Tested Relationships Part 1


“As Iron Sharpens Iron”

Once again, here I am talking about people that help us to draw closer to the Lord and His ways. If a relationship is distancing you from God, then you must cut that relationship off immediately! The Bible is full of examples of people that engaged in ungodly relationships and paid a dreadful price for it. The pursuit of loving God above all things is above any relationship. However, this three part series is about us welcoming real Godly relationships into our lives. As you will see in this series, a relationship is not an option, it’s a mandate.

The word “tested” is defined as, “an often difficult situation or event that will provide information about somebody or something.” A difficult situation, or what I like to call a conflict, will eventually provide us with the knowledge of something about that person we are engaging in a conflict with. Proverbs 27:6 tells us that “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” The word “wounds” means, “pain or sorrow.” The connotation here is not meant to be negative. A friend, because of his closeness to our hearts, his imperfect human condition and because they are the ones that tells us what we don’t want to hear at times, is in an ideal position to cause us pain. The reality is that if you are serious about developing a Godly relationship with anyone, we must have a prepared attitude to accept the certainty that conflicts will come. The blessing comes after we make up our minds to continue to pursue this relationship. The Bible also gives us a perfect mental picture on how these relationships evolve in Proverbs 27:17

“As iron sharpens iron,
       so one man sharpens another.”

            The word “sharpens” means, “to keener; to pierce.” The word “keener” means, “delicately tuned and able to sense minor differences, distinctions, or details.” In other words, we become sensitive to even minor differences among us. We now know each other that much. The word “pierce” is the reason we all run away from relationships; it means, “To penetrate through or into something with a sharp pointed object.” Ouch!

            Developing relationships is never easy. The picture of iron sharpening iron is not necessarily a pretty one, but at the end; just as iron, we become better and more useful. Are you rough on the edges? Maybe you need a little sharpening in your life!

 

The Mystery of Suffering Part 2


“Breaking Through the Thick Shield of our Hypocrisy”

          Almost every Christian has a dark past; a period of time where darkness seemed to take over. Yet, they found Jesus. It would seem that the Body of Christ is almost tolerant of those sins. As a matter of fact, if the sins were extremely dreadful, they would serve as a great testimony. People are willing to hear your testimony and many are open to tell their stories, write books about them; share them through preaching, interviews, etc. However, after coming to the feet of Jesus, there exists a sense that you are suppose to be perfect.

            The expectation of many Christians is that all of the issues faced are automatically resolved the day they were born again. This kind of illusion creates an environment where people are not allowed to be transparent; it is almost like the system itself encourages Christians to hide their dark side.

“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Galatians 5:17) 

There is a great conflict taking place in the inside of each Christian; perhaps we are all bipolar. The only way to overcome the flesh is by walking in the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 tells us, I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”  Only by the Spirit, by us surrendering to the Spirit of God, can we have victory over the flesh; there is no other way. The problem is that we are not always walking in the Spirit as our flesh manifests sturdily. We still have thoughts and emotions racing in our hearts that are bluntly waiting to be exposed. God wants to change us from the inside out and many of us have developed into experts in faking outer behavior changes without true inner change. We have developed a very thick shield of hypocrisy designed to cover who we really are in our secret places.

             We all need to change; we are the ones with the problem, not God. Deuteronomy 8:2 tells us:

“And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” 

             In this verse, God led the children of Israel into the desert, among other reasons, to test them so that they may be able to see what was in their hearts. God is All-Knowing; this process of facing the desert is not for Him to know our hearts; He already knows (1 Samuel 16:7). Sooner or later, we will all have to face the heat of the desert; it is in that heat of the day and that cold of the night that the junk in us be exposed as we become broken. I have discovered that when we are faced with the reality of our hearts; there are three basic responses:

  1. Denial: These people view themselves as having no great issues. They are “quick to try to remove the mote out of other’s eyes, but are unable to see the beam in their own.” Their issues are obvious, but sincerely, they can’t see them.
  2. Covering-up: This group is more concerned about what men has to say than about what God has to say. This group is more into pleasing men over trusting God.
  3. Desiring to be Liberated: This group sees the mess in their hearts and are crying out before God. This group doesn’t care about who knows or who doesn’t; what people may think or say. This group has not arrived to glory, but they understand that they must die to themselves and surrender to God on a daily basis.

