Posted in 2Corinthians, Hebrews, John

Honoring the Son 

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:22-24

Honor means to give esteem, respect, and to place a high value on someone. Do you honor the Son? Does your life bring honor to His Name? To truly honor Jesus we must honor His position as our Judge, honor His word as the final authority in our lives, and honor His work as the only way to eternal life.

All judgment has been given to the Son. This means that at the end of our lives only One opinion of our thoughts, words, and deeds will matter, and that is the Son’s. Paul defines living in view of Christ’s judgment of our lives as the fear of the Lord: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord…” (2Corinthians 5:10-11) We honor Him by acknowledging His right to judge us.

In our text Jesus talks about the importance of hearing and believing His word. In fact, in John 12:48 He says that He won’t personally judge us but will only judge us by the word He has spoken. He has made His sayings known to the human race through the Bible. We cannot honor the Son without honoring His word.

The One who sent Jesus, the Father, sent Him to die on the cross so that those who believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) In fact, the reason the Father gave the Son the right to judge the human race was that He became a Son of man. (John 5:27) He is the only One worthy to open the scroll which brings the final day of the Lord because He was the Lamb who was slain. (Revelation 5:9) We honor His work on the cross when we put our trust in Christ for our salvation and trust Him for every need we have in this life. Because of His work, Hebrews 4:16 says we can come with confidence to a throne of grace whenever we have something we need help with. We aren’t bothering God when we ask, we’re actually honoring Christ’s work.

Posted in 1Corinthians, 2Corinthians, Psalms

Beholding the Glory of God

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2Corinthians 3:17-18

Whatever we behold we eventually become. If you behold, or “keep before your eyes,” your worries, you will become anxious. If you keep anger before your eyes, you will become bitter. If you keep pornography before your eyes, you will become lustful. But if you and I keep the glory of the Lord before us, we will be transformed from one level of glory to the next. It sounds easy but there are a few problems.

“As in a mirror” is a problem. The mirrors back then were made of brass and the image they gave was very dim. Paul says earlier in Corinthians, “we see in a mirror dimly.” (1Corinthians 13:12) Even though we have nothing between us and God (unveiled faces), in this current time we live more by faith than sight. Yet even now a glimpse of His glory will transform us. Are we willing to behold Him even if it isn’t always powerful or instantly rewarding? Are we willing to spend time in His Word and prayer seeking to behold Him even when it seems like He’s hiding Himself? Will we prioritize church over a thousand other things we could do on the weekend even though it’s kind of boring to us? The more we behold Him, the more others will be able to behold Him through us.

The other problem is the abundance of other things to look at. Hollywood and the internet are filled with images that you can easily behold without doing any work at all; excitement and entertainment at the click of a button. We were made to behold and our hearts will always behold something. Even as a Christian, the only way you and I will behold the Lord is if we make it our priority. The man after God’s own heart said, “One thing have I desired and that I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4) It isn’t enough to desire, we must act on that desire by actively seeking or something else will easily creep in.

Am I saying that it’s wrong to enjoy a movie, a game, or other legitimate pleasures? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that when we make beholding the Lord our first priority, everything else takes its proper place and won’t become an idol.

Posted in Isaiah, James, Philippians, Psalms

Willing and Obedient

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13

What God has worked in us, we now need to work out in our everyday lives. By grace He is in us to create both the desire and the ability to do His will. When we cooperate with His grace by being willing and obedient, grace flows freely in and through us. Isaiah 1:19 says, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.” I don’t know about you but I want God’s best. The key is to be willing and obedient.

Sometimes we are willing, but not obedient. We love God, we worship God, we say “yes” to God when someone’s preaching, but we don’t do what He says to do. We won’t forgive, we won’t throw the porn away, we won’t cut off the destructive relationship, we won’t give money He’s asked us to give, we won’t check our speech, we won’t lay down our judgments on others, etc. Being willing but not obedient leads to self deception which is why James said, “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:22) Worship must be more than a song or a prayer to touch God’s heart; it has to include costly obedience.

