The Desire To Control!

“Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the Gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No, We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:1,5, 7-11)

The tendency within mankind’s heart to control others has always been prevalent, but even more so in those who claim to know Jesus. This is one of the reasons why Believers–those who believe the work on the Cross and the Divinity of Jesus Christ–must know for themselves the plan of God for all men and women.

When we are in relationship with God and know and understand His Word–we won’t allow anyone to hogtie us to traditions and rituals that by themselves mean absolutely nothing. That is not to say that all traditions and rituals are worthless, but we must check our motivation for doing certain things, especially if we think they have any power to save us. We are saved by grace and that by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing we do–no observance of ritual or tradition–can save us–other than believing that Jesus rose from the dead, after being made the sacrifice for the atonement of sin. We repent of our sins–turn away from them and allowing them to control us–and allow Holy Spirit to guide us in all things. He does not “take control” of us; we must give Him control and when we do, we will see the blessings of God in our lives.

Notice how we are told that “certain people” started a campaign to control others and then how the Pharisees (those supposedly now Believers) also wanted to control the new converts. We are not told who the certain people were, but we can guess these were the “religious” sect that converted, but wanted to hold onto to the Law–not fully understanding “grace” because their hearts did not fully belong to God.

Peter reminds them–“God knows their hearts” referencing the Gentiles and He had no thought to keep them in bondage to a law that Jews could not and had not kept. Funny, how no one likes to be reminded of their shortcomings and they all became silent. This reminded me of those who wanted to stone the woman supposedly caught in the “act of adultery” but no man was brought to judgment with her. After Jesus reminded them that all had sinned, they dropped their rocks and left–not one stone being hurled at the woman.

But perhaps a more important lesson gleaned from this chapter of Acts is the fact that the Believers met to discuss what was going on and decided upon a course of action. No one person made a determination as to how they should proceed, but the group as a whole made the decision. “Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (call Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the Believers.” (Acts 15:22 NIV)

Are we choosing men and women who are leaders among us or are we simply allowing one or two people to control the masses and making messes of what should be an environment conducive to all to learn how to live, pleasing God, not man? Do we pray and ask God’s directions for all we do in the church or do we allow others to control what we do? Do we seek God’s directions to make decisions in our homes and everywhere else?

We ought to always pray and seek God’s directions in order to stay on the path He desires us to travel and never allow any one person–to control what we do. For when that happens, they become dictators and we become puppets–dancing to their dictates, instead of living our best lives–guided by Holy Spirit.

Let those with their religious spirits control themselves before trying to control others. Allow Holy Spirit to guide all matters and know that we cannot err when we do.

When Holy Spirit Resides Within, The Evidence is Clear!

“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38,39 NIV)

When Peter reminded those listening to him about Jesus–the Savior who came and was crucified for their sins–they wanted to know–what could they do to be saved. And this was Peter’s response–the same as John’s cry in the wilderness–“repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin and receive the gift of Holy Spirit.”

During a conversation yesterday with a friend, we were talking about why Believers say, they cannot give up vile habits. She said she didn’t understand why folks who claimed to be filled with the Holy Spirit cannot stop smoking (or doing other things that would impact their bodies negatively). Although it is not our job to determine who has been filled or not–when we don’t see any evidence of being filled–self discipline and control–we can draw certain conclusions about the validity of what a person says.

None of us have the power–in of ourselves–to do anything worthwhile. It is truly through the power of Holy Spirit that we can do all things and do them well. We can stop cussing and being ignorant. We can stop smoking (I’m not saying smoking is a sin; it’s just stupid to do something that kills you). We can stop deliberately living a lifestyle that opposes God’s Word–if in fact, we are being led by Holy Spirit. When we see people doing these things and they “say” they are filled with Holy Spirit, it makes me wonder, if they’re listening.

Now, Holy Spirit does not “make us do” anything. He speaks to us–saying only what God says, and convicts us when we are not doing what we’re supposed to do. Many may not listen and then say what they can’t do, but it’s not a matter of what they cannot do; it’s a matter of what they don’t want to do. “We can do all things through Him who strengthens us” when we listen to Holy Spirit.

When people won’t repent and stop doing those things that are not good for them, it’s because of their desires to do them. No one–absolutely no one–who is filled with and led by Holy Spirit–would even want to light up a cigarette, drink themselves into a stupor, get high drugs, commit murder, lie, steal, or engage in sexual immorality. If they do these things, they are grieving the Holy Spirit and He will not dwell in an unclean temple. So, though they might have once been filled–when He leaves–He’s gone and it is truly unfortunate when a person doesn’t even know–they booted Him out and they know longer have His guidance.

The evidence of Holy Spirit residing within us is quite simply–love, joy, peace, forbearance (refraining from doing something), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Notice that the first criteria or evidence we see is “love” (if we don’t love self, we cannot love anyone else) and the last is “self-control” (allowing Holy Spirit to lead us in all things). If none of this evidence is present in our daily lives, we cannot say we are filled with and led by Holy Spirit (and tell the truth). 

