One word changes everything – James 1:1

If we could only live out this one little chapter in this one little book.

Frankly, if we could all live out the first half of the first sentence, everything else would fall in place.

James 1:1 (NKJV) James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…

I’ve always been intrigued by James’ identification of himself. Bondservant. We know him as Jesus’ half-brother – the son of Joseph and Mary. He was also the cousin of John the Baptist – another great name in his generation. I’ll tell you, I would have probably done a little name dropping, if I were James….

Yet James identifies himself as a “bondservant.” So what does that really mean?

Strong’s Concordance defines it to mean the following:

  1. a slave, one who gives himself up to another’s will
  2. devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests

The idea here is not a slave like we understand of pre-Civil War America – where human beings were forced or born into bondage and regarded as owned property to be bought, sold, used, abused, or traded as their owner saw fit. The idea here is a voluntary stepping into servant-hood out of devotion and relationship.

This completely describes Christ’s life on earth. Jesus gave himself up to another’s (his Father’s) will – to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). Jesus was totally devoted to his Father to the disregard of his own interests, his own desires, his own wants, his own image. He didn’t care what people thought, or said, or did toward him. He was completely and utterly walking in God’s hands. After all, Jesus did what his Father did (John 5:19) and said what his Father said (John 12:49).

Jesus voluntarily stepped into servant-hood out of devotion and relationship to God, his Father – to the disregard of his own interests.

James voluntarily stepped into servant-hood out of devotion and relationship to Jesus and God – to the disregard of his own interests.

So the question begs itself…. How do I identify myself?

The question goes deeper than it seems on initial glance. Not only does this imply how I identify myself to others, but how do I really identify myself to myself?

Do I give up to another’s will? Am I so devoted to my Lord? Does it show in how I treat – or should I say serve – my wife and family? After all, Ephesians says I’m to love my wife like Christ loved the Church – for whom Jesus died.

It all comes back to complete humility. If you’ve read many of my posts, you know I often end up here… Galatians 2:20. Dying to self as an act of my will.

Discuss: How does it affect mine and the lives around me to accurately identify myself as a bondservant? How do I do that?

Leave a comment.

Running After Papa…

Declared Holy

“What does it mean to be holy?” This is the question we were basing our study and ensuing conversation on. I had spent some time during the week scouring my bible program and had pulled some pretty interesting (to me) ideas, definitions, and scriptures on the word “holy” and “holiness”… but it wasn’t until we began sharing and discussing for a half hour or so, that one of my friends made a comment similar to, “… sometimes we forget who we are…” (Read more by clicking the title…)

On most Saturday mornings of late, I meet with my buddies to open The Word and discuss what we’d been studying the previous week.  This week’s topic was “Holiness.”

“What does it mean to be holy?”  This is the question we were basing our study and ensuing conversation on.  I had spent some time during the week scouring my bible program and had pulled some pretty interesting (to me) ideas, definitions, and scriptures on the word “holy” and “holiness”… but it wasn’t until we began sharing and discussing for a half hour or so, that one of my friends made a comment similar to, “… sometimes we forget who we are…”  The implication being we forget who we are in Christ.  This thought stayed in the forefront of my mind as we began going down a particular thread of discussion.

Leviticus 11:44-45 For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (emphasis added)

Leviticus 20:7-8 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy (emphasis added). for I am the LORD your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

These were verses that kicked off our discussion and the week’s study.  Interestingly enough, both passages use “consecrate” and one uses “sanctifies.” Both of those words are very, very similar to the word “holiness” – from the New Bible Dictionary:

“Sanctification is one of several possible English translations of qdš, hagios and their cognates. See *HOLINESS for usage. Context alone determines whether the translation should be holy, holiness, holy one, saints, consecrate, consecration, sanctify or sanctification. Even in individual passages translators do not always agree. Its broad meaning is the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy.”

I began to wonder if God was declaring part of his name – who he is – when he said “… for I am holy.”  What if when God identifies himself as “… the LORD who sanctifies you,” he was in fact restating his holiness (see the definition of sanctification again).  What if he was stating it, like we state our names?

