Invite Him In

Another long day of hard work is in the books. You did something that you can feel good about today, but as you begin to relax you feel as though something is missing. You are struck with the realization that among the hustle and bustle of life’s routine circumstances, you have been cut off from the presence of God, your mind rarely aware of His constant beckoning. You miss Him.

How does this happen? You have a wonderful time of prayer in the morning before beginning your day. You worship, repent, and cast your cares on the Lord. But somewhere between morning prayer and evening time the presence of God is forgotten for the present circumstances.

Sound familiar?

It is something I find myself resisting everyday. I don’t want to come to the end of a day, whether it was a good day or a bad day, and realize that I have been so busy that I was completely disconnected from Him. How do I avoid that?

I want to invite Him in to every situation, every interaction. I want to turn every problem into a prayer and every opportunity into a prayer. Regardless of how big or small the problem or the opportunity may seem to me, I want Jesus to be a part of it.

Be aware of His presence today. Invite Him in.

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Markings

What mark will your life leave?

Every life makes a mark on the lives of others. Some lives mark many other lives, some lives mark few. What is even more important than the number of lives marked by yours is the type of mark you leave. Some people mark others with their own personal mark, leaving an impression that lasts a lifetime and seldom much more. Some people mark others with the mark of Christ, hiding behind the cross as the love of Jesus shines through them. They are often forgotten in death and even overlooked in life, but the mark that they leave last for an eternity.

What mark will you make on others? Your mark or His?

He must increase, but I must decrease.

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Becoming A Slave

During my first trip to Ghana, West Africa in the summer of 2007, I had the opportunity to visit Elmina Castle. It was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea, so is the oldest European building in existence below the Sahara. First established as a trade settlement, the castle later became one of the most important stops on the route of the Atlantic slave trade. Slaves were held captive in the castle before exiting through the castle’s infamous “Door of No Return” to be transported and resold in newly colonized Brazil and other Portuguese colonies.

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During the tour of the castle, our tour guide mentioned in passing the three ways a person became a slave:

  1. Crimes committed
  2. Debt that could not be paid
  3. Born into it

We fit all three conditions of slavery to sin.

  1. We have committed crimes. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
  2. We all have a debt that we cannot pay. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
  3. We were all born into sin. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).

We are all slaves to sin and unrighteousness. But this was not God’s plan for us. He desires for us to enjoy the pleasure of freedom. He will set us free by taking us captive in His mercy.

We have committed crimes. But He cleared our record.

“Blotting out the handwriting of the ordinances that was against us… and took it our of the way, nailing it to His cross” (Col. 2:14).

We all have a debt that we cannot pay. But He paid it for us.

“Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

We were all born into sin. But we can be born again.

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Once I was “free” in shackles of sin:
Free to be tempted, bound to give in;
Free to be captive to any desire;
Free to eternally burn in hell fire.
But Jesus bought me, now I’m a “slave,”
Bound by commands, free to obey;
Captive by beauty, free to adore,
Sentenced to sit at His feet evermore!
-Unknown 

Powers of Attorney

Over the last few weeks I have endured the arduous process of sifting through important documents as I prepared to file my taxes. Somewhere in the stack, about halfway down, was a folder containing the power of attorney documents which had been filed prior to my 2011 missions trip to Ghana.

A power of attorney (POA) or letter of attorney is a written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter. -Wikipedia

Due to the length of my stay in Ghana, I thought that it would be wise to give my father access to my personal bank accounts and check signing authority should a need arise during my absence. By establishing a POA, I could give him full access to all of my resources, meager though they may be. At any time he could legally write a check or withdraw money from my accounts, just as if he was me. I gave him the power of my name.

The Gospel of John is our spiritual POA document.

  • “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do [it]” (John 14:13-14).
  • “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16).
  • “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give [it] you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24).

He has given us the power of His name. We are agents of all of His resources. Whatever we ask in His name, if we ask according to His will and not according to our own desires (James 4:3), He will do it.

Peter proclaimed his right to act as an agent of Christ’s resources when he was brought before the high priest, rulers, elders and scribes in Acts 4. They wanted to know how the lame man at the gate Beautiful had been healed. “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this” (Acts 4:7)? Peter made his answer very clear.

“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole…Neither is that salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:10,12).

The Life of Love

Studies in First Corinthians – XXI

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

This chapter, the love chapter, is the greatest thing ever written on the subject. Short though it may be, we see here the definition and power of pure love. The words paint a picture of Jesus Christ and His very nature. We are looking at the original Love. He is looking back to us, calling for us to be a reproduction of His love in this world.

To love like this is to be like the Lord, and our unlikeness to Christ is proportionate to our failure to love.

Sin has robbed us of all likeness to God’s love nature, but here we have an outline of what the grace of God and the power of the Holy Ghost can do in our lives. There are fourteen “ingredients of love” in these four verses. In each one we see the life of Jesus Christ.

