What I Want

My personal quiet time is just that – personal, between me and God.  Occasionally, I sense what He speaks to me may be larger than just me.  What follows is my quiet time, not embellished as a public article.  If it resonates with you, take the leap of faith with me…

“… who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” -Romans 4:17b

God calls things into existence that do not and cannot exist otherwise.  Creation itself proves this.  Abraham having the son of promise, Isaac was the calling into existence what did not and could not exist otherwise.  And, all of God’s promises in His Word and the promises he makes to each person through the Spirit – including me, is the calling into existence things that do not and can not exist otherwise.  This is the essence of faith – believing God to bring into existence what cannot be without Him.

Living by faith is far too often simply our making things happen.  Where is God glorified in that?  But when it is impossible unless He shows up; when it does not and cannot exist unless He calls it into existence – this makes it clear that it is a work of faith.  I don’t want to live in the realm of what I can do with the tweaking of God.  I want to live my life where the non-existent comes into being because God shows up and calls it into existence.  I want to be a part of God calling into existence people far from God turning to Christ as Savior; casual believers getting passionate about loving Jesus; a church ministry that multiplies churches; equipping people for greater ministry; the restoring of broken leaders and pastors.  I want God to call into existence things in me that do not exist so that my life is clearly His work, not my effort.  I want the God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist!”

Father, start calling…

JT

Who I Am – Free From Sin’s Control

Every January gym memberships go up and attendance at gyms picks up.  By February or March most of these people have disappeared.  They had good intentions.  They just did not stick with it.  There are those who follow Christ with good intentions, but old habits, sins, behaviors creep back.

In the 1930’s a relatively unknown runner was competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.  In those days the shoes had metal spikes.  The other runners were favored and they all knew each other.  During the race these runners blocked in the “new guy”.  He was boxed in and could not get out.  The runner in front slowed enough to rake his metal spikes down his legs leaving him bleeding.  As they were coming around the corner of the track there was a slight opening.  He took it and took off and maintained the pace to win the race and secure his spot on the team.

Sometimes we can feel boxed in by our past; by present habits or sins we cannot seem to break free from.  We begin to think “this is just the way I am” and we settle for less than what God has for us.  We somehow forget, or never understood, what we have been given when we received Christ.

Romans 6:1-6 describes who we are in Christ with the word pictures of “death” and “resurrection.”  Certainly, the death and resurrection of Christ is what gives us new life.  But this passage indicates that there is a partnering, a participating, we do in a spiritual sense in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We die to sin.  When a person dies they no longer experience the pain and struggles of this life.  In the same way, when we believed in Jesus we died to the penalty of sin.  Jesus took on that penalty for us.  Not only did we die to the penalty of sin we died to the power of sin.  Sin is a slave owner.  We are the slaves – until we receive Christ as our Savior.  When we choose Christ we die to the power sin had over us.  We are raised to a new life where we can choose not to sin.  We are raised to a new life where sin is forgiven by our asking for it.  In Christ, we are free to live a new life, and to no longer be enslaved by our sins past, present or future.  In Christ, we are free to live a new life and to no longer be enslaved by habits that are restricting what God has planned for our lives.  In Christ, we are free to live for Him!

Take these affirmations that go along with this truth and review them at least once a day.  Let the Spirit speak fresh life and power into you through them.

I died with Christ and therefore died yo the power of sin’s control over me.  (Romans 6:6)
I am an enemy of the devil. (1 Peter 5:8)
I am born of God and the devil cannot touch me.  (1 John 5:18)
I am transferred from Satan’s rule to the kingdom of Christ.  (Colossians 1:13)

JT

Who I Am – A Citizen Of Heaven

How we see ourselves affects our perception of the present and the future.  I missed posting last week’s affirmations of who we are in Christ.  It was a hectic week.  I had two days of meetings scheduled.  An already busy week  suddenly included someone who became critically ill, which ended in death.  Spending time with that precious family in such a time is perhaps the strongest argument for seeing we are citizens of heaven.

