Wednesday, December 25, 2013

No Condemnation Part 5

This week, we continued the “No Condemnation” series. In this part, we looked at the importance of operating by grace so that the Spirit can work in you to the fullest extent possible. In Galatians 5, we read about the fruit of the Spirit. Our law mentality has often made that list of attributes of the Spirit yet another list of rules for Christians – thou shalt be loving, kind, gentle, patient and, by all means be self-controlled.  That is what human nature does. Let’s look, however, at Galatians in its entirety. In Galatians 1:6-10, we are warned not to drift from the true gospel that we received (grace) and not to listen to anyone teaching another gospel (forms of law), which is not a gospel at all. It goes on to say that one who IS teaching such a gospel is eternally condemned.

Law thinking likes to make rules where there are no rules and then use them to disqualify people from salvation or God’s blessings. Law also likes to zoom in on any verse that mentions condemnation or damnation and find a way to use it to disqualify others. This scripture in Galatians 1 is a great example. First, examine the verb tenses—anyone who IS teaching, not anyone who has ever taught, the “wrong” gospel. If that were the case, Paul would be eternally condemned, because at one time he was zealously preaching and teaching the law.

 The issue in Galatia was that Hebrew people who received salvation then slipped back into living by law – ignoring the true meaning of the gospel.  Then, in chapter 2, we are warned of those false brothers who were trying to steal away the freedom that came by grace by enslaving believers with law.

You see, this is a lie the enemy has used to tie the hands of the church and strip it of its power. Our heart is to do what is right and pleasing before God. That is very GOOD. But the enemy convinces us that the way to do that is to create lists of rules and keep them. Instead, we must receive grace and live by it. Then, we will allow the grace to do its work in order to help us defeat sinful actions. We won’t overcome sinful actions until we overcome sin’s condemnation.

As long as we continue to live by law (which seems good), we prevent the true power of the Spirit from being able to work in us.  Then in Galatians 3, Paul calls the Galatians foolish for tasting grace and then returning to law.  In verse 3, the word “human effort” in the King James is “living by the flesh.”  The Greek word means “by the sinful state of man.”  In Galatians 4, he lays the case for the difference between Ishmael, the one born of the normal means, and Isaac, who was the promise born of a miracle. Ishmael represents the law, and Isaac represents grace. Paul says that the “Ishmael” will always persecute the “Isaac.” The law will never receive the inheritance. It will argue that it has more right to the inheritance than grace because it has a “legal” right to it because it has earned it.

Get a hold of grace in your life, and you are bound to be persecuted by those who have  a law mentality. They’ll accuse you of lacking “holiness” or accepting sin. They’ll tell you that grace is dangerous. They will also continue without ever receiving the inheritance of the riches of God’s Word.

In the beginning of chapter 5, Paul describes those who return to law, having fallen from grace. That is probably the opposite of what you’ve heard or thought about that concept. We’ve been led to believe that when you willfully sin, you fall from grace. Willful sin is extremely dangerous, but it is not “falling from grace.” Either grace covers a multitude of sins and is sufficient for all things, or it is not.

Finally, in the act of receiving communion, we have been scared by 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 that warns of taking communion in an unworthy manner. I am sure I am not the only one who has felt a little fear when a pastor announced they were going to serve communion. Immediately, you begin asking for forgiveness for every sin you can remember. But what if you forget one? I mean it says some have actually died because of taking in an unworthy manner…..

You need to ask yourself what makes you worthy. Does your worthiness before God ever have to do with you, or is it always because of Jesus? I truly believe the most unworthy way we who actually are believers can receive communion is from a state of self-righteousness.  If you choose to partake in communion because you believe you have done good and didn’t sin, you are not acknowledging what the body and blood of Jesus represent and what they did. That is the actual warning in that passage – that you do not take it without acknowledging what it means. If you are truly worthy because you act right, then you don’t need the body and blood.

I think the most worthy approach to take is to realize that you are human and you sin, that God’s grace alone has made you worthy, and that grace was provided by the body and blood of Jesus. That’s the ONLY way to be worthy!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

No Condemnation Part 4

No Condemnation Part 4

This week, we continued our “No Condemnation” series. This week, we began looking at the connection between grace and faith. We must learn to receive those things that are gifts from God without injecting our own self-righteousness. 

Romans 10:3 says that with ignorance of His righteousness, we seek to establish our own righteousness. When we do not fully realize that He has made us righteous, we will still feel un-righteous and seek to fix it by creating our own form of righteousness.  We can even do this in trying to receive a physical healing. Frequently we hear or maybe even have thought or said ourselves that someone who has been so faithful in serving the Lord and giving and doing all the right things can’t seem to get the answer to their prayer for healing. We lament how unfair it seems that God must be.  That line of thinking is actually based on an “ignorance of His righteousness.” The two are not connected. In fact, we easily fall into the trap of thinking that we deserve something from God because we have done so many good things. That is simply not how God operates.

It is like saying that you can’t believe that all the work of crawling on your hands and knees for 3000 miles on gravel roads to get to New York City didn’t get you to Disneyland. All the commitment to that work was fruitless because you don’t get to Disneyland by crawling on your hands and knees to New York. You get there by driving to Anaheim. Is God so unfair that He did not reward all your work? No! You simply did not use the right system.

We receive from God entirely by the grace provided by the blood of Jesus. Your faithful service is very good, and it is profitable, but it does not earn you anything from God that is provided through grace. The works are the wrong currency. Jesus’ blood is the currency.

We also examined Hebrews 10:1, where it tells us that the law was merely a shadow of what was to come and that it was not the reality of the promise.  So, we should put the model together – the law is a shadow (that means the law has no power). A shadow has no substance; it is merely an absence of light. There is something between that shadow and the light source that causes the shadow.  The light source is God. 1 John 1:5 says that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If God is the light, and the law is the shadow, what is the object creating the shadow? Well, the author of Hebrews in this context was speaking about the past. The thing that was to come was the cross. The cross was the object that the light hit and cast a shadow through.

What is interesting is the fact that the tabernacle of Moses’ day was designed by specific and detailed instruction from God. It represented the practice of the law, and it was where the sin offerings were made – offerings that never forgave sin, but merely covered it for the next year. If you were to look at an aerial image of the layout of the tabernacle, it formed the shape of the cross. From the sacrificial altar to the laver, to the Holy Place with the golden lampstand, table of showbread, and altar of incense, to the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was– the cross is clearly seen. It was that shadow of what was to come.  Romans 3 says that the law makes us conscious of sin.  Verse 21 says that now we have righteousness apart from the law. 

