“Haters Gonna Hate” or “Seek First the Kingdom”

Dear Andrea,

Some fellow Christians I know and love have said critical things about Christians having their own “Christianese” language, their own books and movies,  their own methods for finding a spouse, etc. They accuse fellow believers who try to live according to the Word and defy the ways of our secular culture of living in a bubble and can be so harsh and condemning. It is hurtful and confusing when Christians say such things. What should I do?

Yours,

Gentle Reader

Dear Gentle Reader,

Christians having their own Christian culture isn’t wrong. In fact, the Bible says we are a holy nation, citizens of spiritual Israel, and we should live like it. We are called to forsake the culture of the Children of Darkness and walk as Children of the Light. The Word warns us also that the Children of Darkness sometimes falsely claim to be Christians. You can spot such wolves in sheep’s clothing and their disciples by the fact they call themselves  our brothers but openly hate us, lack the fruits of the Spirit, and walk in darkness, that is, they wallow in indisputable, textbook sins without any twinge of conscience.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing have blasphemed the Holy Ghost in their hearts and put themselves beyond redemption.  Don’t regard your friends as that sort unless you’ve heard them blaspheme the Holy Spirit with their own lips  and/or have discerned Holy Spirit confirming it as such souls are beyond help and are abusive to the citizens of Heaven. Once God exposes a wolf, maintain minimum safety clearances unless God personally directs you otherwise.

The Bible tells us to remove known wolves from the local church so they don’t poison the whole body, but we must leave them alone otherwise. Our brothers who’ve been taken captive by the enemy may look a lot like them, and we don’t want to mistakenly shoot our own brainwashed POWs.

So assume they’re POWs being brainwashed into attacking their own country and pray for them to have their eyes opened and their hearts convicted that they should be Citizens of Heaven first and allow the Holy Spirit to both reveal to them and assimilate them into the culture of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now, there are three basic problems with Christians and Culture:

1) We remain so separate from the mainstream cultures of the various nations our people have dual citizenship in, we have no contact with outsiders.

This is the problem the enemy gets the above POWs focused on. He distorts it in an attempt to keep them from allowing God to fully assimilate them into the Kingdom of Heaven, a tactic that renders the victim ineffective at best.

2) We’re so assimilated into the mainstream cultures of the nations of our earthly citizenship, those who don’t have dual citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven can’t tell that we do.

All Christians who weren’t raised by parents already fairly assimilated in the Kingdom of Heaven suffer this problem at their rebirth. Even Christians raised in the Kingdom from their physical birth who remain in it have their blind spots where they’re not really in line with Kingdom ways, but think they are. None of us are off the hook here, in terms of the lesser degrees of this extreme. If we’re prone to problem 1), Satan attempts to distract us by tempting us to focus on this one. I’m afraid I have direct personal experience with that.

3) We treat outsiders like they should of course be in the know on Christians’ language, traditions, values, beliefs, and expect them to know and adhere to the rules of a Kingdom they haven’t been born into.

This is another problem Satan wants us to focus on, but he doesn’t mind if we’re guilty of it in our own way, so long as we only take issue with others’ ways of messing up here. His end goal is to get us to accept the deceitful “solutions” he offers us that again at best will neutralize us as a threat to him.

The truth is, when a non-Christian steps into a Christian’s space, they should feel like they’ve crossed over an international border and entered a foreign country, as they sort of have. The Kingdom of Heaven is wherever its citizens abide. However, we should always be kind and respectful to strangers and help them navigate our peculiar, foreign land as best as we know how.  To convince them to become citizens of Heaven and embrace life in our culture, they need to feel welcomed, but they also need to see a clear difference between our way and the way they’ve already got and be shown, through our testimonies of what God has done for us, proof that God’s way works where theirs doesn’t.

Our concepts of love and right and wrong are extremely different from our enemies’ concepts,  though, and some Children of Darkness are hardened past the point of redemption. No matter what we do, “Haters  gonna hate “ if we’re seeking first the Kingdom of God that we’re naturalized citizens of. So let us learn to rejoice and be glad when we suffer for the Kingdom’s sake, for God will reward us  greatly, and restore to us in full everything we lost for Christ’s sake.

