Intimidation 3

1 Kings 19:1-4 ( NKJV )
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”  And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.  But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”

Yesterday we began to look at how Elijah was intimidated by Jezebel into abdicating his authority.  He had just won a powerful victory.  He had authority in the nation of Israel.  The people were behind him, the King was cooperating with him and he was functioning according to the Word of God.  Why, when he was in such a position of strength, did he flee from this wicked queen?  It got so bad that he could not see any success in what he had done.  He prayed to die because he believed he was a failure. The simple reason is that he allowed himself to believe threats that were empty. 

Intimidation is a spirit.  People who are adept at using this power truly believe what they are saying.  They say it convincingly and it is energized by the devil.  Nonetheless, intimidation is actually empty.  Jezebel at that moment had no power.  However when Elijah gave into the intimidating spirit he gave her power in his life.  We must realize that we have authority as believers.  When intimidation tries to open the door of fear in our lives we must be ready to close it by faith.

What intimidates you today?  Often it is a person who’s personality it stronger than our own.  Sometimes it is the nature and severity of our situation.  We cannot imagine how we could ever obtain victory against such odds.  At other times it may be our past failures that cause us to back down to intimidation.  Our sin is another intimidating element.  Whatever the intimidator the answer is the same.  We must stand on the word of God.

When we stand firm on the promises of God there is nothing that can intimidate us.  Listen to the apostle Paul. 

Romans 8:31 ( NKJV )
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Intimidation works by someone or something screaming in our ears, “This will never work.” or “God will not come through this time.”  It reminds us of our failures and our lack.  We must counter this by filling our minds and our mouths with statements from the Word.  Later in the chapter Paul lists all the things that came against him.  It is not a list any of us would want but he declared in the midst of all these things that he was more than a conqueror.  He refused to allow the devil, the circumstances or even his own past as a persecutor of the Gospel to intimidate him.

God is for you.  Find a promise in the word and stand on it.  counter the intimidator with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  If it is sin that is intimidating you, repent of it.  Once it is repented of the Word tells you it is forgiven and it has no more power against you.  If it is circumstances go to the Bible and find a promise that speaks to the circumstance.  Then when the intimidating voice comes, boldly declare the truth of the promise.  If it is a person, the verse above should pretty much cover that intimidation.

Remember the threat of the intimidator is always empty compared to the Word of God.  Read the Word.  Meditate in the Word and finally declare the Word.  You will find that the intimidator cannot stand in the face of the word of God.  Like any bully he will back down.  It may take some time.  You may have to fight a little, but in the end you will win if you don’t give up. 

Read this one more verse; 

James 4:7 ( NKJV )
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Intimidation 2

(I am going to be traveling again, so I probably will not be writing much. I decided to post some things from 2010 that I think will bless you again. Thanks for reading and pray for me as I spend a month in Kenya.)

Intimidation 2

1 Kings 19:1-4 ( NKJV )
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”

Yesterday we began to look at one of the avenues the devil uses to bring fear into our lives. That avenue is intimidation. We talked about Elijah, one of the most heroic characters in the Old Testament. Elijah challenged the King of Israel, defeated 850 false prophets in a contest of faith and restored the knowledge of the true God to the people of Israel. By the end of 1 Kings 18 Elijah has demonstrated his authority over the King because the king is obeying him. He has authority over the false religion and with the people of Israel. In the first verse of 1 Kings 18 he is given the word of the Lord so he has the authority of God as well. At this point he has absolute control over the country. One word from him and the people will respond. This is demonstrated by the fact that the people seized the false prophets and killed them at his word.

In the next chapter the Queen, Jezebel, threatens him. She vows to kill him by the next day. My question is, how? She has no more authority. Elijah has it all. If he could command her prophets to be seized he could command she be seized. Her threat was empty. Why did he run away? He ran because of the power of intimidation. She had no real power but she knew how to project fear and she used that against Elijah. We need to understand that intimidation has both a natural and a supernatural component. Jezebel had the power of the devil on her side and she used it to convince Elijah that she could do what she really could not.

You might ask, “Was her threat really empty?” My answer is that she did not kill him. I don’t believe it is because he hid. He was in the open many times after this, but Jezebel never took his life. She was attempting to intimidate him and she succeeded!

Intimidation caused Elijah to abdicate the authority he had just gained. He was in control, but because Jezebel was strong in the way she said what she said he failed to rise up against her and use his authority. She could do nothing, but he gave her power by running away. Once the power of intimidation takes hold we begin to buckle under the weight of it. Notice Elijah’s statement in verse 4, “And he prayed that he might die, and said, ;It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’”

What a lie. He had just won one of the greatest faith battles in history. He had restored the faith of Israel, at least for the moment. He had gained great power and then used it to bring rain so the land would not be destroyed. He was a great success not a failure. His fathers had lead Israel astray. He had restored her. Under the power of intimidation he could not see the truth.

If you are a Christian today you have authority over the enemy. He is a defeated foe. Jesus won a great victory over him and then told us to go into the world and preach the gospel. He gave us his Name which carries the weight of heaven, He gave us his Word which is filled with the power of God and finally He gave us his spirit to live in us. It is one thing to be intimidated by a foe that can defeat you, but the words of the bible are true. He who is in you really is greater than he who is in the world. You really are more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. When the devil rises up in intimidation you rise up against him with the Word and the Spirit and declare, “I will not be intimidated and I will not fear.”

