Mothers are known for their sacrificial love for their family! A mother's identity is giving, they give, then give, and continue to give hardly ever thinking of themselves. I can see how weary it can be sometimes to be a mother, or even a woman in general so much is expected of them regarding the family. They often don't feel appreciated, instead used, and often abused. I have learned over the years to be much more aware of my wife's sacrifices and try to assist her so that we carry the responsibilities of our lives equally together.
If anyone can understand the crucified life it is a woman. When Jesus was being crucified only one of his male disciples stood by His side the rest of them were women. Men often run from self-sacrifice while women embrace it! Yet, in Christ, all of His disciples are called to lay down their life. Jesus went through with the cross because He knew it was the Father's will. Nobody likes to suffer but when suffering is necessary for our loved ones we gain the strength to endure.
Many people suffer unnecessarily because they take on burdens that they were never asked by God to carry! Women should not be used and abused just because they are women and it is expected of them. Women are called equally with men to take up the cross and follow Him. The cross of Christ brings redemption, it transforms hearts, changes the world. When God is in the suffering, Glory follows! When people share suffering together that is when a whole different level of intimacy is experienced.
Jesus could have commanded a legion of angels to rescue Him from suffering but it was the will of God for Him to suffer, die, and be resurrected for the salvation of mankind. Those who are intimate with the Lord discern what suffering in life is on the path of God and which is to take us off His path. That is why in John 19:11 when Pilate told Jesus that he has the power to release him from this suffering, Jesus said "you would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above."
What this means is that unlawful suffering such as with domestic violence is not to be tolerated. It is not the suffering of the Lord, it is evil, wrong, and we are to get free of it! Yes, Jesus did no wrong, and yet had to suffer! Yet, He was called to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind. What He did was done once and for all! The suffering we are now called to endure is the suffering of laying down our lives for the better good of those whom God has placed before us. Putting their needs above our own! It is spirit-led and not flesh driven, meaning it isn't out of obligation but out of love and obedience.
If we do not discern God's will in a situation then we will base everything on what seems to be right and wrong. The problem being is things often are not what they appear to be. The world is full of deception it is all over the airwaves! We may be fighting for a cause and yet aligned more with the enemy than we are the Lord simply because we are not walking in discernment. Jesus knew despite being innocent that He was to die for the sins of mankind, so He didn't try to defend Himself when He was mocked and lied about. In some situations the right response is silence, God is at work, and He will turn everything back on the enemy's head, so, we are to just face suffering trusting God that He knows what He is doing!
When we are not healed we look through the lens of our pain and are emotionally driven rather than spirit-led. We think we are on the side of what's right but actually on the side of dead wrong. Hurting people, hurt people, and often unintentionally. It is so important that we are allowing the Lord to cut and prune the garden of our hearts daily, or we may live a lie. We will be giving, giving, giving, and for all the wrong reasons.
The crucified life is not one of being used and abused by everyone about everything, it is a life of abandonment to the will of God. In this life it brings suffering at times, yet, when God is in it, He carries the cross just like Joseph did with Jesus, and uses all things for good! When you are intimate with someone you want to share in their suffering and thus it is for true lovers of God.
The story of Cinderella is about a beautiful woman who has a jealous stepmother and stepdaughters who treat her cruelly. The Prince in the land holds a ball with the hope of finding a woman to marry. Cinderella is not allowed to go, but after everyone left, a fairy showed up and granted Cinderella the wish to go to the ball, she used her wand to create a beautiful ball gown with beautiful slippers and a carriage with a driver. The only issue is that when the clock turns twelve she needed to be home as everything the fairy created would be gone. When she went to the ballroom all eyes were on her especially the Prince who fell in love with her. The Prince danced with Cinderella and they had an unforgettable time, suddenly she realized it was close to midnight and she ran, while doing so, one of her shoes fell. The Prince found the glass shoe and told his servants to find the girl who owns the shoe. Yet, the shoe never fit any of the feet that tried them. Cinderella's stepmother locked her in the room and she cried. A mouse snuck into the stepmothers pocket got the keys to the door and placed it under the door to Cinderella, she ran down and tried the shoe on, and it was a perfect fit. The Prince had her escorted to the palace where they married and lived happily ever after.
What does this story have to do with Intimacy with God? Everything! The beautiful bride represented by Cinderella can easily get ensnared under the bondage of the Devil (wicked stepmother) and his demons (the stepdaughters), yet as we cry out to God, He sends help, Angels (mice), and the Fairy (Holy Spirit), who prepares us and makes a way for us to get out of bondage and to meet our Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. He is our perfect fit! We are the ones He has chosen to be intimate with and serve alongside Him in His Kingdom.