Rise and Walk

It’s time to stop living under a cloud of shame because you’re damaged goods. It’s true that sin has damaged you, but what the devil isn’t telling you is that everyone is damaged goods. We’ve all been damaged by sin of some sort, and only one sin is unforgivable, blasphemy of the Holy Ghost, which comes from a seared conscience and a hardened heart. If you’re feeling shame, you haven’t committed the unpardonable sin. So kick Satan to the curb already. Confess to the Lord that what you did was wrong, ask him to forgive you, accept that you are forgiven and that your sins have been washed away in the blood of the Lamb, get up, and walk in faith and victory, according to the Spirit at work within you, transforming you into God’s perfect image and clothing you in Christ’s righteousness.

I have no idea who this is for, and what put a fire under me had nothing to do with you. If you feel like it was meant for you, though, or otherwise were blessed and wish to follow up with me, please don’t hesitate to comment or contact me privately.

Are We Sons or Slaves?

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything,  but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children,were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law,  so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:1:7)

To an extent, the answer to the question “Are we sons or slaves?” may at first be fairly considered to be “Yes.” The bible uses both the imagery of slavery and adoption in reference to our relationship with God. Trouble is, we come across passages like this, which state explicitly that we are either slaves or we’re sons and cannot be both at the same time. So how do we make sense of the passages which use slavery imagery?

Let’s go back to the beginning of the Galatians passage:  ” the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave.” Though we are adopted as sons by God, slavery metaphors can still be apt so long as we’ve not fully matured and received our full inheritance in God’s kingdom.

In this passage, Paul is speaking to Christians who’d been swayed by Judaizers who were insisting converting to Judaism and keeping the Jewish law was necessary for salvation along side the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. In reality, Christ fulfilled the Jewish law on the cross and we must trust Christ alone for salvation. That was what Paul was gunning after. He viewed Jews who refused to accept Christ, and the Christians who taught that we have to also practice Judaism,  as behaving like sons who refused to grow up, put away the things of childhood, and accept the freedoms and responsibilities of adulthood.

In another sense, though, no Christian on this earth is a fully mature saint since the fall has corrupted/damaged both our software (spirit) and our physical hardware (body.)  We won’t fully come into our own as God’s children until we physically die and awake in  the new bodies we’ll receive in Heaven.

Christ died to save us from our sins, free us and make us sons–both men and women have the full rights of inheritance and freedom that only sons had when the Bible was penned. However, Christ did tell us, if we love him, we’ll obey him. God yearns for  his children to obey him freely out of love and trust, not fear and obligation. Only obedience  from a grateful heart that sincerely desires to please him more than ourselves or anyone else and is acting freely rather than under compulsion is pleasing to the Lord.

Let’s remember also why “love” should motivate us to “obey.”  If we are in Christ, Christ is in us.  Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost. He experiences everything we experience. When we mistreat ourselves or someone else and suffer the consequences, God suffers them right along with us, and what God declares righteous or sin isn’t arbitrary, it’s based upon 1) how he designed creation to operate and 2)  his personality/tastes.  When we sin, we either bring bad things on ourselves and others due to violating how the world is supposed to work, or we’re doing something he finds disgusting, and usually it’s both. Whenever Christians sin,  we’re hurting God.

What is more amazing, though? That the one being who has the right to be above the law chose to be born under it and thus subjected himself to it, or that he who knew no sin willingly endures  experiencing all of our sins  right along with us while he repairs us?

Lord, you are amazing. Thank you for freeing us from slavery and adopting us as your own children. Thank you for the work you are doing in our lives to restore us to reflect your righteousness as you intended us to from the beginning.  Open our eyes to the ways in which we are grieving your spirit and causing you pain. Give us the strength to love you enough to turn from anything that hurts you. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Pray With Me For Revival

Lord have mercy upon all who read this. Draw us closer to you today. Purify our hearts. Fill us with peace, joy, patience, faith, and courage. Empower us to walk in your wisdom, your love, and for more of your righteousness to manifest in our lives today according to the working of your grace. In the hour of temptation, show us the source of the influence that is not in accordance with who you intend for us to be. Remind us of the truth and prompt us to resist the evil influence, to take captive and refute any lying thought, and honestly lift up to you any new emotional toxins that manifest. We thank you for hearing us and for your work in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Mercy, Peace, and Repentance