 

Which group best represents you? If you are in the first group; you probably did not even finish reading this article. If you are in the second group, I hope that this article has been an eye opener, so that you may go after God and allow Him to do the work in your heart. What you are doing in the dark will come out to the light; don’t wait until you get caught. The majority of the people are in the first two groups. We must remember that out of all the people that came out of Egypt with Moses, only two made it to the promise land.

             There is so much being said in our local churches, on radio stations, on TV, through books, magazines and countless articles around the world. However, I strongly feel that at this hour, above all the things we consider important; there is nothing more important after worshiping God than to die to self. This is not about winning souls for Jesus; this is not about material prosperity, community charities, and the size of our buildings or the building of our personal ministries. God is after your heart. In the heat of the desert, He is breaking through the thick shield of our hypocrisy.

 

          

 

 

 

Government: A Man-Made Institution Destined for Failure


 The nation of Israel was born out of the seed of Abraham to which became its twelve tribes under a patriarchal system with Jacob as their leader. By the time Israel was welcomed by Pharaoh in the land of Goshen, Israel became a part of a family of seventy (Genesis 46:27 / 47:1-6). By the time Moses came into the picture; about four hundred years later; the Bible tells us:

“Then a new king began to rule Egypt, who did not know who Joseph was.

This king said to his people, “Look! The people of Israel are too many and too strong for us to handle!

If we don’t make plans against them, the number of their people will grow even more. Then if there is a war, they might join our enemies and fight us and escape from the country!”

(Exodus 1:8-10)

            Moses represented, among many things, the beginning of the era of the Judges. Israel had grown too large to properly operate under the Patriarchal System; but still, God remained their King. However, after about 450 years of judges, the idea of a Monarchal system was rapidly approaching.

             Samuel represented Israel’s last judge. His two sons were corrupted and they did not have the character, the anointing or the wisdom to properly carry on the work of their dad, whose record as a prophet and judge was without reproach.  As Samuel grew old there was also a growing desire in God’s people to be like everybody else. (1 Samuel 8:1-22)

            It is clear as we look at these verses in 1Samuel 8:1-22 that the idea of this new way of Government was not God’s idea; it was not approved by God. Through the Prophet Samuel the Bible clearly states the consequences of having a Government centered on a man and not on God. In 1 Samuel 8:7 God’s specifically says:

“…and the Lord told Samuel, “Listen to whatever the people say to you. They have not rejected you. They have rejected me from being their king.”

            God actually took the pleas from the people for a king as a direct rejection of Him.  The following verses give us the direct consequences of having a Man-Centered Government:

“Samuel said, “If you have a king ruling over you, this is what he will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and his horses, and they will run in front of the king’s chariot.

The king will make some of your sons, commanders over thousands or over fifties. He will make some of your other sons plow his ground and reap his harvest. He will take others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.

He will take your daughters to make perfume and cook and bake for him.

He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his servants.

He will take one-tenth of your grain and grapes and give it to his officers and servants.

He will take your male and female servants, your best cattle, and your donkeys and use them all for his own work.

He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.

When that time comes, you will cry out because of the king you chose. But the Lord will not answer you then.”

But the people would not listen to Samuel. They said, “No! We want a king to rule over us.

Then we will be the same as all the other nations. Our king will judge for us and go with us and fight our battles.”

After Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated their words to the Lord.

The Lord answered, “You must listen to them. Give them a king.” Then Samuel told the people of Israel, “Go back to your towns.” (1 Samuel 8:11-22)

           You be the judge of these words! Every government in the history of humanity has failed; every powerful nation in the history of mankind was eventually destroyed by its own pride and arrogance. They lasted for a while, some better than others, but only God’s Kingdom will be established forever.

            I am not asking for Christians to refuse to participate in the political process, what I am encouraging our Christian brothers and sisters to do is to look at government for what it is; a man-made institution destined for failure. No offense to our Founding Fathers; but history do not have the authority to take away the Truth of God’s Word. If your hope is in the Democratic Party, our current President, the Tea Party Movement or the return of the Republican Party to power, you are setting yourself up for another great disappointment. God is our King and His Kingdom (Government) is the only one that will be establish forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13)

 

Entertainers or Life-Changing Vessels


“A Word for Christian Singers and Musicians”

            The best entertainers in the world are not in the church; sorry guys! Those who are known as the top entertainers are experts in what they do. The job of an entertainer is to engage people or audiences by providing amusing or interesting material.  How can your emotions not be moved as you watch Aretha Franklin hitting those powerful notes? Do you remember Carlos Santana at his best? Do you remember the great Blues and Jazz singers? What about James Brown and his electrifying performances? What about Elvis at his prime? Come on, don’t try to deny it; some of you still listen to that music when the church folk are not watching!       

