Divided Disciples

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NKJV)

John13.34As Jesus ate his last meal with His disciples he continued to teach them by example. He washed their feet, an act of love and humility, and then commanded them to love one another. He knew they would need each other to survive the life ahead of them. He also knew that unbelievers would be drawn to Him if His disciples truly walked in love toward one another. 

I’ve often heard pastors say things like, “When we get to heaven we won’t be divided by denominations.” I agree, but I’d like to take that a step further and ask, “Why do we allow denominations to divide us now?” What does this say to the world around us? If our love for one another is key to others knowing we are disciples of Christ, what are we teaching them? 

I understand the reason for various denominations. What I don’t understand is that much like politics we allow our differences to divide us, rather than allowing the ’cause of Christ’ to unite us. I don’t have to agree with you to love you. I don’t have to agree with you to treat you with honor and respect. My belief system doesn’t make me spiritually superior to you in any way. 

It breaks my heart when I see Christians criticize other Christians on social media or in general conversation. We (all who follow Christ) are ONE body. In essence when we bicker among ourselves it’s like beating yourself up (self-hatred), and it plays right in to the scheme of Satan to divide and conquer. 

“Love one another.” It’s not optional. The next time you disagree with a brother or sister in Christ, don’t throw them under the bus. Go to the Father and intercede for them. Refuse to allow the enemy to use you to create discord. 

Prayer: Lord, thank You for being a perfect example of love and unity.  Teach me to guard my mouth. Help me to speak life and blessing over others rather than allowing my words to wound. Remind me to pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ with the same passion I pray for myself. Forgive my sins and create a clean heart within me. Help me to reflect You in everything I say and do. Let others recognize me as Your disciple by my love for others. Bring restoration to Your body, Lord. Help us to love one another as Christ loves us. There is power in our unity. Break through the walls that divide us. AMEN

True Repentance

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭51:2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

IMG_1556I love the example of true repentance David portrays in Psalms 51. David had been confronted by Nathan the prophet about his adultery with Bathsheba. I encourage you to go read the entire chapter now. (Click the reference above.)

Three Steps of True Repentance:

  1. Acknowledge the sin: When Nathan confronted David with his sin he didn’t try to make excuses for what he had done. He accepted responsibility and his prayer reflects sincere conviction. Initially he tried to hide his sin by committing yet another sin, the murder of Bathsheba’s husband. I imagine David was already feeling the weight of his guilt long before Nathan ever confronted him.  God used Nathan to help David see we cannot hide from our past. We have to confront it before we can leave it behind.  
  2. Accept the consequences: David’s sin cost him the life of his son. (See: 2 Samuel 12) God will always forgive our sin, but that doesn’t mean we will always escape the consequences of our actions. God’s punishments have purpose. They are not about vengeance. 
  3. Pray for God’s mercy, cleansing and restoration: Most of David’s prayer is spent asking for God’s mercy, cleansing and restoration. As dire as the loss of his son was, David knew he couldn’t live without his fellowship with God. He needed God to do what he was not capable of doing himself. When we do our part (repent), God does His part (restore). God loves us. He longs to forgive us and cleanse us. When my son was a child he hated taking a bath, but once I got him in the tub, he didn’t want to get out. When I think of our reluctance to go to God with a spirit of true repentance I imagine the same scenario . Just dive into the cleansing stream. You won’t want to leave. 

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving me an example of what repentance looks like in David’s prayer. This Psalm has been a favorite of mine for many years because I can relate to David’s desire for inner healing. My heart longs for the purity only You can provide, Lord. I don’t want anything to interfere with my fellowship with You. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Convict me when needed and remind me to dive into Your cleansing stream. Bathe me in the joy of Your salvation. Keep me humble enough Lord to allow my transparency to impact others who need to know You are a God of love and mercy.

 

Do you Believe?

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

img_1555It isn’t our sin that condemns us; it is what we do with Jesus. If we believe He is who He says He is, and trust in Him as our personal Lord and Savior, we will be saved (from eternal death and punishment.) Jesus has already paid for EVERY sin mankind has or ever will commit. It is finished!

