Lord or Savior?

Do I see Jesus as my Lord or Savior?

Recently I sent a text to a young man that I met on a mission trip I lead back in 2012. The response I got was a little confusing and I realized this young man must have changed his phone number. So I proceeded to send him an email with a scripture and asked how he was doing.  After a couple of days I got a response back that troubled my heart greatly. This was a young guy that was on fire for Jesus when I met him; when he came to the US he reached out to me, so I periodically have texted him. When I first met him the Holy Spirits presence was so strong in him that God spoke to me about him. This led to a number of things being said that have impacted my spiritual growth and my relationship with my Lord and Savior.

So, what was the response to this email? First of all, in the email response from this young man it appeared as if he did not even know me or who I was. Then I got a response stating that if I met him in Turkey he wanted me to know God was dead to him.

He proceeded to tell me how he gave 12 years of his life to God and that he lost everything. He lost his family, his country, his house, his job, he was imprisoned, and he finally lost his fiancé recently. He said that she was his last hope and now she was gone. In the end he said that God was dead to him, even though he may be alive to others, and that God would need to apologize to him for everything that has happened…

 

This morning, as I was praying and exercising, I was listening to an interview John Bevere did not too long ago. He was talking about his book, “Good or God”, and the revelation he had.

One of the scriptures he quoted was Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

He then made a statement that hit me to the core and the Holy Spirit helped me gain understanding.

First of all I cannot judge my friend, the persecution he has faced goes way beyond my comprehension and only God knows the condition of his heart.

What I began to realize is so often we seek out Jesus as our Savior and we give ourselves to Him as a Savior. When the reality is He wants us to seek Him out as our Lord and submit ourselves to His holiness and glory so that He can be merciful to us. This is the way to His grace and through His grace we receive salvation.

When we see Him as only our Savior we have expectations and when they are not met we experience anger and frustration. It limits our relationship with our Father and Creator. It becomes easy to set aside the things He has done to be offended by what He has not done. This is when we walk away from truth.

When we seek out Jesus as our Lord we surrender all that is ours to Him, because he is the ruler of our life and destiny. His desires for us are not the same as the desires the world has told us to seek out. His ways are not our ways. His truth is not our truth. The only way His desires, His truth, and His way becomes ours is if we submit ourselves to Him as Lord of our life.

“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” -1 John 2:17

Until we release the hold of this world we will never be able to overcome the loss that comes with submitting ourselves to Jesus as Lord of our life.

We will most definitely face persecution and hatred as we give our lives over to Jesus. He even told us that would happen, because it happened to Him, but He has promised that His grace will help us to over come.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” – John 15:18

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” – John 5:4

kneeling-at-the-cross2“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16 

I believe that all we have and will have is a blessing and gift from Him. I also know that the things God has given may be taken away, but I do not believe it is a punishment. I believe He has asked us to be willing to release all of the things of this world so that He can sit on the Throne of Lordship over our lives. As we find our sufficiency in Him and delight in Him our world will change, because His desires have become our desires.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” _ Psalm 37:4

I am praying for the young man I met almost 4 years ago. I am praying that he realizes he is in a battle between his sprit and flesh. I can hear his pain and frustration, and I know that the world around us, and our own flesh, struggles with the injustices that we walk through and see every day. However, I also know that our spirit can overcome those struggles to see the greater picture and the glory that we long to attain and walk in. It is only through our spirit that we become one and unified with our Lord and Savior.

May Jesus be Lord of my life and yours!

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Surrendering to My Weakness

Since the middle of January God has had me on a journey of discovering who I am in Him. Quite honestly, I have been struggling with figuring that out. There are many things around us that influence what we believe about ourselves and who we think we are and it is only now that I think I am beginning to see more of how God sees me.

In January my company notified me that they would no longer be in need of my services and we would be going our separate ways. I figured it was only a matter of time before that happened so it was not a huge surprise, and there was actually a lot of peace in both Laura and myself.

However, shortly after I was released from the company I started thinking about what I would tell people. What was I going to tell people when they asked what I did for a living? What would I say about why I was let go? How was this going to impact us financially? What was I going to do next? I need to have a plan for what my next job is! All of the standard things anyone goes through that have lost their job.

What I began to learn was we put so much of our identity in our jobs and titles, the company we work for, our spouses, our children, our boss, where we live, what car we drive, and the list goes on…

What God began to speak to me was my identity resided in Him and He was not as interested in my strengths as much as He was my weakness. That is where my struggles really began.

