Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Is True Life of Abundance?

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  John 10:10

Hello readers.  Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin.  

Now, John 10:10.  Popular verse.  Its one of those verses that a lot of people know and is spat around the common religious people when they want encouraging about their situation.  And I understand--- it is a very comforting verse.  But, its even better if it was being translated correctly.

Now, being a child raised in church, I've heard the prosperity message.  And to be honest, its why I came to Christ.  Yep, sign me up for this blog punching in gut, because it was me first.  I signed up to follow Jesus just so I can get a prosperous life on Earth, because I was told that if I delight myself in the Lord I will blessed with the desires of my heart.  I was told if I lived right then God would bless me.  I was told that if I did ______, God would bless me with ______.  So God is this McDonalds worker.  "Since you've committed to us today for increasing your already bad health, anything you ask for I'll give, because you've delighted in the golden arches today."  I've heard a lot of people claiming financial blessings and claiming blessings after blessings after blessings and we're still missing the entire point of salvation.  We're missing God's greatest desire for us, and its just to be with Him.  Let's take a walk, I promise you this will make you feel better.   

Just listen to this story from Genesis, I'm sure you've heard of it.  "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

So, Adam had everything he needed.  He had food, place to stay, and God.  So sin actually came into the world because of our natural stupidity to desire stuff that's off limits, but also because they were looking for MORE.  Here's a few humans actually really 21st Century-ish and desiring other things because we think they'll make us happier  And my friend's pastor Jason Brinker said it best, "financial wealth can never make up for spiritual poverty"

Wanna know why?  Because God IS abundance. GOD IS EVERYTHING WE NEED.  Let me say that again, GOD IS ABUNDANCE.  GOD IS EVERYTHING WE NEED.  So He doesn't have to re-promise something He's already promised.

Let's get to the point.

So, what is God's greatest desire for us? Like, humans, what is God's greatest desire for our lives?  The answer can be seen in John 3:16.  " For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."  

Saved from what Claude?  Saved from a poor life?  Saved from living paycheck to paycheck?  Saved from living in poverty?  Credit card bills? Food stamps?

So? If you're needing help, the answer to me looks like God's greatest desire for us is to have relationship with Him.  Let me explain.  See when Adam and Eve sinned, it put a wedge between us and God.  So, God wanted His children back so bad that He sent Jesus to save the world from sin so we could be with God again.  (I love how simple the gospel is).  So, considering Jesus didn't come to ensure us a prosperous Earthly visit, then why are we in the pulpits talking so much about money?  Because our minds can be so out of whack that we actually build our entire lives around RIGHT NOW, EARTH.  (Ouch, conviction is hitting me already.)  We focus so much on Earth, thinking why don't I have this? Why don't I have that? And we use verses like this to once again take advantage of one of God's characteristics.  Now the Man wants to bless us, don't get me wrong.  I just want us to realize that God was blessing abundantly BEFORE Jesus even came, He was blessing abundantly when He created the Earth.  You think He only made just enough for North America?

God cares about you, and how well you're living.  Don't miss that point.  But He cares more about having you in relationship with Him.  Yes, He can bless abundantly, but He sent His son to die for you to be with relationship with Him so you can have LIFE, AND AN ABUNDANT SUPPLY OF IT.  And all the perks that come right along with that.

I remember the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-22 walks up to Jesus and asks what should he do to inherit eternal life?  Hahaha. I seriously wonder what he was expecting to hear from Jesus, because obviously Jesus didn't give him the answer he wanted.  Jesus tells him to "Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”  Now, according to this generation and their prosperity messages, Jesus should have answered like this, "You got everything you need. BLESSED AND HIGHLY FAVORED!  Just be sure you're tithing that." But see here Jesus is telling this young ruler that I'm better than your riches, sell it all and watch me prove it.  So therefore, God cannot be extremely focused on how prosperous we are here on Earth.  I might even go as far as to say he doesn't want you even being concerned about it too much, because he did say you cannot serve two masters, you either love one or hate the other. And right after that he says you cannot love both God and mammon(wealth).  And its probably why He put the tithing condition in because He wants us to NOT be so concerned with it. He wants us to develop a "giving away" attitude towards our money and learning how to trust in Him with it, which will create this attitude of no matter what happens God, I trust you.  AND THEN POW!!!  HE GOT YOU WHERE HE WANTS YOU!

God wants us to reach this place with Him, where we trust Him.  Trust is a great part of a relationship.  The more our trust grows, the higher our faith grows, and the more we love Him because we're getting so much face time with Him through these moments.

So, what does this mean?  Can we stop preaching prosperity in the pulpits?  Jesus did not die for that.  Please start preaching life, the whole reason why there is a cross and a message to talk about.  Can we start conditioning people to be kingdom minded, and not just "living the good life" minded.  That's flesh stuff.  God is so much bigger than Him blessing us with stuff on this Earth.  And no doubt He can do it, but He really just wants you.  And I'm sure He'd rather you focus on that too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Intimate Father

Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" John 20:17

Hello readers. Welcome to my heart. Let's begin.

