Tuesday, January 16, 2018

AS YOU IDENTIFY CHRIST, CHRIST WILL IDENTIFY YOU!


There are so many self-help books and programs out there that the amount will make your head spin. If you are looking to improve your life and identity, why would you not take your leading from Christ Jesus?

For the tight circle of followers of Jesus who had been witnessing His power and sharing His life, the time finally came to ask them the all-important questions. 

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?'

They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'

'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?'

Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.' " (Matthew 16:13-16)

Proximity to Christ is paramount to knowing who Jesus is and the power He has for our lives. Other people had to speculate about who the Son of Man is (John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah), but those close to Jesus, especially Peter, would speak up under the revelation from Father God and declare just who Jesus of Nazareth was and is.

Proximity to Christ is vital in discovering and operating in your Identity in Jesus also. The closer you are with Christ - following His ways, engaging with Him daily, screening everything through the Holy Spirit and seeking Him first - the clearer your direction will be about all things, especially who you are in Christ.

When we allow the revelations of God in our lives to manifest as declarations of who God is, then God proclaims our Identity in Him! Continuing on with this event, look what happened to Simon.

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:17-20)

Jesus calls Simon "blessed" because the revelation came by Father God and not by anybody else. Simon also got a name change - He is now Peter! But wait, there's more! Jesus promises a solid foundation to build the church, power to create change in the world even to the overthrow of Hades Gates and the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And after declaring and promising all that, He did not deny the original declaration of being "The Messiah, the Son of the Living God", but in fact "ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah."

As Christians, we declare who God is, especially at certain points in our lives when we can spiritually see clearly. However, do we allow God to shout who we are in Him and operate in that Identity? All Christians are missionaries, worshipers, prayer warriors and the list goes on and on. But some of us are More Of A (fill in the blank here)  - a teacher, evangelist, usher, singer, instrumentalist, deacon, greeter, kids ministry, etc... type of person. This is what many deem a Calling or Personal Ministry. If you do not know your Identity in Christ, if you do not know what your More Of is, then I encourage you to (1) draw closer to The Lord like never before and (2) start declaring who He has been and is in your life. Because, As You Identify Christ, Christ Will Identify You!

Monday, January 15, 2018

THE SPIRIT OF APPLICATION

I have been told that this blog and many of my posts have been very encouraging, good and just what needed to be read at the time. I praise God for directing my thoughts and fingers to make such an impact. However, all of us could give the best instruction and words of encouragement to each other until we are blue in the face and many outcomes would still be in dire need of help. What we need more of and help with is application.

For example, we all have heard and read teachings/sermons on how "there is no law against - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23). But, how do we get ourselves, seasoned Christians and the next generation of believers to APPLY these Christian principles and more to their lives? 

I believe the answer to this question is three-fold:

  1. Teach a Biblical example of what needs to be applied. Plus, showcase an individual in the church, to the Glory of God, that is a real life example applying this Christian aspect to their life.
  2. Equip the Saints to do likewise. Show the ways to be kind. Tell them of events where they can display love. Do some role-playing. Place tools in their hands that helps them be more effective for the Kingdom.
  3. Have an accountability system. Require either a buddy system of reporting back or a community system of witnessing to the real life journey of a Christian and how it is being improved.

Jesus said many marvelous things but He kept telling those around Him, albeit in coded phrases, that He must die and in three days be raised back to life for the redemption of everything - humanity and creation. He held true to His word. "Put your money where your mouth is." is a gambling phrase that places a dollar amount on the truth of your word. Jesus did not gamble with His words. He supported His words with His actions one hundred percent. We should do the same.

A good place to start is within the church. Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35). Said another way - Everyone that is not yet a disciple of Christ will know that you are my disciple by them seeing your consistant display of love and care for each other within the body of believers. (Pritchard Paraphrase) In the Christian's journey to solidify his/her Identity in Christ, Paul agrees with John about, at least, our Starting Block - Paul said, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Galatians 6:10) However, these are all words and good intentions until we all, with help from The Lord, receive The Spirit of Application!

Friday, January 12, 2018

THERE IS NO MORE ENTITLEMENT


I went to go get a shower this morning and as I stepped into the tub the shower curtain fell down. I said out loud, "Really, I don't need this. What is this about?" Be careful what you ask about.

Instantly I received an image from the Lord of the split Jewish Temple Curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Then the Holy Spirit started downloading a message to me. 

The Holy Spirit said, "That shower curtain falling was analogous to the Jewish Temple Curtain in the Holy of Holies being split from top to bottom when Christ gave up His life for ALL." While it is not a perfect one-for-one analogy -- not everybody now has access to me while I am showering, THANK GOD -- everybody does have access to Father God through faith in Christ's sacrifice and resurrection since then.