Then, like a flood, connections, ideas, and thoughts hit me – saturating my mind like an overfilled sponge.  I simply could not write fast enough in my journal or quite explain my thoughts to my buddies during our discussion.   This is my exploration of those connections and thoughts…

First family picture after adoption
First picture of Megan, Jordan, and Nick as "Shoemakers"

In December 2004, my wife and I adopted 3 kids from Penza, Russia.  This doubled our children overnight.  The Russian kids were from two different orphanages – one ten year-old boy from Orphanage #3 and a brother and sister, ages 15 and 14 respectively, from Orphanage #1 – yes, they were quite creative with the names of the Orphanages in Penza.  On our adoption date, I remember sitting in the courtroom, waiting for the finality of what was more than a year in the making: filling out paperwork, filing paperwork, authorizing paperwork, and re-working, re-filing, re-authorizing paperwork.  It all culminated when the Judge declared that our adoption was complete and that these three children were mine and Dawn’s.  They were declared to be Shoemakers.  My now embellished memory is the Judge striking his gavel on the desk transferring my name, ‘Shoemaker’, to those unrelated, orphaned kids.  With that single declaration, they forever became part of my family, my heritage, my namesakes, and became Shoemakers…

Isn’t the transference of my name, Shoemaker, to those children in the courtroom that day, exactly what happens when we become “adopted” into God’s family through Jesus Christ?

We are adopted into God’s family as children of God.  God who?  God with many names, one of which is Holy.

Galatians 4:4-7 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born  of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Romans 8:15-16 “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”

I am Holy,” God declares (Lev 11:45) and “... the LORD who sanctifies you…” (Lev 20:8).  “You are my child!” God declares as he strikes down his gavel.  Forever, we are “Holy” because we are God’s… just as Nick, Megan, and Jordan are “Shoemakers” and no longer Mordashov. Mordashova, or Savenkov.

We are holy and there is nothing we can do to change it.  You may be saying, “God is very specific about what holy actions and characteristics are in Scripture.” I agree 100%.  I believe God puts those in there to teach us what it means to be Holy, not to define the requirements to attain holiness.

Over the first year (and beyond), we had to teach Nick, Megan, and Jordan what it meant to be a “Shoemaker.”  I wrote a letter and translated it into Russian very early in our parenting them that explained what carrying my name meant.  What behavior was acceptable and what what not.  What I began to teach them was drastically different than what they had learned in the orphanages where they grew up.  It was not an easy process.  Nick and Megan had spent 10 years in the orphanages, from ages 5 and 4 through ages 15 and 14.  There was a lot of behavior and attitude and character to work on and it took time.  There were many occasions they did not exhibit what was “Shoemaker” approved.  Whenever they exhibited those characteristics, actions, words, or attitudes that were not congruent with being a “Shoemaker”, it didn’t make them any less a Shoemaker – it just meant there was still more work and learning to do.   It was, and is, a continual process of changing to be WHAT THEY ARE… SHOEMAKERS.

Is that any different in our lives with respect to holiness?  God calls us – and better yet – DECLARES us to be holy.  In Genesis 1, God says “… let there be light…” and spoke light into being where it did not exist.  In Leviticus 11:45 God says “… you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”  What if God is declaring holiness into our lives and speaking holiness into being where it did not exist?  I believe He is declaring us holy – because we are his and he is holy.  It’s our responsibility to learn what that practically looks like.

Remember our definition of sanctification?  It basically means “holiness.”  The last line and main idea of sanctification (holiness) is “… the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy.”  How are we brought into that likeness?  We read it in Gal 4:6 & 7 “… God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts… therefore you are no longer a slave but a son…”

God puts his Spirit in us.  This enables us to live – AND CHANGE – to “… attain the likeness of the holy.”  This is a permanent thing – just like my kids will forever be a Shoemaker – we will forever be God’s and therefore holy.

Ephesians 1:13-14 ” In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

So where does that leave me?  I simply have to receive that I am who He says I am.  Easy to say, not so easy in practice.  Leads to a whole other discussion of who I’m listening to… but that’s another post.

Running After Papa…

 

 

Day 24 – Crutches & Thinky-ness

II Cor 10:3-5 (NIV) “3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

This verse is all about how differently we “war” that the world does.  We war over our thought life… we war with our mind.  I’ve heard too often people chide that Christianity is a crutch for people who can’t think for themselves.  I’ve heard it said that  faith is where people turn when they can’t think or reason.   Clearly, people who say this haven’t read the scriptures as the Bible is full of context and richness on just how “thinky” our faith is.

