I’ve heard a preacher recently say that “pain will always seek pleasure to ease the pain” in which I would also add to escape or forget: “Pain will always seek pleasure to ease, escape or to forget the pain.” If I’m honest this was why I started to do drugs and what kept me addicted to drugs. In this life we will experience all sorts of pain, but what will either make us or break us how we deal with this pain. God promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5) which means to me that whenever I suffer pain, He promises to be with me in my pain and the Bible tells me that if God is there, He will work all things for my good (Romans 8:28). This is an amazing truth. And it is in the midst of embracing this truth that we can being to imagine a life free from all the pain and suffering that a broken and fallen world filled with selfish and sinful people have caused us. This why I love this song so much because it speaks of this kind of hope the presence of God brings to a broken life.
One thing that has kept me going recently is the reality that “God will not give up on me!” That He was, is and always will be faithful until the very end. I don’t know about you but when I am in a challenging season, I need to many reminders because the negative and discouraging thoughts just keep coming. But, God is faithful and He will often bring a song in season that speaks out the cry of my heart and encourages me in what I need to be reminded of in terms of God’s character.
Sure as my life is in Your hands. Sure as Your sacrifice has set me free. When all is shaking, Lord Your love stands firm. Your spirit calms my heart and steadies me. (x2)
You’re the anchor that’s holding me.
I’m sure of Your faithfulness. I’m sure that You will never change. My Lord, You won’t give up on me. (x2)
Matthew 28:20b (NIV) “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age!”
Hebrews 13:8 (NLT) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Addiction is sin, make no mistake. When a person is caught in the snare of addiction, what has happened is that they have over time repeatedly placed first, above all else, whatever they are addicted to and have come to depend on this substance (both tangible or intangible) over and above everything else in their life (a place in which only God deserves to be). This is why addicted people will endure through so much for their addiction. They’ve made an idol of their addiction, choosing to bow down in worship to their addiction as they give themselves over to their addiction again and again. Escaping (getting high) has become the ultimate goal of their life. I believe James has it right when he says, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15 NLT). If and when addiction is left unattended and left to grow without restraint death becomes the only option. But, this is not where the story ends. There is Good News. Jesus Himself says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 NIV). Wow! What amazing words. To know Jesus means to be set free by Him from the bondage of sin, to be set from from our addictions. But, in order to be set free by Jesus a person needs to know Him. So, what does it mean to know Jesus?
I don’t believe a person, who has a casual relationship with Jesus can say that they know Him. They may know of Him, but to truly be able to say that you know Jesus is to know Him as the Son of God. In order to truly know Jesus, a person needs to understand their deep need for Him. I was talking with a person the other day and while I was talking with him, I heard the Holy Spirit say to my spirit, “he (the person I was talking with) doesn’t see a need for Jesus in his life right now.” I believe this is right. Unless a person sees a need to invite Jesus into their life, then why would they bother pursuing to know Him. And if they did pursue Him, I believe the relationship would be a superficial one at best because anyone can know Jesus as a good person or even a prophet of sorts, but to know Him as the Son of God demands faith. And unless a person is willing to put their faith in Jesus as the Son of God, then He will always be just another person like you and me. But, to know Jesus and to place your faith in Him as the Son of God means to also know Him as Savior, Lover, Redeemer and Friend. And if you know Him like this you will love Him and be drawn into worship to Him because you will have realized that it is only through His sacrifice on a cross for the sins of the world (including yours) that you have peace with God, with people and within yourself. And it is when we are worshiping Jesus that we are propelled into a deep abiding intimacy with Him. This is what it means to know Jesus and be set free by Him.