This is the final installment of the "Intimate" Series. In Part 1, I spoke about the Intimate God and His desiring to have true relationship with us. And now, I'm going to talk about the Intimate Father.  Of course, still talking about the same person, God.

I love being transparent.  I've found that it empowers people.  It makes whatever I'm saying more relatable when they can connect their weaknesses with mine. So, here goes. 

I didn't know I was longing for a father until I met the Father.  I'm starting to think that ALL children long for their parents.  I mean, think about it.  The two people that IS your DNA is in you, your tendencies and ways of thinking and identity were created from these two people. So, me being raised in a single parent home, I longed for my dad----but, didn't really know it. I'm not saying like it was a craving, like I really wished he was there.  But there was a longing, a disconnect, a void, hidden deep within my heart.  Because when I looked in the mirror I could see my mom, but I also saw someone else that I couldn't identify with.  I have family members telling me I look just like my dad, but, do I?  What else? Do I act like him? What else?

I remember having to do a lot of things on my own.  I think a lot of kids in this situation deal with it differently.  I seemed to quickly become content with the situation. Hey, can't cry over spilt milk, he's not there, move on. But what it did was cause me to isolate myself in my heart.  I learned how to manage on my own.  I remember learning how to play sports, alone.  I remember having to deal with my "first love", alone. I remember having to deal with my first heartbreak, alone. I remember contemplating whether to take my relationship further physically with my "second love", alone.  I remember having questions, and having to answer them, alone.  My mom always told me that I could go to the brothers and the pastor in my church, but I didn't know how.  I wished they knew that.  I didn't know how to GO to a "father figure", I mean, where would I learn that from? 

So, after hearing this from a pastor, "Our view of our natural father effects our view of God", it rocked my world.  Because, I had been having a hard time going to God, and I finally knew why.  I wasn't used to having a father.  So, the void remained. And early in my Christian walk, God the Father was treated just like my father.  I knew nothing on how to relate to this Father God thing, so I fell victim of just listening to whatever my pastor said in church.  I was an obedient child, hey, I did what I was told, for the most part.  And I carried that into my Christian walk.  Pastor says this, pastor says that--- a spoon fed walk--- carrying only on the teet of God.

"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Hebrews 5:11-14

That was me.  Because since I had no idea I could relationally be with the Father, I was just this obedient little boy.  Did everything I was told. Just working on getting enough "good boy" praises and doggy treats all the way until I made it to heaven.  And then God rocked my world one day---- because that stopped working.  I couldn't find my joy from being obedient.  I was losing. It didn't feel like it was worth it anymore.  I mean, I'm doing everything I freaking can God to make you happy and you allow this to happen!!!!  But that only made me hurt more.  I couldn't see I was missing something. So after condemning myself for being angry with God, I just knew it was something I had done, so then I found myself squiring around, crying out, "God help me find out whats wrong.  What am I doing wrong. I'm not partying, am I lusting to much? What's wrong, maybe I'm not praying hard enough. Maybe, oh, I can start reading my bible more. Oh yeah, I was late for church, ok, I'll be early next time.  And, I'll quit lusting, sorry. You're right, it's........"


I stopped.  I stopped focusing on DOING and focused on EXPERIENCING my Father.  I just, looked at Him.  I literally, just started to seek His face.  FORGOT about what I knew I was supposed to do, and just experienced my Father.  And..can I say something? 


I finally gave God the opportunity to be real in my life.  Not based off what ANYBODY else had told me.  But, for me.  I learned He's patient with me. Because, He just waits until I work up enough nerves to stop trying to handle it on my own and come to Him. And He just sits there, probably laughing at me.  "Son, if you'd just lay down your life for me, I'll bless that."

I remember the first day my Dad said He was proud of me.

Say what now?  I'm sorry?  Can you say that again?

"I'm proud of you son."

Can I say I melted?  Like, literally.  The Creator of the world said He was proud of me.  My life changed that night.  I became a Daddy's Little Boy.  I seriously feel like I'm trying to hold my Dads hand everywhere, just wanting to go wherever He goes.  And even better, I get to go to where my Dad works.  See, He's really working for the lost, and He wants my help. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Matthew 9:37. Oh? Daddy? You want me to help you with the harvest! Ok?  I met my calling here.  The reason why God breathed life into me, I met it.  The reason why God had me raised up under an amazing pastor, and continues to line me up with other amazing pastors, because He wants me to learn from the best.  Now, just being a part of the job is an honor, but the fact that He wants me near really shows me He loves me. 

So I've been resting in His restoration of my innocence.  That little boy that was robbed of having this experience is 23 years old now, and I get excited when I get to talk about my Dad.  BRING YOUR FATHER TO SCHOOL DAY! 