  • Phil 4:8 – “… think on these things…”
  • Rom 12:2 – “…renew your mind..”
  • II Cor 10:5 – “… take  captive every thought…”
  • Col 3:2 – “.. set your mind on things above..”

And that’s just of the top of my head… I’m sure the list is fairly substantial.  Anyone who has read the New Testament, can’t possibly think that Paul believed his faith to be a crutch and that Paul wasn’t an intellectual…

I just read chapter 2 of John Maxwell’s “Thinking For A Change” where he dissects the affects of good thinking.  Good thinking changes your beliefs which changes your expectations, which changes your attitude which changes your behavior, which changes your performance, which changes your life.  Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book “Who Switched Off My Brain”  presents the scientific evidence behind and the practical application of Romans 12:2 “renewing your mind.”

11 Cor 10:5 in The Message version is really enlightening to see this passage from another angle:  “We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.”

“… every loose thought and emotion and impulse..”… where do those come from?  The mind.

John 15:2-3 (NLT)  He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.

I’ve often taken this passage in the context of being an “unfruitful” person being cut off.  If I’m not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), if I’m not being fruitful in my gifts and call of the Lord (Rom 12:4-8), etc.  But what if what gets cut off and pruned isn’t people, but attitudes, pride, fear and other influences of my thinking and understanding?

Jesus said that he didn’t come to abolish the law but to complete it.  What does that look like?

Jesus’ teachings clarified and redefined what mankind had made of the Law – a bunch of rules and regulations that were not motivated by anything other than fear and pride.

Jesus changed the attitudes and motivation. The motivation behind his teaching is out of love for Him, love for God, and love for others – based and rooted in relationship.

What attitudes, perceptions, and influences need to be cut off of my life because they don’t bear fruit?

What motivations need to be pruned in order to be more fruitful?

Running After Papa…

Day 9 – “… any virtue… anything praiseworthy…”

Phil 4:8 (NKJV) Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, 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.

Virtuous and praiseworthy….

Paul is really getting down to brass tacks here.  If you remember, each of the “whatevers” have implied something – my words, others, my actions, how ‘in tune’ I am with Christ, my close relationships, received and given blessings – which brings us to here.  Today’s “whatever” words mean exactly what I think they do.  They deal with me – my inner man.  “Any virtue” is a direct shot at the character and morals of my life.  Character and morals are things that can be easily hidden and glossed over.  John Eldredge – in his book, Wild at Heart – calls it “posing.”

Who I really am is something only God really knows. (Jeremiah 17:8).

It would be really easy to begin meditating on my inner man and listen to the lies of the enemy trying to define me by what I have done in the past.  I think this is why Paul qualifies that we are to meditate on “anything praiseworthy.” Romans clearly says that I have “…fallen short of the glory of God…” and that’s not what defines me. The redemptive blood and resurrection of Jesus is what defines me as a son of God.  Through Jesus, I am a Son.  Through his resurrection, I am an heir.  See Gal 4:6-7 – the verse I based this entire blog on. It is also found in Romans 8:14-18.  That’s who I am.

Colossians 3 in The Message is a great chapter in defining that new life and who I am.

When it all comes down to it, that’s all that is really virtuous in me is Jesus.  All that is really praiseworthy is Christ.  Again, I go back to Galatians 2:20 (Like I’ve said before, I always end up here…)

Gal 2:20 (NKJV) I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

My character – my morals – are all rooted in Christ living in me.

“… any virtue… anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”

… Running After Papa

Day 5 – “whatever things are pure”

Phil 4:8 (NKJV) Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, 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.

Pure.

Merriam Webster’s a.(1)  definition of “pure” is: “unmixed with any other matter.

Just contemplating the meaning of that is enough to end this post here.

Galatians 2:20 (my life verse) says that I’ve been crucified and it is no longer I who lives , but Christ lives in me.

Pure… Christ lives in me…  “unmixed with any other matter”  Hmmm…. need I say more?

Webster’s 2nd definition of “pure” is “being free from harshness and roughness and being in tunethere is a whole sermon in that statement…. so many thing are running through my mind on how that is so applicable to me.

