Kingdom Notes: Greater than John the Baptist?

john the baptist
Matthew 11:11 says, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born among women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” This is an amazing statement! But why or how could this be? The reason: those destined to live in the Kingdom have the indwelling Holy Spirit. No longer is He beside us or upon us only…He is living within us! This is the most incredible promise known to man. How blessed are we to be a generation that God chooses to dwell within!? Oh, but to counter the power of God, we have preachers and teachers telling us that the promise is for after we die, that the kingdom of heaven is “up there”, and that it is impossible to live and walk in the Spirit today (these lovely folks are called cessationists). The Bible says quite the opposite! If the kingdom is for the future or somewhere else, then why does Jesus plainly say that the kingdom is “within you” (Luke 17:21)?
Many just can’t handle the Truth that Christ foretells and Paul brings to light. We as fallen humans just can’t seem to wrap our brains around the Biblical concept of having the Living God moving and breathing inside of us!  The fact that Christ conquered death and the evil one by walking out of the grave is mind-boggling. The promise of heaven after we have walked this planet for 100 years or less is a promise that brings much hope. But you know, the promise of God living inside of us and becoming “one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17) with us is just too much for the carnal man to digest!
If we wonder why miracles aren’t happening more often in our modern culture, if we wonder why God is conspicuously missing from our social structures, and if we wonder why a significant revival has not occurred in way too long, we must ascertain that it is because of unbelief! What do I mean? Remember when Jesus couldn’t do many miracles in His hometown because of unbelief (Matthew 13:58)? The same applies to the working of the Holy Spirit…we simply do not embrace the reality of God within us. It is painful to admit, but admit it we must. If individuals would do as Christ asks them to do and seek, knock and ask for the Holy Spirit, that would prove to be a great start. As individuals like “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) come together to build the Church, the effect would be tremendous! We should be filled with “living waters”, but alas, we have too many leaky pots! If we would only believe what the Bible teaches and allow the Spirit to teach us of the reality of walking in the Kingdom of God on an individual basis, He would then be able to bring other “living stones” together and build a mighty force that, just like the church in Jerusalem, could change the course of history.
I know this sounds like a theory, but it isn’t. I am just repeating what is echoed over and over again in the Scriptures. But we simply can’t or won’t believe.
I don’t know about you, but I have learned to trust EXACTLY what the Bible says. The results have been amazing. The Holy Spirit is so intense in my life that I am pressed to admit that I am a “new creation”; the life of my old, dead self is like a distant memory. Sometimes I wax, “Who was that guy I used to be?” Does that sound exaggerated to you? Welcome to the spiritual world that the Bible says will sound like “foolishness” to the world (1 Corinthians 1:12-14).
So I will continue to be a fool for God…gladly…until people start waking up. Jesus said that you are greater than John the Baptist, Jesus said whoever is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John, so this begs the question: Are you walking in the Kingdom of God? Are you being transformed glory to glory by beholding the Spirit that has been purchased for you? (2 Corinthians 3:18) Or do you still not believe? Forget what you thought you knew, forget what so-and-so says, forget your doctrines and traditions, and go back to the Bible and read about who you really are! Forget how the world defines you and listen to how God defines you…you will be surprised and amazed and changed again. Remember, it is glory to glory…not a one-time shot!
You are greater than John the Baptist…unless you don’t believe Jesus…
holy spirit jesus

For more Kingdom Notes: Wild Goose Chase, and “Let Your Light Shine”, and “The Kingdom Within”

Kingdom Notes: Let Your Light Shine

city on a hill
Matthew 5:14-16 says, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
When you have an intimate relationship with the Spirit, your light will shine! And this flows outward. We as humans have basically two ways to live: we can either be takers or givers, we can either let the light or living waters flow outward or we can be a black hole of wants, needs and desires. You see, a soul not being nourished by the Spirit feeds on things that never satisfy! Only God satisfies the soul. If you don’t get your daily bread and water from the Spirit, your soul will seek these things from the outside.
When Jesus died for our sins and then rose from the grave, He opened up a pathway into the Kingdom of God. Just as He walked in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, He invites us to do the same through Him. Why do we accept the sacrifice of Christ but then never walk in “the newness of life” that Paul talks about? Why do we stop at Christ’s sacrifice and never enter through the gate and onto the narrow pathway? The invitation is to walk in the Kingdom of God today. If we refuse this offer to walk as “a new creation” then our souls are forever hungry for what we can glean from outside ourselves, and this never satisfies. If we drink from “living waters” that are within, we will never thirst again. This is an awesome promise to those who choose to knock, seek, and ask. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” So if you want to know the way, the way is through Jesus! And by entering the gate that Christ opens for us, we can walk in the Spirit! You either eat of the “bread which you do not know of” and drink “living waters” or you can indulge yourself on outward sustenance like fleshly desires, relationships, and wealth. One not only satisfies, but also shines and reaches outward to affect others. The other uses people and takes from the outside. So are we givers because we are overflowing with His light, or are we takers because we know not how to be satisfied?
let your light shine
Other “Kingdom Notes” posts: Wild Goose Chase

