Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Power of Forgiveness

"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you yours sins."  Mark 11:25

Forgiveness is the key to unlocking the freedom that God has for you to fully receive from him.  He gave his Son so that our sins might be forgiven and that is our blessing.  However, the enemy has a strategy to get us off track.  This strategy is called unforgiveness.  He knows that if we begin to walk in unforgiveness that he can defile us and cause us to leave the grace of God.  He confirms this in Hebrews 12:15 when he says:  "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root (bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment) grow up to cause trouble and defile many."  When we don't extend forgiveness to others as it has been given to us by God, we than begin to walk out of the grace (unmerited favor) of God.

I have struggled with unforgiveness because I have been hurt, rejection, abandoned, betrayed, unaccepted and unloved.  If the enemy can get us to focus on the hurt and pain that others have done to us than he can wreak havoc in our lives.  It is a process to learn to walk through forgiving others because we have been hurt and have unresolved issues that have never been addressed.  Sometimes it takes years to find out why that person is able to push our buttons and get us in a state of unforgiveness.  Sometimes the injury and hurt done is truly horrendous and is justifiable in being angry.  However, one cannot move forward if they live in the past with all the baggage of the hurt, pain, betrayal, disappointment, lies, rejection and deception.

God has given us the Holy Spirit when we received him.  He did this so that when we need comfort he is there for us.  The Holy Spirit is "Immanuel"  God with us.  We have to turn to God and ask him to comfort and heal us from this past hurt.  We have to come into a place saying, I don't want to carry this anymore, I want you to heal me from what has happened.  And the next step is even harder to say...but God wants us to love and bless our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

Blessing and loving our enemies is coming to know God's great love for us.  We need to understand and have knowledge of this.  Because God loved us first, we can love God and love others.  This gives us a desire to do God's will.  Unless we know the power of God and his ability to heal our broken hearts, we will not be able to overcome.  This requires us to have faith and trust in God.  No one can truly pick up their cross and denying themselves unless they know God.  Faith comes by hearing the word of God and by meditating on his goodness.  Because it is his goodness that leads us to repentance.

In the process of blessing and loving our enemies, we extend the grace of God to them and free ourselves from the bondage and control that they had over our lives.  They no longer are able to determine how we feel.  God comes in and his grace floods our hearts to know that we are accepted and loved despite what they think of us because we are approved by God.  By extending the love of God to them as he did to us, God is then able to do something in their lives.  We have to trust that God is a righteous God and he knows how to handle the person who hurt us.

We need to remember God is the judge and he will one day deal with those who are unrighteous and wicked.  We may not see it in our lifetime, but God knows the beginning to the end.  When we can begin to walk in forgiveness towards others, we can thwart the plans of Satan and begin to walk victoriously in God's plans.  May God bless you today by extending his grace to you and may the baggage of unforgiveness be broken by the power of God.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Power from the Holy Spirit

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  Acts 1:8

When the Lord brought my husband and I back to him in 2000, he transformed our life.  We both clearly heard the Lord personally speak to us.  This was the first time that we had ever heard so clearly from God or understood that God wanted a personal relationship with him.  It was powerful.  He was looking for obedience.  He knew we were willing to obey because at that point in our lives hitting rock bottom in our marriage where we had two toddlers whom we both loved. We knew we needed God and we would not make it without him.

Our act of being obedient was the first step towards receiving power from on high.  He now wanted to sanctify and set us apart for him.  Soon after taking this step, the church we were attending prayed for us to receive power from on high and we began to speak in tongues.  This was the first time we ever saw the power of God.  He also bore witness with us by sharing the scripture from John 20:22 "And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.".  Then in Acts, he told them that they "would receive power from on high when the Holy Spirit comes on you."  He made it clear that you receive the spirit when you are born again, then you need to pray for the power.  He also confirms in his word again in Acts 8:15-17 "When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received power from on high."  God clearly identified to us that baptism in the Holy Spirit from one appointed from God was necessary to do his will.  We cannot do anything without power from the Holy Spirit.

When we received this revelation God gave us power and the ability to begin to overcome sin in our lives.  Although, we did not do everything perfectly, we clearly could discern when the Holy Spirit was convicting us again in our lives.  He also began to show us that what we put into our eyes and ears would become who we are.  Did we want to be filled with the world (Television, Entertainment, Conforming to their ways) or do we want to be filled with him (his word)?  That is when we began our pursuit of reading the word daily.  We knew that we needed something greater.  In the midst of all this, our promise of a third child came and over the next 6 years between all three kids and sleep deprivation, we daily read the word of God despite the lack of sleep we had.  We went to church even when it was difficult and we didn't want to.

