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Issues of Life #1

Worship

 

   The issue of worship is a simple one even though there is a myriad of approaches to the expressions of it. Unless the heart engages there is no true worship. For it is with the heart that we choose to pay honor and devotion to the Father. I still cannot, for the life of me, believe how much the Father loves me. In me, true worship is prompted simply by that. The knowing that what I deserve I did not get and what I did not deserve I get; God’s love, His grace, His mercy and all those things that cannot be bought with money, all those things He has freely given unto me. I can’t help but love a God like that. It really doesn’t matter what the expressions are. Different people respond in different ways. The key, again, is the heart. When the heart makes the choice to worship the Lord, the heavens open and God inhabits those praises. His presence is evident with you and I even when others around us may not be worshiping at all. To the true believer worship is not an act or an event… it’s a lifestyle. It’s the continual laying down of our agenda on the altar of God and submitting ourselves to His will and purpose for our lives. We will be, if we really understand our relationship with our Father, first and foremost and above everything else a ‘worshipper’!


Issues of Life #2

The Love of the Father

 

   God’s love for us is far beyond our capacity to ever fully comprehend it and yet it is so simple even a child can grasp its essence. God, Himself radiates with this perfect kind of love. It is an emotion that He cannot help but emanate, for the Bible states that, “God is love”. It is the perfect love of a Father. It is unconditional in nature, which means that in all our imperfections and shortcomings God still loves us with this perfect, immeasurable love; a love that has no boundaries, a love that can change and soften even the hardest heart. His love is the only thing within the context of time and eternity that gives mankind that needed feeling of acceptance and value. It is the one thing that the heart of man is desperately longing and seeking for. Nothing else will satisfy the need for the Father’s love. Abraham, the father of many nations, did not enjoy the luxury of calling Him Father. David, the young shepherd boy and God’s chosen king, couldn’t call Him Father. But you and I can. It is by faith. Faith in what His Word says and then the experiential knowledge of His love that comes by walking with Him. As the object of His love I find significance. I am His son! I cannot help but love Him back. In this His love is made completely perfect.

   This is one of the first things, I believe, that we should teach new believers. I have frequently made the statement that, “If I could only say one more thing to the whole Body of Christ, it would be this: “Learn to relate to God as Father.” When one begins to relate to God as Father, life suddenly takes on new meaning. There are so many Christians who are caught in the trap of trying to be obedient to the Lord as if they are keeping a ‘set of rules’. And, because of our ‘performance based’ society, we fix our gaze on the rules rather than on the Father. We, somehow, think that our good conduct will win greater favor and blessing from God. Truth is that God has already promised us in His Word that He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Even the sin(s) that we will commit 20 years from now have already been forgiven by His grace. His unbelievable love for me is my inspiration to live a righteous, holy life. And yes, I do endeavor to keep a set of rules…but not out of legalism or a sense of duty. Any measure of righteousness that I may have attained is only attained because I earnestly desire to be pleasing to my Father! He’s Awesome!


Issues of Life #3

The Best Kept Secret in the Kingdom

 

   Early on in my ‘new life’ as a pastor God put it in my heart to pray for the “people that nobody else wants”. And looking back even to my childhood I have always had a heart for the underdog, the ‘down and out’ and the poor. I know this is the heart that God has put within me and it’s certainly no credit to myself. Jesus had a special affinity for the poor. In fact, ministry to the poor is one of the central issues of the New Testament. It is so easy in this day of prosperity to forget the plight of those less fortunate. It costs us dearly to love them as Jesus would love them. It takes of our time, our energy and our resources. It has always amazed me of how little an emphasis the modern church places on ministry to this segment of society. Great potential lies within the poor of our communities. The poor and how we respond to them is a great test for the church. Pastors run to and fro to church growth seminars and the like and still miss it. It is a well-kept secret. Do you want your church to grow? Do you want your church to do the works of Jesus? Then you cannot escape the importance of loving the poor. Most will make the choice not to do it. It’s too hard, too costly, too time consuming. There will be a few who will rightly choose! To those go the very richest of the blessings of God.

 


 

Issues of Life #4

Vision and The Man of God

 

   Every great man of God has vision……that divinely dispensed plan of God for his life and for the people that the Father has called him to. The less the ambitions of the man the more the Father can use him unless, of course, the ambitions are birthed in the heart of God. It must be a high priority for the Father to reveal this vision to his men since His chosen method of getting things done on the planet is through His people. Vision guides us through the times when God is silent. It is a general roadmap toward our future and our destiny. It gets more defined and more specific as we walk by faith and obedience. It is fulfilled in events and circumstances throughout our lives and if it is truly a vision given by God it extends even past our lifetime. Why does God give vision? Simple. It’s because of His people. The very ones that Jesus died for! We are a vital part of God’s master plan to redeem mankind from sin and darkness. So, the vision is not about us or our ministry or how revered, recognized and famous we might become, but about the ones that He has called us to minister to. If our hearts do not reflect this we are doomed for failure. It is definitely an issue to be aware of, for “the heart of man is exceedingly wicked.”

