Tag Archives: Spirituality

The Ministry Of Goodness

The Ministry of Goodness

            I am in tears as I write this because the Lord has taught me something that has changed my perspective on everything and everyone. This simple thing, if you apply it to your relationships, will change the hearts of those around you. It is the ministry of goodness.

What is goodness according to the Bible?

Goodness – The state or quality of being good. Moral excellence; virtue. Kindness, generosity, excellence of quality. The best part of anything.

Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

All fruits of the Spirit are expressions of God’s goodness, righteousness and truth.

Ephesians 5:9 for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth,

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            I have a brother that is 18 years younger than I. By the time he was 2, all the other siblings were grown and off to college or the military. My parents were financially secure by then and absolutely spoiled the kid, not giving him the same discipline the other siblings had received. He grew up an entitled and confused child with anger issues and was constantly in trouble.

            By the time my little brother was in his early 30’s he had been in jail or prison 12 out of last 13 years. Everyone, including me, had written him off as screw up and had pretty much given up hope on him ever changing. He was a professed atheist and prison had really messed with his mind.

            The whole family would continually tell him what he needed to do to “get his act together” and we were all quick to point out his mistakes and explain to him why he made them. I would write him in prison to encourage him and let him know I loved him but the conversation would deteriorate if I mentioned God and he would lash out at me with terrible accusations that made me question his sanity.

            Finally, I had given up writing to him in prison because he would write back saying what a fool and a hypocrite I was, bad mouthing God with a language that can only be learned in a super max prison. He read everything he could while in prison to prove that there was not a God just so he would have some ammunition to use in our next conversation. His hatred and accusations toward me and God had hardened my heart towards him. I was done being ridiculed for my faith from a lowlife convict. I’m just being honest, that’s where I was at.

            I had been praying for him over the years and I was at the point where I was going to pray one last time and turn him over to the devil. I saw in 1 Corinthians 5:5 where the apostle Paul delivered such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. I felt like this was my only option and even talked with a few pastors about the situation and they agreed.

            As I was contemplating this and asking God if this was the right thing to do, God spoke to me and said, “Show him My goodness.” A few scriptures immediately came to mind when He said that. In Romans it says that the goodness of God leads men to repentance, and in Exodus when Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said “I’ll show you my goodness.”

Romans 2:1-4 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

Exodus 33:18-19 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” 19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.

            God was showing me that if I wanted my brother to change, to repent from his ways, that ministering goodness was the only thing that would work. My constant judging of him was actually making it worse. I was so conscious of his sins that it made him even more sin conscious of them, perpetuating his wrong behavior. I saw that sin consciousness isn’t just about you being conscious of your own sins, but the sins of others also. In fact, if you are conscious of the sins of others, its a big indicator that you are conscious of your own. But that’s another lesson.

            I decided to listen to God and change my approach. I wrote him a letter telling him how much I loved him and believed in him, magnifying all the good qualities in his life, speaking to his potential and not his past. I encouraged him not to give up or be too hard on himself, acknowledging that I too had made some terrible mistakes and that I respected his moral right to believe anything he wished. I apologized for being hard on him and I let him know I was there to love and help him in any way I could.

good3            I didn’t mention God once in that letter, and for the first time in years he responded with sincerity and humility. He acknowledged his own weakness and opened up about some of the struggles he wrestled with. Sure, he used some foul language and made some rash comments that didn’t set well with me, but I didn’t respond to it, I overlooked it. Over the next 19 months, prior to his release, I just continued to love him and be good to him even when he tested it with his accusations, bashing God and badmouthing my faith.

            His pattern of behavior for more than 13 years was: Get released from jail or prison, behave for two to three months, and then do something completely off the wall stupid and go right back to being incarcerated. I am happy to say that the pattern has changed.

            My brother has been out of maximum security prison for ten months now. He has regained his driver’s license that was lost ten years ago. He is working a steady job, he is starting his final semester of welding school and has already been offered a position at a local company with great pay and benefits. He is a different person and it is obvious to the whole family. He is still a professed atheist but that will soon change. He has already started to make the turn. That’s what repentance means, to turn from something, to something or someone else.

            I am thankful for my little brother, and I am thankful that God kept me from giving up on him. I am so grateful that He showed me a better way, a higher way, His way.

1 Timothy 4:4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;

            Preaching the Word means nothing if you don’t live the Word. Instead of telling people about God we should introduce them to Him through our submitted life. The ministry of goodness can be the most powerful evangelistic tool available if sincerely embraced and lived.