We persevered despite our situation.  We were hit financially.  We had many people reject us.  We had even the elders at one church go to the other church we came from say that they would prefer anyone but us to be the ones to bring the English church to their church in our community (keep in mind that we lived in their community).  We had people avoid us because they did not want to turn back to God, some of which are good friends who came back to God.  Even more funny after leaving the church who didn't want us there, they called us back two years later to serve (funny, huh?  We did decline).  We have seen many people who lives were changed because of what he did for us.  We saw the power of God come and through the gifts of the spirit and the power of the gospel we shared, we saw many who were set free come back to serving God again.

God has been good.  Although we are still in a battle, God is still there.  We know that we need to continue persevering despite what seems to sometimes be tough.  We still preach the gospel of Jesus and share the good news knowing that God is good and he will lead others back to him.  We were not able to do any of this had it not been that we received power from on high.  My prayer is that God will bring power from the Holy Spirit for you as well to be his witnesses into all the world!

Monday, April 15, 2013

God's Goodness - Mercy and Grace

"Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The grace of the Lord was poured out on me abundantly along with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 1:13-14

Paul was Jewish from the tribe of Benjamin.  He was a Pharisee who came in the name of God to protect and defend his religion. He was positioned to become a great leader in the Jewish faith.  Although he was well trained in the word of God, he fully did not understand the fullness of what God had prophesied of the coming Messiah.  He missed the mark though. He was functioning in self righteousness.  Jesus came in the flesh to fulfill the prophecies given to the Jews to bring salvation to all.  He not having understanding of the truth persecuted the Christians and even had them killed in the name of God.  Yet, God who was rich in his mercy met him on the road to Damascus.  Paul had the intent to continue to kill and throw the Christians in jail, but God had a different plan.  Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and that is where Saul who became the Apostle Paul was converted.  God revealed himself to him.

In the book of 1 Timothy, Paul was addressing Timothy as he began to encourage him.  Paul's time here on earth was coming to an end.  He was reminding Timothy about his calling and wanted to encourage him as he moved forward to carry on God's work.  Paul knowing his time was short took time and he reminded himself along with Timothy of where he came from and the glorious calling that Jesus had on his life.  He remembered how God extended his mercy to him although he was on the road to destruction.  He also continued to reflect on the grace given to him because of God's great love. Paul shared this with Timothy knowing that he too may need to encourage himself in Christ.

What is your story?  Like Paul, we sometimes need to remind ourselves of where we came from and of God's great goodness towards us.  We need to take time and remember the mercy we were shown and the grace given to us.  We were like Paul were on the road to destruction, but God met us on our journey on the road to Damascus to show us his great love and salvation.  May we give thanks today!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Lukewarm Church

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth."  Revelation 3:15-16

The church in Laodicea is the lukewarm church.  They were wealthy and thought that they had need of nothing.  They were comfortable physically because of the wealth they acquired.  They were also a compromising church as well because they resembled the world.  Although they carried the name of Christ, they were not being set apart for him.    

Jesus comes to them and admonishes them in love.  He did not want them to rely on their wealth here on earth or to be like the world, but to see the poverty they were in spiritually.  He tells them that they do not realize they are" wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked."  He wanted them to make a decision that was clear and concise and to end the hypocrisy that they were representing.

He counsels them to buy from him "gold refined in the fire, so that they can become rich; and white clothes to wear , so that they can cover their shameful nakedness; and salve to put on their eyes so they can see."  He is directing them to put their faith and hope in him by allowing him into their hearts to circumcise it.  He wants them to see how they need salvation in him and him alone.  Their riches, wealth and good deeds here on earth won't save them.  He wants them to put off their old garments which is the old nature and put on the white garments which is his righteousness. They need to see the truth and this comes when we allow Jesus to be our Lord and Savior.  

Although this rebuke may seem harsh, he does it in love.  Clearly those he loves he rebukes and disciplines like a father.  He lovingly stands outside waiting for them to submit to his will when he tells them, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."  He is looking for repentance and a return to him.  

He then gives a promise to those who overcome the lukewarm church...he will give them the right to sit with him on his throne.  Think about that a moment.  He desires to allow for those who overcome to come in and become co-heirs with him and share in his kingdom.  What greater glory is there?  So today if this speaks to your heart choose to be either hot or cold, not lukewarm.

