Personal Relationship with Jesus – The c

Personal Relationship with Jesus – The cross stands out as the most eternally significant event and is the reason why we as believers sing hymns like “Amazing Grace”. God in all of His magnificence satisfied the demands of His own justice and holiness through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. This overwhelming act of sacrificial love was made so that He might cleanse and forgive humanity’s sins to restore His relationship with us. This is the call of the … http://ow.ly/2ECNMm

Personal Relationship with Jesus

I think this is a phrase that has become ingrained in the “church” language of many followers of Christ to the point where its meaning has become synonymous with the New Birth. Many times this phrase is used when we share the message of the Gospel with others. The question is asked, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?

That is a pretty awesome question to ponder and varies in its significance depending on who Jesus is to you. For those of you like me, Jesus is both Lord and Savior and the thought of having an actual personal relationship with Him completely boggles my mortal mind. Like King David I ask the question, “what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” (Psalm 8:4 NLT)

The cross stands out as the most eternally significant event and is the reason why we as believers sing hymns like “Amazing Grace”. God in all of His magnificence satisfied the demands of His own justice and holiness through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. This overwhelming act of sacrificial love was made so that He might cleanse and forgive humanity’s sins to restore His relationship with us. This is the call of the gospel: God is seeking humanity as a whole and each one of us individually.

For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost. (Luke 19:10 NLT)

If you have not come to know Jesus, I encourage you to seriously consider the message of the Gospel. You can read more here.

For those reading who have already come to know Jesus as Lord I ask you to evaluate the phrase “Personal Relationship with Jesus” as it applies to your life. Think about your other personal relationships, the interactions you have with those closest to you and how those relationships compare with your “Personal Relationship with Jesus”.

Here are a few questions to ponder:

I am the “Bride of Christ” and Jesus is the Bridegroom (Ephesians 5:22-33). Does my “Personal Relationship with Jesus” have the intensity, transparency and frequency of communication that is necessary in a human bride and groom relationship?

In Acts 4:13 we read, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Do I spend enough time with Jesus that other people recognize it?

In John 15:14-15 Jesus tell us that we are not His slaves but His friends because He confides in us and shares the word and will of the Father with us. Does my “Personal Relationship with Jesus” display a mutual sharing of confidence? Do I consider Him the closest of friends because of the things we share with each other?

These types of questions will always cause us to find ourselves wanting but yet I find them deeply encouraging to what is possible. When we consider the scriptures we find that a “Personal Relationship with Jesus” is driving force behind the Old and New Covenants. The Lord declares His heart to humanity in verses like this:

Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” (Jeremiah 31:3 NLT)

 

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NLT)

It is this love from God that calls each of us into a “Personal Relationship with Jesus”. My encouragement to each of us is respond to His love; seeking to truly know Him.

I want to know Christ…” (Philippians 3:10a NIV)

Do you know Him 10117

Confident Boldness – The size of my fait

Confident Boldness – The size of my faith is not the determining factor in God’s willingness or ability to honor His Word. My faith can be small. It can be mustard seed sized. My faith does not change the Lord. He remains the same regardless of my faith. My faith changes how I respond to the Lord, this world and the expectation I live with. My faith changes who I choose to depend upon. http://ow.ly/2Erv1N

Confident Boldness

What’s the secret?

Why do some followers of Christ appear to exude an overwhelming confidence that is contagious? Is it spiritual pride or arrogance? Are they special in some way? Perhaps they have received a special “gift”, “calling” or “ministry” from the Lord that causes them to stand out.

I am sure that each of can think of fellow believers whose confident boldness of faith causes us to feel lacking in our own faith. We have each met men and women who seem to know the Lord in ways that we don’t. We’ve met those who share their faith in ways that make our own attempts at witnessing seem mechanical and for some of us innocuous.

Is there a special class of Christian to aspire to or are some people just “blessed” in ways the rest of us are not?

I believe the Bible clearly teaches that we are each uniquely created, gifted and called. In America we like to quote our Declaration of Independence and say, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The endowment of unalienable rights does not translate to talent, intelligence, position, wealth and the other societal or cultural factors that cause us to be separated or divided into classes. The endowment of unalienable rights also does not translate to passion, honor, character and values. This, of course, was illustrated by Jesus in Parable of the Pounds (Luke 19:11-27) as well as in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

Grace has given us equal access to the Lord even though we are each different in our gifts, talents and callings. We may be used in different ways but our confidence boldness in who He is can be the same. Faith is not based on talent, nor is it based on anointing or even upon calling. Faith is based on knowledge. Faith is based on experience. Faith is based on relationship. It is our connection to Christ in faith that allows us to live with confident boldness. This confidence is not self-confidence but is found in realizing who Jesus is and who He is in each of us.