As He Is So Are We

(I am going to be traveling again, so I probably will not be writing much.  I decided to post some things from 2010 that I think will bless you again.  Thanks for reading and pray for me as I spend a month in Kenya.)

1 John 4:17-18 ( 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.

This scripture has always been fascinating to me.  Consider what it is saying.  We are as Jesus is now.  For years I preached on this verse from the standpoint that if Jesus is not sick now, I don’t have to be sick now.  If He is not poor, I should not be poor.  If He is not depressed I am not depressed.  If we believe that we are as He is in this world than we would begin to see changes in our lives.  I still believe this to be true. 

As I have been looking at this scripture recently, two things became evident.  First, after 32 years of pastoring I have not seen this come to pass in many people’s lives.  Second, I saw that there were two conditions to this scripture.  If we would meet those two conditions, we could begin to see the reality of this scripture in our lives.

The first condition involves fear.  More precisely it involves removing fear.  The specific fear involved in this verse seems to involve the day of judgment.  If we are assured of our place in eternity, we do not have to fear the present.  I believe that this fear of the judgment reflects all other fear as well.  Consider Hebrews 2:14-15.

Hebrews 2:14-15 ( NKJV )
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Jesus destroyed the devil.  This is most certainly a fact.  Verse 15 gives us an insight into how the devil works today.  When Jesus destroyed the devil he took away his power to hold us in bondage.  What was the source of this power?  The fear of death.  You see all fear is in some way a fear of death.  In many ways this is an abstract connection, but all fear flows from that basic primal fear. 

I believe if we look at our lives today and identify the areas where we are still in bondage we will find some kind of fear.  It may be fear of the past, or the present and it will certainly involve the future.  If we can get rid of fear we will walk free of bondage. 

Jesus was never afraid.  If we can be as free of fear as He was on earth, we will be like He is now.  Free from bondage.  Free to believe God.  Free to walk in victory.  I want to share a key to overcoming fear this week.

Who is the Father

Genesis 1:26(NKJV) 26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over £all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

This week we have spent some time with the scripture in John 17:3 that tells us that the nature of eternal life is to know God. However, we learn from Ephesians that all fatherhood flows from God. To know God we must know him as the Father. This produces some significant problems for many in our society who have had issues with an earthly father or father figure.

Yesterday we focused on what we must do in order to overcome this issue. We must forgive. Unforgiveness imprisons the one who carries it. It really does very little to the one who has committed the wrong. Forgiveness breaks those prison doors and sets our hearts free.

Forgiveness is not an emotion. Forgiveness is an action. We cannot wait for the emotion of forgiveness to manifest before we believe we have forgiven. The emotion will come, be we must first act on the Word of God and forgive, and then we will eventually feel the effects.

Finally, we must recognize that bible forgiveness is unilateral. Jesus forgave those who crucified him with no act of repentance on their part at all. They heard his words, but they just kept on crucifying him. Forgiveness requires that we release the person from any payment owed. Forgiveness cancels the consequences of the wrong committed against us. This can be difficult and we need the Holy Spirit to help us, but it is necessary.

Forgiveness of a father who wronged us can open the door to relationship with the Heavenly Father. However, I also believe we need to learn what kind of Father he really is. Even if we had good fathers, we need to understand that God is a perfect Father. There is no way that I can give a comprehensive description of what our heavenly Father is like. There is far too much to say. As I was preparing this message, I felt that the Lord led me to some characteristics of God the Father that can help us know what kind of father he is.

In Genesis, we read that God decided to create man in his own image. That is the essence of what it means to be a father. When my wife and I had our children it was because I wanted to transmit the life in me to another generation. There was something on the inside of me that knew that I needed a channel for my love that nothing short of children could provide.

God created children because he wanted a family to love. He had the angels and all of heaven, but there was still a void. This is not to imply that God was not perfect. Rather it is his perfection that required he create beings that would be an extension of his own life. There are men, and women, who have children but they do not want them. They may not feel ready. The timing and circumstances may be wrong. The child may have been conceived because of fornication, adultery or even rape. However, God never has unwanted children.

As I was thinking about this scripture and the Father nature of God, the Lord said something very significant to me. The words, “let us make man in our image” did not stop at Genesis. Every child that is created, no matter what the circumstances is a reflection of that same thought in the heart of God. When I was created God was saying, “Let us make Bill in our own image.” Put your name in that sentence and think about it.

What kind of Father is our God? He is a Father who wants each and every one of his children.

The next scripture the Lord led me to is John 3:16. This is considered the most famous verse in the bible.

John 3:16-17(NKJV) 16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

What does this verse tell us about our heavenly Father? God already had a son. He was not just a good son he was a perfect son. He loved the Father perfectly. He was perfect in his obedience. He was so much like the Father that he could say with no hesitation, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.”

It would have been easy for God to say, “My family is complete.” I do not need those rebellious ones. However, that is not the kind of Father he is. Even though he had a perfect son, the rest of humanity was also his family. They had been lost to him because of Adams rebellion. They had become the legal children of God’s enemy the devil. Jesus called the Pharisees “sons of your father the devil.” Ephesians 2 says we were by nature children of wrath. In spite of this, God still saw them as created in his image and likeness. They were still his family.