            However, the reality is that as much as we may like and respect these performers, not one of them had or has the power to change our lives; they are able to give us nothing more than emotional experience. God, on the other hand, is in the business of rescuing lost souls; God is in the business of changing us day by day. That can’t be done with simple performances by God’s people; this life changing experience can only be achieved by allowing the Holy Spirit to consume us with His fire and presence as we minister under His anointing.

            If you want to be a better performer, you are required to engage in countless hours of rehearsal. If you had the opportunity to watch the movie, “This is it,” that gave us the images of Michael Jackson’s preparation for His last series of concerts. You get a good idea of the dedication and attention to detail that these great performers go through. They do what it takes to present the best product possible. I am all about Christian musicians also presenting the best product possible. I believe that the best music ought to come out of the Body of Christ. However, our responsibility goes beyond “A Saving the Trees” cause. For us, we must pay the price in worship to our God in the secret place, a life of prayer and a sense of protecting our personal testimony for the sake of others as we carry our own crosses daily.  Our only cause is the spreading of Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not use the stages of the world to amuse anybody; we use whatever stage God allows us to be in to lift HIM up and to prepare an atmosphere where the soul of man can’t easily resist the love of God.

            Dear Worship Leader or Christian Singer, if your song points at you; if is all about the way you sing, the way you move, the way you act as you sing, your clothing, your style, etc. you are putting up a show. There is no life-changing power coming out of you other than a minuscule version of entertainment. Everything we do MUST point at Jesus who has the power to heal, to restore, to transform and to make people free! We are supposed to be life-changing vessels of the Living God, not entertainers.

The Mystery of Suffering Part 1


“12 Invalid Ways to Respond to Suffering”

            As I write these words, my heart goes out to you who are currently suffering. My heart goes out to you who right now, at this very moment, are experiencing some situations that are ripping your hearts into pieces. I am not writing this article to argue with you or to question the reality of your emotions. On the other hand, you must understand that there is a biblical and non-biblical way of dealing with your pain. I assume that you know enough Bible to know that when we approach problems in a biblical way, even as the pain is not taken away, the end-results and the fruits produced is life in abundance. However, when we deal with things in a non-biblical and carnal way, the end-result is death. God does not justify our sin based on the magnitude of our suffering. With or without pain, His precious righteousness is unchanging. We must ascertain, before we continue, that suffering is not an option, it is a reality that everyone, will face sooner or later.

            Today’s days, it can become difficult for a Christian to understand the concept of suffering. In this way, the church is partially responsible. These new born Christians hear pastors speaking of the many blessing that they will receive; the financial freedom that they seek for but never seem to get. They wonder why their life has to be a living hell at times, as they wonder what they are doing wrong. It is almost like the pages dealing with suffering were taken away from the Bibles of many well-known TV personalities. However Romans 8:17 states:

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

 

Yes, we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, but there is catch. We must share in his suffering first. Sharing in the suffering of Christ is the key to sharing in His glory. The problem today is that we want the glory, the anointing and the charismatic gifts without the suffering!

            The word “Suffering” found in Romans 8:17 is defined as, “To suffer or feel pain together; To suffer evils (troubles, persecutions) in the like manner with another.” This definition gets my attention because it clearly indicates that no matter what we are going through, we are not the only ones going through it. On that note let’s go over a list of 12 erroneous ways to respond to suffering:

1. Constantly complaining to others about what you went through.

One of the fruit of the Spirit is “Patience.” Patience means, “To endure tribulations without complaint.” Complaining about what you went through will resolve absolutely nothing.

2. Blaming others for the suffering; that includes God.

It’s everybody’s fault but yours! Psalm 130:3 tells us, If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” Have you ever heard the expression, when we point at someone, there are three fingers pointing at us. When we get a revelation of how sinful we are, we will have no problems in looking at our afflictions with a whole different perspective. We will become responsible for our own actions.