Kingdom Notes: What are You Looking At?

the eye
Matthew 6:22-23 says, “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.”
Maybe I’m one of the few who read this verse and was confused by it. It seems simple enough, but there is an assumption here that should not be overlooked. My assumption was this: If the light is in you, it should shine outward. This verse says the opposite; this verse is saying that what your eye beholds manifests itself on the inside. What’s the deal here?
I now understand this verse. Jesus is telling us that what we look upon determines what we become! If we look upon the negative, the sinful, and the fallen, we will become dark on the inside. If we look upon Him and His glory, then we will become light inside. Paul speaks of this as well in 2 Corinthians 3:18, which says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image (of Christ) from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (parenthetical mine) We may surmise from this beautiful verse that we are transformed through a process of gazing upon the glory of the Lord spiritually by the working of His Holy Spirit. This, my friends, is walking in the Kingdom! Also, in Phillipians 4:8 Paul says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are pure, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” So in our modern vernacular: Good input = Good output. The logical conclusion is that eventually the light shines outward; but in order to be in this state of illumination, it requires that we behold His glory. We also think on the positives in the world around us because all things good and lovely are manifestations of His glory in the natural.
What do you look at? Do we look at the world, are we influenced by the world, and do we define ourselves by the outward influences? Or do we not know that by looking inward to the Spirit that He will define who we really are, He will influence how we live, and He will give us the Truth?
Grace is awesome, but what you do with that gift determines the maturity of the inner person! Walking in the Kingdom of God requires effort on our part to not only pursue the intimacy with God but to also focus our eyes on the beauty of life all around us. What are you looking at?
glory to glory
Other “Kingdom Notes” posts: Wild Goose Chase, and “Let Your Light Shine”, and “The Kingdom Within”, Greater than John the Baptist?

Kingdom Notes: Upward Spiral into Transformation

light entering body
1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” By the working of the Holy Spirit, we are blessed with an ascending revelation of God and His plans, but eventually and ultimately (rarely in our lifetime) we will see who we really are. This upward spiral of revelation of just who we actually are is an adventure that is not to be missed; our basic, soulful, flesh prevails if left to its own devices, but with the Spirit, He is the energy added to the system to propel us upward. Without the Spirit, we devolve into a downward spiral.
As 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” What an incredible statement! By beholding and being in the presence of God Himself, we are transformed: He is the energy added to the system to ensure a progression deeper and deeper into intimacy and therefore being transformed into Christ’s image. If left to our own devices, we will spiral downward; but with God’s help, He lifts us in an upward spiral of sanctification.
In Romans 8:28 we read, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose.” We quote this verse on the worst of days to make ourselves feel better…and we should! But what we have to understand is that the ultimate good is not a conditional or situational good, according to our interpretation or wishes, but rather God’s definition of good. This is another verse quoted often, but many leave out the “punch line” as it were. In the following verse (vs. 29) we see what God’s definition of “good” actually is. Verse 29 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, (so) that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brethren.” So all things working together for good is God’s way of transforming us! Whether it is what we think of as pleasant or edifying or even tolerable makes no difference; the end product is that we are transformed.
If we can learn to embrace “all things” in faith that God knows what He is doing and has our best interests in mind, life would look and feel a lot different! All tests and trials and tribulations are to mature and purify our faith; all times of blessing and health are to increase our strength in joy. Just like strength training, a muscle must be broken down to be built up stronger. The upward spiral into transformation is not easy, is not all rainbows and unicorns, is not a form of religion to satiate, but is the most beautiful and worthwhile endeavor any person can pursue. Faith is a gift that is earned in the school of the Spirit; you are saved through faith, but untested faith is salt without the saltiness.
achieving the summit
Other “Kingdom Notes” posts: Wild Goose Chase, and “Let Your Light Shine”, and “The Kingdom Within”, Greater than John the Baptist?, What are You Looking At?, and “Embracing Holy Spirit as God”

