Let Me Say This: Merry Christmas

7 Dec

Is there any wonder that the end of the year holidays increase stress levels? We all are faced with so many questions:

  • How many are going to make it to the family gathering?
  • How big of a turkey or ham will we need?
  • Are we going to send out Christmas cards this year?
  • How do we schedule around our children’s in-law celebrations?
  • And one that shouldn’t be something we should have to face but end up discussing each year: How do we greet people?

My wife Cindy brought it up already this year. After seeing a couple of posts on social media, she decided that, given the other special holidays in December, she was going to go with “Happy Holidays” as an expression of love and respect.

I got it. It makes sense. “Besides,” I added, “the evidence suggests Jesus was actually born in the spring. That’s when the shepherds would be out in the fields tending their flocks. And I know our Christmas traditions in celebrating are less than two hundred years old.”

Now, before you conclude I’m tossing the “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and “Merry Christmas” lapel pins, I also said, “December 25 is the day the world recognizes as the time Christians give extra glory and praise to God for sending his son, so why should I back away from promoting that? Instead, I hope others will not be offended by my ‘Merry Christmas’ as I will not take offense if they respond with a happy greeting for their holiday.”

A day after our conversation, during our time of scripture reading and prayer together, Cindy and I read about Jesus asking his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (See Matthew 16:16-30.)

Both the question and the timing of it struck me odd. Jesus asked this question well into his three-year ministry, based on when Matthew put it in his gospel account. Prior to asking them, Jesus had personally called each disciple, and they chose to follow him. Some came to him after having first followed John the Baptist. They had witnessed many miracles, been given private instruction to understand of the parables, and even been anointed to go out on their own to share the gospel of the kingdom of God with miracles. Shortly before Jesus asked the question, he fed the five thousand and after them fed the four thousand. They had talked among themselves that he was the Messiah. Peter even walked on the water.

After all that, Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?”

I had to ask Cindy in our discussion of the verses, “Who do we say Jesus is? In the frustrations of preparations for the holidays, do our thoughts, words, and actions say Jesus is the Son of God?”

We decided that his question is one that we need to ask ourselves frequently, reminding ourselves of whom we are following and how our actions and reactions should reflect that. The apostle John put it succinctly, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked, (1 John 2:6 NKJV).

Therefore, know that when I say Merry Christmas, I am not wishing you happiness for the retailers’ push to empty your wallets and run up credit card balances. I am pronouncing a blessing for you. With it, I hope something will prompt you to answer the Lord’s question, “Who do you say I am?”

Ready. Set. Stand.

25 May

Imagine joining the armed services, going through bootcamp training, getting assigned to a battle group, taking your position with weapon in the ready, then being told to just stand there. Sounds nuts, right? Well, it’s not when we are talking about spiritual warfare.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:10-13, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

After these verses, Paul describes each piece of the armor of God. His details and artists’ renderings make it easy to imagine this soldier in God’s army. Helmet, breastplate, protective belt, leggings, shoes, shield, and sword. We don’t picture the soldier with the shield hanging down at his side nor the sword in a scabbard. Both are up and ready for action. Did you hear the marine “Hooah!” when I mentioned ready for action? I did.

However, Paul didn’t sound the charge. He never yelled “Attack!” He said, “Stand.” A contrasting ready-for-action image comes to mind with that. I picture the guards at Buckingham Palace. I don’t know if this low entertainment still happens, but for years I’ve heard tales of people trying to get them to crack a smile, flinch, or divert their gaze. Each provocateur has walked away, having failed. The guards have a world-renowned reputation for their focus and discipline. They have piqued their ability to discern between real danger and just distraction.

That discernment is at the core of the battles we are facing in the world today. Our normal tendency is to be reactionary. Push back, shout, deride, spread vicious rumors and lies, hold rallies, boycott, become violent sometimes. The worst part of any of these reactions is they keep getting rewarded for their efforts but destroy the very fabric of the society the perpetrators seek to establish. Meanwhile, God’s Word calls us to be fully clothed in His armor and to stand.

