Monday, September 17, 2018

Troubled with Second-Guessing? Let His Peace Rule In Your Heart

Now, when I am faced with difficult decisions, how do I deal with it? Before, it was nothing but inaction and frustration. I just feared the worst all the time. I was so dependent on someone else telling me "good" or "bad" about any decision I made. Would I have to depend on someone else after the fact giving me the OK?

No! We don't have to settle for that. God guides us now by His peace in us!



"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (Colossians 3:15, NIV)

"Rule" speaks of a judge presiding over a case. If there is no peace about something, then don't do it. 

I didn't feel peace for a long time because I was constantly worried about God being unhappy with me doing something that He would or would not approve of.

Now that I know that His never-ending gift of righteousness assures His peace with me, and mine with Him, I can allow His peace to act as a guide, a judge, an umpire in every case, in every decision.

Let's remember that our starting point with God is peace:

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:" (Romans 5:1)

and

"For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;" (Ephesians 2:14)

Let's rest in the truth of God's gift of righteousness. We need never fear that God will be angry with us again. We should never have a sense of fear or foreboding towards God. His peace is our constant now.

We need never play second-guessing ever again! Let His peace rule in your heart!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Nothing Can Separate Me From God's Love

God loves me, and nothing can separate me from His love.

In contrast to this truth, Alcoholics Anonymous teaches that to be angry, to be upset cuts us off from the "sunlight of the spirit."

That is not true.

I am certain that I have written about this topic many times before, but I am interested, invested in writing about it again.

Paul writes to the Romans:

"35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

"36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

"37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)

Nothing can separate us from God's love at all.



Yet I used to think that I had to work as hard as I could to "feel" a certain way. I needed to get all the bad emotions out of my head, my mind, my anything in order to function in the world. This contortion brought me so much pain, so much frustration.

"What if I have that memory and I get mad all over again?" I would think. I was reflecting so much on myself, on my emotions. There was so much bondage that had overcome me on account of this. I felt that I had to go out of my way to tell someone how angry, how hurt I was about the different behaviors, the different pains, the different sentiments of outrage which I had gone through.

God, what a miserable life I led. I was so easily offended, that I just didn't want to interact with anyone anymore. The power ended up in other people's hands. People could say or do just about whatever they wanted, and no matter what happened, I could just get so easily upset, then I got upset about being upset ...

And what was the root of all this bondage?

That getting angry, hurt, confused, whatever was going to separate me from God, that it was going to bring into some kind of emotional bondage.

Yet I have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:6).

I start at the finish line, I start with being complete in Him (Colossians 2:15), and this peace no one can take away from me. I can even tell my loving Daddy God that people make me feel bad, sad, mad, glad, whatever.

He is still there loving me, and He invites me to gain a greater revelation of His love for me, too.

This is just awesome and has given me a greater release into this life!

Monday, September 10, 2018

God Tested Abraham, To Show How Faithful He Was!


1And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." (Genesis 22:1-2)

This translation right away sets up the problems for many English-speaking Christians and their understanding of this beautiful account in God's Word.

First, we see a beautiful type of God's love for us, in that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ for us (John 3:16).

While Abraham was ready to slay His Son--and God ultimately told him not to--God did not spare His own Son:

"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)

The first mention of "love" in the Bible appears in this verse, too.

This is about God's love for us.

Now, that word "tempt" in the King James Version is inaccurate. It should be "test", the same way that smith would test gold to demonstrate that it's pure. This test was to demonstrate to the world that Abraham was fully faithful, the father of faith, and that he would be the father of us all who live by faith:

"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all," (Romans 4:16)

For two decades, God delivered on His promises to Abraham, even when our father of faith failed time and again. What mattered to God was that Abraham continued to trust God's promises, as did Sarah, even when we find in the Old Testament that their faith wavered initially.

The point is that Abraham continued to see the LORD as one who would provide for him in every situation. When God promised to make Abraham rich, He did. When God promised to make Abraham victorious, he was able to defeat kings and their armies with a small band of 318 people. When Abraham needed water, God provided a number of wells, and his enemies sought him to make an alliance.

When Abraham sinned, God continued to favor him anyway, showing that it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4).

When God promised a son to him through is lawful wife, God came through.

