“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”(Rom. 5:10) When were we reconciled according to that verse? Was it when we accepted Christ into our lives? No! It was when we were still enemies that we were reconciled - before we accepted Christ! But how could reconciliation for the whole world have already occurred? It was Jesus’ death that paid the price! It has nothing to do with us. It was an agreement between the Father and the Son. Jesus came and paid the price for our sins and the Father said “accepted.” The whole world, literally, has been forgiven of their sins. However, that is not salvation.His death brought reconciliation, His life brings salvation (eternal life). If you believe God is angry and hating sinful people, it will affect your actions towards others! This is an era of reconciliation. God imputed everyone’s sins to Christ. He is not holding any of them against anyone! Yes, there will be a Judgment Day - but it’s not today! Prior to The Judgment Day, the world has the opportunity to come to the Lord now with no animosity between them and God - so that they might receive His Son. God is already at peace with all people! And since there is no animosity between the God and the world, neither should we have ANY animosity between us and them! Just love for them.
Jesus gave us one commandment: that we would love one another in the same way that He has loved us.Our love is the signpost for the world to know Jesus! Loving people is being like God. Consider this: what is the one thing we can know that the Father is doing with everyone on the planet at all times? He is loving them! Why does God not hate sinners? Isn’t He just in His judgment of sin? Of course God is completely just in the judgment of sin; God has already punished their sin!God has already forgiven the sin debt of all people, but they have to CHOOSE to receive that gift. The world is just one step away from all the blessings of God in their life - and that is to receive salvation. This is the New Covenant and it is based on one single commandment and that is to love! You cannot love parents and hate their children. If you want to have the greatest relationship with God, the greatest joy, the fullness of God in your life, you can do it by loving other people! Throw off judgment - it is none of our business! It’s taken care of - God’s got it! All we have to do is love!
Trust in God, not Money (part 2)
In order to understand God’s perspective about money we need to be spiritually minded and not carnally minded. So, here is the Biblical view about money in one statement: Money isn’t the issue; trust is. “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mk. 10:24) Money doesn’t give you significance. There is only ONE PLACE that TRUE significance comes from - it’s from service. God will give you more and more as long as we prove to be good stewards with what He has given us. “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” (Mt. 25:21) Remember that "finances" is not the big thing. It is actually the training wheels that God uses to teach His children to trust in Him.The tithe is the first rung on the latter. Giving is the second rung on the latter, but God has so much more for His children! He uses money to teach us. God has true riches for us that are far better than money! (Lk. 16:11)
Being Known by God (Part 5)
God doesn’t want a one-way relationship with you. He wants us to be known by Him, but being known by God is not a relational auto-pilot experience.One of the keys to being known by God is we have to have time with Him. The Lord wants to have a thing, a special thing, with you. He doesn’t want the new testament believers to stand back from His presence while one believer is in front of the Lord face-to-face. The face-to-face relationship is available for each of us! One of the best ways for God to get to know you is that He will ask you questions. When God asks you questions, He invites you to discover the answers with Him. The process of discovering answers with God actually causes you to own the answers once you’ve received them. God will ask us questions but He wants us to ask Him questions too! When you read the Word, ask God questions about what you are reading! God also wants the experiences that you have day-to-day to provide opportunities to develop understanding of Kingdom principles … but in order to develop that understanding, you need to ask “why.” When you seek the Lord in your day-to-day life He develops understanding - because you have been crying out for understanding. (Prov. 2:1-7) You literally become a pillar of understanding that people flock to in order to hear what you’ve heard from the Lord. This understanding comes from asking Him questions! When you ask Him questions, it invites Him to be a teacher in your life. And what a blessing it is to you and others when you are His student!
Being Known by God (Part 4)
Our relationship with God is a two-way street, but you do not want to be the foundation of your walk with God. He’s the Rock, not us! Being known by God is wonderful, but it is not a relational auto-pilot experience. As it relates to our personal relationship with Him, God, Our Father, as omniscient as He is, generally chooses to make Himself dependent upon our invitation to be known by Him. We have to invite Him in! Allowing God to ask us questions is a great way for Him to get to know us. The Lord’s questions in our life cause us to reflect or self-assess. The Lord's questions will also challenge us, test us, and encourage or draw out our faith. Great teachers ask transformative questions. When God asks you questions, it causes you to own the answer. God’s questions invite us to be a student. And then our questions invite Him to be a teacher.