1. Love suffers long. Having been wronged, love is patient. It refuses to give in to anger even when unjustly treated. Love doesn’t strike back.

2. Love is kind. Enduring wrong could be a victory of discipline but to show kindness to the one who has wronged you requires love. Love not only takes the hurt, but shows grace and kindness to those responsible.

3. Love envies not. It doesn’t mind that others have greater privileges and gifts. It rejoices in the blessings of others. Love sees all the inequalities in life and finds content in its own place.

4. Love vaunteth not itself. “Love makes no parade” (Moffatt). It doesn’t show off or brag. It isn’t proud or conceited. It doesn’t seek the praise and applause of others. Instead, it seeks to serve.

5. Love is not puffed up. It is never arrogant. It doesn’t think too highly of self. Love excels in humility.

6. Love does not behave itself unseemly. It is not rude, but always courteous. It says and does the right thing in the right way at the right time.

7. Love seeks not her own. Love is not selfish, it is self-forgetful. It never grasps for its own rights.

8. Love is not easily provoked. It doesn’t have a temper. Love can be angry at sin, but it isn’t irritable. It is not vindictive and it never retaliates.

9. Love thinks no evil. It keeps a faithful record of kindness and forgets all wrong.

10. Love rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. “Love is never glad when others go wrong” (Moffatt). It does not rejoice in exposing the weakness and sin of others. It sorrows when others fail and celebrates when they repent.

11. Love bears all things. It gets underneath the burdens of life and lifts. It always seeks to the load of others.

12. Love believes all things. It is not easily deceived and it is not blind, but it also is not suspicious. It always seeks to find the best in others.

13. Love hopes all things. Though disappointments come, love holds on to hope. It never gives up on or dismisses anybody.

14. Love endures all things. Love cannot be conquered. It holds its ground in the midst of defeat and still it endures.

As I mentioned before, this type of love has only been perfected in Jesus Christ. If you would learn to live like this, it will only be by the power of His indwelling Spirit. Allow His perfect love to work a perfect work in you.

Love Is

Studies in First Corinthians – XIX

1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:1-3

I imagine love lights up the face of Paul as he dictates the next words of his letter. For twelve chapters he has dealt with issues concerning the low spiritual state and disunity of the Corinthian church. As he said in the beginning, they “came behind in no gift” (1:7), but they were tragically lacking in love. It must have been the climax for him to finally give the answer to every problem they faced: the love of God.

Love remains the answer for us today. In fact, Paul tells us quite plainly in these verses that if we have no love, we have nothing; but if we have love and lack much else, we have what matters most.

The word that Paul uses for “love” (translated “charity” in the KJV) is agape. It means an actual absorption of every part of our being in one great passion. It is used most often in relation to God: “God so loved [agapao] the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). This word has little to do with emotion; it indicates love which deliberately, by an act of will, chooses its object, and through thick or thin, regardless of the attractiveness of the object concerned, goes on loving continually, unconditionally, eternally.

It suggests complete self-denial. Loving in this manner means never thinking of self over the object of love. There is only One who has ever lived up to its definition.

It is the only word used to describe God without any qualification or explanation: God is agape. No explanation needed.

Whatever love is, Jesus is. Jesus suffers long and is kind. Jesus envies not; Jesus vaunts not Himself, is not puffed up, does not behave Himself unseemly. Jesus seeks not His own, it not easily provoked, takes no account of evil, rejoices not in unrighteousness, but rejoices with truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus never fails.

Love is the one thing that is completely indestructible. It is the most powerful force in the universe. While everything else fades, love lasts. It is not dependent on anything outside of itself. It is not affected by the worth or worthiness of its object.

God is love. Love is. That is the greatest truth you could ever know. To know Him is to love Him.

Sacrifice and Discipline

Studies in First Corinthians – XIV

In chapter nine, Paul writes about his policy on financial support to teach on discipline and sacrifice, illustrating a mature use of Christian liberty. Paul had every right to accept pay for his labors, but he set aside his rights to reach a higher goal. He waved his rights so that the Gospel wouldn’t be clouded by greed. He was giving up the good for the best; sacrificing the immediate for the eternal.

The sort of discipline of the body and sacrifice of personal rights Paul speaks of throughout this chapter are only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is also evidence to the Christian and to the unbeliever alike of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life.

Paul vindicates his apostleship by pointing out things that were absolutely legitimate rights, but to which he had said “no” for the Lord’s sake. Within the scope of that test, what counts is not my success, my connections, my blessings, or my skill, but that my heart and life bear the marks of the cross and sacrifice. It will cost you something to follow Jesus.

Paul also speaks of the disciplining of the body. “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others I should myself be a castaway” (9:26-27).

