WHAT AM I TO PUT AWAY As a Christian?

Spiritual Blog - Put Off

Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

 Ephesians 5:1 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”  NASU

 

What do we have to PUT AWAY as Christians?  What are those things that the Holy Spirit identified through the apostle Paul that we, as believers, are responsible for dealing with in our lives?

THE NUMBER ONE THING IS BITTERNESS.

That is numero uno!  It is the big boy of things that we must deal with in our lives if we are to move into the Grace of God and mature as believers.  I would suggest to you that ‘bitterness’ is less about what you DO than what you DO WITH.   Bitterness is, in truth, a way of being.  It is something that has descended so deeply inside our beings that it is rooted to the core of who we are.  It is a state or a constant that too many either do not know exists or refuse to acknowledge.

Bitterness can be tied to an experience and that experience may have happened years earlier and likely did because now the hurt, disappointment, pain has become full-blown BITTERNESS!  Remember that Paul is speaking to believers!  I know that is difficult for some but he is speaking to believers who ‘still have problems’.  He is speaking to people that have brought some ugly baggage with them into the Christian experience.  He could have said, “Hold it!  You brought some things with you that are part of the old life and you are still bitter about them.’  Things that have become such an ingrained part of our being that we often do not even know they are there.  Big or small it was something that you never forgot or let go of and now it has taken root deep inside of who you are and has to be dealt with.   Remember what the Bible says about a ‘root of bitterness’ and it springs up and ‘many are defiled.’

Research has proven that ‘bitterness’ can release poisons into the bloodstream that can be measured in a test tube and those poisons can actually bring on sickness and disease.  We expect that of sin or what we identify as sin but do we really understand the danger of bitterness?

Bitterness never remains buried it has a way of being released to the tongue!  We see it in ‘wrath’ – flying off the handle and rage and it comes from a fire that burns deep inside.  We see it in ‘anger’ – you can see it in the eyes, by the body language but they are nice people and don’t let it out but it is there.  We see it in ‘clamor’ – uncontrolled shouting, loud arguing and no control over the tongue.  They will beat you up verbally.  We see it in ‘evil speaking’ – deliberately spreading gossip and harmful stories about people to hurt them.  In the Greek, it is called ‘blasphemy’.   We see it in ‘malice’ – a settle determination to hurt others.  They may have hurt you and you are ‘getting even.’ 

Paul says – – God says – – PUT IT AWAY!  You do not have to be bound by bitterness Jesus died for your victory and freedom!

          May God bless you as you go through your day!

 

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I REFUSE TO BE A VICTIM…. I am a Christian….

Spiritual Blog - Victim

Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

 Ephesians 5:1 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”  NASU

 

Yesterday we talked about this a little and I want us to move further into our consideration of the mindset of ‘victim’ vs. ‘Christian.’  I truly believe that one of the reasons that we fall into that trap is that we fail to understand GRACE.  Sometimes it seems like we think Grace is simply God being gracious to us.  I think the schoolmaster ‘The Law’ that brought us to ‘Grace’ has become a problem in that in THE LAW or any LAW says if you behave, I am satisfied.  Grace does not issue that edict but demands more.    The Law simply deals with my behavior but Grace deals with my heart.  I can ‘look the part’, ‘act the part,’ and appear to be Christian but inside be full of filth.  Grace deals with my heart and regardless of how I look on the outside, it is working on the inside or THE HEART!

Grace is not focused on behavior but the Church frequently is.  We fulfill the scripture that ‘man looks on the outward’ to a tee!  Grace deals with our ‘want to’ and begins the process of change there at the seat of the problem and the core of our being.  THEN, when the heart is changed the behavior follows naturally.  Sadly, behavior too often is nothing more than a ‘mask’ that professors of Christianity wear and hide who they really are from the world but you cannot hide from God!

