WHOSE CHURCH???

spiritual blog - church

Matthew 16:17-19 – “Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  NKJV

Obviously there is much that can and should be said with regard to the truths revealed in this passage but my desire is to focus on the word CHURCH and think about that for this devotional.  I do not want to get into the debate of petros and petra regarding Peter or the foundation of Christ’s Church but about THE CHURCH.  There is far more to be examined that time or space will permit for a brief devotional but let’s embark on this brief journey.

The word used here is ‘ekklesia’ and in its simplest meaning is ‘a calling out’ or ‘those called out’ and the focus in its context is people not physical structures or organizations but PEOPLE.  Jesus did not come to save denominations or buildings but people and people make up the Body of Christ which is the Church.  Jesus promised to build His church and the idea of building is interesting 1 Corinthians 3 the apostle Paul specifically tells his listeners that they are God’s field and building and that he could be viewed as a wise master builder working to help them become that building of God.  In Ephesians 2 he speaks of them as being a building again and one that is ‘fitted together’ growing into a Holy Temple.  Peter declares in 1 Peter 2 that his listeners were a chosen people, royal priesthood and a holy nation who had been ‘called out’ for God’s purposes.   That is a beautiful picture of THE CHURCH of Jesus Christ.  We are a body, a priesthood, a people, a nation, a building, a family or THE CHURCH.

I upset some once when I declared that I did not go to church.  They took that as meaning I did not attend gatherings and after I let them stew a minute qualified my statement saying, “I cannot go to what I am for I and you are the church not this physical structure.”  Some still had difficulty with it and many pastors refer to the local congregation as “My Church” and if it is I’ll take a rain check on attending for I want to go where it is known and understood to be Christ’s Church.  I do not mean to split hairs or engage in semantics but the principle and truth that the Church (people) is Jesus’ and He is the one building it using people and other things as tools.

I had a group become incredibly upset once when someone brought a food substance into the local sanctuary.  They considered that a mortal sin and wanted the individuals to be publicly reprimanded for their great sin.  After all that was THE CHURCH.  They became even more upset with me when I stood in the pulpit and identified the structure we were worshiped as a SHEEP SHED and that the people sitting on the pews were THE CHURCH God’s Sheep.  Understand, I respect the sanctuary and want others to do the same for it is the place we have designated as a House of Worship and the name of Christ is associated with it so it should be respected but IT IS NOT the Church it is a building made by man’s hands.

I am troubled when I see ornate edifices so elaborate and find there is no real ministry, outreach or benevolence transpiring.  The focus is the SHEEP SHED not the PURPOSE and that is tragic, in my view.  Consider what Jesus said about this ‘called out’ group He is assembling.

  • The Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

If you see the gate as a physical structure or the church as a building this statement makes zero sense.  The gate represents the authority and the church represents believers and that makes it a powerful statement and is in harmony with the Lord’s words that we have “authority and power over all the power of the enemy.”

  • This Church has the Keys of the Kingdom and Prevails.

A building cannot accomplish that only people empowered by the Spirit of God can.

Let me leave you with this:  The Church is people who are born again through the Blood of Jesus and Grace of God.  The Church belongs to Jesus and He is the Builder.  The Church has power over the power of the enemy and prevails.  WE are the Church and WE belong to Jesus!  Therefore instead of making a building the Church in your view become the Church and demonstrate His power to the world.

            God bless you as you go through this day!

STOP LOOKING FOR SOME MAGIC TOUCH…

Spiritual Blog - Magic

Matthew 8:5-13 – “Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” 

7 And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 

8 The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

 10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!  11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.”  NKJV

 

This account is incredibly powerful as it speaks clearly to what I perceive as a problem in some of the modern church today.  Most believers testify to believing that GOD CAN, some declare they believe GOD DOES and others that GOD WILL.  Unfortunately there are those who believe God can, does and will are continually looking for a ‘magic touch’ to bring about the miracle.  If only… If only they can get to a particular preacher or church.  If only they could see a vision, get a prophetic word, receive a sign or something THEN…  What they are doing, in my view, is focusing on the wrong thing. 

In this particular account the centurion’s servant needed a miracle and the man asked the LORD to heal him.  Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”  Then the centurion said something that is completely foreign to the mindset of many believers and told our LORD that he did not consider himself worthy of the presence of the LORD in his house and that all Jesus had to do was DECLARE IT DONE and it was done.  He understood AUTHORITY and Jesus saw his response as the true description of faith and the operation of faith.

