Making The Right Decisions

Self, that part of us that is so hard to control, is the enemy we most need to fear as we go about our everyday lives.
That’s because we take it with us everywhere we go. And it’s our self that we cater to, and influences all the decisions we make.
No other victory we can gain will be so precious as the victory gained over self.

John 5:30Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

No Room For Hate

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Matthew 5:43-45 NIV3

I’m sure you have probably read this passage before. It’s another passage that seems to turn human nature on its head.
It’s another example that proves that the Bible is divinely inspired. Who on earth would encourage you to love your enemies and those who persecute you?
Humans, from a biblical perspective, are created in the image of God. God is the Creator  and we are made in that image. He has given us the capacity to create in our own sphere good or bad. In this passage Jesus is asking you to help him create good rather than evil.
Don’t get me wrong Jesus is not telling you that you should willingly submit to persecution or abuse or evil that is done to you and be happy about it.
He is not even telling you to accept the evil that is done in the world. Or accept the evil that is done to other people.
But what he is doing is he is trying to show us how evil is eliminated at it’s very root.
The evil He’s talking about here has its roots in the human heart. It’s in the human heart that Satan is able to manipulate humanity and destroy the image of God in man by having men do ungodly acts (to other men and women).
In this passage Jesus is encouraging you do not let Satan get the upper hand in your heart. Do not let your heart become and reservoir evil thinking or evil beliefs against your fellow sinner (because that’s what you are right?). It is exactly this type of thinking and belief that causes evil deeds.
Jesus encourages you to think positively about evil people (who does that, except God?), or those that are doing evil or acting negatively. He knows that when we think positively about these people or these actions we actually prevent further evil or bad things from being done. And that’s what it’s all about anyway, right?
So, when we say “no” to Satan’s promptings to return evil for evil, in essence we are creating good from that same evil. Sort of like when God created light from darkness.
We are therefore fulfilling His will as His children by doing what Jesus wants us to do.

It’s not complicated. It’s just hard for fallen nature to give in to His will because it’s so 180 degrees different from what we’re used to hearing and seeing.
So, take another look at this passage and allow him to work on your heart. Pray for your enemies, or those who you do not agree with. This may mean people of a different religion then you or people have a different political persuasion than you. From God’s perspective, there is no difference between us.

He wants us to get along with all of his children. Those who think like us and those who don’t.

A Daily Experience

Some may think or have the impression that being a Christian is more a destination than a journey. Having been “saved” or having been baptized is many times considered the rite of passage into an exclusive club.  And, once in the club there many times is little effort devoted to soul searching or self development.

“At ease in Zion” was the saying in my home church of younger years.

But, is this all that Jesus or God wants for us? Membership in the local congregation?

There has to be more to it. Don’t you think?

I’m sure that we all feel sadness when we watch the evening news. All the war, the killing, the dishonesty, etc. We all have to admit that the world does seem like it’s going to “hell in a hand basket” ever since the 9/11 attacks in the US.

Jesus did predict that things on our little planet here will really get out of hand, right? (see Matt. chap 25).

And, it might be a little misguided for Christians to try to make the world better by changing government policies to reflect “Christian” principles. There is a reason why Jesus contrasts the Kingdom of God with “the world”.

But, while it may be pretty difficult and disheartening to affect a change on a global scale, it is possible to change on a smaller scale. In fact that is what God’s plan actually is. A better world is made up of better people.

God’s plan is for us to be “better” than we currently are. He is all about self improvement and self development. This doesn’t happen by itself, but takes effort and determination on each one’s part.

A constant and fresh revelation of Jesus and his character on a daily basis is a good start. Reading about Him and reflecting on His person, who He was, what He stood for, will provide motivation to model His example.

It’s within the reach of each of us to be a little better each day. It’s His purpose that each of us should continue to gain knowledge and understanding of how to be more like Him and show it to others by how we live.

He wants the desire and the practice of being “better” to go viral and wants us to be a part of making it happen.

