God is Love

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I had a cat once before I figured out that I was allergic to cats.  She would sometimes rub up against me purring as she weaved in and out between my ankles.  I used to think that this was because she loved me. I believed that she loved me because I fed her, cared for her and showed her affection…so I thought. Then I watched her “love” the couch, the table leg, the wall, etc. in the same way.  She didn’t “love” me more because of all the things I did for her.  She was a cat.  Cats rub up on things; it’s in their nature.

God is Love.  By His very nature, He is perfect love.  He loves us because that is who He is, because that is what Love does.  We are created in His image.  We are special, chosen, designed for greatness.  That is not why God loves us.  He loves us because He is Love.  When we are disobedient, He grieves as a father grieves when his son makes bad choices.  He grieves not over the choices, but over the consequences they will have on us; the ones He loves.  When we are obedient it makes God glad.  Obedience doesn’t make God love us more.  Disobedience doesn’t make Him love us less.  He loves us because He is Love.

It’s easy to make it about us.  What we do, who we are, how we feel.  But none of those things have even the slightest impact on how much He loves us.  His Love is not limited by our abilities or even our ability to receive it.  If we did not exist, He would still be Love.

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Connect

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Connection is the currency for influence in relationship. If you don’t connect first and frequently, then you are using a credit card in your relationship. You aren’t investing in the relationship, you are taking out a loan.

With children our connection allows us the currency to correct them. Without connection they obey out of fear of punishment as opposed to obeying out of love and respect.

In marriage, connection is the currency that builds intimacy. Without connection, “making love” is just sex. Without connection, husband and wife become roommates.

In Christ, connection is how we live and move and have our being. Connection feeds our daily needs and fuels ministry. Without connection, our quiet times become checklists (read the bible–check, pray for family–check, etc…). When we draw close to God, when we connect to Him, intimacy grows and He changes us into someone that resembles Himself. When we fail to connect regularly, then we are ministering to others on credit.

We must put down the book, ipad, iphone, prayer list etc. and first connect. Remove the distractions that separate us from our sovereign Lord, with great violence if necessary, and find Him in our quiet time. Worship Him, adore Him, talk to Him, hear from Him, receive from Him, CONNECT!!!

The Kingdom of Heaven comes to this earth through us. We are the channel, the conduit through which heaven invades earth. Connection opens the door. When we connect deeply and frequently, the door is thrown open wide and the presence of God flows through us and saturates the atmosphere around us.

Submission

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This word carries such a negative connotation. We associate it with failure, defeat and slavery. But it is for Freedom that he freed us.
When we submit control of our lives to our Heavenly Father, with it we submit the stress, anxiety and concerns of living. He is a good Daddy, who takes care of His children with a loving heart, wanting only what is best for them. Sometimes what is best for us is hard and painful, but He has vision and perspective of what we can be, that we will never know unless we submit to Him. It is an opportunity for us to exercise the faith that He planted inside us.

Let me approach this differently. I have a friend whose wife has a gift for organization. In their marriage, she manages the finances, pays the bills, makes the budget, etc. He used to be relatively unaware of their financial position. If he wanted to buy something, he called his wife and asked for permission.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:21-33 NIV)

This occasionally became a problem in their marriage. She stressed and worried about their finances and he was blissfully unaware. In some marriages (not his), the husband will make an extravagant purchase of something that he “needs” without consulting his wife and without realizing the stress that it puts on their finances. At some point, she realized that she carried the burden of their finances and that this burden wasn’t hers to carry. So she made a decision to submit their finances to her husband. She still does the books and she still pays the bills, but every morning she prints their budget and their account balances and slips it into his bible. He no longer calls her to ask permission for purchases, because knows their account balances and he is in charge of their finances. She submitted them to him and trusts him to make good decisions. They still discuss financial matters and their budget, but he is in charge of them. He stepped into the role of leader of their finances and now bears the burden of them. In turn, he is submitted to his Heavenly Father who provides for them. In this area of their marriage, things have returned to the order that God prescribed. She is submitted to her husband, and he is submitted to God. She no longer carries the burden and stress of their finances. By giving them to her husband she is freed. In turn, when he trusts his Heavenly Father as provider, he is free as well. Rather than offloading the responsibility and stress of their finances to his wife, he chose to love his wife and minister to her spirit by stepping into the position of leader of their finances. She can feel the weight that has been lifted off of her shoulders.

When we choose to control our lives, rather than submit control of them to our loving Father, we also inherit the weight and responsibility of our decisions as well as the stress and anxiety that accompanies them. We often “pray” for God to give us direction concerning OUR decisions instead of submitting our lives to Him, listening for His direction, obeying what we hear, and trusting that the outcome is what is best for us.
I find myself sometimes laboring for days over something before finally turning over to Him. When I submit, ask, hear, obey and trust, it’s over. No more stress. The outcome is His responsibility, and as it turns out He’s really good to me! I’m learning to submit sooner rather than later. With submission comes freedom, and with it, peace.

Creativity

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God is creative. He created the world we live in. We are all unique. He created us that way. Some of people are more creative than others. They get than from their Daddy. Conversely, the devil is not creative. He doesn’t create anything new. At best, he takes God’s creation and twists and distorts it. His nature is destructive, which is the opposite of creative.