  1. “… free from harshness or roughness…” – If I am the hands of Jesus, are my hands rough and calloused, or are they soft and tender?   Is my demeanor abrasive and or irritating (don’t answer that!) or am I gentle and accepting, forgiving and seeing the best in those around me, like Jesus did with the group of misfits he made into disciples.
  2. “… being in tune…” – Being a worshiper and musician I so understand and relate to this… how being just the slightest bit out of tune can absolutely ruin a melody.  How often am I ruining the song Jesus wants to sing through me by being out of tune?   Looking deeper into the sound waves – the basis of what we hear – it begs the question, “Do I resonate with the Master?”  The more I look at this, the more interesting it gets….

The Anatomy of a Sound Wave

 

The wavelength is the distance from one peak of a wave to the next.

Frequency – what most of us call “pitch” – is a measure of waves in a given space of time.  It’s measured in Hertz (Hz).  For example, a note with the frequency of 440 Hz (the note, A) means that 440 pulses occur in one second.

Amplitude is the measure of the amount of energy in a wave – basically, how loud it is — and is measured in decibels (Db).

Enough of the science/music lesson.  The point is that it is EASY to not be “in tune” with the Lord – I’ve got at least three ways to be out of sync: wavelength, frequency and amplitude.  The only way, my wavelength, frequency, and amplitude can match His is if I am ABSENT from the sound wave and it is ONLY HIS SOUND.  When I am involved, I just mess up His sound, get out of sync and make the note that much less pure.

Musically, it’s called dissonance… yet another interesting definition from Webster:

dis•so•nance \ˈdi-sə-nən(t)s\ noun
1      a : lack of agreement especially : inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and one’s beliefs — compare COGNITIVE DISSONANCE
b : an instance of such inconsistency or disagreement
2      : a mingling of discordant sounds especially : a clashing or unresolved musical interval or chord
Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

Lack of agreement… inconsistency… clashing or unresolved musical intervals (frequency of wavelengths) or chords.  I go back to Galatians 2:20 (it seems that all roads lead to this verse for me) – “…this life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God…

I challenge you to look up the word “pure” in the dictionary – skip the Greek, let’s just focus on the English definition today – and apply each and every definition under “pure” to your spiritual walk.

“… whatever things are pure… meditate on these things.”

Be careful to remember what Paul says here – “…meditate on these things…”

I’m not supposed to dwell on how impure I am – how out of tune I’ve become – how much I’ve mixed myself into this life that Jesus is supposed to be living in me.  No, I’m supposed to meditate on “… whatever things are pure…” – which in my simple mind, is only Jesus… nothing much else.

“… whatever things are pure… meditate on these things.”

…Running After Papa

What a bloody mess!

I’m not sure we really “get it” when it comes to confessing and repenting of our sins…

Lev 1:3-9 (NKJV)
If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. 4 Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. 5 He shall kill the bull before the Lord; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 6 A
nd he shall skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. 7 The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay the wood in order on the fire. 8 Then the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat in order on the wood that is on the fire upon the altar; 9 but he shall wash its entrails and its legs with water. And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.

What a bloody mess!

This is the second day in a row, I’ve read this passage and what jumped out of the text to me is the fact that each person bringing their sacrifice (be it a bull or a sheep) had to kill and skin and cut it into parts so that the priests can make the offering to the Lord on his behalf.

Here is what the offer-er was physically responsible for in the burnt offering:
– slaughtering the animal himself before the LORD (v5, v11)
– skinning the animal (v6)
– cutting it into pieces (v6, v12)
– wash the entrails (guts) and legs in water (v9, v13)

A sacrificial bullHave you ever slaughtered a bull… by hand… with a knife? As gross as it may be, can close your eyes and imagine that? Can you imagine what a mess that would be? Can you imagine skinning a bull by hand? How does one manage a dead carcass 3x or 4x his own body weight? Where would one wash the entrails and legs? I expect that meant hauling all those parts somewhere to wash them and hauling them back.

Here’s my point. A burnt offering wasn’t a quick prayer at the end of a 30 minute sermon. I expect it was no small feat or quick little ritual. I expect this was a quite long ordeal. I expect by the time one was done, he was probably covered in the blood of the sacrifice.