Death may come, but our citizenship is in heaven.  Sorrow and loss may grip us like a vise, but our citizenship is in heaven.  Our day or week or month or life may be falling apart, but our citizenship is in heaven.  Someone may offend or hurt or destroy us, but our citizenship is in heaven.  We may even be the cause of our own sorrows or failures, but our citizenship is in heaven!  And since our citizenship is in heaven – “we eagerly await a Savior from there.”  In other words,  those of us who believe in Jesus, look forward to the return of Christ above all else.

Here are the affirmations of faith to go along with this truth.  Take time to review them at least once a day.  Allow the Spirit of God to ingrain these truths into the fabric of daily life.

I am a citizen of heaven, seated in heaven right now. (Philippians 3:20, Ephesians 2:6)
I am totally accepted by God.  (Colossians 1:21-22)
I am joint heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17)
I am a saint. (Ephesians 1:1)

JT

Who Am I? Fully Pleasing To God

My wife (Joy) had a birthday last month.  One of the young adults along with some of the teens from the youth ministry asked to “decorate” the house while Joy was at work.  When I came home the house was decorated inside with Christmas lights, balloons, and pictures of Dale Earnhardt (Don’t ask.  It was some inside joke).  Those pictures were not only placed in prominent locations, they were also stashed in all kinds of obscure places.  After a week, I thought we had found them all and relegated them to the “circular file.”  However, almost a month later I came across one in a most random and unexpected place.

Those who profess to be Christian, to be followers of Jesus, believe in the complete forgiveness of sins.  We believe it in our heads.  It is there in black and white in our Bibles.  Yet, past sins, or more specifically the weight of those sins, seem to be like the Dale Earnhardt picture. They show up in random places in our lives.  The result is we believe in forgiveness but really struggle with the idea of being fully pleasing to God.  Let’s face it; we are not pleased with some of our past sins.  There are others who are not pleased with our past sins and plainly treat us as such.  Therefore, our reasoning goes, how can God be fully pleased with me?

The result of a thought process of not being fully pleasing to God limits what God has planned for us.  It limits our life of joy.  It damages others around us.  And, it prevents people from coming to Christ.  Who would want to choose Christ if all you have to look forward to is to feel guilty all the time?

Romans 5:1 explains how we are fully pleasing to God, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  It is as we surrender to the truths in this verse that a believer can be fully pleasing to God not only in principle, but in the real world of daily life.

We must surrender to the truth that we have peace with God.  Through Jesus we have peace with God.  We “have” peace; not “achieve peace”, not “one day will receive peace when Christ returns”, not “find peace by comparing myself to others.”  We have peace with God.  Peace through what Jesus did in being our substitute at the cross.  Peace with God rooted completely in Jesus not in what we do.

A fully pleasing life before God is ours by surrendering to the truth of what He does for us.  Notice the phrase, “since we have been justified by faith.”  In the English language, as well as in the Greek, we have what is referred to as active and passive voice.  For example, active voice is, “I am going outside”, whereas passive voice is, “I am being taken outside.”  In active voice we are doing the action.  In the passive voice the action is being done to us, for us.  This phrase in Romans is the passive voice.  In other words, God is doing the action of justifying us, of making us right with Himself.  Our faith is only the conduit for what He does in us when we believe in Jesus.  We can live fully pleasing lives because God has done all the heavy lifting in dealing with sin in us.  A fully pleasing life with and before God is ours because He has taken care of it all.  It doesn’t rest on our shoulders.

In Christ, we are completely forgiven and fully pleasing to God because we surrender to Jesus.  “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God, THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.”  As Christians we can hurry past this phrase because we see it in Scripture and use it often.  But, what if there is significance to these words “Lord Jesus Christ.?”  We cal live by faith as fully pleasing to God because Jesus is a real person in real time.  There were still people alive at the time of Paul’s writing that had seen the real Jesus.  Some were even witnesses to His resurrection.  We are fully pleasing to God because a real, historical Jesus lived, died, and rose again on our behalf.

