Tuesday, 28 January 2014

My Ego Is Trouble

Proverbs 29:23 A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.

      Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called "Ego." Friedrich Nietzsche.
      In 1980 I heard Julie Buchenauer say, "Don't let your milestones become millstones." She preached that we can get caught up in our own good works and miss the next blessing, because we have become enamoured with our milestones in life and they now start turning into millstones grinding us to limited growth. Her statement marked me well because I have lived by its advice.
      Whenever I got proud of something I thought was great in my life, I would enjoy the blessing of it but after a while that old saying would needle its way into my mind and I would say out loud, "Don't let your milestones become millstones, time to move on to the next thing God has for you." Phil. 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

      I heard Wayne Dyer say that "ego" was an acronym for Edging God Out. This is true in my life. I get into trouble when I start twisting God's instruction into my own ideas. I start edging God out and doing things my way, then, when the results are not coming as fast as I think they should, I get upset and my ego won't let me see my folly. 1 Sam. 25:25b Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. Sometimes we just have to admit we were wrong in a decision made. Yes, we were sincere, but we were sincerely wrong. 
      When we start asking God to bless something that was never His intention, we end up in a difficult spot because our ego is in the way. Abraham wanted God to make Ismael the son of promise, but God wanted His covenant done right. Gen. 17:18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! 19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. 
      Ishmael (the milestone) had become a millstone around Abraham's neck. Abraham was stuck on an idea that would not work and the progress of his life was grinding to a halt until he agreed to send Ishmael and Hagar away. The millstone that Abraham was carrying was hindering the blessing of the Lord from going forward in Abraham and Sarah's life.
      Someone said, "When ambition ends, happiness begins." I would say, "When personal obsession ends, happiness in God begins." Eccl. 10:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour. We can become a stench to the Holy Spirit when we are riding our egos toward the promise land and believing our own press rather than being dependent upon the leading of the Lord. We start looking at our milestones and thinking, look at what I have done for God, isn't He blessed to have me doing all those extras for Him? Before we know it a millstone has pressured us into making unrighteous decisions and we start believing the end justifies the means. 

      We do not have to look far back in recent history to see this effect. A few TV evangelists came to a disastrous end because of poor choices and dependency on their media name brands, rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. Was restoration and healing available for them? Absolutely, and thank God some of them accepted God's forgiveness, but what hurts and loss could have been avoided had ego and pride been dealt with. Thank God for His grace toward us as He keeps drawing us back onto His track of a narrow and righteous walk. Psalm 30:11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.
     It comes down to this. Let us enjoy our victories and milestones in life because God helped us get them. However, do not let them become what we worship and turn them into idols. Eccl. 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. Father, in Jesus name, help us all be stronger in Christ and in the power of His might rather than our egos.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

There Are No Padded Crosses

Proverbs 22:29  See thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.

      The fortitude that it takes to be victorious is sometimes lacking within our souls. We lose backbone when things get difficult. The Christian walk is not for wimps, it is for the courageous. Sometimes we start watering down the Gospel so that we are not offensive to the world, but I am sorry, there are no padded crosses. Crucifixion was cruel and horrifying. There was a lot of bloodshed at Golgotha. Being nailed to a cross is not something that can be packaged with soft and feel good words. Isn't there an easier way than this? No, there isn't! Christ crucified is the only way to our Father God.
      Anything important will take effort and most often some personal bravery. Steve Jobs said, "The only way to do great work is to love what you do." Norman Vincent Peale said, "The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have." Nelson Mandela said, "Once a person is determined to help themselves, there is nothing that can stop them." These are people who should know what it takes to overcome and be a winner, because they all tasted some major defeats along the way to their successes. 

      Prov. 10:4 He becomes poor that deals with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent makes rich. It is interesting that Jesus, when He was twelve years old, saw what He was doing was His father's business. Luke 2:49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? There was a diligence that Jesus had already adopted in His heart toward what God had prepared for Him.
     I love reading and hearing the stories of people who overcame outrageous odds to accomplish the dreams that were sown within their hearts. Most of them could tell you that there were no padded crosses along the way. God has put great skill and ideas within people to accomplish the will of the Lord within this earth, and sometimes there will be great costs to accomplish our life's goals and dreams. Ex. 31:3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5 And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. 