One thing I always tell my wife is she is my perfect fit. We may not feel perfect but He is perfect and in Him, we are perfected. He wants us to grow in a deep intimate relationship with Him, and enjoy the goodness of His Kingdom as a member of His royal family. The key to this life is found in this chapter and it can be summarized with the word "ABIDE." We must not allow our wicked stepmother, the Devil, to keep us in bondage anymore, it is time to break out of Lo-Debar and come into the Palace of God's love.
We read in John 15:1-2 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit."
The perfecting comes through the pruning, and the pruning is continual because we are called to produce more and more fruit. We are in a time of Global pruning, problems have come to the surface so we can first acknowledge them and then secondly to receive direction from God how to remove them. We are not to ignore or blame but solve! What are some of these current issues, health, systemic racism, education, police brutality, domestic violence, community disparities, elitism, spiritual immaturity, just to name a few?
As it says in John 15:5 the only way we can bear fruit is by remaining in Him, apart from Him we can do nothing and anything in our life that is not of Him needs to be cut off. Just because we do something in His name doesn't mean it is in Him. Bearing fruit means carrying His nature. If what we do doesn't reflect Him it is deadwood, and the only place it is in the fire to be burned. The pruning God is doing is removing dead works from His church many of the things we have stopped doing because of COVID 19 we are to never return too. God is simplifying His church, bringing us back to a place of intimacy. As we go back to the garden we will also regain our authority. Intimacy and authority go hand in hand. Knowledge of God without intimacy with God produces nothing but dead works. Intimacy with God produces abundant fruit.
Growing pains is a term used to describe the discomfort children go through when they are getting bigger. For God to get bigger we must allow Him to slice and dice the areas of our life that He is not pleased with. What brings glory to God as it says in John 15:8 is bearing fruit which actually proves that we are disciples. People can claim this or claim that but it is not believed unless proven. If we are truly children of God then we bear the fruit of our Father.
During this time of testing, you see how people can be so fickle, so easily moved, attitudes can shift so quickly. Throughout John 15 it says we are called to remain, to abide. In verse 10 it tells us how, "by obeying the Father's commands." The church as stressed grace so long that obedience seems to be forgotten. Grace is not the gift to get out of trouble for our disobedience. Grace is the gift to empower us to be obedient. The greatest command and the ultimate expression of love are laying down one's life (John 15:13). Jesus' death on the cross is love defined, and we are to pick up our cross daily, dying to ourselves and serving those God has placed before us which is the cross-lifestyle. Wearing a cross looks good but carrying a cross is what transforms our world.
As we grow in an abiding relationship with God, learning to remain in Him. We step into a place of deep intimate friendship where God, the Father speaks to us His hidden mysteries. There is nothing better than being a friend of God! To co-laboring with Him to see His will done. To know as it says in verse 16 that we are chosen and appointed to bear the fruit of loving others.
Yet, we must understand that this walk is not easy, and walking with the Lord will bring suffering. The world hates God and therefore hates His followers. As it says in verse 20 if He was persecuted we will too. We can not win everyone over, but one thing we are to do is give nobody an excuse for not knowing the way to salvation, for our life speaks for it in the fruit that we bear. He is our perfect Fit!
Nicodemus a religious ruler secretively went to Jesus at night because he was curious since he knew these signs he witnessed weren't possible unless God was with Him. One might think he was a coward but God moves with whatever openness we have towards Him. The key to opening people's hearts towards God especially those who are bound in religion is we must go beyond talk. Can people say that the life we live proves that God is with us?
Knowledge about God is not enough. That is why Nicodemus was not satisfied, He witnessed something more and He wanted to know more. Jesus now breaks it down, that unless one is born again they cannot see the Kingdom of God. God is a Spirit and until we are spiritually reborn we cannot enter into the King's domain. Spiritual birth is not like natural birth as Jesus explains, it is invisible, like the wind, how you know it is there is by its effects. Those who have been born again now can understand spiritual things because they have received the Spirit of God within.
In our own natural mind whatever doctrine we create about God will always be wrong. The Pharisees were those whom people turned to know about God yet when Jesus came on the scene became the enemies of God. People can do things in the name of God and yet be His biggest enemies. You can tell who is born again because their nature reflects God. As Matthew 7:16 says by the fruit you will recognize them. Nicodemus was drawn to Jesus not just from what He said but more by what He did. The demonstration of the Kingdom with signs following prove that God is with us.