Abraham had seen enough of God's goodness, that when God commanded Abraham to offer up his son Isaac, the son of promise, the son through whom all the nation's of the world would be blessed, Abraham did not hesitate one bit.

He trusted God completely. Consider what Isaac asked, and how his father responded:

"7And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together." (Genesis 22:7-8)



What did Abraham believe at this point?

The writer of Hebrews explains so beautifully:

"17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." (Hebrews 11:17-19)



Abraham believed the Lord (Genesis 15:6), and the fullness of his faith was revealed that day. Abraham knew that the LORD God would:

1. Provide a lamb in place of his son.
2. Resurrect his son if Abraham had to sacrifice him.

Abraham had seen God worked unspeakable miracles in his life, and in so many ways.

Abraham was dead as far as child-bearing is concerned. His wife Sarah was barren. There was no way in terms of the world's view that she could ever have children.

Yet she had given birth to a son, and in her old age.

Sarah would even laugh with her family:

"6And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. 7And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age." (Genesis 21: 6-7)

Abraham not only believed that God would bring His Son back to life, but Abraham new that God would follow through on the greater promise, that through his Son Isaac all the world would be blessed.

He would have many descendants, like the stars in the sky and the sands on the seashore. And that through Him, The Serpent-Slayer (Genesis 3:15), the Savior of all Mankind would come!

"15And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." (Genesis 22:15-18)



Today, we are all children of Abraham!

"And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29)

God did not tempt Abraham to sin. God did not test Abraham to see if he would measure up or pass this test.

God tried Abraham to prove to the world that he was indeed faith, and the Father of faith for us all!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

God is Good, God is Merciful--Therefore, Praise Him!


"O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever." (Psalm 118:1)

Many people think that they have to praise God in order for Him to do things in our lives.

The truth is that God is Good, that God is Merciful.

Consider that God sent His Son Jesus into the world for us (John 3:16).

In fact, Psalm 118 refers to God as our Salvation!

"14The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation." (Psalm 118:14)

He loved us before we even knew about Him or even cared:

"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)



We were still sinners. It's not just that we sinned, but we were defined by our sin.

"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalm 51:5)

and also

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12)

Yet in spite of all that, God so loved us, that He sent His Son not just to die for us, but to become our life (Colossians 3:4) and our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Consider what John writes in his First Epistle:

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." (1 John 4:11)

and then

"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19, NIV)

God is not just good, but He is good to us!

Notice in the next verses of Psalm 118 the different groups, the different people who are called upon to praise the Lord:

"Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.

"Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever." (Psalm 118: 2-3)

First the entire nation, and then the priesthood, and then the Psalmist speaks for everyone who fears (believes on) God, and then He speaks for Himself:

"Let them now that fear the LORD say, that his mercy endureth for ever.

"I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place." (Psalm 118: 4-5)

Again, God is good to us, and for that He elicits our praise.

Beloved, don't think that you have to flatter God to do something good in your life. He is our Life, and He is committed to blessing us in every way that He can!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

It's All About the GIFT of Righteousness

Last month, early in the month, I was facing so many challenges.

I needed a new car, and I needed a steady income.

I was so frustrated. I was struggling with bills, debts, demands.

One night, I got so angry. I shouted at God: "What good is having my sins forgiven if  I can't pay the rent?!"

When I had shouted like that, I paused.

I did not esteem the sacrifice. When Jesus died on the Cross, He took away all my sins, and all the sins of the world. He paid the ultimate price so that none of us will ever have to. The guilt and shame of sin is great. There is no escaping it through our efforts. Our hearts cannot rest with any kind of security as long as we continue to feel guilty about the sinful things which we have said and done.

Sunday evening, the second week of July, I was meditating on the gift of righteousness which I have received, and which I am called to keep receiving (Romans 5:17). A great joy flooded my heart.



No matter how bad things may seem around me, I can rest assured that I have been made the righteousness  of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). No matter what the economic circumstances may have been, no matter if I had face similar setbacks, I had neither right nor reason to condemn myself.

In fact, that is precisely what had happened. I had started condemning myself. "How is it possible that I have ended up in this situation again? I have to do this. I must face that. I have to take these steps again to get by, etc. I thought I was going to be past this!"