Kingdom Notes: Embracing the Holy Spirit as God

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Jesus in John 16:12 says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you of things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” Notice the progression from Holy Spirit declaring what he hears from Jesus, just as Jesus stated many times that He (Jesus) does not speak on His own authority but speaks what the Father tells Him. References to this are found in John 12:49-50, John 5:19 and 30, John 14:31. This is an amazing parallel! And the progression continues on with the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:13 says, “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” And 1 Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles (utterances) of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Understanding the evolution of our relationship with God is paramount. The Jews could not get past the Father to see the Son, and likewise we sometimes we can’t get past the Son to see the Spirit! But if you know the Spirit, then you know the Son, and if you know the Son, then you know the Father. This is revolutionary! Jesus is setting up a new relationship. It is no crime to give the Holy Spirit the title of God! The Holy Spirit is Who we have right here and right now. Notice that when Jesus walked the earth that if people didn’t believe, His ability to perform miracles was limited; in the same way, the Holy Spirit can only perform His work where there is belief! If we really don’t believe what the Bible teaches us, we limit the Power. If more people read and understood Christ’s teachings on the Holy Spirit and Paul’s pleading with the churches, then the Holy Spirit’s power would be unleashed in an earth-shattering way! But alas, unbelief still reigns in our midst…let’s change that…
I am convinced that this is the key to unlocking the “latter rain” that the Bible prophetically points to in the form of a revival to eclipse all revivals! We want Jesus to return, but He wants to return to a beautiful bride walking in the Kingdom of God, purified and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and empowered by the Spirit to do “great exploits”. We are not there yet, but soon and very soon His bride will get the message: You can do NOTHING without Me, but empowered by the Spirit and through Me you can do all things. Won’t you embrace the Holy Spirit as God? The Jews couldn’t embrace Christ because they didn’t recognize that the Father was in Him and He in the Father; we cannot be guilty of the same crime of not embracing Holy Spirit because we can’t see that He is in us and we are in Christ. Think, think, think….pray, pray, pray…study the Word and let it speak this unfathomable mystery into your spirit. We need you!
holy spirit within2
Other “Kingdom Notes” posts: Wild Goose Chase, and “Let Your Light Shine”, and “The Kingdom Within”, Greater than John the Baptist?, What are You Looking At?

Kingdom Notes: Wild Goose Chase

The following series of posts are excerpts from my Scriptural notes from a teaching series that I am giving on the Kingdom of God.  I will add one every day for seven days.  These truths are simple but require an honest contemplation.

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Contemplate Matthew 6:33 which says,
But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
and Luke 12:31-32 which says,
But seek the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
When Jesus gives us this mandate, is He sending us on a wild goose chase?  How can we seek a future Kingdom?  How can we
seek that which is not or is not yet?  Jesus wouldn’t ask us to seek something that couldn’t be found!  The Kingdom is right here and right now, you just have to seek it!  Where do you find it?  It is within, it is living inside of you if you are a Christian, it is the very Presence of God in the form of His Holy Spirit!  Proverbs 13:12 tells us,
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a hope realized is a tree of life“.  So the hope that Christ speaks of is not deferred or afar off; in fact, He tells us pointedly that He came to bring life…abundant life!  Why would Jesus offer us a hope afar off when it would make our hearts sick?  It is now, it is for the finding; Jesus wouldn’t send us on a wild goose chase.

wild goose chase 2

Spiritual Water For the Thirsty Soul

Every one of us suffers.  We suffer from depression, from confusion, from health problems, and from poverty of body, soul, and spirit.  All of us go through times of pain.  Most of us go through times of great want: bills stacked up, the need to know an uncertain future, and the search for significance.  What if I told you that there is a solution to solve all our problems…no strings attached!

What I am about to say will fly in the face of a humanist, it will challenge our preconceived notions, it will be against all that we know, and there are a million reasons and excuses to not believe.  The fact still remains that what I am about to tell you is true!  The enemy doesn’t want you to know, your friends and family might not understand, and the “professionals” will most certainly disagree (well, most of them anyway).  You see, Truth is truth, whether you believe it or not; truth stands in perfect power independent of whether you recognize her or not…that is the beauty of truth…it never changes and cannot be altered by me, you, or anyone else.