 

 

 

Jesus says “Don’t Be That Guy (or Girl)…”

Hey, have you ever seen that one religious guy in the movies that has the sign saying “The End Is Near” or something like that?

That character always looks a little crazy and they are generally meant to be the brunt of jokes. And they’re usually just a prop and not really part of the show.

While the message of the second coming of Jesus and the end of the world as we know it, is biblical, is it really the message that Jesus wants His followers to share in the 21st century, or is there something that will resonate more?

Jesus Prefers The Gospel To “Get Ready”.

The main problem with the “Get Ready” message is that it’s not the Gospel. Generally, when you hear it, there is no good news in it. Not a shred. Jesus instructed His followers to share the “good news”.

If you look in the faces of those who are giving the “get ready” message, they don’t seem to be too happy about it either. Some look sad. Others look down right angry with all those non-believers out there.

Good news puts a smile on your face.

Jesus addresses the problem with the “get ready” messaging in Luke 26:25,26:

25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

Jesus contrasts this with those of His followers that have chosen a less stressful approach for His second coming in 21:18,19:

18 But there shall not an hair of your head perish. 19 In your patience possess ye your souls.

Jesus is all about stress reduction. He is all about settling into the truth about How the Father and He has got everything covered.

“Wars and rumors of wars”? you can’t do nothing about it.

“Ebola, HIV, Famine, Climate change”? There is nothing that you as an individual can do to effect a change. Collectively, yes. Maybe. But in your own home, in your own person…?

Jesus wants you to sit back and go for the ride. There is nothing that you can do except watch how the Godhead handles it.

The Gospel Is God’s Antidote

“So, you’re saying that God doesn’t want us to be ready for the second coming, or rapture, or end of the world (what ever your flavor may be)?”

No. But what is being suggested is that “being ready” means something totally different to Jesus, than it does to fallen humanity.

The Gospel is the message that will get you “ready” for any adverse event.

Whether it’s the loss of a loved one or the end of the world. The Gospel is the message that God has provided as an antidote for anything the world can throw at His children.

Paul refers to the Gospel as God’s power… see Romans 1:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

The Gospel is the actual creative power (or ability to do) of God.

The Gospel, when internalized, will change your view of the world. It removes fear and other negative emotions from the human mind.

Jesus doesn’t want you to be fearful. He doesn’t want you to be worried. He wants you to be confident. He understands that you will get a lot more done when you feel good about things.

Through Paul, Jesus reminds us in 2 Tim. 1:7:

Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

And similarly Paul exhorts believers to understand what’s really at issue and to have “boldness” in Ephesians 3:10:

(Phillips translation)

The purpose [of the gospel] is that all the angelic powers should now see the complex wisdom of God’s plan being worked out through the Church, in conformity to that timeless purpose which he centered in Jesus, our Lord. It is in this same Jesus, because we have faith in him, that we dare, even with confidence, to approach God. In view of these tremendous issues, I beg you not to lose heart [be fearful] because I am now suffering for my part in bringing you the Gospel. Indeed, you should be honoured.

Think about this just for a moment….

The Gospel is the message that the Creator of all known (and unknown) creation has given personally to each and everyone of us. The Creator

The bible also refers to the Creator as All Powerful, Immortal, All Wise… and so on.

Ask yourself what message this type of being would want you to hear, especially when He’s on your side? He’s got your back.

Paul puts it like this in 1Corinthians 1:23,24

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Christ… the power (or ability to do) of God.

The Gospel message centers around God’s ability  (not yours) to do…

To God, getting ready and being ready means that you have confidence, boldness, and happiness. Not a fearful outlook about the things happening in the world that you have no control over.

If the brand of Christianity you see or experience the most doesn’t put a smile on your face…, if that gospel you hear preached (or are preaching) doesn’t tend to reduce stress in those that hear it…, it may be time to take another look at it.

Did Jesus Ever Sin?

The short answer is, no.

But that answer, while accurate, is almost a cop out. In order  to have a better understanding of just what that “no” means to us today will take more than a short answer.