 3. Developing a Victim mentality.

This mind-set totally denies God’s redemptive power. 2 Timothy 3:5 tells us that there is group of folk in the church that have a form of godliness, but they deny the power. He ends this verse by encouraging us to turn away from them. To deny God’s power is an insult to the Holy Spirit. We are called to be more than over comers, not victims.

4. Developing a sense of entitlement.

At this stage, people that have endured suffering and are responding to it in a non-biblical way; walk around as if everybody owes them something. They walk as if the suffering they endured is the price already paid for all of their wants. This is a total contradiction to Romans 6:23 that established what we really deserve.

5. Filling with rage and anger as the result of your suffering.

Rage and anger are always manifested behavior that results from an unresolved sin committed against you. Rage and anger is a clear indicator that there is a deep pain in your heart. Every time that you are placed in a situation or obligated into dealing with people that remind you of that hurt, you will retaliate in anger.

6. Non-forgiveness.

People with non-forgiving hearts are constantly bringing the hurt they suffered into a conversation. They use that transgression against them as a VIP pass to always bring up the past when their carnality is confronted. This is a total contradiction of Scripture. As we forgive we are encouraged to never bring that issue up and to seek reconciliation for that relationship. Non-forgiveness, no matter the offense you suffered, is a sin that will keep you bound up and non-productive in God’s kingdom.

7. Self-Centeredness.

Because of your great suffering, all you can focus on is “self” and what “self” wants. Everything becomes about you and your needs.

8. Insensitivity to the suffering of others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 makes a powerful statement that establishes how a non-biblical life means to focus on us so much that we become insensitive to the suffering and needs of others:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 

One of the most powerful reasons for suffering is indeed for us to be able to help others in their tribulation. Suffering is part of our training for ministering to the afflicted. You are so used to viewing yourself as a martyr that that you are un-able to see the pain of others.

 

9. A Judgmental Spirit.

So, what else is out there to do when you are hurting? You judge others, you tear them down. Judgmental people have no mercy and no compassion. This kind of attitude totally contradicts Matthew 12:7.

10 Mistrust; that includes God.

Because of all the hurt; it is very hard for people to trust again. That mistrust is against God, also. It is very difficult for people at this level to move with faith. Behind mistrust is a great deal of fear to be hurt again. Mistrust becomes a fragile shield.

11. A Negative Spirit.

It is very difficult for a person without faith to be positive. Usually people at this level are known for being very negative people.

12. Ineptness and/or unwillingness to see the work of the Holy Spirit in other people.

People at this level are in the business of tearing down. They are bitter and they can’t or won’t see the work of the Holy Spirit on anybody, especially the person that caused him/her pain.

 

When the Accusations Against Us Are True!


Much has been said about brothers and sisters that were victims of false accusations. Many accept it as a sign that they are right in the center of God’s will and use it as evidence that they are doing damage to the kingdom of darkness. However, today I want to be very honest with you; there are times when the accusations raised against us are indeed, true. I am not talking about “mistakes.” I am talking about sins that we are committing even now in the mix of all our Biblical knowledge. This article is a cry of urgency for honestly and transparency in the Body of Christ!

In dealing with the accusations against us that are true, let’s first deal with one important question that is many times ignored or answered in a hypocritical way. Why do we sin? Now, here is when we get so religious that we personally kill any hope of over-coming whatever we are struggling with; we make excuses! There is only one reason why we continue to sin in the same areas over and over and that is…you ready?… because we like it! It is not because someone did something to us or because we were taught this or that. We sin because we like it and that is why we keep doing it.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God;” for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15)The religious, judgmental and legalistic spirits will leave us right here in total hopelessness: “This is your fault, give it up, you will forever be remembered for that adultery, for that time your stole, for that aggression, for that sexual assault, for that ugly divorce, for your years as a junky addicted to drugs and alcohol, for the many times you quit, for the many people you let down, for your bad record as a father, for the time you spent in prison, etc.” The accusations are endless! These are the echoes from the voice of the accuser of the bride. Make no mistake about it; the devil is a good persecutor; he has many accusations against us that are true and we, deep inside, know it.

