Depth of Our Love

“I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels. (Luke 12:8 NLT)

The above verse is not just about publicly declaring our faith, but its about the depth of our love and commitment. Our love for God must transcend the expression of a vocal witness because it goes beyond mere words.

The depth of our love is measured by the inward response to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. It’s not enough to just have our “elevator speech” ready when someone is inquiring about our faith. We must be willing and ready to speak from the depth of our personal fellowship with the Lord.

It’s is not about knowing Bible facts and memorized witnessing plans. It is about being able to reach into the well of our transformed heart and pour out living water to those we encounter. It’s being transparent to the point that what we share comes from the depths of our spiritual well. Our heart is full and running over because we have been drinking from God’s well and passionately seeking after Him.

Drinking from God’s well helps us deal with the deception about ourselves. That’s the reason searching the scriptures is so important. The Word becomes a two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), it wounds us, it reveals our weakness and exposes our self-centeredness.

The Lord desires to move us beyond the need to openly declare that we are “just an ole sinner saved by grace”. This declaration sounds spiritual but it can be a barrier that hinders us from allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal the deception about ourselves.

“Confessing me before men” is more than a verbal acknowledgment, it’s evidence that we are letting go of our life in order that Christ’s life may be prevalent. This is God’s intention for His children, that we manifest Christ’s life to the world. This is the element that causes the world to recognize that there is something different about us, something that attracts them to our quality of life.

Bottom Line

How do we make sure that our life is manifesting Christ’s life? Here are three things that may help us toward that goal.

Meditate regularly on the Scripture, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal our sin and our attitude. – I know, its not PC to talk about sin. But that’s the unique aspect of Scripture, it’s ability to expose our sin. Often it’s not the big sins that make us stumble, but those little sins that cause us to grow cold toward the Holy Spirit’s prompting and leadership. The Scripture, properly applied, penetrates our sensitivities and enables us to destroy the barriers that keep us from intimacy with the Father.

Intentional and targeted prayer – This is moving beyond the typical believer’s prayer of “bless me and my family and watch over and protect us today”. It’s prayer that is focused on asking the Lord to reveal our self-centeredness, selfishness, pride, anger, and most of all, our level of unbelief.

Trust God – Trusting God is a faith issue. Do we really believe that God is greater than our situation or dilemma? Do we believe that He can deliver us when we have no way out or no options left?

When we are depressed, can we believe that we can cast our care and depression on Him and He will change our thinking and deliver us from our depression? The answer is a resounding YES!

“Trust in the Lord with your whole heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

If we let God’s Word shape our spiritual character, and we develop a prayer life that seeks to act like a search light on our soul, then we will develop a depth of trust that will carry us through every situation.

 

Seeing God in All Things

Over twenty years ago I had the privilege of spending a couple of weeks in China. While there I was taken by one of the Chinese church leaders to visit several underground house churches. When I began to teach these dear brothers and sisters I felt an overwhelming sense of unworthiness. Just the act of meeting together for a Bible study was risky. For me the risk was minimal. I would merely be taken to the airport and deported if caught by the officials. For them it meant years of jail time and multiple beatings and torture.

While I was visiting various house churches, another group had the privilege of visiting the famous Chinese Pastor Samuel Lamb. Pastor Lamb had been imprisoned for over 20 years and suffered physical and mental abuse. When someone in the group mentioned to him that they were praying for the persecution of the church to stop in China, Pastor Lamb quickly rebuked them and gave his famous quote, “ More persecution more growth of the church.” In other words, the seed of the church is the blood of the saints.

This event, coupled with many other visits to persecuted church countries, has deeply impacted my view of the normal Christian life. Could it be that the Western Church has had it wrong all along? Our view of safety, comfort, persecution free life has produced a powerless church that has little impact on our culture. Over the past 200 years the church has served as the moral conscience of our great country. Now because of lack of spiritual power and influence in the church, the moral decline in our country is moving at warp speed.

A closer look at Scripture

My experience with the persecuted church and observation of the the early church in Scripture has led me to have a very different view of the the Christian life. A trouble free life is not necessarily a sign of God’s blessings. We can all agree that God has blessed us in many ways and one of those elements is our generally trouble free life. However being trouble free could also be because we are not doing much to disturb the kingdom of darkness.

I am not suggesting that we become someone who intentionally stirs up trouble by in-your-face confrontation, but I am merely suggesting that we evaluate our view of trouble and suffering, and how we deal with difficult circumstances.

