Displacing Water

I have been spending time with some friends talking about what real Christianity looks like. It’s funny, because most of what people think of is, being good, kind, patient and the like, but that’s not it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, those things are all very important, and are ear marks of a changed life. But its not doing those things that make us Christians. That’s what most of us are trying to do. We are trying to be those things. We can no more be those things by shear determination than an apple tree can will for fruit to appear. An apple tree produces apples because its in its nature to do so. It doesn’t have to struggle or strain to make the fruit happen, you don’t walk by apple orchards and hear trees grunting and fussing or see fruit popping out of no where like magic. No, first there is the spring rains and then the summer rains and then after a while then comes the harvest. Fruit takes time, some times a long time, some trees have to be pruned here and there to get any fruit out of them. But that’s the job of the tree dresser not the tree. The tree just is.

So how in the heck are we expected to produce this fruit? I mean its not in our nature, our nature is to do the exact opposite of all the things God has called us to be in Christ. So some how we have to put off this old nature this “old man” and put on Jesus. Now we can try to control our habits and desires by doing some of the same tactics we use by trying to be good and kind etc. But again that’s going to lead to failure every time. Jesus said we have to be born of both the water and the spirit. What the heck does that mean? Well to be born of the water is to be born in the flesh, what we see and touch, our physical body. So our nature is to be water beings, our body parts our bodies are filled with water. We can try to block off areas that cause us to sin but sooner or later the old nature of ours is going to fill that spot we have been trying to keep dry and clear of water. So what can we do? whats the answer? We have to be filled with something that can displace that old nature, we need something that is heaver than water, we need some oil. Jesus said we needed the “infilling” of the Holy Spirit. What a wonderful thing that the symbol of the Holy Ghost is oil the perfect substance to displace our old nature. As we are filled with the Holy Ghost, HE displaces the water of our old nature and puts on the “New Man” and now there is found no place for that old man to have his way. He has been evicted out of the house.

Now once we are empty of the water and are filled with the oil of gladness we have to be continually filled. We are all cracked pots that leak. If we don’t remain in constant fellowship with the Father and the Son through the gathering of the brothers and sisters, prayer and meditation and actively reading the word. the old nature will begin to fill the pot once again as the oil leaks out thorough the cracks. This is why we see so many struggling with their walks. This corruption will put on in-corruption. We will one day be in-corruptible, but that’s our new bodies, these bodies, well they are corrupted. That water nature is built in and until its is transformed at his appearing we have to yield to his filling us to stave off the effects of our true sin nature.

So what does true Christian living look like? Its being filled with the oil of the Holy Ghost “living water” Its understanding your true spiritual poverty and understanding your brokenness. Its yielding to God and allowing Him to displace your nature with His, then simply being who He has made you to be in Christ, nothing more, nothing less.

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Motivation

I find myself asking why am I doing this or that a lot these days. What we do, when we do it, how we do it, no matter what it is, from making a meal, to reading a book, is all rooted in what our motivation is for the doing the action. Even the smallest of actions has a root cause to it. This has had me thinking, a lot!

So the big question is who am I trying to impress? Me? Those around me? God? Motives are the real deal, the core of the matter, man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart of a man. So with that in mind I have been looking at what motivates me to do ministry? Asking the hard questions, what is it that I am looking for? Why do I want to do this work? Struggling with these questions I have come to some cold hard facts. In ministry the motivation of approval, or acceptance can’t be used to create, maintain or sustain ministry. Sure in the power of the human experience anyone can begin a work, but it will come at a cost, and the end result will be a man made monument to self. If you start something looking for approval, once you get it, you will want to maintain it, that leads to compromise. Making the obsession with approval the purpose vs the glory of God. The Lord said “A man needs to count the costs of building a house before he starts, so that once he has begun, he does not run out of funds, only after laying the foundation, and then be left to open shame, unable to complete what he started”. While the idea and context of this verse deals with salvation it has an application with motives as well.

So I have started to “count the costs”
Looking into my life and motives for ministry. I’m sure of my calling, I know the Lord has called me to a work, we all have a calling. But to be able to be used to perform the work, I need to understand why and how I am to complete the work. If I do it in my own power or allow my motivation to come from the wrong reasons then I will sorely fail. This will also leave a monument to open shame.