Humans, however, find comfort in the familiar. We like to figure things out, find patterns of similarity, assign uniform how-to instructions, do things “our way”…. To some degree, its about comfort, but it is also about control.
As christians, as the church, we like to put God in a box. We create the “instruction manual” on how He works. “This is what healing looks like”, “this is what worship ‘looks’ or ‘feels’ like”, “this is how God moves”, “this is how God saves”. We try to “RE-create” atmospheres and situations where we experienced Gods presence and power. These are the instructions, this is the recipe, this is how God does it…. Don’t get me wrong, there is structure to and there are laws that govern this universe that we dwell in. However, at the same time, Jesus never healed a blind man the same way twice. While we make our instruction manual and go assemble our list of supplies ( dirt-check, spit-check, pool of Siloam-uh-oh…), we forget that God is creative.
Rather than look for the comfort of the familiar, we should look for God in everything. When we look for God in everything, we will begin to see Him in everything. When we discard are attempts to organize and categorize Him, we become open to a much bigger God, a creative God, a powerful, omnipotent God, a God we can’t begin to grasp… How
beautiful and exciting is that. While comfort is nice, their is pure joy in discovery!
Let God take you out of your comfort zone, out of your control. Submit it all to Him. Then open yourself to the endless, vibrant possibilities of what He has for you. Look for Him in everything today. This is who He created you to be: a child exploring the wonders of His creation. Go play in it!

Self image, self esteem, self worth, love yourself first so you can love others, self help…

20131119-063033.jpgThese topics and concepts are pervasive in both Christian and secular culture. However, they aren’t biblical, they are not necessary for happiness and they are not supposed to be part of a Christ followers life. The devil loves to twist truth subtlety, but enough to make it sound accurate while in fact it is a lie. Good self esteem sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? However, “self” concepts put the focus and us and how we view and feel about ourselves. Biblically, our focus should be on Christ, and being found in Him. The bible never talks about having a good self image. However, it warns frequently about pride.
Think about this phrase: “Because Jesus saved me from my sins, I am redeemed and righteous; *thus I see myself in a better light (good self image)*, and I am happy.”
It sounds ok, it sounds true, but a little lie was added to the progression. The lie is that happiness is the result of self love. That self image is a necessary ingredient to the equation. That Jesus died to make us feel better about our sinful selves, and the better self image is what brings us happiness. The reality is that it is not only an unnecessary ingredient, it is an unwanted add in. When we make “self” anything part of the equation, one of the goals, or a factor in the solution, we actually corrupt the whole thing. Unfortunately, these concepts of self are so entrenched in our belief systems, they are almost invisible to us.
Bottom line is this: The Holy Spirit is at work in us to remake us in the image of our Savior, Jesus. We are to die to self and put to death our fleshly desires. The old man is replaced by the new man. That man is not just Christlike, but Christ in us. The fruits (love, joy, peace, etc.) are not the result of the Spirit on us, but rather the Spirit IN us.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV)

Anthropomorphism

20131113-071232.jpgan·thro·po·mor·phic adjective \ˌan(t)-thrə-pə-ˈmȯr-fik\
: described or thought of as being like human beings in appearance, behavior, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31 NIV)”

We are “self-centered” individuals. It is inherent in our very being and existence. Our default line of thought is that everything revolves around us. When we use logic and our knowledge of good and evil to gain understanding we unconsciously apply this assumption to our thought process. More often than not, in spiritual things, this makes us wrong. And frequently, what is truth, is actually the opposite of what we think it is.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8, 9 NIV)

We like to believe that we think like God, or He thinks like us. After all, we were created in His image. Anthropomorphism is attributing human characteristics to God. But He doesn’t think like us. He thinks like God, and the universe revolves around Him. In that way, perhaps we are alike. The problem is that we are thinking “our thoughts” which are flawed and broken. It is in thinking His thoughts that truth is found. We can’t even begin to think like Him because of the limitations of our minds. The “Mind of Christ” is not about changing our mind to be more like His. It is about putting ourselves to death, including our mind and thoughts, and Christ coming into us to replace that which died with Him. This death must occur daily. It is a choice. Otherwise we will default to our logic and knowledge. To become Christlike is not really about trying to act and think like Christ did, but about inviting Him into our lives and surrendering control. But first, we must get out of the way.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV)

In summary, we waste a lot of time trying to use our minds and logic to figure out what God is thinking. But “information” isn’t the door to God’s thoughts, “revelation” is. He reveals Himself to us through His word and the Holy Spirit. We connect to Him with our Spirit, not our intellect.

What to wear

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3 NKJV)

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus read the first 2 verses above in the synagogue on the sabbath. (Luke 4). I was reading this the other day the way I normally read the bible…as a book about Jesus. Nothing wrong with that. Then the Holy Spirit invited me to read it in a different way. To read it as if it were about me.

-The Spirit of the Lord God is upon ME, because the Lord has anointed ME
-to preach good tidings to the poor;
-He has sent ME to heal the brokenhearted,
-To proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
-To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,

When I read this and the bible from the perspective that this is about Jesus, it is powerful, but when I read this from a first person perspective it becomes a commission, a vision, a calling from the Holy Spirit to step into something more than I am today, to step into who He created me to be.

God calls me to be Christlike. To be a re-presentation of Him on earth. Who He was and is, is who he created me to become. Jesus, inhabiting me and continuing His ministry on earth. Ministering to my wife, children, co-workers, etc through the power and anointing that comes from the Holy Spirit.
This perspective brings with it a life with more weight, more purpose, more effectiveness, more impact, than a life spent merely trying to be good and stop doing bad things.
The beauty of this is that it is who I am created to be. It is my default state. The Holy Spirit is my helper, my teacher, and the power and anointing to walk in this life like Christ. I don’t have to work and strive to become this person. However, it’s not that simple. The difficulty lies in the requirement that I relinquish control of my life and put to death my wants, “needs”, and desires. My flesh is sinful, selfish and opposed to being a servant king. The hard “work” of today is a work of dying to “me” and choosing to step into a life clothed with the Holy Spirit. Thank you, master Jesus! Your life for mine, my life for Yours!