Turning Up The Heat

The assaults on our heart are pretty relentless. When we are not being attacked from the outside, we still have to contend with the occasional utterances of our own wounded heart, questioning our well-being. The wounded heart can be a fifth column, an enemy within. This is why God is creating in us a new heart. The battle to stay motivated, inspired, impassioned to live and to love is a task that only true warriors will excel in. If we are wimpy and self-absorbed, we will be casualties of war and other soldiers will have to carry us. They will have to carry us with one arm and continue to fight with the other. There are times when we all have to be carried by others and we shouldn’t feel bad about that, but for the sake of our own calling in the war, we each have to be vigilant, courageous, and fearless in our pursuit of the enemy. Yes! The children of God are manifest to destroy the works of the enemy!

In our ranks, there must be fervent love. A different love than the cold, reserved, and timid expressions found predominantly in the world today.  Our love should be life changing. We have the ability through the power of the Holy Spirit to love gloriously. The scripture says that the love of the Father is shed abroad in hearts through the Holy Spirit. We have to reflect this love to one another just as the moon lights up the night from the light of the sun. A word of encouragement or reproof in the right season, an “I just called to say I love you,” a gift for no particular occasion, a request for some shared time, all these at things to name a few could be exactly what our wounded comrades need to get back in the fight. To walk in this consistently, our focus has to be on how God the Father loves us, not on how people have loved us or what people have done to us. If that is our focus then that is what we will reflect and the glorious love we should be beaming becomes eclipsed.

The need for God’s love in this world is a daunting thought but God is handling that. The question is, are the people around you warmed by your fervently love and are those closest to you ignited by the fire of God’s love burning with in you. Before you are over run with thoughts of performance understand this, just as a fire by simply burning emits heat, if you endeavor to keep you heart centered on the reality of God in your life others will feel the fire and see the light. The enemy knows this so there is always an evil vying for our focus but there is an even greater Holy calling for our presence at the beautiful feet of Jesus, even in the bosom our God if you can receive it.

If we are to have something to give, we must first receive of God. It is my prayer that we will all surrender increasingly to the call of God, so that from being in His presence, we may live in greater assurance of His care, which in turn will fortify us against the dampening effects of self-concern and free us from unfruitful busyness.

Male and Female Created He Them

Though we are the same, we are different,
The way we contrast brings definition and meaning,
As an artist expresses through imagery with dark lines on white paper,
The lines formed by our differences illustrate the glorious image of God,
When we embrace the differences that are inherent between us,
We allow for bolder lines which enhances the visibility of God’s full image,
The lines our differences form, should not be points of contention toward division,
But equal value must be bestowed on the masculine and the feminine,
Bolstering appreciation in a holistic way towards unity,
When man and woman are united in their true essence, they are glorious and powerful,
Just like God,
In whose image we are made,
Man, to love woman is to love yourself,
Woman, to love man is to love yourself,
Man and Woman, Love each other.

Satisfying The Soul

The greatest gift you can receive from God is simply His love, via an intimate relationship. God can shower us with miracles and provisions for living but none of these things alone can satisfy the truest craving of our heart. The truest craving of our heart is to know God intimately, to love Him and be loved by Him. Many, many, people have occupied themselves with trying to quench the desire of their heart with all sorts of pleasures and curiosities only to discover that the disquieting desire still beckons. A heart beckoning for the love of God will not give you rest. Like an icy draft from a deep place in your soul keeping you from getting comfortably warm. You are constantly trying to find things to throw on your fire to stay warm however the flames never remain intense enough to give you sustained comfort. In fact, some of the things people seek to build their fire take them so far from the flames that they become cold and hardened. The bible has depicted the Holy Spirit as descending like fire upon the church. I find this depiction of the Holy Spirit very suitable to Her work (don’t be alarmed that I have referred to the Holy Spirit in a feminine tense, remember mankind collectively both male and female reflect God’s image). The Holy Spirit ascends like fire to spread the love of God abroad in our hearts.

God’s love for us is a very fervent love that warms us to our core when we truly receive it. I say truly receive because many people confess that they have received His love however they are not at rest. They are still burdened with hunger and thirst of the soul. In the gospels, Jesus talked about giving special water that would end thirst and special bread that actually gave life. When your relationship with God is healthy  there is a completeness that you abide in that gives your soul rest and comfort. You will find people who have truly received the love of God seem really comfortable in their skin. The comfort I speak of is not one seated in pride or self-assurance but one seated in a tangible awareness of God’s providential love. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the comforter. The Holy Spirit comforts us in many ways. One major way is through leading and guiding us into all truth. This  truth includes the reality of God’s loves for us. The reality of God’s love transcends many of our worldly notions of love. Until we are open to hear from the Holy Spirit on the realities of life and love our deep cravings will remain. On the other hand, if we are willing to empty ourselves of our worldly notions and contrived philosophies of life, then God can satisfy our souls exceedingly and abundantly beyond all expectation. The love of God will usher in a trust that frees you to surrender all that you might TRULY receive everything.