This is such an amazing song and a great reminder that everything that God makes is beautiful. In the very beginning when God created all the universe, He “looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Genesis 1:31a NLT). But, even more God is able to take a fallen creation ravaged by sin and recreate it into something beautiful. Aren’t these the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (NIV). If there ever was Good News to those struggling with addictions, this is it. In Jesus, a person is transformed from a wayward addict, estranged from family and loved ones into a beloved child of God who is dearly loved and accepted into the family of God. Such is amazing grace! That God would take objects of wrath and transform us into His beloved sons and daughters. Yes, Lord you do make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of us. You make me new. You are making me new…
Over this past week, I’ve been reading through the book of Jeremiah (I spent last month in Isaiah) and what the Holy Spirit has been showing me while I’ve been reading is this: “God’s love is always guided by His truth and His truth is always fueled by His love which constitutes God’s ways.” Now, I know that this is a bit simplistic (I mean there’s also grace, mercy, justice, goodness, etc. all of which are also of God and important), but sometimes I feel like we complicate things. For me, when things happen in my life that I don’t understand, it helps to remind myself that God is love and that He is truth (I would also add that He is good). And though I may not understand why this or that is happening in my life or in the lives of the people around me or the things happening in the world I can trust that God knows what He is doing. Being at peace means I start from a position of trust in God’s ways and that His ways are comprised of His truth and His love.
Systematically, I believe that all truth is God’s truth, but that there is a hierarchy to truth. Meaning, there is general revelation which consists of creation which points to a Creator (Romans 1:18-20), basic principles of the world (Romans 12:1; Colossians 2:20; Galatians 4:3) and the knowledge of morality (Romans 2:14, 15) all of which God set into place when He created the universe (Genesis 1, 2). And then there is special revelation which consists of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 2:20, 21) and Jesus (Hebrews 1:1, 2). Naturally, special revelation must always supersede general revelation. Nonetheless, truth will always be truth and hence must come from God who is truth because God cannot lie. “So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18a NLT; also cf. Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:19).
Now if this isn’t enough we must also remember that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8, 9) which collectively hopefully characterizes God as completely transcendent, all-powerful and down right overwhelmingly Divine which should inspire what the Bible talks about as the fear of the Lord (2 Chronicles 14:14; 17:10; 19:7, 9; Job 28:28; Psalm 19:9; 34:11; 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, 29; 8:13; 9:10; 10:27; 14:26, 27; 15:33; 16:6; 19:23; 23:17; Isaiah: 11:2, 3; 33:6; Acts 9:31; 2 Corinthians 5:11). Sometimes, (and I include myself here) I feel like the majesty of God and His transcendentness has gotten lost in the midst of friendship with God. Now, hear me on this, I love being friends with God in fact I cherish our friendship. But, there are times where I can get too comfortable and casual with God where I forget that He is also the Creator of the universe, who is omniscient (knows all things), omnipresent (is able to be in all places at the same time) and omnipotent (all-powerful and all-ruling).
It’s not that the children of God (those found in Jesus) should be fearful of God in the sense that we should run and hide from Him, but that while we fully embrace being friends of God we should also stand in awe of His majesty and bow in reverence to His divinity. I know that this may seem complicated or overwhelming at times, but we can take heart because Jesus fully embodies all of this which is why He is able to say: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me“ (John 14:6 ESV). We must always remember that the only reason that we are friends with God is through Jesus. Without Jesus, we would still be enemies of God because it is only through Jesus’ shed blood on the cross that we have peace with God (Romans 5:1-11). Those found in Jesus need not fear punishment (1 John 4:16-19), we only need to concern ourselves with being disciplined (Hebrews 12:4-11). Biblically speaking there is a difference between punishment and discipline.
Add to all of this that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) and what we get is the reality that God’s love, truth and ways are deeply and infinitely unified with one another. I don’t believe we can separate them, nor should we ever try or think of them separately but as always working in relation to one another. The love of God always being guided by His truth and His truth always being fueled by His love which constitutes God’s ways because the ways of God must always been seen as being comprised of His truth and His love. I mean, isn’t this what we find in Jesus?
Do you remember the childhood saying of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” I remember chanting this when I was young, in order to mask the hurt I felt inside when the other kids picked on me for being different. No matter how much I said it, the words still hurt because words have power to build up or to tear down. Ephesians 4:29 says “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (NLT). In working with people who struggle with addiction, from my experience trauma is one of the leading causes of addiction. Physical, mental, verbal and sexual abuses are all contributing factors that can lead people down the road of addiction in search of relief, self-punishment or misguided vengeance to name a few motivations.
For people who struggle with sexual addiction, rejection is a major catalyst that perpetuates the abnormal behavior. Objectifying people for our own sexual gratification is abnormal. God didn’t create us to use and abuse one another, but to love one another (1 John 3:11). Regardless of the many pro-porn arguments, pornography is demeaning, period. In helping these people work towards freedom the Lord has revealed to me that in many if not all instances, verbal traumas are some of the first attachment points that certain strongholds (rejection, self-pity, self-hatred, shame) began to take root which helped catalyze the road towards sexual addiction. Add on to this, other traumas like physical, mental or sexual abuse and the range of addictions increases (alcohol, drugs, food, anger, etc.).