We all have seen houses, buildings that have been started and not finished. They stand as a constant reminder of, what could have been, what might have been, only if. They become a place of doubt and an indictment against anyone who comes along later to create a similar building. The community doubts with all natural outward appearances that it, too, will fail, just as the one before it.

Through this process I have discovered, understood in a real way, that, we are accepted, grafted in, there can be no more work to make anything we do to entice God to look on us with favor. He has already imparted that to us, even so by making his thrown room available to us, where we can cry out to him, “daddy, daddy”. Coming from a background where I seldom had approval from father and mother figures in my life because of my being orphaned it confused my thought process when it came to my relationship with Jesus and the Father. I find myself at times striving, wondering, hopping for approval for works that I can do vs. doing and being motivated out of a Love for God. Wrapping myself in the cloak of “If I can accomplish this then God will love me more and I will win his approval”. Not that I think I can earn salvation, I full well know that only the work of the cross that Jesus did can accomplish that. But there is a longing to be approved by God, that my value can some how be derived by the work that I do for him.

This is trying to build on the foundation that Jesus had built. We all need to allow God to finish the work he has begun in us. Let the master builder raise the walls, place the roof and then come and take HIS bride home.

So what are the proper motives for ministry? where do we need to place our heart when it comes to the WHY of ministry? I think they are simple. To Abide, gratitude, and to glorify God. Since we have been accepted and adopted we no longer need to strive to be approved. We simply need to abide in the love and admonition of the Lord. Living in his house tending to the things of God because it pleases Him. Living in gratitude of all that he has done for us without any merit on our part. To simply and humbly glorify God, to set our own personal motives of gain aside, and to willingly lay down our life to prefer our brother, and enemy, before ourselves. To remove any attention from us, only pointing to the Son, that the Son will glorify the Father.

Ministry should be like a good sound man at a concert. When you go to see your favorite band, you hear the music and enjoy the show, but what you don’t realize, what you don’t think about, is the sound man, he is working the board, making sure everything is at the right levels and sounds right. Jesus is the singer and we have the privilege of working the boards. If the sound man makes a mistake, we all hear the feedback, and say, “what in the world is that guy doing”. Wrong motives are like feedback, they draw the attention away from Jesus, and place them on us.

Know that “our calling and election is without regret, and he will continue to perform that which he began in us until its completion”, but for my life, for your life, to be a great concert, free of feedback, we have to yield to him with the right motives in all that we say or do.

All for him, for all he’s done.

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Not Many Wise, Not Many Noble, Not Many Mighty

Yesterday I had the privilege of teaching Sunday school to the 7 -12 year old’s at my church. They are at a great age for learning and observing. The story we were going over was the story of David being anointed king of Israel 1Samuel 16 1-16. If your not familiar with the story I will recap in my own words. Basically Saul the King is rejected by God because he’s not listening or trusting in God for the way he should rule. Saul is using his own judgment to make decisions and not leaning on God. So God sends Samuel out to anoint the new King that he has chosen. One after his own heart to lead his people.

Well Samuel is a little scared of what will happen to him if he goes off to anoint a new King and Saul finds out, so God tells him to take a cow and make a sacrifice in the town of Bethlehem and invite Jesse to the sacrifice. This gave him a cover story to keep himself safe with Saul. So he shows up and invites Jesse as he was instructed by the LORD. Jesse and most of his sons come and are consecrated to be a part of the sacrifice.

As they arrived Samuel sees the oldest of Jesse’s sons “Eliab” who was tall, strong and all the things you would think of when your looking for a King. and Samuel says to himself “this must be the guy” but God answers “Do not look on the outward appearance, I have rejected him as a choice” “Man looks at the outward, but the LORD looks at the heart” so all the sons present at the sacrifice pass by but they too are rejected by GOD. So Samuel asks, “Do you have any other sons that are not here?” and Jesse says, “yeah, I have my youngest son David, an there he is tending the sheep. GOD tells Samuel to have David come and stand before the LORD. when he arrives he is selected and Samuel anoints him with oil (a full rams horn full of oil from head to toe) At that time the Holy Ghost came upon him. Samuel went back to Ramah and David went back to tending sheep for his father.

