A Commandment!

John 13:31-35 (NKJV) 31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

A recurring theme for me the last few years has been the need for and inevitability of a world changing move of God. There have been many in the history of the church and, indeed, in the history of the world. The last major move of God was the Charismatic renewal. I was a part of that move and I remember the impact it had on culture and society.

In today’s scripture, I believe we see something that is connected to God’s ability to do the things we know he wants to do in the earth today. I think it is interesting that this is happening right after Judas leaves on his mission to betray Jesus. As I read this I hear a calm in Jesus’ voice that I doubt I could have under the circumstances.

He reveals to the 11 remaining disciples that his time on earth is about to end. He says he is going to be glorified. By that he means crucified, buried and raised from the dead for our sins. He also tells them that he is going away and where he is going they cannot follow. They will be left behind.

In any age there are channels for the glory of God. For example, Moses was the channel God used to bring the Glory of God to Israel during their deliverance from Egypt. As time went on the nation of Israel itself as well as the various kings, priests and prophets within her became that channel. In Jesus day, he was the channel. People came to him for healing, deliverance and the impartation of the Word of God. What Jesus was saying to his disciples was that channel was about to come to an end.

What is the channel for the Glory of God today? Beginning on the day of Pentecost it has been the church. In the scripture we are looking at, the 11 men left to Jesus were the seed for what the church would become. They were about to take on the mantle that Jesus was leaving behind. What he tells them next is of paramount importance. They cannot be a clear channel for God’s glory if they do not hear and apply what he is telling them.

I like to look deep into the action of the scriptures. I believe it gives us a clearer picture of what God wants us to see. In this case it is important that we understand that Jesus is not, at this moment, speaking to the whole church. What he says must ultimately be applied by the whole church, but at the moment captured in time here, he is talking to 11 men. He looks them in the eye and says to 11 men, “I am giving a new commandment. It is not a suggestion. It is not something about which you have a choice.”

What, exactly, was this new commandment? He did not command them to love the world. He did not command them to love everyone in the church. He commanded them to love one another. He was talking to eleven men in a room. He was commanding John to love Peter. He was commanding Simon to love Thomas. He was commanding each of these eleven men individually to love the other ten in the room. He was not commanding them to love if they felt like it or if the other was deserving of their love.

When we see the love commandment in this light it makes it much more binding. Jesus’ commandment is also to us. However, we often think in terms of loving everyone in the Body of Christ. That is not the commandment. We are commanded to love those parts of the body we are with. We are commanded to love those in our church. We are commanded to love the body of Christ that lives in our home. We are commanded to love those in the body who wrong us or are difficult.

This is a personal commandment not a general one. It is easy to love without point of focus. I can say, “Yes, of course I love the members of the body.” If we have no one to focus our love on, it is not real. His commandment is to love one another, not love the body.

What is the nature of the love we must have for one another? He tells the disciples they must love each other as Jesus loved them. Jesus had not yet died for them. That was yet to come. Nevertheless, the love that led him to that action was there in how he dealt with them when they walked with him. Although there were times Jesus displayed righteous indignation to people like the Pharisees, can you even picture him being harsh with any of the eleven in that room.

Jesus loved them with the love of God. He was the personification of the love Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13. Read those powerful verses and put your name in where it says “love.” That is how Jesus loved them. The ultimate expression of that love was that Jesus laid down his life for them. Although he died for the whole world, he died for them. Do you see how understanding that changes everything?

One way I like to describe the love of God is that it is not driven by emotion. It is not emotionless but it is not based in emotion. What we normally think of as love, even Christian love, is driven or based in emotion. We feel something and therefore we love. Those feelings lead to decisions about how we will act. God’s love is just the opposite. It is driven and based in the decision. Emotions follow but they do not determine if we love or how we act.

Jesus loved them with a love of decision. In this chapter, Judas has just left to betray Jesus. Jesus loved Judas. He knew all along that Judas would betray him. Yet in John 13 he washed his feet just as he washed the others. He never stopped loving because the love, even for Judas, was a decision. That is how Jesus and the Father himself loves you and me.

The commandment is to love those in the body of Christ around us as Jesus loved us. What does this have to do with unity? It has everything to do with unity. We try to create unity with cooperative meetings, councils and dialogue. None of that is where we begin to create unity. We begin by taking this commandment seriously. We love one another as Jesus loved us. We love the pastor in our community who does not agree with us. We love the brother or sister who may be critical. The key is to apply this in our own sphere of relationship not “universally.”