Hebrews 10 goes on to say in verses 11-12 that the priest in the tabernacle had to continue offering sacrifices because there was always more sin. His sacrifice was not about eliminating sinful actions but about Him eliminating our guilty conscience.  The prior sacrifices were unable to clean the guilty conscience, but then Jesus came and made the final sacrifice, and now He sits at God’s right hand. 

In the instruction for and building of the tabernacle, there was one piece of furniture conspicuously absent – a chair. The priest could never sit because the work was never complete – but Jesus completed the work. If we choose to continue on by law and self-righteousness, we will never be finished and never get to sit down. “In Christ” we are seated, and we cease from the work of trying to sacrifice for our sin. Instead, we enter into the rest of the eternal sacrifice. 


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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

No Condemnation Part 3

This week, we continued the series, “No Condemnation.” Specifically we discussed the importance of receiving grace so that we are empowered to live by the Spirit.  In Romans 7:21-23, Paul illustrates what we have referred to as the “three-vote proposition” or the battle that goes on inside every believer. In verse 22, he refers to his inner being (Spirit) that desires to do God’s will in all things. Then in verse 23, he laments that the members of his body (Flesh) wars against his mind (part of the Soul) to make it do what it wants.

That is the battle that we continually fight. The spirit is always in line with God and His Word. The flesh is always interested in what it wants and rarely lines up with the Word. The soul is where the battle is waged. The mind has been conditioned to live by law. It is human nature to not only want a list of rules that we should live by, but also to then despise the rules and break them.   Remember what it said in Romans 6:12 – that we should not let sin reign. As long as we have a physical body, we are going to sin. It is inevitable. However, be LED by the spirit to keep that sin from ruling your life.  

Part of that sinful nature is the desire to justify self by rules and law. We base our righteousness on whether we think we’ve done “good” or “bad.” But that is not how God is looking at it. He looks at you and judges your righteousness only on the blood of Jesus and whether you have wholeheartedly received that gift.  Living by this grace is the ONLY way you will truly overcome sin in your life. God still hates sin. In Romans 8:3, Paul says that God has condemned sin in sinful man. He did not condemn man. He never has. In fact, read Genesis carefully and you find that God cursed the serpent and that the land was cursed, but he never cursed Adam. God does not curse and has never cursed His children!  Actually, all the blessings written in Deuteronomy 28 for fully fulfilling the law are ours in Christ Jesus.

Instead, He established a plan where He would take on the form of man, shed blood and die in our place for sin so that the curse of sin would not make us cursed. There is a legal term called double jeopardy, which means you cannot be tried for the same crime twice. If you have been found not-guilty, you cannot be tried again for that same crime. Jesus already took the punishment for your sin. You cannot be punished again for that sin.

I am not saying there are no negative consequences for sin. That would be denying obvious truths. If you sin, it produces horrible things in your life and negatively affects others, but that is not punishment from God. That is, instead, the actual reason God hates sin so much – because of what it produces in this earth.

Let’s say someone owed me $1000. The relationship between us would be strained. That person would never feel comfortable around me. They’d probably avoid me if they were unable to pay the debt. What if then someone else comes along and pays me $1,000,000 to cover that debt. If the one who owed me did not know about it, they would still avoid me. Even though their debt were paid, their belief would still separate us.  Also, that person could know about the payment, yet feel that the payment was not legitimate because they did not pay it themselves. It was their debt, and they need to pay. Sure, I got far more than what they owed me, but they think I must still look down on them because THEY never paid me back.

I think many Christians live this way in their relationship with God. They may believe in what Jesus did, but they still feel like they owe God because they did not pay the debt that they owed. God got his “blood,” but I didn’t shed it. So they still live as one in debt to God – estranged and separated.  Well, Jesus didn’t only pay a million for your thousand in debt. He paid trillions. Was that a gross overpayment? It only is if you look at it from man’s perspective. If you look at it from God’s perspective and the way He values you, it is not.   God has made a tremendous investment, and he desires a return on His investment (ROI for you business folks).  He needs you to receive His investment of grace so that it will empower you to be used by Him to expand His kingdom. Living by law and self-righteousness neglects that gift and gives God little, if any, ROI. If all we do is receive salvation so that we can go to heaven when we leave this life, we have given God ZERO ROI. We must receive His grace and be used to change the world.

In service last week I did an investment schedule to illustrate this idea. Note, we are NOT equating grace and the blood of Jesus with dollars and cents! I am merely using numbers we can relate to in order to illustrate a point.  Imagine that God invests a trillion dollars to pay your $1000 debt. That seems like overpayment, but God is a shrewd investor. You see, if you choose to become good soil by receiving the gift of grace you could produce 30-,60- and 100-fold return. It can be argued that the 30-fold is actually exponential, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll call it 30x or 3000% (I’m figuring our production conservatively at the bottom end of the multiplication range God gives at 30 instead of 60 or 100). So the model is $1000 (the initial value of the trillion dollar investment) invested at 3000% compounded annually.

After the first year, that investment is worth $31,000. After the second it is $961,000. But by year seven it is worth over $27.5 trillion (making profit by year 7, the year of completion), and by year ten over $819 quadrillion! God wants that ROI in your life. Receive His grace and become good ground!

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

No condemnation part 2

This week, we continued the “No Condemnation” series. To further illustrate the meaning of 2 Corinthians 3:6 that says the law kills, but the Spirit brings life, we looked at the contrast of the first miracles of Moses (Law) and Jesus (Grace).  In Exodus 7, God instructs Moses to meet Pharaoh by the Nile and warn him that if he did not let God’s people go that the Moses would strike the Nile River with his staff and turn it to blood. All the fish would die and the river would stink and be undrinkable. Moses does as God commands, and the results are just as God said. This first miracle of “the law” turned water to blood and brought death and stink.

Then, Jesus’ first public miracle is recorded in John 2. Jesus is with His mother at a wedding, and they run out of wine. What we may miss when we read this story is the detail of what kind of jars Jesus used and their state. The jars He had the servants fill were the ones used for ceremonial hand washing. At an event like a wedding feast, there was a lot of washing that was necessary through the Law.  Worse yet, these jars were empty. You see, this miracle Jesus does actually has great spiritual significance. The jars for ceremonial cleaning were empty. The law had done all it could do! Having done all it could, there was still dirt and filth. Hands were still dirty. Jesus had stated that His time had not come. Perhaps He was referring to the fact that the time for the New Covenant had not arrived quite yet.