      God has put within us the seeds of His craftsmanship to create and rise above the obstacles in life. Our God puts within us desires for our life's fulfilment and desires of God that fulfil the eternal plan He has. This will still take work and breakthrough. Someone said, "God gives the nuts, but He does not crack them." Psalm 21:2 Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not withhold the request of his lips. Selah
     We sometimes forget the costs that some of the biblical patriarchs paid to do the great things that were sown in their hearts. Moses never did enter the promise land but was used to bring God's people to its' border. Joseph struggled many years to see the fulfilment of his dream from when he was a young man. Abraham and Sarah waited a lifetime to have their son that was promised. There was a four hundred year wait from the word of God in Malachi till John the Baptist started proclaiming the arrival of the savior. 

      There are some things I have been waiting for in my walk with the Lord, and it feels like a long time coming and the cross I am carrying starts to feel rough and uncomfortable; however, there is a day of blessing for me and that I am sure of. 1 Cor. 1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 
      We have to remember that God knows why He created us and for what we are capable of in His kingdom. Job 28:23 God understands the way thereof, and he knows the place thereof. We must remember we are part of a larger plan then just ourselves. 
      May we all commit to staying diligent to the call of God and remain faithful to His love toward us. Job 6:8 Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Oh God, give us the strength to be who You created us to be and live it out in your Lordship, in Jesus name. Amen.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Limited Or Unlimited

Proverbs 1:31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.
    

      There are many who feel limited in their lives and options these days. Some of the reasons are poor debt choices or involvement in toxic relationships that are contrary to good sense and biblical direction. These self-made victims ask for help and advice and when I question them about some of their recent choices, it is no wonder they are having a hard time breaking through into unlimited blessing. Hosea 10:13 Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men. 14b Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled. 
      I am not being harsh here. There is a difference between fighting the enemy of our soul by faith and losing a few battles, versus living in carnality by choice and wondering why the shackles locked on ourselves are holding us back from blessing. The breakthrough will come when we turn toward the Lord and remain faithful in His instructions for our lives. Hosea 10:12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till He come and rain righteousness upon you. 
      Some stubbornly live contrary to the leading of God's word and then complain bitterly that they are limited in all aspects of their lives. The spiritual fix is also their choice with the Holy Spirit's leading; however, the righteous choice has to be acted upon. Isa. 1:19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.
       Matt. 26:53 Think thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? Wow! What a statement Jesus makes. Christ understood His unlimited access to heaven and yet controlled Himself in order to fulfill His call. He knew His Unlimited God could and would help in that moment, but Jesus chooses the limits of His humanity to fulfill the will of His heavenly Father. The Lord did this so that we could eventually enter into His unlimited ability for our lives in this day and now. 
      The word of God declares, in different places, a sense of unlimited ability that we can walk in as we walk in Christ. John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do;because I go unto my Father. The unlimited life the Lord lived in his humanity is available to us by faith. Mark 11:24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
      The limits we place upon our faith are limits of our own interpretation. Children have no limits when they are using their faith. They do not complicate faith with timelines and logic; they simply declare, expect, and do it most often giggling. They make these decrees and they are satisfied that it is done. Job 22:28 Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways. 

      Children do not call the family together and see if the prayer can be paid for in case it does not manifest. They simply believe, because someone greater than themselves has promised it. Mark 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. Well, someone greater than ourselves has promised unlimited access to the heart of God and Jesus is the one who makes intercession for us. Heb. 7:25 Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them.
      Someone said, "You know you're getting old when the only thing you exercise is caution." Sometimes we need to become childlike and throw caution to the wind and simply ask God for the most incredible miracle. We might think it an incredible miracle but the Lord might say, "Let me bless you exceedingly abundantly above all that you ask or think, according to the power that works in you." Jesus, the Lord, lives in us and that makes us unlimited.

      

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Blessed To Bless

Proverbs 8:32 Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.