This also relates to the move of God we so desperately need. Jesus said it is by this love that the world will know we are his disciples. It is not by our love for them that they will know. It is by what they see between us that will convince them. It is that love that turned the world upside down in the 1st century and that kind of love will work today. The devil has no answer for a people who love one another as Jesus loved them.

What could God do if we really obeyed this commandment. I believe he could do anything he needed to do. Why is he hindered. Why does the world reject the church as being irrelevant? It is because we have not obeyed Jesus’ commandment. This will work. If we love one another as he loved us the world will begin to see and hunger for that love. If we do not the world will continue to reject the idea that Christianity is something different and powerful. They will see no need to give up ungodliness for obedience to Christ.

Unity Through in Cameroon and Liberia

Psalm 133:1 (NKJV) 1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!

As is usually the case when I travel, I have found it difficult to continue posting while on the trip. We have been in Cameroon and Liberia for the past two weeks. The schedule in Cameroon was pretty heavy (just the way I like it) but we have had a little more time here in Liberia so I thought I would try to get back on the horse as it were.

Some 10 years ago West Africa was our main focus. For the last four years our focus has been on East Africa specifically Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. We are currently moving toward a new phase of our ministry that will free us to travel even more. Some of our old friends have contacted us about returning to West Africa so we find ourselves adding it back into the mix. This trip was a time to reacquaint ourselves with the people and places there.

When I arrived in Cameroon, our hosts, Hal Rahman who leads Discipling the Nations Ministry among many other endeavors, had been with us in our Unity Through Fellowship Conference at Living Word in February. The focus of what we are doing impressed Brother Hal and he felt we needed to extend this idea to Cameroon. I did not fully understand that this was his desire until I got there and found that we had 4 1 to 2 day meetings in Buea, Limbe, Douala and Yaounde Cameroon focused on Unity Through Fellowship.

I did not come prepared to speak on that topic, but as the meetings progressed I was grateful to Brother Hal for listening to the Holy Spirit. Although I have given much thought to this, I had never taught extensively on the topic. As I did I believe God gave me some deeper insight into this powerful principle.

The body of Christ must find a way to flow together. This does not mean we will all do the same thing or even believe exactly alike. It does mean that we must find a way to put arguing, accusation and competition behind us. We all have doctrinal revelations that are important to us. Many of them differ across the Body of Christ. We will never all agree on everything. However, we can agree on certain basics and choose to lay aside some things so that we can be the church Jesus intended for us to be.

I believe my Pastor, B.J. Pruitt found a formula for accomplishing this. God spoke to him over 40 years ago and said, “Make a place for the ministry to come together. If they are part of an organization, that’s fine. If they are not, that’s fine as well. Just make a place where they can interact and learn about each other as people.”

Over the years this conference grew until several hundred ministers and church leaders attended. I arrived in February of 1988. We were hurting. We were in the second church we had started and making mistakes. We did not have fathers in the faith. We did not have the kinds of relationships that could help us. We were part of the Charismatic renewal and lived in the Northeast of the United States where no “big name” ministries ever came.

When we came to this conference we found that no one talked about how big their ministry was. That was not something that was required by the leaders it just happened that way. We did not talk about the stream of ministry or organization we were from. We did not get into the great church debates of the day. Pastor Pruitt used to say, “If you have a pet doctrine that might be a little divisive that’s no problem. Just check it at the door and pick it up on the way out.”

There are many great conferences out there. They may be focused on a particular stream or denomination. Their purpose may be to learn something specific like leadership, finances or marriage. We might come to hear a particular speaker we enjoy. All are good reasons to come together. However, the purpose of Unity Through Fellowship is none of those things.

We found that when a place is made for people to simply get together without another purpose, we got to know one another as people and not according to our doctrine, stream or ministry. In that atmosphere we found relationships developed that would not develop otherwise. All of the significant relationships in my life came, directly or indirectly, from the atmosphere set in Dr. Pruitt’s conference.