So we spend a great deal of time in our lives covering that sin with the blanket of darkness, in the form of secrecy, so no one will know who we really are when the flesh rules and when we are outside of the presence of witnesses in our secret places. It is sad to say, but we have indeed created an environment in our religious movements that dares to welcome any serious confession of sin. The Oscars should not be won by our Hollywood’s idols, but perhaps by our brothers and sisters we see every Sunday as we do our Sunday rituals. There is no wonder, the greatest accusation against us, in the body of Christ, is that we are a bunch of hypocrites!

We all know that the devil operates in darkness; what we many times fail to understand is what that means. My friends, as long as we keep sin to ourselves; as long as we keep it a secret, we will never be able to overcome anything; we are in the devil’s territory; we are literally in the dark. (I John 1:5-10)

When the accusations against us are true, most will look at who is accusing us, point out our own accusations against them, justify our sin and make excuses. We can continue the path of Adam and Eve and play the blame game for the rest of our lives on our way to hell. However, there is a process that the Lord has given us that will bring us out of this bondage:

Acknowledge your sin without looking at your accusers. Yes, it is true; I have issues; I have sin in my life that my flesh truly enjoys, even as my spiritual man despises such behavior. Yes, I feel bad at times, but I look forward to be in front of my computer when no one is watching and enjoy the satisfaction of pornography and masturbation. Yes, I am in an adulterous relationship; yes, I like to talk about others behind their back and take all of their credibility away; yes I like to go off on people and show my anger; it is the way I get my way; I love the control and power that having people scare of me gives me. Yes, yes, yes…I have sin in my life. I am bound by the shameful desires of my flesh. Don’t argue with truth!

Confess your sin. How do you properly confess your sin? If it is something that only involves you in the secret place, go to spiritual people with spiritual authority over you and confess your sins to them. If you are married, go to your wife or husband first; then go to an Elder in the church, your pastor and close friend. This is hard to do because again, many churches are not “confessing sin friendly;” they are more into keeping the mask, avoiding confrontation and the “let’s just keep things quiet so that we don’t lose members” dilemma.  If the sin involves others, you must go to them and ask them for forgiveness. If the sin is a public thing, then you must go in front of the congregation and confess your sins to them if they allow it; either way, your confession should be open. It is better for us to lose our ministry and good reputation yet make it to glory, than it is for us trying to keep up our masks yet end-up in hell as we take many disciples with us.

Take the consequences. Forgiveness of sin does not equal zero consequences. Sin has severe consequences; take them; take responsibility!

Learn to embrace the grace of God. No matter what sin you have committed; no matter how severe the consequences may be for you and me, we must understand the power of God’s grace and the fact that it is that grace; that “undeserved favor” manifested in the form of unconditional love and mercy, which holds back the eternal punishment that we truly deserve. The mercy of God flows out the grace of God. Mercy is the manifested grace of God that will place you on the other side of a fence of hope where your restoration begins.

On the other side of this fence of hope, my brothers and sisters; let the accusers accuse; let the judges judge, and let the talkers talk. Allow God’s grace to do the work in you from the inside, out. Don’t be ashamed any more; don’t hide from the One that loves you the most. Throw away the fig leaves we try to use to cover the nakedness and the truth of our accusations. May we drink out of the wells of God’s salvation; may the conviction that caused the prodigal son to return back home over-take our hearts, may we find the warmth of peace under our Father’s wings and may His arms of love hold us away from sin.

To Try or To Surrender


Have you noticed that everywhere you look you find people trying different things to improve their lives? It seems like everybody is working on something! Some are trying to stop smoking, others trying to stop drinking, to stop watching pornography, stop masturbating. Some are trying to lose weight, to cease the arguments with their spouses. Others are trying to spend more quality time with their families, read the Bible more, pray more, get this or that promotion in their jobs, put on this and put off that according to the Bible, etc. We even have friends that acknowledge how hard we are trying. However, even as many of us have experienced great seasons of victories, we seem to lack the endurance necessary to go the distance. Over and over we experience defeat as we go back to do what we did not want to do.