   A pastor must fast and pray for vision. When he does…God will reveal. Rarely will a man die for someone else’s vision but a man of God will die for the vision that God has given him. Oh, and incidentally he will have to die for it…..daily! He must die to his own agenda, die to his plans and ambitions and live, to the Father’s. Our own blood, sweat and tears are invested in God’s vision for our lives and our ministries. As He increases…we must decrease.

   The vision must be clear...it must be written down...it must be articulated well so those who hear it can run with purpose and conviction. When that happens God’s net is cast and countless thousands are brought into the kingdom by the love of the Lord. When one commits to the vision, God will bring resources in abundance and in a timely fashion. He brings alongside those who will help to see the vision come to fruition. He will bring as many as is needed. He will bring those with various talents and anointing for the task ahead. He will give the ‘man of God’ the wisdom to appropriate these giftings. And again, it’s all about the people and never, ever about us.

 


 

Issues of Life #5

Working Through the Hard Issues

 

   We have a mandate in the kingdom of God to work out difficult issues. Our society has drifted away from doing this. It is much easier to suffer a break in relationship than to work together to resolve disputes and problems between people. There’s no doubt about it…..it’s hard. I, personally, hate conflict and confrontation and it is especially hard for me and people like me to engage in it. But in God’s kingdom it is vital that we sit down at the table and work through even the toughest problems. There is something great at stake here. God’s Word states that, “by this you shall know them, that they have love for one another.” The world is watching us. If we really believe that, in Christ, we are brothers and sisters then we have a responsibility to work things out. Sometimes we have to labor to see the perfect will of God happen. Many times it is easier to just walk away from the tough issues than to work them out. We have found out, down through the years, that when we do the ‘harder’ thing we are always blessed. And, when it really gets down to it, the hard part is maybe having to say, “I’m sorry”, “I was wrong”, “I forgive you”, etc. This is what the kingdom is really all about. This is where maturity begins to take shape. This is where broken relationships are mended. This is where humility becomes real and where the flesh dies! It is a vital part of the ‘conforming’ process in which we are made more like Jesus. It is God’s plan and we must commit to it!


Issues of Life #6

It’s a Good Death

 

Some time back I was spending some quality time with one of our young and aspiring preachers. He was about to be sent out of our church to begin a ministry in a neighboring town. I was aggressive in the advice that I gave him; “When you step out into the ministry that you believe God called you into, He has one thing in mind…..He has to kill you!” It’s His top priority…job 1! But wait a minute! You thought that God loved you with this, so called, unconditional love. You thought that He wanted to give you the ‘highest’ quality of life in Him. So, I’m sure you’re wondering what I’m talking about. Well, God really does have to kill you. But, be in peace, it’s not a literal death. And although it is dreadfully painful you’ll probably live through it. He has to kill the flesh in you if you are to be very effective for Him in His kingdom. He doesn’t need our good ideas. He’s not overly impressed with our resume. So He’s out to kill those things in us that stand in our path on our way to greatness…. Greatness that is….. from His perspective. In fact He may be more interested, at least at first, in doing something in you than through you. It’s all about the people that you’re called to. He wants you to minister in purity, wisdom and power…His power and not yours. This killing process may last for years, possibly a lifetime. But as something in you dies, something beautiful comes to life. It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” He is being ‘formed’ in you and this is the way it happens. So, be sure, He IS going to kill you and He’s a ‘killin’ machine. And as the man in the Arizona desert said when the temperature peaked at 120 degrees, “It’s a dry heat.” This, my friend, is a ‘good’ death!


Issues of Life #7

Trust in the Lord

 

   “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

 

   It can be simple and complicated at the same time. By God’s own design we are created in such a way as to be able to put our trust in Him. That part of the puzzle is pretty clear, and when we look at it from the proper perspective, it’s also pretty simple. But to learn to bring all our faculties into line and to actually put our entire trust in the Lord goes against the nature of the flesh and thereby becomes one of the great challenges of our lives. But the writer of Proverbs encourages us to do something that is absolutely do-able for born-again believers. In fact, to activate our trust in the Lord it just takes a simple decision by faith to begin the process. The problem is that we learn too early in life to put our trust in other things. And whatever those things are, they are sure to fail somewhere down the road. So for most it requires a total reversal of what our culture has taught us. That makes it much harder than it should be. God, in His infinite wisdom, has created us in such a way as to give us the final say in the matter. We’re free moral agents as the religious experts classify us. That just means that even though God has a ‘perfect plan’ for our lives, we must make the choice, or choices as it turns out to be in the final analysis, to participate in that plan. When we come to the Lord through salvation we should choose to engage with “all our heart”. It can happen that way, and at that point, but I believe in most cases it is worked out in an ongoing process that starts at the point of salvation and lasts for the rest of our lives. We learn as we go through varying circumstances in life that God is real and that He never mishandles our trust, as we place it in Him.