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:76-79

John the Baptist’s father Zechariah is prophesying over his newborn son about the Baptist’s ministry. That the Baptist was the forerunner of the messiah who prepared the way before him is something any Bible literate person knows. That his ministry and message were noticeably similar to the prophets of old may not be so familiar, but what stood out to me is why. John was called to raise awareness of the need for salvation and the availability of it via the forgiveness of sins. Indeed, the central message of John’s ministry—and Christ’s own first sermons—was to repent, to strive to cease doing evil and replace it with good.

On the lips of believers today, the message of repentance that God spoke through Jesus, John, and the Old Testament prophets of old is condemned as hateful, legalistic, intolerant, and divisive by the world and Christians taken captive by the world. If we don’t consider what John the Baptist actually preached, we can miss here what giving people knowledge of salvation and forgiveness of sins looked like for John. If we do, we’ll also miss the reason God gives here for sending John to preach, “you’re going to burn unless you forsake your evil ways, come to the water of repentance and new life, and get your sins washed away by the blood of the Lamb.”

God cites his motives for sending out anyone to preach repentance being not judgment, hatred, and division, but the loving, compassionate mercy that brings us the literal sunrise and the “Sunrise” of Jesus, who came to offer the light of life and truth to those dying in the darkness of sin (all of us at one time.) Not only that, this message calls everyone to forsake the sin that truly brings division and warring and let God grow his righteousness in us.

At the same time, those who are in the light cannot live fully at peace with those in the darkness. We can try to respectfully work and live in harmony with those who don’t have God’s grace at work in them and aren’t repentant and allowing God to change their ways, but that will inevitably become like unequally yoked oxen. The strong oxen pulls the weak oxen the way the strong wants to go. If the captive to sin can accept working with us within our boundaries, that’s one thing. More often, though, we will be the ones who forsake seeking to please God and instead seek to please the world, often on excuses of love, peace, duty, or evangelism. True, there will be times when holding true to your convictions will bring strife and division no matter how respectful and kind you are about it, but that’s why the Bible adds “as much as lies within you” to “live at peace with all men.”

Peace with God should be our number one priority. Anything less is idolatry and spiritual adultery. God wants there to be peace on Earth and good will between humans, too, and it breaks his heart when people who live in darkness forsake him and they or the circumstances demand that we choose between their way and God’s way and hence between living at peace with God and living at peace with them. It should break ours, too, but God still requires to be first place in our lives. Remember, Jesus himself warned us that following him would separate us from the world and bring strife and animosity between the adopted children God has freed from our former bondage and those still enslaved to sin and the evil one.

Lord, give us the wisdom, discernment, and grace we need to walk in your ways and repent of evil. Give us the courage to hold fast to the beliefs and convictions you have taught us from your word. Help us to be respectful, kind, and sincerely seek the best interests of all people, including our enemies. Teach us how to deal with unbelievers and other captives to sin peaceably as much as lies within us, but without compromising to please man and returning in any degree to the slavery you’ve saved us out of. We pray also that we would not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but that we would do the work of the Kingdom boldly, in whatever way the Holy Spirit has sincerely called, empowered, and equipped us to labor.

Announcing: Christ’s Glory Books

I just went into the publishing business!

My first release is A Thirty-One Day Devotional on God’s Character (For Christ’s Glory I Seek) I have plans for at least two more in the series, if it goes well. I’ll expand into print when I can afford to.

If you’re reading this before July 13, 2012, I am having a free sale on 7/12 to celebrate. My only request is, if you pick it up for free and like it, please review it on Amazon and share the link with any friends who you think would be blessed by it. Thanks so much.

A little more about the book:

Yearning to get to know God better? Are you seeking to see him as a real person, with a real personality, without diminishing his glory by lowering him to sinful man’s level? Whet your appetite with a selection of thirty one passages of scripture with some commentary and a suggested prayer.

Do you find your spiritual life hindered? Do you struggle to come near to God and find yourself avoiding contact with him? Do you know why?