In the old testament of the bible, there is an account of the battle between the prophets of a false god and Elijah the prophet of the true God. The battle was to see which prophets represented the one true God. The prophet that could provoke their God to send fire from heaven to ignite a fire on earth was to be the true prophet representing the one true God. Elijah prevailed as the winner of the challenge because he represented the true God. Only the true and living God can send fire from heaven. May God ignite in your soul with fire from heaven that brings eternal comfort and rest through the knowledge of His love.

Wait On The Lord

Can you soundly say of the Creator that set the seasons in their time, and the moon phases in its time, day and night in their time, and even gestation in its time that His timing is off pertaining to circumstances in your life? How can we not trust God’s timing? I declare that I trust God’s timing in every area of my life for His timing is perfect and His timing sustains my life.

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: wait I say, on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

As we wait on the Lord for change to come into our lives we must still live. The charge to be of good courage speaks to this. As we go through trials and tribulations and wait on our deliverance we must still live. We must rise and eat and we must feed others. We must maintain. If we can’t move the line forward, we should still do all we can to ensure that we don’t lose the ground we have won. We must learn how to be strong in the power of HIS might. We must draw strength from our confidence in God’s universal sovereignty and omnipotence in order to stand. As you stand, the Lord will encourage you and when the expectation is fulfilled you will be assured of His love. You will see that your hope was not in vain and that the Lord heard the prayers. Your heart will be strengthened. Your faith will increase. Your testimony will be established unto the Glory of God!

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when the desire comes it is a tree of life”

(Proverb 13:12)

Wait I say on the Lord.

Being Identified With Christ

What does it mean to be identified with Christ? Before you rush to answer consider the rich young ruler whom Christ told to go sell everything he owned before he could be identified with Him. Scripture says the rich young ruler went away grieved because he had many riches. After he left, Jesus went on to say, “Truly I say to you, it will be difficult for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” The riches that can keep you from following Jesus can be anything you value more than following Him. In my experience I have seen many people turn away from Jesus because they were unwillingly to relinquish a particular lifestyle, habit, status, or association. They obviously valued those things more than what Christ was offering. The requirements for following Jesus are the same today for you and I as it was for the rich young ruler. You have to be willing to surrender everything. To be born again you have to be willing to pass through the cross just like you passed through the birth canal. That means stripped of everything.  The scripture says that following this statement of Jesus the disciples were bewildered thinking it was impossible for men to be saved, but Jesus assured them saying, “All things are possible with God.” What you are reading may be grieving you as it did the disciples but the good news is that God can change your perspective. I was once grieved as well at the prospect of giving up the pleasures that comforted me and the self-image I struggled to maintain for the cross of Jesus until my world started to topple around me from the inferior material I used to build my life. Once you grow weary of trying to build your life on the things outside of God like false ideals, corrupted values, carnal pleasures, physical strength, fleshy ambitions, the finite reasoning’s of man’s logic, and physical instinct you will be ready to let it all go. I thank God that I threw in the towel at an early age. Some people just have higher pain tolerances than others. When you are financially wealthy you can often afford more ways to self medicate so it can keep you out there spiritually languishing for much longer.

Jesus taught that if a man sought his own life that he would lose it, but if a man forsook his own life he would then find it. The sinking ship that many are holding on to is not salvageable and they must let it go in order to enter the unsinkable ship that Jesus captain’s. It is imperative to let go of the old in order to receive the new. Many people confuse the invitation of Jesus to come as you are as an invitation to stay as you are. Yes, Jesus loves you as you are but He also loves you too much to leave you that way. You must be ready to see yourself and your life from God’s perspective. You must be prepared to accept a new identity. You must be ready to accept a life centered on God’s will instead of your take on things. It is much like a teen-ager living with their parents. There is this person that the teenager is trying to portray to himself and friends, along with a highly marketed lifestyle that doesn’t figure in their total dependency on their parents. A teenagers highest priority should be complying with their parents since they are the ones sustaining their life. Ok hold on a moment parent before you amen to loud. God the Father is your parent. What kind of example are you setting? How submitted is your life to the One who is sustaining your life? I know, we just think we are grown but we have to be as children to enter the Kingdom. That is what I love so much about the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit can take things right in front of us and show us the path. Just like some of the things expected of teenagers not appearing cool to their peers, a life lived in identification with Christ is going to be senseless to the world. So just as teenagers often give in to peer pressure, “grown folks” conform to the world.

