 2Corinthians or Philippians).

Make no mistake, the economic times are tough; but the Bible tells us that in times like these, the people of God will have an abundance (Psalm 37:19). That abundance is found when you follow Jesus - to the letter - making His priorities your priorities (Matthew 6:33). In the wake of God's Presence there is abundant supply is at our disposal. Are you following??

14 October, 2011

Sin of the Self-Conscious

We all do it. We all think it. We all fight it. Are we enough? Can we do it? What will they think of me? Will I fail again??

In this society, in this day and age, the battle to prove one-self is a fight that leaves many of us drained. We want to be bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, prettier, sexier, richer... We want to be on top. We want God to be proud of us, we want the Church to like us, we want to be right... We, we, we...

I battle these things all the time. In the natural, I have a record. I have done a lot of really dumb stuff. I have given Jesus a really bad name - both in and out of Church. I have hurt my friends, I have hurt my family, I have crushed my wife. I have cursed God to His face, lost faith, held grudges of all kinds against all people. I have been racist, insensitive, arrogant, depressed, hateful, hurtful, destructive - you name it, I probably did it. I have been the pinnacle of failure. The Church sees me as sinful and weak. And therefore God sees me as... Holy.

That's why He is God, and the Church is... Nevermind. Yesterday during my daily Scripture reading I came across this simple verse that catapulted my thinking to another level as the Holy Spirit shed His Light on His Word: "Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past" (Isaiah 43:18). In order for any of us to grow into full Christian maturity, we must learn to learn to set-aside all our person problems and look at ourselves the way Jesus does (the real Jesus, not the jerk a lot of religious minded people portray to the world). You are commanded not to look at your past failures. You are commanded not to look at your short-comings. You are commanded to look at your self through the eyes of the Word. Do it.

I'm trying... I know, and that is why it is so hard. There is not "try." There is only "do" (don't you dare quote Yoda on me...). The Lord pinned it very sternly in my Spirit, "you cannot have these self-conscious issues!" I promptly wrote that down in my journal, and then the Light came on when I saw it: self-conscious. Christian people should not be self-conscious. In fact, it is a sin. It is pride. It is you (or me) being so caught up with yourself and your issues that they take a front seat to everything else. What happen to "dying to self" (Matt 16:24; Gal 2:20)? What happened to "turning the other cheek"? What happened to being kingdom-minded? That should be our primary focus - not our own poor self-esteem. You focus on the things of God, and your self-esteem will wither away. We all have issues, we all have "stuff." But the time for focusing on those issues is over. It is time to see yourself as God sees you, and to let that be the only opinion that matters.

Anytime any of those thoughts of failure, unworthiness, unprettiness (I made that word up), or whatever come to your mind, do what the word says - cast them down (2Cor. 10:5). "I know but..." No more ifs, ands, or buts about it. It is a command. Not all of His commands are easy, but every one of them is more than doable. You have all the help you are ever going to get. Jesus said His grace is sufficient for these things (2Cor 12:9). And this is the exact subject He was referring to: a nagging devil causing trouble in your mind. He is telling you to take care of it. Cast it out of your mind and move on. You can do it! Jesus has placed His Holy Spirit within you. Do you really think you need any more help than that?! He said that the Spirit will take from Him and give it unto you. And then Jesus went on to say ALL THE FATHER HAS has been given to Him (John 16:12-15) That's a lot of stuff! This is doable. Look at yourself through the eyes of Jesus: more than a conqueror, the righteousness of God, heir according to the promise, most Blessed, smart, strong, beautiful, successful, one-of-a-kind. All the tools are there, all the power is yours. It is only as difficult as you make it...

04 October, 2011

Get Your "But" Out of the Way

My wife and I are in the midst of a week of Spiritual "fasting." The noise is off. No TV shows, no video games, no sports radio. Simply the Word and all things pertaining to it. I have spent this morning praying and meditating on the Word as I prepare to embark on a task given to me by our youth pastor. Ally and I are privileged to be given the responsibility of writing and designing the youth devotional journal. God has been very gracious to us to remain faithful and patient with us all these years and to bring us to a place of responsibility such as this one. Naturally, I got frightened.

I am at a place where I am re-learning to trust. The purpose of shutting off the noise this week is so that we might retrain our spirits to hear from His Spirit. I have been spun around in circle for years regarding the Word of God. My pastor growing up (and now) has preached that the Bible is the un-compromised Word of the Living God. Then again, so did my professors at the university. So did all those preachers my aunt got me to listen to when I wanted to flush Christianity and the Bible down the toilet. However, they don't agree on hardly anything where the Bible is concerned. And that to this day frustrates me - and leaves me nervous to do anything for any church out of fear of getting kicked out. We all read the same book, but we read it in different ways. And that is largely based on experiences we have all had. But if we are to claim that the Bible is our final authority, then we must believe what it says, regardless of our situations. What Jesus says goes, period. 

 In 1John we learn the answer to our circumstances: God's Will. Unfortunately, most Christians do not know the Will of God, even though He has given each of us a hard copy of it in His Word. God Word is His Will, and what it says is the final say. It doesn't matter how you feel. It doesn't matter what your circumstances look like. It doesn't change the Word. Christians do not have the right to say, "yea, but." They only have the right to say, "yes, Lord." If the Bible says, by His stripes we are healed," then we are healed, regardless of what the circumstances may say. We are constantly making the mistake of "looking" to see if God did something. That is not faith. You already have to start over again. The Bible says Christians should be rich; it is called The Blessing, and it has been bought and paid for by Jesus (see Galatians 3), and it makes rich and adds no sorrow to it (See proverbs 10:22). Either God's Word is true, or it is a religious writing that I no longer have to spend my time reading. I choose the former. God's Word changes everything, and when we pray it back to Him, things change. 

The Amplified version of 1John 5:15 says that we have "as present possession" the things that we ask when we pry according to God's Will (His Word). That means we should come before God with excitement and expectancy, because we know our prayers are already answer. That's what God said! God promises answers. God promises health, wealth and wisdom. He longs to be gracious to us (Isaiah 30:18). Get you "but" out of the way and believe what God Almighty has to say. Don't look around wondering when or if God is going to move on your behalf. Pray the Word back to God, and believe His Word in 1John 5:14-15, that His Word will come to pass.

I about exploded off the couch as I sat before God meditating on this principle. The implications of it are stagering. His Blessing is on me, so I am rich. His healing is bought and paid for, so I am healed. His life is abundantly in me, so I will live a long time. His Word is mine, and it makes me wiser than all the learned. God is impartial, and desires all this and more to be upon everyone. Nothing is impossible... to them that believe (Mark 9:23). I like this Book! Now off to write a journal...