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Recently, we wrote about Suffering’s Role in Overcoming Our Flesh – how God uses suffering to drive a wedge between our spirit man and our flesh. You may recall that suffering exposes the character of our flesh (whiny, self-centered, blame-shifting, etc.) while at the same time encouraging us, as born-of-God spirit beings, to turn to God for comfort, endurance, and direction.

In the same way, the chaos we will continue to face through much of the 2020s is intended by God to drive a wedge between our spirit man and the world. The individuals, families, and fellowships who choose God’s way through the chaos will enjoy His grace and glory. Sadly, others will allow the chaos to further conform them to the world.

So, how do we join God in the process and help others do the same? The answer can be found in a few familiar passages.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:3-4

Separation from our flesh and the world begins with trust in the LORD – for His grace and faithfulness in the process (Step 1). It will help to know that “the land” is His kingdom, and “delight” means to be soft (i.e., surrendered to His molding hands). The LORD owns the process and knows best how to apply it to His people.

Furthermore, the LORD puts His desire for separation into our hearts. These heart ties draw us into His presence and love, and sustain us when separation from our flesh and the world becomes difficult and painful. The Holy Spirit patiently waits for us to invite Him to stir up the desire of our heart for separation unto the LORD (Step 2). Read the rest of this entry »

…we have known that of God we are, and the whole world in the evil doth lie… 1John 5:19 (YLT)

There are two kingdoms and many nations. The nations of this world lie under the power of the evil one. Notice this is not the literal reading of 1John 5:19, as translated and quoted by many. There is another enemy involved: “the evil”, which is our rebellious and carnal mind. Nevertheless, the dominion of Satan over this world and its nations is convincingly conveyed elsewhere.

And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” Luke 4:6

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience… Ephesians 2:1-2

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 2Corinthians 4:3-4

The United States of America (and every other nation) lies under the power of Satan. It may claim to be “One Nation Under God”, but claims do not make themselves true. This claim can only be true in as much as America is submitted to the reign of God Almighty. Functioning as a democratic republic, where the rights of individuals is paramount, is a difficult to impossible place to start. Read the rest of this entry »

“Revival is God’s people doing God’s work, God’s way.” Vance Havner (2008)

“The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.” Oswald Chambers (1995)

I recently learned an important lesson about doing things God’s way. When a local Sunday School class invited us to lead a study of the Sermon on the Mount (SOTM), I suggested a twenty-six-week series. The class leadership countered with twelve weeks or less and only thirty minutes of teaching each week!

How do you cover fifty-plus sayings of Jesus in such a limited timeframe? Concerned twelve weeks would not allow for anything more than a compromised exploration of the most important sermon ever preached and that generalizing the Sermon would not adequately encourage the doing necessary to produce strong houses (Matthew 7:24-25), I pressed for more time. The leaders stood firm.

Much to my surprise, the syllabus we developed together turned out to be God’s way for the study. He used what I would call an overly simplified approach to reveal several foundations of His kingdom and its good news. Honestly, I am amazed at the revelation and encouragement I received from the study.

In the process, I also learned that deep technical dives into Scripture are not always the best method for teaching, and that God orchestrates teaching opportunities with more consideration for the audience’s needs than the teacher’s abilities and preference.

Lastly, I was once again reminded that God has a way for everything; finding and following His ways always leads to exciting adventures and discoveries.

It should come as no surprise that Jesus has much to say about doing things God’s way: the only way He did everything (John 5:19, 30; John 12:49-50; and John 14:24). In this article, we will explore two of God’s ways for doing the sayings of Jesus. But first… Read the rest of this entry »

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Romans 12:2 reveals two important things about the Christian mind. First, there is something wrong with it; it must be “renewed, renovated, and completely changed for the better (Blue Letter Bible, Outline of Biblical Usage, 2020).” Second, without this renewal, the Christian will remain both conformed to the world and unable to know and obey God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will.

The renewal of our minds – required for our transformation into Kingdom citizens – is more challenging than most Christians recognize. We are born with a nature that works hard to interpret the things we hear and read in ways that will not disrupt our established paradigms. We prefer to trust existing interpretations of Scripture and are encouraged to do so by our teachers.