John 3:18 came up as the ‘verse of the day” on the YouVersion  Bible app the day after my pastor preached a wonderful message on “Finishing Well.” In his message he talked about the two end of age judgements. (1) The judgement of the unrighteousness (lost) to eternal death, and (2) the judgement of the righteous (saved) to eternal life. In the judgement of the righteous our works are what come under judgement. They will be tried by fire and we will be rewarded based on what survives the fire. (John 5:24)

The timing of this was confirmation to me that God wanted me to be at peace. As Christians we will battle our sin nature as long as we are on this Earth.  Most of my life I have struggled to understand this whole issue of sin, because let’s face it — NONE of us are perfect. Being a believer does not give us a license to sin (Romans 6:1-2), yet we have confidence knowing if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins. (1 John 1:9) 

The Bible say no one is righteous, no.not.one. (Romans 3:10) So how many sins does it take to send us to Hell? Just one … rejecting the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) 

If belief in Jesus is the condition of salvation it stands to reason we must truly understand what it means to believe. I love John 1:12 in the Amplified version of the Bible: “But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the right [the authority, the privilege] to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name–” ‭‭JOHN‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭AMP‬‬

Let’s look deeper at these three definitions of true belief by examining them in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. 

They adhere to Jesus. To adhere means to support, to maintain loyalty, to bind oneself to.  Synonyms include: cleave, cling, stick, bind, fuse, unite. 

They trust in Jesus. To trust means to rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of something, to place confidence in, to confidently hope or expect, to commit or place in one’s care or keeping : entrust, to place confidence in or to be confident of: hope. Synonyms include:  commend, commit, confide.  

They rely on Jesus. To rely means to be dependent on, to have confidence based on experience. Synonyms include: depend, lean, reckon  

True belief in Jesus demands action. Adhere, trust and rely are verbs. Is isn’t just a state of mind, it’s a state of being. Do you believe?  

Prayer: Lord, thank You for paying a price I could never pay. I can’t imagine carrying the weight of the sin of mankind on that cross, but I believe You did and I believe I have eternal life because You did. Thank You for purchasing my salvation. I will spend the rest of my life adhering, trusting and relying on you. Forgive me for the role my sins played in sending You to the cross. I repent — I turn around and run toward You, rather than from You. Lead, guide and direct me Lord. I surrender. 

 

Mentoring Believers

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” I Timothy 4:12 NKJV

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Regardless of our age we are called to be an example … not only to the lost, but also to other believers. This is what mentoring is all about. It isn’t just about what we say. Our example includes how we conduct ourselves, how we love, the maturity of our spirit, our faith and purity.

Age has nothing to do with spiritual maturity. When I was a young believer my small group leaders gave me a Bible and wrote this verse in it. It always encouraged me to remember that I am an ambassador for Christ. My life isn’t just about me. How I live impacts others.

Now, living in my senior years I have the privilege of watching a new generation take the helm of leadership in the church. A few years ago God moved me into a church plant during its infancy. Most of the people there are half my age (or younger), yet I can honestly say, I am continually impressed with the wisdom and anointing of my pastor and the leadership team. I have learned SO much from him, and see life and the Word with a fresh perspective.

The wonderful thing is, they don’t “despise” my age either. They recognize that just because I am not as young as they are doesn’t mean God is finished with me. I believe God put me in this particular body of believers to serve, encourage and mentor other women. In fact Titus 2:3-4 exhorts the older women of the church to admonish and teach the younger women. We need each other.

How is your life impacting others? Are you living a life that reflects Christ in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity? If so, be a mentor to someone younger in their spiritual walk. If not, find a spiritual mentor to help you develop these traits of spiritual maturity.

PRAYER: Lord, thank You for the people in my life who lead, guide and direct me to a deeper level in my spiritual journey. I ask You to bless them for their faithfulness to serve You with integrity. Lord, just as they have been a blessing to me, I ask that You use me to pass that wisdom on to others. Thank You for open doors to speak into the lives of women who are hungry to grow in Your Word. Have Your will and Your way in EACH of us, at EVERY stage of our lives. AMEN.

Blind Faith?

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” John 5:24 NKJV

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John 5 begins at the pool of Bethesda with Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath. The poor man had been sick for 38 years! Instead of rejoicing in the man’s healing and giving God glory, the Jews were outraged that He had done this miracle on the Sabbath.

The “signs and wonders” Jesus did had a duel purpose …

1. To benefit the one receiving the miracle. Jesus had compassion on the lost and hurting.

2. To bear witness that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus knew there would be many “false” prophets throughout history who would claim to be the messiah.

I can’t imagine seeing the works Jesus did and NOT believing. Were the people so hard hearted they couldn’t see the truth that was right in front of them?

How would I have responded? How DO I respond today when I hear something that doesn’t line up with what I’ve been taught? How do I know truth? I go to the one who IS the truth … the way ..the life. (John 14:6) What did He say? That’s all that matters because He is the one the Father has given authority to execute judgment. (John 5:27)

Many people today will argue that we cannot “know” which religion, if any, is correct. I beg to differ. Many of the truths of the Bible have been confirmed by historians and archaeologists. More importantly we have a Savior who predicted His own death and resurrection and it happened! The body of Jesus was never recovered and over 500 witnesses saw Him after His resurrection. Many of these witnesses were killed because they would not recant their eye witness account. Who dies for a lie?