   We are also encouraged by the above Scripture to “lean not on our own understanding”. That’s a pretty challenging concept. Sounds simple but when we set to the task we find that it’s harder than it sounds. We gain knowledge, understanding and experience as we live out our lives. If we’re not careful we will put our trust in our own abilities and in our own resources. But the adventurous walk of faith that the Father has destined us to experience can only be successfully achieved by putting our entire trust in Him. We should engage in the simplicity of this verse at face value. And when we do that, “He will direct our paths”!


Issues of Life #8

Community!

 

   “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:42-47

 

   This passage of Scripture gives us great insight into the culture of the first century church. The move of God began with a hundred and twenty faithful prayers in an upper room and quickly grew, in one instance, by three thousand and then a few days later by another five thousand! As the Scripture above clearly indicates, the believers were steadfast and focused on Jesus. They continued on in the move of God that began on the Day of Pentecost. They had ‘singleness’ and simplicity of heart. Their lifestyle was one that brought them genuine happiness (gladness) and true contentment.

   The closeness of relationships that believers in the first church experienced has been virtually unparalleled in modern times. Our current society certainly has nothing that would compare to it. In fact our culture has moved rapidly away from deep, interpersonal relationships that should be the normal by-product of true church life. We now live in a nation where individualism is the norm. Americans, according to a poll conducted by noted pollster George Gallup Jr., are the loneliest people in the world. While there is ample opportunity and time for deep relationships, Americans have chosen to isolate themselves from their neighbors and, in many cases, even from their Christian brothers and sisters. There is a shift, however, back to a simpler, slower paced lifestyle. It is not widespread by any means but certain indicators are pointing to the idea that Americans are tiring of the emptiness that exists where deep relationships have been forsaken. The ‘first church’ experienced community! Common purpose, common possessions and the building and fostering of spiritual family made the ‘new’ church in Jerusalem a fascinating organism. They lived together, shared meals together and helped one another. They learned to love one another with unconditional love. There was great power manifested by God through His people, much of which can be attributed to the unity and fellowship that they shared with one another. They were in unity because they loved one another as family. It is doubtful that God would have chosen for us to ever move away from that depth of relationship with one another. When the 21st century church comes together today we come together as a group of individuals rather than as a family. There is a change in the wind, though! It is revolutionary! It’s called community! And only those in search of ‘true church life’ will find it!


Issues of Life #9

Spiritual Warfare #1

“Let’s Play Offense for a Change!”

 

   Why is it that when believers hear the term, spiritual warfare, they immediately think of how they are going to block the blows or fend off the attack of the enemy. It is just how we think. Why should we always think ‘defense’. David is a great example to us when he met the giant, Goliath, in the valley of battle. The Word records that David ran to the battle. No defensive move there! David saw the situation at the battlefield through the eyes of God. He said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine who thinks he can taunt the armies of the living God?” David was outsized. Goliath was totally covered with armor. He was ten feet tall and the champion warrior of the Philistines. So what made David run to the battle? It certainly didn’t make sense from anyone’s viewpoint. Well, here’s the secret. David knew God. He knew that God would deliver him. He couldn’t believe that this giant was intimidating the people of God. The God that he knew would utterly defeat this obnoxious character. As he ran to the battle he declared, “This battle is not mine, it belongs to the Lord.” You know the rest of the story. Here’s what we can learn from David’s exploits. We are the people of God! Why should we always be on the defensive? What has the enemy been using on you so successfully? Is it anger, unforgiveness, depression, confusion, fear? What is it? Why don’t you use these things on him?? Speak it back into the camp of the enemy! Speak disarray into his camp! Let him get on the defensive for a change. Let’s make him worry about what to do next!


Issues of Life #10

Spiritual Warfare #2

"The Whole Armor of God"

 

   “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles (trickery) of the devil.”

 

   Paul must have had lots of practice in the art of spiritual warfare. He was constantly under attack. He was shipwrecked, bitten by poisonous snakes and beaten on numerous occasions. He did not fear the enemy but he did have a certain respect for his foe. He knew that the enemy could not be defeated except through the Holy Spirit. It had to be “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The armor of God was his protection. In essence, when he symbolically put on the whole armor of God…he was literally putting on Jesus! The belt of Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God was his armor. Any piece of this armor left off would leave him vulnerable to the attack of the enemy. That’s why he said, “put on the whole armor of God.” We need to be covered and protected by the characteristics of Jesus. It is also interesting to note that there is no provision for the back of the believer. All the armor is for the front! The only thing that we can surmise from this is that we, as the people (army) of God, are not to turn, tuck our tails and run from the attacks of the enemy. We are to continually and consistently take the battle to the enemy. We are to eternally advance the kingdom of God. We can’t do that if we’re in the retreat mode! So, here’s the deal; We are adequately covered with the whole armor of God. We must ‘put on’ Jesus! That’s how we overcome. That’s why we are called “more than conquerors” through Christ Jesus. Let’s claim our victory….now!

 

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