Notice Paul says, “The Grace has come to you….”  In other words, it has invaded who you are.  Now it is up to us to cooperate with the Spirit of God and allow change to be effected in our lives on the inside.  Grace did not just bring us deliverance from the world of sin it brings us Salvation that takes place every day of our lives.  It brings us daily wholeness!  The Grace of God makes us ‘spiritually healthy’ and ‘whole.’  There is a truth that I won’t get into here but sometimes we are sick in our bodies because we are sick in our heads and hearts.  I have heard medical doctors claim that upwards of 90% of all diseases are psychosomatic.  I don’t know that I would go that far but I do know that our attitudes can affect our health.  Please do not assume that I am saying if you were right spiritually you would not battle any physical ailment.  I did not and do not say that!

Paul tells us that there are some things that we MUST DO as believers.  There are some things that we do not just pray about but take ownership of and act on.  We are to put away – malice, bitterness, and evil speaking.  That is pretty radical but the Holy Spirit emphasized the PUT AWAY which in the Greek means ‘make a decisive choice.’  It is like saying, ‘Do it man!  Make it happen!  Don’t pray about it!  Don’t say I will try!  JUST DO IT!’

I want us to look at what we are to PUT AWAY but time and space won’t permit adequate examination so I will stop here and say God bless you as you go through your day!

STOP BEING VICTIMS – – We are Christians…..

Spiritual Blog - Victims

Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Ephesians 5:1 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”  NASU

             The more I read and study the writings of the apostle, Paul, the more I am convinced that he saw a life that most professing believers either never see or do not believe possible.  Paul repeatedly speaks of leaving the “old” – world, way, man and everything that belongs to the realm of sin and the fallen race of Adam and moving into the “new” – creation, self, man, birth and encouraged his followers to  ACT OUT or LIVE OUT the Christian experience through their new source of Life – JESUS!   His message was one that continually called for those who experienced the ‘new birth’ to BECOME who they really are in Christ!

The ‘new birth’ is about the process that happens after the experience of ‘salvation’.  In the ‘new birth,’ we were translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.  We were not and are not the finished product but are in the process of becoming!  So for the rest of our mortal existence on earth, we are moving from one experience to another and being transformed into something!  We are ‘no longer’ what we were and are ‘not yet’ what we will be but we are moving toward that goal.  It is time, that we allow the ‘newness’ of the Life in Christ to permeate every crevice of our lives and touch every facet and dimension of our being.  It is a ‘passage’ from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’. From ‘sin’ to ‘total transformation.’  IT IS SALVATION!

Tragically, most have the cart before the horse and are trying to change, shape up, get better, turn over a new leaf, and try harder or something.  It is the incredible need of humanity to ‘earn’ something and ‘deserve’ something.  God repeatedly says, “No thanks!  I accept you just as you are, where you are, and who you are because of JESUS!”  So, it is time, that we comprehend and get our heads and hearts around the truth that WE ARE ACCEPTED!  It is in that state of ‘acceptance’ that God steps in and begins the process of changing us or transforming us into His Image.

When we come to Christ we essentially have to ‘relearn life’ because we have the mindset of Sin in us.  That is one of the reasons that Jesus spoke of becoming like little children.  We have to develop a new way of thinking and a new way of living.  For that to become reality we have to be schooled or trained and that is the work of the Holy Spirit and those under whose tutelage we are maturing.   Too many just add Sunday to their schedule when they accept Christ but Christianity is not that.  It truthfully is RELEARNING how to live every moment of every day of every week of every month of every year!  It is allowing all the ‘distortion’ that is in us to be purged.  It is to allow the ‘bentness’ that is inherent in our DNA to be transformed by God’s Love, Mercy, and Grace!  It is literally having our MINDS RENEWED!

That is the only possible way that we can move from the human mindset of ‘victimization’ to God’s mindset of “Christian.”  We have to RELEARN LIFE and then LIVE that life that we have learned in Jesus!  You are a “Child of the King of Kings” not just a man or a woman.  You are God’s children and are heirs to everything that God is and has, so live like it!

            May God be with you as you go through your day!  

YOU ARE A VINE BRANCH…..