What kind of Father is our Father God? He is a Father who will not abandon his family. He sent his only begotten son so that anyone of his children who wanted back into his family could return in righteousness. Today we see fathers who abandon their children for all kinds of reasons. Maybe a father who worked all the time abandoned you. Maybe a father who placed other things above the needs of his family abandoned you. Maybe you had a father who just left or even died.

Our heavenly Father gave the one son he had in order to win back the rest of his family. He is a Father who will never abandon you.

In Luke 11:9-13 we find that he is a Father who gives good gifts to his children. Whatever comes to you from the Father is motivated by his desire for the best in your life. There will never be any bad thing that comes from our Heavenly Father. It may not be the gift you want, but it will always be good.

In Hebrews 12:7-11 we find that he is a Father who loves us enough to chasten and discipline us when we need it. He is not leaving us to our own devices. He wants us to grow in him so that we can fulfill our destiny.

In Romans 8:14-17 we find that he has legally adopted us and made us full heirs in his family. We are born of God, but God is not leaving anything undone. We had been “adopted” so to speak by the devil according the scriptures I mentioned earlier. Our Father gave us the spirit of adoption that eliminates all fear of lack in our position with him.

Finally, we see in John 16:23-24 that he is a Father who hears and answers prayer. Let me put that in another way. He is a Father who pays attention to his children. He always has time to listen to our cry. He is always ready to meet any need. He is paying attention to you right now.

This is the nature of our heavenly Father. Open your heart to him today. He will not hurt you. He wanted you and wants you still. He will never abandon you and he is paying attention to you. He will certainly chasten you when you need it, but all the gifts that come from his hand will be good ones. You are a legal heir of the Father and you have nothing at all to fear.

The Freedom in Forgiving

John 17:3(NKJV) 3And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

This week we have been looking at this statement by Jesus. This is one of the last things he says to his disciples, so we know it is something he considers important. The definition of eternal life is to know God. However, to know God we must know him as a Father. That is his primary identity. This is a problem for many in our society because so many have had bad experiences with their earthly father.

If this describes you, how can you overcome this problem? If it does not describe you, I can assure you that you will encounter someone who does suffer with this issue. We need to know how to deal with this problem and how to help others do so.

I want to say something that is very important. We must begin to judge fatherhood by God the Father, not God the Father by the conduct of our earthly father. This may sound obvious, but it can be very difficult. If you have struggled because of a bad relationship with an earthly father, consider this. Would you want your actions to be judged according the actions of someone else?

Maybe you are a redhead. Would you want a coworker to judge every word you say or action you take because of a bad experience he had with another redhead? I know that is a bit silly, but I think you get the idea. We often judge God’s motives and actions based on our experience with another father or father figure. If they rejected you then The Father will reject you. If they abused you, you wait for the inevitable abuse from The Father.

It is obvious that this is not fair to God. He has never done anything that was not motivated by your highest good. He is a perfect father. His word tells us that he will never leave us nor forsake us. His word tells us that his mercy is new every morning. His word tells us he is for us and not against us. However, if we have had a bad “father” experience, we often read God’s words through that experience.

It can be very difficult to separate the two fathers. The emotions connected to “father” are so strong. Father is supposed to be the protector. He is supposed to be the provider. Father is the one who should love us when no one else will. When a father fails to be those things, the effect can be devastating. The bible tells us that the Heavenly Father is perfect. However, the emotions that rise when we hear the word may tell us just the opposite. We must fix this connection or it will be very difficult to know God.

How can we break the connection between earthly father and Heavenly Father? One of the most important things we can do is forgive. Unforgiveness is at the heart of many emotional problems. When we do not forgive, we are putting ourselves into a prison. The person we need to forgive often has no idea of or is unaffected by our feelings. Unforgiveness always hurts us not the person needing forgiveness.

One problem is that we do not understand forgiveness. We think forgiveness is dependent on the repentance of the person we need to forgive. Biblically, that is not true. Do you remember these words of Jesus?

Luke 23:34(NKJV) 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.

Jesus was not asking the men who were crucifying him to repent. He was not waiting for them to ask for his forgiveness. Jesus forgave these men unilaterally. It was his choice, his decision and his action. Bible forgiveness is always unilateral. We forgive with no need for any action on the part of the forgiven.

I love the legal term pardon in this context. A legal pardon is when some official with the power to do so, says to a person, “You have been convicted of this crime, but I am going to override that conviction. I am going to cancel the consequences. You may have done the crime but now you are as free as if you had never committed done anything wrong.”

That is exactly what bible forgiveness is. I choose to view the one who wronged me as pardoned. They may have done something to hurt me, but I choose to cancel the consequences. I choose to treat them as if the thing never happened. I require no payment for the wrong done. I no longer hold it against them. To do this I must let go of the wound.

Another problem I have encountered in helping people with forgiveness is that we associate forgiveness with feelings. True forgiveness will produce feelings; however the forgiveness itself is an act not a feeling. I choose to forgive. I choose to let go of any need for payment of any kind. I do this by faith. Faith is the substance of what we cannot see, hear or feel.

For many people it is hard to reconcile this. This is particularly true of those who must forgive a father. They may say, “If I don’t feel it how do I know I have forgiven?” Remember, forgiveness is an action not a feeling. You have forgiven because you chose to forgive.