The Immoral Church

"...I have a few things against you:  You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual adultery."  Revelation 2:14

The Church in Pergamum is considered the church that is immoral.  Jesus starts out with commending them for being faithful to his name among many who were under the influence of Satan and even killed Antipas who was a faithful witness. However, when Jesus was speaking to the church in Pergamum, he came to them saying "these are the words of him who has the sharp, doubled-edged sword."  He clearly was coming to bring truth to them by the word of God.  The word of God is what divides the soul from the spirit.  It is what brings truth, light and life to the believer.  He was coming to them with the double-edged sword because of their participation in tolerating the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans.

Balaam was an old testament prophet in the book of Numbers.  He was a prophet ordained by God.  However, Balaam became greedy.  He was approached by Balak, King of Moab, who came to him and offered to pay him if he would curse the Israelites so that he could defeat them.  They brought to Balaam a collection taking up a fee for divination to pay him of which Balaam considered.   God tells Balaam not to associate with these people because the Israelites are blessed.  Greed caused Balaam to entertain the idea of doing this where he opened up the door to Satan to pervert his mind.  They came back again and offered him whatever he would like and he again let them stay overnight.  Because Balaam did this again and kept persisting with God to do this, God allowed Balaam to go with them.  However, God only gave him permission to do this based upon the authority that Balaam would do only what God told him to do.  Yet Balaam had already fallen when he left with them because he was disobedient to God's initial instruction.  God knew the heart of Balaam was impure.  An angel was sent to destroy Balaam for his disobedience.  However, out of his mercy God allowed the donkey to rebuke him. Yet, Balaam still went forward.  Although he only speaks blessings over the Israelites, he sold the Israelites out by sharing with Balak how to destroy them.  He told them that they should have them intermarry and this would lead them worship other gods, then God would take his blessing away from them.   This lead them into spiritual adultery along with sexual immorality.  

God was addressing Pergamum for this because they were allowing leaders and prophets to do the same among the body of Christ.  They were approving of the sexual immorality leading others astray into adulterous idol worship.  They were doing this for personal advancement and monetary gain.  They were teaching that a saving faith and a lifestyle of immorality were compatible.  

Jesus warns them that if they do not repent that he will come soon and fight against them with the sword of the mouth.  He is a righteous God and cannot tolerate this.  However, he is loving and seeking that the church will repent so that they may overcome.  

His final blessing is for those who will overcome: he will give some of the hidden manna and a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.  He promises to minister his living words of life to those who are truly seeking him with a promise that they will be called by God.  Let us hold fast and hear what the spirit is saying!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Faithful Church

"Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole earth to test those who live on this earth."  Revelation 3:10

Faithfulness comes with a promise.  It is a promise that if we will continue to do as he commanded and endure patiently through it all, he will keep us from the hour of trial.  The church in Philadelphia is the faithful church. The faithful church God commended and gave a promise not to have to suffer the testing that would come to the world. 

The church in Philadelphia is the church that does not rely on itself.  It is fully trusting in God and his promises.  They had revelation knowledge of who Jesus Christ really was and what he did for them.  Jesus tells them that "I know you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." They were not willing to deny his name and they knew that preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ was the power of God.  They knew that  God would accomplish his perfect will despite their own shortcomings and failures.  They knew that God had a plan whether they saw it or not and that he was working out their salvation.

Those who surrounded these believers clearly knew that the were loved by God.  Jesus tells them "I will make those who are the synagogue of Satan who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars - I will make them come down and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you."  Faithfulness will demonstrate the love of God that is towards us and lead others to envy us. Hopefully it will bring them to desire to have the love of God as well, which is Christ Jesus in us.

He promises them not only to keep them from the hour of trial, but that he is coming soon.  He tells them to hold on to what they have and no one will take their crown.  They fully knew what they were promised by God.  Their faith and trust in God gave them confidence in knowing that their salvation was firm and that they would be rewarded by God for trusting in him and his strength. 

He then tells them to him who overcomes, he will make a pillar in the temple of my God and never will he leave it.  The greatest blessing is knowing that abiding power of God in us and being confident that he is with us.  It is the place where God can come into our lives and we can know his power and presence.  It is like a temple when we become that living sacrifice which is holy and acceptable to God and our spiritual act of worship.

He also will write on him the name of my God, the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which is coming down out of heaven.  He will also write a new name on those who remain faithful in the church in Philadelphia reflecting that these are the living stones.  Just as Peter said in 1  Peter 2:5 "you also, like a living stones, are being built up into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus."  When we receive this new name, it will be one who represented God for his glory!