Spiritual Blog - Divine Live

John 15:5-7 – “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”  NASU

 

If Christ is ‘inside’ then the life that we live in the flesh is His life.  I have heard people sing or preach and someone come up to them and tell them how much they were ministered to as a result only to hear the person say, “Oh it was not me it was the Lord.”  While that is true, wasn’t that you on the platform singing or speaking?  Remember that while it is truly the Lord you are the vessel that He is using so do not draw back from celebrating your uniqueness.  He made you like He made you and gifted you like He gifted you so it is “I live, yet not I….”  It is Christ in Me!  You do not trust yourself but you are totally reliant on Him.  He is the Vine and we are the branches or a vine branch!

Have you ever considered the reality that a ‘vine branch’ is utterly useless in and of itself?  If a ‘vine branch’ is not producing grapes it has no use whatsoever.  I believe that God chose this deliberately to teach us a vital truth.  What is the Vine?  Think about it because if you dig deep enough you will realize that the vine is invisible.  It is an invisible life that comes up through the trunk and inevitably produces a leaf that produces a flower that produces a grape!  I have never seen a VINE but I have seen expressions of it.  Therefore, the Branch does nothing but receive the Life that is in the Vine!

Can you imagine a Vine in the spring and listening to the branches saying, “Man I’ve got to get this leaf out so we can produce grapes?”  No, it just hangs there effortless waiting on the life that is in the vine to flow through it and do the work.  Jesus is trying to convey to us that it is the same principle in the Christian Life.  We are just the flow through vessels or the channels through which the Life of the Vine flows.  He is trying to convey to us that if we will just be ‘in’ Him, He will do the work and produce the fruit!

Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 when He said, “Come unto me all you that labor and are heaven laden and I will give you a rest.”  The word rest could be accurately translated vacation.  What is a vacation?  It is when you stop working and rest!  Jesus was not speaking to ‘sinners’, He was speaking to ‘believers.’  He was talking to people who were trying to ‘work enough, do enough, and please God.’  So, if you ever grow sick and tired of trying to do enough to please God He is calling ‘Come unto Me, and I will….’  

Imagine that!  The Religion that wants to deserve and earn it has a difficult time with that.  If we have to struggle to please God you have a number of choices.  You can be a Buddhist, Hindu, or any other religion in the word because they are all struggling.  But, if I am a Christian, according to the Bible, I STOP STRUGGLING and allow the Life of the Vine to LIFE and FLOW through me.  “I live, but it is not I, it is Christ.”  All the Branch does is remain IN THE VINE!  The Life that is in the Vine flows into the branch and produces the visible fruit!

STOP STRUGGLING and allow Christ in you to produce the Hope of Glory!  Let God live His life through you!   Christianity is a Rest, not a Struggle!

            May God bless you as you go through your day!

QUALIFICATIONS FOR OFFERINGS TO BE RECEIVED AND BLESSED…

Spiritual Blog - Offerings

Matthew 5:21-26 – “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’  22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘ You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.  23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.  25 ” Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.  26 “Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.”  NASU 

 

As I have meditated upon my own experiences and listened to the questions of others regarding “offerings” and the seeming lack of response from God some things have come to light.  The Bible says, “Give and it shall be given unto you…”  The clear teaching of Scripture is that when we give, God responds in kind and the Law of Sowing and Reaping or Law of Harvest cannot be overlooked in Scripture.  But, what about giving and not receiving?  If you have experienced that you may have concluded that you just didn’t recognize the return or you may have determined that when you give you should not expect to receive.  I do not believe that we should give for the purpose of receiving for selfish reasons but I do believe that God’s word is true and He has declared that when we give we receive.  The receiving should not, in my view, be the motive for the gift but it is a part of God’s process and God gives so that we can give more and do more for the Kingdom of God.

Here in this passage, the LORD is dealing with personal relationships, hate, and anger.  In the midst of that teaching, Jesus says, “Therefore…”  You always need to find out what the, therefore, is there for.  “Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and remember…”  This is a gift to God (at the altar) and as you give your heart smites you with a twinge of conscience and you remember.  Remember what?  That someone has something against you.  He did not say, you have something against them but that someone holds a grudge against you or has been offended by you.  They believe you have wronged them.  Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t but their perception is you did.  That condition renders your offering unacceptable.  I am not suggesting you stop giving because, in this life, it is almost impossible for anyone to not find someone who holds something against them.  This is speaking about relationships and therefore this is likely a brother or sister who is offended.  How do you make the offering acceptable and complete the process of giving and receiving so that you can give more and more?