Perhaps the most famous quote from St. Francis of Assisi is:

“Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

            I think St. Francis had a revelation of what I am talking about. In fact, I am just now catching up with him. Consider the words of Jesus:

Mark 10:18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.”

            In this passage even Jesus was acknowledging the fact that all goodness comes from God, the Father. Jesus said, “I only do what I see the Father do.”

John 5:19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

            Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus was anointed with the Power of the Spirit the following manifestation was goodness and healing toward all.

Goodness is an expression of love, and God is love. 1 John 4:16

            I have also used the ministry of goodness on my children to correct wrong behavior and quench a spirit of pride and rebellion. I have applied this to other strained relationships in my family and in the church. Without fail I have seen the fruit of peace, restoration, joy and spiritual growth in every relationship.

            God’s way to turn people to Him is a good way. It opens doors of communication, disarming any antagonism and gives you a license to speak into the lives of others and present the Lord to them in reality, not just in word.

Question: Are you living the gospel or merely preaching the gospel?

Question: What ways can you yield to God’s goodness?

Question: Can you describe a sin consciousness?

Question: What relationships in your life could be improved by you being good to them?

Sacrificing Your Authority In Prayer

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          I learned a very valuable lesson about authority in prayer and I would like to share it with you.

          During a prayer meeting at our church a faithful member of the prayer team came forward with a typed out prayer for our president that she said the Lord gave her the day before. She was allowed to read the prayer and we agreed with her. It was a very moving, scripture based prayer that was loving, considerate, compassionate and powerful. It immediately got the nod of approval of all in the room. It was a prayer that inspired confidence and faith in all who prayed it. This lady had obviously heard from the Lord.

          As those in the group were commenting about how powerful it was, the Lord spoke to me directly and said, “Why didn’t you pray for your previous president in this manner?” I immediately knew what the Lord was talking about. I remembered the many times we lifted this former leader up in “prayer” and I was reminded of some of the opinionated requests, the tone, the attitude, and the complete disregard for this man as an individual. We weren’t praying out of love for our president, or even love for our country. We were praying against him, not out of love, but out of selfishness and self righteousness. Our motives were wrong, our heart was wrong.

          I shared what the Lord had showed me and the entire prayer group received it and we all repented before God.

imagesKTTXQM40          When praying for yourself, or others, its important to consider your motives for praying. This may seem overly simple, however there are some areas in our thinking and believing that can be ever so slightly off kilter, and therefore making our prayers ineffective.

Luke 18:9-14  Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

          This is a powerful example of sacrificing authority because of selfish pride. The Pharisee presented himself as better than “other men.”  Notice in verse 11 that “he prayed thus with himself”. In other words God is not even listening, he is praying to sound spiritual and be heard by others.

          Although this sounds terrible, it gets much worse!

James 3:14-16 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

imagesQ0UZ0FDP          When we pray from a place of bitterness, envy, and selfishness we become a landing strip for every evil work. We actually invite demonic activity into our life and have absolutely no effect on what we are praying for.

          Lets look at the rest of this passage in James to see where our heart needs to be when we pray.

James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

imagesQPX51M5D          Prayer that is made from a place of love, mercy and compassion is a prayer that is heard and answered by God. Prayer made from a place of selfishness is not heard by God, but is an invitation to demonic influence.

          Pray for people, never pray “against” people. Praying against a person is an invitation to confusion, demons, and every evil work. It is earthly wisdom learned from the fall of man and perpetuates the enemy’s agenda.

          If  we check our hearts and motives before we approach God with prayer and make sure we are praying from a healthy place of love for the person, we can be confident that our prayers are effective.

JC

More Life Changing Christian Quotes

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“The Smallest world you will ever live in is the one you are the center of.”

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“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”

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“Where love is, God is.”

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“In order to be happy with oneself you must

Make at least one other person happy.”

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“Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” Proverbs 21:21

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“When we ask God to do what He has already done, or ask Him to do what He told us to do, we war against His purpose and provision for our life.”

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quo7“It’s not enough to be delivered from sin.

It is enough to be delivered to righteousness.”

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“WHEN GIVEN THE CHOICE BETWEEN BEING RIGHT

OR BEING RIGHTEOUS,

CHOOSE RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

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“The people who really rule the world are those who know how to pray.”

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“Rule with the heart of a servant, serve with the heart of a King.”