Today! I have brought with me my Father.  He created the whole universe.  He created the Heavens and the Earth.  And, He even created YOU!  He told the oceans where to stop, He marked off the land, taught the water how to rustle and move. He was the first superman.  He parted the Red Sea, held the son still, spoke through burning bushes, heals the blind, the sick, and the weak, able to be EVERYWHERE at one time.  He even knows all of you! He loves unconditionally, merciful and just.  He's patient and kind, still waiting for all of us to return to Him. And guess what? He has a plan for every last one of you.  I know? Crazy right?  I didn't believe it either, but He does.  And He doesn't lie.  He can't.  He's God.  Everything He says becomes truth. If He says He's going to be there for you, He will.  If He says He'll protect you, He will.  If He says you can trust in Him, You can.  He can't lie.  

If I brought my Dad to school on that day foreal, I'd have the coolest Dad in the room.  Every year, every time.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  –1 John 3:1

Oh yeah, I can take Him to school with me. ;-)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Show Them My Son

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 

Hello readers.  Welcome to my heart. Let's begin.

I've had a certain prayer for awhile now. I've been asking God to help me with the proper way to minister.  An effective way.  I figure hey, since we're living in our last days then effective ministry is better than just any kind of ministry.  Screaming HELL from the street corners VS _________ <--God help me insert something there. I know its urgent times, but, what can I do?  And the answer I continue to get back from God is, "Just show them my Son."

Easy right?

If you think that, actually, you're reading it wrong.  You did what I did.  You're thinking He meant open up the Bible and literally "show them" the text about Jesus. Or, speak on the text about Jesus. So, talk about Christ, talk about the cross, etc.  "God, I know that.  But how can I effectively minister THAT to people?" I beckoned. So with God's simple answer going WAY over my head, as you can see, I continued to ask what's the best way to minister? And, our patient God, continued to say, "Show them my Son."

And it finally hit me.  I had my EUREKA MOMENT! The light bulb illuminated my entire brain up to this new theology.  What? JUST SHOW THEM YOUR SON?

YES! JUST SHOW THEM MY SON! (Bet you didn't know God spoke in bold huh?)

A rush of wisdom overflowed my brain and funneled to my heart. God was telling me to reflect His son. Be the mirror for the world to see His son. Now, we all know how mirrors work.  Its hard to reflect something if something is not present, same thing with Christ.  Its hard to reflect or show Christ when we're standing in front of Him, He has to be present for Him to reflect, hidden in Him, us out the way.  So after an extensive bugging of God, this is what I gathered from that simple saying.

Since Christ lives in us, we should be showing people Him, and not ourselves.  This is when verses like the one I opened up with and this one: I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live but its Christ who lives in me, Gal.2:20, really comes to life.  Gods answer to my prayer of the most effective way to minister is to SHOW CHRIST, through ME. So when people experience YOU, they experience CHRIST.  Again, when people experience YOU, they experience Christ. Whatsoever does that mean Mr. Claude?  Oh, thank you for asking.  This mean YOU must know Christ very well, so that you can imitate Him.  Or, just die to yourself and get it over with.  But getting to know Him will help you understand how to share in His joys.  I think we forget that once we accept Christ into our lives, we inherit the kingdom. What an honor!? Right? 

Or, what a task?

Now if we are children, then we are heirs---heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. 

Oh man. What have I signed up for? Sufferings?  No Jesus, life is supposed to be easy now.  Smooth sailing.  So God spoke to me through this verse.  Yes, we can love on people, be heart warming and cuddly and inviting and kind and gentle and compassionate and SHOW THEM JESUS through this way, but what about in our sufferings?  My Savior.......He was falsely accused and didn't plead His case.  He was beaten and didn't ask for a break.  He was nailed and didn't complain---All for God.  Now, I pray none of our sufferings 100% match up with His, but us sharing in His sufferings means going through something.  But, look at how admired we got after I listed what Jesus did for us?  SHOW THEM MY SON means YOU doing that too.  When life starts to toss you curve balls and knuckle balls in the same week, will you be able to react like Christ?  Will you be able to SHOW THEM JESUS THEN.  Hey, that idiot shouldn't pulled in front of me.  Or that waiter is being extra slow today.  Or that jerk was talking bad about me. WILL YOU BE ABLE TO SHOW JESUS THEN? 

Hmm...I know. Tough pill to swallow.  This is what I prayed for though, and can't say I've 100% mastered it. But being able to show people Christ when people are looking at you like, "Claude, how are you doing that!?"  And all you can say is God is holding me up. God is my strength. I trust in my Father. It's all for His glory to be seen so I do not care what happens to me.  Pierce my side even after already being nailed! Come on? Show this world Christ and lets see what happens.  There's power in this. It may change your world.....

And somebody else's.

And to see a life changed because you decided to just show Christ, to show love, even when it wasn't deserving---we can share in His glory.  I mean, look at us.  Christ suffered and loved us when we didn't deserve it, and they both are sharing in that glory of having us back., that just made me smile.