God has taught me some valuable lessons that I want to pass on to you. Maybe it will change how you view trouble in your life.

God is fully aware of every element of our life. If it’s true that the living Christ indwells every believer, then God is fully aware of every element of our life. He is even aware of those times when our dumb decisions bring us unwelcome consequences. This knowledge of the indwelling Christ reminds me of the truths of Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)

There are two key elements to this passage of Scripture. One, “God causes all things to work together”. Rather than changing our present circumstances, more often than not, God uses the things that are presently happening in our life to accomplish His plan. Secondly, these things will work together for those “who love God”. Notice that is active tense. Those who are presently, actively loving/serving God and pursuing His purpose will experience things all working out.

See God in everything. Since God is ever present in our life then we should examine every event, disappointment and present challenge as a God moment. We must keep in mind that God is fully aware of our predicament. Instead of trying to escape our circumstances, stop and ask God “what He is up to and what is He saying to us?” Ask, “What do you want me to learn through this situation?” That’s because God is more concerned about your response to the situation than He is about how He’s going to deliver or rescue you from the situation.

Change the way you pray in difficult situations. “ And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Sprit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words. The Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers.” (Romans 8:26-27 NLT)

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to pray. That’s the reason the Holy Sprit was given to us to guide and teach us all things. Instead of first praying “Lord deliver me”, pray “Lord show me the greater purpose, help me not to seek deliverance if the greater lesson and glory is for me to endure the course.”

Bottom Line

We must keep in mind that God’s glory and His best for you is the end game, not necessarily deliverance. Remember that suffering and endurance is a spiritual virtue. It may be that God wants to demonstrate His power in deliverance. But it also may be that He wants to show you what He can do in the midst of the storm.

Courage For the New Year

Throughout the Scripture Jesus continually reminds his disciples to be courageous in approaching whatever they may face in life. Was he attempting to pump up the troops to help them accomplish their goals in life or was there something deeper he was conveying?

I think there was a deeper, life changing truth he was trying to instill in his disciples. Jesus was teaching the simple truth of trust. He desires that all of his children would live in the light of absolute dependence upon Him. Trusting in His finished work of the cross for our salvation is just the beginning of our trust journey.

If I could use one word to describe a “super believer” it would be the word TRUST. The ultimate attribute and quality of a follower of Jesus is our ability to fully trust him with every event, situation and aspect of our life. The Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart (our mind, will and emotions) and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.“ (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Whatever comes our way we are to give it to the Lord and trust Him to work it all out for our good and His glory. When we stress out over a situation we are choosing to withhold our heart from Him. We are choosing to not trust Jesus and our Heavenly Father. How is it that in stressful situations we often forget that God is already fully aware of our situation, and knows the severity of our circumstance? God is never surprised at what happens to us, matter of fact, he knows in advance. That means that every situation is a test of our willingness and ability to fully trust in Him.

That reminds me of a phrase I heard an evangelist give over thirty years ago regarding how God is never surprised at what happens to us. He said, “Has it every occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God?” It would be good for us to ponder that statement.

He wants our natural reflex to be that we immediately trust Him. We already have a head knowledge that God is bigger than any situation, but he wants us to move that trust from our head to our heart.

Bottom Line

My challenge to you for 2016 is to set a goal to ‘up your level of trust’ . When you get stressed -out about a situation, give it to God, and practice trusting Him to see you through. Then begin to see every trial as a divine test by the heavenly Father to ‘up your level of trust’.

When something occurs that gets you stressed, worried, or out of control, remember this quote, “Don’t be guilty of mistaking the middle of the chapter for the end of your story.” (Jake Colsen)

Working Past A Cain Mentality

If you’ve ever entertained the thought that Satan’s old tactics are ineffective in today’s contemporary society, then consider the affect of the “Cain mentality.” Cain, who was a son of Adam and Eve, was a farmer that took a great deal of pride in his ability to produce beautiful garden vegetables.

When God demanded a blood sacrifice to atone for personal sins, Cain brought an offering of his best garden vegetables instead of the required animal sacrifice. I am sure that Cain’s vegetables would have been a prize winner at any Home and Garden show. He probably had hundreds of hours invested in grooming and harvesting his vegetables. Adam probably mentored him, teaching him how he had kept the garden of Eden.

But there was one problem with Cain’s offering. God required a blood sacrifice, a lamb without blemish. God’s requirement was not personal sacrifice and self effort, but it was one of obedience and faith. The blood sacrifice was a foretaste of the Lord Jesus’ substitutional death. This was a picture of the Lamb of God without blemish who would die in our place for us, and as us.