What’s the point of this story?. There’s a few, first the “Man of God” Samuel was fallible, he was afraid of the King, and didn’t trust GOD to keep him. We all tend to look to other men or our self for confirmation or validation, here Samuel the man of God is not seeking Gods face over what to do but is using his own life experience, God seldom does things the way we think or would do. In fact he uses the things or methods we wouldn’t do, because he wants people to know it was by his hand and not by man. Walking with God means trusting Him for everything, and not taking upon ourselves to figure it out.

Second, Samuel like everyone else, looked to the outside markings and makings of a man, thinking these are what matter when it comes to leadership and wisdom. But in God’s economy, these have little to no value. GOD looks at the heart of a person, those who are lowly in heart, humble in spirit, those are who He calls his sons and daughters. He raises up the weak and the simple to confound the wise of this world.

David was nothing more than a simple 13 year old Sheppard boy who was faithful to the job that he had been given. Not esteemed by his own earthly father, forgotten when the call was to bring forward “All his sons” for the sacrifice. This is important, because maybe you have been passed over time and time again, unloved, overlooked and unwelcome in both your career and family. Take heart, GOD has not forgotten you or abandoned you. David waited until he was 30 years old to become King, that’s 17 years for the wait of the promise. David went through lots of perilous times during that 17 years, Saul spent lots of time and money trying to kill David. Maybe you have lost heart on the promises of GOD. David did too, he lived with the enemy for a period time. But be like David, take stock in what GOD has promised you. His plans are for good and not evil and He has an inheritance for you to share in.

Like the kids in my class this week, I told them don’t let any man tell you what your lot in life is, they being 11,12 and 13 years old are the generation NOW that will take the gospel to the lost, not later. That God can use them now, they need to think and be available to the calling and use of God. Their age does not stand between them and God, He calls and uses us to His good pleasure.

All of us need to be like David, pick up five smooth stones, face your Giants head on. Be lowly of heart, humble in spirit, trusting God that he will complete that which he has called us to do until the day of his appearing. There is nothing GOD cant do with a heart and life that is fully yielded to Him.

Read the rest of 1st and 2nd Samuel and know if GOD can move and use David he can do the same with you. Not many wise, not many noble, not many Mighty in there own or the worlds eyes are called, but those with a humble and contrite spirit, those GOD will do mighty exploits through.

Grace and Peace

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Being the Church

Once again I have been hearing from God in my hectic crazy quiet time with Him. This time its been what are you going to do? I know what you want, I know what you think you need He says to me. But what is it your going to do? When are you going to be My church, My hands, My feet, My voice to this generation? I don’t know about you but thats a heavy question.

We all spend our week running around working, going to school, running kids from here to there. We thank God for our food, jobs and spend a little devotion time everyday maybe even attend a bible study and teach a Sunday school class. But is that what we are called to do? I mean is that all?

We like going to church, but were not really being the church, we are spending our time going to church. But were not really being the church or what it was meant to be and do. Now don’t get me wrong I am not trying to throw a guilt trip on anyone. I for one am just as guilty of this as the next guy. However I think this was brought to my attention to share and provoke thought.

Think about the last time you saw someone who was homeless sitting or even pan handling for cash. Did you just walk by, or did you just look through them? hoping to not have to reach from some change. How about the gay guy at work who your afraid to share the love of Jesus with because you might be taken wrong or ridiculed by the rest of the guys. Or how about that old friend of yours that is the greatest guy you know and would take the shirt off his back for anyone but doesn’t believe in God. You dont want to offend him so you don’t talk about “that” subject around him. These are the stereo types that we all think of that “need Jesus” now for the fact of the matter, I’ll let you in on a little secret we as disciples of Jesus are called to share the good news with… the next person you see and meet. . .

We are called, commissioned, to share the love of Jesus with everyone. But we lavish a lot of time on ourselves, our families and internal church activities. Our prayers focus on what effects us. Prayer is our chance to stand in the gap and intercede for others. To tune into Gods spirit and ask Him to move on behalf of others. Of course we need to talk to Him about our needs but he already knows that. For the most part I fear we have nothing much in common with the way that Jesus and the disciples would have done things. We have seeker sensitive programs that soften the gospel and skirt sin to avoid making people feel bad. The church is acting like a club and “Jesus” is the secret word to get in the door. We have music, dancing, the works, two floor shows every Sunday.