“Lord” is a title not a name.  Jesus is “Lord” by virtue of being God become man.  However, it is our personal surrendering to Him as Lord of our lives that makes us fully pleasing to God.  Sometimes we lack this sense of being fully pleasing because He is not Lord, or master of some element of our lives: home, relationships, work priorities, etc.  This lack of being Lord of all areas of life creates a tension with what we are already given in Christ.  When we make Him Lord of all of our life that tension goes away.

“Christ” also is a title.  It specifically is a reference to Jesus as “The Anointed One.”  When we surrender to Jesus being “The One” in our lives peace reigns.  But, if other things, people, goals, hobbies, interests are vying for the number one spot this too creates that internal-external tension of having peace yet not living up to it.  As we surrender to Him being One and Only  we experience what is ours in promise – completely forgiven and fully pleasing to God.

To strengthen your faith in who you are in Christ consider reviewing the following Affirmations of Faith pertaining to who we are in Christ every day for a week.

In Christ:
I am completely forgiven and fully pleasing to God (Romans 5:1)
I am free from all condemnation (Romans 8:1)
I am righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24)
I am forgiven of all my sin (Ephesians 1:13-14)

One of the fully pleasing,
JT

Who Am I? I Am Deeply Loved!

One of our deepest desires is to be loved, completely and unconditionally.  Many people look for this in someone else or a series of someone elses.  When in reality there is only One who can fill that longing – God.

But do we understand what it is to be loved?  I am working on making a coffee table from reclaimed wood.  I had a plan in mind for a design on the table top.  After taking some time studying the look of theimg_1866 wood in the top I had made I realized the design was not going to work.  What I originally thought was wrong.

It is not the first time I have approached something I thought I understood only to later realize I didn’t get it.  Our view of being loved is like that.  For something so important to us we do very little to understand it.  We go to school to be equipped for work, or read up on a hobby or interest, but how many people study love?  Most of us interpret love from our past experiences.  Some of those are good, and some bad.  We use it all to form ideas of how being loved should work.  The problem is we all have different experiences and therefore form different ideas of being loved.

And then, we take our human perspective on love and look at God the same way.  We see God as loving us like people love.  If we do the right things God loves us.  If we don’t, well… our imagination takes over.

As Christians we believe God loves us.  We would always verbally affirm God loves us and then quote John 3:16.  But deep down there is this lingering thought… “God is love.  So, He HAS to love me.”  And with that subtle thought God’s love is turned into tolerance.  We think God loves me means God tolerates me.

We need a new perspective, or for us as followers of Jesus, a reminder who who we really are in Christ.  Who are you in Christ?  You are deeply loved by God!  “This is how God showed His love among us.  He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

God’s love for you was tangible, visible, literal, personal.  God’s love was expressed in sending Jesus.  It was made known among us but also in us.  Go back to the day you made the decision to believe in and receive Jesus.  Was there not this internal experience of the great love of God?  Yeah, He showed His love IN us as well as with us.

In Christ, you are deeply loved by God.  His love is tangible and originates with God.  “Not that we loved God but that He loved us.”  His love for us is not about how we perform.  His love is deep.  He loves us deeply when we are faithful.  He loves us deeply when we are unfaithful.  He loves us when we are successful.  He loves us just as much when we fail.  He loves us deeply when things are going great.  He loves us just as deeply when it feels like we are going through misery.  You see, God’s love for you does not depend on you.  His love for you depends on Him.

He loves you so deeply that He has given you life.  Eternal?  For sure!  But more than that.  Look at Romans 6:13 or Ephesians 2:1-5.  These passage tell us that anyone who is not a believer in Jesus is dead.  They are dead spiritually, dead to God and His love.  They are dead to all that this life is meant to be for them.  We live in a world of dead men and women who are alive and living life but are dead.  When we came to believing in Christ we were raised from the dead.  We have been made alive.  We have abundant life.  We are alive to God, our purpose for living and the strength that comes from Him to get through the tough times.  Oh, we are fully alive in Christ and all others are dead.  Only deep love brings the dead to life.

And the deep love of God was secured for you with great sacrifice.  No surprise here.  We all know love takes sacrifices.  God sacrificed to love us in giving His Son for us.