For many reasons, including his retirement from the church he pastored, the UTF conference stopped. 6 years ago we began again and eventually we decided to pick up the mantle and have it in our church. It is not a church conference. It is just a place where the ministry, and anyone else, can get together and find out who their brother or sister really is. We have good teaching by senior men and women of God. We have powerful praise and worship and prophetic ministry as the spirit leads. However, it is what happens around the tables and in the lounge that is most important.

As I was teaching along these lines, God gave me a picture. I extended my hands in front of me clasped together. The Lord showed me that when we lead with our doctrine, our title, the size of our ministry, our accomplishment or the like, we are automatically placing a separation between us. I moved toward various of the brethren with my clasped hands out, but it was impossible to get close.

The beginnings of true unity will come when we do not lead with these things. It will come when we lead with our “story” instead of our accomplishments or beliefs. Who are you? Who am I? What are our struggles or concerns? What is our family like? When we begin with those things we find that most Christians are really nice people.

What about the things we do not agree about? In the conference we just do not focus on those things. Again, I am not talking about compromise. If you know me, you know that I do not compromise truth. However, I do not have to talk about some things in the 4 days we are together. Instead, we laugh together, swap stories and experiences and sometimes cry together. The result is that we get to know the person behind the ministry and that is the beginning of relationship and relationship is the only place from which unity can flow.

Let me close today by sharing one of the many relationship experiences we have had because of this conference and this simple idea. As I said, when we first came to Dr. Pruitt’s conference we were hurting. We were part of a particular steam of ministry. It was and is a good stream. Nevertheless, because we had no fathers in the faith and not many ministry relationships we were in a bad place.

We knew very few people but one couple, especially the wife, took us under her wing and began to introduce us around. We spent a good deal of time together laughing and sharing stories of life ministry and family. By the end of that meeting we knew that they were going to be life-long friends. It was not until sometime later that we found out there were about which we did not agree. By then it was too late. We had fallen in love with each other.

Honestly, if we had led with our particular doctrinal views I doubt I would have even talked to them. Because of the relationship that we had, we had to find a way to get by the disagreements. Our relationship was just too important to lose. We remain covenant friends. We have both found new things to believe while not compromising truth. That is true unity. That is what the church needs.

Spiritual Laws Spiritual Seeds

Galatians 6:7-8 (NKJV) 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

This week we are looking at the power of spiritual laws. We began by speaking about physical laws. Specifically, the laws that govern the sowing of seed and the production of crops. If we sow corn, we expect to get corn. If we sow potatoes, we expect to get potatoes. We do not hope to get them. We do not think we have to be perfect to get them. If we put good seed into good ground, cultivate the seed and keep it watered we will get the crop every time.

We accept this about natural laws. We know they work every time. We do not tend to believe the same thing where spiritual laws are concerned. We see them as mysterious and unpredictable. That is not true. Spiritual laws, or statements describing principles that are always true, are just as real and dependable as physical laws.

In today’s verse we see that there is a spiritual law of “sowing and reaping.” The surety of that law is stated by Paul in no uncertain terms. He tells us that if we think we can ignore that law we are deceiving ourselves. What a person sows he will reap. In the natural the choices may be corn or carrots. In the spirit the choices are sowing to the flesh and reaping corruption or sowing to the spirit and reaping life. To expect to sow to the flesh and reap life is like sowing corn and expecting carrots. You will be disappointed.

What are the seeds we are sowing? There are three categories of seeds we need to examine. The first is our words. Proverbs 18:21 is a much maligned and often misused scripture, but it is in the bible and we cannot ignore it.

Proverbs 18:21 (AMP) 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life].

The New Testament confirms the though from Proverbs in James.

James 3:2 (NKJV) 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.

Why are words so important? They are seeds. Seeds in the natural contain the life of the plant they came from. When they are sown in the ground, that life is released and the plant, and ultimately the fruit, is the result. It happens every time. Words are life and death containers. When we sow them they produce whatever they contain. Just as one seed will not cause a full harvest, one or two words will not produce a harvest in our lives. However, the more seeds we sow, either to the flesh or the spirit, the greater the affect will be on our lives.

I recently planted some grass seed. According to the package I thought I had enough for the area in question. The seed did come up. I have grass where I did not have any before. The quantity of seed was not sufficient to transform the area I was trying to fill in. We need to make sure we sow enough seed to the spirit to transform whatever area of life in which we need a change.

