The Greatest Mystery

The Greatest Mystery

A Christian life is a remarkable life – if we live it as God Intended.

Sadly, many Christians never realize what’s within their grasp. But when we pursue all that God has for us, our lives can be radically changed.

We will find out-of-the-ordinary peace. And joy. And wisdom.  And hope.

When we as Christians dig even deeper, we will find a closeness to God for every season. And our own individual purpose which brings an extraordinary richness and meaning to life.

So how is all of this possible?

It’s possible because of the greatest mystery of all time.

In Colossians 1:26-27, Paul speaks of this great mystery which has been hidden from ages and generations, but has been revealed to the saints. It’s this mystery which makes Christianity so totally different from any other religion in the world. Yet this mystery seems to be misunderstood even by many Christians.

So what is it? It’s Christ in you, the hope of glory. That’s right. The Holy Spirit of God dwelling inside your innermost being.

That’s what it means to be “born again.” God’s Holy Spirit brings life to you – and you are a New Creation.

You now have the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit in the inner most part of you, leading you, empowering you, changing you, and growing you to reflect the attributes of God Himself.

All other religions have laws – lists of do’s and don’ts – which, if followed, are supposed to bring you into perfection.

But our faith is different. In our faith, our lives of sin are forsaken at the cross of Jesus. We accept His sacrifice for our sinful nature – and then we accept the empowerment of His Holy Spirit to  walk away from sin and into the life He has for us.

We walk away from that old nature, and we walk away from the shame and hurt it has brought us.

That’s why we know that we have power over the dark forces which try to hold us back. The “Greater One” lives on the inside of us and causes us to overcome the evils of the world…if we are relying on Him and not on ourselves.

If we will just live “from the inside out,” many of our problems will be solved. Our innermost part is where we hear from God, because His Spirit actually lives inside of us. We will not only overcome sin in our own lives and receive health for ourselves, but we will have wisdom to pray for those around us. We will have answers which will benefit them and God’s anointing to release them.

Stop and think about it.

Man is the only creature which has a choice about the way he lives his life. Animals instinctively know that they should find food, build nests or dens, mate and raise their young. They have no choice but to live from the inside out. They live from the dictates of their instincts.

In the beginning, man was created to communicate with God and to have His thoughts just as naturally as the animals were to have their instincts.. But an had a choice. Before man sinned, he lived from his spirit, not just from his mind. Then man sinned and he no longer had power over that sinful nature.

Until Jesus came and paid the ultimate price.

Now here we are today: born again and filled with His Spirit, the power is restored – but we still have a choice.

Will we live from the flesh, where there is no power? Or will we live from the spirit, where Christ resides as our Hope of Glory? The choice is always ours and we make it daily.

When Christians rise up to live from the inside out – from the spirit within – our world will be changed. Prayers will be answered more quickly, prophecies will be fulfilled, and the world will begin to see God’s true church rising to its place in the earth.

Therefore, If anyone is  in Christ, he is a new creation,

the old things are passed away; behold new things have come.

Now all these new things are from God. (II Corinthians 5:17-18 NASB)

The glory of Christ in us is what the world needs.

So what do we do to appropriate this power within us? We talk to our Father about it. We read His word and allow that to become part of who we are. We listen to good solid teaching which will help us to grow in our faith.

And we step out in faith, allowing God to do what He wants to do in our lives.

It’s a miraculous life, if we live it that way.

Take Your Place in God’s Kingdom: Jesus and You

Take Your Place in God’s Kingdom: Jesus and You

In the last post we talked about being Born Again. That is the Foundation upon which we build our lives a christians.

It’s also what distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. All religions have rules of good and evil. Principles for the supposed “Good Life.”

Only Christianity brings us a Savior who died for our sins, and who sent His Holy Spirit to live in us. We are changed from the inside. Truly a miracle!

Hebrews 11:8 (NIV)

By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going…For he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God.

Something similar happens to us when we receive Jesus. We realize that we have been called to a new “place.” A new paradigm. We don’t know exactly what to expect, but we know that we need to know our God. And we know that His plans are better for us than our own plans.

St. Augustine, who lived in the 4th and 5th centuries had this experience in a dramatic way.

He had lived a raucous life until he was born again. His life was drunkenness, fighting, and unruly living in general. After his born again experience, he changed completely, and went on to be one of the most important Christian leaders – greatly influencing early Christianity.

He left us some famous quotes:

There’s a God-shaped hole in every man – a hole only God can fill.

We were made for Thee, o Lord, and our souls are restless until they repose in Thee.