I get to this point and it would be easy to say that those of us who are in Christ are alive and those without Him are dead.  There is vital truth to this statement.  But there is another side… “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.  I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead…” (Revelation 3:1).  Those words were addressed to a church, to believers.  Apparently, we can be made alive from the dead through faith in Christ and yet deaden ourselves.  We forget who we are and what we have been given in Christ.  We get busy with other things and priorities.  Things come up and our managing them takes priority over seeking God’s guidance and strength.  And a deadness creeps up on us.  But it doesn’t have to stay that way.  Claim the promise of who you are in Christ.  Focus on Jesus.  Strengthen your faith and relationship with Him.

One way is through affirmations of faith.  Review these each day, as many times as necessary to stimulate your faith and confidence in Jesus and what He brings to your life.

1.  I am deeply loved by God! (1 John 4:9-10)
2.  I am God’s Workmanship! (Ephesians 2:10)
3.  I am dearly loved! (Colossians 3:12)
4.  I am bought with a price,  I belong to God! (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Deeply Loved and loving,
JT

When Less Is More

What do you do when a situation, a relationship, life is less than you had hoped? If you read some Christian authors, or listen to some Christian speakers you would come to the conclusion that God is so good that He is going to bless you and everything bad is going to fade away. God is a god of jelly beans, lolly pops, ice cream, or whatever else you want.

Really? Hilda was a woman of great faith in God. She suffered terribly from rheumatoid Arthritis. She never complained. I would have to specifically ask her how she was feeling to get a full picture of her situation. I always left her home feeling more blessed by her than being a blessing. What do you do when life is less?

This past week I traveled to see some of my family. My Mom has Alzheimer’s. When my brother and I stopped to see her she did not want to give us the time of day. She doesn’t know who we are. We couldn’t speak to her, hug her or hold her hand. We could only watch from a distance. What do you do when life is less?

We all have experiences that leave us flat, discouraged, broken, where life is less than we hoped for or envisioned. It could be a relationship, a job, our health, the list is endless. What do we do?

I have come to the conclusion that sometimes less is more. 2 Corinthians 9:12 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Less leaves me weak and therefore creates room for the power of God. Weakness, or less, helps me to be more dependent on God and to live a life of faith.

Less is more. Psalm 95 talks about worship. The Psalmist reveals how worship is a door to hearing the voice of God. In so doing, He reveals WHY we worship: “FOR the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. We worship because God is great, not because everything in our lives is going great. We worship because God is great in power, great as Creator, great in loving and caring for us – even in the “less” places and times of our lives.

Less can lead to more: more dependence on God, more faith, more love, more character development, more preparation for what God wants to do through you. Less is more if you look at it the right way. Therefore, as you celebrate Thanksgiving this week make sure to be thankful even for the “less places” in your life. After all God is great!

JT

An Old/Fresh Look At Faith

Sometimes we need fresh ideas to gain a better understanding of words and concepts that become lifeless because of familiarity.  “Faith” is such a word.  Today I came across a story about John Patton.  Patton was a missionary who went to the South Pacific islands many years ago.  At the time, cannibalism was a common practice in the tribes there.  Many missionaries lost their lives going to these islands.  When he arrived on one island it was being ravaged by sickness.  He cared for the sick, nursing many back to health.  The people warmly received him and he stayed.  He began to keep a journal in order to learn their language.  Eventually, he decided to begin translating some of the Bible into their language.  In doing so, he came across a problem, a big problem.  He knew of no word in their language for “faith.”

One day, he was returning from a hunting trip with one of the natives.  It was a hot and exhausting trip back.  They were so exhausted they lay down in the grass in the shade.  The man with him said, “Oh it is good to stretch yourself out here in the shade.”  From this one sentence John Patton translated the following verses.  I found it giving me a fresh appreciation for the word “faith.”

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever stretcheth himself out on Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

“Stretch yourself out on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

“And if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and in thine heart stretch thyself out on the fact that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved; for with the heart one stretcheth himself out unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Faith – stretching myself out to Jesus.  The image fits

Still stretching,
JT