The most powerful spiritual word seeds we can sow are the Word of God itself. It is a supernatural seed that will transform the ground of our lives. (Hebrews 4:12) That said, our own words are also powerful. That is the lesson in James. When we choose to speak according to the Word of God and what we know are spiritual things we set the direction of our lives accordingly. The destination, or fruit, will be whatever course we set. (James 3:3-4)

What word seeds are you sowing? I am not talking about what you say at church. I am not talking about what you say occasionally. Occasional words will bring neither corruption nor life. What is the pattern of your words? If it is a pattern of death, fear, unbelief and the like, you will reap corruption. However, if you make a decision to speak words of life, peace, encouragement and faith, you will reap life.

There are some other seeds we need to examine as well. Our thoughts are seeds. Thoughts are just inner words. We may not speak them, but we meditate on them. We do not generally think in pictures. We can choose to “picture” something in our minds, but we think in words. The same principle applies to the words we think as to the words we say but to a deeper degree.

What you think will always determine what you say. In the early days of what became known as the “Word of Faith” movement, there was a misunderstanding about the power of words. Some seemed to teach that if we just said the right things everything would be fine. The problem is that you can only discipline what you say for so long if the words you are thinking are different than what you are saying. Paul said in Romans 12:2 that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Lord told Joshua to “Meditate in My Word day and night.” (Joshua 1:8)

When we begin to meditate on God’s Word and choose to replace the thought seeds of fear and unbelief with the seeds of the Word, we will eventually be transformed. Planting the seeds of the spirit with our mouth will become automatic. At that point we will begin to see a transformation to our outward life as well as our inward life. We will have a powerful garden that cannot be overcome by the weeds of the world.

Finally, we sow seeds with our actions. Our lifestyle sows seeds that are very difficult to overcome. This applies both to seeds sown to the flesh and seeds sown to the spirit. Although I believe the most important kind of sowing we can do is the sowing of right thinking, if that thinking never becomes action it will never produce results. The truth is the actions of our life betray the seeds we may think we are sowing.

If we want to have a powerful garden of life and godliness, we need to sow thoughts that become our words. However, we also need to choose to act on those words. James 2:14-26 teaches us that faith without works is dead. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17) Therefore, we may say that sown words without works that correspond are also dead.

If we begin to sow to the spirit in our thoughts, we will begin to sow to the spirit with our words. If we then choose to look at our life and make sure our actions are in line with our words, we will see the changes we would like to see. We will begin to be the people God needs us to be today.

Take a look at your life. It will not be difficult to see what you have been sowing. The Devil will come against with discouragement and condemnation. I can pretty much guarantee that because all of us have a very mixed crop. However, you do not have to accept that. Condemnation will only keep you where you are and God never condemns. He convicts. Conviction is designed to show you that you can change and how.

If you do not like what you see, just start weeding, sowing better seed, and watering it with prayer worship and meditation in the Word. Start to hear what you are saying and make some corrections. Examine your actions and choose better ones. Things do not change overnight and God is not looking for perfection just progression. You did not get your current crop in a day and you will not change in a day. Nevertheless, if you start where you are, you will change the garden of your life.

Also remember that it is not just about you. Others see you garden and receive from it as well.

As Long as he Earth Remains

Genesis 8:22 (NLT) 22 As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

(Please pray for my wife and I as we leave again for the world harvest field. We will be in Cameroon and Liberia, West Africa from June 13th until July 6th. If you would like to be a part of Living Word International, you can contribute by going to www.Livingwordgreene.com and click on Donate. Make sure and note that you are giving for missions or Living Word International. Thanks in advance. You can also purchase my books by going to https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=Bill+Kiefer&rh=n%3A133140011%2Ck%3ABill+Kiefer. The proceeds help with our missions travel.)

Some things just are the way they are. As much as things change, these things never change. In today’s verse we see that “as long as the earth remains,” there will be planting and harvest. This is a physical law. If this law ever stops working, there will be no way to sustain life on planet earth. I am not a farmer and I have no idea how this law works. I get my food from the grocery store. Nevertheless, if no one planted seeds and the seeds did not grow, I would still starve. There is no other way to have food in the earth.

Even if we did not eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, the meats and other things are still dependent on the law that planting seeds in good ground produces fruit of some kind. If seeds stop producing what they are designed to produce, life on earth will eventually end.