Do I have your curiosity piqued yet?  We can feed our minds with books and knowledge and science; we can feed our souls with entertainment in a million-plus ways; and Lord knows we are quite adept at feeding our bodies.  But the key is finding the way to feed our spirit.  When we hear people toss around the phrase, “You have to change from the inside-out”, we may smile and say, “Amen”, but do we really know what this means and how it works?  Or do we just agree with the statement without having experienced it to the fullest.  Many of us begin the process but lose our way and never bring the seed of joy to harvest.  Again, the whole world system is set against us to bring the seed to harvest.

We can change our mind without ever changing our spirit.  We can be emotionally happy without ever changing our spirit.  We can decide to change our life, but will fail if we don’t change  our spirit.  Think of it as layers:  the body, the soul (mind, will, emotions), and the spirit.  We must understand that outward layers can NEVER affect the inward layers for any substantial amount of time…it always radiates outward, not inward.  This is truth and we need to understand it!  One more time: the outward layers cannot affect lasting change on the layer under it.  So pleasing our body can make our mind and soul change for a little while, so the soul can make the spirit feel uplifted for a little while, and we can fill our minds with “happy thoughts” but it eventually fades away.  Can we begin to see that this is true?  Just take a moment and consider the outward layers and their ability to satisfy temporarily.  And to top it all off, we are ever growing more and more hungry; what used to satiate us can no longer satiate us…we need more and more, never to be ultimately satisfied.  The layers are defined in this way:  the outward layer is the physical body, the middle layer is the soul (mind, will, emotions), and the inner layer (sanctuary) is the spirit.

The opposite is true as well.  If we warp our spirit with pornography, negativity, worry, selfishness, and the like, it can affect our body and soul in very damaging ways.  If we have problems in our spirit and fill our spirit with garbage, then it will manifest itself in our soul in the form of depression, anxiety, and stress, and can eventually manifest itself in our physical health.  This is just good old-fashioned science.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Dr. Phil or Oprah (they are experts…right?) or read about the effects of stress on your body on WebMD!  So are we getting the picture?  Real and lasting change happens from the inside out…Good OR Bad!

So I’ve pulled you along for a minute now and you’re probably thinking…well here comes the other shoe or ok, what’s the catch, or what are you about to sell me…but that is not the case!  The solution is not only simple, but it is probably the most accessible solution we have in America and in the Western world.  The solution is the BIBLE.

Now, let me stop your objections before they begin to pour out.  I’m almost positive your first thought or impression was, “Awwww, darn…I thought it was better that that!”  Why am I almost positive of your reaction?  Because that was my first reaction!  When I said the Bible, I know you immediately had an avalanche of objections and here are maybe a few you are familiar with:

  • Intellectual Objections:  the Bible is too big, it is too confusing, I don’t understand it, I don’t know where to start, I’ve “read” it before, people smarter than me say it is just another book, scientists say it is flawed, I’m just not a “reader”.
  • Emotional Objections:  It won’t work, I feel guilty about not reading it enough, it won’t work, I’m not a religious person, it won’t work, I see Christians all around me that look and act just like me, it won’t work.
  • Willful Objections:  I don’t have the time, I don’t feel like it, I don’t want to know the truth, God expects too much, this sounds a lot like work, I’d rather just listen or watch something, this is my life and I don’t need to read the Bible.

The reason we have these objections is too simple to bear sometimes:  the WHOLE world is set up against it!  We are a product of our circumstances, our education, our experience, and our perception of reality…what is generally considered our worldview.  Remember at the beginning of this post when I put forth the idea that we are built on layers of existence?  You see, it is hard to penetrate past our objections because all of them have come from the outward layers:  i.e. our emotions, our mind, our own self-will.  What I want us to see is that having a lasting change requires that we get to the heart of the matter; we must change our spirit first, and the rest will follow.  It doesn’t work from the outside-in; it works from the inside-out!  I know I am repeating myself, but it is necessary in order to get through…if it weren’t necessary, then we would already know this and be practicing this!

How does it work?  I can honestly tell you…I DON’T KNOW.  If someone tells you that they know HOW it works…they are a liar, for “the wisdom of man is foolishness to God.”  I don’t care who you ask:  if you ask Billy Graham, if you ask your preacher, if you ask a psychologist, if you ask anyone and they say they know HOW it works…then run, don’t walk, run from them!  They could tell you WHY it works or testify to the fact that it DOES work, but HOW?  You see, in all my years of time in the Bible or anyone’s experience of being “in the Bible”, if we are honest with ourselves, we would have to throw our arms up in the air and say, “I honestly don’t know how it works!”  It is supernatural, it is “magical”, it is unexplainable, and it is an enigma unto itself.  Some intellectuals would say that infusing text like this will “brainwash” you; I set forth the notion that staying in the Word will “spiritwash” you!  We read phrases in the Bible of “renewing your mind”, of “being transformed glory to glory”, and that Scripture is “sharp as a two-edged sword, dividing soul from spirit”.  We should say to ourselves, “Bring it on!”