Cleaning from the outside was ineffective. Going all the way back to Noah, flooding the earth and starting over with just one righteous man and his family still couldn’t clean mankind. We quickly returned to sin and corruption. Jesus came to clean the inside of the vessel. A clean inside will produce a clean outside. No amount of law on the outside ever makes a man truly clean. The law was powerless!

Romans 7 discusses Paul’s struggle between the Spirit alive in him and the old, sinful nature. He points out that the law was good, but that sin uses the law to magnify sin and even create a desire to sin. He says that he did not even know what covetousness was apart from the law. Once he heard of coveting, then everything in him desired to covet. Law defines and magnifies sin and our desire for it.  This is human nature. Put up a sign that says. “Wet paint. Do not touch,” and see how many people walk up and touch. As soon as we are told we can’t do something, the sinful nature desires with every fiber of its being to do that very thing.

In Romans 8, Paul says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It begins with a “therefore” which means it is related to what he said in chapter 7. Because this struggle goes on and because we truly are spirit and not flesh, it is not our true self that sins, but the old, sinful nature or the flesh.  Yet, for the born-again spirit, there is no condemnation.  Until we get a realization of the fact that we are no longer condemned before God (through grace) we will have a hard time loving and showing grace to others. Once we freely receive, we will be able to freely give.

 Finally, in Luke 7 we read a story of Jesus being invited to the home of a Pharisee for dinner. While he is there, a prostitute enters and falls at Jesus’ feet, washing His feet with her tears and pouring expensive perfume on Him. The Pharisee, caught up in law, rebukes the woman and Jesus. He says that, if Jesus were the Messiah (God), he would not have contact with such a sinful woman.   Do you ever wonder how a known prostitute was able to walk unencumbered into the house of the Pharisee? Hmmmmm….

Jesus rebukes this Pharisee, Simon, by sharing a story about forgiveness. One master forgives the debt of two servants – one with a huge debt and one with a small debt. He asks Simon which one would be more thankful. Simon correctly answers the one with the large debt.   For us, the debt is actually equal. All have sinned and fall short. One does not need more or less forgiveness. Forgiveness is forgiveness. When we allow ourselves to use the law to make ourselves self-righteous, we are not as thankful for our salvation. This is because we feel we earned it. If I am right before God because I keep all the rules, then what did Jesus do for me?

This Pharisee was an expert in the law and a “keeper” of the law. As such, he had little thankfulness. In contrast, the woman knew full well she had been forgiven and was very thankful. When we receive the grace and His righteousness as a gift, we can be thankful and then, in turn, show love and grace to others.


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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

No Condemnation part 1

This week, we began a new series called “No Condemnation,” through which we are trying to get a deeper understanding of the grace of God.   In Romans 6:10 Paul states that Christ, and we with Him, died to sin – once and for all. There are two ways in which one could die to sin. One is to die to the condemnation and punishment for sin and the other would be to die to sinful actions. There is only one of those to which Jesus could have died, and that is the first. Jesus had NO sinful actions.  I know we’ve probably heard or thought that Jesus took our sins to the cross. I don’t believe that is entirely accurate. I believe that what He took to the cross was the punishment of all of man’s sin. Isaiah 53:5 says (prophetically) that the chastisement or punishment for our sin was upon Him.

Christ’s work was complete. If He had taken upon Him and died to our sinful actions, then it would be possible for one to live free of sinful actions. We know that is not the case. It is impossible for man to live free of any sinful action. The complete work that Jesus did was to die to the punishment and condemnation of sin. While it DOES take a lot of renewing of the mind to do it, it IS possible to live free from the condemnation of sin.

We already do live free of the condemnation from God – as will be witnessed by all on the day of judgment for those who have received the gift of His righteousness. We must learn to be free of self-condemnation and wrong beliefs that God is condemning us. By that Spirit, that is possible. Living free from sinful actions is not possible, however, while we live in mortal bodies.

Then Romans 6:11 goes on to tell us to “in the same way” be dead to sin and alive in Christ. Verse 12 tells us not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies. You see, Paul got it. Sin is going to BE in your mortal body. To demand it not to be would be an impossible task. What he tells us is to not let it reign. Do not let sinful actions and desires rule your life, your decisions and your destiny. Sin is always going to be there, but do not let it be the ruler of your life!

Condemnation comes when we try to live under law instead of living under grace. Law always leads to condemnation and ultimately death. Grace, however, leads to forgiveness and life. The law demands righteousness from sinful man, but grace provides righteousness to sinful man.  God has not gotten soft on sin. He still hates sin and wants us to hate sin. He wants our heart to desire to break sinful habits and addictions. His concern is more for what sin does to us than the offense of the action itself. He also knows, and wants us to know, that the ONLY way to overcome sin comes when grace teaches us to say no to it (Titus 2).  If we choose grace, we accept forgiveness, and it leads to life.   Law demands righteousness from sinful men, but grace provides righteousness to sinful men.  Exodus 32 illustrates this in contrast with pentacost….Exodus brought the law and 3000 died, Peter received the Holy Spirit through grace, and 3000 people were saved!

There has been no shortage of thou shalt in the history of the church, yet sin continues to grow and worsen. Taking hold of the grace of God is the only way to reverse the tide. Let’s get on board. Let’s receive the covenant of grace in our lives and in our homes. The law is still good in that it shows us the best ways to live, but it cannot save us. We need to stop trying to be justified by it and stop allowing ourselves to be condemned when we don’t.




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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What is Love Part 5

This week, we wrapped up the “What is Love?” series. In this part we discussed 1 Corinthians 13:6. We are not to rejoice in evil or iniquity but rejoice with the truth (the meaning in the original means rejoicing when “truth wins out.”  The Greek study of the words for rejoicing not in evil is pretty straight forward. It simply means not to find joy, elation or jubilance in injustice or something wrong.

We get a clearer understanding of this when we examine the truth we should rejoice in. Like love, the truth must be looked at from God’s perspective. We may think we do not find joy in evil. But there may be little ways that we do. For example, have you ever had that guy blow past you on the freeway only to find him pulled over a few minutes later? Now, be honest--You rejoiced a little bit.  But that’s just justice, right? I mean he WAS speeding, and he got caught. That is true. Actions have consequences, but we should not rejoice when we see it happen. Again, we’ll understand more about why as we understand truth better. Think of it this way: When we suffer consequence appropriate for our actions, does God rejoice, or does He desire that we not have to suffer that way at all? The answer lies in the fact that “while we were yet sinners, Christ was crucified.” He has made a way for us to escape the ultimate penalty for our sin – death and damnation, so we should wish for others to receive that grace as well when their sin leads them toward destruction, rather than being somewhat happy that they got what they deserved.