When Cain brought vegetables as his sacrifice he was refusing to acknowledge that salvation is of the Lord. He was showing that his self-righteousness, demonstrated by his presentation of his vegetables, were good enough to earn him salvation. When God rejected Cain’s offering it revealed his rebellious heart.

As a true follower of Jesus we trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for our salvation. We call it salvation by grace through faith. But many believers forget that their everyday life is also to be one of faith and trust. They develop a Cain mentality by attempting to please God in their own strength. There are least two ways that we display a Cain mentality.

1. We develop a Cain mentality by refusing to cast our worry, our troubles and our fears on Christ. Like Cain, we develop a sense of self-righteousness that causes us to think that we can do this on our own. But the Scripture teaches that we are to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

2. We develop a Cain mentality when trusting God becomes an after-thought rather than our first thought.The Scripture teaches us, “Trust God with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Bottom Line

Living the Christian life and working past a Cain Mentality is not based on human logic or reasoning, but it’s about giving every element of our life to Him. God wants our walk with Him to be intimate. He wants our relationship to be one of transparency and trust. Faith is not just about believing, but it’s also about giving…giving our life, our burdens, our present and future to Him. Why is it all about faith and giving? Because when we trust Him with all of our life, He has promised that “God will do it all for you.”

Over twenty years ago, I heard Dr. Bill Gilliam give an acrostic that really nailed the point that “God will do it all for you”. Notice the emphasized word in each line. It goes something like this;

I will do it all for you.
I will
do it all for you.
I will do it all for you.
I will do it
all for you.
I will do it all for you.
I will do it all for
you.
I will do it all for you.

Will you be willing to let go of your life and let Him do it all for you? Besides, that
is the normal Christian life.

“Lord, if I don’t have the strength to give you everything, them draw me by the sweetness of Your love.” (Fenelon)

Your Attitude Creates Your Altitude

Years ago I picked up a saying from my Air Force military training; “Your attitude determines you altitude.” This is one of those truths that stick with you throughout your life because you know that your attitude impacts every aspect of your life.

No matter what season of life you are in, your attitude is a key player in your level of contentment. Attitude is more important than wealth, education, good looks, popularity, relationships and almost anything else the world may consider important.

As a follower of Christ, your attitude is an indicator of your level of trust and devotion to God. Having a vast knowledge of Scripture will not necessarily make you a successful believer. Some of the most miserable people I have met are Christians. They weren’t miserable because their faith didn’t work, they were miserable because their attitude was rotten.

If you are a businessperson, your attitude will be a key element in determining your success, but it will also see you through a tough business climate. If you think you can’t succeed or make it through the tough times, then your attitude will be your downfall.

As a committed follower of Jesus, maintaining an attitude that reflects our dependence and trust in a sovereign God to guide and direct us is an important element in maintaining inner peace. Many times we can’t control our circumstances, or what others say about us or do to us, but we can control our attitude. A negative attitude is usually a result of your reaction to a given situation. We can choose to trust God, and believe He is in control, or we can choose to be fearful and hopeless.

When you live with a Christ-centered worldview, the normal response to any crisis is to let go and trust God to give you wisdom and peace. By trusting God in every situation, we develop an attitude of dependence. We have this inner peace that everything is going to turn out right, even though we can’t see the end result. Why? Because we know God is ultimately in control.

The Holy Spirit allowed Paul to use the word “Abba” when referring to God in Galatians. Abba is a term of intimate affection that denotes “Daddy”, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” Our heavenly Father is not only our God but also our daddy/protector who loves and cares for every area of our life.

Bottom Line
Our attitude reflects our level of trust. God wants us to love and trust Him so completely that our life reflects contentment, regardless of our present circumstances. Because we are loved, cared for, and watched over by our loving God, we should rest in the fact that Christ is enough. Remember, your attitude determines your altitude.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NASB)

What’s In Your Hand?

“She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” … (Jesus said) “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to… She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.” (Mark 14)

What a great life lesson for the disciples as they were about to be cast out into the world without Jesus’ physically being with them. It is apparent from the life the Apostles led after the resurrection that they took this life lesson to heart.

This lesson is for us also. Our attitude is to be “doing what we can,” but it may not be as you think. This lesson is not about “doing something for God,” but it is about being faithful to trust God for every moment of your life.

