Thursday, January 29, 2015

God Has An Unconditional Love For You

But, as a matter of fact, it matters very little to me what you or any man thinks of me. I don’t even value my opinion of myself (1 Corinthians 4:3).
  
God create us for relationship. We’re designed by God to relate to Him as a spiritual Father. From Him we are to receive love, nurture and guidance. Of course, sin separated us from God and brought along with it fear and the tendency to hide from God and others. Christ made a way for us to be reconciled to the Father so totally that there is no longer a fear of Him or a desire to hide. We can now approach the throne of God with the boldness of a baby running into its parents arm!
 
The Father gives us unconditional love. That means that there are no conditions that we have to meet for Him to care about us. He loves us when we perform well, and He loves us when we fail. He offers forgiveness and cleansing to us when we miss it. If we confess our sins, He is faith and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
 
During the time of the crucifixion, Peter denied Jesus three times in the presence of others.  When Jesus was raised from the dead, an angel mentioned Peter by name to those who came into Jesus’ tomb to anoint His body for burial. But go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you (Mark 16:7).  The Lord doesn’t turn a cold shoulder to us when we miss it and fail. He loves us and offers to us another chance. For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity (Proverbs 24:16).
 
There is such a freedom in being loved with no strings attached. Most of us have never experienced that kind of love and acceptance from anybody!
 
In the study course Search for Significance, one of the four false beliefs that are common to man is those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished. We are treated this way in most of our relationships. So when God offers unconditional love, it seems awkward. We feel that we must in some way pay Him back for His forgiveness. But the Father’s love and forgiveness are free gifts to us! We don’t deserve His unconditional love and we can’t work for it. It’s a free gift from Him.
 
When you learn to accept the Father’s love and forgiveness personally, you are then enabled to give that same unconditional love and forgiveness away to others! It takes a while for it to sink into your thought life that the Father could actually love you and accept you when you mess up! Once you grasp this amazing love He has for you, your relationship with Him will be transformed, and in turn your relationships with others will deepen.
Next time I’ll talk about how to overcome the conditioning that keeps us isolated from others.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

We Need Each Other Now More Than Ever!

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you? So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself (Genesis 3:8-10) There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).
 
Close relationships are an important part of what I believe the Lord wants to do at Victory Church. Our culture is set up for us to easily go it alone. This is spiritually dangerous. God planned that we strengthen each other.
Relational dysfunction is typified by isolation, facades, pseudo-spirituality, works compensating for closeness with others, fear, manipulation, control, and withdrawal.
Churches as a whole tend to be largely dysfunctional. Doing frequently takes the place of being. The feeling of meeting certain expectations to be excepted looms large. And the generalized idea that something must be wrong with me if I can’t get my act together is a normal pattern of thinking for many.
My heart as a pastor is to break the trend. I want to do church life in such a way that church is a safe place; an oasis of love and care; a place where you are free to be yourself; a place where you can expose yourself without fear of rejection.
That’s a tall order in a culture conditioned with all sorts of expectations surrounding the various parts of life at work, in the home, and in church.
 
Adam started all this relational separation and fear when he sinned and subsequently hid from God when He came down for some fellowship in the garden one afternoon. The verse above reveals that fear was the root of Adam’s hiding. Sin brings guilt and it’s twin, condemnation. They both foster a deep seated inferiority that manifests in us all.
But we can be free from the fear of relationships. The New Birth and knowing who we are in Christ restores closeness with us and the Father. His unconditional love and forgiveness enable us to look away from our past as though it had never been. And it frees us to be able to share our most intimate thoughts with Him.
The New Birth and knowing who we are in Christ also enables us to be freed from the fear of rejection which keeps walls of separation up between us and others. As we grow in love, fear controls us less and less.

You can measure your spiritual growth by looking at how free you are to give your inner heart life and deepest thoughts to the Father. He longs for you to draw close. When you draw close to Him, His love so fills you that it becomes a normal thing to accept others just as they are with unconditional love. Do you allow others to be themselves in your presence, or do you make them feel that they must measure up to your expectations before you will befriend them?
Allow others into your life. Open your heart and your home to fellowship. Share a meal and get to know others better. A great place to start if you attend Victory Church may be for you to attend one of our seasonal small groups. You’ll find strength and freedom as you relate to other believers. Isolation is dangerous. Let others into your life. We were made for relationship. We give strength to each other.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Keep Yourself From The Distractions of "The World!"