We can spend hours at work trying to figure out a problem, we can spend hours watching television, we can spend countless dollars and emotional investment into someone we love, we can spend a lifetime searching for answers, but how long do we spend in our Bible?  You have given people in your life many chances, you have maybe tried therapy many times, maybe you have spent months of your life in re-hab, you have tried and tried so many things throughout your life, but have you REALLY given the Bible a chance?  I know people who will read countless books on self-help, but can’t bear 5 minutes in the Bible!  Why is it so “hidden in plain sight”?  Again, the WHOLE world is set up against it!  Even your own psyche is set up against it.  Are we beginning to see the problem here?

This I can absolutely guarantee:  if you are sick, it will heal you;  if you are depressed, it will give you joy; if you are confused, it will give you clarity; if you feel unloved, it will show you true love; if you want answers, it will give you answers.  Period.  I stake my life, soul, and eternal destiny in this statement.  But why?  Because I have been changed by it, I have experienced the power, and I have been set free!  Is it easy?  No, it is not easy, but anything worth having requires effort!  Does it work immediately?  No, it takes a little time.  Can it change my life forever?  Yes, it can and will.

The fact is this:  time in the Word is like a direct download into your spirit.  Time in the Word begins to make eternal changes on the inside, the inside of the inside…in essence, the “core” of the matter.  When trying to understand the layers of existence, if you change the spirit, it radiates (for lack of a better word) outward and begins to change your soul (mind, emotions, will), and will eventually change your outward appearance.  A supernatural force, we will call the Light (it is actually called the Holy Spirit, but I get ahead of myself), grows like a heat (you can actually feel it) and begins to transform the layers outward from it.  So lasting, eternal, glorious change happens only from the spirit outward.  Oh my God!   How many hours, days, months, and years have we spent trying to change the outward layers!  We spend countless dollars on making our bodies look good, we spend a lifetime it seems trying to make ourselves happy, and we spend our emotions on seeking “chicken soup for the soul”!  It always fails…unless…we get to the root of the problems we humans have.  We all desire, whether we know it or not, to know that which is eternal, the “meaning of life”, the significance of existence, and to know our Creator.  To coin a popular phrase, “We all have a God-shaped hole in our heart that only He can fill.”  We must know that when we spend time in the Word, it supernaturally downloads (to use modern vernacular) into our spirit, which is where it all begins and ends.  I don’t know how it works…it just does!

So you may ask, “Where do I start?” or “How do I start over?”  In the world we live in today, I would suggest finding a translation that complements your modern language:  if you speak and talk in simple terms, then get a modern translation; if you are more educated than most, then get a translation that is closest to the Hebrew and Greek; if you are an intellectual, then buy a parallel Bible that shows the original language with several translations side-by-side with the original.  It doesn’t matter which translation as long as you can read it and understand the language.  The next question should be, “Where do I start?”  From my perspective, which happens to be the only one I have, what worked for me was starting in the New Testament.  I suggest the Book of John first.  But just starting at the beginning of the New Testament is perfectly easy enough with the Book of Matthew.  I suggest reading two books at a time.  For example:  I will read, say, John for a while and then read Proverbs; I will be reading Acts and at the same time going to Psalms. It’s like changing the channel while watching T.V or switching between two channels. What inevitably happens is that we are supernaturally transformed day-by-day and glory to glory.  It is the tool, a gracious gift, to fix ALL of life’s problems.  It is the road-map to a spiritual existence.  When given a chance, the Holy Scriptures will give you new eyes to see and new ears to hear!  Many seek a spiritual life, but the Bible is the Guidebook.  Many pursue the supernatural part of existence, but the Bible is the map to the greatest treasure on this tiny planet we call Earth.  Christ actually warns of people who want to enter, but fail to enter through Him and His gate…He doesn’t have very nice things to say about those folks!