In order to experience the fullness of the forgiveness we chose to give, we must walk it out. I believe faith comes from the word of God, so in order to receive the manifestation of forgiveness we need to do the same thing we would do to receive the manifestation of healing. We must fill our hearts with the Word. If we were talking about physical healing, we would read and meditate on healing scriptures. If we are talking about forgiveness, we need to do the same with scriptures on forgiveness.

We need to read about God’s forgiveness of our sin. We need to read about how Jesus forgave. We need to study the love of God because the love of God empowers us to forgive. All of these scriptural ideas will release the power of forgiveness in our lives.

Finally let me say that we can do some personal things to help our forgiveness. I have advised people to write a letter to their father explaining how they really felt as a child. I ask them to tell their father all the things they have not been able to tell them in the past. I ask them to list the hurts and failures of their father. Then I tell them to burn the letter. In effect, burning the past hurts.

The next step is to write a letter expressing love to that father. It may be difficult, but he is your father. If you had no love for him, you would not feel such hatred.

The final step is to pray for the person who has wronged you. This causes a release in the spirit that will bring healing and cleansing to you. The person you need to forgive, whether it is a father or someone else, may never change, but you will change. That is what is really important. Then you will be free and maybe, just maybe you will be able to lead them into freedom as well.

Know the Father

Ephesians 3:14-15(NKJV) 14For this reason I bow my knees to the Father £of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

Yesterday we looked at Jesus’ Words in John 17:3. As Christians, it is imperative that we realize that eternal life is the point of what Jesus did for us. All of the other benefits that Jesus gave us in salvation are wonderful, but eternal life is what we need. We know that eternal life implies that we will live forever in the presence of God. This is certainly true; however, it is much more than that. Jesus says that eternal life is to know God above all else.

We need to make knowing God and making him known to others the driving motivation of our lives. The word “know” is a Hebrew idiom that represents sexual intercourse. This is not an accident. From a biblical standpoint, sexual intercourse is the most intimate relationship that can exist between two people. It is not just a physical act. It is an emotional and spiritual connection as well. Scripturally, this “knowing” between a man and woman is reserved for people living under the covenant of marriage.

We are to know God and be known by God in the same way. We are to have a level of intimacy and exchange that goes beyond what we can get from God. Although living forever is an important aspect of eternal life, knowing God is what releases the power of this life within us. Eternal life is the source of all healing, prosperity and blessing that comes from God. The more we know God the more we are able to release that life in our walk on earth.

This brings us to a problem. To become a mature and fully functioning Christian we must know God. To access all the power available to us from the Word of God, we must know God. To walk by faith and not by sight, we must know God. However, who and what is God really. We find in today’s scripture that God is, above all else, a father. In the Amplified Bible the implication of verse 15 is that the whole idea of parenthood comes from God.

My wife and I married young. We had our first son when I was 20 years old. From that day on my identity changed. Marriage changes a person’s identity as well, and there has been much teaching in the church about maintaining marriage once children arrive. However, as important as the identity of husband is to me, it is not the same as the identity of father. Should I outlive my wife I will no longer be a husband. However, I will always be a father.

Once you enter fatherhood that becomes the dominant part of your being. Husband and wife share this identity as parents. I would do anything for my children. I would sacrifice for them, go through pain for them and give up my future to secure theirs.

My oldest son’s wife left him some years ago. They live in Florida and we live in New York. He would come home in a minute if it were not for his children. If he comes to New York, his children would have to stay in Florida. He could visit them and they could visit him, but he is a father. Separation from them is not an option. He is still a major influence in their lives. He takes them to church, spends time with them and teaches them about the Lord. He is sacrificing much right now for them. However, he is a father so that is just the way it is.

God is the Father of fathers. That is one of his primary identities. We must know God, but to really know God we must know the Father. We may know him as savior, Lord or almighty God, but until we know him as Father, we will never really understand who he is.

This presents some people with a major difficulty. I have ministered to many people in 34 years of pastoring who had no problem with Jesus. They could relate to him, pray to him and worship him. They have no problem with the Holy Spirit. They are happy to be filled with his presence and want him to flow through them. However, as soon as we begin to talk about God the Father, they shut down completely.

The problem is that so many people have had difficult or abusive relationships with their earthly fathers. Being a father is a difficult job. I have six children spread out over 23 years. I changed as a father from the first to the last of them. I learned a great deal about the job. I am a better father now than when my two oldest were small. Every father makes mistakes. Some fathers had bad relationships with their own fathers. Others have been beaten down by life. Others are just bad people. Whatever the case may be, our experience with earthly fathers influences our relationship with God the Father.

I believe there has been a concerted effort by the devil to destroy fatherhood in our society. Feminism, cultural shifts toward a more feminine society and the portrayals of men in the media have contributed to this. There is an interesting fact about the differences between men and women that applies here. Both men and woman want and need two things. They both want and need love and respect. However, there is a profound difference in how these things affect each gender.

Have you ever wondered why a woman in an abusive relationship stays with her husband? She may have been beaten to near death but often you will hear her say, “He didn’t mean it. I know he loves me.” To my ears that sounds like insanity. To that woman it makes perfect sense. A woman needs love. She wants to be respected, but she needs to be loved. She can function in a situation where there is no respect, but she cannot function without love. The only way to get her to leave that abusive situation is to convince her that her husband does not love her.