If we understand that simple principle we will not need the visible outward magic touch that so many seem to be unable to believe without.  The danger in putting confidence in something outward is that it becomes the source rather than God and no ‘magic touch’ can produce the power of God in our lives only God.  I was called once and asked to pray for a woman and had numerous commitments that prevented me for physically going to her to pray and informed her I would pray but could not come.  She immediately became upset and said, “Well if you don’t come and bring the oil I won’t be healed.”  WHAT?  It is not my hands or the oil that would result in the miracle of healing or any other miracle IT IS THE POWER OF GOD.  That power knows no boundaries and does not require external stimuli to work.  If we understand authority and believe that if Jesus says DONE it is done then distance is no problem and humans are only important in adding our faith to your faith.

So if you need a miracle from the LORD please do not put your confidence in what I call a magic touch but in the TOUCH of the Master’s Hand.   May God be with you as you go through this day!  BLESSINGS!

FOCUSED….

Spiritual blog - Focus

Matthew 6:25-34 – “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  NKJV

 

I used this text once and did something similar to what I want to do now and had a gentleman approach me afterward and informed me I had misnamed the message.  He felt my title should have said something about worry not focus.  He might have been correct but I knew then and now what was in my heart to convey and hopefully did so then and will accomplish that goal now.

Many in our present world are fixated on singular things and become so focused on those they miss LIFE.  I know some who are so focused on a healthy lifestyle they are miserable if they fall off their self-determined wagon of diet and exercise.  Some have become so focused on a particular diet and exercise regimen to AVOID deadly disease they spend much of their time fretting over and fearing they might somehow fail and open the door to disease and thereby miss LIFE.  I know some who are so focused on their financial future they spend endless hours strategizing, watching the stock market and other investment venues they cannot enjoy life and some have become so miserly they fail to enjoy the fruit of their labors and miss LIFE.  Tragically most of us have been guilty of WORRYING about something and in so doing we have shifted the focus from God and His provision and promise to this present world and our ability to produce.  Jesus’ words should resonate when He asked, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”  

Jesus came that we might have LIFE and that MORE ABUNDANT!  However, abundant life is not possible if our focus and fixation is on THINGS.  I can’t become taller or shorter by worrying about it.  I can’t become healthier but can become less healthy by worrying about it.  I cannot determine the outcome of tomorrow by worrying but I can alter tomorrow’s potential outcome by shifting my focus from THINGS to God and place my confidence in Him.

Jesus made it clear that WORRY should not be a part of the mental, emotional or spiritual makeup of a believer for its roots are worldly.  He reminds us that The Father knows what we need and if we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, ALL THESE THINGS will be ours.  He reminded us that each day has enough problems without adding to them with wrong focus and worry.  I actually had a woman tell me once that she had to worry because if she didn’t NO ONE WOULD.  I tried not to laugh and wanted to cry for it revealed a terrible flaw in her thinking and no matter how much I tried could not shake her from that sense of responsibility and duty to WORRY.  If worry could make you thinner many would be bean poles. If worry could make you taller or shorter millions would achieve that illusive perfect height.  If worry could make you more successful there would be an instantaneous addition of millions to the Forbes list.  BUT IT CANNOT and rather than making us thinner it may contribute to being heavier, less healthy, less successful and more strained in our personal and spiritual relationships.  Therefore let us carefully heed the directive of our LORD and CEASE WORRYING and begin SEEKING GOD first and foremost while LIVING the life He has given through His grace.  THE DIRECTIVE OF THE LORD IS – – F O C U S… Focus on Him!!!

            May the Lord be with you as you go through this day!

THE CONDITIONAL ASPECT OF GOD’S BLESSINGS…

Spiritual Blog - Live

Deuteronomy 8:1 – “Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers.”  NKJV

 

There is a wealth to be gleaned in this chapter with the key elements being Obedience and Faith.  There are a wealth of promises of blessing from the LORD and in virtually every case, as in this promise, there are conditions or qualifiers inserted by the LORD.  It is not that we earn it but we can disqualify ourselves through disobedience.  It is by grace that we have salvation or any of the blessings of God and through disobedience we separate ourselves from His blessings.

Notice the progression of directives:

  • Every Commandment carefully observed (obeyed).

The result is life, multiplication and possession of the promise.  

  • Obedience to God’s commandments.

We understand that to disobey or fail to keep God’s commandments was an evidence of forgetting God.  There is a warning of self-sufficiency and in a time of plenty to neglect our walk with the LORD.  There is the danger of attributing your success to your own efforts and abilities.

  • Remember Who Gives You The Power and/or Ability to Succeed.