Actually, no Believer should ever have to say anything about being filled Holy Spirit. Everyone looking at us or listening to us should know by our deeds and words who is leading us. This does not mean that we have reached perfection, but we recognize when we have erred and repent quickly, allowing Holy Spirit to guide us.

If we haven’t repented–we need to do so–and be filled and allow Holy Spirit to take control of our lives. When we hear Him and respond, others will see the evidence of His dwelling within us and we don’t have to say anything.

Perseverance in Faith Just To Hear, “Well Done!”

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6,7 NIV)

When we’re feeling a little put upon with the burdens of the world, persecuted for our faith in God and what He says, we can review what Peter is saying to the new Christians and know our suffering is not in vain. Now, according to Peter, the trials come to establish and prove our genuine faith–a faith worth more than gold–in all God says and we stand firm on The Word. When Jesus returns–there will be a celebration of our determination to stand firm in our faith, resulting in praise, glory, and honor–standing before Him and hearing–“Well done my faithful servant.” I can hear Him now! Hallelujah!

All that I’ve done will be judged and just the thought of knowing I can hear those words, makes me want to do and be better about everything I do in the name of The Lord! I can look forward to seeing Him–face-to-face–without fear of what He’s going to say. What a wonderful feeling! Knowing that I will eventually hear–well done–makes dealing with the trials of life more palatable.

Here is an answer for the naysayers about the “whys” of God. He has a purpose for everything that Believers go through and within His purpose, grace and mercy will abound and see us through the trials so we will praise Him. Jesus told us–The Believers–that in the world, we would have trials and persecutions, but not to worry because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).

Being an overcomer is not necessarily an easy task, but it is a worthwhile venture. We are all overcomers–we stand in faith upon what God says and will not be deterred by popular opinion or political correctness–and because of our stance, many will deride and belittle our faith, but glory to God, let them–they too shall have their just reward. Thank You, Lord for helping us to stay in position for victory, no matter how tiresome or weary the battle is for we know--we are more than conquerors in all things and You have already defeated the enemy who influences those who are slaves to their flesh. Hallelujah!

A Friend’s Love!

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (I Peter 2:11,12 NIV)

When Peter writes this letter to Believers–especially to those who are new to the faith–his greeting lets people how he views them–friends.

When we write a letter to a friend (I know–strange concept huh), how do we greet them? Dear______! What’s more important is how we treat them. Do we love them enough to tell them the truth or do we simply keep quiet and let them fall by the wayside of life?

Peter urges all to abstain–don’t give into–from sinful desires which engage our spirits with our fleshly drives. We can do it. We have Holy Spirit to give us strength to fight off the urges of the flesh which desires those things that are not good for us. Sometimes, in order to fight that fight–we have to remove ourselves from certain environments or people to make sure we are not enticed or led astray. Those who deliberately lead another astray–away from doing what is right–are not friends, they are fiends–tools of the devil.

We are to live the good life that God has planned for us–doing what is right no matter what others think or say. In fact, we are told to do to keep doing what is right or saying what is right to the extent that those who find fault with us, will soon acknowledge that we are indeed messengers of God and live according to His Divine Plan for us. When they see us not caving to gain favor of others, but living to please God, they will be convinced and some will change their ways because of what they see in us–the love of God shed abroad in our hearts–filled to overflowing onto others! Hallelujah!

Are you a friend that loves enough to tell your friends the truth? Do you love your friends enough to live God’s Best Life for you in front of them? Do you love your friends enough to be a living letter of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Dear Friends,

I love you enough to always pray for you–that you’ll understand why I do what I do and say what I say–in agreement with God’s Word–so that I will spend eternity with you in heaven and together, we will glorify God at the foot of His throne. I love you enough to back you up in all the good you do and to admonish you when I see you going astray. I love you enough to always tell you the truth, even though the truth may sting for a moment. I love you enough to be there when you need me, always ready to listen and to encourage you to do things God’s way!

Love, your friend in Jesus!

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner?

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Peter reminds every born-again believer to stay alert clear-headed so we’ll know when we see the enemy at work. He identifies our enemy as “the devil”–the one who was thrown out from heaven–the one who was and is angry with God for creating us out of love (his creation was for function–the singing angel)–the one who has determined within himself to destroy all of mankind, by any means possible and he’s succeeding–at least with those who are not paying attention.

The devil prowls-stalking those who seem befuddled and who stumble at the least bit of adversity and are not operating with a clear mind.

The devil roars–making enough noise to drown out a person’s ability to hear God clearly and what God is saying and unfortunately, many are listening to the roar that drowns the still, small voice of Holy Spirit, who is trying to protect us, but we do not hear.

The devil devours–with some people, he simply swallows them up whole–those who have never believed God, the work on the cross, or in the Risen Savior.  With others, he eats hungrily, ravenously, because he can’t get enough of the gullible and fearful and every time he devours someone, he is strengthened in his resolve to have us all for either breakfast, lunch or dinner. He seeks a weakness in our character and speaks to our minds, influencing thoughts and what we continue to think about we will eventually act upon and then once he has convinced us to live outside the safety net of those who are preaching and teaching The Word in Truth, he pounces–blinding eyes from seeing Truth and Light, and stopping up ears from hearing truth, tearing us from limb to limb and then he sits–only for a moment, licking his chops, enjoying the havoc and chaos, he’s created and when he has fully digested us, he moves onto the next person.