In the book of Jonah, we find an example of someone who was used by God (albeit reluctantly), yet struggled in this area. After Jonah’s life experiences brought him to his senses and he obeyed God and spoke His message to Nineveh, he chose to sit and wait for God’s wrath to pour out – even though the people did obey and change their ways.  In chapter four, we find that he was actually angry that God was gracious, merciful and compassionate. While Jonah was stuck in his pity party, God sends a vine to shade him. Then he also sends the worm to destroy the vine. Jonah actually finds himself in misery as he sits and waits and hopes for God to pour out some wrath on Nineveh.

Poor, Jonah. No one told him to stay there. He chose to stay. He was so eager to see God’s wrath poured out on the people of Nineveh. This is NOT rejoicing in truth. Some may think that when Paul mentions rejoicing in truth that he means we get excited when someone’s sin is exposed. This story of Jonah shows this is NOT the case.

Another example was Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. We know the story, but we want to focus on the character of the older son. We studied a few weeks back about how, when you read the parable carefully, you find that the older son was given his inheritance as well at the same time as his brother. Personally, he had nothing to be offended about. When the father rejoices in the younger son’s return, the older son becomes angry. He wanted his brother to get what he “deserved.” He wanted his father to reject the son.  Then Jesus pulls all of this into perspective in John 8. We are pretty familiar with what is says in verse 32 – that they will “know the truth and the truth will set them free.” To understand the meaning, we need to look at context. If we look at chapter 8 as a whole we get a better idea of what the truth is.

At the beginning of the chapter, we find the story of the woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees bring her before Jesus to try and trap him. They state that the Law demands she be stoned, but they also know Jesus tendency toward compassion. When Jesus demands that the one without sin cast the first stone, one by one they walk away. 

Much has been discussed regarding what Jesus was writing in the sand when He was engaged in this encounter. I am sure that if it was important, the Bible would tell us. There are, however, a number of interesting theories. One of my favorites is that Jesus may have been writing the names of those in the crowd who had been “acquainted” with this woman in the past. That would certainly explain why they suddenly lost interest in punishing her.  I have, counter to this, always believed it had something to do with avoiding temptation. Jesus was a man, tempted in every way that we are (yet without sin). He may have needed something to occupy his eyes and mind to avoid sin. If the woman had been “caught in the act” of adultery, she may not have been modestly clad.

After all of them walk away, Jesus tells her that he does not condemn her and to now, go and sin no more. The order of those statements is very important. He did not tell her to go and sin no more so that she would not be condemned. The truth is that grace comes first, and then sin falls away.

 Later in the chapter, Jesus has a discussion with the Pharisees about who His father is and who their father is. They are infuriated that He implies God is His father and they claim first that Abraham is their father and later that only God is their father. Jesus’ response to their claim of being Abraham’s descendants is telling in regard to the definition of truth. He tells them in verse 39 that if they were children of Abraham they do what he did. What does He mean by that?

 Abraham lived long before the Law. He lived by faith and grace. Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness. He had no list of rules to be justified by. Then in verse 56 Jesus says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” That sounds a lot like “rejoicing in the truth” from 1 Corinthians 13:6.  When God took Abraham outside his tent and showed him all the stars in the sky as a picture of the number of his descendants, it was not just physical descendants God was speaking of. He was showing him all of us; we who now live by faith and grace before God!



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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What is Love part 4

This week, we continued our series, “What is Love?” This week we discussed 1 Corinthians 13:5. In this verse we are given more things that love is NOT.  The first one we talked about this week is not being self-seeking. The Greek word here is zeteo. It paints a picture of one who is so bent on getting his way that he’ll twist the facts, look for loopholes, put words in others’ mouths, try to hold others accountable for promises they never made, leap on insignificant mistakes as opportunities to twist someone’s arm. Sounds like the kind of person who might have a career in politics J

It also can describe one who gets so upset about not getting what he wants that he will drag others to court to get what he wants. This is not talking about legitimate legal disputes. Paul was addressing a growing trend in Corinth where people were dragging one another into court for frivolous reasons. If someone has robbed you or truly defrauded you, the legal system is there.   As a modern example, I would use a situation where you slip and fall in a neighbor’s house. You were not really hurt, but then you see one of those accident lawyer commercials on TV and decide to see how much you are “entitled to.” That is not what LOVE does! 


The next thing love is NOT is easily angered. Strangely enough, the word “easily” is not in the original Greek text. Some believe that the King James translators may have added it to appease King James who was known to have a pretty short fuse. That is speculation, but certainly within the realm of possibility.  The Greek word is paroxsuno and is a compound word made up of para – which means to come alongside (like para-legal or para-medic) and oxsus – which means to pole, prick or stick with a sharp object with the intent to provoke. That is the verb form. So Paul is saying not to be one who CAN be easily provoked. I picture this provoking to be like the classic, back-seat sibling battle. “He’s touching me!... He touched me first!...”  If people at work know you are a Christian, and you let someone else provoke you to anger, when you snap, you provide a bad example of love.

 Finally, we talked about keeping no record of wrongs. The Greek word for keeping the record is logidzomai. It is actually an accounting term. It gives a picture of keeping painstaking detail of every mistake, disappointment, failure, or perceived wrongdoing in order to use it for future opportunities. Guys, you might think this is what your wife does, but remember, you’d do the same thing if you were capable of remembering like her ;)

You see, God chooses not to keep record of our wrongs. As soon as we seek forgiveness, He forgives and casts our sin as far as the east is to the west (Ps 103). He does not bring them up again. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says that he “reconciles” the earth through Christ Jesus and is not counting man’s sins against him. He reconciles the “books” that contain all our sin and it is balanced by the blood of Jesus – leaving an empty ledger.  Unfortunately, the enemy likes to keep his own set of books and try to show you and others that there is still a debt – one that needs to be exposed. Proverbs 10:12 says that hatred stirs up dissention, but love covers over all wrongs. 1 Peter 4:8 says that love covers a multitude of sins.  Love does not seek to expose the sin of other, but cover it. This does not mean condoning it, but simply not exposing it. Allow grace to do its work. Grace will teach us to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12).

 Nowhere is this example more clear than in Genesis 9:18-29. Shortly after Noah and his family exit the ark and begin rebuilding the earth, Noah gets drunk and naked in his tent. He has three sons. One of them, Ham, sees his father’s condition and exposes it to others. The two other sons choose not to look at their father’s condition but instead cover him up (a picture of grace).   The one who exposed, Ham, had a son named Canaan. Yes, the same as the land of Canaan. He was cursed by his father for his action and ended up being defeated by God’s people – the line of Shem.  And then we, the Gentiles, are connected through the line of Japheth (that’s all another sermon for another day).