The last thing I want to say is that you must spend time in the Word.  You may ask, “How much time do I need to spend in the Word?”  At first, you should set up an hour at a time…uninterrupted.  Once a person begins to take this journey, they will find themselves hungering and thirsting for more!  I have spent an entire weekend in the Word before; actually, I have spent months at a time in the Word before.  What we need to grasp here is that nothing is more important than the solution!  So the excuse of not having time is foolish.  Because when the solution is the Word, it takes care of all the rest.  Why would we spend our time and effort on anything else, when the answers for what we spend the rest of our hours on is found in the Word?  You see how obvious this is?  When you begin to feel the radiance, when you begin to physically feel the warmth, when your spirit begins to respond, you are forever changed and will desire nothing more than more!  When the eyes of your heart begin to open, the world around you changes!  I don’t mean some philosophical enlightenment…I mean a “Wow!  Where have I been, and what have I been doing all my life” kind of enlightenment.  This is a journey of unbelievable proportions.  This is the magic bullet!  And like I said earlier…it works!  It always has and it always will.

If you are new to the Bible, buckle your seatbelt and welcome to eternal life here and now; if you are a burned-out Christian, prepare to be set on fire anew.  The problem with being a “churched” Christian is that you hear the Word on Sundays, you toss verses around all the time, so you think all is well…WRONG!!!!  Time in the Word, again, is the supernatural download into the spirit.  I can’t say it enough; I don’t know how it works…it just does.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, takes the place of your PRIVATE time in the Word.  Do you want to pray more?  Then spend more time in the Word.  Do you want to learn to love?  Then spend more time in the Word.  Do you want to be a victorious Christian?  Then spend more time in the Word.  What if I know the Bible backwards and forwards?  Watch the heck out!  Don’t be fooled…spend more time in the Word.  What if I read Christian books all the time that quote verses?  Again, don’t be fooled, spend more time in the Word!  Nothing, and I mean nothing, takes the place of being in God’s presence, and the most accessible way to be in His presence is by being in the Word and prayer.  Yes, there is more to it than just this, but it all starts here.  And the foundation of your faith is continually being edified and strengthened right here in the Word.  Nothing else will make sense in the spiritual world unless it starts in the Word.  The Word is the portal, the gate, and the transport system into the spiritual life.  I mean, most of us don’t know how to pray correctly, but even that is learned through the Word.  It is the key that opens the gateway onto the narrow path that leads to life.

I hope this post has gotten my point across.  I know I just drilled this into your head, but I won’t make any apologies!  Because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what I speak is true.  We cannot complain any longer, we cannot be discouraged any longer, we cannot feel sorry for ourselves any longer, because the God-given solution is right here at our finger tips.  I’m sure you probably know that some would literally kill for a copy of the Bible and many (too many to count) have paid with their very lives to provide access to the Bible in hostile regions.  Our Father must just wonder why we are so thick-headed!  He says to you and me, “I have given you the solution, I have given my only Son, I have provided the cure for all that ails you…but you still just don’t get it!”  He has given us the “user-manual” for the spiritual life and many of us let it collect dust on a shelf and complain of not living a victorious Christian life…Forgive us Father.

In a world full of confusion and a life that is ever more complicated, let us all agree to get back to the spiritual source for satisfying our thirsty souls.

A Thankful Kind of Heart

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A thankful kind of heart knows it is forgiven,

A sweet rest from doubt and fear,

Knowing it belongs to One who has risen,

Our Good Shepherd is always faithful and near.

A thankful kind of heart has given it all away,

Trading what could never be kept,

For treasures in heaven that forever will stay,

An eternal home paid by the tears Jesus wept.

A thankful kind of heart is always being filled,

Our souls are led to a fountain deep within,

Where the storms of life are calmed and stilled,

Each day’s discovery anew is where we begin.

A thankful kind of heart is easily spread,

When praise and joy walks into a place,

We proclaim it to remember all that He said,

God invites all who would hear to taste of His grace.

A thankful kind of heart has found itself,

Hidden in the One that forever will hold,

Life in His hands, not put on a shelf,

Walking in His warmth we never grow cold.

A thankful kind of heart beats to a rhythm divine,

Not heeding the cadence of life lived too fast,

The song in our heart is His own design,

A pleasant melody with no future, no past.

A thankful kind of heart shines like a light,

Warm as a bonfire with ears to hear,

The stories of pain once dark as the night,

Love so bright, it captures each tear.

A thankful kind of heart is one given to Christ,

He paid the ransom that only He could pay,

To hold His desire no matter the price,

He speaks of His love as we ask Him to stay.