      THE LORD HAS BLESSED ME, SO, HOW CAN I BLESS YOU?
      This sentence should remove all fear from our hearts. Since the Lord has blessed me, (and I am aware of it and am existing from that position), I am at peace to graciously reach out and bless you because the blessing of the Lord makes my life rich and He adds no sorrow with it. The Lord has blessed me and I understand that blessing was given to me by grace, (His unmerited favor). Therefore, I can offer the same blessing to you because it is coming from a place of grace within me.
      Better still, we can ask others without fear, how can I bless you? - because I am aware that what I will pass on as a blessing will also come from the provision and direction of the Lord. Outside of the ridiculous and sinful, there is nothing we cannot do if we know how blessed we are. We become as Francis of Assisi says, "An instrument of blessing". Phil. 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. I can become an instrument of blessing because I am blessed by grace. I am part of Christ, therefore, I can be a blessing like Christ was and is. Eph. 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

     The word says Jesus was full of grace and truth. John 1:14  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. What type of grace was Jesus full of? There was nothing unmerited about Jesus or within Him, so it could not be unmerited favor. Jesus was full of God's ability within Himself. This same grace is also given to us after we receive Christ as Lord. We are called by His grace (unmerited favor) Rom. 5:8 But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 
      Pastor Mitch Horton says "A handy acronym for G.R.A.C.E. is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Nothing I personally do could ever merit God’s grace and favor." The Lord gave us His grace (unmerited favor) so that when we became born again we would then extend God's grace that Jesus had (God's ability in me) to others so that they would accept God's grace (unmerited favor) in their lives. Eph. 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 
      In another place, the word says Heb. 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Let us come boldly to the throne of unmerited favor and obtain mercy and find God's ability to help in time of need. Wow, what a blessing His grace is. John 1:16 And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.
     
There was a man who was lame from birth, who begged for money daily at the gate called Beautiful. Peter and John are walking by and the lame man asked for some spare change. Peter says, "I have no cash on me but I do have something better that will bless you for the rest of your life. By grace I have Christ, the Lord, in my heart, and with His grace, He is able to heal your situation. So, in the name of Jesus get up and walk in the grace of God that is available for all mankind." Acts 3:3 Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
      I believe Peter and John had discovered the peace that comes from living in grace.  Ann Voskamp says, "Peace isn’t a place to work towards, but a Person to walk with." There seems to be the peace of God that grows from within our souls when we understand the grace of God at work within and over our lives. If we know that it is all grace (unmerited favor), then we can be at peace concerning the striving and performance aspects of our Christian walk that often turns sour because we are trying to earn God's love and attention. Grace is full of God's love and attention toward us. Grace supplies all that we need to live and serve our Lord.
     In 1772 John Newton wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. The words of this hymn are without controversy one of the best pronouncements of the Lord's grace that can change the hardest of characters into God's own blessed of the earth. The Lord's grace is truly 

amazing and is remarkable when we believe in its' working ability within our souls.

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Fait Accompli

Proverbs 16:6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.

       John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. "It is finished!" is the cry that came from the Lord as He hung, nailed, to the cross. In that moment to the observer, Christ did not look victorious. He looked like the ravaged victim of the Roman death system that was used to deal with all the trouble-makers of their day. Jesus looked beyond humiliated and degraded, a victim of political circumstance. 
      Even the kingdom of darkness was shaken by their perceived accomplishment but, in a short time, realised their tactical error. 1 Cor. 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
       The facts were clear to the onlookers that the man Jesus Christ was dead, but the truth in the kingdom of God was that Jesus Christ, the Lord, had just redeemed man to God. The truth was Rom. 5:8 But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There is much to be gleaned from the last words Jesus said; it shouts to us, reaching our ears today. "It is finished," is the truth we have to come to grips with. It is the truth of the Lord's finished work that will set us free from all the condemnation and bewilderment our hearts struggle with within our faith. 

      As we act on what we believe the will of God is for our lives, we must remember that it is the grace of God that remains the truth we are living in. The fine line of works and grace can cause difficulty in our hearts when we are feeling empty inside. At this point we realise that we have been performing self-righteous acts, thinking we have been obeying our call that was once grace led. We forget that works in the flesh, to attain God's favor, is finished. Gal. 3:3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh.
       The Lord believed His own statement, "It is finished" because we read in Heb. 1:3b  When He had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. That's it. The Lord sat down because it had been done and it is done. It is finished! The Lord has done it all and He alone has saved us by His blood and none of our works. Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
       I was going through a tough time and my mind started to wander into the murky and swampy area of works thinking. I started saying things like, maybe I feel distant from God because I had those thoughts of jealousy the other day, that's why things are not going well for me. Maybe I did not give enough at church the other day, that's why I lost that deal I was counting on. After all, you reap what you sow. Maybe I had a negative confession in my prayer and I jinxed the flow of provision from heaven. 