            So, what is the problem? Why can’t we go the distance? Why is it that all the effort we commit to seems such a waste of time? It is because, we continue to try. I am sure you have heard the expressions: “I’m trying!” “I’m doing the best that I can!” “I did my best!” What we must realize is that “trying” is the work of the flesh. Trying is an arrogant mind-set that tells the world: “I can do this.” The emphasis here is on “I” or “Self.” This is the spirit of the Tower of Babel, when men decided to make a name for themselves apart from God (Genesis 11:4). That action and way of thinking caused men to lose the ability to communicate clearly with one another and to this day we are suffering the consequences of language confusion all over the world. (Genesis 11:5-7) “Trying” will never accomplish the work that is needed to be done; you will always end-up falling on your face because “trying” points the glory at self and not at God. You and I can’t do a thing; trying is an insult to God! Trying is also a good excuse for continual failure; after all, as long as we are trying, it is ok… right?

            And so we ask, what is the answer? Can we be cured of our sins? Yes, that is why Jesus died! The first thing we need to do is stop trying. Trying emphasizes in works of the flesh. The flesh can never live-out the Christian life; the flesh has no hope (Romans 8:3). What we need is one thing and one thing only: To surrender ourselves to God’s Word. This means that we must submit our will, our desires, our emotions and our feelings to God. When we surrender, we lift our hands high and we allow God to do the work. When we surrender we are in the process of learning how to get out of the way. The emphasis is no longer in Self’s accomplishments, but in God’s true transforming power. Surrendering to God requires obedience; we obey in-spite of how we feel just because God said so.

            Let me give an example: If a man has problems with pornography, an example of trying is praying without confessing; keeping things a secret. You know it’s wrong, you feel bad about it, you can even share this with someone you feel comfortable with, but you are not really serious about it yet; you are just…trying! However, when you approach this issue with a perspective of surrendering to God’s Word, you will then do the following:

  • You will not wait until you get caught to make changes.
  • You will confess your sins to God and to someone in spiritual leadership close to you; that also includes your spouse.
  • You will repent from your sin. (No camouflage!)
  • You will be willing to be accountable; that means that you will give your computer’s password to an accountability person for him/her to check your computer in an unannounced manner. You will also give that person the full information of your cable and phone bill, etc. You will do whatever is necessary to get rid of whatever struggle you are facing.
  • You will be willing to ask for help which includes engaging in Christian Therapy.
  • If none of those actions work, then you will go as far as cutting everything out of your life that causes you to sin. (Mark 9:43-45)

 

            The flesh hates accountability; accountability goes against our will, our emotions, our feelings and our desires. When self is offended and is showing resistance, it is then that you stop trying and you start surrendering to God. When you surrender to God you are no longer trying, but you are conquering; you are becoming an over-comer for the glory of God. When you are surrendering you are no longer trying to change; you are changing. Trying is the worthless work of the flesh; surrendering is the mighty work of the Holy Spirit.

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

 

            The true Christian Life is constantly denying self. It is a constant growing in our faith and trust in God. It is a constant growing in the knowledge of our Lord. It is a constant learning of obedience and a constant increased wisdom in how to get out of the way by surrendering our lives to the only one that can truly change us and transform us to be more and more like Jesus. The Christian life is in pursuit of killing our opinions, the way we see things, our cultural ways, the ways of our parents, etc. As Paul said in First Corinthians 15:31 “…I die daily.” This is the heart of the Christian Life; we must die daily! So today it is up to us to choose trying or surrendering! To try is to do things with our own strength; to sit back arrogantly and sing: “I did it my way!” To surrender is to access the un-dryable fountain of God’s power and possibilities. So which way will you go; will you try or will you surrender? 

 

The Quiet Power of Peace


“Six Benefits of Peace”

            A few days before my 29th birthday my sister-in-law Vivian asked me a seemingly simple question, but at the time, it was perhaps the most powerful question anybody had ever asked me, what do you want for your birthday? My answer was, “I want people to leave me alone… I want peace.” Little did I know that God was listening and I was only days away from being a part of God’s family. On April 26, 1997 at around 6:00 PM, in the living room of my home, as I was reading the Four Spiritual Laws track, I gave my life to Jesus Christ as I repented of my sins, acknowledged that He died and roused again on the third day by the Father and called Him into my heart.

            The emphasis of my article today is not my testimony, but my inner cry for peace. Peace is commonly defined as, “A state of mental calm and serenity, with no anxiety.” The Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines peace as: “Inner tranquility and poise of the Christian whose trust is in God through Christ.”