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The Problem Science Has With Religion: The Student vs. The Professor

I was listening to a broadcast the other morning on our local Christian channel and heard an outstanding message; embedded in that message was a story.  I contacted the pastor and asked if I could use it and pass it along…he was more than happy to do so!  So a special thanks goes out to Pastor James Spicer and his church, The First Assembly of God Sevierville in Sevierville Tennessee.  Their website is www.firstassemblysevierville.com.  This story is worthy of your attention and I sincerely hope that this message will be passed around, and lifted up as an example of how to renew your mind in defense of your faith.  The Bible clearly tells us to be ready to give a defense for the hope that we are blessed with through grace.  Enjoy this beautiful little journey down the rabbit hole!

The Student vs. The Professor

A science professor begins his school year with a lecture to the students, “Let me explain the problem science has with religion.” The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

“You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?”

“Yes sir,” the student says.

“So you believe in God?”

“Absolutely.”

“Is God good?”

“Sure! God’s good.”

“Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?”

“Yes.”

“Are you good or evil?”

“The Bible says I’m evil.”

The professor grins knowingly. “Aha! The Bible!” He considers for a moment. “Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?”

“Yes sir, I would.”

“So you’re good…!”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn’t.” The student does not answer, so the professor continues. “He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?” The student remains silent. “No, you can’t, can you?” the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax. “Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?”

“Er…yes,” the student says.

“Is Satan good?”

The student doesn’t hesitate on this one. “No.”

“Then where does Satan come from?”

The student falters. “From God”

“That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything, correct?”

“Yes.”

“So who created evil?” The professor continued, “If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.” Again, the student has no answer. “Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?”

The student squirms on his feet. “Yes.”

“So who created them?” The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. “Who created them?” There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. “Tell me,” he continues onto another student. “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?”

The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. “Yes, professor, I do.”

The old man stops pacing. “Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?”

“No sir. I’ve never seen Him.”

“Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?”

“No, sir, I have not.”

“Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?”

“No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.”

“Yet you still believe in him?”

“Yes.”

“According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?”

“Nothing,” the student replies. “I only have my faith.”

“Yes, faith,” the professor repeats. “And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.”

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His own. “Professor, is there such thing as heat?”

“Yes,” the professor replies. “There’s heat.”

“And is there such a thing as cold?”

“Yes, son, there’s cold too.”

“No sir, there isn’t.” The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. “You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees.” “Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.” Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer. “What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?”

“Yes,” the professor replies without hesitation. “What is night if it isn’t darkness?”

“You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it?

“That’s the meaning we use to define the word.”

“In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?”

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. “So what point are you making, young man?”

“Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.”

The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. “Flawed? Can you explain how?”

“You are working on the premise of duality,” the student explains. “You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought.” “It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.” “Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?”

“If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.”

“Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?” The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed. “Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?” The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided. “To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.” The student looks around the room. “Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?” The class breaks out into laughter. “Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelt the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.” “So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?”

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. “I guess you’ll have to take them on faith.”

“Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,” the student continues. “Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?”

Now uncertain, the professor responds, “Of course, there is. We see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

The professor sat down.

Finding Your Personality in Christ

One of the facts about existence that I am slowly discovering is this:  people who choose the kingdom of God are all very different; there is no final destination for being “perfected” in this life; and the idea of a “typical Christian” is fully false.

We know that each of us is different.  We have our strengths and weaknesses, our quirky little ways, our “hang-ups”, our own way of seeing the world.  This is by divine design, that each of us is unique.  I used to really dislike myself because of my bad decisions and life of sin and assumed that after being born again into the kingdom of God that the Lord would mold me and make me into what He wanted and/or needed.  The fact I realize now is that He did all that before I was even born!  What I or the world perceives to be a negative personality trait or a propensity for certain modes of operation is actually a positive “hidden” under a thick layer of reasoning that the world has shoved down our throats.  You see, for me anyway, I have begun to understand myself in a whole different way.  When the Holy Spirit begins to purify and sanctify a person, He actually brings us back to what God originally intended.  What I thought would be a completely new creation in reality was simply a restoration to what the Lord had always intended me to be.

The beauty of the kingdom of God and the desire to be more of a spiritual being, or operating in the spiritual realm, is that one is required to accept one’s personality in Christ.  What do I mean?  For example, I have an addictive personality.  I have been addicted at some point in my life to alcohol, drugs, sex, material gain, golf, you name it.  But as I “worked out my salvation with fear and trembling” the Lord showed me a great truth:  Mainly, that all the things I thought were negatives (even the hard road that I chose) God has turned, or should I say “is turning”, them into positives.  I made a mess of my life and at one point I really thought I was hopeless.  How is that positive?  Well, coming out the other side of this hard road with the hand of Christ in mine and the Holy Spirit teaching me, has shown me the beauty and healing in it; that I am now uniquely qualified to help other people who presently struggle with addiction.  I understand the loss of hope a lot more than I really want to!  But, when someone tells me they feel hopelessly lost, or addicted, or in sin, or just plain miserable…I totally understand their perspective.  Is there anything more dismaying than having a “holy” pastor or preacher telling the hopeless to “have hope”?  Does anything sound more foreign to the addict or alcoholic than a loved one telling them to “just stop ________ and everything will be o.k?”