This is the church I want to be found in.  I want to be one who is faithful trusting in God relying on his strength, word, truth and son.  It is my hope that we can all be part of the church in Philadelphia!


The Rich Church

"I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich"  Revelation 2:9a

When you think about being rich we typically don't associate it with being afflicted and poverty based.  The world classifies the abundance of wealth and being treated well as rich.  However, God tells us we are in the world, but not of this world.

In Revelation, we find that the church in Smyrna is the rich church in Christ's eyes.  Jesus warned the church of the upcoming affliction, poverty and slander that they would experience.  The religious Jews were persecuting them.  Some were being thrown in to jail and some even were martyred for their beliefs.  They were willing to die for the sake of Christ.  They understood that God had a plan of salvation and his destination was not in the riches and approval of this world, but were eternal riches and an eternal destination of glory.

When we think about suffering, we usually find it hard to swallow.  Although we know that Jesus said they hated him, he also said that they will hate us.  Today we see churches in many other countries suffering for the gospel and the sake of Christ.  They are being persecuted, thrown in jailed and martyred.  They are unwilling to relinquish their faith.  They are willing to give up all and hold on to the his great and wonderful promises.

Jesus encourages them to be faithful even to the point of death and he will give them the crown of life.  The believers in Smyrna were holding onto the eternal reward knowing that one day every tear will be wiped away.

Today we are reminded that we need to be praying for the persecuted churches daily.  Yes, if we are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ we will suffer persecution, but comparatively to other nations, we in the United States suffer little.  Let us pray for their courage and faith.  May God strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ as they suffer for his glory and may this bring salvation to those around them that are watching!  All glory be to our God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Monday, April 8, 2013

You Have Left Your First Love

"Yet I hold this against you; You have forsaken your first love."  Ephesus 2:4

Jesus was addressing the Church in Ephesus.  He commends the church in Ephesus for their deeds, hard work and perseverance.  He also commends them for not tolerating wicked men and for their ability to identify false prophets.  They were enduring in their hardships for his name and even were not weary of the trials. They were obeying God and his commands, but they were missing something.  They left their first love.

Woe!  If that is not an eye opener, I don't know what is. Jesus gave us two commandments that he desired above all: to love the Lord, their God with all their heart, their mind, their soul and their strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  They were following correct doctrine and obeying some of the commands, but they left their first love.  This strict and lack of tolerance towards heresy may have caused them not to sincerely love others and this affected Christ and his body.  If they sincerely loved Christ, then they would extend mercy, grace and justice towards others.  However, they were more interested in being correct rather than lovingly leading others back to the truth.

Jesus then calls them to repentance and if they choose to overcome he promises that they will eat from the tree of life.  The tree of life is a picture of the Holy Spirit that comes to live and abide in us.  May we not hold to religion, but hold to the truth by walking in the grace that God has given us.  May we love God and love others.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Jezebel, The False Prophetess

"Nevertheless, I have this against you; You tolerate this woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.  By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols."  Revelation 2:20

Jesus comes to the church in Thyatira.  He commends them for their deeds by acknowledging their deeds, love, faith and service and that they are doing more than they were in the beginning.  He reminds them of who he is by telling them that "these are words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and who feet are like burnished bronze."  Jesus was reminding Thyatira of who he is, he is holy and righteous.  His blazing eyes can see what is going on and that he is looking for us to be refined by fire and purge unrighteousness from our lives.  He bronze feet represent power and strength which clearly shows that he will crush his enemies underfoot.

The church in Thyatira had a tendency to tolerate sin in the church.  They also tolerated unrighteous and unbiblical teachings in its leaders.  They were teaching doctrine that appealed to the flesh.  It gave grace and more grace with no accountability to pick up their cross and follow Jesus.  It did not require them to submit to the lordship of Christ.  Jezebel appeals to the flesh and justifies the self.  He knew that this spirit would lead his servants astray and cause them to give into sexual immorality and idolatry.  

Jezebel in the old testament married Ahab and this lead to the worship of Baal and Asheroth.  She led Israel astray by these practices an adulterous relationship with other gods.  She could influence many with her charisma as well as manipulate and seduce others.  She appealed to the flesh.  Jezebel was a spiritual leader like the church of Thyatira.  She would teach and lead others using the word of God to her advantage.  She was self-appointed to that position rather than being God appointed.  Many looked to her because of her power and position.  