Men are just the opposite. It would be wrong to say that men do not want to be loved. We do. However, we can function in a situation where we are not loved, but we must be respected. Without respect we cannot function as husband, father or simply as men. We hear this phrase all the time in TV and movies. “Don’t disrespect me!” Men will fight over perceived disrespect. You may defeat a man, but if you show him respect in the process you can win a friend. If you disrespect him, win or lose you will probably have an enemy for life.

These are not weaknesses of our culture. Neither men nor women need to be taught this behavior. It is the way each was made by God in order to fulfill the purpose God has for each of them. In our society, men are often made to feel foolish, weak and abusive. We need woman to keep us in check and show us the way. It is a systematic attempt to break down respect for men. Without respect, we see more and more men failing in their role as husband, father and leader. What does this have to do with relating to God the Father?

God has chosen to represent himself to us primarily as male. Since he is, above all else, a parent of children, that means he represents himself as a Father. If you were the devil and you knew that your arch enemy wanted to reveal himself to the world as the Father of fathers, what would you do. I know I would try to project the idea that father is a bad thing. I would try to corrupt and minimize men so they could not be fathers. I would attack the family so that the idea of father represented all the bad that has ever happened to a person. That is what the devil has done.

If you find yourself unable to relate to God the Father because of a bad relationship or no relationship at all with an earthly father, please join me the rest of this week. You need to know God. You need to understand that he is not like any other father. He is a perfect Father and to know God you must know him. In order to release the power of eternal life you must come to know and accept the Father God as your father. It is possible and I am believing for an anointing to help you do that. More tomorrow.

This is Eternal Life

John 17:1-3(NKJV) 1Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He £should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

People go through many things in life. There is a saying, “Life is just so every day.” There is real truth to that. Life is not a TV show that ends in a half hour to an hour with all the loose ends tied up in a tidy package. It is not a two or even three hour movie that leaves you satisfied at the end. It is an everyday proposition with twists and turns, surprises both good and bad and, more than anything else, a sameness that can wear on the best of us.

As Christians, I believe we can and should have the most exciting life of anyone. We have the opportunity to walk with the Lord and follow him as we touch and change the lives of people around us. However, even for us there are still the jobs we may dislike, the daily routine, diapers, dishes, lawns to mow and just plain boring days. There are also crises and challenges that arise in life that we have to face, deal with and live through.

I believe we need to remind ourselves that we have something that others do not. As Christians, we have eternal life. We are going to live forever. Those who do not know Jesus do not have this wonderful gift. They will live forever, but not in the presence of God. They will live forever separated from him. I do not pretend to know the nature of Hell, but I know that Jesus calls it a place of torment and I also know that I am not going

I am fond of pointing out to the people in our church that no matter what your situation may be here on earth, it will not matter in the eternal future. We may be going through great trials here. We may have lost relationships or possessions. We may be dealing with emotional or physical illness. However, in 10,000 years none of that will matter. What will matter is that you were born again by the blood of Jesus Christ. You will not care what kind of car you drove or house you lived in or even if your relationship were all you wanted them to be. will care that you are in heaven and not hell.

I am not talking about an attitude that just accepts the bad in life without complaining. I am talking about an awareness that what we see here is temporary. I fight anything the devil brings against me with the Word of God. I will not simply submit to sickness, poverty or defeat. If I can find in the Bible that something I am suffering in life is covered under my covenant blessing, I resist it with all my might. What I am talking about is an attitude that says, “Devil, all this is temporary anyway. I can resist you as long as it takes to win because I know that I have heaven as my eternal home and nothing you do to me can last forever. So I choose to rejoice in the Lord now, because I will surely rejoice in him later.”

Paul had something to say about this thought as well.

Romans 8:18(NKJV) 18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Prior to this verse Paul tells us that we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. That is why verse 18 is true. Paul knows that something better is coming, so the things he needed to resist here were not all that important. He knew they had an end and what was coming was far greater than anything, either good or bad, that this life could hold.

Eternal life is the point of Christianity. We have wonderful benefits that we can receive by faith while we live on the earth, but eternal life is the point of it all. We receive Jesus as Lord and savior to secure our eternal destiny not improve our temporal life. The improvements here are a benefit of being a covenant partner with God through Jesus and they are the will of God for every believer, but they are not the main thing. Gaining eternal life and transmitting that life to as many as possible is the point.

However, what is eternal life. You might say, “Eternal life is living forever.” It is true that the condition it produces is to live forever in God’s presence and blessing. However, what is eternal life really. In John 17:3 Jesus answers this question very clearly. Eternal life is to know God. Living forever is a result of eternal life, but eternal life itself is to know God.

The word know here is very interesting. It means what you would expect this word to mean. It means to get acquainted with or gain knowledge of someone or something. However, it carries a particular connotation in the Jewish mind. It is the Hebrew idiom for sexual intercourse. God wants you to “know.” Him.

In Matthew 7:23 Jesus is speaking to those who did mighty works in his name, yet still were not allowed to enter heaven. Why were they excluded? He says it is because, “I never knew you.” This is the same word used in John 17. God wants us to “”know him and he wants to “know” us.

There is something happening in our society that, in a strange way, illustrates what I am talking about. There is an increasing trend toward the idea of unattached, casual or recreational sex. The idea is that we are going to join our bodies in sexual contact with no expectation of any further exchange. The only way that I can see this is a desire for intimacy solely for what I can get from the other person. I do not want to give anything beyond that moment. I am primarily concerned with “getting mine.”

