You Have Been Sent

(We were blessed to have Dr. B. J. Pruitt with us for the weekend.  He is the Apostolic covering for our church and my pastor personally.  I wanted to highlight a few things that were said over the weekend in this week’s blog.  You will be able to download the messages from our website, www.livingwordgreene.com, shortly.)

Romans 10:14-15 ( NKJV )
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

In our study this week we have been talking about different aspects of faith in God.  Yesterday we looked at “God pleasing” faith.  To finish this week I want to look at the real point of our faith life.  God has revealed in His word that we can live by faith.  We can receive our needs met by faith.  Everything we do, we do by our faith connection to God.  In the end however our faith must produce children of faith for the Kingdom of God.

In this scripture we are asked a question.  How can the world come to know God if they have not believed?  The point of faith is connection and relationship with God.  Sometimes I think we expect the world to come to church, be morally responsible and promote biblical principles without knowing God.  This is impossible.  The people who are not saved do not have that capacity.  They may have heard about Jesus.  They may believe in God as a concept, but until they meet Him they cannot understand the things of God. 

The next part of the question is this.  How will they ever believe on Him if they never hear that He can be believed in and known.  Someone needs to tell them about this God.  The people who can do that are the ones who already know him.  I can tell you about my wife.  I can bring you to her and introduce you to her.  This is possible because I know her.  I know all about her.  I have relationship with her.  Therefore I can tell you about her.

Someone must introduce the people in the world to Jesus in order for them to believe and be changed.  Someone must preach the Gospel.  That someone is you.  You may say, “I have not been sent to preach.  I am not a preacher.”  The truth is that because you do have faith and with faith, relationship to God, you have been sent.  That faith is what sends you.  The word of God sends you in the great commission.  (Matt 28:18-19)

The 17th verse of Romans 10 tells us that faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God.  God has given us his word so we can believe him.  He has given us promises that are “yes and Amen” in our relationship with Jesus.  But this verse is connected to the ones above.  The end result of our faith must be that we begin to tell others about Jesus so they can also come to this faith.  That is the only way the world can change. 

As we receive this word faith will also rise in our hearts to preach the gospel to every creature.  God does not ask us to do this in our own strength.  Mark 16 tells us that the Holy Spirit will work with us confirming the Word with signs following.  However if we do not receive God’s commission to extend our faith to those in the world, something will always be lacking in our walk of faith.  Go today.  You have been sent to preach this wonderful faith in our wonderful God to a world that has no other hope.

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Am I Pleasing to God?

(We were blessed to have Dr. B. J. Pruitt with us for the weekend.  He is the Apostolic covering for our church and my pastor personally.  I wanted to highlight a few things that were said over the weekend in this week’s blog.  You will be able to download the messages from our website, www.livingwordgreene.com, shortly.)

Hebrews 11:6 ( NKJV )
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

We have been discussing the need for an active faith in God this week.  We have looked at the fact that we live in perilous times and in these times we need faith to see us through.  We looked at the woman with the issue of blood from Mark 5 and how she pressed through fear and risk to touch Jesus and make a faith demand on his power.  We looked at Nehemiah and discovered how he rejected comfortable bondage to rise up in faith and do something significant for the Kingdom of God.

Today I want to touch on the above verse.  It is a very important statement.  It is a statement that needs little interpretation.  If we are going to be pleasing to God we must have faith.  This faith must be active enough to gain reward from God.  Without faith nothing we do is truly pleasing to Him.  Why?  Without faith all that we do is done outside the dynamic of relationship.  I do something that I think is pleasing to God.  I do it in my strength.  I present it to God and think He is pleased with me.  He is not. 

You see faith is first and foremost a matter of relationship.  God wants to be involved in my life.  He doesn’t want me to simply do things for Him, he wants me to do things with Him.  Faith is the ability to connect with God.  Faith is how my relationship with him works.  Without that connection no matter what I do I cannot please Him.

This scripture provides some keys to how this works.  First I must believe that He is.  That seems rather obvious on the surface, but let’s consider it a little more closely.  How do I know that He is?  Why do I really believe that God exists?  You might say that you believe it because you were taught to believe it.  That is true to a point, but that kind of faith won’t stand the test or real pressure.  As a born again Christian I believe that He is really there because I have met him.  So the beginning of God pleasing faith is that I must have met Him in Salvation.