            I am convinced that many people desire that peace; however, many of us look in the wrong places for it. Many imagine themselves in a beautiful island facing the blue sea in a comfortable chair just raising their hands as they have a servant that brings them what they want at any time. Many dream for that perfect vacation only to quickly discover that they need a vacation to recover from the one they just “enjoyed”.

            The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:7 “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” In this article I would like for you to meditate on six powerful benefits of God’s peace:

  1. The peace of God is more powerful than any circumstance you may be facing. (Phil. 4:7) “The peace of God surpasses all understanding.” When all hell is breaking loose around you and when it makes no sense for you to be smiling, the peace of God stands firm in the mountains of our tribulations.
  2. The peace of God will guard your heart and mind through Jesus. (Phil. 4:7) This is very significant because your heart is connected with your emotions (How you feel!) as your mind is connected with your thought process. The peace of God will guard your emotions and your thoughts in the mix of all the tribulations of life.
  3. Peace is a blessing from God. (Ps. 29:11) If you are at peace, know that you are being blessed by God.
  4. We must search and pursue for peace as peace will always face opposition. (Ps. 34:14) The devil will always come after your peace in the form of circumstances and people; that is why we must search and pursuit it daily.
  5. Peace is the setting for the realization of your future; without peace your destiny in God will never become a reality. (Ps. 37:37) This is one of the reasons why Satan attacks us so much; if he can rob us of our peace, he can rob us of our destiny.
  6. Peace is a fountain of health for our bodies. (Prov. 14:30) We know that we are getting old; we are not getting any younger; however; many of our health problems are directly connected to the lack of peace in our lives. Stress is a powerful silent killer that is blamed for many of our illnesses today; from neck pain to cancer. No forgiveness, hate, anger, etc; are all powerful tools of the enemy that we are allowing to take over our hearts and minds and so they are robbing us of our health. Many of us in the body of Christ are not dying with fullness of life; we are dying full of bitterness with incomplete realizations of our destiny as the enemy rejoices and announces his victories and effective accusations.

 

Today the prayer is not for God to remove everything that is stealing our peace. In this world we will have tribulation; that is a Biblical promise. The prayer is for us to learn to have peace even in the mix of the frightening waves of bad news, the darkness of the unknown and the ferocious winds of the storms of life. May the Lord bless you today with the quiet power of His peace.

The Sincere Cry of Many Fatherless!


This is a word from one of my leaders, brother and friend: Mr. Nelson Pacheco:

I heard somewhere that a leader in the world is He who is served by many, but that the leader in the church is He who serves many. Paul stated that it is the will of God that the father will treasure for his son, and not the son for the father. God called Moses for the people of Israel not the other way around. Last time I check a shepherd don’t lead his sheeps by going in front of them but by coming after them from behind. For there is something foundationally wrong in the new testament church about leadership. In my humble opinion (may God have mercy on my soul) the problem lays upon our definition of ministry.  Neh. 2:10 “But when Sambalat the Horanite, Tobias the amonite official heard of it they were deeply disturbed that a man had come (not to build the wall) but to seek the good of the people of Israel”; 2 Timothy 2:10 “For I endure all things for the sake of THE ELECT, so that they can obtain the salvation which is Christ Jesus with eternal glory”. My point: In the work of the ministry the key is not How much you love God, but How much you love people! It’s not about the call, it’s not about the vision, it’s not about the ministry, it’s not about success and it’s not about reputation. It is about loving what God loves the most… people. For God loves people more than anything. By the way; God has call upon us not to be successful but to be faithful (Mother Teresa). I don’t know about leaders. But this I know, I have been fatherless since I was nine. Godly loving fathers we need. I hope there is one out there who can pastor me.

A Word on Servant Leadership


This is a word from a good brother and friend, Mr. Dennis Owens:

I think servant leadership as the norm for pastoral ministry needs to be discussed and examined before it is assumed as a starting point for church leadership. Men and women view servant leadership differently. Men identify with a servant leader as a leader who serves. While most women experience a servant leader as a servant who tries to lead. As a result, most men recognize women first and foremost as servants and not real leaders. Therefore, it is critical that we value the experience of women as explore how liberating Jesus Christ’s message really is. When Jesus Christ declares that his disciples are no longer servants but friends, he is speaking a word from his heart! He is declaring a new relationship.

Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:12-15).