I started thinking that I have to look for something different, something I was not good at. I need to release my strengths and give myself over to my weakness, even if it means I go back to square one. I was creating this plan even though I did not understand what it meant to surrender myself to my weakness. Fortunately, God was continuing to speak to me.

He was showing me that in our culture we showcase our strengths and successes and highlight our accomplishments and tiles on our resume. We lose site of what He has done in our life and we proclaim the victories we have had on a piece of paper we call a resume. It was as if God began to show me that I was showcasing my own success and trying to control where I was going to go and how I would get there. I was doing.

God then began to speak a deeper message to me. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus is speaking to His disciple’s about true and false disciples and he said,  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” I began to realize that that could be me! Instead of proclaiming what I have done I was standing in front of Him with my resumes saying, “Jesus look what I did and I did it in your name!”

Did I really do it all for Him? I don’t think that every thing I have done has been out of selfish desire, but at the same time I don’t think I did it all for the glory of God. That is something I know that needs to change.

I am still looking for the next step that God has for me, but I think I have some new revelation. This weekend our Pastor mentioned, as part of his sermon, that he has heard many people say they are unhappy in their jobs. I began to think I would be happy wherever God placed me. I want to be faithful in everything big or small, and I want to do it for His glory.

As we prayed I could feel in the depths of my soul the Holy Spirit telling me I would have a job. He was also telling me that God created me with the strengths that I have and He will use those for His glory. I needed to surrender my weakness of trying to control what my next step is. He wants to guide that and place me where He can leverage the strengths He has given me.

It is not about what I want to do or what I want my next title to be. It’s about surrendering myself to His work for His glory. I don’t know where that is going to be, or when He will place me there, but I trust Him.   I choose to be faithful in what He has given me today, because He is preparing me for what He has tomorrow.

Importance of Unity

Recently I have been thinking a lot about unity and why it is so important. In seeking out greater understanding I looked up unity in the dictionary and this is what Marriam-Webster’s definition says;

  1. a: the quality or state of not being multiple :oneness
  2. a: a condition of harmony :accord; b: continuity without deviation or change (as in purpose or action);
  3. a: the quality or state of being made one :unification

As I looked at the definitions I realized this was a picture of the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Over that past week this has been something I have been talking to God about continuously and I believe he has been clarifying something for me. This isn’t something that is new but something that seems to be going deeper into my spirit and soul.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible has been John 17:20-23. In this chapter of John, Jesus is praying His High Priestly prayer for His disciples, and this particular verse has always captivated me.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”

The fact that Jesus would pray that we would be one with each other as He is one with the Father, so that we could be one in them isn’t something we have to wait for this is something that is possible today. But what does it mean and how do we achieve unity with our Savior and Creator?

Recently I was at our church for a worship service praying. At times I will ask God to give me some scripture that he wants me to have greater understanding of. This particular time I opened my Bible to Nehemiah 10.   As I looked at this chapter I began to wonder why God would lead me to this particular chapter. As I read the chapter, verses 28-30 began to stand out to me and over the past week I have been gaining understanding that helps me to see the importance of being unified with Jesus.

Now the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons and their daughters, all those who had knowledge and understanding, are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of God our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes; and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. 

The part that really began to speak to me was the people were signing a document that would separate them from everyone else not following the law, and commit their lives to God’s law, but this was seen as a curse. Why was this a curse?

It was a curse because God knew the people would not able to live their lives to the standards that the law, given by Moses, imposed on them. They would not be able to uphold the oath and therefore it would be a curse. As I read this over and over I was beginning to get a greater picture of the importance of unity with Christ. I was even beginning to see something in the scripture that says that we would not give our daughters to the people of the land or take their daughters for our sons. Let me try to explain what I have learned…

I believe, as a Christian one of the things that keeps us from walking in unity with Jesus is the fact we live our lives according to the law instead of in the mercy and grace He purchased through His sacrifice on the cross. Paul tries to explain this to us in Galatians 3. He explains that our salvation did not come through the law but through a spiritual revelation of Christ and our faith in Him.

Galatians 3:13 – Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us…

Let me give an example of what I have been discovering…

If we were told that the only way to find salvation was to no longer speak a slanderous word against our neighbor, we would all try to watch what we say and not speak negative things about the people around us.  In theory this is good, but it is being done through our own fleshly abilities. The problem with doing this through our flesh is we all have boundaries and values we set for ourselves. Most of the time these boundaries and values are set by our interpretation of the law. When people around us have a different interpretation their boundaries and values may be different and will ultimately violate ours. If our values and boundaries are violated we seek out others with similar values and boundaries so that we find comfort and understanding. Eventually we find ourselves in a place where we sin because we all want to be heard and understood, so we begin to gossip and speak negatively of our neighbor.