The second thing it says here is that I must believe that He will reward me if I seek Him.  I must believe that God is not only there but that He cares for me.  I must believe that He is involved with me.  I must believe that if I trust His word He will keep his word and meet every need.  I must believe that we are partners together in life and that He is active in every area of the life that I am living.  This is God pleasing faith.

How does that come to me.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17.)  As I go to the promises of God I have something to believe.  I begin to understand what the reward is and how to access it.  I learn who God really is and what He will and will not do.  I learn who he expects me to be and the conditions associated with the reward I seek. 

Make a decision to walk in God pleasing faith today.  You will begin a path that is more exciting and powerful than you can possibly imagine. 

Are You Living in Comfortable Bondage?

Nehemiah 1:4 ( NKJV )
So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

(We were blessed to have Dr. B. J. Pruitt with us for the weekend.  He is the Apostolic covering for our church and my pastor personally.  I wanted to highlight a few things that were said over the weekend in this week’s blog.  You will be able to download the messages from our website, www.livingwordgreene.com, shortly.)

Yesterday we looked at the story of the woman with the issue of blood from Mark chapter 5.  She received healing from Jesus because she made a demand on Him by the persistence of her faith.  She was unclean which made it illegal for her to be around “holy” things. Not only was Jesus considered a “holy’” man, but the person he was with was the very person who would have condemned her.  She believed that if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak she would be healed.  She faced the risk and pressed through the crowd of people until she touched Jesus and received her healing.

I believe that we need to be like this woman.  Today we don’t face the risk of being stoned, but we do face the risk of ridicule.  We risk the certainty of natural solutions to our problems if we choose to believe the Word of God instead.  We may even risk losing some things if we choose to act on our faith, trusting God alone to make the difference.  The risk, however, is worth the reward.  As we grow in faith we will come to the place where we are not limited to natural things.  We will begin to tap into the power of God.  When that happens we can begin to live the abundant life that Jesus spoke of in John 10. 

There was a time when many of us seemed to be more willing to act on faith in the Word of God.  We were excited about the promises of God and walking by faith was an adventure.  We were considered extreme and criticized, but we didn’t care.  We had found a way to live in the blessings of God and we were not going to back down.  Over the last number of years it seems we are less inclined to step out in faith.  There are many reasons for this but I think Nehemiah can give us some insight into one of them.

In the above verse we see Nehemiah’s reaction to news concerning the condition of Jerusalem.  He is moved to tears and begins to pray that God will restore the nation.  I believe he begins to sense that there is a destiny for him.  He knows he can do something great in God.  The problem is that he is in bondage.  He is living in Babylon with no access to Jerusalem.  The thing I want us to see, however is that his is a “soft” bondage.  He lives in the king’s house.  He eats the king’s food.  He has an influential position.

It would have been easy for him to say, “I will pray for Jerusalem.”, and leave it at that.  He chose a different path.  He decided to go to Jerusalem and be instrumental in the process of rebuilding the walls.  God heard the cry of his heart and made a way for him to go. 

I believe part of our problem in America is that we live in a “soft” bondage.  We are comfortable.  Our needs are met and we have so many diversions and entertainments that we forget that God has something better for us.  Jesus said that true life was to live in the will of God.  Why should we step out in faith when we can receive what we need with less risk by natural means.  We need to understand that bondage is bondage even if it is comfortable.

Acting in faith on the Word of God is not just about getting our needs met.  It is also about accomplishing the will of God in the earth.  We may be able to live comfortably in bondage, but we can never fulfill the purpose of God for our lives.  That is the real issue and that is why the devil has lulled us to sleep by letting us remain comfortable in our bondage.

As I was examining my own life, something my oldest son once said in a message came back to me.  He said, “Your life is worth more than wasting it playing games.”  I believe we need to ask ourselves, “What am I selling my life for?”  We have only so much time.  Every day that passes we have sold to the past.  What are we buying with our time?

I don’t mean to say that there is no room for fun or recreation.  I believe we can enjoy the things life has to offer us in this day and age.  I do believe we need to determine how much those things take priority in our day.  God has something for us to do.  The things that we do for the Kingdom of God have eternal consequences and rewards.  Are we purchasing eternal things or are we simply satisfied to remain in a “soft” bondage.

Let’s rise up in faith like Nehemiah.  Let’s not wait until God has to cause our bondage to become less comfortable.  Let’s step out in faith for both our natural needs and our supernatural destiny.  Doing the first will help us with the second.  God needs us today more than ever.  Lets start selling our lives for things that will last.