Being Known by God (Part 3)
If you are one who follows Christ, there are two central things that you do: you hear His voice and He knows you. (Jn. 10:27) When you hear God’s words, you Know Him; when God hears your words, He knows you. If you want to be known by God, the first thing you should do is to ask Him to know you! The reason David was so well known by God was because David had asked God to know Him! (Ps 139:23-24) "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." When the Israelites were in the wilderness Moses pitched a tent outside the camp where people could go to meet with God. This is a key point in knowing “how to be known by God”: go on dates with God. He wants you to have your own thing, your own history with Him! He does not want you to somehow become vicariously satisfied in living through someone else’s intimacy with Him. God wants to know you personally. Talk with the Lord. He wants to make history with you!
“But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Mt. 7:14, NLT) When we think that the road is supposed to be easy we are set up for disappointment and a lack of staying power. The path to experiencing true life here on earth is going to be difficult. (Jn. 16:33) But, the life you really want is down that difficult path! Pain is inevitable, but gain is optional. When we run away from the difficulties of life, life is hard. When we press into the difficulties of life, life is easy. When we stop frantically trying to preserve our lives (avoid pain) there will be nothing that we are afraid of! The result of pressing into seeing change in our hearts is that good things begin to happen! Change is hard, but we are not alone. We can invite a truth teller, someone who believes in you, to start speaking into your life so that they can push us beyond our own limitations. And we can invite the one will "never leave us nor forsake us" into every difficult place as well. Lean into the squeeze, the difficulty, the struggle, and you are going to find zoe life on the other side of it!
Who is the Lord? What's on His resume? One thing God says very plainly about Himself is that He is love! (1 Jn. 4:8) So if God is love, you can find the word "God" and replace it with love in order to gain more insight into His nature. Look at 1 Cor. 13. "Love is patient." So, God is patient! We also see there that God is kind, not envious, and never fails! We see that "Love" formed the world! (Gen. 1) and that we were knit together in our mother's womb by Love Himself! (Ps. 139) Love is much more concrete than we may think. God loves us in a sacrifical, giving way as is perfectly evidence by the Lamb of God - slain before the foundation of the world so we can spend all eternity experiencing and discovering His great love for us!
In 1988, while waiting at a stoplight, a truck Christopher was driving was plowed into from behind. After the collision the truck was not in terrible shape because the other car had rammed into the large, steel lift gate on the back of the truck. Christopher tried to shake it off too. But, about 6 months after the collision,he started waking up in the middle of the night unable to feel his arms. He also started having neck pain and lower back pain around the same time. The back pain got progressively worse through the years such that every few months it would flair up and the back pain would be so debilitating that he couldn't stand up and even at times could not get out of bed.
About 23 years later (2011) Christopher started attending Agathos. During that season we were focusing on praying for people with back pain but Christopher never felt like he qualified to "stand up for prayer" because his back usually wasn't hurting a lot at that exact moment. That fall, Christopher went on a men's retreat. On the drive back from the retreat, two other guys from church and him were talking about the power of prayer. So, Christopher said "I always have back pain but I never have it when it's time to pray." One of them encouraged Christopher "don't let that stop you from claiming the promise or getting that healing!" The other said "why don't we just pray for you right now?" Christopher grew up around prayer and "knew about laying on of hands and seeing people healed" but "expecting it (healing) is a completely different thing." Christopher was not having a "flair up" but was experiencing his normal, low-level back pain. The second the two guys touched him and started praying, Christopher INSTANTLY stopped hurting! Christopher thought "that was cool, but it is not unusual for the pain to come and go" so literally while they were praying for him he was shifting in his seat to see if he could make the pain come back. The pain did not come back!!! That was in 2011. He had the back pain since 1988. It is now 2016. It has not come back!!!
Now, it is worth noting that over the normal course of life (in late 2015) Christopher started feeling some pain come up in his lower back. He said to himself "this can't be because God healed me!" He literally got angry and said "the devil is NOT going to steal my testimony!" "I am not giving up that victory and I am not letting that go!"