The natural laws that govern the production of food from the ground are only a few of many natural laws. We have learned how to use these laws to our advantage. We can manipulate them to alter certain results. When we transgress them it is at our own peril. What we cannot do is negate them. They will always work as long as the earth remains.

We understand this in the natural. We would not think of trying to grow food without planting seeds of some sort. We may grow them in a greenhouse or laboratory, but we know we cannot have plants without seeds. It would be foolish to think we could have a garden without planting something.

My wife loves tomatoes. For the first time in her life she managed to grow some the last two summers. She did not hope for tomatoes, pray for tomatoes and then complain if she did not have them. She knew that she had to plant tomatoes to get tomatoes. That is just the way it is.

If she planted peas she should not have been surprised there were no tomatoes. If she planted peas it would be because she wanted peas. Since she does not want peas because she does not like peas, she planted tomatoes. She loves tomatoes.

When she put those plants in the ground, she did not then hope if God loved her and happened to be pleased with her that summer that he might, please, grant her tomatoes. She knew she would get tomatoes. She had to keep the weeds away. She had to keep them watered. There was some work to do on her part, but she did not grow the tomatoes. The ground and the seed did that part. She had to wait a while to see them, but she knew that tomatoes plants produce tomatoes. She wanted tomatoes so that is what she planted!

If you know the natural truth of sowing and eventually reaping, you can trust it to work. You do not have to know how it works. I do not know if anyone really understands how the soil and the seed work together. I know I do not. However, if I put good seed into good ground, do a little work to prepare and nurture the seed and have some patience, I will get what I planted every time. At least as long as the earth remains.

We are talking about natural truth. We really do not question that natural laws will work. It is absurd to us to think they will not. Gravity works. Anyone who said they could override gravity would be considered a fool. We know how to manipulate other laws so we can fly, but we do not jump off of buildings thinking gravity will be suspended. Anyone who would do that needs to be put away for their own safety!

Natural laws work. Planting seeds produce whatever plant the seed came from. Planting seed in good ground produces a harvest assuming the conditions for harvest are met. There must be water, either rain or irrigation. Weeds, plants that would interfere with and take the life from the desired plant, must be removed. Beyond that the ground and the seed were designed to work together and they will.

The bible teaches us that there are other laws that also just work. The laws we know in the natural world are, in many ways, reflections of these other laws. They are the laws of the spirit. They are not legalities. They are truths that God set into motion which always works. If we learn what they are and to trust them and the God who created them, we will get predictable results. Jesus tells us this very thing in Mark 4.

Mark 4:26-29 (NLT) 26 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29 And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”

The context of this scripture is Jesus great parable of the sower. In verse 13 and 14 Jesus introduces this parable by telling the disciples that understanding this is the key to understanding all of his parables. Then he makes a statement, “The sower sows the Word.” He proceeds to reveal that the ground is the heart of man. In verse 26 he completes the parallel by pointing out that the whole Kingdom of God works according to the spiritual law of sowing and reaping. The spiritual and the natural work in the same way only in different worlds.

If we want a certain crop in the natural, we plant that kind of seed. It is foolish to think we can plant one kind of see and get another kind of crop. You do not just plant any random seed and expect to get a specific crop. You plant what you want.

I heard a story of a man who had a small airstrip in the middle of his fields so he could land his private plane. He had a friend who also had a plane and would come and visit every year. The airstrip was in the middle of what had always been a cotton field.

One year he landed and there was no cotton! He got out of the plane and asked his host, “Where is the cotton.” After going back and forth he found that the host had planted soybeans instead. The friend could not quite reconcile that after all these years he had not landed in a cotton field. Almost indignantly he asked, “But why didn’t you plant cotton.” The farmer answered, “Because I didn’t want cotton.” What a revelation!

The Kingdom of God, and more accurately how the Kingdom of God affects the natural world, works in the same way that planting seeds in the earth works. You sow what you want, you cultivate the soil, you keep the crop watered and you wait. Eventually you will see what you planted and its effects on your life. You do not have to wonder. You do not have to understand how God is going to make it work. You just have to do your part and wait. The results are inevitable.

In the spirit we are always planting even when we do not know it. If you plant what you do not want, you should not be surprised that you get that harvest. What do you want? The farmer wanted soybeans so that is what he planted. What are you going to plant in your spiritual garden?