Making a Demand Upon Jesus

(We were blessed to have Dr. B. J. Pruitt with us for the weekend.  He is the Apostolic covering for our church and my pastor personally.  I wanted to highlight a few things that were said over the weekend in this week’s blog.  You will be able to download the messages from our website, www.livingwordgreene.com, shortly.)

Mark 5:25-30 ( NKJV )
Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse.  When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment.  For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”  Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.  And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”

This is one of the most human stories in the bible.  Jesus is on his way to heal the child of a religious official and is stopped by this normal everyday woman who had been sick for many years.  She had heard of Jesus.  She believes that he can heal her.  She says to herself, “All I need to do is get close enough to touch the hem of his garment and I will get better.” 

This may seem a small thing until you understand the culture she lived in.  In her state she was unclean.  She could be stoned to death for being in the wrong place.  She was particularly prohibited from being around anything considered “Holy.”  The person Jesus was with was a ruler of the Synagogue.  Jesus was considered a prophet.  In both cases she was risking her life to come into there presence let alone actually touching one of them.  However she had heard the Word of Jesus and she said in her heart, “If I can touch the hem of his garment……”  Her faith caused her to press in to Jesus in spite of the risk.  She knew that Jesus had the answer and she was willing to do whatever it took to receive what her faith knew she could have.

In the midst of this Jesus stops and asks, “Who touched me?”  The disciples response was, “There are people all round you.  Hundreds of people have touched you?”  Jesus said, “No this is something different.”  This woman had not just physically touched Jesus, but she had made a demand on him.  Faith makes demands on God.  By this I mean that it accesses the power of God on our behalf.

There are many things we may need from God.  The bible is full of promises and all of them are “yes and Amen” in Christ Jesus.  (2 Cor. 1:20)  I have heard it said that God answers 3 ways, yes, no or wait.  If you find a promise in the bible there is only one answer, yes.  There may be things God will begin to do in you to put you in a place to receive the “yes.”  In that case it will often take time for you to see the result.  Most of the time the “yes” will not look like what you had in mind, but God will always keep his word.  The question is do we have faith to receive. 

I believe many of us need to be willing to take the risk the woman with the issue of blood took.  She risked everything believing that Jesus would meet her need.  We need to press in with our faith.  We need to find a promise in the Word of God that speaks to what we need and hold onto it as tightly as the woman held on to the promise of her healing.  We need to step out like she did and “touch the hem of his garment” so to speak.

There comes a place in every faith endeavor that requires action.  God instructed me as the pastor of our church to build an addition.  It took a long time for me to come to the place where I was willing to press through the difficulties and expense involved with such a project and actually begin, but the time came where I had to put action to my faith.  When I did, God moved mightily and we are almost finished with no debt at all.  This is a miracle.  We are not a large church full of rich people and these are difficult economic times, but when I ‘made a demand” by acting on the Word, God did outstanding things so we could build without borrowing.

God is no respecter of persons.  He is a respecter of His word.  If an unclean woman can make a demand on Jesus and receive healing you can make a demand on Him according to the promises and see your need met.  If our church could make a demand on the promise, acting in obedience to the direction of the Lord and see miracles so can you.  Press in today.  Find a promise, meditate on it until faith arises and then declare, “If I but touch the hem of his garment I will receive what God has promised.”

Perilous Times

We were blessed to have Dr. B.J. Pruitt with us for the weekend.  He is the Apostolic covering for our church and my pastor personally.  I wanted to highlight a few things that were said over the weekend in this week’s blog.

2 Timothy 3:1 ( NKJV )
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:

I think it is safe to say that this scripture is coming to pass before our eyes.  The word perilous means dangerous.  The next few verses in this chapter give us a list of things that could be a description of the problems in our culture today.  We live in times when the temptations to sin are very great.  We live in times when what is evil is called good and what is good is called evil.  It is hard to believe that popular thinking could have fallen so far from the scriptural standards. 

We also live in dangerous times financially.  I am 56 years old and I have never seen our economy in such a fragile state.  After WWII most of the world owed us money.  Now our great nation is in debt to many countries around the world.  If China alone were to demand payment it would break our economy.  Unemployment is higher than ever in my lifetime.  People have lost homes, jobs and retirement security.  Although there is a responsibility on big business to understand that they must take care of their workers and practice their business responsibly, government control and interference threatens their ability to do business at all.  Without them where do the jobs come from?