The message is to not take for granted, but to take advantage of direct access to God's Throne, His Immediate and Glorious Presence. We do not require a human priest to confess our mistakes for our forgiveness. That priest did NOT die for our sins and rise again on the third day. The only Mediator between God and man is Christ Jesus, The Lord (1 Timothy 2:5). 

During a long stint of time there was only the Jewish people as God's People. The Hebrews were God's nation on earth, whether planted or traveling. In addition, these people were made up of tribes which had among their ranks a Priestly Tribe - the Tribe of Levi. So, even among Israel, a called-out-people, you had Priests, called-out-people - who took care of everything concerning God's Tabernacle or Presence on earth. In this duty or calling they had entitlement.

The Priests of God were the only ones who were authorized to touch and care for the articles of The Tabernacle and later The Temple. The High Priests were the only ones who could enter the Holy of Holies once a year to offer a sacrifice for the nation's faults against God. 

However, once Jesus came and died on The Cross as the sacrificial Lamb and our High Priest rolled into one - His blood and resurrection atoned for not only the nation of Israel forever, but for whosoever would believe in Him for eternity. God made the rules - blood sacrifice for sin - and He played by His own rules by sending His own Word in flesh, Jesus Christ to secure our eternity. 

That ripping of the curtain put an Exclamation Point on what Christ accomplished on The Cross. It began the manifestation of the many other names Christ Jesus is described as - The Door, The Gate, The Way, and Our High Priest. My faith celebrates today and every day that There Is No More Entitlement. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

THE KEY IS TO DESIRE THIS LIFESTYLE

If you have a desire for something, you will pursue it with a great amount of energy. Sometimes the desire can even become an addiction. What better addiction is there than Christ Jesus and the lifestyle He teaches. But first, you have to want Him and the lifestyle. 

My Worship Pastor, Kerry Crespo, wrote about a great truth on a post on our church blog recently that spoke to the Christian's identity as a worshiper. He encouraged Christians to have their life on display for Christ, 24/7/365, not just "for the holy moments…the spiritual parts of our lives such as church attendance, devotions, small groups and when we’re listening to worship music." (K. Crespo, same post)

He said, 

"If worship is to become a lifestyle, it needs to be automated—second nature and not just a New Year’s resolution. You shouldn’t wake up in the morning and have to decide whether you’ll read your Bible or not. It needs to be an automatic action. You shouldn’t have to decide whether you’ll love or serve Jesus today. It should be automatic."

I wholeheartedly agree with this mindset. And it is a Wholehearted Lifestyle that is before each believer to accept or reject, nothing less. Jesus said to the rich man in Luke 18:22“You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” This man was not ready for wholeheartedness. He could not release the one thing he identified with - money. Can you hear Jesus encouraging you in this manner? Can you hear Him calling you by name, telling you of lack in your life, stating the remedy, then challenging you to follow Him? Radical sellout proposition. Wholeheartedness.

However, being a Christian requires you to identify with Christ-like characteristics AND calls for others to distinguish Christ in you. The important questions are - Do you want that lifestyle? How long do you want that lifestyle? Some do not take the word "lifestyle" to mean - permanence. Many regard the word as temporary.

As Pastor Crespo stated, when you become a believer in Christ, from that point forward you should desire to represent Christ first in all that you do, say and think - all the time - "It should be automatic.". But, I know that sometimes we will not be in the right frame of mind, nor speaking the way we should, nor thinking proper thoughts. However, God gives us Grace to do the best we can in marrying ourselves with things like - His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These are but a handful of characteristics that the Christian's lifestyle should be Identified as containing and others hopefully see in us. Yes, we are a work in progress. We might not have all of these Fruits of the Spirit accounted for in our lives, but as Christians we should want to pursue these as at least a starter for a lifestyle identified with Christ. We should be identified as a fruitful tree, planted beside a River of Living Water, but The Key Is To Desire This Lifestyle.

Monday, January 8, 2018

FLAMMABLE OR FIREPROOF?


Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke has written a book entitled - Holy Spirit: Are We Flammable Or Fireproof? What an awesome introspective question that has profound influence in our private and public lives daily as believers in Christ.

I have not read Mr. Bonnke's book, but this idea is not to difficult to follow through. Let us study the later word first - Fireproof. The second side of the equation that Mr. Bonnke proposes is sad and not just lukewarmness, but flat out being Holy Spirit Fireproof. We could ask ourselves - are we utterly desensitized to God's voice in our lives, in our church or in our country? Would we even recognize Him if He gave us additional chances to rekindle the passion for, by and with Him? This is what it means to be Fireproof - to be at the point in your life where you are numb to God for whatever reason. We could have kicked God out of our lives and placed a wall around our spiritual mind and heart. We could have replaced God with something else that receives all our fire. Whatever the reason, do we consider our selves Holy Spirit Fireproof?

Now, take the first word - "flammable" by the Holy Spirit - Are we on fire FOR the Holy Spirit and BY the Holy Spirit consistently so that His Bonfire in us draws others to His warmth and light/truth? 