Instead of looking for the faults in others – both in the world and in the church family – let’s look for the good. When we find the junk, let’s help people through their junk instead of exposing it. Instead of condemning sinners for their sinful actions, love them and extend grace. I’, not saying accept sin. I’m saying love sinners. Let grace do its work!




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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What is Love? Part 3

This week, we continued the “What is Love?” series. In this part we took an in-depth look at the issues of boastfulness and pride as discussed in 1 Corinthians 13:4.  The word boastful or vaunting in Greek is perperuomai and describes one who is full of self-talk, self-promotion, one who exaggerates his own virtues, is full of hot air/windbag and on the border of (and probably crossing the border of) lying – all in order to make others think more highly of them.  You may not think you do this – and maybe you don’t. But I bet you can think of someone (though you shouldn’t, since that is judging). This is because the nuisance of this type of person’s self-promotion is all too memorable.

 Have you ever “juiced up” your testimony because you felt it wasn’t radical enough? Then, what you did was boast (read: lie) to try and help God. He doesn’t need that sort of help. If He has placed someone in your path to share the Gospel with, then stick to the truth. He knows what He’s doing!   

Why do people feel the need to boast? It comes from insecurity and a need to be accepted by man. Sometimes it is rooted in having never felt accepted by a parent or other important figure in life. Regardless, it is something we need to get over because it is NOT love.  If we put too much value in the acceptance of man, we miss the mark in our acceptance before God. Now understand that, by grace, you already ARE accepted before God. You don’t need to work or do works to earn it. Sometimes I think we WANT to earn it. We want to think God must accept us a little more than others because of all the good things we do or bad things we don’t do but that is simply not the case.

 Instead, we should seek to be God pleasers as opposed to man pleasers. In John 12:42-43, Jesus talks about those in the Jewish community who, deep inside, did believe in Him, yet were afraid to admit it because they feared rejection by the Pharisees. Allowing man to give you your acceptance is a dangerous place to be. It’s tiring too.  If you are trying to please man, who is flesh, you will always end up having to do what flesh desires (sin) in order to please flesh. You will find yourself eventually having to check your morals at the door to keep someone happy.

Galatians 1:10 says that if we try to serve God while seeking the approval of man, we will always end up marred by compromise.  If we seek to please God, He will never lead us to sin.  Romans 8:8 echoes this and emphasizes that we are spirit and should be led by the Spirit.    Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, and it also says that we must have faith in the fact that HE will reward those who diligently seek Him. We please God by placing more value in His opinion of our lives than the opinions of men. We must believe that, even when it is very hard to do it, if we avoid the temptation to please men, God WILL reward us.

Proverbs 3:3-4 tells us to make our lives about loving others. In doing so we will gain favor in the eyes of God AND man. Now, I understand there will always be haters. But, by and large, if you live a lifestyle of loving others which is what pleases God, you will also end up pleasing most men.

Then we must deal with pride. Pride, or being “puffed up” as the King James version puts it, by definition doesn’t sound much different than boasting. I would say the difference is this: Boasting is usually done out of insecurity. Pride actually believes one’s own boasting. It believes its own hype.  In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul addresses an issue with pride in the church of Corinth. The church leaders had become prideful about their knowledge of the Word. The problem was that in all their pride they seemed to be okay with blatant, unabashed sin in one of their brothers. Their spiritual pride had blinded them from truth.

In chapter 8 and verse 1 he brings the topic to a head by declaring that knowledge “puffs up” while love edifies. Knowledge itself is very good. We need it. But knowledge can also magnify pride – especially when our pride is in our knowledge. It is a trap many Christians fall into. Instead of true knowledge of the Word driving one to love more, it can cause one to instead judge harshly. Love builds others up, not tears them down.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What is Love? Part 2

This week, we continued our series, “What is Love?” In this part we discussed the patience of love.  First, we examined the word agape. This is the Greek word for love that is used throughout 1 Corinthians 13. This particular word is only used in the Bible to describe God’s love and the love that flows from us to others. It gives the picture of a love that gives and gives and gives – even if it is never responded to or acknowledged. It is love that is a choice and not a response.

This is contrary to the way we tend to love. Our love is usually a response to being loved. In fact 1 John 4:19 tells us that we love because He first loved us. Love starts with Him. When we receive that love, we then are able to love much more like He does.  We are told to “have” love. But God “is” love.

Let’s look at patience. The word used for patience in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is makrothumia. It is a compound word made up of makros which means long, distant, remote, long duration and thumos which means swelling emotion or growing passion. The King James version uses the phrase “suffereth long.” God’s patience is one that actually continues to grow as we flounder about. It is a patience that goes for as long as needed. The longer the fight, the more committed to being patient that agape love becomes.  That is quite the opposite of what we do. We are looking for the list of things that can occur that allow us to stop being patient with one another. When do I not have to love anymore? So, how can we be expected to be truly patient with one another?

Romans 5:5 tells us that the love of God (agape) has been poured abundantly into our hearts. He has already given us HIS love as a resource because He knows ours isn’t enough.  The fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22) has been placed inside of us. We don’t have true love, goodness, self-control… patience. But it is inside of us waiting for us to allow it to flow from us to others.

 We studied the question from the disciples from Matthew 18:21 and the parable that follows.  We talked about how the use of 7’s means that we forgive until all is completed and we are with Jesus.  During the story of the debt owed, we discussed the difference between the debts.  The original debt was $15 million by today’s standards.  The debt he would not forgive was $15.  We talked about the punishment of being turned over to his jailers. When we don’t forgive, we are turned over to bitterness and its results, as opposed to living by love and its fruit.

2 Timothy 4:2 was what we left with this week as a final comment.


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Thursday, October 10, 2013

What is Love? Part 1

This week, we started a new series called “What is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me).” In this series, we will be examining the topic of love from God’s perspective. We are not capable of truly loving as God loves – except by the Spirit working through us. We will use the famous “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13 as our basis for this series.  In this first part, we looked at the very first verse. Paul states that we can be as spiritual as we want to be, but, unless we are doing so with love, we are just a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

 First, keep in mind the context of this chapter. It sits between the 12th and 14th chapters, which spend a great deal of time discussing the gifts of the Spirit. Sandwiched between them is this admonition on love. You see, the world has seen plenty of believers walking in spiritual gifts and doing a good job of being religious – without love.  The fact that Paul describes this as sounding like a clanging cymbal made me think of a band. If our spiritual walk is a lot of religion without love, we are a band that is just one clanging cymbal. We’re missing the rest of the band. Love brings the guitar, piano, bass, singers and the rest of the drum kit. So, religion and spiritual gifts are good and PART of the band. But without love, they are just annoying and irritating.   Also, a cymbal is made of brass (bronze or copper, with Tin mixed in, so that the sound is hollow and not as clear as that made by bronze or copper).  The word resounding means echo or reverberate.  The two words resounding gong together originally in Greek mean “endless beating of metal that produces a hollow, annoying, irritating echo that seems to eternally reverberate.”