Jesus said, “Leave your gift there…”  Just when you thought there was a way out of giving He negates that idea and says, “Give your gift.  Leave it there before the altar.”  What do we do?  We go to that offended brother or sister and seek to be reconciled and then we come back and complete the offering.  Reconciliation is the heart of God in every situation.  Nothing is worth the spiritual, emotional, and possibly physical damage done in allowing grudges to fester and grow.  When we allow grudges and offenses to fester we negate our ability to witness and thereby diminish our impact on the world for good and God.

But, there is an additional part here that I want you to see.  When we give an offering to God that is acceptable He makes it holy and it becomes a sweet aroma in his nostrils.  The heart of God moves to release a return to you that is “good measure, shaken down, and running over.”  WHY?  So, that you can have an abundance to give to every good cause that He sets before you.  So, that He can demonstrate His Law of Harvest and both the world and church can witness His goodness and faithfulness to keep His word.  Good seed planted in good soil receives a good harvest.  So, that your life is a testimony of His Grace, Goodness, Faithfulness, and Provision.

God, bless you and if in your giving, you are finding that your receiving both materially and spiritually is reduced, examine your heart and consider this passage.  It is possible for someone to be offended and hold a grudge and we do not know it, but usually, we know.  Therefore, if we know then we should go seeking reconciliation.  Remember that a three-fold cord is not easily broken and when two are in agreement they can walk together.  We are told that when two horses pull together in tandem they have the strength of an invisible third horse.  Let’s seek to become stronger in unity.

God, bless you richly is my prayer and desire!

PROGRESSION and PERSISTENCE…

Spiritual Blog - God

Matthew 7:7-11 – “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  9 “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  10 “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”  NASU

 

The more I study the Word of God the more I am convinced that Progression and Persistence are interwoven in virtually everything and every truth and principle of the Bible.  Some read verse 7 and think that this is simply a three-fold description of prayer or three aspects of prayer but I suggest that it is an expression of Progression and a call to Persistence by our Lord.

It does reflect degrees of prayer.  It is within the realm of reason to argue that seeking goes beyond simply asking and the emphatic knocking or pounding on the door goes beyond seeking.  You may disagree and that is okay.  I suggest that this is a recognition of the progression in prayer and the need for persistence as verses 9-11 reveal.  This is amplified in Luke 11 where the writer includes an example of persistence in the words of our Lord before He says the things recorded in Matthew 7.  The friend who comes knocking on the door at midnight asking for food or anything does not receive by simply asking but by persistence.  He refuses to give up and the depth of his desire and the urgency of his need is revealed to the friend from whom he is making his petition, “asking, seeking, and knocking.”

There are many examples of persistence in the Bible including Luke 18 where the widow’s persistence awarded her a right judgment and the granting of her petition.  I do not suggest that God is an “unjust judge” and that we can wear Him out to the point that He gives up and gives in granting our petition.  Progression comes from our recognition of the need and the urgency of the matter as well as our ever-growing recognition of our true source, God.  Persistence develops a resolve within our hearts that cries out to God, the world, and the devil, I BELIEVE and will not cease UNTIL I have received.  In a very real sense, it is inspirational and helps fight off the temptation to grow despondent and plunge into despair.

Persistence focuses on God and is a vehicle whereby we develop faith in the Character of our Lord.  It also, by its very nature draws us nearer and nearer to Him thereby developing a closeness with Him.  Additionally, it opens the door for God to demonstrate His supernatural power and His Agape Love.  It helps us become aware of the spiritual conflict and the spiritual weapons God has provided for us.  For some, if the answer does not come quickly they tire of the struggle and give up resigning themselves to defeat.  Prayer is warfare!  Progression helps us to move through the various levels of the conflict and struggle in life and Persistence is necessary to break through to victory.