We are to take whatever the Lord has placed in our hands and use it for His glory. Ecclesiastes 9:10 reminds us, “Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.”

In other words, the Lord never intended for us to look for things to do for Him, but just be faithful in those things that He places in our hands and brings across our path.

Instead of saying, “Lord I think I want to do this for you”, it should be “Lord, what would you have me to do?” If we will learn to live every day in obedience to Him, and let go of our life in full surrender, He will bring thoughts, circumstances and people across our path that will lead to spiritual fulfillment and abundant fruit.

That’s a difficult lesson for me to learn. I am a doer/performer by nature. My life motto is “You are holding up production, get out of the way and let me do it.” Waiting on God is not one of my virtues. So brokenness for me has been to learn to back off, wait till God speaks and then join Him in what He would have me do. I am sorry to say there have been too many instances when I took things in my own hands and have gotten ahead of God.

While we are waiting on God to lead us we can be like the servant woman in Mark 14, “we can do what we can.” We can love those who are hard to love. We can practice giving away our life to others. We can provide Bibles for those who have never seen or read a Bible. We can bake cookies for our neighbors. We can help someone who is struggling. We can identify a single mom and give them a helping hand. You get the idea, we can give what we already have in our hand and God will open more doors for us than we can ever imagine possible.

During the late 80’s I left the full-time pastorate, received some additional training and opened a pastoral counseling ministry. I was immediately covered up with counseling clients. As a matter of fact, there were times when it would take several weeks to get an appointment with my office. I was perfectly content with spending the rest of my life in this ministry.

I wasn’t impacting a whole community nor ministering to the masses in a pastoral role, but I was reaching a few, one counselee at a time. I was doing what I could and being faithful to what God had placed in my hands.

One day I was approached by a mission leader and asked if I would allow him to translate my conference material into Russian and then go Moscow to teach several hundred pastors. This was just after the curtain had fallen in the communist Eastern Bloc countries. I must admit, I was a tad uneasy about this new opportunity. First, it was Russia. They had been our enemy for most of my life. Secondly, other than a Caribbean cruise, I had never been out of the country. Besides, what could I possibly teach pastors who had been persecuted and thrown in jail for their faith?

But God had once again placed something in my hand and I must use what He had placed in my hand and trust him for the results. On that trip, God took what was in my hand and used it for His glory, far exceeding my expectations.

God used this event to open up a whole new world to me, literally. During the next couple of decades I had the privilege to train thousands of pastors and church planters on five continents, all because I used what was in my hand and trusted God for the rest.

Bottom Line

The Christian life is about surrender. It’s about surrendering all that we are, and all that we hope to be. The Lord wants us to be faithful using what He has already placed in our hand. He wants us be like the woman who washed Jesus’ feet, so it can be said about us “we have done all we could.”

Be Still and I Will Part the Waters for You

“He your teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you. “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right of the left.” (Isaiah 30)

God still speaks to his children by the voice of the Holy Spirit. God speaks to us through a “still small voice” and most often through the Scriptures. Sometimes a biblical passage will be the key to our deliverance. Whether it’s through the Scriptures or that still small voice, before we can hear His voice of direction, God requires something of us: We are to stand still and wait for Him to act.

Stand still and wait for Him to act. This is one of those principles that make easy preaching but difficult to implement. Somehow we think that our experience qualifies us to go ahead of God. Besides, God needs our help doesn’t He? I don’t think so. If we take the sum total of all our good days, it would not equal one of God’s moments of genius. God’s timing and method is always the best for our life.

Joshua was one of the few Israelites who were able to enter the promise land. As Joshua was leading the Israelites across the Jordan River God was saying to them, ‘When you get to the water, plant your feet in the water and just stand there. Be still, rest. Just wait for me to act and I will part the waters for you.’

The Hebrew word for “stand still” means to,“stop all activity, cease all striving”. I am sure some of the men must have said, “Let’s build a quick bridge. With the amount of workers we have we can have a functional bridge in a few days”. Some of the women must have said, “I can’t let my children stand in the water, they might catch cold. “

But in spite of all of the suggestions, and the grumbling, Joshua led the people to obedience and they waited on God, did just as God told them, and the waters departed and they crossed over on dry land.

The problem isn’t that God is not speaking, but the problem is that we are not being still long enough to hear His voice. In other words, we lack the patience to wait, and lack the faith that God will answer.

What is God saying to us through this passage? Stop all activity, cease all striving. Be still, rest…just wait for me to act and I will part the waters for you!

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen; I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)