      After all, it is a snakes and ladders game we are playing here, isn't it? I do something wrong and I step on a snake and slide downward to a lost place of sin, then I do something good or Godly and climb the ladder of success right into the heavens and then step on a snake to start all over again. This is how a lot of Christianity is lived on a regular basis. We have to realise that God knew this is what we would do, turn His gift of salvation into a carnal works program. Therefore Jesus had to cry out on the cross, "It is finished." Isa. 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
       The daily facts that we face are real but, the truth of the word is even more real. The facts are we may be broke, but the word of God says we are blessed and will be provided for. Matt. 6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are ye not much better than they? 
      The facts are we may be dealing with a sickness in our body and lives, the truth is that we are healed. 1 Pet. 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 
      The facts are we may be alone in this life and very lonely, the truth is the Lord is right there beside us. Heb.13:5b For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Matt. 28:20b Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. 
      The facts are that we may feel like we have to do something to earn God's love and favor, the truth is we are loved and favored no matter how we feel about it. Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. Yes, the striving is finished. May the peace of God that passes all understanding fill our hearts with the capacity to believe God's word concerning us all.

Friday, 3 January 2014

The Year In Review

Proverbs 15:30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart: and a good report makes the bones fat.

           It is always a pitiful scene when the news cameras are focused on family members picking through the destruction of their homes after a tornado has devastated a town or community. These victims wander around with the odd item of personal value clutched to their sides with looks of bewilderment. Inevitably, the news reporters with a limited vocabulary asks one of these traumatised people, "How do you feel?" 
      I think this to be a dumb question, but the answer is almost always, "Well, everyone in the family is alive and that's what's important. All this, (as they point to the destruction), is just stuff that can be replaced." Then, the other question the news reporter learned in reporter-school asks, "What are you going to do now?" With a brave face, the answer is often, "We're going to rebuild."  
      Like most of you, I often ask, why rebuild in a place called Tornado Alley? Are they not setting themselves up for this to happen all over again? Some of these people admit to the fact that this devastation has happened to them before. Oh well, we do not know the hearts and reasons these hearty people choose to rebuild and start over, but that is their free choice. Eccl. 5:19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God 
      As we muse and walk through the events of our last year, it is my hope that we are not wandering in bewildered at the destruction or loss of our spiritual effect on our family, friends, and workmates. Hopefully, we have good reports and testimonies of how God is faithful toward us all year long. I hope we have garnered a heart of gratitude toward those who love us and toward God who has saved us. Eph. 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
      If we have experienced spiritual loss through repeated sin because we rebuilt in the same place as in our personal, Tornado Alley, then it might be time to move. If some of us are finding it difficult to overcome tempting fruit that causes us to fall repeatedly, then it might be time to get out of that orchard and focus on redemption rather than self-righteousness, rebuilding on the same spot called mayhem. Job 11:14 If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. 
      What have we discovered about ourselves throughout this last year? Were we kind, generous, and patient with one another? Did we go out of our way to bless those who bother us? Did we overcome in times of temptation? What progress in Christ have we made this past year that brings out a heartfelt assurance that we are walking the Lord's path of righteousness?  
      Minister Phil Drysdale says, "Spiritual maturity is not a process of you working on your sin - it’s a process of you discovering your righteousness!" 2 Cor. 5:21 For he hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Christ, our Lord, has already paid for our sin, now let us grow in His grace-filled righteousness. Let us, through His grace and faith in His righteousness, appropriate the ability given to us to overcome sin. Keep our eyes on the cure for our lives and not the sickness that drags us down. 
     I can look back this year and see events that blessed me. For example, my sons and best friends came home to celebrate my birthday. My sons both landed wonderful jobs with very good companies. My darling wife of thirty-two years still loves me and encourages me. I could go on and record so many great events that took place in my life this year, but did I grow in the righteousness of the Lord and His finished work of the cross? Mark 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  
      I can say there are areas I did grow in this year and there are areas I still need great leaps and strides of maturity in order to walk in the peace of righteousness that has been given to me through Christ. Rom. 5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
     What a year of contrasts it has been for a lot of us who love the Lord and long for His coming. We have all had some great victories and some hurtful falls. What then shall we do? Shout, praise the Lord for all our victories, and dust ourselves off from the falls with a prayer on our lips and faith in our hearts that we shall have a great new year. Phil. 3:13   Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. A blessed new year to us all.