The book of James talks about the tongue being untamable by human means (James 3:2,8) and how blessings and curses come out of the same mouth (James 3:9). I don’t know about you, but I experience the truth of these verses everyday, be it in my own struggle to control what I say or don’t say or when I’m on the receiving end of some not so self-controlled words from others. But, when I do feel offended, unjustly criticized or even judged, I am grateful for Holy Spirit who restrains me from reacting and reminds me of God’s love and grace. When I first came to faith and read through the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23a), I was always perplexed by self-control. But, the longer I walk with Jesus the more grateful I’ve become of this particular aspect of the Spirit’s fruit.
God’s heart towards His creation is one of love, redemption and restoration. The Father’s desire is to see us saved, redeemed and made whole. This was the precise reason Jesus came down out of Heaven to die on a cross for sin. It is in Jesus that people are set free from the bondage of sin, are delivered from being demonized, healed of sickness and disease and where our brokenness is restored. This is where the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit in gifting people prophetically has great influence and power in joining with God in His mission of redemption and restoration. All believers have the privilege to speak truth and life into others. But, this must be done in love (Ephesians 4:15). The prophetic gift must be exercised in love, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV).
Recently, I’ve been reading a book by Kris Vallotton, Developing a Supernatural Lifestyle, and came across this statement: “Never underestimate the redemptive power of God’s supernatural ministry. So many people are starving to know who they really are. You have the ability to alter the history of people who are lost in darkness and broken beyond repair.” This is a true statement. But, we must always remember that our own tongue fights against us and that unless we become more and more dependent on Holy Spirit in taming our tongue we will do more prophetic harm than good. Holy Spirit gifting does not equal maturity; it is through the fruit of the Holy Spirit that brings about maturity. Furthermore, though we should earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy we must remember that we must pursue love first (1 Corinthians 14:1).
So this is my prayer: that the Lord would continue to cultivate in us a greater capacity to love, that He would impress upon each of us the great need to be fully defined by the Father’s love and the need to always pursue love first and foremost. Help us Lord to allow ourselves to be fully loved by the Father and from out of that place of belovedness love others. For, as Your Word says “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In Your Name Jesus we pray, Amen.
“Ordinary people have the power to change other people’s lives. This power to meaningfully change lives doesn’t depend on advice, though counsel and rebuke play a part; nor on insight, though self-awareness that disrupts complacency and points toward new understanding is important. No, this power to change lives comes from connecting, on bringing two people into an experience of shared life” (25). Hence, one of the many reasons why in the very beginning, God said that it was “not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Now, a “Gospel community is built upon the shared lives of believers who have given their lives to Jesus Christ and now live for Him. What stands at the center of a New Covenant community are forgiven people who have caught a glimpse of Christ, and in whom the Spirit now uses that glimpse to create goodness within them, a goodness that defines who we are” (11). No longer does our sinfulness define us, because Jesus has taken our sinfulness upon Himself at the Cross and in return has imputed (accredited) to us His righteousness. This is the Gospel.
Simply put, we have traded our sinfulness for Jesus’ righteousness and in the process have been fully forgiven. “When God forgives us for violating His design, He pours His life into us; and that restores our capacity to connect, first with Him, then with others. He makes us alive with the actual life of Christ, so that the impulses that energized Jesus’ life on earth are actually in us. This is what being alive in Christ means” (29). It is no longer we who live, but Jesus who lives in and through us (Galatians 2:20). “When believers can offer one another a taste of the delight of Christ that lives within them, they begin to impact one another in a profound way and they start to change for the better because they touch one another with the transforming power of the love of God. When believers make meaningful soul connections with one another their love grows and deepens because we were designed to connect, first with God and then with each other” (45).