It is God!  He gives the power to produce or achieve wealth or success and His purpose in so blessing you is that He may establish His covenant and that will be a testimony of His love and grace.  The warning is, fail to keep his commandments and forget Him and He will stand against you and remove His hand of mercy.  The imagery of that is anything but pleasant.

             Therefore, always remember that you are what you are by the grace of God.  I am not saying if you are living vile you can blame Him but if you are walking in blessing it is because of His gifts, abilities and grace.  If you are alive it is because His sustaining hand is upon your life enabling you to draw another breath.  If you have any gifts or abilities although you may have honed them through hard work, education and experience always remember where the gift came from.

God’s desires to bless us richly.  Remember the Lord Jesus’ words in Luke 12:32 – “Do not fear, little flock, for it is y our Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  God is more desirous to bless you and heap His abundance on you than you are to receive it.  However, His purpose is always the Kingdom not your ease.  He will always have the whole of man in mind and heart.

            God bless you as you go through this day!

GIVING GOD ORDERS…

Spiritual Blog - God

Isaiah 45:11 – “Thus says the LORD, The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons; And concerning the work of My hands, you command Me.”  NKJV

 

I realize that I’m going to potentially get into hot water with a lot of people but when I hear someone ORDER GOD to do something I cringe.  Most of the time this is the verse they use and declare that God instructed us to COMMAND Him and while a cursory reading might suggest that there are some things we MUST always remember.

  • GOD is God and we are His Creation.

Nowhere in Scripture or life is it suggested that the servant or in this case the creation’ rules the master or ‘creator.”  NOWHERE! 

             Sadly too many times Scripture is used as isolated standalone passages without consideration for the context, without valid support for the doctrine being advanced and failure to keep the big picture in perspective.  In fact, verse 9 of this very chapter should give us great trepidation for taking that approach.  “Woe to him who strives with his Maker!  Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth!  Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’  Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’?”  Then in verse 10 we note, “Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?'”

To take the position that we are allowed to GIVE GOD ORDERS is one that except for a failed attempt by the angelic creation no angel will take.  How did it work out for Adam and Eve to attempt to ‘fire God’ as God and assume the role as those in charge?  You may argue they did not do that but they did when the rebelled against His command and decided to believe THE LIE rather than follow God’s instructions.

Life and all that we have is by the Grace of God and while God gives us authority to STAND AGAINST the devil and authority and power over the evil one how dare we assume we can COMMAND GOD?  One of the most powerful passages of faith in the Bible, for me is 1 John 5:14-15 – “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ASK anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have ASKED of Him.”  God gives us authority over much and the privilege to come boldly before Him to ASK.

God allowed Job to be placed in a very bad situation based on Job’s righteousness and integrity and then when Job begins to contend with God citing his own righteousness God stepped in and put Job in his place.  It was clear that God was bringing Job to face the reality that God was God and Job was God’s creation not vice versa.  If you attempt to GIVE GOD ORDERS what are you going to do if He fails to obey your COMMAND, fire Him?  I cannot imagine anyone who believes in God attempting to take that position.

We are allowed to REQUEST from God not give Him orders.  I can hear someone now recalling the wrestling of Jacob with God in Genesis 32 and saying, “I will not let you go, except you bless me” and claim that as validation for COMMANDING GOD.  Someone may cite Joshua in Joshua 10 where he said to the sun and moon, “Sun, stand still upon Gibeon; and Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.”  Although he spoke to created things he was not giving GOD ORDERS but declaring by faith that which he knew needed to transpire and placed his confidence in God to bring it to pass.

ALWAYS REMEMBER who is CREATOR and who is CREATION.  ALWAYS!  He invites us to come BOLDLY before the throne of Grace and ask what we will but can you truly imagine standing before God as you would a boss and DEMAND something?  I would contend that when we stand in the presence of the Almighty God we will have the same reaction as John in Revelation and FALL AT HIS FEET in fear and trembling.  Yes He loves us and dotes over us as a Father over His children but reversing the position of CREATOR and CREATION is a most dangerous position.

Lord, I ask you to forgive me for any and every time I have presumed upon you and help me to always keep in the forefront of my mind WHO YOU ARE.  God bless you as you go through your day!

TIME TO JUST GIVE UP…

Spiritual Blog - Give Up

Luke 17:20-21 – “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;  21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you. 32 Remember Lot’s wife.  33 Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”  NKJV

 

I remember the first time I heard Amy Grant’s “I Have Decided” and was troubled by it but as I pondered it something came rushing into my spirit for which I have long been thankful.  The part that troubled me was not in the second stanza, “…being good is just a fable, I just can’t ’cause I’m not able…”  It was not that I thought I could be good without the help of the Lord but at first that struck me, as giving up and I didn’t like it.  Giving up has not been a part of my vocabulary or mentality for a long time.  As I mused on that thought I realized, “It is time to just give up.” 

