Saturday, December 26, 2015

Taking the Initiative

There are times in the Bible when people took the initiative and the Lord was pleased. These are times when people didn't wait for the Lord to tell them to do something, but went ahead with what was in their heart. Of course there are times when people have done things without consulting the Lord with devastating consequences, but yet we see these times where He was pleased with what came from a person's heart.

Jacob was on his way to go get a wife when he laid down and slept with a stone for a pillow. (Genesis 28:10-22). He dreamed of the ladder with the angels of God ascending and descending. The Lord spoke to Him of the land which He would give to him and his descendants. He gave him a promise that He would be with Him and would bring him back to that land. Jacob woke up and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it." He took the stone that had been under his head, set it up as a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He then named the place Bethel, which means the house of God. This was the first time oil was used as an anointing.The Lord seemed pleased with this because we see many instances of oil used in anointing after this, in the tabernacle, the temple and anointing kings and priests. Yet here we see Jacob anointing the stone with oil and naming that place the house of God.

David wanted to build a permanent house for the Lord. He didn't like that fact that he, David, lived in a house of cedar, but the "ark of God dwells within tent curtains." 2 Samuel 7:2. The Lord said that He had never asked him to do that, yet He said, "Because it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart." 1 Kings 8:18. The Lord was pleased with David's desire, however He told him to have his son Solomon build the house (the temple) instead of David doing it. The Lord didn't initiate the building of the first temple, David did. Yet the Lord was quite pleased with it. He even told David that He would make a house for him. (2 Samuel 7:11, 19).

Both of these instances have to do with building the house of God. It seems God is pleased when we desire a place for Him to dwell among us. Today, we can prepare our hearts for Him. A willing heart that is open for Him to come dwell must make Him very pleased. When we are filled with His Spirit, what comes out of our heart will be in accordance to His will. Our thoughts and ideas might bring pleasure to Him also.
"Thus says the Lord "Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being," declares the Lord. "But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word."" Isaiah 66:1-2
The house that the Lord will dwell in today, is the heart of a humble, repentant person, one who fears the Lord and His Word. May we prepare our hearts for Him. May every heart, prepare Him room.

Personal Sabotage?

It seems to me that the deaf and dumb spirit that Jesus cast out in Mark 9 was a self-destructive spirit--a spirit of personal sabotage so to speak. This was the spirit that Jesus said would only come out by prayer and fasting. But let's back up a bit. Jesus had taken Peter, James and John up in the mountain where He was transfigured before them. Elijah and Moses appeared and spoke with Him. Peter thought it would be a good idea to make three tabernacles, one for each of them. He said this because "he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified;" (Mark 9:6). Just then a cloud formed and overshadowed them and a voice came out of the cloud:

"This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!" 

I imagine that quieted the disciples for a bit. They came down the mountain and the crowd ran up to Jesus. A man in the crowd told Him that he brought his son who was possessed with a spirit to his disciples for deliverance but they couldn't cast him out. This spirit, whom Jesus called a deaf and mute spirit, would seize the man's son, slam him to the ground and would often throw him into the fire and water to try and destroy him. This deaf and mute spirit seems intent on destroying the person it possesses. It may appear as self-destructive or personal sabotage. 

Jesus said it comes out only by prayer and fasting. I think this kind of prayer and fasting is more than us talking non-stop to God without taking time to listen to Him. This is evidenced by what they had just experienced on the mountain top. God had spoken from the cloud and said to listen to His Son! When we don't know what to say, we may just need to listen. To have victory over the attacks that would try and destroy a person, even self-destructive actions, we need to listen to the Lord.

Jesus spoke of those whose heart was dull, their ears couldn't hear and their eyes were closed. These people would not be able to receive from the Lord. But He said of His disciples, "Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears because they hear." (Matthew 13:15-16). Lord, may we remember to be quiet before You and listen!

Sowing in Your Own Field

When Abraham returned from Egypt to the land of Canaan after the first famine, he was very rich. When he came into Canaan he was "very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold." Genesis 13:2. Gold represents the wealth among all nations. Silver represents wealth within his own nation, and livestock represents the ability to produce wealth--it's the ability for increase, to produce more seed. It's a protection on wealth because if you are producing wealth you do not use up your "stored" wealth, and the stored wealth is a protection during times when increase is slow.