In my book, both greater relational capacity (1 John 1:7) and love (1 John 2:10) are sure markers of life. I know I say this a lot, but love is a relational concept. In order for love to be fully realized there needs to be a relationship in place. God created us out of love, for love and to love, which from my perspective means He created us for relationship. “Connecting is life. Loneliness is the ultimate horror. In connecting with God, we gain life. In connecting with others, we nourish and experience that life as we freely share it. Believers have the capacity to enjoy the wonder of a relationship built on grace that no angel has ever personally experienced because fallen angels are not forgiven and unfallen angels don’t need to be” (45). It’s within this eternally redeemed community that believers experience the love and joy that comes from a loving Savior who calls them beloved. As the old saying goes, “to love is to live.” But, I would add to love one another is to truly live.
So this is my prayer: that the Lord would increase our ability to love, that He would grow and mature us in understanding the Father’s love and that He would place in us a courage and boldness to love in any and every situation and with everyone. Help us Lord to fully embrace the reality that we are Your beloved in whom You delight and are well-pleased with. In Jesus, Amen.
*excerpts from Larry Crabb, Connecting (1997)
The more I experience life with God, the more I am caught up into His love. Life and love go hand-in-hand. I don’t believe you can truly know God without experiencing both because God is both. God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is life (Genesis 1, 2; Exodus 3:14; Psalm 139:13-16; John 1:4; 8:58; 14:6; Thessalonians 1:9). It is within love that life gets released. When Jesus came down from Heaven to Earth, He said He came to give us life abundant (John 10:10b). I believe there is much confusion in what most believers understand as being a child of God and what it means to be in Christ. For those in Christ there is no more punishment from God, only discipline (Hebrews 12:10, 11). Because Jesus took upon Himself the full wrath of God for sin (Romans 3: 23-25; 1 John 2:2), citizens of the Kingdom of God no longer have to fear judgment or punishment.
“All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because He loved us first” (1 John 4:15-19 NLT). What this says to me is that the more we know and experience God’s perfect love in Jesus, the more we will understand that we no longer have to fear judgment or punishment from God because through Jesus we can approach the Father with confidence (also cf. Hebrews 4:14-16). Even more, it is God’s love that fuels our love (v.19). Love and life go hand-in-hand, “all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them” (v.16), what an amazing truth.
But, one of the more effective schemes of the devil is to trick people into believing that God’s heart towards us is to do us wrong and that He cannot be trusted. Isn’t that what happened in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) and what the devil tried to do during Jesus’ testing in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13)? If the devil can skew our perspective on the goodness of God than in many ways he has succeeded in driving a wedge between us and God because he has stolen our confidence in approaching God for love and care. The Scripture verse that continually helps me to reorient myself in understanding God’s heart towards me in contrast to the devil’s schemes is John 10:10 “The thief [devil] comes to steal, kill and destroy. I [Jesus] came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (ESV). We must never forget that God’s desire is that we should live! His heart towards us is to bring more and more life (and love) into our lives.
So this is my prayer: that the Father would pour out His grace upon our lives and that He would heal our minds by replacing any distorted views we have of Him with the truth of what His Word and Spirit testify to Who He Is. That through the living presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us He would release more of His love and life, so that it literally overflows into every area of our lives and into every relationship. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Well, I am gearing up to head over to Southern Tanzania, Africa for two months (January & February 2011). I will be travelling with a non-profit organization Global Family Rescue (GFR). I can’t tell you how excited I am about this opportunity to help apostolically shape GFR’s humanitarian aide work over there with the Gospel. God has placed a growing burden to not only care for the sick, poor and hungry, but to also confront the demonic oppression over their lives that perpetuates injustice and keeps people in bondage to poverty and sickness. When I read about the Way Jesus lived while He walked among us, I am always confronted with how He moved both in love and in power. Jesus met people right where they were at and released the presence of God into their lives where people experienced God’s unconditional love and His radical forgiveness for sins. But, Jesus also released the power of the Kingdom of God into their lives as well which set people free from sickness, demonic oppression and bondage.
This growing passion to follow in the footsteps of my Saviour King both challenges and empowers me all at the same time. But, if I step back from my life and give a prophetic eye to the journey Jesus has had me on since He saved me, this leg of the journey is right on time. Now, I’m not saying that I am fully ready for this, but I am not afraid. Though I am anticipating that much is going to happen along the Way while I am in Tanzania, at the end of the day I am going agenda-less. There are some things that I sense the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart to be prepared for, but what is most pressing is that above all else I need to just make myself, with the help of the Holy Spirit, fully available to Jesus and the Kingdom agenda that He wants to accomplish both in and through me. This means I will need to be consciously dying to myself, rather than trying to preserve myself (Luke 9: 23-25). So, please remember me in prayer over these coming months. I’m not sure on how much Internet access I will have while in Tanzania, but I will make an effort to keep you all posted. Also, if there is anything I can be praying for you all please let me know. I love praying for and with people and would be honored to join with you in prayer.