The church in Thyatira tolerated her and allowed for her to teach and to lead others.  This spirit tolerated sin and seduced believers.  She did not address sin, but appealed to their flesh.  She made them feel good rather than allowing conviction to come in and transform them by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

Jesus comes and gives Jezebel time to repent as well as those that follow her.  He warns them that if they do not repent that they will also be deal with.  That they will suffer with her.  He tells them that he will strike her children dead, which means that they will die spiritually.  He is looking to circumcise and purify the hearts of his believers.  He clearly defines her practices and teachings as those of Satan.  He promises for those who will repent and overcome that he will give authority over the nations and that he will give them the morning star, who is Christ himself.  

The Dead Church

"I know your deeds, you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead."  Revelation 3:1b

In the book of Revelation, seven churches are addressed by Jesus.  Jesus lovingly gives warnings to the churches that need to return back to him.  In the Church in Sardis, he addresses them by identifying that they have a reputation for being alive, but are dead.  This is very disturbing considering that Sardis is one of the lampstands in the body of Christ and it clearly shows that we need to make our calling sure.

Sardis during this time was known for its wealth.  It was the trade center for textile, dyeing and jewelry.  It was surrounded by mountains as like a fortress.  The people were comfortable because of their wealth and felt protected because of their location.  They were enjoying life.  The money brought them comfort and this led to complacency.  They had a church that seemed to be alive in doing the things of God, but there was no real relationship with God.  Outwardly they appeared spiritually alive and active.  They had a reputation for success, but Jesus saw the absence of the inner reality of himself in the hearts of the people.  He saw religion, not spiritual life.

He then calls the church to wake up and to strengthen what remains.  He is concerned that they are about to die and their works are incomplete in the sight of God.  He reminds them to remember what they have received and heard and gives them instruction to obey it and repent.  He then warns them if they do not wake up, he will come like a thief  and they will be unaware of his coming.

Jesus does also commend those few who have not soiled their clothing and encourages them to continue to overcome.  He gives them the promise that he will never blot out their name from the book of life and will acknowledge them before the Father and his angels.  He gives them encouragement to continue because he will reward them for their faithfulness.

Jesus desires that all people are saved and come to the full knowledge of him.  He heart is that we abide in him and overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.  He so loved us that he died for us.  He also loves us so much that like in the church in Sardis he warned them of what they needed to do.  He does this for us.  May the Lord help us to overcome and not be found dead with our works incomplete.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Be Transformed By the Renewing of Your Mind

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." 
Romans 12:2

Have you ever seen the sticker NOTW?  Those who believe in Christ know that this stands for.  NOTW means "Not of this world."  We clearly see that God is making a statement when Jesus spoke of this in John 17:17.  He make it clear that we were no longer of this world.  Peter tells us that we are a holy people and a holy nation, a people set apart for him.

Unbelievers and those who doubt God will surprise you.  As an ambassador of Christ, have you ever had a non-believer point out some of your unchristian like behavior?  The world is constantly looking at us to see if whether or not we are living like Christ.  I am not talking about perfection, but God does tell us that they will know us by our fruit.  We too are to know God's people by their fruit.  Galatians 5:22 tells us "but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

When we do not allow the power of God to transform our lives and submit to him daily, then transformation is not at work in our lives.  God tells us that first we are redeemed, then justified.  From justification, we then are sanctified.  From sanctification, we are transformed, then we finally are glorified in Christ.  Without being set apart for God, we will experience no transformation.  We will continue to be in bondage to the world and their way of thinking rather than experiencing the freedom in Christ.

It is easy to spend our days trying to please others and gain their acceptance, but in the end what they think does not matter.  Friendships and acquaintances may come and go in our life, but the one who will stick closer to us than a brother is Jesus.  He will be there for us in every situation.  He will encourage us when we are down and give us hope in the darkness.  He is one that will transform us and renew our mind.  He will give us truth and bring hope into a hopeless situation.  He will show us what God's desire is.  He will show us his good, pleasing and perfect will.  We will be transformed from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.

The starting point of transformation comes when we make a decision to become that living sacrifice and do not conform to the pattern of this world.   As we begin to seek God and his perfect will, we will find it when we allow God to sanctify us.  He will arise and begin to show his glory.  He will then transform us into the same image from glory to glory.  We will experience the  presence of the Almighty God and see his power in our lives.  Then those around us will say, God is with them and I want what they have.