Government spending is out of control.  Present policy is moving more and more people to dependence on a government that, without major changes, cannot maintain the present levels of spending.  Speeches about how bad it is for people in America to go without health care will not pay for providing it to millions of people.  Someday the piper will have to be paid and then what?

We live in perilous times politically.  The threat of nuclear terrorism is unthinkable and yet not thinking about it won’t make it go away.  Instability in the middle east is a well understood threat to the entire world.  The resurgence of Russia as a world power player threatens to send us back to the cold war.  China is a potential threat of immense proportions and our economic dependence on their godless system should make all of us pray. 

All of this sounds bad and is bad, but I am not without hope.  As a matter of fact I believe God is fully aware of the times in which we live.  I believe Paul’s words to Timothy were prophetic and can be taken as a sign that God has it all under control.  I believe that this is a time of great opportunity for the church.  When perilous times arise people begin to seek answers.  They need comfort and they need to find a place of refuge.  I believe that the church has those answers and can be that place of refuge.  The important thing is that we must be ready when the hurting come knocking at our door.

Let’s look at the 14th and 15th verses of this chapter. 

2 Timothy 3:14-15 ( NKJV )
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Just before these verses Paul recounts the trials he has been through and declares how God delivered him from them all.  He tells us that to follow God means we will be tried, but in the midst of trial there is a way to see victory.  We must continue in the things we have learned.  If we build the truths of the Word of God in our lives they will put is in a place above the times in which we live. 

This involves two areas.  One is the obedience we must cultivate to the word.  When there is danger it is that much more important that we live according to good character and Godly principles.  Sin and lax behavior opens the door to the dangers all around us.  When we build our house on the rock of hearing and doing the Word of God in everyday life, we will be able to navigate through the dangers and remain strong in times of trouble.

Second, as we build the Word of God into our lives faith is produced.  We learn how to access things that others do not know how to access.  When others do not have enough we can have more than enough.  When others have fear we can have real peace.  When others worry about health care we can have divine health and offer healing to the world.  This is God’s plan.  Not just that we be taken care of, but that we be a beacon of light to the world.

Matthew 5:13-16 ( NKJV )
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Because He First Loved Us

1 John 4:17-19 ( NKJV )
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.

We are coming to the end of our discussion of 1 John 4:17-18.  We have learned that we can live a life with the same characteristics as the life Jesus lived on earth and even His life at the right hand of God.  The specific statement is that we can be “as He is” in this world.  This indicates that we are not talking about being this way in heaven, but here on earth.  The crux of the matter is that our spiritual condition is the same as His spiritual condition.  We don’t need to fear judgment because as He was sinless, we are forgiven.  The implications, however, do extend to things like healing, prosperity and certainly victory over sin.

We have discovered that to access this truth we must overcome fear and intimidation.  We also discovered that the most important thing we must cultivated is Love.  Perfect love casts out fear, so if we walk in perfected love we will not fear.  The next question we needed to answer is, “What is perfected love?”  Although our answer is not definitive by any means, we have discovered some insights to help us cultivate perfected love.  First we remember that the word perfect here is closer to complete than without flaw.  We will never be without flaw in our love walk, but we can have a complete or functional love dominating our lives. 

We touched on three scriptures that highlight three areas we can work on to develop a perfected love.  In 1 John 4:12 we find that those who love the brethren are developing perfected love.  We must be active in our love for one another.   1 John 2:3-6 tells us that those who obey the commandments of God by keeping the word of God are perfecting the love of God in their lives.  We cannot access perfected love and harbor sin at the same time.  Finally 1 John 2:15-17 tells us that we can not love anything more than God if we want perfected love.  “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” are three open doors that must be closed if we are going to love God above all else.

The conclusion is that if we cultivate this kind of love, resisting intimidation and overcoming fear, we will have the reality of 1 John 4:17-18 as a functional truth in our lives.  We will look more like Jesus, we will act more like Jesus, we will have victory and freedom like Jesus does.  That is powerful, but let me end the discussion with one more important thing.  This section of scripture incorporates another verse and one more thought.  We can love only because He first loved us.

The problem we often face is the tendency to try to work up this “perfected love.”  There are things we should do.  We should actively love the brethren.  We should deal with sin in our lives.  We should take a good look at what we love and adjust whatever priorities necessary.  None of this will be effective if we don’t understand that the source of it all is what Jesus did not what we do.  We can do all these things because we respond to His love for us.  If we do not understand this then all of our efforts will be nothing more than religion. 