Lately I’ve been realizing that I am just getting this idea of living a life in worship to the Father. Though I’ve been saved almost 10 years now, have experienced many supernatural moves of God in my life, been through Seminary, actively involved in mentoring, discipleship and being on mission for Jesus, been in ministry leadership as well as starting a prayer movement, what I am realizing is that I am really only just grasping the concept of living a life of worship to the Father. More and more, Holy Spirit has been reminding me of Jesus’ words, “But the time is coming – indeed it’s here now – when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way”(John 4:23 NLT). The more I meditate on what it means to be a worshipper of Spirit and Truth, the more I am convinced that there’s a huge difference between doing worship and being a worshipper. I believe that everyone is capable of worship. If we realize it or not we are actively engaged in worship everyday. You don’t have to be a prophet to see how the world revolves around the worship of people and things. The worship of celebrities and political figures is nothing new, nor is the idolization of technology. Add to this equation the rising tides of addiction in the world and you have a recipe for even greater degrees of misdirected and distorted worship. It’s funny though worship is inherent to who we are because we have a Creator, why is it so difficult to live a life of worship to our Creator? The simple answer is sin. Sin has a way of perverting and distorting everything that we do. It’s not that sin makes us all as evil as we could ever be, but sin does have a way of twisting even our best intentions. Sin entangles us and keeps us from embracing being the true worshippers of Spirit and Truth that God desires.
Currently, I am in a unique season. The Lord is teaching me what is means to be His missionary. Over the last five years, I have been heavily involved in church ministry and leadership and have loved every moment. But, earlier this year the Lord impressed on me His desire for me to learn what it means for me to always be His missionary first and foremost. This transition has taken about a year and has meant stepping down from all church leadership, even relocating to another church. Embracing this new season, has inspired this current reflection on worship and service to the Lord. To be honest, this transition has been harder than I had expected. Always being God’s missionary has meant seeing life through a different lens. For the last five years I’ve looked at life through the lens of a shepherd caring for the flock that God has entrusted to my care. Now that this flock has been entrusted to others, I am feeling a bit lost. What I am realizing is that working in the barn is a bit different than working in the fields. When I was working in the barn (church), it was easier to discern the line between what was worship to the Lord and what was not. Learning to work in the fields (world) has meant redefining what worship to the Lord looks like. Working in the field has also meant having to be more intentional about making what I am doing as an act of worship to the Lord. Being in church ministry and leadership made it easier to see my service as a form of worship to God. It was easy to see what I was doing as “working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23 NIV). Now that I am not actively involved in church leadership it’s like I now have to relearn what it means to be “working for the Lord.
I know I am still in the process of walking this out, but where I am leaning towards is rather than trying to make everything I do an act of worship to God I need to simply embrace more fully the reality that through Jesus I simply am a worshipper of the living God. If I try to make everything I do an act of worship to God, worship can very easily become reduced to a bunch of tasks to be checked off a list. I would end up doing worship all day, rather than being a worshipper where worship is inherent to who I am. On the surface, they may look simliar, but underneath is a world of difference. When worship is inherent to who I am, everything that I do becomes an act of worship because it is born out of love and devotion for the Father. Jesus fully understood this. His whole life was lived in worship to the Father because He understood who He was to the Father and who the Father was to Him. It must be no different with us. Our worship must come from a place of intimacy with the Father. The Pharisees lacked this intimacy with the Father and their lives where reduced to a bunch of external actions strung together with the guise of worship. But, their offerings of worship lacked the inward motivation that the Father desired. Everything they did had the external motivation of being seen and praised by men. They were continually projecting image, rather than pursuing intimacy. When worship comes from a place of intimacy with the Father, then a worshipper that the Father desires is born. And here’s the Good News: as believers in Christ we already have this intimacy with the Father, we just need to lean in and embrace this intimacy.