I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world (John 17:14-16).
God’s people have always been a separated people. We are to shine as lights in the darkness around us. We have the influence of salt in a bland, sin-filled world.
John tells us not to love the world. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-17).
The world is defined by Kenneth Wuest as all the floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations that are at any time current in the world. All of these words describe the things that society values as most important, things such as money, fame popularity, living just to have a good time, etc.
Smith Wigglesworth defines the world as that which cools my affection towards God.
Here in 1 John, the world is defined as the sinful longings of the flesh and eyes, and as the pride of life.
The world looms large as an enticing danger to every believer. For that reason we must guard ourselves. If we love the world (1 John 2:15), we could become friends with the world, which is actually classed with being an enemy of God (James 4:4). We then could become spotted or tainted by the world (James 1:27). The end result of all of this is being conformed to the world (Romans 12:2).  And if a person continues in that, he or she could be condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:32).
A believer that becomes friendly, spotted, in love with, and conformed to the world, is open to receive the chastening of the Lord. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:31-32).
 
He does not want us to lose our spiritual life to the influence of the world. So the Father gives us an opportunity to repent, and if we choose not to judge ourselves from this behavior of becoming like the world, He then chastens us. When God chastens, His hand of protection is removed, and the enemy is allowed to move in where he then seeks to steal, kill, and destroy.
Let’s keep ourselves today, so that the enemy has no inroad into our life through the world. Jesus has prayed for us to be kept from the world. Let’s refuse to compromise. Let’s be salty, light filled believers!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Don't Allow Fear To Rule Your Life!

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7 – Amplified).
A fear based life is an unsettled life. What’s going to happen in my future, in my home, in my travels, in my body, in my finances? A faith based life expects God to act in every circumstance and situation that life brings.
 
A fear based life is based on feelings and circumstances. A faith based life is a life that is lived by the Word! What God says settles everything to the faith based life. A calmness, a rest, a hope, a security, and great joy accompany the faith based life. Depression, gloom, irritability, dread, hopelessness, and tiredness accompany the fear based life.
Make the switch today to be a person who lives by faith and not by fear based sight! Each day will become an adventure as you and the Father go through the day talking with one another, strategizing with His Word about the details of what you’re doing. Faith based living does not consult with the flesh, circumstances or opinion. Thus says the Lord rules the faith based life.
 
Fear attracts satanic activity, and draws a person into difficulty. The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe (Proverbs 29:25). Job ascribed his troubles to his fear that opened the door for the enemy to attack him. For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me (Job 3:25).
Don’t allow fear to rule your life. Fill yourself with the Word. Ask yourself what the Word says about every area of life. Refuse fear and the emotional baggage it brings. Lift your hands, praise God, and declare the Lordship of His Word over your life! Speak the Word and run fear out of your life today!
 

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Word Of God Has The Power To Change You!

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63).
 
The Word contains God’s very life and nature. Feeding on the Word is not like reading Shakespeare or classic literature. These contain no power to change. But God’s Word is the power of God unto salvation for spirit, soul, and body (Romans 1:16-17).
Time in the Word is time spent in the presence of the Father. And just as you take your car into the mechanics shop for a tune up, so the Word tunes us up spiritually. It rids us of the habits and attitudes that hold us back. It makes adjustments in all areas of life; our home, our business life, our private world, and has the power to break engrained habits of conduct.
The Word provides spiritual nutrition so that we grow into the likeness of Christ. The Word is spirit food. Keep your spirit richly fed with this manna from heaven.
One Word of caution though. Just reading the Word with no purpose to change or act will do no good. Spiritual growth will be stifled, and personal progress will not be realized. It becomes self-evident over a period of time whether or not we are submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus through the Lordship of the Word.
 
Notice again James 1:22-25 (NIV): Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.
The author of Hebrews likewise gives us this warning in Hebrews 5:12-14-NIV:
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
 
Be sure to feed on the Word daily with the attitude of acting on what you read. Be determined to change any action, word, attitude, motive, or conduct that disagrees with the Word. Keep a sensitive ear to the Holy Spirit by consciously asking yourself what the Word says about what you’re doing throughout the day.