When they saw the complete assurance of Peter and John, who were obviously uneducated and untrained men, they were staggered. They recognized them as men who had been with Jesus, (Acts 4:13 Phillips)

Boldness and extroverted flamboyance are not the same thing although many times they are placed on the same level. Boldness in ministry comes from confidence in the Lord. Confidence comes from first hand knowledge and experience. Knowledge and experience come from an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. You will never be able to produce in a public setting what you do not possess or have not experienced alone in the place and study and prayer.

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6 NLT)

I know many believers that struggle with confidence, specifically confidence in sharing the message of Jesus Christ. Their love for Jesus is strong and their love for the people in their lives and around the world is sincere but many times expressing the love that Jesus has for the people in their lives in the form of words presents challenges.

I have also seen this far too often from the pulpit. The Word is shared but there is an evident lack of expectation that God desires to honor His Word by manifesting Himself through answered prayer, divine interruption or deliverance or through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus separated Himself from the religious elite of His day through His confident boldness in His Father. His demonstration of the power of the Lord to heal and deliver caused people to want to know Him. He taught from a place of confident boldness, a place of authority. He was confident that God’s Word was true. He was confident that God would honor that which He has declared in His Word.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law. (Matthew 7:28-29 NLT)

My encouragement to each of us is to seek to be like Jesus in our confident boldness of faith. The New Testament model is of believers who boldly and powerfully give witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8 NLT)

This type of confident boldness cannot be manufactured by human effort. The power the scriptures speak of comes only from the Holy Spirit. The ability to witness comes from first hand knowledge and experience with Jesus.

It is easy to equate boldness of faith with the extroverted showmanship of some preachers, pastors and evangelists. Showmanship in the delivery of the gospel is not an indicator of boldness or confidence of faith. Demonstrative preaching and teaching can be done by men and women who possess great confidence of faith and by those who do not. Confident boldness of faith is based on the substance of our relationship with the Lord and our knowledge of His Word.

Your faith is not revealed by your extroverted or demonstrative declaration of faith but in your ability to trust the Lord regardless of the circumstances you find yourselves in or the adversity that comes against you. Faith stands upon the Word. Faith trusts when you do not have all of the answers. Faith stands boldly even when you are unable to produce the answer or know someone who can. Confident boldness lies upon who Jesus is, not who we are. I am always reminded of the mustard seed when I face things that assail the confidence of faith I have in Jesus.

The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea, and it would obey you! (Luke 17:6 NLT)

The size of my faith is not the determining factor in God’s willingness or ability to honor His Word. My faith can be small. It can be mustard seed sized. My faith does not change the Lord. He remains the same regardless of my faith. My faith changes how I respond to the Lord, this world and the expectation I live with. My faith changes who I choose to depend upon.

Do I live with fear? Do I live with confidence in myself? Do I live with timidity? Do I have a firm foundation? Am I covered? Am I protected? Am I dependent upon me and my abilities alone? Can the Lord truly be trusted? Am I really willing to place my trust in Him as Father?

These are questions that no one can answer for us. Every person faces questions like these and at times struggles with questions like these.

I wrote this message to encourage you in your faith. I also wrote to remind each of us that faith is a first person relationship that can only exist between ourselves and God. We can pray with other believers and pray prayers of agreement but confident boldness of faith comes from direct knowledge and experience of God and His Word.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT)

Rockclimber

Church can be frustrating – There is no

Church can be frustrating – There is no perfect ministry. There is no perfect church. There is no perfect pastor or church leader. There is no perfect….only a perfect Savior of imperfect people. http://ow.ly/2Bi4PQ

Church can be frustrating

Do you ever feel like venting your frustration to the world about an issue that is near and dear to your heart?  (In some ways this is what blogs and social media seem to be filled with). Sometimes you can be frustrated by the apparent lack of importance that those who surround you place upon that which is important to you.  This frustration is compounded inside of the church, especially when the apparent lack of importance to what you are passionate about comes from those with whom you are in fellowship with inside of the church. Frustration can go to an even greater level inside of the church when it is your pastor or other church leader that seems disconnected from that which is important to you.

Many churches have schisms, fractures or splits in situations like these.  In other cases the frustrated church member simply quietly leaves the congregation, sometimes finding a new church home but unfortunately in many cases they simply leave the church.

In many cases frustration in the church can come in an area of ministry or outreach.  Believers who feel called to a certain ministry or to engage in outreach to a certain group of people that others in their church or their church leaders don’t appear to be concerned about regularly experience this type of frustration.  Many times people feel out of place, undervalued and in some cases they are made to feel like their passions are beyond the borders of what is normal or that perhaps they are overzealous or too radical in their beliefs.