Trust in God, not Money
We see in Mark 10:17-27 that the issue isn’t money. It’s trust; WHERE is your and my trust? We think our trust is in God but sometimes we need to pull aside, get off the highway of life and consider our heart. God is there, at the deepest depths of our hearts, ready to undo and straighten out anything that needs undone or straightened out! We make adjustments in our hearts by meditating in God’s Word. Ask yourself the hard questions. “What do I actually think about money? Really.” There is NO problem AT ALL in having money. The problem is in letting money have you. If there is a problem about money in your heart, don’t be afraid of it, but instead take it to God and let God work the solution in your heart. He is faithful to do it!
Being Known by God (Part 2)
Who, according to Jesus follows Him? People that hear His voice and people that He knows! Knowing God and being known by God is a 2-way street, a 2-way relationship. How can we be known by God? We see in Ps. 139 that David was known by God because he asked God to know Him! We see in Genesis 3 (from the story of Adam and Eve) that while God always knows all things, we can still choose to hide ourselves from Him relationally. In other words, as it relates to our relationship with Him, our omniscient Father generally chooses to make Himself dependent upon our invitation to be known by Him. We see from Ps. 138:6 that God develops deeper relationship with those who have a humble, honest heart towards Him. Finally, we see in James 4:8 that we can be known by God by drawing near to Him. And praise God, we have access by faith to do just that! (Rom. 5:1-2)
Being Known by God (Part 1)
Paul, perhaps the greatest discipleship story of all time, had given up all of his personal righteousness, all the standing he had as a Pharisee for one reason, for one thing . . . in his own words, “that I may know Him.” (Phil. 3:10) That’s the ONE THING - to know Him! Knowing Him is one thing, but what does it mean to be known by God? God doesn’t respond to “a lot of words”. God responds to honest words. We see that with Abraham, Moses, and David . . . God chooses to empower those whom He knows! We see in Mt. 7:21-23 that being known by God is an expected aspect of salvation! We see in 1 Cor. 8:3 that we actually love God by allowing Him to know us! Finally we see in Jn. 10:27 that being known by God is the other half, the cooperating partner to knowing Him!
The How and Why of Tithing
When we understand the heart of tithing, we see that it is literally beautiful and exciting! Grace makes tithing work! “Grace is God’s willingness to use His power and His ability on our behalf.” Luke 6:38 speaks to God giving grace to the giver! Tithing WORKS because God gets involved with it! Without God, tithing is impossible, “but with God ALL things are possible!” In Deut. 26 we see what God told Moses to write down about “how” to tithe. There is a specific celebration (or ceremony) around the tithe that God wants you and I to get involved in every time we tithe - similar to how there is a ceremony around communion. In summary, this is how we tithe: (1) We remember our deliverance. (2) We worship God and not Mammon. (3) We rejoice in all that He’s given us. (4) We call upon the blessing. That’s how we tithe!
Our walk with God is a relationship. His relational invitation is always there. We can press in and choose to come before Him and into His presence! The presence of God is the source of everything – THE foundation to build on top of! Solomon asked for wisdom from God, but David asked for God Himself. God speaks to us through dreams. When we have a dream from the Lord we should stop, write it down, ponder it, and ask “Father, what are you trying to say to me?” We have the ability to receive and interpret dreams if we pay attention to them! In Acts 3:18-21 we see that God is restoring ALL things in Christ in this time. Looking at the prophetic declarations in the Old Testament about the Final Restoration of all things in Christ helps us see what God is doing in this hour!
What is the Tithe and Where Do We Tithe? Part 2
God is not opposed to us possessing things - at any level; He is opposed to the things possessing us. Knowing God’s mindset about money is the bedrock to our financial house. The foundation of our financial house is the tithe. Tithing is in fact NOT from the Law; the tithe is a principle of God that has existed from the beginning. Tithe literally means 1/10 or 10% and it actually belongs to God. (Lev. 27:30) God directs us to bring our tithe to the temple (church). Tithing is not just God's practical plan for His church but it is also an act of faithful obedience that invites God's blessing and protection over our finances. Tithing keeps us in a place of gratitude, delivers us from the spirit of Mammon and is another beautiful way to worship the Lord!