Our faith is NOT blind faith. Jesus fulfilled over 450 prophecies concerning the messiah.  According to David Williams, Computer Systems Manager, for the Mathematics Faculty, at the University of Newcastle, the mathematical probability of Jesus fulfilling just 48 of those prophecies is an incredible 10^157 (10 followed by 157 zeros)! The WORD is our witness. See: (Click here to read the full article)

PRAYER: Lord, Thank You for leaving the glory of Heaven to become a man and die for my sin. Thank You for giving us the Word as a witness, and for the undeniable proofs of history.

I believe in YOU! You alone give the gift of eternal life. Thank You for giving me life instead of death, mercy instead of judgement.

I pray Father for those who are blinded by the lies of false religion and/or secular culture. Open their eyes to see the truth Lord.

Use Your people to bear witness of You to our generation. Jesus said we would do even greater works than He did. (John 14:12) Lord, fill us with the power of the Holy Spirit! Reveal Yourself through modern day signs and wonders that cannot be accredited to anyone or anything except YOU!

In the majestic name of Jesus, AMEN!

Remove the Veil

 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” II Corinthians 3:17 NKJV

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II Corinthians 3 speaks of two Covenants:

A. The covenant of the law, the Old Testament, though glorious, was a covenant of condemnation and death. When Moses came down to the people after receiving the commandments his face shone with the Glory of God. He put a veil over his face so the children of Israel could not behold the Glory of God, lest they die.

B. The covenant of the Spirit, the New Covenant, is a covenant of life and liberty, freedom in Christ. Jesus takes away the veil! As we behold the glory of the Lord through Jesus we are being transformed into the image of the Lord.

Both of these covenants are revealed by the glory of God, yet one brings life and one brings death. When we become believers we choose life.

The GLORY of God demonstrated in the ministry of righteousness (the new covenant- based on what Jesus did for us) is more glorious than the ministry of condemnation (the covenant of the law/death-based on what we do).

The covenant of the law was necessary to expose sin. (Romans 4:15 tells us … “for where there is no law there is no transgression.”) But, the law was unable to do what grace can do, which is to transform us!

PRAYER: Thank You Lord, that I no longer have to approach You through a veil of shame! Thank You that the new covenant has the power to transform me into the image of Your son, Jesus. Thank You for setting me FREE from the power of sin and liberating me by Your spirit.

Responding to God’s Word

“So get rid of all uncleanness and all that remains of wickedness, and with a humble spirit receive the word [of God] which is implanted [actually rooted in your heart], which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning], deluding yourselves [by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth].” ‭‭JAMES‬ ‭1:21-22‬ ‭AMP‬‬

IMG_1539Many times when we hear these verses we think of DOERS in the context of works. This verse is about obedience, not works.

When James writes this verse he is speaking to believers about the testing of their faith and how endurance leads to spiritual maturity.

There are two responses to the Word of God: hear or do

DOERS: Weed out all uncleanness and the remains of wickedness in their heart so the Word of God can actually take root giving them the desire and strength to obey.  I am not capable in and of myself of getting rid of the wickedness within me, but when I humbly receive the word of God, “which is able to save my soul”, God’s Word takes root and begins to grow and produce the fruit of righteousness within me.

What is the Word of God that is able to save my soul? It is the message of repentance and faith: The Good News. Over and over in the New Testament we hear the phrase, “repent and believe.”  

If I am a DOER of the Word, I allow God’s Word to be my standard. I choose to actively and continually obey God’s precepts. I allow the Holy Spirit to correct and convict me when needed and live in a state of submissive repentance.  

HEARERS: Listen but fail to internalize its meaning, deluding themselves with unsound reasoning contrary to the truth.  

If I am a HEARER (only), I might listen to the Word, but I don’t allow it to take root in my heart. I pick and choose what I will believe and obey. I want the benefits of faith without the cost. I feel no need to repent because I don’t allow the Word of God to convict me. I am deluding (deceiving) myself.  

God’s Word is God. (John 1:1) It’s unlike any book ever written. It is alive and active,  (Hebrews 4:12) It is food for our spirits and life to our bones. Let’s be doers of the Word, not hearers only.   

PRAYER:
Lord, thank You for the Word. I know from John 1:1, “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God.” You are one with Your Word. I cannot separate You from the Word. Help me Lord, to be a DOER of the Word. Help me to humbly receive Your Word and allow it to take root in my heart. Father, I give you permission to weed out all unrighteousness and wickedness in my heart. Forgive me of my sin, and cleanse me of all unrighteousness. Holy Spirit, lead, guide and direct me. Convict me when I sin and lead me to repentance. AMEN