For some, the answer is a red-faced authority figure screaming and/or decking us. For others, it is a moral failing that we know is wrong and are ashamed of and have been rejected over. We may have things in our past or behaviors in our present that we’re ashamed of simply because our communities or immediate families treat us harshly. In all three cases, we fear God will deal with us the same way. We may even fear that holiness means he’ll be even crueler to us than our fellow sin-prone humans.

Whatever makes being around a holy, perfect God so painful, we instinctively avoid him, feeding ourselves on the truth of who he is can set us free. Whether you need that freedom or simply are looking to study this topic deeper, join me as we seek God’s face together.

Note this collection takes devotions from the blog, organizes them topically and revamps them with a rewrite that adds some new material. Plus it has been edited by someone besides myself and generally says things better. Consider also the experience of reading it on your kindle and spending 31 days on contemplating the Character of God and seeking him in prayer–though I’d kiss you if you read it all in one sitting the day you buy it and write me a review. O:)

If it is too late for you to get in on the free sale, to determine if the regular price of $2.99 is worth it to you, as an existing blog reader, go read the sample  and compare the introduction to Abide, Don’t Hide. Make Time for God.

If you have a non-fiction manuscript on any of the topics I handle on this blog, and we’re on the same page theologically, yes, Christ Glory Books would consider publishing your ebook through Amazon. The author would receive half the e-book’s profits from Christ’s Glory via Paypal each time Amazon paid out.  Send me a professional proposal. I’m more interested in your spiritual qualifications (mature believer, sound doctrine, spiritually gifted for and called to this sort of ministry) and your ability to write well than how large your platform is or how much education you have (though those don’t hurt.)

Feeling Like a Stalled Project God Has Shelved? For you. :)

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” — Philippians 1:6

Sometimes, when God has began a good work in us,  it seems to take forever, especially with emotional healing and overcoming all sorts of life challenges. We want an instant miracle, not a painful spiritual growth process that can have such a slow pace that it makes rush hour traffic look like its racing on a NASCAR track. We may feel like we’re getting no where and wonder if we’ve misunderstood what God wanted to do in our lives, or if God has given up on us. If what we’re struggling with is a sin, we may hope that he’ll let us into Heaven still prone to sin, or be afraid he’ll toss us into the cosmic trash.

Phil 1:6 answers: Never! God will never give up on us. Sometimes we quit on him, though, and God’s promises often have conditions. Let’s take a look at the context of this verse and what else Paul says here to his original audience, the first century Christians in the city of Philipi.

After his salutation and greetings, he tells them in verses three through five that he joyfully thanks God for them in his prayers because they have been his partners in spreading the gospel from the very beginning of his ministry. In verse seven, Paul adds that it is right for him to have such great love for them that he is sure that God will finish the work he’s begun in the Philipians. Why?

His evidence is that the Philipians have received and experienced the same grace that Paul has–and taken an active part in God’s grace. They’ve stood by him while he was imprisoned for the faith and defended and confirmed the gospel. Confirmed here means to give someone new assurance of the validity of the gospel. It corresponds with defending the gospel and is a non-violent offensive by the Church against the forces of darkness.

The text doesn’t state who the gospel is being defended against. Neither does it state who the gospel is being confirmed to. Paul is likely thinking externally. What would be visible to him is the Philippians’ defending the gospel against its human enemies and confirming it to those questioning it with open hearts. For many of us, though, what is most vital to us staying on Christ’s team until Christ is victorious is defending the gospel against the lies Satan tells us and confirming the truth of the gospel to ourselves.

Lord, we grow weary, we become impatient. Sometimes we’re tempted to give up and quit and learn to live with the brokenness or emptiness in our lives. It seemed like you’d gotten started healing us, but there have been stumbling blocks and obstacles. We’re starting to wonder if you ever really wanted to fill in this empty, broken area of our lives, or to set us free from a sin or bad habit that has hindered us emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or mentally. Thank you for this confirmation that you have started a good work in us. Thank you for your reminder that you may not do it as we imagined, but you will continue to work on us and will complete us at latest upon your return for your bride. While we wait in our present weakness, Lord, fill us with your spirit’s power, teach us how to refute the enemy’s lies and rely upon you for strength. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.