There are a lot of ups and downs in a life, and the Christian life is no different. I find a lot of young people have a serious misconception about this simple fact. They somehow think God is powerful and loves them when things are going well, and somehow He’s either no longer powerful, or doesn’t love them anymore when things seem to be going poorly. If you’re going through some rough times then maybe it’s a time of discipline, or maybe it’s a time of testing and growth, but two things for sure: God is still God, and God is still love! If you are, you can be sure God still loves you, too! Are my children (my own flesh and blood children) any less “Kilby” when I’m disciplining them? Are they any less loved? Certainly not! And you’re no less Christian during the tough times in life. Soooo… when God is doing amazing things and everything seems to be going well, write it down, then go back and read what God did for you when times get tougher–The same God is still ultimately in charge of everything! This too shall pass!
“The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.” Psalm 118:16-18
When you read through the Scriptures do you ever see things Jesus commanded and think, “why don’t we do that?” Quite often people will tell you tradition has replaced it, but what tradition of man could ever replace one single word Jesus spoke? Through His blood we are free to worship and serve Him under the wonderful grace He’s given us, but the truth remains He is our Lord… and that means He calls the shots for our lives, our ministries, and the church He calls His bride. So, the next time you find a tradition replacing something Jesus said, dig this Scripture out and read through it. Even if it comes from the top of the church, if it goes against Jesus’ words, you can be sure it’s wrong!
“So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 7:5-13)
The Scriptures tell us that we’re supposed to consider others more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3), but most of us have a hard time doing that. Although we’ve come a long way in accepting people with handicaps or those who are different from us, we can (and sometimes do) still look at them as if they’re not quite as important as we are. And what about people who don’t dress like we do or don’t speak our dialect or our language or maybe those who are younger or older or maybe haven’t been Christians as long as we have. Our tendency is to look down on all of them. That tendency is not of Christ.
As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:29-34
On first blush it seems to me that “cursed blessings” is a huge oxymoron; on par with “jumbo shrimp” and “military intelligence.” On second thought, however, I realize we have cursed blessings all around us. Marriage (a gift from God) is a total disaster once invaded by sin. Children (again, an incredible gift from God) are molested, murdered, abused in ways only Satan could imagine. Sex, invented by God himself, is used for everything but what its Creator intended. Once I thought about it more, I began to realize all of our blessings can be cursed if they are not consistently managed with the fear of the Lord. Since all Christians are called to be priests, and since all Christians have been blessed with many things, we’d do well to consider how priests were commanded to manage their blessings. With those two realities in mind, read and pray through this Scripture considering how some of your “cursed blessings” may actually be a result of your own actions or inactions with God.
“And now this admonition is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.” Malachi 2:1-2
Some people will try to tell you that those who follow the Jewish and the Islamic religions are only different from Christians in how we look at a few simple things. Nothing could be further from the truth. While I deplore the hatred the followers of these religions attack each other with in countries all over the world, there is one incredible difference in what we believe. Christians believe Jesus is the long-awaited Christ, the only Savior mankind will ever receive. Jews and Muslims do not believe He was or is the Christ. If this were true, there would be no such thing as the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and everything Christians believe would be a lie. Certainly not a subtle difference!
“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” Acts 5:42
You may have been too young to remember, but at some point in your development you were probably in love with the people who cared for you. For many, that was mom or dad, or both. Some aren’t so fortunate, but if you had absolutely anyone caring for you lovingly, you most likely reciprocated with love of your own. And then one day something happened. You realized you could actually get things done for you or given to you if you used the word “love” or maybe flashed your sad eyes. Or possibly you took the other road. You might have been one of those kids who threw fits until people relented! At any rate, if you’re a Christian, it’s time to stop the manipulation of those you say you love and do some growing up. Speak to each other in truthful ways and if you don’t get your way, don’t pout. That’s life, and sometimes things just don’t work out the way you wanted them. Think about the “love” you give and consider its source and its motive.
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” 1 Peter 1:22
When I was a young Christian I thought I could separate my Christian life from the life I had lived for so many years. Around my Christian friends, I would speak of Jesus, and around my other friends I’d speak of everything but Jesus! My actions simply weren’t God-honoring. The truth is that anyone who does this is living two lies–one in each world! As the Spirit inside of me made me more uncomfortable, I began to understand how I was hurting Him. Soon I had only one life, and I wanted to live that life for Jesus alone. Don’t get me wrong, I still have lots of non-Christian friends, but now Jesus is most often the conversation with them too!
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7
I get stacks of mail from young people who are struggling with sins of the flesh. Recently, one was so bold as to suggest to me that God either didn’t exist or didn’t care about sins like masturbation since He (God) wouldn’t help him win the battle. This is a lie. Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior have all the power they need to defeat sin. They also still have the incredibly strong desires of the flesh. And so the battle rages. The only question remaining is who wins the battle for your mind, and for your body? Are you calling Jesus “Lord” and still allowing your flesh to call the shots in your life? The Spirit of God is a Spirit of “power” of “love” and of “self-discipline.” If you’re not receiving each of these in dramatic fashion, you’re still listening to the flesh.
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
When you hear a Biblical truth that really attacks who you know you are inside, is your response a spirit of conformity with God’s desires or a spirit of resistance? Do you immediately begin to pray to God to help you make the appropriate change or do you do your best to forget what you heard as soon as you can? Although these may seem like questions that are fairly simply, the truth is that the one who wants to conform is allowing Jesus Lordship in his/her life. The other is denying Jesus access, essentially removing any ability for God to grow him into something usable for His kingdom. What’s more, a “crucified” attitude is one sign of the presence of God’s Spirit in his heart. The other can be a sign of the absence of the Holy Spirit–someone destined to never conform in this life and to be eternally separated from God in hell. Today if you hear God knocking, don’t turn away.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
While that phrase may seem harsh in it’s treatment of Jesus, I believe it is a good representation of what many (if not most) of those who call Him “Lord” say with the way they live their lives. We cry His name in times of trouble, and quickly push Him away when we feel we don’t need Him. All the while, we cry that we feel “so far away” from God. If you find the same thread in all of my writings, I pray it is this: As Christians, what we do and say should mirror each other, and WE should each do our best to mirror Jesus to a lost world. If one of my children was to tell me he loved me, give me a goodnight kiss, and then promptly sneak out the window and rob a bank after I fell asleep, his actions would deny his words. Loving the authorities over you means obeying them relentlessly. Loving Jesus means exactly the same thing.
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. Jesus of Nazareth (John 14:23-24)