Eventually that frustration has to go somewhere.  Intense emotions and frustrations have to be vented. They have to come out raw, unfiltered, unpolished, with no pretext, context or desire to be vague, non-specific or political in your delivery.  There are moments when your heart is full and it needs to overflow.  It is in these moments that your heart needs to release itself to heaven and not to other people.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)

I have been down this road on many occasions. A church can be a very frustrating thing to be a member of. You can feel connected to Christ and disconnected to those with whom you are worshipping simply because the passions you have for the church and ministry are different from that which seems important to your church and to those with whom you fellowship and worship.  You find yourself asking rhetorical questions to God like:

  • How can this not be important to them?
  • Aren’t we called to reach this group of people?
  • Doesn’t the bible say that we are supposed to do…?

If you allow your flesh to take over those rhetorical questions will start to turn into gossip and even creating division within the church as they turn into statements like this:

  • My ministry is not considered important at this church
  • I guess our pastor doesn’t feel he is called to support the Great Commission unless its what he is doing.
  • Well, if I were the pastor I can tell you that we would place a greater importance upon…

Perhaps this sounds familiar to you.  My sincere hope is that it does not and that this little message is completely preventative sharing for you.  However, if you find yourself frustrated by these types of situations I want you to know a couple of things.  One, you are not alone. This is something that most believers go through at least once and in many cases multiple times. Two, being frustrated in this type of scenario is not wrong and is not sin, but if handled in the strength of your flesh it can quickly turn into sin.

We are a member of the body, not the entire body.  It is quite common for brothers and sisters to have different priorities and even disagreements over how things should be done.  This happens in marriages, friendships, business relationships, families and especially in the church.  Any place that is founded upon love and fueled with passion for things that are paramount to who we are as people is going to have its share of challenges in the relationship arena.  We find an example of this in the New Testament:

After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there. (Acts 15:36-41 NLT)

So…what is the answer when you are feeling frustrated in your calling, gifting, ministry or with your church?

Here are a few suggestions that have helped me over the years and that i still regularly have to use in my life.

Determine who really has the problem

Here is a list of questions I take myself through in moments of frustration:

  • Are we in direct rebellion to the written Word of God as a church? (if not…)
  • Is it me? Am I the one with the problem?
  • Am I trying to force my ministry agenda upon the church?
  • Is it possible that the church just isn’t in the position to realign resources and congregational vision to take on a project that I feel God has laid upon my heart?
  • Is it possible that God is calling “me” and not “we” to this area of service?

Understand that we are all necessary

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NLT)

We are all called to love and serve God and each other but in most cases God has laid different areas of service upon each of us. He has a plan to reach the entire world and in order to do so He has called us (given us passion for) different people groups and different ways to bring the love, truth and power of Christ to them.

If we allow the fact that we are not all the same to settle into our hearts and minds it can be very liberating, especially in the arena of ministry.  You are not me and I am not you and that is 100% OK with our Father in heaven.  If fact, He made us unique.  So…stop allowing the fact that God has an individual plan for your life that is attached to a purpose, vision or mission that not everyone else has, perhaps that no one else has frustrate you.  Allow yourself to see the wisdom of God in making us different, calling us to different things and yet empowering us each with His Spirit to accomplish those things.

We are all different and yet we are all necessary.  Don’t allow yourself to feel separated by your distinction. Realize that it is your distinction in gifting, calling and ability that allows you to bring true value to the Kingdom of God and to your local church.  We are all called to be like Jesus and conform to His image, not the image of other believers.

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters,[c] by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10 NLT)

Realize the grass is never greener

There is no perfect ministry. There is no perfect church. There is no perfect pastor or church leader. There is no perfect….only a perfect Savior of imperfect people.

Wherever you end up as a church attender, volunteer, member or otherwise you will always find things that you like and things you do not like. There will be people who cause you to be inspired to follow after Jesus with more passion and people that stir your frustration.

There will be ministries and services that delight you and those that frustrate you. There will be times when the church causes you to feel proud that you are a member and times when you don’t want to be associated with them.

On the other hand, the same will apply to you and to me. Love is always the answer. Grace is always the answer. Truth is always the answer. They cannot be separated they must work together.

We can label each other by unflattering terms and break fellowship looking for those who have “the right Spirit” or “a true passion for Jesus” only to continue to find imperfect people serving a perfect Savior. The grass will always appear to be greener but will always have something wrong with it for the simple fact that people are there.

Conclusion

Vent your frustration to the Lord. Don’t couch it, edit it or shy away from sharing how you truly feel.  In this process be willing to allow Him to challenge your assumptions and show you the rest of the situation. Don’t make the prideful mistake of assuming your point of view is the only correct one.  Many lovers of Jesus have found themselves in disagreement with each other while completely in love with their Savor.