Holding fast to sound doctrine is important, but resistance to paradigm shifts can leave us short on the truth. Therefore, it is important to recognize that the combined doctrines of man fall short of explaining God and His kingdom. Our maturation as Christians requires a humble approach to learning. We would do well to maintain an objective consideration of God’s word and the vastness of its truth.

What if, instead of relying on comfortable interpretations, we accepted the word of God as it is written, allowing it to challenge our paradigms? What if, instead of applying assumptions of hyperbole or metaphor to every passage that threatens us, we wrestled to grasp the depth of God’s word? With these challenges in mind, we offer a case in point from two statements found in John’s first epistle:

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1John 3:9

We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 1John 5:18

Taken literally, the Holy Spirit (through John) claims that every Christian does not and cannot sin, because he has been born of God, because he keeps himself (i.e., attends to carefully, takes care of, guards), and because the wicked one has no influence over him. Take a moment to consider this claim literally; resist the temptation to explain it away. The implications are astounding!! Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus gave ten examples to help us understand that the kingdom is a matter of the heart. We will explore three more here. Because they are examples, the “doing” of these sayings is easier to identify – and that is a good thing. However, we must remember that Jesus’ focus remains on our hearts, not our performance; the goal is to be made into kingdom citizens, not to make or justify ourselves.

Do Not Swear at All

Most of Jesus’ sayings in the Sermon on the Mount – you know, those sayings we are to do – are truly beyond our human ability. They are only accomplished by the life of Jesus Christ, the One who has come to live in us. Here we find an exception – one saying that appears quite easy to obey. And yet, mankind has amazingly chosen to do something in complete opposition to what Jesus has said. Truly, how do we excuse ourselves?

Consider the matter of oath taking. Jesus said:

Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:33-37

Could anything be more clear? Whatever is more than our “yes” and “no” is from the evil one. Why then do so many followers of Jesus Christ submit to the courts of this nation, put one hand on a Bible, raise the other, and swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Is this not taking an oath? Does it make it okay – or does it make it worse – that a Bible is used in this process?

These questions lead us to a deeper kingdom principle; something deeper than dos and don’ts. For those with eyes to see, this is a great example of the subtly of the evil one’s deception; leading to our conformity to the world. Read the rest of this entry »

The Greek word translated as “repentance” literally means “to change one’s mind”. When Jesus began His ministry, He came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15, NKJV). With that in mind, I want to challenge you to consider how you might change your mind about the Sermon on the Mount.

The Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals. It is not about what we must do to be a Christian, but what God does once we become one (Lloyd-Jones, 1976). In other words, it is not a list of requirements for entering the kingdom of God, but a description of the life we are empowered to live as we enter in.

As we consider hearing these sayings and “doing” them, the greatest challenge we face is coming to terms with not only not being able, but also not being expected, to do them in our strength, power, intelligence, etc. This is not a high-minded spiritual concept. It is a very practical principle for life in the kingdom of God (i.e., our salvation). It is by grace (alone), through faith (alone) that we come to understand and enter God’s kingdom.

In his book, The Sermon on the Mount, Roger L. Shinn (1962) recognizes the salt and light passage as the first half of a kingdom paradox. The second is found in Matthew 6:1, 5, and 16, where Jesus warns His disciples to avoid giving charity, praying, and fasting to be seen by others. So, how is one to be light to the world and not let others see what they are doing? The resolution to the paradox is found in Matthew 5:17-20, the subject of our next lesson.

Before we go there, we must first understand Jesus’ metaphor of salt and light, which itself contains a mystery requiring our repentance (i.e., thinking differently). Doing so will also shed some light (pun intended) on Shinn’s paradox. Read the rest of this entry »

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, a spiritual amnesia set in; they no longer recognized who they were and who they were created to be. Eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil bound humankind’s ability to reason with our rebellious nature. In the process, mankind’s #1 enemy was unleashed. The carnal mind has been at enmity with God and His children ever since.