That’s because that simple question contains the whole kit and kaboodle when it comes to understanding what Christianity really is all about.

In order to really appreciate the short answer to this simple question, we would need to have a better understanding of what “sin” actually is. Here’s a spoiler alert- It’s not just doing something “bad”.

And after we have a better understanding of what “sin” is, then it is necessary to explore the reasons behind Jesus’ mission here on Earth and it’s implications in all of creation (meaning the universe and beyond).

Whole books have been written on each of those subjects. So, we aren’t going to be able to address them here.

But, we can go to the Bible and see what Jesus says about it Himself.

There are two parts in the bible that most people point to that most believe answers the question of whether or not Jesus sinned.

The first is in the 8th chapter of John. Jesus is basically arguing with the pastors, deacons, and elders of the church about their plot to kill Him (Amazing how really religious people can be so evil).

In verse 46 He asks them “which one of you can convict Me of sinning?” Or, in layman’s terms, “who can show that I’ve done anything wrong?”

So, by implication, Jesus is saying that He has not sinned or done anything wrong by church standards.

And, in truth, if He had sinned there wouldn’t have been any reason for the Church men to set up their kangaroo court and manipulate the government into issuing the sentence of capital punishment.

A second instance where Jesus Himself implies that He has not known sin is in the the same Gospel of John 14:30.

Jesus, talking to His disciples about His coming death says, “…for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me”.

In this verse Jesus suggests that He has been sorely tempted and tried by Satan. And, even so, the Devil has not found any avenue to cause Jesus to yield to any of his temptations.

Sin is generally committed when a person indulges and gives into the temptation.

In each of these verses, Jesus Himself suggests that He is sinless. And, if He had, His mission to Earth would have been a bust.

You see, Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God. Part of His mission was to be the sinless sacrifice for the world. Not just for good people.

Another part of His mission was to live the life that Adam was gave up before he and Eve went their own way.

Another part of His mission was to be an example to fallen humanity of what is possible when your life is hid in God.

You see that while the answer can be a simple “No. Jesus did not sin”, there are layers on layers as to why He chose not to sin by resisting His fallen human nature and the temptations that Satan pressed on Him day in and day out.

To get a better understanding of what sin actually is, study the following verses.

1John 3:4

James 4:17

1John 5:17

Romans 14:23

A good activity would be that after you take a look at the above passages, reflect on how Jesus did not commit sin as described in each.

 

How To Start Your Day

If you hear the Spirit talking to you but not sure what to do… Stop.

Just listen.

God’s Spirit is working on the heart of every human in one way or another. He is calling us back to oneness with Him and His creation which we are a part of.

I’m not talking about some “woo-woo” experience per se. Although if you want to go “woo-woo” that’s alright.

What I am talking  about is the undeniable fact that you (and everyone else) are part of the Earth. This is demonstrated when any of us die.

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. We all go back to where we came from. Body and breath.

God wants us to understand this not to make us depressed in anyway, but to bring us back to reality. To redirect our attention from all the distractions that fill our days.

Everyone functions better when they are looking at things realistically.

A suggestion for anyone who hears or feels the Spirit tugging at their conscience or heart is to quiet the mind. Let your dust settle. And meditate.

In this case meditate on a passage of the bible.

A good way to start your day is with a quiet reflection on what God is actually like.

In the book of Lamentations, chapter three, there is an excellent passage to get you started every morning.

22 We are still alive because
    the Lord’s faithful love never ends.
23 Every morning he shows it in new ways!
    You are so very true and loyal!
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my God,
    and I trust him.”[a]

That’s the Easy To Read version.

Take some time…

Think on these things.

 

Are You Plastic…?

plasticAre you plastic? Are you fake?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling you out or suggesting that you’re shallow.

But, the truth of the matter is this: Society has always pressured people to “fit in”.

You have to “fit in” if you want to get the job, or the mate, or hang out with the “cool kids”.

There’s not that much appreciation for independent thinkers.

But, that just what got Jesus into trouble with His church.