In Corinth, there was a major Pagan contingency. Part of their worship ritual included clanging cymbals incessantly. So, Paul’s choice of imagery is double-edged. Not only is loveless religion irritating and pointless, but it is actually worse than what the Pagans did. At least the Pagan cymbals didn’t turn people AWAY from Christ as loveless Christians do.  The clanging cymbal also paints the image of how the Jews would go into battle clashing cymbals. This instructs us then on both sides of the image. We should try not to be the resounding gong, but we should also fight the urge to be driven to battle by the resounding gongs in life.  We must learn to look at everyone as God does, through the eyes of grace.  The two words together “clanging cymbal, mean “constant loud crashing of cymbals.”

 We also covered a sort of top ten list of signs that you might be a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. Here it is in summary:

 10. You see yourself as “more spiritual” than others

9. You judge those who don’t hold all the same standards as you

8. You are quick to find fault with others – and point out those faults to anyone who will listen

7. You have an unhealthy interest in arguing doctrine

6. Your feeling are easily hurt and you are easily offended (especially by those who are not accepting your “corrections”)

5. You put a great deal of effort into presenting an image of yourself that is far better than your reality

4. You can never admit being wrong

3. You make others feel like they can never measure up

2. You like to draw attention to all the rules that you keep (that others are not keeping) and get defensive if anyone points out that there are other rules you seem to be ignoring

1. FINALLY…. You thought of or pictured people you know for numbers 10 through 2 (ouch!)

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells a parable directed at the “clanging cymbals” (or those self-righteous). He uses as an example a Pharisee, an expert in the law, who comes to the temple to pray and thanks God that he is not like all those heathens who aren’t keeping all the rules.  He also uses a tax collector as a counterexample.  Tax collectors were hated by the Jews of Jesus’ day even more than they are today. The tax collectors of that day were Jews who were hired by Rome to collect Caesar’s taxes. It was an unwritten rule that they were free to collect whatever they wanted on top of Rome’s tax for themselves.  The tax collector was seen as a traitor and a turncoat – utterly despised. In Jesus’ parable, the tax collector came to God and sought mercy – acknowledging his own shortcomings while the Pharisee exalted himself. Jesus said the tax collector will have found favor before God and not the Pharisee.

 We must learn to walk in grace toward all. This does not mean we cannot judge the fruit in someone’s life as a gauge for how close they can come to me , my family and my ministry. I can make that call by looking at fruit without judging a person’s salvation or their eternity based on a set of legalist rules. Only God can do that and we are NOT Him.


In Matthew 7 we are told not to judge, lest we be judged and that we should not point out the speck in the eye of another while we have a plank in our own eye. What does that mean? It means we will be qualified to judge others when we are perfect – so, pretty much never.


Let’s put love first and then religion and see if we don’t begin seeing better results in our goals of reaching the world with the Gospel.




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Thursday, October 3, 2013

West Side Story Part 4

This week, we wrapped up the "West Side Story" series with deeper study into the issues of greed that can be a trap in Promised Land living.  We looked at the passage in 1 Timothy 6 that discusses the "love of money." The first thing to notice is that it does not say (as is often misquoted) that money is the root of all evil. For one, it is the love of money that is the problem. Money is a tool or a resource. We are not to love the creation, we love the creator.  However, if we choose to hate money, we will always struggle to see our own needs met and never get to a place of helping meet the needs of others or to help expand the Kingdom. We should not shun money or fear its ability to corrupt us so much that we avoid it.


Instead, love God. You see, whatever you direct your love to, you will never get enough; you'll never be satisfied. Directing our lvoe toward money or power or anything other than God will always lead to an emptiness and unfulfilled desire. Instead, you should direct that love to God and be in a position of never being able to get enough of Him, and you will live a much more satisfied life.  The passage also did not say that the love of money is the root of ALL evil (it is A root of all kind of evil). Sure, it is a top three for sure, but there are many other ways evil is birthed in our lives. We can’t think that avoiding money is a way to avoid evil and become holy.


Jesus talked about this as well in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. If we get our priorities out of whack and spend our lives in constant desire for more money, we lose much more important things. He warns us not to lay up for ourselves treasure where moth and rust destroy, but in heaven.  Some have taken this to mean we can't have ANYTHING in this life, even to the extent of a savings account. Let's not get crazy here. We need to understand why He used the example of a moth and rust destroying.  Maybe you have a fine suit hanging in your closet. The only way the moths destroy it is if it stays hung in your closet. If it is being used, or is in motion, the moths can't touch it. A machine that sits unused will have its gears rust and cause it to be ruined, but if the machine stays in motion, rust cannot destroy it. What Jesus is warning us against is collecting "stuff" and having it just lie around and serve no purpose.


Is it a sin to have a nice boat (provided you can truly afford it)? No. If you use it to invest in your family by spending time together and building memories and relationships, it is an asset and is serving a noble purpose. If it sits next to your house for years on end and collects dust and rust, it is wasted resource. Let's avoid that!


Since we found at least three places that warned us to be sure to not use our godliness for personal financial gain, that must be a real problem. If godliness only led to poverty, there would be no need for these kinds of warnings. The fact that we must be warned so many times seems to indicate that leading a godly life CAN lead to wealth. Promised Land living can lead to blessing flowing in your life.  So, do not allow the stuff to become your focus. Remember where the stuff comes from. Remember that, even if you lost it all (or God asked you to give it all), you are still connected to the SOURCE of all good things. 


Now, let's keep on taking territory in our hearts and in our lives!