Others are obedient, but not willing. This person says, “I do the right things but have no joy or love in doing them any more.” If this applies, you need to return to your first love and ask God for a new grace to make you willing. Just going through the motions leaves you and I very vulnerable to sin and the schemes of the enemy. After David sinned horribly he prayed to God, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:12) Notice he didn’t just ask for forgiveness, but prayed for a change of attitude so that it wouldn’t happen again.

Check your life right now. Are you willing, or do you spend most of your time complaining to God? Are you obedient, or has your life become one compromise after another? God wants His very best for you. If something is off ask Him now to pour out more grace, so you can make it right.

Posted in 2Chronicles, Revelation

Pray For America

“If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2Chronicles 7:14

God tells us here that the future of our nation lies in the hands of His people. Sometimes as Christians we think that worldly people are the reason our nation is going down hill. We think God’s eyes are on the sins of the world and that He is planning judgment on America because of it.

The truth is that God’s eyes are on His church. Yes, if the church does nothing then America will receive the judgment of God because of all its sins. But what if the people who are called by God’s own name (Christians) humble themselves before God and repent on behalf of the church and the country? What if we sincerely ask Him for a revival in our country and welcome Him to start with us? Could God give, in this critical hour, undeserved mercy instead of deserved judgment and save this nation? Absolutely.

So let’s purpose to repent:

  1. For the pride in our hearts and the pride of the church that has said in its heart, “I need nothing.” (Revelation 3:17) Let’s humble ourselves and acknowledge our desperate need for God personally and corporately.
  2. For the prayerlessness that has come out of our pride. Let’s start praying more often and for longer times. Let’s ask Jesus like His disciples did, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
  3. For seeking God’s hand (what He can do for us) instead of His face (who He is and what ways bring Him pleasure). We’ve often wanted to use God for our ends instead of submitting to God for His ends. Dear Lord, forgive us.
  4. For our wicked ways. Everything that we do that God has already said is wrong in His word: immorality, lying, stealing, contentiousness, selfish ambition, slandering fellow human beings, etc. Ask for forgiveness for these things and then purpose to stop doing them.

Now as you pray for America, believe that He wants to hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land.

Posted in Genesis, Hebrews

Shake To Wake

“’Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe…” Hebrews 12:26-28

Have you ever been driving along and before you know it you realize that drowsiness is beginning to overtake you? Immediately you become awake and fear grips you because of the possible consequences of falling asleep at the wheel. Not only would you and anyone in your car be at risk, but also innocent people in other cars who hadn’t fallen asleep. When I know I’m a bit sleep deprived on a long trip I make sure that I’ve got caffeine and somebody to talk to who keeps me properly alert.

God is shaking America right now. We have gone our own way and done our own thing, yet He is calling out to us. I don’t believe He is shaking us to punish us as much as He is shaking us to wake us up. Some people feel like God would have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah if He didn’t send His wrath on America. I disagree. Scripture is clear that Sodom wasn’t destroyed because of how evil the worldly people were, but because God couldn’t find a remnant of His people to preserve it. As Abraham sought God’s face for mercy, the Lord promised him that if He could find a remnant of just ten, He would spare the whole city. (Genesis 18:32)

Well God has a huge remnant in America; people that love God, serve God, and seek God day in and day out. His heart is for this remnant to wake up from the spiritual sleeping pills this culture has given us through compromise and idolatry. As Hebrews says, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Posted in Acts, Haggai, Psalms

Embracing God’s Priorities

“Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries…I would feed you with the finest of the wheat; and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” Psalm 81:13-14,16

I believe God’s ways are His priorities. To walk in His ways is to change our priorities so that they line up with His. In the book of Haggai the Lord asks His people to examine the way they’re living their lives: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes. This is what the Lord Almighty says: Give careful thought to your ways.” (Haggai 1:5-7)

He tells them that He was the One controlling this to try to get their attention. They had put their houses, before His house; their plans, before His plan and were experiencing the discipline of the Lord. He was trying to get their attention, so that they would make the necessary changes to have His full blessing again.