Pray for those who seem to cause you the greatest frustration.  Don’t pray prayers that God would change their point of view to your’s but allow yourself to pray for them in love and you will find that it is your own heart that God ends up changing.

Never compromise the Word of God. However you may want to consider that you are not the supreme authority on scripture and be willing to at least listen to why a fellow believer feels they way they do.  You may be able to share something they have not heard before but you may also find that they share something you have not heard before.

Keep the main thing the main thing, Jesus.

Very often you will feel pressure to leave your fellowship and find a new, “better” place to fellowship but rarely will that compulsion come from heaven.  Most of the time it comes from your flesh wanting validation that you are right but because you are a “church” person you have given frustration a spiritual term.

If the world is going to receive the gospel it is going to happen in millions of different ways not just your way or my way. God is going to use each of us in different ways to bring His Word to those whom He loves.  My encouragement to all of us is to cease from creating internal frustration and church related strife and to focus our efforts upon that which is truly important; winning the lost.

For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. (Ephesians 4:4-6 NLT)

The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them. (Acts 4:32-33 MSG)

Focus – Jesus will use people we would n

Focus – Jesus will use people we would not have chosen. The Holy Spirit will move in ways that we would not expect. Let our focus be upon Jesus; He is the King of His Kingdom and He can work how ever and through whomever He desires. http://ow.ly/2zVvWE

Focus

I was reading earlier today through the Gospel of Matthew and this passage of scripture seemed to jump off the page.  I have been thinking about it all day and here are a few thoughts that I wanted to share.

“One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Then Jesus left them and went away.” (Matthew 16:1-4 NLT)

The context of this passage of scripture is quite extraordinary. Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Matthew begins with Jesus in discourse with the Pharisees and teachers of religious law concerning ceremonial hand washing prior to eating. The Lord uses this discussion to emphasize His desire that our hearts be pure not simply our outward words and actions. Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides who were teaching man-made ideas as  commands from God.

Chapter 15 continues with a Gentile woman seeking Jesus for deliverance for her daughter. Verses 29-31 tells us of Jesus healing many people, “The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel.”  The Chapter closes with Jesus feeding 4,000 people with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish.

It is into this setting of miracles and healing that our passage of scripture in Matthew 16:1-4 is spoken. Jesus had shown sign after sign, miracle after miracle, healing after healing and had spoken the Word of God with power yet this group of Pharisees and Sadducees wanted a special sign, something they said would make them believe that Jesus was Messiah.

FocusWhere was their focus?

How had they been there for everything that had take place prior to this demand for a sign and still needed to ask for a sign?

Any answers we give will be conjecture or an educated guess.

Perhaps they were so caught up in their presuppositions concerning Christ that when Jesus revealed Himself and did not meet their expectations they were unable to depart from their incorrect assumptions about what Christ would be and embrace the living Christ.

Unfortunately many of us as believers fall into this category at times.  We see that things are happening in churches and in places around the world that look like they could be from God but we are unsure because what is taking place doesn’t fit inside our idea of how God should move or who God should use.

Don’t feel singled out if this has happened to you, even John the Baptist needed to be reassured:

“When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region.

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” (Matthew 11:1-6 NLT)

  • Jesus changes lives.
  • Jesus transforms our hearts.
  • Jesus heals our sickness and repairs our brokenness.
  • Jesus provides grace to the unworthy.
  • Jesus makes us righteous.
  • Jesus makes us new.

Jesus will use people we would not have chosen.  The Holy Spirit will move in ways that we would not expect. Let our focus be upon Jesus; He is the King of His Kingdom and He can work how ever and through whomever He desires.

As a follower of Jesus I love to be in His presence for no other reason than who He is, God.  There is no one like Him.

As a follower of Jesus I also love to see the manifestations of His grace, love and power in my life and in the lives of others.  There is nothing like seeing a life changed by the Lord.

We are not asked to choose between Jesus and His power or between Jesus and His manifestations.  We are simply commanded to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Jesus must be our focus. Jesus must be at the center of all we are and all we do.

How do we keep Jesus at the center? How do we remain focused on Him while seeking the power and presence of His Spirit to be manifested to a lost and dying world?

At the most basic level we must not allow our ministry, work, family  or any other aspect of our loves to become the focus of our lives; Jesus is the focus of our lives.  Our Savior said it this way:

A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-27 NLT)

Those are really strong, really explicit words.  Jesus want to be our focus. He wants our love for Him to outweigh every other person or possession in our lives.

As we look back through church history both recent and distant we will find that anytime Jesus was not the focus of the church the church became something other than that which the New Testament says it should be.

For the last twenty years I have been involved in the part of the church that believes that the signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit that were demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ, His Apostles and followers in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts  should be a part of our lives in the 21st Century.  Many people refer to those who believe as I do by many different names, “Full-Gospel, Charismatic, Pentecostal, etc.”.