Time to give up trying to produce the Christian Life and allow the Lord to Live it in and through me.  I already knew that and taught it in principle but it took this song to cause me to examine what I really believed and how what I believed was being manifest in my life.  The next portion of the song drove that truth home in a powerful way.  “There’s a wealth of things that I profess, I said that I believed, but deep inside I never changed; I guess I’d been deceived.”  Wow!  Think about that for a second.

If the enemy of our souls can get us to profess something without any real, significant and life changing alteration in our lifestyles he has ensnared us and no matter how hard we try we will never, in that state, enter into the Abundant Life Jesus offers.  The idea as presented in the next portion of the song is where millions of professing Christians seem to live, “…a voice inside kept telling me, That I’d change by and by, but the Spirit made it clear to me, that kind of life’s a lie.”  We are either in or out and hot or cold there is no lukewarm fence straddling position in the Christian Life.

Too many are struggling to PERFORM the Christian Life failing miserably and feeling miserable in the process.  Discouragement reigns, disappointment overshadows and until we realize that it just will not work we will continue in that dilemma enduring the walk rather than enjoying it.  Self-righteousness is a detriment not a benefit in serving God.  Consider what the apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 2:20.  We have been crucified with Jesus and it is no longer you and I PRODUCING this life it is JESUS.  The very life that we now live in the flesh is the result of Christ in us living His life through us manifesting Himself to the world.  We become that which Paul spoke of in Romans 12:1-2 where we present our bodies to the Lord and are transformed by the renewing of our minds.  The mind that is now in us is the mind of Christ and the thoughts we think are God’s thoughts therefore the Life we Live is the God Life ONLY if we GIVE UP and stop trying to do it ourselves.  If we seek to ‘save’ or ‘produce’ the life in our own strength we will never achieve the objective.  Therefore, it is Time to Just Give Up or as the song of old, “Let Go and Let God…”

I urge you to ‘cease striving’ and struggling to DO and just BE.  A friend of mine likes to say that we are not Human Doings we are Human Beings so Just BE.  Be who you are in and through Him.  Give up your struggle to produce that life in your own strength for it is not possible.  Run to Him, receive Him and allow Him to manifest Himself through you!

            God bless you as you go through your day!

RULES, RULES AND MORE RULES…

Spiritual Blog - Rules

Mark 7:17-23 – “When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?”  20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.  21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”  NKJV

There is much I would like to delve into but will refrain focusing only on the ‘defilement of man’.  If we take what Jesus said literally, and we should, we will realize it is not what we eat and drink that presents the problem.  It may have health consequences and shorten our stay on earth and in that it is important but when we read what the Lord is declaring we quickly realize He was focused on something far more important than what we take into our bodies.

Jesus’ focus was where ours should be, THE HEART.  He gave a list not to be all inclusive but to give us the idea of what He was talking about.  I am often troubled when people take a list from the Bible and attempt to make it a rigid rule.  We need to always understand the principle, precept and message being conveyed.  Here Jesus lists some problematic areas that defile man telling us that ‘out of the heart’ proceed:

  • Evil Thoughts.

Anyone who, after even a cursory reading of the Bible, still cannot grasp that our ‘thoughts’ are critical to our spiritual health is not paying attention.

  • Adulteries, Fornication.

I would contend that adultery does not ‘just happen’ like spontaneous combustion it is something that develops over time as one allows themselves to be exposed to temptation, gives place to thoughts and fantasies in the mind.  The physical act is first committed in the mind then in the body.

  • Murders.

Hatred allowed to grow in the heart and thoughts can easily become an act of violence.  Therefore another reason to bring out thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Christ.  What Would Jesus Do should not be a cliché but a practical evaluation in our thoughts!

  • Thefts and Covetousness.

I would suggest to you that much theft is the result of allow covetousness to produce an attitude of entitlement, jealousy and greed where the act is justified long before it is committed.

  • Wickedness, Deceit, Lewdness, an Evil Eye, Blasphemy, Pride and Foolishness.

Not to lump them together but to address that Jesus is covering the many aspects of life to illustrate that it is in THE HEART that these acts are given birth before they become realities in the flesh.

 

No wonder we are told to ‘guard our hearts’ and ‘muzzle our mouths’ in Scripture.  Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks and as a man thinks in his heart so is he.  It is THE HEART not a list of rules that must be conquered if we are to walk in the fullness of the Grace of God in this present world.

            May the Lord be with you as you go through this day!