Then I recall what Paul had shared with the Philippians:

"I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." (Philippians 4:12)

It takes time. We don't get used to hardship and easy-ships all the time and overnight. The struggles we overcame in the past we may face again, because Jesus wants us to see something new about Him! Paul learned how to handle all these setbacks. We learn to trust in Jesus and recognize that He is supplying all our needs according to His riches, and not out of them (Philippians 4:19).

The gift of righteousness is the foundation for all blessings.

Jesus wasn't mincing words are just idly speaking in His Sermon on the Mount:

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)

That Sunday night, after I finished church, I met with a friend. He had a job. He had a car. He had enough resources, and yet he was complaining.

For me, I rested in the truth that God has made me righteousness, and that no matter what may be happening around me, that this gift was the most important to receive ... and keep receiving.

The next day, I had a new job and I got a car. God met all of my needs!

But the most important thing was to rest in His peace. That's what mattered. I needed to esteem and recognize more deeply how great is His gift of righteousness, that through Jesus I am justified from all things! (Acts 13:38)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

How to Follow God Fully: Believe on Him and His Promises

"And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying, 35Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, 36Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the LORD." (Deuteronomy 1: 34-36)



Many Christians wonder what it takes to follow God fully.

It's not about what we do.

It's about believing on Him and receiving His promises.

Consider Caleb.

How did this man of God follow Him fully?

He believed God that He had given the Israelites the Promised Land:

"And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." (Numbers 13:30)

And then

"6And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: 7And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not." (Numbers 14: 6-9)

Notice that Caleb pointed out how the Lord delighted in them. God was not angry with the Israelites, His chosen people. He did not hate them.

He wanted them receive this wonderful Promised Land, and had laid out this guarantee early on.

God had said to Moses:

"And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey." (Exodus 3:17)

Caleb believed that God not only had given them the land, but that He would make them victorious over their enemies.

God recognized Caleb's faith:

"23Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: 24But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it." (Numbers 14: 23-24)

He had "another spirit", a spirit of faith which took God at His Word!

"8Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God. 9And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children's for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the LORD my God. 10And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old." (Joshua 14: 8-10)

Do you want to be recognized by God as someone who follows Him wholly?

Believe Him! Believe on Him and take Him at His Word when it comes to His promises:

"6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Unity in Christ Jesus Dispels Disunity

I work with a number of activist groups in Southern California.

Infighting seems like an ongoing constant in many of these groups. Little conflicts emerge, hurt feelings happen, and there are so many misunderstandings.

Yet for all of the things that happen, all the disagreements, I have remained at peace.

For one, I tell individuals that they need to take up their issues with those whom they are in conflict.

I draw this wisdom from Jesus:

"15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 18: 15-18)



Notice how Jesus instructs us to talk to the person who has hurt us alone.

Most people won't do that. They air their grievances publicly and shame people on social media so that everyone is in on the fight.

Many times I tell friends of mine to take their conflicts up with others. It's not good for them to run to me when they have an issue with someone else, and they haven't even bothered to say anything to first person in the first place!

What helps people to unite and stay united?

Not a focus on issues or even a project, since the process can get in the way of the goals.

Unity works out best in an individual, in the proper leader who can inspire and unite disparate cohorts and factions within a movement.

For me, my leader,my identity is found in Christ Jesus!

In Him, we leave off the disunity, the bickering, the fighting, the conflicts, and we are restored to a peaceful directed wholeness.

Check out Paul's exhortation to the Ephesians:

"1I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:1-6)



Unity is in One Body, One Lord, One Baptism.

We are called to a Person, not to principles, not to ideas.

In Jesus, we find our rest and our relationship with everything else.

In Him, we find unity of heart as well as mind.

Consider Jesus warm consolation and promise to His disciples before His death on the Cross:

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me." (John 14:1)



Jesus used the plural "your", but mentioned one heart. Jesus gives us rest and He brings unity when we believe on Him.

Consider what Cleopas and his wife shared after the broke bread with Jesus, who had expounded to them everything concerning Himself in the Scriptures:

"And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24: 32)

The couple spoke of one heart. Jesus brought them together!

This is how I have stayed out of the never-ending personal conflicts.

Jesus is my rest and my peace. I am called to a Person, Him who has been from the beginning (1 John 2:12)

When we see Him is our Leader, our Father--our Savior--much of the fleshly rancor falls away, and even when some people trespass against us, we do not fear to speak out against it, nor do we fear losing a person because they hold something dear to us that we cannot do without.

"For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9)