29 September 2010

Understanding God Means Understanding Suffering

I Peter 4:1-6

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

I’m so looking forward to going through this book with our church in the not too distant future, if the Lord continues to lead in this direction. In the mean time, going through the books of Peter and James, repeatedly, to prepare myself for this past has been, and continues to be an awesome experience. Additionally, God is using it in my life to open spiritual doors revealing passages I should have traveled long ago.

The first thing that any congregant must know about their pastor is his humanness. Pastors are fallen sinful people just as the rest of those in the body of Christ. What makes them different is their calling, not their righteousness. Look back at the choosing of the nation of Israel by God to be His focal point all throughout history. Many fell along the way. More importantly, many learned from those who fell, and committed to a more serious life to Jesus. Any pastor or church leader who sets themselves up above their congregants in quality of person or Christian, as opposed to simply doing their best to be a Godly leader according to his calling, is setting himself up for a terrible fall.

In my walk and sanctification, God has revealed to me many things. Accordingly, I have done my best to adapt to those revelations accordingly by choosing to let the Spirit lead me more and more each day, and giving each area God desires of me, over to Him. This process, while necessary, and slow to come, is one that I must embrace as a Christian – painful as it might be. To not do so, to not go with the leading of our sanctification as the Lord calls is to deny that Jesus is our Lord (and not just savior), and worse yet, to deny the Holy Spirit in our obligation as confessed Christians to deny ourselves and pick up the cross that God has said before us with obedience – as painful as it might be. I am no different. God is calling me to change. If I deny the call to change, I’m denying God’s leadership in my life.

Peter was an amazing man. For many reasons. To rise to the level of the man he became, required that he lower himself into the servant of God he thought he was. See what I mean?

Remember what John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease”. For three years, Peter saw himself as increasing. He was with Jesus with a select group of 12 men. Of those 12, he was part of a select group of three. He was spoken to directly by the Holy Spirit to reveal to Peter that Jesus was in fact the Son of God, savior to all (Mark 8, Luke 4). Peter was special. He is the only disciple to defend Jesus’ physical life, and did so by wielding his sword in the true manner of someone whose career is that of a fisherman: by nearly missing altogether and only cutting of an ear. Peter was a well respected and honorable disciple that was truly looked up to as a Sr. leader on that group of twelve; at least in his mind. Perhaps in the minds of the other disciples too. However, God had bigger plans for him than just peer popularity. To rise to that level at which God had intended for him to be used, Peter had to endure, and find out that maturing really means becoming less, decreasing, so that he might be increase in a Godly way.

Suffering was something Peter had to endure. He was chastised by Christ, he ran away from the scene in the garden after raising his sword, and denied Jesus three times, the third time with anathema. The rest of the disciples knew this and it took Jesus Himself in His resurrected body to go to Peter, one on one, and get things worked out. To bring Peter back into the fold of a Christ follower, Peter had to realize that the suffering he had gone through already was just slight in comparison to what was coming. More so, that all these sufferings were nothing in the grand scheme of things when compared to the Glory that would be bestowed upon him, and all believers, in the heavens for eternity.

Peter understood, intimately, that to be used by Christ to his fullest potential, the potential that was divinely enumerated to him that he must die to himself. He knew that the things of his old life, his old ways, and the ways of the gentiles would have to be put behind him. I’m sure that a litany of old fishing buddies and their fish stories and their lifestyle and behavior so commonly attributed to men of the sea, would have to be left behind, in favor of the new man created in him, and renewed daily by his faith.

We too must do the same. Things we value, if not equally valued by God, must decrease, so that what God has for us can increase. Old friends and old ways, MUST be left behind, so that the new man can grow and blossom in the service of God. If you categorize yourself as Christian, you MUST do the same. To think you can live a life unchanged by the Holy Spirit alive in you as a mark sealing you to Jesus, is akin to believing that there is more than one way to heaven, and that perhaps Jesus really isn’t the Way, Truth and Life. There are some things about Christianity and it’s doctrine that we can debate, and there are some things for which the bible leaves us no room for error. Living like the old man, is not compatible with living a life for Christ, or a life save by God. Scripture is clear, the old man must die.