I, like many others inside and outside of the church, have been witness to gross excess,  heresy and even blatant attempts at deception by those whose ministry is focused on delivering a “Holy Spirit side show” to people and not on Jesus.

However, like many others inside and outside of the church, I have been witness to the genuine tangible moving of the Holy Spirit in signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit has promised in the Bible.  Our focus must be on that which comes from the Holy Spirit and not what people seek to manufacture in the name of the Lord.

Scriptures like Mark 16:15-18 and Acts 1:8 tell us that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit will follow those of us who believe.  This supernatural promise is to be the norm for the New Testament believer.  It is not a rarity nor is it something that we must beg the Lord to do.  He works through our lives in the power of His Spirit because of His grace.

Let us not be like the Pharisees and teachers of religious law of Matthew 16 that demanded a sign or a wonder from Jesus when they were standing before the Lord. I pray that our focus would be upon Jesus. For it is only in His presence that we become like Him. For if our focus is on the Lord Jesus we will find that He will make us the sign and wonder that points to the goodness and glory of God.

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:5-7 NLT)

Appetite on the altar – If we have passi

Appetite on the altar – If we have passions, desires and appetites that consume more of our heart than our Savior does it is time to place those appetites on the altar. The predominant passion in our life as prescribed by the Lord Jesus Christ is as follows: Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:27 NLT) http://ow.ly/2yTllN

Appetite on the altar

I have been planning to write this message for about three months.  It has been rolling around inside my heart and spirit and I hope that it will be encouraging, uplifting and possibly even provoke you to more closely follow Jesus.

Over the course of my adult life I have consistently struggled with my appetite, specifically in the area of food.  Well, to be completely transparent it would probably not be correct to call it a struggle.  A more accurate description of my life would be that my appetite for food was completely unchecked, undisciplined and it was not surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was Lord. Church was attended. The tithe was paid and offerings given. I would volunteer, share the gospel, pray, study the Word, worship and follow after holiness. I was a Christian, but a Christian whose appetite was not on the altar; a Christian whose appetite became a significant priority in life.

I have heard so many sermons, thoughts and ideas about food, obesity and appetite from various believers, church leaders and preachers. Opinions vary significantly. I have heard many quote Jesus when He said, “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” (Matthew 15:11 NLT). I have also heard others quote Jesus when He said, “Don’t spend all of your time thinking about eating or drinking or worrying about life. If you do, the final day will suddenly catch you like a trap.” (Luke 21: 34 CEV).

I had always excused myself from facing this area of my life because I was involved in ministry, I was a student and teacher of the Bible and I was passionate about Jesus Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission. I wrote this off in my reasoning as just the byproduct of being a passionate person.  In reality it was a desire of the flesh that remained uncrucified, it was an area of my life that I refused to allow Jesus to become Lord of.

Now, please hear me clearly on this.  My goal with this message is not to become a digital condemnation artist to those who struggle with their weight or to those whose appetites are also out of control. For twenty years of following Jesus this remained an area of my life that I rationalized as OK in the eyes of the Lord but in the last 6-7 months the Holy Spirit has dealt directly with the issue and made it clear that it was time to place my appetite on the altar. My encouragement to you is to dig into the Word and as the Holy Spirit deals with you concerning this area of your life (or any other) to obey His leading.

There was one major scripture that the Holy Spirit used to reveal to me that this part of my life needed to be crucified:

Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. (Philippians 3:17-20 NLT)

The phrase that jumped off the page for me was verse 19, “They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.” The King James Version of the Bible says, “whose god is their belly…” The apostle, in verse 18, said, “they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.”  Reading this was like getting punched in the mouth by the Holy Spirit and it was a much needed wake-up call.

I loved Jesus but denying myself and taking up my cross daily as our Savior commanded us to do was not happening in my life. My appetite was not on the altar, it was on the throne of my heart and it directed much of my life, consumed much of my time and resources and was becoming a stumbling block to my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NLT)

If we have passions, desires and appetites that consume more of our heart than our Savior does it is time to place those appetites on the altar. The predominant passion in our life as prescribed by the Lord Jesus Christ is as follows:

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:27 NLT)

In April (2013) I placed my appetite on the altar. At age 37 it was difficult to face the fact that my addiction to food was a rival to my love for Christ but God in His grace has been working on my heart for many years. Since April there have been significant changes in my life and as a result in my body but most importantly in my priorities. Food remains a daily need but my desire for it no longer controls my activities.