What many people don’t understand is that the addict or one deep in sin probably already knows about Jesus…They just feel too ashamed or worthless to approach God.  Nothing you can say to an addict will make them change their view of themself!  Only, and I mean only, when the LOVE of God is demonstrated to pertain to them personally does anything significantly change.  Religion and people accusing you of “living in sin” just festers the wound.  When I was drinking, I wanted to stop but could not.  So when someone says, “Hey man, you need to stop drinking and that will solve your problems”…you can only become more bitter.  The reason is quite simple:  alcoholism, addiction, etc. is a symptom of an underlying problem…Addiction isn’t the disease, spiritual depravity and lack of hope is the real problem.  I don’t stand alone on this premise; everyone who has ever come out the other side of any type of addiction or life of sin and hopelessness will tell you the same thing!  What’s wrong on the inside manifests itself on the outside…not the other way around.

I always assumed that God’s plan for me involved Him changing me into someone completely different…oops!  I was wrong.  God can and will change your perspective; not your personality.  I cannot be a patient person, but I can learn patience.  I am not a loving person toward strangers, but I can learn love.  No matter what, the Lord loves you just the way He made you originally!  However, the world and life without God can pervert our personality into something unrecognizable and detestable.  I am not proud of my past, but God can use my past to heal the future.  I am not happy about feeling like I wasted a good portion of my life wandering in the desert of life without God, but I can now be used by Him as a signpost for others treading the same path.  If Jesus was willing to lay His life down for all men, shouldn’t I be somewhat honored that I am presently laying my life down for others?  But I would have never had the opportunity to do so if I wasn’t originally “broken”!  The path I chose rightly or wrongly can be used by an awesome and creative God.  And the path that is led by the Lord is simply a continuation of His grace being breathed into a new chapter in our life…not a whole new book!

The real change is recognizing the kingdom of God for what it really is:  inside of you!  We look to define our world from the inside looking out, but in reality we should always be looking from the outside in.  What do I mean?  I mean, we have to learn to seek truth within ourselves by letting Christ transform us without prejudice toward our own selves.  That, in my humble opinion, is one of the hardest lessons to learn.  Jesus showed us that we each were “worth dying for”, but we have a hard time believing God?  We can’t help ourselves sometimes; we define ourselves by the world’s standards…it is only natural.  But God operates in the supernatural!  By keeping our eyes on Christ, He transforms us into the Christ-like nature within ourselves that has always been there.  In essence, to love oneself requires us learning to love the part that God breathed into us before we were even born…deep, I know…but nevertheless true.  If we use what we see around us and in our flesh to define who we are, then we have completely missed the point.  We must understand the kingdom inside of us by choosing to be part of a process that involves seeking.  We seek in God’s word, we meditate on the beauty all around us, we seek the spiritual nature that God placed in us and we hone the ability to recognize the kingdom of God that really has been there the whole time…we just could not recognize it!  So in a real honest way, running from God is essentially running from ourselves…running from the real person God always intended us to be.

So as I write this, I can honestly say that what God has intended for each of our lives is beyond our feeble little minds.  All we can do is number one, embrace the living God and number two, embrace ourselves as God has created us and stop trying to “become what God wants you to be”…You already are what God wants you to be!  He wants to transform you glory to glory into the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29).  You just maybe don’t recognize it yet…that’s the rub, that’s the point, that’s the challenge.  What you grow on the inside will inevitably manifest itself on the outside if you understand that this kingdom requires you…the real you.  So as we seek to be restored in Christ by the Holy Spirit, we shouldn’t assume that we will be a completely different person altogether.  We need to understand that we are unique, “fearfully and wonderfully made”, and inside each of us is a child of God yearning to be birthed.  By keeping our eyes on Christ, He transforms us into a unique manifestation of His nature.  I encourage my readers and friends to allow this purification to take place so that we truly understand what “loving ourselves” really means.  Don’t crucify what God is trying to resurrect!