When Jesus became the curse of the law it changed things. Instead of living according to the law, as followers of Christ we are free of it. God’s mercy and grace has covered us and through our repentance we have Salvation. But does this mean we can now speak slanderously of others? Absolutely not!

When we are in unity with Jesus it is no longer about speaking slanderously, now it is about only speaking words of edification, encouragement, love and kindness. As we live in unity with God there is no longer a fear of not upholding the law, as His ways are greater than the law. It is no longer about fulfilling our fleshly desires to be understood or be justified. When we are in unity with Jesus there is a point where we allow our flesh to die. We come to an understanding that the ways of this world and the desires of our flesh all come to an end when we physically die. But the ways of God’s kingdom are eternal and we can live here on earth as it is in heaven today.

Jesus gave many examples of how to live in unity with the Father. He would say that he would only do what He saw the Father do and only speak what He heard the father speak. The only way He could do this was through His Spirit, and this is the same Spirit that He has placed in us.

So Jesus prayed that we would be in unity with Him and the father, so that we could be His light to the world. He was praying that we would begin to see beyond our flesh so that we could be one in spirit with Him and the Father. He calls us to a new standard of how we love and encourage each other, but we cannot do that unless we are in unity with Him.

The other part of the oath in Nehemiah was they would not give their daughters and sons to people who were not part of them. The reason for this is because they would not be equally yoked and there would be issues that prevented them from being unified in the oath they took to follow the law.

 2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Paul warns us not to be unequally yoked with nonbelievers because of the impact it will have on our unity with each other and with Christ Jesus. Jesus has called us to be examples so that will lead others into the same unity with Him. Unfortunately this cannot be attained in the flesh and if we are yoking ourselves to anything or anyone that is in opposition to this we cannot walk in unity with Him.

As a father and husband God has called me to be in unity with Him, my wife, my children, and the body of Christ. It is through my intimate relationship with Jesus that I do the things that He wants me to do in my family and relationships He has placed me in my life. Our relationship with Jesus is black and white, we are either in unity with Him or we are living for our self. We either live in the blessing he has given us through our salvation or we live in the curse of the law. If I am walking in opposition to God there is a direct impact on my marriage and my family. If we all live for our own desires it will eventually tear us apart.

I see God’s blessing through walking in unity with Him on my own life. He gives me perspective and understanding that goes beyond my flesh in my marriage, which allows my wife and I to continue to strive for unity with Jesus at the center. My wife and I both see the blessings that have come as a result of keeping Christ at the center of our marriage and family. As we are in unity with Jesus our children have seen the fruit produced through their parents, and that has drawn them into a relationship with their Lord and Savior. Ultimately how my children walk in unity with Jesus will have an impact on their future spouses and children.

As we each continue to seek out unity in Christ there is a common bond that draws us all into unity with each other. This only comes from our own individual choice to walk in unity with Jesus and do what we see the Father do and speak what we hear the Father speak.

John 5:19 – Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.

I could continue to write about this topic for days, as it is so rich with much more of the mystery of Jesus to be discovered. The point is if we want unity in our relationships at church, school, work, with our kids, and in our marriage it needs to be established around our unity in Christ Jesus. The only true unity in this world resides in the Holy Trinity, and we have been invited to be part of it.

Jesus prayed we would be part of it!

What’s influencing your Choices?

Earlier this week Laura and I had a good discussion on 2 Samuel 13. This chapter is a story about Tamar and Amnon, both children of David. Amnon was one of David’s sons and he was in love with his sister Tamar. In fact, it says he was so frustrated because of his feelings he made himself sick. His cousin Jonadab noticed his depression day after day until he finally confronted him. When Amnon told him his feelings toward his sister Jonadab gave him some advice.

Jonadab proceeded to tell Amnon how to get his father to bring his sister into his room by pretending to be ill and asking for Tamar to serve him. It was this plan that allowed Amnon to fulfill his lustful desires for his sister and once they were fulfilled he was filled with hate toward her.

There is much more to this story and I would encourage you to read it and ponder on what it says, because I think that there is a lot being revealed in this chapter about our human nature.

What I would like to focus on here is the impact that Jonadab had on his cousin, Amnon. The Bible does not talk directly about the intent of Jonadab’s advice to Amnon, but we can see the results. To me this is a pattern that I see so often at work, in the media, in movies, on television…just about everywhere I look.