Perhaps you may identify with my story and perhaps you have an out of control appetite in some area of your life. My encouragement to you is to bring it before the Lord and let Him change your mind, let Him change your heart. His grace is sufficient for you and He can and will help you through whatever you are struggling with. We have to be willing to call sin, “sin” and be willing to repent, laying our appetites on the altar.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 NLT)

Get back on the altar

Hired Servants and Heirs of the Kingdom

Hired Servants and Heirs of the Kingdom – This new life in this new Kingdom is not about making God happy with us because of what we do or do not do. This new life is about loving God with our entire being and loving people the way we love ourselves. It is about letting go of our will and our way so that we might embrace His will and His ways. It is no longer about building our own legacy or making our own mark upon society but it is all about expanding His Kingdom of w… http://ow.ly/2xXFdV

Hired Servants and Heirs of the Kingdom

When we become a follower of Jesus Christ there are many things in our lives that change.  Many of the changes we go through are fundamental, especially as it relates to our relationship with God as well as our relationships with other people.  Love is the new foundation of our lives. Not human love that is based on condition and performance but the love of God, His love is perfect and complete. He loves us regardless of our condition or our performance and asks us to love each other in this same manner. That type of love, well, that is a huge change for all of us.

The message of the Gospel transforms us from slaves of sin and religious law into new creations that have not only be given grace, mercy and new life through Jesus Christ but adoption into the family of God.

God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. (Galatians 4:5 NLT)

The transformation we experience through the new birth takes us from those who were disconnected from a relationship with God to those who have not just been forgiven but have been changed and adopted as His children. We, who were the slaves of sin, had our freedom purchased at the highest cost of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We were purchased by God.  We were set free by God and then we were adopted by God.

The challenge for many followers of Jesus is to accept the love of God without condition. God loves us, period. As a follower of Christ we know that He loved us while we were separated from Him due to our sin. Yet, for many, we work to earn the love of God through good deeds, religious service and by living a righteous and morally upright life. All of these things are wonderful but they can never cause the Lord to love us any more than He did when we were still separated from Him in our sins.  We were adopted. We have become His children.  Romans 8:17 says that we are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ”.  Jesus paid the entire price. Jesus made the way. Jesus interceded on our behalf. We are now adopted into the family and treated as children of God to the point that the Apostle Paul classified us as “joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.” God deals with us in the same manner as He deals with Jesus because it is Jesus that has caused us to be reconciled to Him.

I say all of this because we need to realize that we are not slaves and servants of the King of kings but we are adopted children. The behavior that the scriptures seek from followers of Jesus is not that of those who have been purchased and now are forced to work for a new master but that of sons and daughters who will inherit the Kingdom of their Heavenly Father. Slaves and servants are forced to work in the service of their master because they are owned or they have been hired to do so. It is true that many people who are hired or employed truly care about their work and the people they work for and with. However, their relationship is based solely on finances and should the financial part of the relationship end their service to their employer would also come to an end.

We, the followers of Christ, those who have been adopted as His sons and daughters must begin to behave as heirs of the Kingdom and not as hired servants of the King. We must serve and worship because of love, because of inheritance and most of all because of relationship.

The Great Commission is not a project that God is hiring servants to staff. There are far too many church people working in “the ministry” as if they were doing God a favor. Their labor is no longer born from love but from an obligation that is task oriented, service oriented and in some cases self-serving. It is an unfortunate reality that many church volunteers and even church staff members treat their positions as if they worked for a secular corporation. You can’t go home from the Kingdom when your Father is the King.

As a small business owner I know that even when I leave the office at the end of day I am, really, always working. I cannot disconnect myself from the company; the company and I are connected.

My relationship with Jesus Christ goes exponentially deeper than business ownership. It is the foundation of my existence. He has adopted me and made me an heir of the Kingdom. Much of the teaching I have heard on this truth highlights the benefits of being a child of God. Most of the teachings I have heard along these lines are biblical but most of the time the other side of the message is not shared. Being a child who is an heir bears responsibility along with the benefits. The Kingdom of heaven is our family business. It is our family legacy. It is who we are. We are children of the King not His hired servants. Jesus spoke of His love and devotion for His people comparing a shepherd to a hired servant:

 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.” (John 10:11-13 NLT)

I know that I am only a small part of the Kingdom and that I am only one of millions perhaps billions of other heirs to the Kingdom but that does not change my sense of ownership or responsibility.  As an heir of God’s Kingdom I am responsible for the state of His Kingdom because it is my Kingdom too. I will never be the King but it is always going to by my Kingdom, it is always going to be my home. If you have been adopted too we share this responsibility together.

Christianity must be more than our religious affiliation and church more than a destination for worship and service. We must come to the place where we recognize and realize that we are not hired servants but adopted children who are heir and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.