I’m not saying do nothing. Don’t forget Paul said earlier in Ephesians that we have been created to do good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them,” (Ephesians 2:10, NKJV). We are not to stop demonstrating the love of God. In doing the good works, we display the light and glory of His kingdom. Never lose sight, however, that the good works are not to replace the most basic commands. We are to love God with all our hearts, soul, and strength. With that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus said these two acts fulfill the whole law and prophets’ teachings. (See Matthew 22:40)

We are to wear the armor to withstand the attacks of Satan, but we are to stand as a lighthouse to all who would know God’s love, grace, mercy and peace. Let the light of His glory shine through you, and let His Holy Spirit bring conviction.

Becoming a Conqueror

13 Apr

Inspiring words. We love them, don’t we? They seem like an easy fix for our lives. If only someone would speak the right words to us, we think. Maybe then we could make sense of things and be able to chart a course out of the confusion and chaos. But what if the word we hear turns our world and our outlook of life upside down?

D.L. Moody already had a strong ministry established when he encountered what was almost like a second salvation experience. British evangelist Henry Varley spoke the word in a private conversation with Moody while he was in Dublin. Those life changing words: “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.” As Moody purposed to be that man, he often quoted that challenge, hoping others would capture the same vision and passion.

This brings us to the greatest weapon we have in the cultural war taking place in our land. God’s people living in kingdom character and authority.

  • Jesus and the apostles showed us what we can expect when we step into that position and relationship with Him.
  • Demons recognized who Jesus was and cried out that it was not their time for His judgment. (See Matthew 8.)
  • Demons pleaded to be sent into a herd of swine instead of judgment. (See Mark 5.)
  • Jesus gave His disciples authority over demons. (See Luke 10.)
  • Demons recognized the difference between true followers of Jesus and imitators. (See Acts 19.)

Down through the ages since Calvary and Pentecost, many believers have walked in that anointing. In the early church, this anointing was not just for church leaders. They recognized the anointing to be part of the inheritance of all believers. It is time for the church again to walk in that relationship with Jesus and in the kingdom.

Paul looked into the future for these days. He wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God,” (Romans 8:19, NKJV). In this letter to the church, he draws a distinction between those who live according to the flesh and those who by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the flesh and live according to the Spirit. It’s a real struggle, but he foresees a day when the church will come into full alignment with Christ.

In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul speaks again of the church maturing into the full embodiment of everything Jesus imparted. He explains five gifts given to the church for this one purpose: “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:13, NKJV).

In Romans 8:37, Paul says that in all these things, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

And John wrote in the Book of Revelation concerning this war between Satan and God’s anointed, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death,” (Revelation 12:11, NKJV).

Jesus has given us the strategy for being victorious in our culture war. It doesn’t involve playing politics, organizing boycotts, or running campaigns. It is living our lives like Jesus really is everything to us and everything pertaining to life. Will we be a generation that shows the world “what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.”

Learning Our Best Weapon

16 Mar

Why is one of our greatest weapons to pick up and use the last one we choose? Paul’s letters to the churches carry powerful challenges in his prayers. I have many times skipped them. Sometimes, I skimmed them as part of his greeting and paid little attention to them. Other times, I focused on specific instruction for the church, looking for that next thing I needed to change in my life, and so overlooked them.

My attitude toward them (and the new values I assigned them) changed when I considered two things: 1) the application of the prayers to the situations the churches were facing, and 2) the tremendous investment Paul continued depositing into each church. Then I saw in them precious promises and instructions as well as proof of the love he had for them. Paul relates in the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians his prayers and observations of the church. My awakening happened as I read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 with emphasis on verse three. For me, this passage highlighted Paul’s purpose and power in praying for them.

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

I assessed my prayer life and found it lacking in this area, and I hate to admit it, but I believe it is lacking in most or nearly all American churches or American Christians.

Paul said there will be a great falling away. We see in our generation the first in church history (at least since the Reformation) to lose numbers. However, I don’t think it is the Great Falling Away that Paul was touching on nor that which Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24. In answering His disciples’ question about when the end would come, Jesus added this sign: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another,” (Matthew 24:9-10, NKJV).