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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

West Side Story Part 3

This week, we continued the “West Side Story” series where we are learning about Promised Land living – how we take and keep the territory. In this part, we discussed the trap that the Promised Land itself can become. You see, as we begin to see the fruit of blessing flow in our lives, it is very easy to fall into the trap of the “deceitfulness of wealth.”   Jesus talked about in this in the parable of the sower in Mark 4:19. Jesus did not say to avoid wealth but the deceitfulness of wealth. When we have wealth, we can have a false sense of security or hope in our wealth. We can forget to rely on God.  We can think that we are the source of our own blessing.   When things fall apart, THEN we come back to God. Thankfully, He will never turn you away. But He desires that you not live your life on a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Problems come, but our lives should be generally on a slow, steady upswing as we grow in Him.

What is deceitfulness of wealth?  This is when blessing starts flowing (boom here in 2003-4 is a great example), and we believe that this was blessing flowing (and probably were right).  But then they decide they don’t need God and slowly drift away from the church.  Then all of a sudden we find ourselves having trouble and then become angry with God (as I saw many people do in 2007-2008 when the crash came).

 When Jesus makes this warning, it is to Jews who would read more into it than we might. Hebrew people were very familiar with the history of the Israelites and their journey into the Promised Land. The entire book of Judges shows this cycle the Israelites followed:

1)      God would bless His people

2)      they would eventually fall for the deceitfulness of that wealth and leave Him to serve other gods

3)      they become enslaved by another nation and finally cry out to God

4)      every time He answered with a Godly leader to lead them back to freedom.

5)      Then the cycle would repeat.

This same cycle goes on in our lives. When we begin experiencing blessing, we can fall for the deception that we no longer need God. We stop praying, stop studying the Word, stop going to church, etc.  The promises themselves become our trap – or the enemy uses them as a trap very successfully.  You notice that God still never quits leading us to blessing. He still wants to bless you. But He also wants you to learn WHY He wants you blessed (come back next week for this one).

We looked at Deuteronomy 31:16 and following….We also looked at 32:13 and following.  The blessing can become a counterfeit for trust in God.  I have seen people truly blessed by God, and they thrive in ANY season.  That is what God wants for us.

 In the story of the prodigal son, we find a child who goes to his father to ask for his inheritance. He subsequently squanders that inheritance on worldly lifestyle. When he has lost everything, he gets a job feeding pigs and ends up finally wishing he could even have what the pigs eat. Jesus uses this image for a reason. Again, these were Jews He was speaking to. The imagery of feeding pigs is akin to working for the world (the unclean world). He then desires to eat what the unclean eat. Finally, he comes to his senses and goes back to his father – where he is received and given another inheritance. One thing we can get is that God’s grace and mercy receives us back when we blow it. But the other is that the father never wanted the son to have to go through all that pain to learn that lesson. He never wants us to fall for the deceitfulness of wealth.

 The older brother in the story is akin to the law. The law judged the younger brother, but the father did not. You may not have seen this before, but when you read Luke 15:12 carefully, you find that the older brother got his inheritance as well (just a thought that changes the dynamic of the story a little).

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

West Side Story Part 2

This week, we continued the “West  Side Story” series – examining Promised Land living on the west of the Jordan. We examined the importance of driving out the “ites” from our hearts (where the Promised Land is for us). The ites represent sin and sinful ways that have been rooted in us that limit us from being productive in the Kingdom.  Numbers 33:55 says that, if we do not drive out all of the inhabitants, they will become barbs in our eyes (causing “vision” problems) and thorns in our sides.

We discussed three examples from the Word of this instruction in practice. The first was with Joshua himself leading God’s people into Canaan. After the victories at Jericho and Ai, Joshua is approached by the Gibeonites, but they didn’t present themselves as Gibeonites. Instead they made themselves appear to be a people from far away who wanted to make a treaty with Israel.  Their story appears to check out so, and this is important, Joshua does not “inquire of the Lord” (Joshua 9:14). We can do that sometimes. We can get overconfident and not stop to ask God for His opinion. Then we make a mistake that can cost us. Remember, God is not leading us to defeat to teach us a lesson. We find defeat by our own weakness and mistakes.

Exodus 34:15 specifically stated that God’s people were not to make treaties with anyone in the Promised Land. If Joshua had asked God, the deception would have been revealed. The Gibeonites end up being an issue for the Israelites on numerous occasions. Joshua might have thought he fixed the problem by making the Gibeonites work for them. That is simply making a deal with and accepting sin.  We can tend to do that. We may have a sin in our hearts that we make a deal with – perhaps even delude ourselves into thinking it is actually a good thing in our lives. Maybe we declare that our anger problem is actually a motivator for us. Maybe we think our gossip problem is not gossip – it’s being helpful in warning people about others. This is a dangerous place to be.


We listed the ites in the Promised Land and what they represent for us:

1)      Hittites—fear and worry—this stops us from stepping out and risking for God

2)      Canaanites—perversion and lust

3)      Amorites—selfish ambition, jealousy, envy, gossip

4)      Perrizzites/Hivites—poverty and lack

5)      Jebusites—worthlessness and low self image

Remember these things aren’t sinful unless we accept them in our lives as how we’re supposed to live.

We also looked at the story of Samson. Samson had a problem with women. Eventually, it cost him dearly. But his problem was not a one-time thing. You see, Samson was a Nazarite. As such, there were three things he was not to do – cut his hair, consume wine or grapes and be near dead things. When we read his story in Judges chapters 14-16 we find he does all three.   He even thought he was getting away with it because nothing bad was happening to him. This is how the enemy likes to operate. You see, God is not punishing you for your sin. But, when we don’t feel like we were punished we can think it was all “ok.” The enemy is the one who comes to collect on your sin. He is not always going to come right away. He likes to wait until the worst possible moment. He likes to wait until you are about to hit a new level in your Christian walk or until you reach a level of great influence. He wants the most bang for the buck.  This is what happened to Samson. Finally, the enemy came to collect. His un-dealt-with sin finally produced after what had been sown. The haircut was not the cause of him losing his power, but merely the final straw.

Finally, we looked at Paul who in 2 Corinthians 12 talks about a thorn in his side (sound familiar – Numbers 33:55???). Many have theorized what his thorn was. Some believe he had a sickness or physical handicap. However, I believe the thorn was a sin. What, Paul struggled with sin? Um, yeah, we all do.  Paul was a student of the law. He knew exactly what he was saying when he called it a thorn in his side. Then he says he asked God three times to take it away. You can’t ask God to take away the sinful desires you have. He is definitely always faithful to take away the penalty of your sin when you ask. But he needs you to do something to remove the desire yourself. The answer is in God’s reply to Paul.