A similar concept is true concerning seed and bread. Seed gets sown (planted) in the ground and bread gets eaten. The Bible tells us God gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater.
"Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness." 2 Corinthians 9:10
Paul is talking about the Corinthians' generosity towards the ministry to the saints--giving to those in need. Most Christians understand the idea of sowing seed for the benefit of others--such as giving to the poor, supporting ministries that preach the Gospel etc. However, there is a concept of sowing in our own field that many have missed. 

When we cast our bread, not our seed onto the waters, it returns to us after many days. (Ecclesiastes 11:1). Bread is what we eat, not what we plant in the ground to produce a harvest. When we give bread, we are sacrificing what we would normally be eating so others can be blessed. This type of fast is a form of giving.

There is also a sowing seed into our own field to produce a harvest that provides a perpetual supply for us, that we use for our own provision, the provision of our family and future generations, and to preach the Gospel to the poor--the good news of the Gospel. Our wealth also affects our communities as we spend our money on righteous businesses.

What is our own field? It is the ability to produce wealth--like Abraham's livestock. It begins with a heart of righteousness. Throughout the book of Proverbs we see a correlation between righteousness, wealth, and diligence. As we work in the field we are called to, in obedience to God with a heart of righteousness, wealth will be produced in our life. Those who are righteous are also generous and not only use their wealth to help the poor, but use their wealth to perpetuate righteousness in the earth.

"The wages of the righteous is life, the income of the wicked, punishment." Proverbs 10:16

The wages, increase, of the righteous lead to more life. When the righteous spend money it is spent on that which will promote more righteousness. The righteous are not giving to promote evil in the earth. Their hearts are pure so what they spend or give their money on is also pure. Once our righteousness is evident then God gives the increase. When we sow and give to that which will promote righteous living, God increases us. If our money goes towards wicked purposes then punishment is attached to that. 

"Sow with a view to righteousness,
Reap in accordance with kindness;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord
Until He come to rain righteousness on you."
Hosea 10:12

Our righteousness is attached to Jesus Christ. We are not righteous apart from Him. The first recorded tithe was when Abraham gave a tenth of all to the priest of God Most High--Melchizedek. This was right after Melchizedek, of whom Jesus is a priest after the order of, blessed Abraham and gave him bread and wine. Jesus also gave us bread and wine (His body and blood which provides righteousness) and blessing. (Genesis 14:17-20, Hebrews 7:1-3). As we accept the righteousness that Jesus Christ provided for us, and that righteousness is proven in our lives, the blessing of God is attached to that. Our response is the tithe, and really a righteous heart that affects everything associated with our finances.

The very first blessing in the Bible was to Adam and Eve--"God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over  the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Genesis 1:28. The very next verse is God telling them what they will eat--His provision. 

What does this mean? As your heart is pure before the Lord, made righteous through Jesus Christ, and as you live according to that righteousness in obedience to Him, you are sowing into your own field which will produce a prosperity--like Abraham's livestock--that will be a perpetual provision. Its the ability to produce wealth, given because you have lived out the righteousness of your heart before the Lord--even during difficult times. Don't give up! If your financial situation seems bleak, continue to live according to the righteousness of your heart that Jesus provided--the new man, the new creation--and receive His perpetual blessing!

The Word of His Power

"And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature,
and upholds all things by the word of His power."
Hebrews 1:3

The purpose of disciplining a child is to teach them there is power backing up words. Kids need to know this at the very core of their being in order to have a strong faith in God. When your child does something and you tell him not to do it, you have used a word of authority to give him a command. If he disobeys, you remind him with your word of authority. However, if he chooses to continue to disobey even though he knows what you've said, then you back your words with physical power. Using your physical strength to stop him, even the rod of correction if necessary. Not abuse of course, but using your greater physical strength to show him that there is a power that backs your words. God designed it this way so children will learn this while they are young--before they have an equal or greater amount of physical strength than the parents.

"But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil." 
Matthew 5:37

By consistently enforcing your words, your child will learn the power of words, and ultimately, the power of the Word of God. This is vital.
"For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard. God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will." Hebrews 2:1-4
God "testifies" with the Word that is preached by signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Spirit. He reveals the power of His Word, the authority of His Word through the display of His power. This reveals His authority over all. It reveals that He is the Most High--the One deserving of all worship. Children will be better able to believe if they have an understanding of this whole concept of the power of words.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

From Seed to Fruit

In the parable of the sower, Jesus talked about the seed sown among the thorns. These are people who hear the Word of God, but the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:18-19). In this parable Jesus is comparing different types of soil. The Word of God fell onto four different kinds of soil, but only the seed planted in good soil produced fruit. The desired goal is not just for the Word to go out, but for it to produce fruit in the lives of people. If the soil is not properly prepared, the preaching of the Word will not produce fruit.