I have long interpreted verse ten to be referring to Christian brethren who become offended at God because end times did not happen the way they had it figured out. They become a Judas to the last generation and the most vehement accusers and persecutors of the true believers.

When these verses came together for me, I repented that I have not prayed the types of prayers Paul prayed, that my love didn’t extend beyond Sunday gatherings and voiced needs. The battle is all around us, and the onslaught is taking its toll. We have a weapon near to us where victory is won. Paul recorded several examples how we should pray for one another

He prayed in his letters to Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi:

  • for the Lord to pour out more grace and peace toward them,
  • that they do no evil and be made complete,
  • with unceasing thanksgiving for them,
  • that they receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation of knowledge of Him
  • that their understanding be enlightened,
  • that they would know the hope of His calling,
  • that they would know the riches of His inheritance toward the saints,
  • that they would know the exceeding greatness of His power toward those who believe,
  •  that they be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,
  • that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,
  • that they may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge,
  • that they may be filled with all the fullness of God,
  • that their love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 
  •  that they may approve the things that are excellent,
  • that they may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.

I’ll stop there and let you find the rest of the list. I only ask that you consider the effect one man’s prayers have had and, with me, pick up the challenge his life has given the church. Then imagine what the outcome could possibly be for the church in America when the church picks up the weapon of prayer and uses it for the best advantage as Paul showed..

The Greatest Is Love

9 Mar

The adage states that if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. A corollary to that is aiming at the wrong target causes you to miss the mark. A few weeks ago, I made a case that Christians have the wrong goal in mind as we take part in the cultural struggle warring in our streets, the media, and government. With that wrong focus, we are using the wrong weapons.

Photo by Charles Huff

God’s kingdom, not America, is our bullseye. Walking in kingdom lifestyle and authority is our mightiest weapon, not this world’s political constructs. Max Lucado said, “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior.” Listed as one of the seven greatest human needs, love given and received rises to the top of our most effective weapons.

In one of my earlier blogs on this topic, I stated humility, sincerity, and forgiveness—in and through Jesus Christ, not of ourselves—form the foundation we stand on to face those who oppose us. Those three can come only from God’s love first poured into us. Likewise, only the genuine love of Christ flowing out from us can touch the deepest recesses of another’s heart.

Lest you think I am oversimplifying the issue and calling us all to sit around a campfire singing koombayah or akuna mattatta, I challenge you to read Matthew 5-7, the Lord’s sermon on the mount, to see how it comes down to a long explanation by examples of what love in action does.

When we receive Jesus as our Savior, we become something new. We shift from common fallen human creation to that creature infused with the light, the glory, the wisdom and power of our Creator through His Holy Spirit. It’s then, if we don’t hide it under a basket, that we can dispel the darkness and become a city on a hill that can’t be hidden. His love through us is perhaps our greatest weapon to overcome in the spiritual battle we face.

Paul wrote to the church in Galatia that the fruit of the spirit is love joy peace longsuffering kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness self-control. You, no doubt, noticed as my grammar checker rebuked me that I left out commas. I did so because they are not there in the original. That realization caused a friend of mine years ago punctuated it this way. The fruit of the Spirit is love: joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. He then said that joy is an expression of love overflowing with laughter and dance. Peace is love expressed in the confidence of the Father’s love toward us and resting in that. Longsuffering is love—God’s love in us—extended toward others, giving them grace. And so on.

Dare to standout

Can you imagine the impact using that weapon would have in our lives? How about in the lives of those around us? It’s a powerful weapon to tear down walls of separation and bitterness. There are more, and I will share them as I continue this blog thread. Just to review, we have: humility, sincerity, forgiveness, and love. Be bold and walk in the light you have. Step into kingdom living.

Let’s Be Sure We’re in the Right Battle

23 Feb

I may have lost some followers after my last blog. I stand to lose a few more after today’s, but I hope my brutal honesty will cause more to question, to be like the Berean Church to search out the matter to see whether it is in line with scripture or not.