I received a call at church from a lady who needed financial help. She described at length how the situation had occurred and why there was nowhere else to turn to for this emergency need. The church was in a position to help, so I told her what we would do and she was relieved. Before hanging up I asked her where she went to church, to which she replied, “no where.” I told her that I thought the financial gift was only a band-aid while the long term solution would require a rearranging of life so that she could respond to God, and not just to her needs. She said she agreed.

Maybe as you read this you wonder if God is trying to speak to you about your own life? Maybe you’ve been putting band-aids on your finances and relationships for so long that you’re getting weary of it? Maybe you’re tired, as Saul of Tarsus was, of “kicking against the goads?” (Acts 26:16) Maybe you’re ready for the radical solution of changing your priorities to line up with God’s?

The Jewish people were ready. They listened to Haggai and started putting God’s things first by working on the house of the Lord. After three months of this change in their lives the Lord declared: “From this day on I will bless you.” (Haggai 2:19) I think He’s waiting to bless you and me as well!

Posted in Galatians, John, Romans

The Orphan Spirit

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15-16

As I was preparing a sermon on the prodigal son returning home, I remembered a family in Minnesota who had adopted three siblings from Guatemala. The three came from an orphanage where there was never enough into a family where provision was abundant.

All three children had trouble grasping their new identity. They used to hide food and lie about it when confronted by their new parents. I couldn’t help wondering how long it took for them to be totally free of the orphan spirit, so I found a phone number and had an opportunity to chat with the mom. (She gave me permission to share their story.)

“How long,” I asked her, “did it take for the kids to stop hiding food?”

“Two years,” was her sober response. Think about it.  Adopted into a home, loved and favored by their new parents, abundance surrounding them, yet it took two years to actually believe that they didn’t have to be afraid of not having enough to eat.

“When do you think they were completely free of the orphan spirit?” was my second question.

There was a long pause. Finally she replied, “That spirit’s a bugger. Two of them have been able to find their identity in Christ, but I don’t know if any of them are completely free in all areas of their lives.”

Our heavenly Father has chosen to adopt us and to give us the full inheritance and privileges of the children of God. (Galatians 4:5-7) He has given us the best robe (the righteousness of Christ), put sandals on our feet (removing shame), put a ring on our finger (access to heaven’s resources), and has thrown a party for us (the Father’s joy in having us home).

Only eternity will reveal all this entails, but for now He wants each of us to know we don’t have to live in fear. We’re home, we’re accepted, there’s always going to be enough, and He will never abandon us!

Posted in Luke, Psalms

Seeing Jesus

“Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again. Herod said, ‘I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?’ And he kept trying to see Him.” Luke 9:7-9

Herod Antipas was a “somebody.” After his father died, he was made a tetrarch in Israel (tetrarch means one fourth) and given the region of Galilee to rule. Why couldn’t he see Jesus who was from his own region?

In the chapter before the text above, a woman with an issue of blood saw Him. While Herod was curious, she was desperate. She had no options left because she had spent her life savings on doctors and had only become worse. She told herself that if she could get to Jesus, she would be healed. She pressed through the crowds until she found Him and when she did, was immediately healed. It’s not the curious who see Jesus apparently, it’s the desperate.

Herod Anitpas wanted to see Jesus but he was a busy man, maybe there wasn’t ever a convenient time for the two of them to meet? Yet Jairus, a ruler in the synagogue, saw Him. His only daughter was at the point of death and he knew the only One on earth who could help was Jesus. All of a sudden, this official had only one thing on his schedule: seeing Jesus. Maybe that’s why he found Him and Herod didn’t? Maybe Jesus can’t be seen unless He’s our top priority?