Our carnal mind, with help from Satan and the world, labors tirelessly to keep us trapped in the amnestic condition into which we are naturally born. Regrettably, Christians have not fared well of late in this regard. Many do not realize the attack continues even after we are spiritually reborn. One particularly critical battle front involves the way we think about the new life we have been promised in Jesus Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live… Galatians 2:20a

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

For whoever wants to save their life
will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Mark 8:35

As Jesus took our place in death, He must also take our place in life. Even after we become a new creature in Christ, we must lose our life to fully exist in His. Death and resurrection are not the same; they do not accomplish the same outcome. The transactions, so to speak, are different.

Even on this side of rebirth, God’s promises are conditional. We don’t get to keep our life and Jesus’, too. There is a connection that remains between the old and the new that cannot be fully severed until the new has been surrendered AND sacrificed. Read the rest of this entry »

I pray this letter finds you and yours well, and well blessed. I hope it will leave you encouraged.

Encouragement – the act of putting courage in – is truly something we all need in this season. Courage is contagious; it can be drawn from others, and it can be shared.

Let’s begin with this:

Serving the King,

That you love and admire,

Is neither burden nor responsibility;

It is opportunity and privilege.

Instruments are useless,

Until they are put to good use.

They lay in the dark drawer,

Lonely,

Until the Master selects them,

For His good work.

The most useful tools,

Are the ones placed out,

Within easy reach.

They fit the Master’s hand,

And His hand fits them.

Perhaps the greatest courage we need in this hour is to commit our way to the LORD, trusting in Him to bring to pass whatever He desires. Our hope is to be used, but we must learn to wait patiently on Him.

As this pandemic began, sequestering most of us in our homes, many I spoke with believed God was trying to get our attention, that we would draw closer to Him, for rest, reset, and renewal, in preparation for opportunities to advance His kingdom in the coming storms of this decade. Since then, the chaos of economic crisis and the lawlessness that has gripped this country have threatened to distract and draw us from God’s presence and peace.

So, we offer you this encouragement: Read the rest of this entry »

Back in 2015, we wrote a series of articles based on the theme, A Storm is Coming, eventually collecting and publishing the series as an eBook. At the time, many were preparing physically for what they expected to be an economic storm (myself included). A Storm is Coming was written to redirect our attention to the spiritual preparation Christians should be making.

What follows is a reconstruction of one of the first articles in the series. It is offered as a reminder that preparation is necessary for those who will be used by God during the chaos that lies before us. As the chaos intensifies, we must be diligent to avoid worldly distractions (Colossian 3:2), that we might focus on participating with God as He works in us to will and to do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).

It’s the Same, but Different

We must recognize that the spiritual preparation we are talking about is something we, as Christians, should have been doing anyway. There is nothing new under the sun. The church today is suffering in many of the same ways it has suffered over the past 2000+ years (e.g., division, apathy, worldliness). The solutions, though daunting, are unchanged (e.g., surrender, die to self, love God and love others, sacrifice, serve).

However, there are least two things that are different for the church during this season. First, there is a growing urgency. Whether from those that sense a storm is coming, or from those that have experienced the slow but growing decline of the church’s influence in society, those that will take their heads out of the sand and truly consider the situation will sense the growing urgency. Read the rest of this entry »

This article is the third in a series based on the assumption that God is after something, He is doing something to get what He is after, and He is willing to tell us everything that we need to know for our participation. God is using this time of chaos (like so many others) to prepare His children for a season of opportunity that will be exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.

Conditions can be viewed in two opposing ways. We can consider them as responsibilities forced upon us for some desired outcome, or as opportunities for reward. Our mindset in this regard has a great deal to do with our relationship and interaction with the one setting the conditions, as well as our response to them.

A classic example is our view of labor for income. Those who appreciate labor as an opportunity to earn income enjoy their work and make better employees. Persons who feel their labor is forced on them are generally disgruntled workers, slaves to their jobs.

In regards to God’s conditions for His promised blessings, this is another battleground with our carnal mind. At enmity with God, the mind of our flesh would have us perceive and relate to God as oppressor. This is a mindset that must be cast down (2Corinthians 10:5).

The Father’s good pleasure is to give us His kingdom (Luke 12:32). His desire is for a people who will surrender to His reign, welcome His habitation, and enjoy the intimacy of His presence. Recognizing our weak estate, our loving Father has graciously and lavishly provided motivation for pursuing what He is after. Read the rest of this entry »

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