Many believe turning hearts back to God will result in God restoring our nation. Their strongest scriptural reference is from 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land,” (NKJV). A great prophesy that showed the heart of God, spoken to Israel millenniums ago. If we want to expand the blanket coverage beyond the nation of Israel, we must be consistent with the Word. Israel–the descendants of Abraham plus the sons of Abraham by faith, not Israel plus the United States.

These same people believe we are living in the last days, headed toward the final battle between God and His kingdom versus Satan and his dominion. In that battle, according to the prophesy in the book of Revelation, the nations of the world are united against Israel. The United States isn’t mentioned. Is it numbered among the nations? Did it cease to exist? Is it irrelevant?

I find myself excited at the words I hear coming from many Christian leaders, talking about the Church uniting, ministering in power—the same power exercised by the church in the first century after Jesus’ ascension. I agree with everything they say about it—until they wrap it back around the lifting up of America.

If we are in the last days as I believe we are, then God’s design for the time we are in most probably leaves 2 Chronicles in Israel, either that nation alone or as its type and shadow. Lest we fall to the same error as Nebuchadnezzar, we best be about kingdom matters as Christians.

As I said in my last post, we need to know what the battle is over, what weapons we don’t use, and what weapons we do use. We won’t be successful chasing our own goals.

For those who are still passionate in restoring the United States under His grace, I ask if that is based on explicit scripture or western civilization pride—the old God-is-on-our-side syndrome. I used to believe the same things. I wanted to. I hoped to see America enjoy God’s grace as I remembered when growing up. My heart swelled with gladness from the stories of the faith of men of old who established and protected this land. I was convinced it was our destiny to take freedom, democracy, and the gospel to the world under that grace.

Then I read the many ways Jesus expressed His heart for His kingdom:

Fixing our eyes on Jesus

John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

Matthew 26:52-54  “Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands[g] of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?”

Can I ask that question from the standpoint of facing the last days? How would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now? If that final battle is between God’s kingdom and Satan’s realm, is America God’s kingdom? Ridiculous. So, what’s to be done but for us to be the Church Jesus commands us to be.

The Battle as Seen from Above

9 Feb

We are in a battle. In the past few years, we have seen that phrase shift from mystical or even allegorical meaning to headlines of activities on our nation’s streets. Christians have been the target of many philosophical attacks which have tried to whittle away beliefs and our faith. Depending on definitions of fairness and justice, Christians have found one another in opposing battle lines. The war has been about fighting for the prize: the USA.

I can’t say it any clearer. That is not the prize Christians are to be fighting for. Paul said he endured hardships, beatings, shipwreck, imprisonment, and in many other ways reckoned himself dead so that he might live unto Christ, so that he “might obtain the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) As the Lord’s ambassadors, we fight for His kingdom.

We are using the wrong weapons in our current war because we are fighting for the wrong prize. We would not be reeling from one confrontation to the next if we used the weapons provided us by the Lord. Paul said they are mighty. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4, NKJV). We need to start with these.

Sincere and humble

Colossians 3:22-24 indicates our first weapon is our heart attitude toward the Lord in all our relationships. “Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

 While in this verse Paul’s mention of bondservants refers to those who are indentured or enslaved to another, he and the other apostles often referred to themselves as bondservants to Christ and exhorted us to have the same understanding. Within that mindset, we must be sincere (genuine, without cracks) in our hearts toward the Lord.

2 Chronicles 7:14 expresses the same theme in the familiar verse, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then…”

Indeed, we can’t even see the kingdom without first being born again, and that birth comes by first being “poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:3, NKJV). Our new birth, our walk by faith, our obedience to the Spirit, even our enduring to the end requires that depth of humility and sincerity. So also our warfare.


It seems too simplistic to say it, but Jesus built His ministry on forgiveness. He taught it through healings, through parables, and through pointed statements. Following His example, we must have forgiveness in our weapon arsenal.

Jesus spoke to the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. That proclamation won a spiritual battle for the man’s soul. It also struck a decisive blow against those who appear to be religious but have no life, as they said only God can forgive sins. Jesus then answered them with a question and an act. He proved He had the authority to tell the man his sins were forgiven by then telling the man to rise and walk. (See Matthew 9 and Luke 5.)