I like the way J.B. Phillips paraphrases it in his Letters to Young Churches, “I am no shadow-boxer, I really fight! I am my body’s sternest master, for fear that when I have preached to others I should myself be disqualified.”

While we are saved by grace through faith, we also know that faith without works is dead. True faith gets into our hands, our feet, our tongue, our heart, and our mind. Simply put, faith is expressed in the physical. If faith in Jesus Christ does not begin to make the whole body move in the will of God, there is no evidence of faith at all. Saving faith disciplines the flesh by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God.

Let us all examine our lives for the marks of sacrifice and discipline. Have we left behind certain things to which we are entitled for the sake of the Kingdom? Are we triumphing in our daily walk, not allowing the flesh and its appetites to dominate our life?

Remember, even the Apostle Paul could not do these things if it had not been for the power of the Holy Ghost. Jesus is the only one who could live such a life, and He did. He renounced His rights and brought His body under subjection even unto His death. When we are filled with His Spirit, these same characteristics will begin to work themselves out in us!

Direction Determines Destiny

Studies in First Corinthians – II

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

We have in this verse two contrasting positions: those who perish and those who are saved. Both of these positions suggest movement in a particular direction. The living are either “perishing” or “being saved.” Salvation in particular is considered from at least three different points of view in the New Testament.

Sometimes it is spoken of as happening in the past, “according to his mercy he SAVED us” (Titus 3:5). This is justification.

Sometimes it is spoken of in the present, “Ye are saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The Greek participle in this scripture is in the present tense and denotes “being saved.” The is sanctification.

Sometimes it is spoken of in the future, “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11). This is glorification.

Each on of us is either perishing or being saved. Either we are being delivered from the disease of sin and self or we are becoming more sinful and selfish. What is the direction of your character? Is there progress in the Lord or regress into sin? Do you have an increased hunger for the things of God or are you feeding the appetites of your flesh?

What determines the direction you go? It is “the preaching of the cross” (1:18). This does not just mean preaching itself, although that is part of it. The word for “preaching” is the Greek word logos, the same word that we find in the first chapter of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God… And the Word (logos) was made flesh…” (John 1:1,14). It is the WORD of the cross that determines your direction.

Need directions? Follow Jesus!

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Be Present With Him

How many times have I been guilty of leaving worship thinking or saying, “I didn’t really get anything out of that today.” Maybe the music wasn’t my style, I had other things on my mind, or I just never felt anything. Regardless of what the reason may be, I leave feeling like the music didn’t move me and the lyrics didn’t touch me.

Wait a second… it wasn’t for me.

Worship is about Him. It isn’t about me. The whole point of worship is to exalt the name of Jesus, not that I would feel blessed. So often we engage in worship and praise that is motivated by personal gain; we are focused on self when we should be focused on Him.

Now here is the good news. When we are truly focuses on Him in praise, He always shows up. His Word promises that He will inhabit the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). In other words, He was saying, “If you will be present in the moment with me, I will be present with you.” When we make worship about Him, He makes His presence about us.

Furthermore, Jesus clearly declared Himself the ‘I AM’ of the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58). He did not say that He was the ‘I WAS’ or the ‘I WILL BE.’ He used the present tense because He always works in the present. The enemy would have us become so focused on the past or on the future that we do not allow the LORD to work His will in us in the here and now.

If you find yourself in need of help from the LORD today, just know that He is a very present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). As you worship Him, know that He is there, and He is already working on your behalf.

Outlast the Stars

All Christians and all churches are engaged in one of three activities: guarding the dead past, creating fleshly trifles that will perish, or working in cooperation with the Holy Spirit in the constant creation of eternal treasure that will outlast stars. – Tozer

This quote has been on my mind and in my spirit for a while. It has caused me to take an honest look at my life direction. It is an irritant that is buried deep down in my soul and I am hoping it produces a pearl.

Photo by Adam Foster

Which activity are we engaged in?

Are we content with guarding a dead past? I am thankful for every blessing, every miracle, and every soul saved. I thank God for every great revival that has swept through this world but I am not satisfied with staying here. I’m not satisfied with guarding the gift that God gave us as if someone could come and take it away. He didn’t give us the gift to guard it, He gave us the gift so that we could share it. We must move forward from here.

However, we must be careful that we don’t fall into the second group; a group that is especially prevalent today. The plans that God has for us, the work He has called us to do, the revival that He wants to send, cannot be sustained by our own talent and creativity. Yes, God gave us the talent. Yes, God gave us the creativity. But these gifts can only be maximized when used under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We cannot go forward without His leading.

I’m not interested in staying where we are and I’m not interested in moving forward on our own. I’m listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Where He leads me, I will follow. It is my prayer that as I go, His will is accomplished and His Kingdom is advanced through me.

I’m going to be a part of something that outlasts the stars because I am going with Him.