In order for a worldly person to be identified with Christ either they are going to have to change or they will have to make Christ worldly.  Consequently, the Christ preached from many of the pulpits around the world today vaguely resembles the Jesus Christ that the rich young ruler spoke with or the Jesus the apostle Peter denied three times. The Jesus Christ preached today more often resembles the mythical Santa Claus or officer friendly from preschool with his flash light shinning down on his head. Nothing threatening or demanding about him, just be nice and try not to be naughty and things will work out fine. Here are some of the one-sided ways people comfortably portray Jesus.

  1. Jesus loves you as you are so just come as you are. (Repentance paves the way to Jesus- Matt 4:17)
  2. Jesus paid for all of your sins on the cross. ( He requires you to take up your cross as well- Matt 10:38)
  3. Jesus knows your heart so don’t worry about it. (Plan out your salvation in fear and trembling- Matt 18:9)
  4. Jesus is love. (Love is often expressed through meeting the needs of others. A problem arises when people don’t value the things they really need- Matt 6:19-21)

There is always so much talk about who will be the anti-Christ but few people realize his personality and doctrine has already been accepted in many churches. The absolute authority of God and His personality are being challenged every day by hearts that are in love with this world. James 4:4 says, “Adulterers and Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” What a friend we have in Jesus…kind of depends huh? Jesus says in the Day of Judgment there will be many people caught off guard when He looks at them and essentially tells them they identified with Him as Lord with their mouths but not with their lives, so be gone ( Matt 7:21-23). Being identified with Christ means taking up our own cross as He did, however instead of dying a physical death, we should daily be putting to death in our own lives the carnal values and earthly priorities of this world in order that we can live to please our Heavenly Father just as Jesus did. In doing this we will become rich eternal rulers with Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven. 2 Timothy 2:11-12 says, “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us.”

Christ desires for us to be identified with Him alone. This means we should derive all of our self-worth and understanding of our potential from who we are as new creatures in Christ, nothing more. Jesus Christ is the head of the body so all body members need to get on board with this or the body won’t be unified.  Everything about you comes after belonging to Christ. I tell people all the time that I am a man who is black, not a black man. I don’t put my ethnicity before the fact that I am first a man created in God’s image. The color of my skin does not define who I am as a person or what I am capable of. I am defined by the divine nature of God that orders by entire being. The spirit dictates to the flesh and not the other way around. This is the reality of being born again according to the will of God. Hear me out. I am not saying there is no purpose in race. I am saying that whatever that purpose is does not trump being in subjection to Christ which is the head of the body. This is what is being expounded upon in Colossians 3.  I encourage you to read the whole chapter and I pray that God will open it up to you. I will leave you with Colossians 3:10-11.

“ Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all in all.”

Through The Storm

In the early years of my journey I encountered a picture that was truly worth a thousand words, perhaps even more. In the picture, there was a great storm brewing over the sea with dark clouds swelling in the sky. It was the kind of storm that triggered the instinct to seek immediate shelter. Dwarfed in the picture was a small ship tied to a dock. The caption in the photo read, “A ship is safe in the harbor but that isn’t what it was made for.” As I peered into the picture, I began to understand the call of the storm. The call of the storm is an invitation to learn. In the midst of the darkness, the wind, and the waves, there are things to be learned about the captain, the ship, and the storm. A wise captain will avoid a storm if he can but he also needs to know what to do if a storm cannot be circumnavigated. To know of a certainty that he can navigate a storm, the captain will have to go through one. Just like the challenging circumstances that arise in our everyday life, we avoid them when we can but we also have to be ready at times to set our heading straight into the wind. Storms or challenges are often ordained of God to uncover the treasures of untapped potential buried beneath barriers of complacency. Many people will work out until they sweat but few people will actually push themselves to failure or true exhaustion. That’s why it is better to work out with someone who will push you when you are seeking greater performance. There are glorious qualities we have within us lying dormant and we are reluctant to apply the amount of pressure necessary to break through and awaken them. That is why God orchestrates circumstances beyond our control that puts us right where we have been reluctant to go. It’s about unveiling and knowing your true potential. God created us in His image and when we fulfill our true potential we bring Him glory. The best way to discover your true potential is to put yourself in God’s personal training program. In fact, if you asked Christ to save you that is exactly what you did. One of the first “witness wear” clothing items I purchased after becoming born again was a t-shirt that mimicked the old “Gold’s Gym” tees, however it read, “The Lord’s Gym” on the front and it had a pumped picture of Christ carrying a cross on His back, then on the back it read “No pain, No Gain”. I still have it though it is all tattered and worn.