And this is why we–Born-Again Believers–must always be suited up, ready for battle–with our heads and hearts protected from the onslaught of negativity and rebellion fueled by the devil. Now, we’ve already been told what to look for so we can recognize the devil at work: he lies, steals, kills, destroys, and is a master of deception.  When we know The Word, have an intimate Relationship with the Father and Hear Holy Spirit when He speaks, we will never be food on the devil’s dinner table–we are neither breakfast, lunch nor dinner, for we are fully persuaded and convinced, no weapon (none of the devil’s attempts to cause us to fall) formed against us shall ever prosper!

Remember–the weapons we use are not carnal–man’s creation, but spiritual and they are more than capable of bringing down strongholds and overthrowing wickedness in high places. Stand tall, in full armor, with the shield of faith and The Word as sword–at the ready and move forward–knowing the battle is not ours; it is the Lord’s and we win–victory in Jesus!

Why Faith in God? Part 5

“One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” (Romans 14:2 NIV) “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (I Corinthians 5:7 NIV) 

Notice what Paul has observed and discusses about an individual’s faith. One person has enough faith to eat anything–probably because they ask God’s blessing upon the food before they eat it, but another–who does not have faith to eat those foods which have supposedly been forbidden (various types of meat), they will only eat vegetables.

We are no longer under The Law with its restrictions and limitations and we know this because of what we’re told in Acts regarding Peter–who staunchly attempted to hold the gentiles to Jewish Law. Remember the dream? (Acts 10) At any rate, what we learn from this is that nothing God has blessed is forbidden to us. We can eat anything–pork, beef, lamb, fish and seafood of all kinds–for nutrition, as long as we ask God to bless everything we eat. A number of people have long, drawn out blessings for food, but mine is simply, “Lord bless the food and my tummy, too.” And then, I eat–my candy bar, pie, vegetables, seafood, whatever is sitting before me and know that nothing in the food will harm me and my stomach will not be upset by it. That’s exercising faith. Note, I am not advocating people eat things they know that causes them an allergic reaction. Please don’t mix faith with foolishness. I know I cannot eat watermelon because of my body’s reaction to it, so I don’t eat it. Exercise wisdom in all things.

However, for those who have not arrived as yet to exercise that kind of faith--they eat what they have faith to eat–and their  faith, works for them (“According to your faith, be it unto you.”). And since so many people have delicate digestive systems, they need to eat accordingly in order not to get sick or stay sick. This is wisdom, not a lack of faith.

Now, we live by faith–not needing to see things before we believe it. We do it all the time. We have faith that our cars will start when we turn the key in the ignition, without seeing how the ignition system works. We have faith that the chair we sit on will hold us without inspecting it every time we get ready to sit. We have faith in getting paid for the work we do (if we’re working) without seeing what is in the company’s bank account. We have faith in the air we breathe even though we cannot see the oxygen we need to survive. We live faith all the time, not by sight, so why is it so difficult for some to have faith in God?

Some have argued that we are foolish to believe in an “invisible being” we have never seen. I disagree with this supposition. I have already mentioned the oxygen in the air we cannot see, but believe it is there. We cannot see a person’s brains, but their brains are probably there. We cannot see the wind–we only see the results of the movement of the air.

Therefore, I see the results of God moving upon the hearts of people all the time and know He exists for all who believe!

Part 6 tomorrow!

For All Who Believe!

“He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message.The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too.” (Acts 10:43,45 NLT)

For all those who “think” Believers do not need to understand Jewish history, think again. I am always amazed at the foolish remarks I have often heard some people make–especially as it pertains to the Jewish faith. What many have forgotten–in their quest to speculate about the ethnic background of Jesus–is that He was raised in the Jewish faith, in the culture, and the first converts to “Christianity” were Jews! How could we forget that?

People who simply want to debate “issues” never consider the source–The Word–to either validate or inform their decisions. When we know The Word–we know Jesus–we understand His purpose in coming and the cultural environment in which He was raised. He–Jesus–is the one all the prophets testified about saying “everyone who believes in Him” will have their sins forgiven.

All the prophets would include any prophet who spoke what God said.

Everyone would include anyone who chooses to believe in Jesus, the work on the cross and accepts Him as their personal Savior.

So why are there so many people out there who want to dictate or determine who is saved or not or who can be saved or not? From any walk of life, from any cultural environment, from any denominational situation, none are denied Salvation through Jesus Christ or from being filled with Holy Spirit. Therefore, since the invitation is open to all, none can be superior to anyone else.

No matter what  religion is practiced or what denomination a person practices, the only real criteria for being saved and filled with Holy Spirit is that one believes in Him. For with the belief in Jesus Christ, comes the development of a relationship with God and people will know that a relationship with God is not a religion–and no denomination or religious affiliation is superior to another.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NLT)

So, let’s stop nitpicking, thinking any one of us is superior to another. We are not! If we believe in Him who came to save us from ourselves, we are family and we should act like we are in the family of love, to His glory!