I believe 1 John 4:16 is a major key to opening this truth in our lives. 

1 John 4:16 ( NKJV )
And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

To know He loves me is to understand what the Word of God says.  1 John alone is full of statements of God’s love for us.  To believe that He loves me often takes more.  Many people have a real problem with this.  They just can’t really believe that God could love them.  Maybe it’s because of past experience.  Maybe it’s because of what they have done.  Whatever the reason, until God’s love for us becomes a real revelation we cannot walk in real love towards others. 

How can you really believe that God loves you?  First you must decide to accept the Word above all feelings.  He said He loves you and He does not lie.  Second you must read about and meditate on the truth of His love for you until the revelation of it blossoms in your heart.  No one can fully explain what that means, but if you give time to meditate on this truth you will eventually experience it as more than just words.  It will become real.

Finally we must periodically go back to this truth and meditate on it again to refresh the reality of God’s love for us.  This is vital.  It will enable me to love others.  It will eliminate fear.  It will cause me to live “as He is” in the upside down world we live in today.

What is Perfected Love 3

1 John 2:15-17 ( NKJV )
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

In our study of perfected love we have discovered a number of things.  First, that the word perfect here means complete or functional not without flaw.  We will never be without flaw in our love walk, but we can have love working in our lives.  As long as we are committed to walking in love we qualify.  Second we discovered that the love of God is perfected in those who love the brethren.  We can find practical ways to practice our love walk as we interact with the body of Christ around us.  Third we found that the love of God is perfected in those who keep the Word of God and obey His commandments.  We cannot expect to be walking in perfected love if we do not make a commitment to deal with know sin in or lives.  Sin is selfishness and love and selfishness are opposites that cannot coexist.

Today we will look at one more aspect of perfected love.  We will never walk in perfected love if we love other things more than we love God.  Whatever we love the most, we will fear losing the most.  If we love things more than God we will be subject to fear, and perfected love casts out fear.  We must choose what we will love.

This scripture shows us the areas in which the love of things other than God enter in.  The word used to describe them is lust.  When we use this word we often think of sexual sin.  Lust is certainly involved in that area, but the word simply means any strong desire.  Especially a desire strong enough to control our actions.  This scripture speaks of three areas, two called lusts and the other could certainly qualify as a controlling desire. Let’s look at them briefly.

The lust of the flesh involves those things that we experience that can gain a hold over us.  It might be sexual but it also might be entertainment, a wrong relationship or even food.  Anything that our flesh, our mind or body, enjoys can become a lust.  When these things begin to hinder our relationship with God then we are loving them more than God.

The lust of the eyes involves things we may see that we desire.  In our culture this has become a major problem.  We have people in advertising who are trained in how to stir up the lust of the eyes.  When we see those TV commercials or magazine adds they begin to cause us to think about that thing or that product.  If we are not careful that desire can grow until we will compromise good sense and sometimes even integrity to obtain what we are lusting after.  This becomes a stumbling block to our love of God and therefore to our ability to walk in perfect love.

Another aspect of the lust of the eyes is the constant bombardment we are subjected to of sexually suggestive images.  We routinely see pictures, videos and TV that contain things that when I was a child would be considered pornographic.  I am not legalistic or a “prude” but these images are stirring up desires in people that interfere with our relationship with God.

Finally, this scripture points to the pride of life.  It might be said that this is a lust of self.  When I think more of myself and what I can do or have done I will find that I am not putting the love for God in the place it deserves.  I can not walk in perfected love if my pride in myself is more important to me than God and his Kingdom.   I can do nothing without the Lord.  All that I am, all that I have and all that I have done is because of His influence in my life.  Any other attitude on the part of a Christian is unacceptable.

How do we guard against these things?  We must continue in the Word of God.  We must build it into our lives, let it guide us and set the parameters of our thinking and our behavior.  We must cultivate our relationship with God by spending time with Him.  We must spend time with the body of Christ which will stir us to love and good works (Heb 10:24-25.)  This scripture gives us one more thing we need to do.  We need to remember that anything we allow to enter our lives through these channels is passing away.  It may bring some momentary happiness or satisfaction, but it will not last.  The only thing that lasts forever is our relationship with the Lord.

Don’t let one or more of these areas keep you from living “as He is” in this difficult world of ours.  Jesus desires to give us abundant life.  He wants us to live a higher kind of life.  We will never experience that higher life until we can let go of the low life produced by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”