One of the main characteristics of God is that of a giver. John 3:16 says God gave His only begotten son ....... Those who are born again are givers, religion is more about taking. The use the name of God to take advantage of others while those who are born again are all about giving their lives to others for their better good. God gave out of His love for us. Giving comes from selfless love, taking comes from selfish greed. Those who are born-again release love as they minister, those who are religious condemn others by their self-righteous attitude.
The latter part of John we see his disciples behaving jealous, that people are now following Jesus more than they do John. John tells them that it is his time to decrease and Jesus' time to increase. He reminded them that Jesus is the one that he preached about who was greater than he. What we can learn from this is that jealousy and being caught up in numbers is not of God but of the world. Any ministry that focuses on competing against other churches is worldly and God is not in it. We also learn that we are to draw people to Jesus not ourselves. During this pandemic if the people we lead are panicking because they are not able to meet in buildings we have done them a disservice and will be disciplined by God for being poor shepherds.
We serve a God who comes from Heaven and now resides on earth in us. The works we do and the words we speak, testify that God is true. As God leads us and we follow His spirit moves through us as it says in verse 34 without measure. It is like drinking something so good that has no bottom too it, it is the continuous more of the Lord! Life in Christ gets sweeter and sweeter as each day goes by.
If you look at the sun, s, u, n too long you lose the ability to see, but if you look at the Son, S, O, N long enough you will truly see. We cannot know who we are and what life is about without knowing the creator of it. Mankind different than all other creation was made in the very image of God, with the sole purpose of being in fellowship with Him. Until we know God intimately we are living blind. If we are going to experience what life was intended to be we must go back to the way it was in the beginning.
This new series is entitled Intimacy, with Christ revealing "In To Me, You See!" We should expect to grow in understanding our identity and learn to live in an abiding unceasing, intimate relationship with Jesus. We will be reading through the writings of John, who was called the beloved of the Lord, for he was closest to him, and wrote his books from a deeply intimate place. Let's now dive into John chapter 1.
John 1:1-5 NLT
1In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He existed in the beginning with God. 3God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
If you are married, do you remember the beginning, when you first fell in love with your spouse? Maybe you are like me, that at that time nothing else really mattered but spending time with her, time disappeared, and all I did was think, and breathe Loraine. Falling in love is such a beautiful experience, staying in love is the difficulty. Having kids, being busy with work, dealing with finances, all this tends to dampen the passion of when we first fell in love. We see in Revelations 2:4 the call to return to our first love, it is not just a word to the church of Ephesus, it is a word to all whose love has become lukewarm.
Do you remember the beginning of your relationship with God, when He revealed Himself to you? I remember when I was radically born again, I felt alive for the first time, everything changed. Now I had this overwhelming desire to know God, so I dug into the Word and I felt I wasn't reading it, but it was reading me. The bible literally is alive, a person, as we see in the book of John 1.
The Word always existed, and all things were created through Him. Life cannot be known apart from Him and whatever one thinks they know is nothing but deception, for one cannot see in the dark. Until we are born again, we are blind! The Word brings Light and Life!
We now learn about John and the Word becoming Flesh, in the person of Jesus. John's purpose was to prepare the way, which he did by preaching repentance and having it symbolized through the baptism of water. Yet, he promised that there is one coming greater than he, who will baptize with the Spirit and Fire. Jesus will transition the age from the law under Moses to the law of grace and truth under Him. He will make it possible to return to the garden and experience once again the fullness of God.
Once the ministry of Jesus began, He called others to follow Him. To receive Jesus goes beyond just believing in Him. It is like when you find the person you want to marry, you cannot just believe it, you got to act on it, you must approach the person and begin a relationship of discovering one another, eventually leading to the seal of commitment being marriage, where the two now become one. Life is no longer lived alone but in partnership with another. There is no difference in receiving Jesus we are to become one with Him. He is the head though, we are to follow Him, not He follows us. Yet, in following Him, all of our true desires will be met, our God-given destiny will be lived out.
I hope you are ready to go on this journey with me of deeper intimacy with Christ. Start by making sure you are born again, and secondly answering the call to follow Him.
Issues Series (Galatians 6)
Intro: We learned in Galatians 5 about the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. We can say we are Christians all we want but we can only follow Christ if we are in the Spirit. We can do no real good in our flesh, what seems like good has hidden impure selfish motives. Right here in Galatians 6 we see the result of being spiritual in how we approach those who are overtaken with a fault. Instead of running from them in judgement, we run to them like the Good Samaritan to help them.