The emphasis for most people is on the statement, “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.” However, Jesus is not speaking here of his death as an atoning sacrifice in which he laid down his life for the sins of humankind, for our redemption. He is speaking of his death as a voluntary surrender for the good and well-being of those he loves. I believe that the rest of the passage is as important as the first part. Although redemption has happened the church still needs to proclaim the risen Christ because the world just doesn’t get it! Jesus is calling us into a new relationship. “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Jesus was clear in his message! We are to love one another so that God’s friendship can be known to the world. I believe that this idea must dominate the relationship between pastors and their congregation.

In fact, the term “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1977 with the publication of his highly influential book, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. Greenleaf’s inspiration for servant leadership did not come from Scripture. Jesus is merely a role model like other great men in history. Greenleaf claims that servant leadership is “an enterprise for confident individuals one’s leadership is self-contained.” I would contend that such servant leadership is not really concerned with the needs of others, but concern for one’s own abilities in stressful situations. As a result a servant leader is often much more than goal-oriented; he seeks to be in full command, planning every detail of the church. And the congregation is relegated to simply carrying out his vision.

When pastors view themselves as “indispensable leaders,” they demonstrate more faith in themselves than God. This paradigm places more importance on what the servant leader does than what God has done for the world in Jesus Christ. It isolates the pastor from the congregation and takes ministry out of the hands of the people. But friendship exalts the power within each person to be free to love. Friends do not obey each other, friends love each other into being. And because love is the end in itself, friends are relational and not task-oriented with each other. Such leaders see people as whole human beings who are made in the image of God. Indeed, no vision for the church or the means to accomplish it’s mission supersedes life together in faith, in worship, and in service.

I also think it is interesting to note that when the Apostle Paul wanted to assist church leaders in selecting qualified leaders, he did so by providing a profile of character-skill sets (1 Timothy 3/Titus 1).

While these qualities are core to any New Testament ministry, they don’t represent a complete list for all times. (Acts 6) The following profile offers insights and suggestions for the training of ministry leaders. How Do You Compare?

1. Sustains Personal Wholeness
· Displays self-awareness, self-directedness and self-improvement toward growth goals on personal, spiritual and professional levels.
· Takes godliness seriously in character, integrity and credibility.
· Practices boundary-keeping. (Proverbs 25:28; Galatians 5:6)

2. Expands as a Model Disciple
· Conducts self to honor God in service to family, ministry, community and world.
· Assumes self mastery follows being mastered by God’s Spirit, Word and purposes (Luke 9:23)
· Fosters growth in self and other.
· Bends will to Christ. (1Tim. 2:15)

3. Stewards Biblical Wisdom
· Draws on resources of biblical, historical, and theological study for cultivation of commonsense insights relevant to contemporary life-circumstances.
· Lets wisdom rise from observation, conversation and life.
· Love Word, Loves Author (2 Tim. 2:2; 3:16)

4. Connects with People
. Displays a communicational style expressed in sensitivity, clarity, confidence and conviction while also affirming biblically derived values of human dignity, diversity, justice and integrity. (Colossians 4:7-18)

5. Reads Leadership-Needy Situations
. Matches leadership-needy situations—opportunities or threats–with decisiveness, resourcefulness, innovation and resolution, inviting input, skill, and creativity from others. (Acts 6:2-4)

6. Expresses Dynamic Ministry
. Acts out of biblical and theological foundations to express call and giftedness with the affirmation and authority of a known community.
. Knows value of gift-role-influence style-passion mix at personal, family, church, community, societal, global levels.

7. Engaging World with Solutionary Heart
. Faces contingencies with reflective decisiveness.
. Suspends judgment until facts are in from those closest to threat or opportunity.
. Gets outside insight from family, mentors, team.
. Motivated for a better world and better selves. (Neh. 6:3,11-13

8. Investing in the People
. Replicates healthy growth patterns in lives of others by capitalizing upon opportunities to be an improving influence.
. Makes mentoring a lifestyle value, a means and end of worthy ministry.
. Give permission habitually.
. Celebrates living. (2 Timothy 4: 11-16)

9. Orchestrates Resources as a Purpose-Keeper
. Consistently directs structures toward fulfillment of biblically-derived ministry goals. Expresses prayerful dependence upon God in all phases of strategic planning, implementation, evaluation and refinement. Asks: Why. (Acts 11: 25-26)