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“Gifts are free, but maturity is expensive.”

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“Anyone who knows who God made them to be

Will never try to be someone else.”

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“When you know who you are

You can’t be seduced by who you were.”

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“Being willing to do what you are not qualified to do

is sometimes what qualifies you.”

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“If you can’t be free from sin until you die, then Jesus isn’t your Savior, death is.”

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“Apostles govern, prophets guide, evangelists gather, pastors guard, and teachers ground.

We need all five of them, working together to properly equip the Church.”

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“Purpose to live in such a way that nothing ever gets bigger than your consciousness of God’s presence.”

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“Revelation is not the product of laborious search and study, but it is the fruit of your relationship with God.”

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“Every time we demean ourselves we are talking badly about the Artist and the Model.”

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“If you are too busy to pray, you are busier than God wants you to be.”

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“Worry is the darkroom

in which negatives can develop.”

Thanks for visiting.

JC

Your Words Make A Difference

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        Are you tactful and wise with your words? Slow to speak, and quick to listen? Or do you need to carry around a roll of Duct Tape to keep from sinning with your mouth and saying things you regret? 

          Oh, I am not pointing fingers at anyone, I have been known to need some of that miracle-working, silver sticky stuff myself.

          As a servant of Christ, we should immediately feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit when we say something that hurts people or tears them down. We should also feel convicted if we speak against anything that God has said about us. If we go for long periods of time and don’t experience those little pricks of conviction and correction in our heart, I would suggest that we are not even trying.

          We all have room to grow in this department; I don’t care how mature we are. One of the most important things we can learn is to trust our heart. Our heart (spirit man) has a direct line to God’s heart and mind, and the source of all wisdom and knowledge. If we take a moment to check up on the inside before we speak, we would see an immediate change in the quality of our communication, as well as the quality of our relationships. This is a principle that Proverbs makes very clear.

Proverbs 15:28 ~ The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.

In others words, give your heart a little time to tell your mouth what to say.


          Our words carry enormous weight, and can carry severe consequences. More than we sometimes think. They have the ability to impact people for a very long time, shaping and molding who they are and influencing the direction and path that they take. The bible says that faith comes by hearing, (Romans 10:17) So we should ask ourselves; “what are my words making people believe about themselves, and how are my words shaping my own beliefs?

          Words can build courage and strength or they can discourage and weaken. They can minister grace and life, or pain and death. They can build and edify, or they can tear down and destroy. They not only communicate, they also create. 

Luke 6:45 – A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

          What treasure have you been storing away in your heart? Did you even know that you had a store? Whether you know it or not, your heart is being filled with something. The things that you give attention to, look at, and hear fills your heart, and whatever you are full of comes out when you speak. A minister once told me, ” When you get squeezed with problems, what’s inside you WILL come out.” It is so true. So, when a Christian gets squeezed Christ should come out.

          God’s Word is the obvious choice if we are to store treasure in our heart. His Words are spirit and life, they are health and medicine, they are full of grace and they are truth. When you are full of God’s Word your communications carry a part of HIM with it. Your speech becomes a tool that God can use to build you up and impart grace to others.

Ephesians 4:29 ~ Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

The best definition of grace is: “The divine influence on the heart, and its reflection in the life.”

          There are few things more rewarding than to know that you have been used by God to influence another person for HIM. To impart His grace and leave that person better off than before you spoke to them. Man! It just doesn’t get any better!

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          “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Every day, we are shaping reality for ourselves, and others who hear our words. The choice is ours. How will our words impact others? How will your words impact YOU and your family? Are you determined to make progress in this area? Do you see the need?

          I have a little saying that I try to live by. As my wife will attest, I don’t always do it, but I’m still growing, PRAISE GOD! The saying is this:

“Before you speak, make sure it is an improvement on silence.”

          Just doing that one little thing will keep you from all kinds of grief.

          The Word of God is full of commands to keep His word before our eyes and in our mouth. It’s clear that words must be treated as a stewardship. I will leave you with two of my favorite scriptures on the importance of stewarding words. Be blessed!

Joshua 1:8 ~ This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Proverbs 4:20-22 – My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; 22 For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.

JC

Make Your Tree Good!

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A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit

Luke 6:43-45  For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

          Fruit comes out of the heart, good or bad, through our words and actions. Our mouth plays an integral part in what kind of fruit we bear, for out of our mouth comes the fruit of our tree. Whatever is in us in abundance will eventually come out as fruit in the form of words and actions.