That is not the way God designed human sexuality. He intends for it to be the most intimate exchange of knowing another person possible. In Eden, the bible says that Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. Their nakedness is not just physical. It is the complete exposure of who and what they are to the other person. God designed this to be part of a covenant relationship we call marriage. No one knows me on this earth except my wife. God uses this term for sexual intercourse be cause the physical part of sex is only a small part. The greater part is to know another person spiritually and emotionally. “One night stands” do not do this and that is why the bible is against them.

Eternal life is not about “getting what we need” from God. It is about knowing God and God knowing us. To know God, and to make him known to others, should be the primary motivation of everything we do in life. It should be our most important goal. Everything else should be secondary to knowing God. Knowing God is the essence of eternal life and will have eternal impact. Everything else is temporary and will end with the end of this life.

One other aspect of eternal life is that it is not just a condition; it is a flow of power. “Eternal life” raised Jesus from the dead. According to Romans 6, we are to walk everyday in “newness” of life because of the resurrection of Jesus. This is the same eternal life. The Greek word is “Zoe” which can be defined as life in the absolute sense. It is life with no death in it at all.

Knowing God is what releases this power into our lives. The more I know God, the more I can access the eternal life of God to affect my circumstances. The more I know God the more healing I can experience. The more I know God the more prosperous I will be. The more I know God the stronger and better my relationships will be.

We need eternal life. We need to know God. Thank God that means we live forever and every current problem or situation is temporary. However, eternal life means much more than that.

Walking in Love in the Household of Faith

Philippians 2:3-7(NKJV) 3Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

Yesterday we started looking at the scripture above. We have found that the love we show for one another as Christians is vitally important to how effective we will be in showing the Love of God to the World. In the first two verses of Philippians 2, we learned that Paul is asking the church if they have benefited from their salvation in Christ and if they believe that his ministry can be credited with that benefit. He said these things so that he might make a very personal request of them.

He tells the Philippians that they need to be like-minded, have the same love for one another, be of one accord and of one mind. All of these things seem to be saying the same thing. They need to relate to one another according to the love of God. They need to treat the entire household of faith the same. It is natural to like some people more than we like other people. However, the love of God is not moved by likes and dislikes. It is based on decision. Jesus loves my brother or sister. Jesus loves me. I choose to treat my brother or sister according to that love. I will look past differences and preferences and love the members of the body equally.

How do we walk this out in practical living? Today’s scripture gives us some advice as to what steps we can take to ensure we are walking in love in the church. The first thing Paul tells the Philippians is to make sure that they do nothing motivated by selfish ambition or conceit. On the surface that may seem harsh. “Surly, pastor you don’t think I would be that way?” I am certain that most of us would not act according to selfish ambition or conceit consciously. We are all human. We all need a sense of value. We all need to feel that we matter and have purpose. Sometimes this can lead us to do things from the wrong motivation.

I think it would do us all good to examine our motives. What do I want from life? Why do I do what I do? It is easy to allow our need for approval to get in the way of proper motivation in the church. How can I guard against wrong motivations? Paul tells us.

We need to do what we do in lowliness of mind. I am a believer in not accepting the “I’m just a worm” view of our life in Christ. I am a child of God. Jesus laid down his life for me. I am God’s workmanship and as such, I cannot be nothing. I am someone. I am loved by God. So what does it mean to do things in lowliness of mind?

Again, Paul makes it clear. We need to esteem others higher than we esteem ourselves. This does not mean we lower our opinion of ourselves. It means we enter a healthy competition to elevate the value of our brothers and sisters faster than they can elevate our value. We consider the importance of others before we worry about how important we want to be.

This is a very simple point of view, but it can change everything in life. Most people I have dealt with that have emotional problems suffer from some kind of low self-image. If we build self-image based on who we are in Christ, I think it can be beneficial. However, too often self-image is built at the expense of others. We say, “I am as good as that person. Who do they think they are?.” This may make us feel better about ourselves but it is not healthy.

It is far healthier to look at someone else in the body of Christ and say, “I believe in you. I think you are vital to the success of the church.” When we do that, we elevate them in our eyes but we do not diminish ourselves. We stir them to do better and we free them from competing with us. We free them to see our importance without diminishing theirs.

Paul expands on the thought by giving us even more advice that is practical. We should look to the interests of others as well as our own interests. Paul is telling us that we should not just “look out for number one.” We need to be concerned about the needs of our brothers and sisters as well. We need to be sensitive to what others need, whether it is encouragement, finances or prayer.

I think it also means we should be interested in what other people find important. If I love someone, and they like something I do not really care about, I should not communicate to them that the thing they find important is foolish. I should do my best to show some interest in that thing. If nothing else, I will encourage them and I might even learn something.

These are very practical things. They are not deep revelations we have never heard before. However, how much are we practicing them? It would be good for all of us to take note of how we relate to the other members of the family of God this week in church.

Finally, Paul brings out the “big guns.” All of this is good advice but when Paul speaks of Jesus as our example it becomes far more. I believe Paul is giving us another way to express Jesus commandment to love one another as he loved us. We are to have the same mind or attitude he had when he left heaven and came to earth.

Paul says that Jesus did not consider it “robbery” to be called equal with God. What does that really mean? I have heard it said that this meant he did not think it was outlandish to be called equal with God. He knew he was equal with God, so it was no extreme for him to be called equal with God. However, this word has another connotation.