After giving His disciples the model prayer—often called the Lord’s Prayer—Jesus added that if we don’t forgive others, the Father will not forgive us.

He struck another blow to the teachings and traditions of men when He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;” (Matthew 5:43-45, NKJV).

Humility, sincerity, and forgiveness all come together when Jesus points out God does not honor our worship without them. “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift,” (Matthew 5:23-24, NKJV).

Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:18 “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” This is our purpose in the warfare. That’s why weapons after the flesh work contrary to God’s plan.

Only through these can we be effective with the other weapons. And, only through winning the war for the kingdom will we have a lasting impact on our nation.

The Battle Over the USA

2 Feb

Well, I guess I can add another reason I don’t enjoy apocalyptic books and movies. I see their scenes displayed on the news every night like soap opera episodes. Hatred. Distrust. Judgmental. Strike first. The only solution is a permanent one: kill your opposition. We are the United States of America in name only. Lawlessness abounds.

Battle lines and weapons have been drawn. Good has been called evil and evil good. Today, I am addressing my comments to those who say they are Christians, myself foremost. Here me when I say that we will never win this battle using the enemy’s weapons. Paul said the weapons of our warfare are mighty, fully capable of pulling down the defenses of the enemy, spoiling his camp, and routing him. Until now, we have fought using his weapons. And because of it, we have become divided, having fought against our fellow soldiers.

David recognized the folly in using conventional weapons in the battle against Goliath. (1 Samuel 17) Joshua learned it when he led Israel against Ai. (Joshua 8) Paul wrote of it in his letter to the church at Colossae. (Colossae 2 especially verses 16-19)

The church in Colossae faced the same challenges as other churches. Jewish opposition of Jesus followers. Jewish believers attempting to put the churches back under the Judaic laws. False teachers. And the ever-present teachers of false gods. These all warred against the early church.

Paul had an answer for them. Let their enemy rant and rail against them. In one camp are those saying things that seem right. They had history to support their teachings and maybe some wisdom, too. However, the things they insisted upon were mere shadows of God’s purpose. They were not the real thing. (The same is true today.)

The other camp of the enemy was comprised of cheaters. Their accusations appealed to the flesh and blood, the natural man. Following them does not buy any favor with the Lord and actually serves to puff up one’s pride against the Lord. There is only one reality, only one truth. Hold onto the head of the body and abide in his victory.

What is the purpose of the struggle in America today, spiritually speaking?

Judging by the back-and-forth on social media and the message sent by news media, America stands in the balance. Perhaps for its further existence, and most certainly its character. I don’t see grounds for such a focus in God’s Word. Instead, I see God passionate about His kingdom, currently reserved in the heavenlies. He waits for the day when He will be planted on earth—a new heaven and new earth—for eternity.

The United States may yet be used as a tool in His hand, I don’t know. A revival could bring about a resurgence of His abundant grace once more in our land. I have my doubts. One thing I am convinced of: the Lord does not want to roll back time to when the church is held in a favored position so we can relax in self-satisfied pleasure.

Most Christians agree we are in, or at least entering into, the end times. So, I ask you, why would Jesus need to raise the United States up as His weapon against Satan’s fiefdom? After all, throughout Bible history, God has used the clear underdogs to further His will. Gideon was from a least tribe, but that wasn’t small enough. God reduced his army down to 300 men. (Judges 6) Saul was from the least tribe of Israel but God appointed him to be king over Israel. (1 Samuel 9) King Herod watched for any man coming into Jerusalem who appeared to be one to overthrow his throne, but the King of kings came into Jerusalem as a baby. (Luke 2 and Matthew 2)

What makes the United States the most likely start of the main event against God’s enemy? Christians are scattered throughout the nations. Why would or could He not use one of the least of them? Or, none of them? Couldn’t Jesus call forth His kingdom from all the nations and wage the war against His enemy on all fronts at once, without a shot being fired?

How you perceive the current struggle in the United States for supremacy depends a great deal on where you see we are regarding the end of God’s timeline. But I am resolved that God is less concerned with salvaging the political structure of our nation and the way of life we knew than He is about rescuing souls within our nation. If we are His, then we need to be doing His work, His way, and with His heart.