In our “everything gets wrapped up in a 30 TV show” culture, I fear we don’t have a grasp on what it means for us to be “covered by the blood of the sacrifice.” I know I don’t. Way too often, I treat confessing my sin much too lightly.

Christ suffered a long, painful, multiple hour ordeal when He became the sacrifice to atone for my sins.  Galatians 2:20 tells me that I’ve been crucified with Christ.  Have I killed my self in this crucifixion?   Have I labored hours over that sacrifice? Am I a bloody mess at the end of it?

I hope to be. I need to be…

Running After Papa…

The Gift

I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. (Galatians 2:21, NLT)

What is “… the grace of God?

We hear that word all the time living here in the Bible belt, and most of the time it’s coupled with the word “mercy.” Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy! You get the idea. So what is it?

I’ve tried to teach my children in various life lessons what the difference between grace and mercy is. It goes something like this: “Grace is getting a gift that you absolutely do NOT deserve and mercy is NOT getting the consequences or punishment you ABSOLUTELY deserve.” Simple… but effective….

Grace is an undeserved gift. Mercy is an undeserved pardon.

What then is God’s undeserved gift to us that Paul doesn’t treat as meaningless in Galatians 2:21? It would imply the gift is meaningful.

If I did the search correctly, in the ESV translation, the word “grace” appears only 10 times in the Old Testament. Three different Hebrew words translate to those ten occurrences of “grace.” Eight of the ten times it is the Hebrew word chen (“khane”) meaning “1 favour, grace, charm. 1a favour, grace, elegance. 1b favour, acceptance.

In the New Testament, the word we translate into the word “grace” is charis and appears 124 times in 116 verses (in the ESV) and means something totally different: “of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

I bring this up only to point out that grace, as Paul is defining it, is a post-Christ idea. In fact, except for 3 verses in John 1 (prior to Christ’s birth), the word “grace” doesn’t appear in any of the gospels.  The first occurrence is in the book of Acts, after Christ’s ascension.

For the next couple of chapters, Paul compares the bondage of living under the law with the freedom of living in Christ.

4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:4-6, NLT)

The gift (the grace of God) is a life of freedom from the bondage of the law; a life free from having to perform; a life free of doing in order to earn God’s favor.

2 Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. 4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. (Galatians 5:2-4, NLT)

The gift (the grace of God) is living life in the power of His Spirit and love.

For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. (Galatians 5:6, NLT)

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13, NLT)

The gift (the grace of God) is a life of transformation into something new.

15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. (Galatians 6:15-16, NLT)

I will not treat the grace of God (the gift) as meaningless….

Running After Papa…

Command #1…

Do we ever not put some other “god” before God?

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

I’m taking a survey of the Old Testament class and as a part of that class, I’m reading through the Old Testament in chronological order.  I can’t get over this statement today.  For those that know me, you know I love God with my whole heart.  I am passionately sold out to Jesus and will spend the rest of my days worshiping and honoring and serving Him – the one who saved my soul from destruction.  But I am mesmerized by Ex 20:3 today.

Do we ever not put some other “god” before God?

When I examine my own life, at any given moment, I usually have something there – in that place of honor – that shouldn’t be.  I’m not talking about allah, or budda, or some other named “god” that other faiths are based on. I’m talkin about the little things…. those little attention grabbers that snap my attention from this to that… from here to there… those volitional choices I make to do one thing over another; the decisions to put off doing the “best” thing to do something “good”; the time wasters that eat up my day and get me off onto some tangent course and keep me distracted until – before I know it – its bedtime and I’ve gotten no time with the very one I am starving for.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

This is the first commandment.  God has just performed the greatest miracles known to man to date in freeing the Israelites from the bondages of Egypt.  Plagues of flies, grasshoppers, fleas, darkness, blood, death;  the parting of the Red Sea; the total annihilation of the Egyptian army; the pillar of fire by night; the pillar of cloud by day; water from the rock; the list goes on and on…

And God’s first words that He wrote in the stone?  “You shall have no other gods before me.”

God knows we are forgetful people.  All through the Old Testament memorials are built to remember great moves of God.  God wants us to remember.  At the last supper, Jesus wanted them to remember him every time they got together and ate, every time they took a drink of something… “As often as you do this… (eat or drink) Remember me,”  “You shall have no other gods before me.”  We are a forgetful people.