The term robbery means something that is grasped or taken hold of. Jesus was equal to God. He existed in heaven before he came to earth. He chose to lay aside his home in heaven and come to earth so that he could redeem man. He chose to lay aside the unlimited power of his existence as the Word of God and take on the limitations of flesh. He lived in the same kind of body you and I live in. His body was not tainted by sin, but it had all the same limitations as yours does.

Paul tells us we should cultivate the same attitude. I do not believe we have to become “doormats” and allow people to walk on us. I do believe that we have to be willing to lay aside comfort and convenience for our brother. There is a phrase here that I find very descriptive of the attitude we must cultivate. He became of no reputation.

What does your reputation mean to you? Put more simply, how important is what people think about you. For most of us, it is very important. We work hard to maintain a certain image. I believe we should have a good reputation where righteousness and integrity are concerned, but I do not think we should worry about what people think of us in most areas.

If loving a brother or sister means I “damage” my reputation, so be it. I have no reputation. Just as Jesus existed to lay down his life for the world, I exist to love the brethren and then to love the world. That is the only reputation I need to maintain.

The Same Love for One Another

Philippians 2:1-4(NKJV) 1Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

In our time this week, we have emphasized the fact that one way we drive out the enemies that keep us from possessing and occupying our destiny is to develop the major themes of the bible. As we grow in truths such as faith, righteousness, and holiness, our spiritual life will become stronger and the world, the flesh and the devil will not have the same hold over us that they do now.

According to both Jesus and Paul, the greatest of these bible truths is the Love of God. As we walk in the love of God we will see a release of power to which little else can compare. Yesterday we focused on the thought that our ability to communicate that love to the world is dependent upon how we display that love to those within the household of faith. Jesus said the world would know we are his disciples by the love we have for one another. Only then will the world believe that the love of God we want to show to them is genuine.

How do we display the love of God within the household of faith? Today’s scripture gives us some insight. First, we see that Paul asks them a question. There are many elements to the question, but essentially Paul is asking the Philippian Christian if they would say they had gotten any benefit from receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior. Of course, the question is rhetorical. They have received eternal life. There is no greater benefit. They have also received all the things Paul mentions.

I think we get even more insight to what he is asking them when he adds the phrase, “fill my joy.” He is not just asking if they have gotten anything from their relationship with Jesus, he wants to know if they see these benefits as a product of his ministry to them. Paul is asking something very personal of this church.

What he asks them to do is have the same love for each other. There are some very interesting Greek word combinations in these verses. He tells them to be of like-minded. This means they are to think along the same lines. We might say today that they need to be on the same page. He says to be of one accord. This word for accord in the Greek means “one.” Finally he says be of one mind. This phrase uses the same word for mind as the term like-minded. However here he literally says, be of 1, one mind.

What are we to glean from this? It seems to me that Paul says the same thing three ways. We are to think along the same lines. More important we are to think the same way about each member of the church. We are to love each member with the same love. There are no favorites in the church. There can be no preferential treatment. Each person carries the same importance to God. Each one of us should carry the same importance to each other.

I am the father of six children and thirteen grandchildren. Any parent or grandparent knows that there is a tendency to favor one child over another. Sometimes thier interests of one are more like your interests. Sometimes personalities clash with one child but not with another. However, a good parent knows that they cannot have favorites.

Even if you are drawn to one child more than another, they are all your children. That is the fact. You may like one more than another, but you do not love any one more than the rest. As a parent, you cannot allow those feelings to cause you to treat them differently. If you do, you will cause severe damage to your children.

As natural parents this can be difficult, but for God it is not. I am God’s favorite child. The supernatural part is, so are you! I do not understand how God can do that, but he does.

Each person in the local church is God’s favorite. God loves each one equally. However, we are human beings. Just as human parents may tend to like one child more than another, we often like some of God’s children more than we like others.

Some people in the church have the same interests we do. Some people in the church are a better fit with our personality type than others. Some people just “rub us the wrong way.” We simply do not like them very much. What are we to do? We are to love each member of our local church in the same way. That is what Paul is requesting from the Philippian church.

It is not wrong to want to spend time with those members of the church that have interests similar to yours. I like to play golf. You are going to be more likely to spend time with me if you play golf as well. I am not a fisherman. If you are a fisherman, we will probably spend less time together than if you were a golfer. That is just the way it is. If you are a shopper, I will see you at church!

What we cannot do is allow these likes to influence our love walk toward those in the house of God. Paul exhorts us to have the same love for each member. What does that mean? We must treat every member as close to the same as we possibly can. You may ask, “What if I just don’t like someone. Wouldn’t I be a hypocrite if I tell them I love them? Wouldn’t it be false if I treat them as if I do like them?” Absolutely not!

The love of God is not based on likes. It is based on the truth of the Word of God and on decision. Each member of the church is a child of God. God loves each one equally. I choose to love them because of God’s love for them and God’s love for me. I choose to respond to the love of God that is in my heart by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5) This does not make me a hypocrite it makes me a Christian!

Tomorrow we will look at how to apply this love in the church. Today, I want you to examine yourself. Is there someone you do not like in your church? Maybe their personality needs some work. I expect you might find that yours does as well. Maybe they are critical of you. The bible tells us to forgive people whether they change their behavior or not. Our forgiveness may go a long way toward changing their opinion of us. Maybe their interests are different from yours.