We should live life to discover our true potential. This means doing things that reveal our weaknesses as well as our strengths. So many people try to stay to their strengths all the time since it is the path of least resistance. This way of living marginalize our growth because we need resistance to make us stronger. Though avoiding resistance may keep you comfortable, it also keeps your true potential unexplored which is like leaving treasure unearthed. We have to mine ourselves for the treasure hidden within. It will take a lot of digging and searching but it is the most rewarding work you will do, second only to helping others to do the same. Bringing new life into the world is always painful. Ask a mother. It reminds me of what Christ says, “We enter the kingdom through much tribulation.” The Kingdom is the place where our hearts are free and we are fulfilled.

We have to learn to live courageously! It is the only way to take the promise land of our true potential. It is important to realize that our courage does not come from trusting in ourselves but it comes from confidence in our Creator. Just like that boat in the harbor facing the storm, we have to have confidence that we were designed for the challenges of this life. We have to know that God is behind the scenes tailoring the storms, just like a trainer designing a workout specifically for us, to help us discover our true potential. The next time you find yourself in the throes of a storm, instead of insisting that God deliver you out of the storm know that God is using the storm to deliver you.

Who Loves Ya Baby?

The famous words of Kojak! I know I am telling my age with that one. You youngsters will need to Google it. The question is valid though. We need to know who really loves us. I say “really” because everything called love is not necessarily so. It is also important that the love we give is “really” love and that the recipients acknowledge that. In relationships where there is mutual faith in the love shared, that relationship forms a bond which  becomes an enduring pillar of support and a rich source of esteem. This already challenging life is considerably tougher for those who feel they don’t share this love relationship with anyone and feel alone. By alone, I am referring to being in a place where no one is really interested in your voice, your personal feelings. I am also referring to a place where there is no one other than yourself that believes in your heart, and in spite of your mistakes believe that your intent is good. Unless you are narcissistic, without the affirmation of people that love you, you can begin to doubt yourself. One would think that this kind of love is a given in family, however having blood relatives does not guarantee this bond of love. It follows that having blood relatives does not guarantee that you will not feel alone. Before going any further, let me qualify what I mean by love.

When I speak of love I am referring to the love that comes from God. The bible teaches that God is love. So the love I am referring to comes from a divine source. Have you ever heard someone say they didn’t know how poor they were until they saw how the rich lived? Love is the same way. What most people consider love is poor in comparison to the real love of God. I Corinthians 13 give us a glimpse at real love:

 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

This love is not innate to our physical nature. We surely have some strong feelings generated from our physical being but they fall short of the wholeness comprised in divine love or real love. The big three feelings that dominate physical man are fear, lust, and pride.  These big three, though at times mimic love, are actually contrary to love. Fear comes from dread instead of hope. Lust is rooted in “taking” instead of “giving”. Pride is centered in concern for self instead of concern for the well being of all. Of the big three, PRIDE is the strongest and most dominant. Because the big three are natural to us, it takes the intervention of the supernatural to free us from the domination of them. The spirit of God in conjunction with our conscience convicts us to makes us aware of behavior that is detrimental to us and those around us. These are the actions produced by the influence of the big three. If we are sensitive to the conviction we can turn to God for help and He can begin the work of breaking the power of the big three which frees us from the behavior causing harm.  If we choose to override the conviction, this has a dulling affect on our sensitivity to harmful behavior and we become callous.  We never want to become insensitive to those around us because it can lead to us becoming detached from the reality of our actions. That is how people become beastly and demonic. Pride is the power of wicked behavior because it refuses to acknowledge fault and thereby blocks repentance. It is pride that fights the hardest against the reality that we need salvation from God. Most people readily acknowledge that we need the help of others but the pride of natural man will often fight the reality that we are helplessly wicked without God. So God orchestrates the fall of the prideful to humble places for an opportunity to be freed from the blindness of pride. God is so good, working in all things to bring us to freedom and fulfillment.  Those who grow weary of the tyranny of the big three and answer the call of God to repentance receive deliverance. Only those delivered by God are free to love. The big three will not allow a man the liberty to fulfill the requisites of love. This is what God proved through the Law of Moses. As hard as a man may try, he will always fall short of keeping the commandments of Love in his own strength.

Jesus says let the rich say they are poor and let the poor say they are rich. In other words, let those who think they have something to offer outside of the goodness that comes from God acknowledge that they have nothing, and those who realize they are bankrupt of their own goodness acknowledge that they are made rich by God’s goodness . Even though they may still have faults, their pursuit of God and commitment to grow is evident through their repentance. If you acknowledge your poverty then God has opportunity to make you rich, but if you say you are rich when you know you don’t have the goods then you will remain poor. I am definitely on God’s well fare. He gives me my bread daily. I don’t have anything but what He gives me. Every day that I awake I ask God to make a deposit into my heart so that I will have something to spend, if not, I will go about creating debts. Some days I create debts anyway but I am thankful for God and those that love like Him who know how to forgive us our debts. We need people in our lives that are rich with God’s love and we need to be one of those people enriching the lives of other with His love.