So what’s at the root of our forgetfulness?  Why is it so stinkin’ easy to put things in the God chair that don’t belong there?

Ultimately?  For me?  My guess is that it’s my own pride.  It is my nemesis.  It’s the reason I have to remind myself of Gal 2:20 every day.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

It is my life verse and for me, I end up here often.

I choose to remember.  I shall have no other gods before You.  Amen.

Running After Papa…

Overcoming – Updated (Rev 12:11)

How do we REALLY overcome the power of sin in our lives? UPDATED…

How do we overcome the power of sin in our lives?

I was recently listening to “Overcome” by Jon Egan and the Desperation Band on the way home from my son’s Lacrosse game, when I was captured by one of the lyrics at the end of the song.  I’ve sung this song dozens of time, so it wasn’t a new song for me, but this time something clicked.  The repeated lyric is “And we will overcome, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, everyone overcome.”   Revelation 12:11 is the verse that bridge it taken from.

Revelation 12:11 (NKJV) “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

I really began to ask the Lord about it.  So how do we overcome?  What is the significance of this verse?  How does the rubber meet the road and why?  (If you read my blogs very often, you’ll find that’s a very common question I ask…)

1. The blood of the Lamb

First things first… This is the fulfillment of God’s law.  This gives us the LEGAL RIGHT TO OVERCOME.  Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” When we’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb, we are forever the possession of God himself.  There is MUCH that could be said here, but that’s for another day…  Here’s the meat of this post…

2. The word of their [our] testimony

This is gives us the POWER TO OVERCOME.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  We’re all familiar with Proverbs 18:21 “21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”  But for me, in getting to that verse, I’ve glossed over the prior one, verse 20.

Proverbs 18: 20-21 (NKJV) 20 A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled. 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.

When those two verses are put together, we’re talking about a whole meal!  What we claim – the words that we speak – is what will fill our stomachs.  This is a very interesting picture as the stomach is essentially where digestion of our physical food begins after we eat.  “You are what you eat,”  is a saying we learned to help us make healthy choices of our meals.  How appropriate! So it is with the words we speak.  When we speak words, we listen to those words, we hear those words, we believe those words – we digest those words.  When we speak words of defeat over our lives, our character, our circumstances, our children, etc., etc., we begin digesting those words.  Those words “satisfy” our stomach and we continue to live in those things we believe.  “You are what you eat,” becomes much more like “You are what you speak.

It’s time to stop the madness! It’s time to begin confessing the words of life.  Even if it’s not evident yet, speak it.  For example,  “I was unhappy, but God has given me joy and helped me overcome. (Gal 5:22)” or “I was an angry man; but God has given me patience and helped me overcome. (I Cor 13:4)” or “I was afraid and let fear rule my circumstances, but God has given me a spirit of power, love and a sound mind and helped me overcome. (2 Tim 1:7)Speak what God has or is making you BASED on what HE says about you in his Word – the Bible.

Hear me… I am NOT advocating a “name it and claim it” theology.  God is NOT a Genie, but there is a “working out” of our salvation.  There is a process of transformation and I believe renewing our mind with the Word of God and what God says about us is part of that process.

The word of your testimony is what breaks the power of sin in your life, but only if you’ve been bought by the blood of the Lamb.

3. They died to themselves

… and they did not loves their lives to the death,” is how Rev 12:11 ends.  This is the MEASURE OF OVERCOMING!

Galatians 2:20 (NKJV) “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

I find this to be the most difficult verse in the Bible to really live out.  My wants, my desires, my needs, my expectations, my rights… and the list goes on.  If I’m offended, my flesh is probably alive.  If I am angry, my flesh is probably alive.  If I feel slighted, cheated, short changed, cut off, hindered, delayed or detained, my flesh is probably alive.

Only when I am fully dead to me, can I be fully alive in Christ.

THIS is overcoming defined!

So here are three questions for today’s take-away:

1.  Are you legally God’s? This is critical and the first thing and most important thing.  All eternity rides on the answer to this one.  Without #1, you can’t do #2.

2. What is God helping you overcome in your life? Speak it OUT LOUD! verbalize it!  Hear yourself say it audibly!

3.  What part of you do you need to die to? This IS the victory!

If you want to discuss the answer to any of these questions, email me at shoe@runningafterpapa.com.

Running After Papa…