          Fruit is intended for consumption and nourishment.  We are the ones that consume most of the fruit that we bear. Our minds must be renewed so that we will be transformed into a good tree.

Matthew 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.

          Make the tree good and its fruit will be good. When the fruit is good, we increase our ability to nourish, increase and sustain our spiritual health and growth.

          The key is: WE MUST MAKE OUR TREE GOOD! Spiritual growth and development is not automatic. We must cooperate with our Father to grow into the child that He paid for. We have been adopted, and that adoption came at a great price. He paid for our past and gave us a down payment on the future, the Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 1:22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Ephesians 1:13  In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

          The Holy Spirit is here as a helper, and advocate, an intercessor. To help us embrace the life and nature of God that now dwells in us as believers. It is our cooperation with the Holy Spirit that makes us good trees, bearing the fruit of holiness.

Isaiah 61:3 calls us; “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord. That He may be glorified.” We have been grafted in to the root of THE good Tree. Because of that, we ARE righteous, holy, and blameless in his sight. We have been made righteous by the blood of Christ! When we set ourselves in agreement with that truth, and believe that we are righteous in spite of our performance, we make the tree good, and the righteous tree is empowered to produce righteous fruit. Until you agree with what god has said about you, you will not be empowered to live out the righteousness that Christ paid for.

root.jpgColossians 1:21-22  And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight

          The fruit that you see is ALWAYS a result of the ROOT that you cannot see. We tap into the life in the root by keeping God’s word in our hearts and minds and being obedient to what we learn. Looking into God’s word, and obeying it, is like looking into a mirror. If you stop looking in the mirror, you will forget that you are a good tree.

James 1:23-24 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

JC

 

The Grace of God, and the Graces of God

111grc          The gospel of grace is a core message of the New Testament. In fact, grace is a thread that can be traced through the entire Bible. But what exactly is grace? How would you define it? The New Testament has much to say about the topic so it’s important to know exactly what is being said when grace is mentioned.

          From my own observation and experience, I see that Christians, for the most part, don’t really understand what grace is. They define it as “unmerited favor” or “God’s love and compassion.” While those are certainly true, they are just a few aspects of grace.

Grace, by definition is Divine Influence. Specifically, the Divine Influence upon the heart of man and the expression, or reflection of that influence through the life of man.

          In simple terms, grace is God’s way of influencing your heart, mind and soul so that the decisions you make in life will enable you to become more like Him and accomplish His purposes through you life.

divine in        Grace is God’s influence. That influence varies, and is unique to each individual. God tailors His grace according to your gifting, your place in society, your influence over other people, etc. Look at what Paul writes in Romans;

Romans 12:6-8 ~ Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

          The understood topic here is GRACES not gifts. What Paul is talking about here is the differences in our gifts are produced by the graces that are on our life. In other words, our giftings look different because the divine influence (grace) in our heart is unique to the individual. Look again at the above text, and pay close attention to the underlined wording. Then look at Ephesians 4 where it lists the 5-fold ministry gifts. When introducing the idea of ministry gifts, Paul begins with this statement:

Ephesians 4:7  But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Compare that to the Statement in Romans 12:6.

Romans 12:6  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 

          In both passages the language is virtually the same, yet the order is changed. Ephesians says “grace according to the gift,” and Romans says “gifts, according to the grace.” If Ephesians is clearly talking about gifts, then Romans is clearly talking about graces. When you put the two together you see this:

          The measure of grace differs according to the measure of the gift, and those gifts will look different because of the grace, or graces in operation in your life. There are 7 GRACES mentioned Romans 12: 6-8

1) Prophecy

2) Servant (ministry)

3) Teacher

4) Exhorter

5) Giver

6) Leader

7) Mercy giver

          To understand what a GRACE is and how it affects us, let us view them as glasses with colored lenses. When you are looking at life through those glasses, everything you see will be tinted with that color, and your actions and responses will be influenced by it. Your GRACE affects how you see things, how you deal with problems, and how you express yourself in your gifting.

          For instance, if you have the grace of SERVANT (ministry), you see the world through that “colored lens” (GRACE). Maybe your gifting is an Evangelist. So it would be natural for you to engage in “Servant Evangelism.”

          Your Grace determines how you think about things, how you approach things. For example: If your grace is a GIVER, and you are ministering to someone who needs healing, you automatically think of what you can GIVE to help them. Like buying them some books on divine healing, or sending them to a healing crusade and paying for the whole thing.