How many successful business people do you suppose there are who tried something once and it succeeded?  How many do you suppose there are that had to progress from one level to another and persist UNTIL they had their breakthrough?  It matters not if it is business, politics, sports, or relationships we move from level to level, dimension to dimension, and if we persist we have the possibility of success and achieving that which we desire.  There is a passage in 1 John 5 that stays with me constantly and has become a cornerstone in my prayer life and my approach to the struggles of life.  It reads, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”   How do I develop confidence that my prayer will be answered?  I must determine His will.  How do I determine His will?  One certainty is that I must PERSIST in His Presence and seek His precepts and purposes in His Word and that is a work of Progression spiritually.  Once, I have progressed in my understanding and relationship to the place that I KNOW something is His Will, then no matter what comes I can PERSIST because I KNOW that my requests are being heard in Heaven and if they are being Heard or Received the answer is forthcoming.

What happens if God does not answer immediately?  Does that mean He is saying no?  Remember Daniel and the angel said, “We heard you the first day, but were opposed by satanic forces.”  It was 21 days later that the answer came and we may have to pray 21 years but if we are crying out to God from a pure heart and pray according to His will and purpose quitting is not an option and persistence is mandatory.  The words of Galatians 6:9 come to mind where we are encouraged to NEVER GIVE UP.  If we are pursuing God’s purposes and praying His plan and purpose (His Will) we must Persist for if we give up and quit, we prevent our harvest from coming.  I want God’s Harvest for my life and for yours.  THEREFORE, Never, Never, Never, Quit.  Pray the Word, Pray the Promises, Pray the Prophecies, and Pray the Purposes of God consistently and persistently.

God, bless you richly is my desire and prayer!

THE DIVINE LAW OF CHARITY…

Spiritual Blog - Corners of Your Fields

Leviticus 19:9-10 – “Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10’Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.”  NASU

 

It is impossible even in a cursory reading of the Bible to fail to notice that God is a Giving God and has a heart of charity.  The Bible overflows with scriptures references to giving to the poor and needy and having a charitable spirit and attitude.  This passage, one of the earliest regarding the Law and Spirit of Charity gives a clear example of the expectation of our Heavenly Father regarding our caring for those less fortunate.

Notice, the directive, “…when you reap the harvest of your land, you SHALL NOT REAP to the very corners of your field…”  Yes, this is speaking about farming but, as with most passages in the Bible, it goes far beyond farming.  This is a principle of life that we are to leave “handfuls on purpose” for those who are needy and less fortunate.  That principle is or should be carried forth into every facet of our lives.  Proverbs 11:24 speaks to this principle, “There is one who scatters and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.”

When we consider what God has given us in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross how can we not recognize that we are simply stewards and not owners and gladly share a portion (the corners of our fields) with those in need?  I contend that God not only desires for us to be givers but expects it of us.  Matthew 6:2 did not say IF YOU GIVE but rather WHEN YOU GIVE.  He also desires that we give for the right reasons.  The motive is always important to God and as we study His Word we find that He pays more attention to the heart than the act. He also notices the proportion more than the amount.  Remember the widow with her two mites and Jesus said, “She gave more than all because she gave all…”  In truth, giving is an act of worship because it demonstrates our love for, confidence in, and thankfulness toward God and His provisions for us.  He even says in Proverbs 19:17 that when we give to the poor we are lending to the Lord and God never fails to repay.

Spiritual Blog - Corners

This truth extends far beyond money or possessions but sharing love, compassion, concern, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, friendship, and more.  It covers every area of life or should.  If we have the heart of the Father and the heart of Jesus we will be charitable.  Luke 6:38 gives us the principle in a powerful package, “Give, and IT (whatever you give) will be given to you.  They (people) will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over.  For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”  [Emphasis and notation mine].  The principle is that if we develop a Heart of Charity and follow God’s Laws of Harvest or Charity we will reap.  When we demonstrate the heart of God in leaving handfuls on purpose, God will enlarge our fields, expand our borders, increase our ability to give and we can carve out larger corners of our fields for the needy.

Giving and Charity expresses the heart of God and demonstrates our confidence in God and His Promises.  It is both an act of worship and a Christian responsibility that moves the heart of God and opens new doors for ministry and entrance into the Abundant Life that Jesus came to give.

God, bless you as you open your hearts and your hands as the Spirit of God directs!