Notice I used the Bonfire analogy. The Fruits of His Spirit need to be so evident in us that they are as clear and useful as like standing in front of a Bonfire for its warmth and light. I think many of us have kept the Candle mentality to our Christian light and warmth. Instead of the Bonfire picture of faith mentioned above there is  the image of a flame that is small and easily obscured with little warmth to show to others. I do not mean to convey everybody must be extroverts or bubbly outgoing people, but only that God's Presence and His Character are FLAMMINGLY EVIDENT in our lives.

GOD has given, blessed and "seated us with Him in heavenly places" (Eph. 2:6-7) for His Glory. We have been granted not just life, but "abundant life" to live out with Him (John 10:10) and to share with others. If you do let your light shine, take out the word "little" in the song that we sing and replace it with "Big Ole Light" ("This Little Light Of Mine"). So, where are you in your combustibility for, by and with The Holy Spirit - Are you Holy Spirit Flammable Or Fireproof?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

CONSIDER THE WHOLE RACE


Any race, especially the year-to-year race of life, should consider the entirety. I speak of the goal-oriented planning that comes from making appropriate New Year resolutions. 

Many goal-focused people have no problem in setting new resolutions every turn of the new year. However, others have a more challenging time keeping them if they even make them at all. We all know where we fall in the spectrum of goal-detailed individuals to spontaneous living people. However, this is what Scripture seems to contribute - 

First, pause and consider a plan of action for your life and its consequences for the upcoming year.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." (Luke 14:28-33)

Second, there is a cute, little, encouraging tune in the movie "Finding Nemo" that Dory sings, it goes, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming." This sentiment aligns itself Biblically with how we are to continue our pursuit of goals throughout the year. Paul says in his first letter to the believers in Corinth -

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." (1 Corinthians 9:24)

This is a message of endurance. As you may have heard - life is not a sprint, it is a marathon or should be a marathon with focus on the prize. Mr. Rick Renner adds, "Success doesn't come without sustained commitment. If you are going to do better this year than you did last year, you must make a decision that by God's grace, you're going to maintain your commitment until you reach the finish line..." (p. 7, Sparkling Gems From the Greek 2)

Thirdly, your pursuits, passion, and perseverance must consume your best effort, anything less will place you in danger of losing your goals set at the beginning of the year. Like a runner in the last few yards or feet giving the rest of their attempt to win the race by increasing their speed and thrusting their chest forward at the tape - so we must leave it all on the line. Paul supports this when he wrote to the believers in Philippi - 

"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13)

You see for the good of yourself and others, running the race to just finish a race for finishing sake cannot be called a productive year. You will not benefit the same if you were to pick-up the race at the half-way mark of the year and finish either. Also, starting off strong and then fizzling out at the mid-way point or sooner would not be to your advantage. Lean on Christ and His understanding of what your goal(s) and focus should be this and every year. Know that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13) and before you leap off the starting blocks into your new year of opportunities - Consider The Whole Race.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

THE TRUE ALPHA AND LEADER OF THE PACK


Do you recall the phrase - "Be careful what wolf you feed."? Well, that is the phrase that came to me to start the New Year. The catch is wolves travel in packs. There are not just two wolves to be careful about. So it is in life.

One wolf could represent Christ Jesus. This is the wolf you want to find yourself feeding all the time. The other members of the wolf-pack are known as ourselves, the devil and the world. Again, if you treat the True Alpha with the respect due Him daily, Jesus Christ, then He will manage The Pack.

There is no escaping being part of this Pack. The Holy Spirit is everywhere. The devil is going after everyone. The world is a fallen system that we are doomed to continually attempt to repair. And humanity is stained with the tendency from birth to do their own will all the time. 

However, Father God supplied The Answer and continues to supply Him today. Mind you there is a devil that desires to kill, steal and/or destroy your soul, BUT GOD provided His Son Jesus as a substitute for a perfect life that we could not live. He also provided the power over death and the grave we could not accomplish. All this was done through The Cross and the empty tomb.

Mind you, there is a world that has a plethora of traps ready to ensnare you at a moments notice. The world could almost be looked at as a wolf-pack unto itself. BUT GOD said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Mind you, from birth, humanity is damned to be a selfish being. BUT GOD annihilated this tendency and the fallen relationship between us and Him by the shedding of His Son's blood even to His death upon The Cross. "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (1 Peter 1:17-19)

Scripture says about the devil's agenda - "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8) Not exactly a wolf (lion), but still razor sharp teeth and a passion to see you devoured. Will you choose to feed this wolf and his den? Will you choose to feed your own or humanity's appetite for life? Will you accommodate the world's insatiable desires for more from your life? Or will you decide to nourish your life with Father God and His Son, Christ Jesus - The True Alpha And Leader Of The Pack?