Every person on earth is looking for love and acceptance. Especially from God.

The interesting thing is that often people don’t know it. They may think that money will fill that hole. Or fame. Or beauty. Or sex. Or one more vacation.

But none of these fill the hole. Otherwise, you would see all the famous rich people living joyful lives. Yet we know that this isn’t the case. Often they drink and drug themselves in order to dull the pain and restlessness they are experiencing.

There is only one thing which will fill that void. Or one Person.

When we meet Jesus – and receive Him as our Savior – we are changed. From the inside out. Not looking to outward things to bring happiness, but looking to inward, as our spirits come alive.

Several things change.

  • We become aware of God’s great love for us. We realize that He is not holding our sin against us, because Jesus paid that awful price for our sins.
  • We realize that Jesus is indeed alive – and His Spirit has come to live in you.
  • As we read the Bible, no longer do we just see words on a page. These words seem to be written just to us and for us.
  • As we read and study, we come to know that we have entered a whole new realm. The Kingdom of God.
  • We will sense God directing us as we walk with Him.
  • We will be aware of God’s presence and His voice. Sometimes this voice wil be audible, but not often. Usually it will be what we refer to as a “still, small voice.” Something like a gentle “knowing” from Him.
  • We will desire to share our new experience with others.

We have become citizens of a new country. The Kingdom of God.

In II Corinthians 5:16-20 (NIV)

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do no longer.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.The old is gone. The new is here.

All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. That God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting peoples’ sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

We are therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.

God has made Him who knew no sin to be made sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

We are Christ’s ambassadors. Ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.

If you were to become an ambassador of your country, you would have to go through training. You would be expected to learn many things about your country as you prepare for your mission. The history. The methods. The plans.

It’s the same with God’s Kingdom.

God has given us a manual: the Bible. And an instructor: the Holy Spirit within us.

As born again believers, we read, listen, and learn about our new Kingdom.

Just as any good ambassador, we don’t want to represent ourselves to others. We want to represent our country – and our King.

We present His plans, and not our own plans, to the world.

Instead of hate, we show God’s love. His mercy. His forgiveness.

Instead of selfishness, we show an attitude of giving.

We are ministers of reconciliation – sharing the love of God with the world.

Over the years, I have seen some of the meanest people turn into the most loving. Some of the most troubled changed to the most stable. Some of the most depressed turned into happy, productive individuals.

God is real and His Kingdom is real. When you and others enter that Kingdom, there are many benefits waiting for you. They are treasures we must dig from His Word and apply to our own lives.

In John 17:14-19 Jesus is praying for His followers down through the ages. He says, They are not of this world, as I am not of this world. But then he says, Don’t take them out of the world, but protect them from the evil one.

He wants us to stay and be His representatives – His ambassadors – to the world. To represent His plans and purposes to those we know.

Thus, we must be listening to God, obeying his word, and allowing His Spirit to be big in us.

With Paul, we say…

II Corinthians 1:12 (NIV) We have conducted ourselves in the world and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and Godly sincerity. We have done so, not relying on worldly wisdom, but on the grace of God

We are representing a Kingdom which will never end. One which is higher than any earthly Kingdom. And one whose King will reign forever – with love, goodness, and power.

What a privilege!

Let’s do this!

Note: This series is an adaptation of a series Ambassadors for Christ, taught by Mickey Estes at Good News Church in Blue Mountain, MS.

Keep the Faith

Keep the Faith

Faith can seem like a strange thing. One day you are on top of the world. You are facing huge obstacles, yet you are trusting God and you know way down deep in that place that’s hard to describe, that you are going to come through this OK.

In fact, you are quite sure that the obstacles are crumbling before you.

Then there are other days. (You know, one of “those” days).

Just getting out of bed in the morning seems like a huge feat – and one that you might not be able to pull off!

So what happened? How can that be?

One day you’re up; one day you’re down. One day you see yourself right up there with David …and Paul! The next day, you’re more like Demas, the loser.

Will you ever be consistent and not wavering? You begin to doubt your ability to walk with God in a reputable way. Can you truly be His person?

Yes, you can. You just have to understand the nature of faith and why it may seem elusive.

One way to grasp the right perspective would be to compare your spiritual strength to your natural strength.

Life is fluid. Health is fluid. Strength is fluid. Strength of any kind is not like an object which you acquire and proudly display. It is part of your living being, and as in any part of life, there are efforts which are essential to maintain it.

Consider an athlete – such as an NFL player. Can you imagine what would happen if he took his strength for granted? He wouldn’t be around very long.