          If your grace is EXHORTER, you may encourage them in faith, read some healing promises from the bible, tell them “this is nothing for God, you can beat this thing easy.” You see the answer as just needing to be encouraged in the Lord.

          If your GRACE is TEACHER, you think that all they need is to understand and learn more about divine healing and faith principles so you try to teach them anything and everything you know on divine healing.

          Look at the rest of that passage in Romans and notice how Paul starts the dialogue.

Romans 12:3-8 ~ For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as
we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same
function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry (servant), let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

          When Paul says that he speaks “through the GRACE that is given him,” he is talking about the divine influence upon his heart as a leader and exhorter. When he teaches, that influence is reflected in his life.

          Pay attention when you see the word GRACE used from now on. I think you will see that this may be a key to understanding why we do what we do.

          I don’t expect everyone to grasp this right off. It is something to be contemplated, and meditated on. I pray this helps in understanding who you are and how God is influencing your life.

JC

Love Opens Your Spiritual Ears

          I think we all know that a “Hard Heart” is what causes us to be “Spiritually Deaf.” So maybe we should find out what causes a hard heart and avoid that condition entirely. Makes sense, right?

A hard heart comes from unbelief.

          Unbelief is the cancer of Christianity. It eats away at us from the inside, causing us to weaken and die spiritually.

          Hardness of heart comes from a misuse of our free will. We refuse to submit our will  to the Father, and it becomes committed, for the time being, to some form of selfishness. We actively choose to disobey or ignore God’s word, thereby departing from God, compromising the relationship, and violating our conscience. If our conscience isn’t clear, our confidence in God s compromised.

Hebrews 3:12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;

1 Timothy 4:1-2 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,

          A hard heart will not yield to, or acknowledge the truth. It makes you and your desires the center of the universe instead of God. Understand this:

THE SMALLEST WORLD YOU WILL EVER LIVE IN, IS THE ONE THAT YOU ARE THE CENTER OF.

          In Mark 8 Jesus spoke to His disciples about the characteristics of a hard heart:

Mark 8:17-18 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still[a] hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?

         In these verses, Jesus gives us the symptoms that are descriptive of a hard heart:

(1) unable to perceive, (2) unable to understand, (3) unable to see, (4) unable to hear, and (5) unable to remember. These are all speaking of inabilities in the spiritual realm.

          A hard heart is characterized by an inability to perceive spiritually. And when spiritual things are perceived, a hard heart will keep a person from totally grasping the few things they can perceive. They might see what the Lord is trying to show them, but they can’t get a hold of it in a way that they can apply it to their life.

You can reverse the condition of a hard heart. You have the power to determine what your heart accepts or rejects. You must control your will, and thereby control your actions. It starts with obedience. Obedience is the “love language of God.

John 14:23-24 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.

          It’s not a hearing problem, it’s a love problem! Love can only be known by the action that it prompts.  It is the act of obedience that shows your faith and love for the Father. If you have a problem hearing God’s voice, you probably know the area that you are in disobedience, but if your heart is too hard to be clear, you can pray like the Psalmist:

Psalm 139:23-24. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 26:2 Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.

god-opens-ears          If you are sincere about obeying God, your spiritual ears and eyes will be opened and you will begin to see everything and everyone different, including yourself. Having your spiritual eyes and ears opened is a condition of the heart. When your heart is tender and sincere before the Father, you gladly obey and He uses your heart as a conduit for His life and love to pour forth from.

Proverbs 4:23  Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.

JC

How You Love Determines How You See.

Love for God’s word brings the abiding presence of God into your life and gives you Heaven’s perspective.

John 14:23  “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

          Love for truth opens your eyes to more truth, and changes you perception of reality. You move from a worldly perspective to Heavens perspective. We must fight every day to maintain heaven’s perspective.

Love for people changes yours, and other peoples perception of yourself.

John 13:35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

          How you treat others not only effects how others see you, but it greatly effects how you see yourself. How you see yourself greatly effects you ability to believe.

Love for God changes your perception of Him because He manifests His love to you.

John 14:21 …”He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

Nothing solidifies your faith more than God manifesting Himself to you in a personal way. You move from “believing in Him” to knowing that He is real and He loves you.

Love for God and people empowers your faith.

Galatians 5:6  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

         Love is to faith, as gasoline is to a car. Love supplies the dynamic energy to make your faith become a reality in your life.