In looking at the seed sown among the thorns, I think the "deceitfulness of riches" is more than just a caution to not worship riches or wealth. I think there is a deceit that blinds peoples minds about how to be fruitful. You could say, the deceitfulness of how to obtain riches--true riches. There are true riches in God's kingdom. There is fruit that He desires for us to produce. The purpose of the Word going out into the hearts of men is not for it to accomplish nothing! It's for it to produce fruit. He said His Word does not return to Him empty without accomplishing what it was sent to do. (Isaiah 55:11). God wants us to be fruitful! This was the original command to Adam and Eve, and then again to Noah.

What exactly does it mean to be fruitful? I sometimes think Christians don't appreciate the value of having fruit in their own life. We get hung up, probably because of a guilt or works motivation, on trying to do so much so other people are fruitful that we miss a very important point. In order to see what we typically think is fruit--other people getting saved, healed, delivered, taught and sent out into their purpose and call--the seed must first be planted in their life like it was in ours right? So where do you get the seed to give to others? From your own fruit. If you don't have fruit growing in your life, you won't have seed to sow. This fruit that first grows in your life will produce the seed to plant in others. This means that as you experience the fullness of the salvation that Jesus provided for you, you will be able to pass it on to others. The salvation, healing, deliverance, peace, joy and victory that you receive from your faith in Him, from the preparation of your heart to receive His Word, will produce fruit which carries within it seed that others may benefit from.

God's kingdom is a garden. The key is the seed. Seed takes time to grow. Sometimes God will do things miraculously and instantly and that's awesome, but apart from that, the kingdom of heaven operates on this principle of seedtime and harvest. The "Word" seeds that were planted in your heart will produce fruit if you've properly prepared the soil of your heart. Your life will be fruitful. Your life's meaning and purpose will become clear. And you will produce plenty of fruit to not only maintain the joy of your salvation, but to sow into the lives of others so they too can become fruitful. Don't neglect cultivating fruit in your own life. Take time with the Lord, wait on Him, receive from Him. Fruit does not struggle to grow, and neither will yours.

Free Will is of the Heart

One thing I love about God, (and there are many things), is the fact that He's given people a free will. Free will is not an American concept--it is a God concept. America created a country based on free will--free speech, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness etc, because it was God's idea, not the founder's own wisdom. Of course there are consequences to a person's choices, as there was in the Garden of Eden, but God has given the power of choice to everyone, at least for now.

God gave mankind a choice to obey Him or not, to worship Him or not. He's not interested in gathering a people who are forced to worship Him. True worship is of the heart, and so is free will. In a person's heart is where we find what is important to them. So if a person does not understand, or has never experienced, the love of God for himself in his heart, there's no sense in us as Christians to look down on him for not wanting to worship God. The question, rather, becomes how can this person experience the love of God in his own heart so he can then make an informed choice? I believe if he were to have just one encounter, not with religion, but with God Himself, he would be ruined for anything else! Nothing satisfies the human heart like the love of the Creator--who sacrificed His Beloved Son on the cross for whoever wants to believe in Him.

If someone has encountered the love of God in this way and still chooses to reject Him, then that's their choice. Even God won't force Himself on them. Consequences later? Yes. However, my prayer is that everyone at least have an opportunity to experience His true love, His genuine Spirit, and not a misrepresentation of Him. At least then they can make a choice based on truth. I pray that I represent His genuine Spirit, His truth and His love, to everyone who intersects my path. How about you?