Even when he looks and acts like he has arrived at the zenith of physical perfection, he continues to work out and to practice. And, if he suffers an injury and has to sit out for awhile, his training increases to a new level upon his return. The athlete knows that his strength, endurance, and physical expertise are totally dependent on practice and training. He would never expect to maintain his desired level of achievement while in a total rest mode.

We need to take a lesson from the athletes. We need to honor the precious thing we call faith – our belief in God – our trust in His Word – and our zealous appropriation of all that He has for us. We must realize that our fath is a living thing. It grows or it diminishes. And a lot of the current status of this precious faith is dependent upon our current mindset.

The Bible says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17) The nutrition which feeds our faith is God’s Word, and if we aren’t nourishing our spirits with his rich food, our faith will be diminishing. Even if yesterday we considered ourselves spiritual giants, yesterday’s food will not keep us full of faith. It’s like the manna in the wilderness which became rancid on the next day. We need fresh food everyday.

Let’s go a little deeper.

“Word” in Romans 10:17 is the Greek word “rhema.” It means the spoken word. The revealed word.

As you read the Bible, verses will seem to leap off the page and “speak” to you. You will sense that God is speaking those verses to you personally, and your faith will be built up by them.

As you meditate on those words, they will become planted in your heart and your mind. They will become yours to believe and to act upon.

Then in Jude 20, we see that faith is built up by praying in the spirit. So how is your daily prayer life? Do you check in with your spiritual headquarters every day, listening for direction, heeding His nudge, and listening for His voice of encouragement and affirmation?

Do you speak His Word into the atmosphere around you, changing the fog of delusion into the clarity of His vision?

Remember, yesterday’s manna is rancid. (Exodus 16: 15-20). Every day we start with a new need for our Father and His Word. Every day we have an opportunity to build on our strength of the past, or to allow that strength to recede.

Staying the same is never an option.

As a pastor, my husband led those in our church to say often, “I believe God.”

That seems so simple, you might think, well of course we do. But as you say those simple words, you will find your spirit leaping within you. A resounding, “yes!” You do indeed believe God and not man.

All of society around us needs us to be true believers, strong in our understanding and faith.

So let me encourage you. Believe God and strengthen your faith continually.

Read His Word. Pray. Do those things which build up your faith, and those things which cause it to continue.

When you find discouragement creeping into your thoughts, run to Gods Word. Ask Him for guidance in what to read. Then read and meditate. Allow that Word to become part of you.

If you do these things, you will keep the faith!

Let God Clear Your Focus

Let God Clear Your Focus

The year was 1985 and our family was visiting my parents on the southeastern coast of Georgia. As my husband and I drove over the causeway to Sea Island, we were overwhelmed with the beauty – the incredible expanse of marsh grass, the huge Live Oaks dripping with Moss, the windswept trees, the sand dunes, and the array of extraordinary vacation homes.

Each home was unique – representing the taste of its owner. There were some resembling ornate French palaces. Others exhibiting more of a rustic look. Some extremely modern. Others traditional.

There were also some common elements.

These homes were very expensive – and well-manicured. They were the vacation homes of well-moneyed families, top executives,  greatest philanthropists, and even international royalty.

The richest of the rich. And many of the leaders of our nation.

I had taken this drive many times over the years and had loved it. It was refreshing and energizing to see the variety of homes and landscapes, and awesome to think of the money required to maintain such a lifestyle. Splendor and more splendor.

But this time it seemed different.

I felt a heaviness coming upon me – a sadness. I couldn’t understand why this could be. Suddenly I realized that God was calling me to pray. But why right now?

As we returned home, I went off alone to talk to God and He began to give me some revelation which has continued unfolding through the years.

Those homes were homes of the most powerful leadership in our country. Since they were the leaders, they also made a statement about the spiritual condition of our country.

Then I was in for a surprise.

The Lord led me to Isaiah 46:1,2: Bel bows down, Nebo stoops over…They bow down together. They cannot save, but are themselves going into captivity.

During this season, my husband and I had been studying about the time when Israel was taken into Babylonian captivity. They were captured and carried away to a foreign land – with foreign gods, and foreign customs. We were studying the underlying conditions of Israel which had caused that to happen, realizing that the natural episode was a type for a spiritual condition.

Then the Lord spoke very clearly, “My church has been taken into Babylonian captivity. No longer am I, the One true God, being worshiped, but the Babylonian gods are being worshiped. Bel (Baal) and Nebo are the idols of my church now.”

I knew who Bel (Baal) was: the god of prosperity. But who was Nebo?