Sadly I was in Baltimore last Friday night in Fells Point, an area known for its adult beverage establishments and a hub of local night life. We were walking around to see who we might be able to minister to. We simply were asking people if we could pray for them. No heavy guilt trips, no long argumentative confrontations, just sharing the love of Jesus and the gospel. If a conversation grew out of it we talked if not we just planted seed or watered. However if someone wanted to ask Jesus into their life we were ready to do that too. Now the sad part was not the people we met, They were great, but the churches in and around the area. They all were closed, doors locked, lights out not a single shred of evidence that they are active. Now the worst part, Big signs declaring Gods love with small signs that said “No Loitering” “keep at least 20 feet away from doors’ now were not talking about one church with these signs but more than a half dozen within two to three city blocks of one another, and smack dab in the middle of where all these people are. No wonder people want nothing to do with the church or God. What a greeting they declare in Gods name. Large segments of the church have lost its way and role, they have “missed the plot” and need to pick the book back up and rediscover the plot and end to the story.

We don’t need to be seeker sensitive we as the church need to be “Spirit Sensitive” aware of Gods presence seeking His face and walking according to His edicts, speaking His words to those we come in contact with because.. God has pre-ordained it to happen. We have been saved and sent out to share the good news with everyone God sends our way. Our success is not dependent on if people accept Jesus but if we did what we were called to do. Love people where they are at and let the Holy spirit convict them and woo them to himself. We can not save a single soul. All we can do is plant, water and harvest, but God causes all the increase.

But there can be no planting, there can be no watering and no harvest if we don’t go into the fields. The field is “ripe for the harvest” are we going to let the fields rot because of our self indulgence and sloth? I hope not and I know that God longs for us all to work in the field.

You say, how do you do this? what is the secret?

Share what you know, open yourself to the leading of the Holy Ghost, He will tell you what to say. People want to know and feel genuine love, they are looking for it in sex, drugs, booze, money, knowledge, power and a hundred other things, they know they have a empty spot but can never seem to fill it. Nothing canned will work they can see a phony a mile off, just be you. Take the chance and let God use you in His plan. Yield to God so God will cause you to Yield 10, 20 even 100 fold.

Be the Church!!

Grace and Peace

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Broken, Crushed and Pressed Down

Lately I have been asking God to bring me to a place of true brokenness. Where I can be useful, pliable and teachable. My wife and I went on a vacation to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and I figured during that time perhaps I would hear from God about what it is he wants us to do and what it means to be broken and humble. Well the time in the mountains went quickly and there were a few “God” moments but nothing over this area that I have been praying about. And then…

I came home and the stress of living in Washington with its traffic and the demands of my Job came rushing back at me full force and a bit over whelming. I simply could not understand why I was having to deal with this stuff, why I was having to live and work in this situation, and not hearing from God was making me a little nuts over the situation. A few days passed and I was praying with some other guys for our church and revival, asking God to move in our city and county but beginning with us (me).

God spoke.

The Holy Ghost made this clear to me. We are all like grapes, little individual pieces of fruit, Saved sealed and part of the family of God, but grapes when harvested are broken, crushed and pressed down to transform them into the fruit of “new wine”. I am not saying that we have to find the “god in us” or that we become part of some “cosmic consciousness” but the old man is transformed, translated, changed into the likeness of Jesus. This is the activity of sanctification, in the end we are glorified!!

Its those trials of dealing with our normal world that God is actively transforming us from the individual image of ourselves to the image and likeness of his Son Jesus. He slowly and lovingly adds pressure and weight to crush us, to break us, to transform us. So the next time you have a situation that you just don’t understand or feel like your going to die, that’s just what you need to do. Die to yourself and let God transform you and the situation. Not that I have arrived but its his good pleasure and the work that he has begun will be completed! Grace and Peace

http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Jam&c=1&v=2&t=NKJV#comm/2

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