If you’ll practice this for 21 to 28 days, you’ll begin to form a habit of walking intimately with your Father. This time next year, you’ll not be the same person!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Spirituality Or Carnality Is Determined By Your Will

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your member as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:12-13).
After Adam sinned, mankind turned selfish and self-centered. Before the fall, Adam lived for the glory of God, but after he sinned, he lived to please himself without considering God and His plans for him.
The new birth transforms our spiritual lives. The nature of sin is replaced by the nature of God. But the residue of sin remains buried within the soul and must be rooted out! Paul made the appeal to the believers in Rome to dedicate their bodies to God, and to renovate their minds so they wouldn’t be pressured by the world to conform to its ways.
The soul is composed of the mind, the emotions, and the will. The spirit wants to interact with the soul for the glory of God. The body wants to interact with the soul to fulfill its cravings. The soul is in the middle of a battle, and is the deciding factor between spirituality and carnality. If the mind is set on fleshly things, then the flesh dominates. If the mind is set on spiritual things, then the spirit rules through the soul.
 
The battle of your life every day is to continually make the choice to walk in the spirit. To do this, you must guard the ears and the eyes from exposure to the lusts of the flesh. A decision for the flesh gives the residue of the old man in the soul permission to conquer the spirit! A decision to act on the Word gives the Holy Spirit through your human spirit control.
The will is the king of the soul. Your will determines what you think about and what emotions you allow to run free. Your will determines whether you yield to the Spirit of God in your spirit by yielding to the Word, or whether you yield to the lusts of the flesh by allowing thoughts from past or from the outside world through the eye and ear gate to rule your life. Again, your will is the deciding factor!
Jesus addresses the will in every gospel. If any man desires to come after Me, let Him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me (Matt. 16:24). Jesus emphasizes this truth. It’s mentioned in every gospel. To deny yourself, you must be willing to lay every thought, every emotion, and every desire at His feet by comparing each of these to the Word. Does some thought, action, or emotion violate the Word? If it does, then you must choose to say NO to it.
We must die daily. That is, we must choose daily to yield our will to the Father through the Word. And then carefully choose what we give attention to in our minds and emotions. To do this, our wills must be wholly recommitted to the Father through the Word every day!
Perhaps we should make David’s prayer in Psalm 19:14 our prayer each day: Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Take A Mental Inventory And Start Controlling What You Think!

…We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:5 - New Century Version).
As I mentioned yesterday, a pure mind creates a pure life. The Father wants our minds to be conformed to the image of His Son just as much as He wants that for every part of our being.
My mind was filled with all sorts of impurities when I first came to the Lord. Before Christ my unbridled mind and emotions controlled me. After I submitted my life to Jesus and was baptized in the Holy Spirit, I often found thoughts in my mind that my heart resented.
My mind would frequently run from one thing to the next as though it had a life of its own. I discovered that you can have an educated yet undisciplined mind. An undisciplined mind is a mind that is allowed to go wherever it pleases at the will of environment and circumstance.
    
I realized that thought association occurs in a millisecond, and happens so rapidly that you scarcely notice. Anything you see can remind you of an unpleasant or sinful event in your past. A certain color of clothing, a particular style, the silhouette of someone in the distance, an overheard song, a certain smell of cologne or perfume, a particular model of car, a certain terrain, an overheard conversation while walking in the mall, or a host of other things stimulate our minds and remind us of past happenings. And our mind takes these things and runs a rabbit trail. The problem is that you may not like where the trail leads, particularly if you’re a believer!
I tried everything to control my thoughts; praise and worship, speaking the name of Jesus against the thoughts, or just plain refusing to think them. Each time they slowly came sneaking back. The only thing I found effective was to place a scripture in my mind and force myself to concentrate on the scripture. When I did this, I found I could control my thoughts.
At first, I struggled. I would let the mental rabbit trail run for several hours before I even became aware that my mind was going in the wrong direction! I knew that to change a habit, you don’t concentrate on the negative of refusing the habit, but you replace the habit with something else. So the moment I found myself going the wrong way down a one way street mentally, I would force myself to think on scripture, and to my utter surprise, it worked!
Now, after years and years of practice, I can say that my mind is under my control. I choose what I think about, and will not allow my mind to go into certain areas. It has to obey me! My mind is not in charge! My spirit, the real me, is in charge of my life as directed by the Holy Spirit through the Word!
Start today to take mental inventory. Are you controlling your thoughts, or are your thoughts controlling you? Begin today to purpose to think on things that are true honest, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). If you’ll keep it up for several weeks, you’ll begin the process of forming new habits of thinking. And you’ll experience the peace of God in daily life.