This new life in this new Kingdom is not about making God happy with us because of what we do or do not do. This new life is about loving God with our entire being and loving people the way we love ourselves. It is about letting go of our will and our way so that we might embrace His will and His ways. It is no longer about building our own legacy or making our own mark upon society but it is all about expanding His Kingdom of which He has made each of us an heir.

My challenge to each of us (specifically me) is stop living as a hired servant and begin living as an adopted heir of the King of kings.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NLT)

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Power and Love – My prayer for our churc

Power and Love – My prayer for our church on this Pentecost Sunday is that we would experience both a powerful demonstration of the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit and that we, the believers, would truly become the Body of Christ. We cannot have one without the other. http://ow.ly/2x01Cn

Power and Love

The first New Testament Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 changed the world. The promise that Jesus had made to His disciples had been fulfilled. The One who was with them had now come to live in them. The disciples lives changed in an instant and the world has never been the same since that amazing morning.

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:28-29 NIV)

Around the world today believers remember and celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. There will be sermons about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. There will be sermons about the Great Commission and the power and grace of God to take the gospel to the world. There will also be sermons that marginalize the events of Acts 2, relegating them to the experience of First Century Christians only. Regardless of which message you may have heard today I would like to look at the end of Acts this Pentecost Sunday and focus on the results of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon all flesh.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)

A new community had been created.  This new church was truly the Ekklesia of Christ.  They had been called out of the world and assembled together as those born again from sin into a wonderful new kingdom, the kingdom of God.

They spent their time learning from the Apostles. They spent their time in fellowship with one another; not in simply attending meetings together but in truly becoming a vital part of each others lives. They broke bread together. This was normal meals but this was also Communion, remembering the Lord Jesus as He asked us to do. They also spent time in prayer.  This new community that arose out of Pentecost was both horizontal and vertical. Their faith in Christ had connected them to heaven allowing them to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and as a result of this new connection to the Lord they had all been connected to each other. They truly became the Body of Christ.

As we continue to read the passage we find that they took care of each other. They met one another’s needs by sharing the resources they possessed freely and gladly. We also read that the Holy Spirit supernaturally worked miracles, signs and wonders through the Apostles and that this caused awe, wonder and even reverential fear to come upon all of the believers.  We read that this continued in their homes, in the temple and everywhere they went.  The result was powerful, they had the favor of the people and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

I truly believe that the Lord wants to work in the 21st Century in the same manner that He did in the 1st Century. Our world needs to see a power supernatural demonstration of the power of the resurrected Christ accompanied by a growing community of believers that are truly the body of Christ.

The event of Pentecost was the supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those who had placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The immediate results of this outpouring were 3,000 people joining the original 120 believers. the ongoing effects of Pentecost were the events of Acts 2:42-47 as described above.

My prayer for our church on this Pentecost Sunday is that we would experience both a powerful demonstration of the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit and that we, the believers, would truly become the Body of Christ. We cannot have one without the other.

The power of the resurrection is testified to by the life transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives in the new birth as well as through the demonstration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The power of the new birth is testified to through our love for one another.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV)

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When the wind blows – We sing songs abou

When the wind blows – We sing songs about the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing in our lives and our churches. The wind of the Spirit not only refreshes our lives as believers but often also blows away our fleshly support systems. Life in the Spirit requires a life of faith dependent upon the grace of Jesus Christ. Comfort […] http://ow.ly/2wW1VJ

When the wind blows

We sing songs about the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing in our lives and our churches. The wind of the Spirit not only refreshes our lives as believers but often also blows away our fleshly support systems. Life in the Spirit requires a life of faith dependent upon the grace of Jesus Christ. Comfort and confidence in the strength of our flesh is not a sign of spiritual maturity but of a heart that is not fully surrendered to The Lord.

Please notice that I did not write that confidence and comfort are wrong but a reliance upon favorable natural circumstances.

As we approach Pentecost Sunday let’s ask the Spirit of The Lord to blow away the props and crutches of our flesh so that we may rely upon Him as our source and strength. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to blow away our spiritual facades that we may stop trying to appear spiritual and truly become disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our world is in need of a manifestation and demonstration of the life changing power of the grace of The Lord Jesus Christ. In order for this to happen, we the believers, are in need of a true revival not only in our belief but in our practice of our faith. Oh that we as the church could truly show the world Jesus not only with our words but with our lives.

So my challenge to each of us this Pentecost is to truly ask The Lord o blow upon us. May He blow us away that the world may see Jesus in and through us.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NLT)

Studying and then Seeking – I have the p

Studying and then Seeking – I have the privilege of teaching the first 9-week phase of a 36-week discipleship program at my local church.  It is an engaging time of sharing the foundational truths of the scriptures with believers from all walks of life. During these first 9-weeks we teach things like the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Christ […] http://ow.ly/2wEIYz

Studying and then Seeking

I have the privilege of teaching the first 9-week phase of a 36-week discipleship program at my local church.  It is an engaging time of sharing the foundational truths of the scriptures with believers from all walks of life.