I am not saying you should change your interests or decide to spend large amounts of time with that person you may not like. You can decide to pray for them. You can decide to communicate love toward them. You can say to yourself and the devil, “He (or she) is my brother (sister) and I choose to love them in spite of whatever differences we may have. I choose actions of love toward them.”

Two things will result. First, you will notice a change in how you feel. Second you will display the love toward them that Jesus said would cause the world to know you are both disciples of Jesus.

Love in the Household of Faith

Galatians 6:10(NKJV) 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Yesterday we looked at the idea of driving out the enemies that keep us from possessing and occupying our land from the perspective of both active and passive resistance. We actively drive out our enemies when we come against them directly with things like binding and loosing or pulling down strongholds with our faith and our words. We passively drive out our enemies when we strengthen our spirit by building the major themes of the bible into our lives. We do this by studying them, meditating on them and putting them into action. According to Paul, the greatest of these major themes is the supernatural love of God.

Because it is so important, we have spent a great deal of time on this topic. Today I want to begin looking at the importance of the love of God in the household of faith. In the scripture above, we find that we are to do good to all. The term “do good” can be seen as the Love of God in action. Love always leads us to do good to others. We are to “love” all. That means all people whether in or out of the church. However, he says we are to love especially those in “the household of faith” which is the church.

We know that we must preach the Gospel to the world. Over the years of our church’s existence, we have always had good fellowship among our people. The people in the church develop deep relationships and spend a great deal of time together. Although this is certainly a good thing, we have struggled to keep this closeness from causing us to fail to reach out to new people as they come in. We do not want the church to become a “bless me” club or exclusive in our attitude or approach. We want to reach out to the lost, whether they come into the church building or they are out in the community. This is vital.

However, we must also recognize the role that love within church plays in reaching those outside. We are very familiar with this scripture.

John 13:35(NKJV) 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

There is a vital connection between the preaching of the Gospel and our love for one another. Jesus does not say the world will know we are his disciples by our love for them. He is very specific here. If we walk in love toward one another, the world will know that we represent Jesus. If we do not walk in love toward one another, they will not believe us when we tell them God loves them.

The key is not to lower the level of love and fellowship we have within the house of God, but instead to extend it to those who come through the doors. We must let the love of God in the church be displayed outside the walls of the church building both amongst ourselves out in the community and to our friends and neighbors. When the world sees our acts of love, they will be more inclined to accept that we represent the God of the gospel we preach.

Actively and openly loving within the church gives credibility both to us and to Jesus himself. As people see this love demonstrated, they also see that something real has happened to those who call upon the Lord. The gospel is not just another religious philosophy. It can be seen in the way we treat each other. The world may ridicule or persecute us, but they will not be able to argue when they see the tangible manifestation of the love of God flowing between us.

The world is looking for love. Our music shouts this truth. Our entertainment demonstrates it to us in books, movies and television. They “look for love in all the wrong places.” They try to find love in all kinds of fleshly activities. Sexual immorality is a search for love. Social activism is often an attempt to express love and receive love in return. It does not take much looking to find how desperately the world is looking for the caring and belonging that will take away loneliness and heal the hurts of life.

When we go into the world and preach that God so loved the world that he gave his only son to save it, we need to back that message up by demonstrating that love. We need to show it to the ones to whom we are preaching, however that will not be credible to them if they do not see it between us. We cannot preach a loving Jesus and complain about one another. We cannot preach about a loving Father and not care for those who are part of the Father’s family

Look at 1 John 3:10.

1 John 3:10(NKJV) 10In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

The Gospel is a revelation of the righteousness of God made available to the world. We know that we cannot walk in sin before the world and expect them to believe a message that tells them of a righteous and holy God. They will not believe that the God we speak of has any power if they see sin unabated in our lives. No one is perfect, but it must be evident to those who hear the gospel from us that we are different and that we are doing our best to live in righteousness.

This verse tells us that it is just as important for us to love our brother. John puts walking in righteousness and loving our brother on the same level. If I do all the right things, but have no love for my brother, than I am not really walking in righteousness. If I make mistakes but allow love for my brothers and sisters in Christ to reign, I will find that my mistakes will decrease and my walk of righteousness will become increasingly effective.

Evangelism may be the most important need in the church in America. I am a teacher. A teacher needs empty heads to fill. I am smart enough to know that if we do not win people to the Lord, I will eventually have nothing but full heads in my church. We need to reach the lost.

In our understanding of this need, we often forget that seeing love within the house of God is one of the main things that will cause the world to receive our message. I want to encourage you to “up your game” so to speak, when it comes to loving the people in your local church. There are always people you will be drawn to more than others, but extend you acts of love to those with whom you may not feel the same closeness.

To some this would seem hypocritical. However, remember, you have the love of God in you by the Holy Ghost. (Romans 5:5) You are not a hypocrite when you decide to act in love even if you do not feel the emotion of love. The love of God is based in decision. Decide to love the brethren. Decide to act toward them the way you want Jesus to act toward you. The feelings will follow.

This will be irresistible to the world. They may be able to argue doctrine. They may be able to argue religion. They may even want to argue the existence of God. When they see the supernatural love we have for each other, they will have no argument. Their mind may not understand it, but their hearts will recognize their need for this kind of love. They will be drawn to it and, if we then extend the same hand of love to them, they will come and receive it.