The ministers, elders and deacons didn’t much like the fact that Jesus seemed to have His own interpretation of the scriptures. Nor did they feel too good about the fact that a whole lot of people took His word for things over theirs.

And to clarify, while Jesus was an independent thinker, He was not a contrarian.

You know what a contrarian is?

A jerk or B who just takes the opposite opinion of the majority simply because it rubs them the wrong way.

Jesus was not a contrarian. He had no ego He had to satisfy. He didn’t need to be in the spotlight. He didn’t feel the need to bring attention to Himself because He wanted to feel important.

Jesus was an independent thinker simply because He had an independent experience. He knew for a fact that God was active in His life. He didn’t have to have people agree with Him simply to be validated.

The daily spiritually supernatural experiences that He had were His validation.

And those experiences shaped the way that He thought about the world and His role in it.

That is something that God wants for you. That’s something that God wants for all of us.

You are the only you in the universe. You are unique. You are special.

The Father wants you to understand that. He wants you to immerse yourself in that understanding.

As you do that, the daily experiences that you have with the spiritual world will shape the way you think about the world and your role in it.

Sure, you’ll still have to go to work. You’ll still have to take the garbage out. Heck, you are probably still going to go through tough times periodically.

But, you will be you. Your true you. And, it’ll feel good.

Manifest Christ

If you listen to televangelists, “religious people”, radio jocks, even politicians you may get the wrong idea of what Christianity is all about.

It can be hard for honest and sincere people to get a good understanding of what the Bible actually says, what Christians are actually like, and what God really wants you to do with your life when you are constantly bombarded by what passes as “the message” these days.

Thomas Jefferson (yes, the writer of the Declaration of Independence), used to go round and round with all the pious and religious people of his time regarding what religion should and shouldn’t do for a person.

The Founders had no real respect for organized religion. However, most of them were believers in a Creator and some were even Christians. They were NOT, however, church men. And the morals of any one of them would stack up against a church full of present day “conservative christians” and put that full church to shame.

That’s because the Founders understood the difference between doing/being righteous and just looking righteous.

That’s what God/Jesus wants you to understand and appreciate too. There is a difference between actually internalizing goodness and truth and just talking about it.

When you internalize goodness it changes you. It softens you and removes the negative emotions and feelings from inside. It takes away all the insecurities that tend to make a person act and look ugly.

Christ was goodness personified. He not only communed with the Spirit as a choice, He allowed the presence  of the Father to actually live inside Him and control His actions.

As Peter preached in Acts 10:37,38

37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;

38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

It was the practice of Jesus to allow the Father to work through Him. To show people the Father was part of His mission here on Earth. In His prayer captured in John 17:4, He explains this. Speaking to His Father He says:

I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

As a Christian, your mission would be very similar if you were to choose to accept it.

Namely this: Show people Jesus.

This is what God is wanting from believers. He doesn’t want you asking “what would Jesus do?”, He want’s Christians to show others what Jesus would do.

What Jesus would do with anything that comes along to try and frustrate you. What Jesus would do when everything is going your way. What Jesus would do if He were to play a pickup game of basketball. What Jesus would do if He were to get a particular Job offer.

To be a Christian is not about where you stand on abortion or gay marriage. It’s not about which political party you belong to. It’s not about who you hang out with or don’t hang out with.

Being a Christian is about showing people who Christ is and what He has done for you.

 

Be Still…

Be Still And Know That I am God

The two following words in Psalm 46:10 are “and know“…

“Be still and know… that I am God…

Here you get the idea that understanding and knowing God comes through quiet reflection and observation.

If during the times when “The Sons Of Korah” wrote these words there was a need for quiet reflection, how much more now?

Let This Mind…

God asks us to love Him with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and with all the mind.

This is an encouragement for every believer to focus on developing the intellect to its fullest capacity, that with all the mind we may know and love our Creator.

Much of what people call “Christianity” or religion is focused on emotion. This make “Christians” think and act more from reaction than proactively demonstrating what God has done for them.

Let, or allow, the mind of Christ to be in you…