In truth, we realize this. In reality, we find it hard to crucify what was once our way of life. But we must. Living for Jesus means not living for the last, but to satisfy the calling for our future. Pray daily that we are given the strength to do this through the Holy Spirit. We must give all to Him. Think of this as our way of decreasing. Receive what God offers to us, no matter how small or insignificant it seems, and deem it to be increase, for we know it is good. To God be all the glory.

28 September 2010

New Vision

I Corinthians 4:7

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

I’m not sure why, at least yet, but God really has me going through some changes. It is not that I do not want to change, because quite frankly any change away from what I was or have been, can only be good as long as the leading is of God. But I see things differently. Compassion is more real. As funny as it may seem, reality is more real. Simple decisions are not just being brought to God, but being weighed to determine if they are really even legitimate questions I should be asking, or directions I should be going. In other words, if you should not be going in that direction, why do you have to worry about a decision that takes you that way?

I know that some get to this point and really hit a cross roads in their faith. I guess in the end you have to. What happens is that something awakens in you by the hands of God working in your Spirit. In the process, He places glasses on you that cause you to see things a little more through His heart, which is of course a desirable thing – unless of course you do not want to change.

Funny thing is, can we really be sure that God has not tried to put these glasses over our eyes earlier? I mean, think about that. If He had, would we really know it anyway? Or would that attempt have been forgotten by us, buried deeply in a subconscious fallen, human, sinful mind? Would our own fleshly agendas and desires buried God’s attempt at sanctification and increased righteous thinking in our hearts and minds simply because we had already decided to take the path of our choice anyway? If one does not desire to change, any simply reason becomes a worthy enough excuse to deny the calling of the Holy Spirit into a righteous lifestyle, simply because we want to keep our fleshly lifestyle all the more.

God is changing my heart. Things that used to anger me, now simply make me weep with the thought of the lost soul, the fallen societal morals that are behind it, or the simple thought of how this situation/incident/decision might look if “God” were infused into it. I ache for a more simple life, as God is not complicated, but desires us to be like children so that He can minister to us in more useful ways. Important things become less important. Other things, things that were things of God all along anyway - but were overlooked by the business of life, or the indifference of our flesh-driven world, are coming more into a Christly focus. More clear to His vision, and more convicting to mine.

There are things in my life that, after having put years of labor and focus into, not to mention a level of importance in my life that maybe they should not have been, I’m perfectly willing to walk away from now, if in fact that is what god calls me to do. Knowing that God could call us to go anywhere, do anything or say any word at any time has always been a no brainer to me. Seeing Christians who refuse to consider that God might use them outside of their own little comfortable box refuse to act, or even pray about a calling that God might have for them used in a way they did not want to be used, used to infuriate me. How can you call yourself a Christian at all, and sit there in your chair, all snug as a bug in the rug, and throw your hands up at the very idea that god might call you to do something uncomfortable to you, is beyond my comprehension, and just made me want to grab people by the shoulders and exclaim, “Do you understand you’re telling God NO!?” Now I just want to cry for them, and pray for them, and thanks God that He has given ME the grace and strength to change. Something about horses being lead to water comes to mind…

More than anything, this work in me has shown me more clearly than ever that everything belongs to Him. All that IS, is His. All that I desire is His to give or keep. All that I need is His to provide. Any change in my life that is for the better, begins with Him, and ends with me. All things that are good are His to give, and He desires to do so.

But this is the biggest change of all: I have understanding that everything He chooses to give me IS good, or He would not give it to me.

Be it victory, or trial. If it’s from God, it is good for me. Be it a new path to travel, or a new burden to bear, it’s good for me. If it is a new direction in life, a new job, or a new hair-style – if it is a call from God, shame on me for not believing that it is good.

To get to this point one thing must happen in our relationship with God. We simply get to the point where we say, “God, I give up. EVERYTHING is about you now”, and then release our flesh so that the Spirit leads. So that all we see is the look of our lives, and our witness through the lenses of God’s righteousness. It is easy to confess that as we do things we must do them all for the Glory of God. We can all agree on that I’m fairly certain.

But first, we have to do them.