God’s response is “my grace is sufficient.” To me, this proves it was a sin issue. Grace is the prescription for sin. It is not the prescription for sickness or disease--Healing is. Grace is what we need to overcome sin. Let’s not confuse the way we like to use biblical terms with their actual meaning. Some may think God was saying He would give Paul the grace to deal with the ailment.  But, Biblically, grace applies to sin. Titus 2:11-12 says that grace is what teaches us to say no to ungodliness. That is what Paul needed (as so do we). God’s grace would be sufficient to cover his sin and to teach him to sin no more.   Get hold of that grace to help you drive the sin out of your heart.

Three things we need to do to overcome ites
1) Remove the temptation
2) Fast
3) Keep eating Daily Bread (the word)--that way we can replace the problem with the truth

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

West Side Story Part 1

This week, we began a new series called “West Side Story.” It is the next section in our spiritual growth process from the captivity of Egypt (sin) to entering God’s rest in the Promised Land. So, we’ve crossed over to the west side of the Jordan River into Canaan and it is time to start taking territory.  Remember that, for us, the territory being taken is our hearts. There are enemies in our heart that need to be driven out so that we will flourish in God’s ways.

 The first enemy to conquer is Jericho. In Joshua 5:13-14, just before God instructs Joshua on how to overcome Jericho, Joshua encounters a mysterious man with a drawn sword. This is the commander of God’s army. Joshua asks him if he is “for us or against us.” The man/angel replies, “neither.” Neither? I thought this was God’s chosen people being led into His promises?  That “sword” is a picture of the Word. The Word of God is neither for you or against you. I know that sounds strange. What about “if God is for me, who can be against me?” Notice that begins with an IF. How do we determine whether God is for us? Actually our thoughts and actions determine it. If we are in agreement with and obedience to His Word, He is for us. He is ALWAYS FOR His will, not yours. When we choose to come into agreement with His Word, He is for us and NONE can be against us!

 Joshua chooses wisely and seeks to know what God’s plan is (and follows it) – making God for him and thereby making him undefeatable. This is why God begins His instruction in Joshua 6:2 by saying “SEE, I HAVE given…” God’s plan will lead us to victory. And actually, through Christ, it already HAS.

 Now, as we have been learning along the way, God’s plan often makes no logical sense. And Jericho is no different. How is marching around a wall going to do anything? Joshua and his fighting men must have had to resist the urge to “help” God with this. After they give full obedience, the wall falls down and Israel is triumphant.

But that is not the giant that had to be defeated. Joshua identified that one. He declares in Joshua 6:17-18 that none of the spoil from Jericho was to be kept. He declared it devoted to God. I’ve read this passage many times and never noticed that it was not God who commanded Joshua to devote Jericho to Him. However, back in Joshua 1:8, as he is taking command of Israel, God instructed Joshua to meditate on the Law day and night so that he would be careful to do all that is in it – thereby making his way prosperous and successful.  God didn’t remind Joshua what the Law said about first fruits. His study of the Law prompted him to know what to do. He knew he wanted the conquering of Canaan to be successful, so he declared Jericho to be first fruits devoted to God.

Then there is the issue of Achan. Achan kept some of the spoils for himself. In the end, he and his family paid the price. But there is an important lesson for us to learn. Before Joshua knew what Achan had done and full of confidence from the routing of Jericho, he sent men to Ai and they were defeated.  It is very easy to focus on the fact that they were defeated because of what Achan had done. But that was not God’s will or Him teaching them a lesson. If you read carefully, God did not send them to Ai, Joshua did. Sometimes we get out ahead of God and fail. God will never send you to defeat. We find it on our own when we step outside His will and He will use our mistakes to teach us. But he will not set you up to lose!

After the issue with Achan was settled, God told Joshua to go to Ai.  He actually used what happened the first time to their advantage and they won easily.   Giving to God is about our heart, not about how much or how often.  It is about us putting God first in our heart.  Then God can provide all kinds of other blessings, once we trust and do it His way.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Crossing Over Part 2

This week, we discussed the last step in God’s process before we are ready to begin seizing the promises of the “Promised Land.” After crossing over the Jordan river and before Jericho, God gives Joshua a very strange instruction. In Joshua 5:2 He tells Joshua to have all of the men circumcised. Ouch! 


Does God realize that the odds are already stacked against them since they are not a trained army? Then they will be expected to go to battle after being circumcised?!? But, as He always does, God has a reason for His instruction.  You see, the Israelites had been in the wilderness for 40 years. Very few of them had been circumcised – and it was time to get things in order before the action begins. But why was circumcision so important to God?

 In Genesis 15:18, God made a covenant with Abraham that promised him descendants as well as this land of Canaan. Then, after Abraham had tried to get God’s promise HIS own way (Hagar / Ishmael), God spoke to him again in Genesis 17 about doing it the right way. He then said that all of Abraham’s household must be circumcised. Ouch again!

 There are a few reasons for this. One is that blood is always tied to covenant--Abraham with an animal sacrifice and circumcision, Moses the same (as well as animal sacrifices in the tabernacle), and even Jesus who, as our perfect high priest, not only made a sacrifice for us but BECAME the sacrifice for us. His blood seals the New Covenant.  So blood seals covenant. But why did God want blood from that particular place? Well, He also says that circumcision is a mark or a sign. But why put that mark in a place that no one else is going to see (except for the one person in a covenant relationship with you, your spouse)? The sign is for you – not others.

 But this still does not answer why this mark needed to be on the reproductive organ. It was a sign and reminder to man that we are in partnership with God. We create and produce together – not apart and not with other gods. Just as when a married couple joins together, and (if the woman has not been with any other man) there is a blood exchange. That exchange seals the covenant relationship, and it says that this womb and this seed are one. No one else will sow into this womb, and this seed will not be sown in any other womb.

God wants us to be in that kind of relationship with Him. Before we go and seize all of the promises, we need to be reminded that we are in partnership. We create together. God is going to give us some seemingly strange methods to obtaining victory. We must trust Him and stay in partnership with Him if we are to experience success. 

Now, for us, physical circumcision is not the sign or mark. Now, it is a circumcision of the heart. God said in Deuteronomy 30:6 that the time was coming when He would move the location of the circumcision to the heart of man. Then in Romans 2:29, Paul states that we are not children of God not by an outward mark, but a circumcision of the heart.

Our heart is the core of our being. It is where the things we create begin. We must remember that our heart is circumcised for God and that we should only allow His seed into it. If there is seed that is in conflict with His Word in there, it needs to be washed away in the blood of Jesus. If the wrong things have been sown in our hearts, we need to stop watering them and pray for “crop failure.” Make the commitment to be much more careful about what gets sown in your heart , and you will see that you begin to create a much better life in partnership with Him.


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