I began to do some research. Nebo was the Babylonian god of handwriting, but by extension he became the god of education and the intellect.

Ah, there you have it. I knew what God was saying. He was saying that the church trusted more in money and in humanistic education than they did in Him, the one true God.

This new revelation took some pondering, because I knew that our God didn’t want us to be poor and ignorant. He wants us to be educated and to be prosperous.

But when we don’t put Him first, when we don’t look to God for our answers then the blessings of education and prosperity can become a curse. They can cause us to worship the creature and not the Creator.

We become humanistic in our approach to life.

I started to see how entrenched these idols have become in our culture, and the results are obvious. When we are worshiping ourselves, there are no standards. We think that whatever we desire is just fine. No restrictions. Lust, greed, perversion: no problem.

For many, the rule has become that whatever you can “get by with” is okay. Much hurt and confusion have come as these idols have caused us to trample God’s truth and to trample each other.

But God…

But God is calling back to Him those who will listen. He is calling us out of Babylon. He wants to cleanse us and show us His true nature. Then He wants to show Himself strong to the world.

So am I coming against education? Am I coming against prosperity?

Of course not! These are gifts from our Father.

But we are called to worship the Gift-giver, not the gift. When our hearts are pure and our perspective is clear, these gifts are true blessings.

They enrich our lives and those of others.

It all comes back to the attitude of the heart. When our hearts are in the right place, then we do have standards: God’s standards. And these standards are the foundation for our knowledge and wisdom. They become a base upon which we build our beliefs.

It seems like it’s time for all of us to do a heart check, and to continue to do these checks as we go forward.

There is much for us to do, and we want to have clear minds. We want to represent God’s truth to the world, not a skewed version of it.

Only pure hearts can do that.

It’s time to bow our knee and let God be God.

Let Him clear our focus.

It’s time to cast aside any Babylonian garment we may have acquired, and represent our father in spirit and in truth.

Looking For Hidden Treasure

Looking For Hidden Treasure

Have you ever been on a treasure hunt? It’s a fun adventure.

One year when our son was in elementary school, we organized a treasure hunt for his birthday party. My husband diligently surveyed our yard, making notes about possible landmarks. Then he created a map, which looked like an antique rendition of a pirate’s map, including the many markers which could lead to the treasure. (A chest full of candy and surprises which would interest boys of his age).

The map took them to the Maple tree and then 25 paces to the right where they would find the rock with a red line on it. Then the directions would lead them to turn right and take 19 paces to find the Rose bush, etc., etc. Finally, of course, the directions would lead them to the place where the treasure was hidden.

It was great fun seeing the boys run and jump around the yard, yelling with glee when they found a benchmark… And when they found the treasure, the effort was worth it!

I had a dream recently which reminded me of this moment, though in some ways it was quite different. I saw a bunch of us entering an old barn which was covered with dust and decay. We went in as a group, knowing that we were on a mission to accomplish something. (more…)

How Can You Really Know God?

How Can You Really Know God?

How can you really know God? That’s a question people ask often – even believers. How do you know what He is like? How do you know what He will do? How do you know what He wants from us?

There is much speculation and reasoning which goes into the answers given by many. They use rational thought to try to figure out God. They say, “If God is a loving God, then He must…,” as they run off into their latest conjecture.

Well, God really can’t be known through intellectual thought. He is far too great for us to just “figure out.” In fact, it’s laughable for arrogant men to think that they can do that.

So what is the source of our knowledge of Him? There is a source, and it seems too simple for the arrogant, but that’s the way God is. He confounds the wise with His methods.

So what is the way we could know Him? He sent us His Word, the Bible, so we could know Him. As we pray and seek the Truth, we find the Truth. If we honestly want to know Him, He will meet us in the pages of His Book.

So if you want to truly know God, read His Word and read it all! Many times we will pick certain verses out of context, and build doctrines out of those, sometimes promoting half-truths or even error. Sometimes it’s effective to pull verses from here and there to show the threads of truth God has provided us. Yet if we put the verses into the proper context, the Truth will leap off the pages for us.

From the first Words of the Bible to the last, Jesus was God’s mission. He wanted to restore mankind back to Himself, and God was going to send His Son, Jesus, to pay that price for our sins. That was the only way we could be cleansed and restored. So from cover to cover, that’s what it was all about.

Think about it. If God had beamed Jesus down to earth and had Him go through all that He did without the years of preparation through the Jews, we wouldn’t have known what He was all about. We wouldn’t have received Him as our Savior. We would still be in the dark. (more…)