THE CHARGE: Crucify the flesh daily and live out of the overflow of the Spirit.
'with the result that the Law has become our tutor and our disciplinarian to guide us to Christ, so that we may be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] by faith. ‘ Galatians 3:24
What is the true solution to the problem called sin?
'For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. ‘ Ephesians 2:8-10
It is that simple, by grace through faith we are saved if works are added then the equation is wrong and the solution is not found.
When the answer to the problem of sin is discovered we know it because fellowship with God is restored.
'And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave (bond-servant), but a son; and if a son, then also an heir through [the gracious act of] God [through Christ]. ‘ Galatians 4:6-7
Back to the Garden
Knowledge of God without a relationship with God produces nothing but dead works.
We are not called to pick from the tree of knowledge of good and evil but to walk in the Garden and pick from the tree of life.
We must return to innocence, wipe the board clean, like Paul count all our knowledge as dung.
'But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ, ‘ Philippians 3:8
We need to take off our old filthy rags and put on new garments.
'For all of you who were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union with the Christ, the Anointed] have clothed yourselves with Christ [that is, you have taken on His characteristics and values]. There is [now no distinction in regard to salvation] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you [who believe] are all one in Christ Jesus [no one can claim a spiritual superiority]. 'Galatians 3:27-28
Who would want to put on old dirty clothes when they have been given new clean ones?
'Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. ‘Galatians 4:8-10
Our ultimate desire as parents should be to see our children mature well where they can find success in life. As spiritual parents, our ultimate desire should be to see Christ formed in those we lead.
'Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. ‘Galatians 4:19
We desire our spiritual children to produce the fruit of the Spirit and not works of the flesh. Ishmael was the result of Abraham not trusting God and producing a child of the flesh. Isaac was the result of waiting on the promise of God and he was born supernaturally.
'The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia, because she and her children live in slavery to the law. But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. ‘Galatians 4:22-26
We can only walk with God who is a Spirit by the Spirit, which is not possible naturally only supernaturally.
Let us repent and drive out our Ishmael's and choose from henceforth to only produce Isaac's.
“Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.’ Galatians 4:30-31
If you are not enjoying fellowship with God, wipe the board clean, and accept the simple truth, that through grace by faith you are saved, and repent of any works you have added to the equation.
Paul addressed some major Issues throughout his letter to the Corinthians in the final chapter he doesn't have one major theme but rather some reminders and final instructions.
Taking Collections (vs. 1-4)
- Come together on the first day of the week to take collections.
- It is best to have people set some money aside week by week rather than trying to
take a huge collection all at once.
- Giving towards the needs of Jews is a way to bridge the gap for Gentiles.
Travel Plans (vs. 5-12)
- It is unwise to travel when it is dangerous unless the Lord says likewise.
- We can make our plans but God orders our steps.
- We will not always get to do what we would prefer.
- Expect wide doors to open with the opportunity for effective ministry.
- We are to assure that those we send out are treated in a respectful manner no
matter their age, cultural background, or ministerial experience.
- When there are issues such as jealousy and strife it may be best to say no to an
Final Exhortations (vs. 13-18)
- Be alert (Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour).
- Stand firm in the faith (Put on the full armor of God).
- Be courageous (do not fear or be afraid).
- Be Strong (in the Lord and the power of His might).
- Your action must be done in love (1 Cor. 13).
First impressions are very important but our final words of a conversation or letter are usually what is remembered the most. So we must take our time, pray, receive wisdom from the Lord and therefore make choice words that leave an impact. Great leadership is not the ability to draw a crowd but the enablement to move people to do the right thing.
The Corinthians were very carnal and Paul's mission was to help them turn from their stinking thinking, replacing it with truth, marked with the beauty of the nature of His love.
When one of our kids smells we tell them to hit the bathroom. When a Christian is carnal we need to tell them to hit the prayer room. The flesh is to be flushed by the power of the Holy Spirit, as it says in Romans 8:13. We have no excuses for our behavior, for Romans 8:9 says we are not controlled by the flesh but by the Spirit. What we feed is what will lead. We are what we eat! So if we want to live godly we must feed our spirit. The Spirit grows in us through the Truth that is why John 4:24 says "God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him, must do so in Spirit and in Truth. We can be saved but live like we are unsaved by neglecting our spiritual hunger for Truth. Let us not be Carnal Christians like the Corinthians but Spiritual Beings bearing the image of Christ.
20/20 Vision (Issues Series)