1 John 4:19

Monday, December 14, 2015

When The Wolves Come

So someone calls you on the phone and says, "Hey, there's a wolf going around your neighborhood. He's dressed up like a sheep. He's knocking on doors and when someone answers he says he's hungry and tired and asks for help. When people let him in the house he slaughters the men, rapes the women and sells the children. Be careful!" No sooner do you hang up the phone when there's a knock on your door. You open it. It's a wolf dressed up like a sheep. He says he's hungry and tired and asks for help. What do you do? Is it your "Christian duty" to let him in?
"Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith..."1 Peter 5:8-9
If we allow ourselves to believe the lies of our enemies, they will destroy us. Just because someone says they are poor and needy does not mean they are. We must properly identify the poor and not be deceived by enemies who try to use our own generosity to plunder the blessed land God has given us and capture it for wicked purposes. We have a responsibility to take care of what God has given to us.
"But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:3
We have a responsibility to care for the poor too, however we can't care for the true poor if we are dead or enslaved. We can only care for the poor if we maintain freedom. There is a difference between the poor and our enemy.
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." Matthew 10:16
Does the Bible tell us to feed our enemy if he is hungry, and give him drink if he is thirty? Yes, we return good for the evil they do to us rather than seek revenge. We address their true needs. (Romans 12:20). We love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:44). Yet we have a responsibility to our own children and future generations.
"But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8.
Once a community of wolves is established they kill or enslave the righteous. They enslave their own people. They pass laws which do away with freedoms. People cannot speak freely, worship freely, or create freely. A once vibrant community becomes dark and depressed.
"When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan." Proverbs 29:2
Did the people who let the wolves in do their "Christian duty," or did they allow wickedness to take over simply because they wanted to "be nice." Did they sacrifice their children on the altar of cowardice because they were afraid of sounding mean, afraid of sounding like an alarmist, or afraid of retaliation?
"But for the cowardly...their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone..." Rev. 21:8
Those who are in authority are responsible to protect those under their care. The military of a nation is armed to protect its people against those who would take it over. In America "We the people" are the government.1 We are the ones ultimately called to protect our homeland. If we allow wickedness to overrun us, we are abdicating our position, and our responsibility. We elect leaders to represent us, and we must watch over them, hold them accountable and pray for them.
"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." 1 Timothy 2:1-2
Ultimately, the Lord is our defense. We are defenseless against all evil if the He does not defend us. Trouble is everywhere in the world. Yet when we dwell in His shelter and shadow, He delivers us and protects us (Psalm 91). We build our house on the rock--the hearing and doing of His Word. He is our rock, our fortress and our deliverer.
"How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up? Indeed their rock is not like our Rock..." Deuteronomy 32:30-31
When Jesus was here with His disciples and sent them out, He told them not to worry about taking provision with them--He would provide. (Luke 10:4). However before He was killed He told them to take money and a sword. (Luke 22:35-38). We are to be prepared, yet trust in Him. Our fight is not against flesh and blood. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We are in a war of truth. Our captors are thoughts. If the wolves come knocking, our fight is to ensure righteousness and justice prevail in the land, not just for us right now, but for our children and grandchildren.
"Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne."Psalm 89:14

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Article X. the Constitution of the United States.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Deluding Influence? Arise & Shine!

There seems to be a "deluding influence" going on in the world today that is quite mind-boggling. Some of the "logic" being applied to political and social issues make no sense--even to someone like me who is by no means an expert in these kinds of things. (Fighting climate change as a way to attack ISIS? Really?) I thought maybe some people were being sarcastic, or even intentionally trying to mislead people, but now I'm not so sure that's what it is.

The apostle Paul wrote that before the coming of the Lord there would be "the deception of wickedness" because "they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." He says that God will "send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false" so they may be judged. (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11).  Isaiah said that "darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples." (Isaiah 60:2).

There is a darkness, a deception, which has clouded the minds of people to the point where you could almost say they look foolish in their arguments. I'm not just talking politics here, I'm talking about what seems to be a confusion that has so clouded people's minds that they have no idea how irrational they are. (A guy who feels like a girl today should be able to use the girl's bathroom. Huh?)

Paul also said that the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4). The ultimate goal of the enemy is to blind minds so they reject Jesus. When people reject the truth they have opened the door to "gross darkness" and a "deluding influence" that brings such confusion that the lines of right and wrong becomes blurred. Good and evil is blurred. Common sense is questioned. Accusations and paranoia prevail. Freedom seems wrong and control seems right.

So what do we do? Isaiah said it--"Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." Arise and shine! Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6:12). We don't fight our enemy with our own strength or our own knowledge.

We shine with the light.
We shine with the truth.
We shine with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When the enemy tries to cloud our shine, we are prepared with the armor of God. (Ephesians 6:10-18). We destroy speculations and lofty things that rise up against the knowledge of God. We bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We properly identify our enemy and move him out of the way and shine with the glory of the Lord! Minds will become free and the Gospel will reach hearts! Don't let all the delusions going on bog you down--arise and shine!