JC

 

 

 

People Flourish At The Place Of Their Assignment

          God is committed to who you were created to be, not necessarily who you are at the moment. Change and growth are a vital part of the Christian walk. We are to be ever growing into what He paid for us to be, which is the express image of His person.

          The problem I see many Christians fall into is not finding, or staying in the place of their assignment. God has a specific place He has called you to be, a specific body of believers he has called you to assemble together with, a specific group of people He wants you to be in relationship with. When you find the place He has assigned you to, you will flourish in your spiritual development.

Hebrews 10:25  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

          God’s grace functions best in the place of your assignment. When you try to be, or do something you shouldn’t, you frustrate the grace of God. This includes being in the wrong place and connected to the wrong assembly of believers. I heard a pastor say it this way:

“If you’re out of your place, you’re out of your grace, and you’ll fall on your face!”

11gracechanges everything

          Relationships can be messy. Still, God wants us to engage in community, specifically, the community He’s called us to. It is the tension and challenges these relationships bring that develops us spiritually and pushes us to change for the better.

JC

 

Old Testament Law – Made to be Broken

law

          Understanding the purpose of Old Testament Law is the beginning of understanding your imputed righteousness in Christ.

          I’m going to make a statement that may be foreign to most Christians.

 “God never gave man the Law to keep, He gave man the Law to break!”

          Does that sound contradictory or confusing? It shouldn’t. No man in history was able to keep the Law, except Jesus Christ. Never has any man succeeded in making himself acceptable to God by keeping the Law. Didn’t God know this? Of course He did. So why did God give us a Law that we are unable to keep? So that we would come face to face with the fact that we are incapable of doing anything right or just apart from His grace.

Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.

          The Law exposes our true nature apart from God. It teaches us that we need something far greater than our own strength and will to please God. The Law helps us to see our inadequacies so that we can be honest with ourselves and say: “I am a sinner through and through, and of myself I can do nothing to please a holy God.”

          The Law was not given with the expectation of us keeping it. It was given in the full knowledge that we would break it; and when we have broken it so completely as to be convinced of our absolute need for a Savior, then the Law has served its purpose. It has fulfilled the role of a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, so the He may Himself fulfill it.

Galatians 3:24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 

          We are all sinners by nature because of Adam’s transgression. The Law makes that sinful nature manifest. When a holy Law is applied to a sinful man, then that sinfulness comes out in full display making the fallen nature of that man manifest.

          God knows who we are. the trouble is, WE don’t know who we are. The Law brings us to a place where we see who we are apart from Him and shows us our utter helplessness under the Law, and our need to be saved from it. If not for the Law we would never see how weak we are apart from Christ. We would continue in the futile pursuit of trying to please God with our own righteousness.

          The Law was given to make us lawbreakers, to expose our sin, not to the world, but to ourselves.

Romans 7:7-9 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.

          We need to have our weaknesses proved to ourselves beyond a shadow of doubt. It is at that point we are able to understand our need for deliverance from the Law. We must be delivered from the Law to receive the free gift of the righteousness of God.

Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

“The Law shows us our need to be free from it. Free from our own works of righteousness so that we can see our need to embrace the grace of God and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.”

Law vs. Grace

          In a nutshell, Law means that I do something for God. Grace means that God does something for me. If Law means that God requires something from me for it’s fulfillment, then grace means that He no longer requires it from me, but He provides it for me Himself.

          Where we fall into trouble is our tendency to live by Law. We are far more comfortable with a “quid pro quo,” mentality. Do this to receive that, receive something for doing something. This is rational and easy to wrap our head around, but it is not faith. Faith doesn’t come natural because with faith, we don’t have the ability to understand everything. We feel the need to do something to earn what we have been given.

Galatians 3:19-25  What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

          Once faith in Christ has come, we no longer have need of the Law. We then must transition from operating under the Law of sin and death, to the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 

          Old habits can be hard to break. We are born and raised under the Law of sin and death. Faith in Christ, in His imputed righteousness, in our change of status from slaves of sin to adopted children of God takes a concentrated effort. Learning to live by the new Law of the Spirit is a process. We are born into this new life as infants, and for us to mature properly and thrive under this new Law we must reckon ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God by what Jesus did on the cross.

Romans 6:11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

          So why do we continue to try and live by the Law? Because we don’t understand that the Law was never intended for us to keep. It was intended to show us how futile our efforts are to keep it, and to expose our fallen nature to such a degree that our only option is to believe in our Savior.

JC