When Herod finally does see Jesus, he puts him on trial and asks for a miracle to be done in front of him. (Luke 23:8) Jesus came to serve mankind, not perform for us. Human pride puts God on trial and demands Him to prove Himself so we will believe, but Jesus didn’t submit to Herod’s request. In fact, He wouldn’t speak to him at all. (Luke 23:9) “The proud He knows from afar, but He is close to the humble of heart.” (Psalm 138:6) If we want to see Jesus, we must humble ourselves like children and ask Him to reveal Himself in whatever way He desires. “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to children. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.” (Luke 10:21)

Posted in Luke

God Healing Through Us

“And He sent them (the twelve) out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing….Whatever city you (the seventy) enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.” Luke 9:2; 10:8-9

Are you willing to have God heal through you even if you haven’t experienced God’s healing to you? This message from Jesus to His disciples wasn’t about their healing, but about the importance of healing in advancing the kingdom of God. Healing was to be a key to let people know the kingdom of God had drawn near, it’s God’s calling card. Mark 16:20 says that the disciples “preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.” God wants to do things only He can do to help people know the gospel is true.

One day I went to breakfast with a friend and noticed that the man who took us to our table was limping. When he faced us I could see his hand and wrist were bound with some type of bandage, so I asked him what happened. He told me he had an accident on his bike the Monday before.

Now what. Maybe God wants to heal him right there so I should pray for him, but how awkward will it be in front of everyone? “Before leaving today, I’d really like to pray for you,” is what I said, and then tried to measure his reaction. All during breakfast I tried to envision how I would go about praying for him, or if I should. Maybe he was hiding in the kitchen waiting for me to leave for all I knew.

It turned out he was the one who checked us out and there was no line behind us, so I asked if he would come over to a private corner to be prayed for. He came, and I prayed a brief prayer of healing over him and then told him God loved him. He said thanks and went his way while we left the restaurant.

Did God heal him? I don’t know. What I do know is that I tried to love him with God’s love and tried to give God an opportunity to do something only He can do. Was I pushing too hard to get God to do something He didn’t want to do? According to the text above, I don’t think so. The bottom line is I don’t want to live a safe, comfortable, sheltered faith; I want to be on the front lines bringing the kingdom of God everywhere I go, even if I’m not that good at it yet. How about you?

Posted in 2Corinthians, Acts, Matthew, Revelation

The Open Floodgates

“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2Corinthians 3:17-18

A few years ago I was part of a region-wide worship night and we were singing, “Let it Rain.” As the congregation sang: “Open the floodgates of heaven,” the worship leader kept singing, “The floodgates of heaven are open.” She had the words wrong.

Then it hit me. She was the one who had the words right. Sometimes the songs we sing are a reflection of the theology we are currently believing and not how it really is. I am familiar with the: “Open the floodgates”, theology; let me explain.

God wants to pour out His Spirit, in this view of things, but He can’t. If the church was repentant enough, prayerful enough, worshipful enough, and desperate enough, He then would open the floodgates of heaven and there would be a revival. This is a heavy message and produces Christians who strive harder and harder only to fail again and again. I know, I’ve been that Christian.

Now let’s look at what is true. “Let it rain, let it rain; the floodgates of heaven are open, let it rain.” We still must value and ask for the rain of God’s presence because He wants to be wanted and will allow us to do church without Him if we think we don’t need Him. (See Revelation 3:15-20) But we don’t need Him to open the floodgates of heaven, He already has. Jesus’ blood opened heaven for us, the veil has been torn down. (See Matthew 27:51)

God pouring out His Spirit in and through us is not a difficult thing; it’s the normal Christian life. As His favored sons and daughters, we have easy access to all the riches of His table and can easily drink from His river of delights, if we’ll only believe. The floodgates are open, and it’s His express purpose to pour out His Spirit on all flesh that we may speak of the glory of God as those who encounter Him regularly. (Acts 2:17-19)

This describes  the type of Christians we’re increasingly becoming.  Favored children, carrying His very presence, and reflecting His glory wherever we go. What a great adventure to be on!