I believe as individuals our flesh has desires that our society is telling us it is ok to nurture and develop, because our desires and needs are what define us. It is ok to have those desires and develop them because it is how we were created. Our society and culture has even become our personal Jonadab’s providing a subtle scheme to encourage us in our own fleshly cravings. We don’t need to look far to find the wrong type of encouragement. We find it everywhere…

There is a subtle message that comes through the gossip we participate in, the movies we watch, the TV we watch, the books and magazines we read, and the people we hang out with. It is message that comes at us from all angles feeding a message of entitlement that nourishes our willingness to use manipulation and deceit, and be justified in our actions.

Tamar actually tried to embolden Amnon to do the right thing. She told him that their father would not withhold her from him, but he needed to ask.

As followers of Christ Jesus we need to remember the same, that God does not want to withhold good things from his children.

Psalm 84:11, For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Romans 8:32, He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

The hard part is the messages that are being spoken to us on a daily basis that promotes us living our lives apart from God. The things we give our attention to tend to drive the desires we have, which ultimately produce bad behavior.

Galatians 5:19-2, Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these…

His call on our lives should compel us to live apart from the world. To live in a way that brings Him honor and glory. When we do live for Him, His word tells us the fruit will be obvious, but that fruit does not come through our own fleshly ways. Jesus crucified the flesh so that we could learn to live differently.

Galatians 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,self-control…

 Galatians 5:24, Tells us that, “Christ crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

We need to be living our lives for the one that gave His life for us. We need to come to the same revelation that David did, that God is his Rock and his Fortress, and without Him he would perish.

Psalm 28:1, To You, O LORD, I call; My rock, do not be deaf to me, For if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit.

 God is not deaf to us. He hears us and will respond, but we need to know Him. Many people I know will not answer a phone call from a blocked phone number or a number they do not know. They don’t want to be bothered by someone soliciting and figure if it is important they can listen to the message later. As followers of Christ we need to make sure that He knows our number and is familiar with it. We can only do that by knowing Him and spending time with Him in His word. We need to know Him and His ways.

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have
relieved me in my distress;
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.

O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach?

How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? [e]Selah.
But know that the Lord has 
set apart the godly man for Himself;
The Lord hears when I call to Him.

 Tremble, and do not sin;

Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
Offer 
the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the Lord. 

Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?”
Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Lord!
You have put gladness in my heart,
More than when their grain and new wine abound.

 In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety
.

Through all of this I have to examine myself and ask, “How have I been participating in the ways of the world?”, and “What kind of worldly advice have I been giving?”, “Have I been a Jonadab to someone I know?”

What’s influencing your choices?

Expressing My Love…

In early January 2015 my wife, Laura, and I took our oldest daughter, Katherine, to Sydney, Australia to study at Hillsong International Leadership College. It was a wonderful trip and Laura and I were truly blessed by the opportunity to help our daughter get checked into school and help set up in her new apartment.

As we were preparing to leave I started thinking about the change that was beginning to take place in our lives. Our daughter was now living in Sydney half way around the world and our youngest, Alie, was also in college. We were returning home to an empty house. (Fortunately our three golden retrievers were still there to welcome us home.) While Laura and I sat on the plane getting ready to depart from Sydney I said to her, “How am I going to continue to give my daughters spiritual guidance and continue to share with them how much I love them.” It was then that I decided to start writing a blog.

Now what do I write?

Years ago I decided to make Deuteronomy 6:4-9 a life verse. My wife and I both chose to live our lives in a way that our daughters would know how we felt about them and what we believed.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

To me, there is no better way to express the love that we have for our children than to proclaim the love we have for Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. This isn’t something that happens without being intentional, and just because my daughters are beginning to step into their adult lives does not mean I am no longer intentional in their lives.

Even now as I continue to ponder and meditate on this verse I can see a bigger plan that God has had for each of us, and it all has to do with how we love each other.

When I was my daughters’ age I can remember thinking, “How can I love God first and most when I only have so much love in my heart?” There was no concept of being able to love beyond what I could see and what I understood.

What I know now is there is no limit to the love I have for my wife and daughters, because there is no limit to the love Jesus has for me. When I place Christ first in my life and live my life for Him I am not only honoring and brining glory to God, I am brining honor and glory to my family.

My commitment to God is the same to my family. I will love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my might. I will teach His words of truth diligently to my family and talk in His ways no matter where I am or what I am doing.

As I pray for my family and seek God’s guidance I hope to share the revelation of His love to each of them through this blog. I can only imagine that this journey will continue to have its challenges, as His ways are not the ways of this world.

Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. ~ Then He will give you rain for the seed which you will sow in the ground… Isaiah 30:21&23