I can’t get into specifics in this blog on next steps we should be taking as this is already too long. Next week I will talk about those. Until then, continue in the Lord’s command: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV).

Grasping the That Which

26 Jan

Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me,” (NKJV).

Read it again with the emphasis I saw last week in my post. “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of THAT for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” Two thoughts held me captive: 1) the resume of the man making such a claim, and 2) do I know what the that is in my life?

The Man

Paul’s credentials before he met Jesus were impressive. After receiving the revelation of who Jesus truly is, he counts all the earlier honor, respect, and advantages associated with his achievements and those achievements themselves as a pile of dung compared to knowing Christ. He listed his appointment as an apostle the most important credential ever to receive—humbled to be considered worthy to serve.

From the short biography in the book of Acts, we could add: stoned and presumed dead then raised up to go back into the city to complete his ministry there; an anointed handkerchief from him healed the sick; shipwrecked with no loss of life; bitten by a viper, but instead of falling over dead in a matter of seconds, the snake died in the fire; and wrote more books in the New Testament than any other apostle.

Then this man Paul said he was still trying to grab hold of the very thing that Jesus grabbed him for. Really, Paul? It sounds like you had a pretty good grasp of it.

The simple response to his statement is to assume he is speaking about that time when his experience equals his position. In other words, when his salvation is completed, he will have received his new body and will be standing in the presence of the Lord in glory. I could accept that, except claims he is seeking an experience or a place in the Lord’s kingdom in his lifetime.

The Challenge

Several times Paul challenges believers to seek a superlative life experience in Christ. In his letter to the Romans, he emphasizes we exist in Christ by faith and by the Holy Spirit. He challenges us to walk by the Spirit and not by our natural discernment and passions. In that way alone can we be overcomers when the world tries to tear us down. In First Corninthians, Paul states he wants all believers to prophesy and speak in tongues, but under the control of God’s love. Otherwise, we are banging gongs and clanging cymbals. To the Galatian church, Paul reminds them that good works are not good enough. We are dead in them, but alive by faith in Jesus.

I love how his prayer for the Ephesian believers starts simple and escalates to a crescendo of heavenly heights.

15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come,” (Ephesians 1:15-21, NKJV).

That is the heart expression of a man who is not focused only on the sweet-by-and-by.

At the end of chapter 3, Paul again prayerfully expresses his desire for them in a similar vein but adding, “that you may be filled with all the fulness of God,” (Ephesians 3:19b, NKJV).

His prayer for the Philippian believers has a familiar ring to it.

 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God,” (Philippians 1:9-11, NKJV).

With many other exhortations, Paul challenges believers to be perfect, imitate God, walk in the Light of the Holy Spirit and by the Spirit. He taught we are citizens of heaven, seated there with Christ. Our weapons are not the same that the world uses, but are mighty to pulling down spiritual strongholds. We are in a spiritual battle, not a physical one. As ambassadors, kings, priests, children and soldiers of his army; we have kingdom work to do. He makes it abundantly clear that we have kingdom responsibilities (work) to do. That work is to be done by discovering, believing, and acting upon that which Christ laid hold of us and do it by his Spirit, authority, and  strength. We are not to sit at the Glory Train Station with our bags packed waiting for him to return. We are to live our lives in spiritual abundance for the Father’s glory.

That for which

19 Jan

Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

I am not ready to comment on these verses. Paul’s determination to hotly pursue the purpose birthed in the heart of God for his life has shaken me. The thought that God, the Father, and Jesus Christ chose me and established a purpose for me to reach for fills me with awe. It speaks of a new level of His love, a previously unrevealed realm of our relationship. I am still trying to comprehend it in a way I can explain it to others. Jesus—more than Lord, more than King of kings, more than Savior, Counselor, Protector, Provider, and Friend. More intimate than my wife, more a part of me than my family DNA. So much more than I let on that He is in my daily life. I’m undone and yet firmly held together. The Creator of the universe has laid hold of me and you–for a purpose to fulfill. Ponder that with me.

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