Monday, March 31, 2014

The Deception of Self-Criticism

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, 
so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 
2 Corinthians 5:21

We sometimes look down on ourselves thinking this is humility. We may even criticize ourselves being quick to point out our faults. We might go so far as to look for our faults, and that becomes a habit, a stronghold of thinking. In this frame of mind we eventually get to where we don't offer words of encouragement to others because, whether we realize it or not we start to doubt God could ever use an imperfect vessel like us, and we don't want it to look like we are trying to call attention to ourselves, (God forbid we become arrogant!). Well, God forbid we become falsely humble either! God forbid we become critical of ourselves because once we do, we are not only stifling our own gift, but it becomes easy to turn that fault-finding, critical spirit towards others. The door is then opened to envy, bitterness and all sorts of things contrary to the Spirit of God. I'm not saying not to admit it if you've wronged someone, or sinned and need to ask for forgiveness, but don't start down the path of self-criticism.

If the enemy can get you to open the door, just a crack, to criticism by aiming it at yourself, then he can wedge his way in, bringing all kinds of destructive stuff with him. Don't fall for it! Soak yourself in the love of God and realize the fullness of what Jesus has done for you. When you are critical of yourself, you are trying to make yourself righteous in the eyes of God through your own efforts. Trust in Jesus as your righteousness. Walk in His righteousness, not  your own. Before Jesus died He prayed to the Father and said, "I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:26). Jesus asked that the very same love that the Father loved Jesus with be in us. The Father loves you like He loves Jesus! He sees you as righteous, like He sees Jesus as righteous. Don't be afraid to receive the Father's love. You need it, and there's enough to go around for everyone! 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Being Pre-pared

I really believe this is a period in history where we need to be paying attention to what's going on in the world. It's easier for us to do that more than ever before due to the advances we've made in communications such as internet, television etc. I think the Lord has done that on purpose. I think He wants His people to be able to see what's going on in the world and be prepared.

Prepared. Pre-as in get ready ahead of time. Pared-as in trimming away the excess. It's time to get rid of the excess and the clutter in our lives. However, to really be able to get rid of clutter, you need to know your purpose. When things are cluttered, it might be a sign that you don't know, or are confused about, your purpose. Clutter basically means you don't know what to keep and what to throw away--possibly because you don't know what you are going to need. We hold onto things sometimes "just in case." Sometimes there's clutter because we try and take on too much and we can't get to it all. Maybe our priorities are out of order, or we're just trying to be super-human. We could be trying to live beyond our means, whether its money, time or space. Those are all limitations we need to recognize rather than ignore.

Being pre-pared doesn't (necessarily) mean that we hoard and become "self" sufficient. To be prepared means that we are God-sufficient, we are dependent on Him, not on ourselves. That means that we seek Him to find out what He wants us doing with our money, time and space. (If you live in a very small space you most likely aren't going to be the one God calls to store up food for the neighborhood if tough times hit!) 

To be prepared we need to:
  • Know and understand our gifts and call
  • Acquire tools related to our gifts and call
  • Develop skills related to our gifts and call
  • Get going in our gifts and call!
Don't be stagnant in the thing the Lord has called you to do. Seek Him and find out what you need to be spending your time, money and space on. Let Him do the necessary pruning (paring) so that you will be able to fully blossom in that which He's called you to. With the pruning done and the clutter out of the way, you will be able to see your purpose more clearly. Once you know something about your place in the kingdom of God, then start taking steps in that direction. He IS directing your paths. Get ready!

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come
and His bride has made herself ready."
Revelation 19:7

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Joy & Peace

For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; 
Isaiah 55:12

Joy is a great motivator. It gives us strength and energy to "go out" or get started in doing something. However, peace is what will lead us and provide the direction we need to keep going on the right track, where we will have the strength to maintain what we've been called to do.

Just as adrenalin is meant to kick in during those times we need extra strength and focus, yet is not meant to be active all the time, joy is an awesome thing that gets us going, but isn't going to be at a high level "over-the-top" pace all the time.

Jesus received the strength He needed to endure the cross because of "the joy set before Him.1" He kept His eyes on the joy, the vision, on what His sacrifice would accomplish. As a vision or goal for our lives is revealed, it is normally accompanied by joy--an excitement or a glimpse of the "end result" that enables us to see the purpose of what our efforts will produce. Jesus said that the joy of a child's birth causes the woman to forget the difficulties of labor.2 Joy will be there at the beginning, at the end, and at various points on our journey.

Joy is absolutely necessary--we need it! Yet the race we are to run is also one of patient endurance. When our minds are set on the Spirit, it will be life and peace.3 Things like apprehension, irritability, and intolerance come when our minds get off track. We are to be led with peace. Peace will lead us and show us the right direction to go because the Spirit of God bears witness to the truth--to what's right for us.

We get off the track of peace when we try to do things in our strength instead of the Lord's and, thinking we need joy, try and maintain a false energy to keep us going. What we really need in those cases is to follow the peace in our heart, listen to the Holy Spirit, and get back on track. There we will find all the strength we need.

We get off the track of joy when we try to use it to lead us instead of motivating and strengthening us. We end up going in the wrong direction, taking on stuff we shouldn't be, and exhausting ourselves. We press on, thinking we need more joy and strength, when, once again, we need to listen to the Holy Spirit and get back on track.

Receive your calling with joy along with your equipping and strength, and wait on the Lord in peace for your direction and timing.

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles, 
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:31

(1) Hebrews 12:2; (2) John 16:21; (3) Romans 8:6

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Way, The Truth and The Life

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father but through Me.
John 14:6
Jesus is...

The Way

He is the path we are to take. The practical steps, actions and movements our body is to follow and participate in. It can't just be any path--it has to be Him.

The Truth

He is the light on the path. The light enables us to see. It affects our perception and what we believe. The thoughts of our mind and decisions we make can only be full of truth if we have Light.

The Life

The very breath of God and the sustenance we consume. What we intake into our spirit from the atmosphere around us will determine whether we are full of life or death.

He is the way, and the only way, to the Father!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Captivity is captured!

I've often heard that the areas we have struggles in will become areas of strength for us, and even areas we can help others to overcome in. This was on my mind one day recently as I woke up thinking about the Scripture in Ephesians 4:8 which says Jesus led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. He took the captors into captivity. In other words, He made freedom available by putting the captors into jail! This was accomplished after He was resurrected and ascended into Heaven, at which time He gave gifts to His people through the Holy Spirit. The things which have held you captive may very well become an area of gifting you receive causing you to not only have freedom yourself, but to help others come to a place of freedom too!  Like Joseph, whose captivity turned into provision for his family and preservation of the nation of Israel, the thing that has held you in captivity can become a place of strength for you. 

When Jesus died He said it was finished. He had done what He was sent to do. On the cross He committed Himself to the Father to do what was right in His eyes. He went to hell and there He paid the price for our salvation. Once the Father saw enough was enough, He raised Him from the dead, Jesus presented Himself to the Father as the spotless lamb of God and our freedom was acquired! Captivity could not hold Jesus captive and neither will it hold you captive any longer as you receive the freedom He's purchased for you and the Holy Spirit gifting which equips you to help others get free as well!