During these first 9-weeks we teach things like the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Christ as well as subjects like, sin, salvation, repentance, faith, water baptism, righteousness, prayer, the laying on of hands, the church, the resurrection from the dead, angels & demons, the doctrine of Holy Spirit and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

These subjects are so vast that I can only really introduce the foundation of each subject from the Bible in the allotted time; hoping to provide the believers with the tools and resources they need to study the Word.  One of the most exciting weeks that we go through is always week 6.

During Week 6 we teach the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. During the Baptism of the Holy Spirit lesson we always pray for the believers asking God to fill them with the Holy Spirit after the fashion of Acts, chapter 2.

It is always the week of the discipleship that requires the most preparation in prayer.  It seems strange to write this because regardless of the subject we always rely on the anointing of the Holy Spirit to communicate the truths of God’s Word. However, only the Holy Spirit can do what we talk about during this session.  I can teach the class correctly but I can’t fill anyone with the Holy Spirit.  It is one of those moments of living by faith.  You step out on faith in what the Word says knowing that God has to fulfill His end of the promise or things just won’t work.  It’s like the trapeze with no safety net (it is awesome to depend on God).

I have learned over my time following Jesus that He wants to fulfill His promises and move in the lives of people for more than I want Him to. He gave His life upon the cross so that we could be freed from the curse of sin and receive the promise of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14). My prayer is always that I will not be in the Lord’s way, that He will pour Himself out in the lives of the believers in spite of me. I rely on this verse:

Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NLT)

The class normally begins with a few different groups of people sitting in the class:

  • “I’ve already received, and I want more”
  • “I’ve been praying and believing God for this, I am ready”
  • “We never talked about this at my other church”
  • “I believe this is true but maybe not for me”
  • “I may have joined a crazy church, OMG”

Receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is important for each of us as believers.  It is a promise given to every believer on the Day of Pentecost.

The New Testament church began with 120 believers being filled with the Holy Spirit followed by a short sermon after which 3,000 more believers were added to the church.  The Holy Spirit caused quite a stir.  People wanted to know what was happening.  God used Peter to declare to them that the New Covenant was in effect; salvation was available to all through Jesus Christ and that all who received Christ would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (Acts 2:38-39 NLT)

Repentance from sin, faith in Jesus Christ and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is the biblical model.  Our life with Christ is not a life of blind faith. When we believe in Christ for salvation, we receive the Holy Spirit.  The Apostle Paul teaches us:

It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NLT)

And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. (Ephesians 1:13-14 NLT)

We cannot earn the baptism in the Holy Spirit just as we could not earn salvation.  We receive by grace through faith.

This is one of the largest obstacles for some believers to overcome. Some believers can readily accept that God wants to fill “special” people with His Holy Spirit but they are unsure of the fact that God wants to fill them too.

Sometimes this belief comes from unbiblical religious traditions espoused by well-meaning church leaders, friends or family members who have not studied the scriptures for themselves.

Regardless of the source of a feeling that you are unworthy to receive God’s gift of the Holy Spirit in your life I would encourage you to think about the cross. Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross has declared each of us worthy to receive the gifts of grace, salvation and the Holy Spirit. These things could never be earned. We could never qualify. They can only be received through faith in Him.

I speak with fellow believers who are sincere in their relationship with God but are unsure of about receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. They are unsure about speaking in other tongues. The concerns I hear them express are legitimate and heartfelt. People want to be sure that they are not stepping out into weirdness or into a “cult” like activity. My counsel is always the same, study the Word.

Over and over in the New Testament we read about the power, fulfillment, refreshing, and strength that comes from the Holy Spirit. We read the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Holy Spirit. We hear the words of John the Baptist, calling Jesus the one who would baptize us in the Holy Spirit. Jesus, on multiple occasions referenced the need for His followers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then we have the testimony of the Apostles and First Century Christians who receivedthe Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The simple truth is, until we are convinced that an experience is Biblical, we should not pursue it.  My encouragement or challenge to you is to study the Word concerning this wonderful promise Jesus Christ has given to us. I believe that you will end up seeking the Lord and I know that when you do He will give you what you are seeking.

“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:11-13 NLT)

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Victory over sin and shame http://ow.ly/

Victory over sin and shame http://ow.ly/2vZTvj

The Plan of God & the Expectations of Me

The Plan of God & the Expectations of Men – When our expectation concerning our relationship with God or concerning His plan for our life does not come from prayer and study of the scripture it is highly possible that we will find our expectations of Jesus are unrealistic or unbiblical. http://ow.ly/2vGwvL

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