Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thanksgiving & Worship The Ultimate Act Of Faith

It is so vital that we be hungry for God in our lives. Keeping yourself in a state of consistently growing is so important to your Christian walk. Do you want something new? I mean something new, something fresh? Something beautiful! You know if your horse is dead, you need to get off of it. Do something different! If what you're doing is not working, then hey, get off of it and do something different! I believe God is all about change, don't you?

If you want a crop that you've never had before you have to plant seeds that you've never planted before. If you want something that you've never had before in your life, then you have to do something that you've never done before. We want a fresh move of God!

You see, if you want God to do something new in your life, then usually you've got to do something new. The Bible says, "Draw nigh unto God and He'll draw nigh unto you." If you want God to hurry and move in your life then you need to hurry and move toward Him! Isn't that right?

If you want a quick move of God, then repent quickly. Believe Him quickly. Obey Him quickly and you'll get a quick move of God. Amen!

Worship is an act of your faith!

Worship is so powerful for our daily lives.

Praise Him in the church.

Hebrews 2:12 says, "Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee."

Psalm 35:18 "I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people."

Psalm 150:1 "Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of His power."

These are just a few of many scriptures that I could use in reference to praising God in the church.

Praise Him outside the church (translated "all the time").

1 Thessalonians 5:16 "Rejoice evermore."

Philippians 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say rejoice."

Psalm 34:1 "I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth."

The Ultimate act of faith is worship according to Hebrews 13:15. It says to us, "By Him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name."

We have a responsibility as the Body of Christ, to worship God. We can see that in the few verses we've given so far. Worship is not all there is to our walk with the Lord. It is not everything, but it's a vital part of our relationship with God. It's not what we know, it's what we do that counts.

Praise and worship is also the gateway to the supernatural. It opens up the door for God to move, touch, and speak to you. Worship creates that supernatural connection that we all hunger for in our lives.

You can't please God in your flesh. John 4:23-24 says, "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."

Romans 8:8 tells us that, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." In the Old Testament, men used to have to go to the temple, but now we can all worship. In the OT times a priest did the communication. Now, because of Jesus, we have a constant flow of communication if we make the connection. Praise and worship is the key to keeping your communication lines open to the promptings of the Lord.

Let's talk about the power of our focus.

Let's look at Psalm 133:1-2.

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (2) It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments."

In verse one we see a clue of the power of focus. There's nothing like saying the same thing. ONE FOCUS, on ONE THING, at ONE TIME. We can do that by singing and worshipping God.

In verse two we see the results of the right focus. That ointment, (or the anointing) starts out as a drop, then a flow, then it coats everything that comes in contact with it. It gets stronger as it flows. The anointing comes, not just so you can get blessed, but so other people can get help too.

You bring His presence and His anointing on the scene when you worship Him.

Four Goals That You Should Seek In Worship

Begin by rejoicing and stirring up the joy.

The joy of the Lord is our strength. In His presence is fullness of joy. Right? In Children's ministry you don't come in boring, you come in with joy. (Example: "If you're happy and you know it.") You don't come in heavy.

Isaiah 12:3 "Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation."

There's a connection from heaven when you worship. Joy unspeakable. But YOU stir up that joy by putting a smile on your face. Putting feet to your faith. Taking action. Faith without works is dead. If your horse is dead GET OFF OF IT!

Get into thanksgiving and praise.

In its purest form, being thankful is a response to the goodness of God. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says,"In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Giving thanks: that's the will of God right there for you!

Endeavor to worship God.

When we say that we endeavor to worship, that simply means you and God in communion and fellowship together. One of the ways we endeavor to worship is by lifting up holy hands.

Look at your hands and say this, "These are holy hands." 1 Timothy 2:8 tells us to lift up holy hands. Lifting up your hands to worship is an act of great reverence and consecration because it pulls a part of your flesh (that you use for yourself) and you take that focus away from your body and you point it toward your Creator. There's a difference between "praise" and "worship".

Clapping during the worship times, those quiet moments, was a big issue at one time. If Billy Graham, or even the President of the United States walked in, we would honor them with a standing ovation. But there is something different when God shows up. We need to be humble and lift up holy hands and praise the one who conquered death, hell, and the grave for you and me. The one who has delivered us! Period! Oh, when the Lord shows up, He is Holy. Holy is the Lord!

Take the time to worship so that when you get out into the world you have a source of power.

You see, in the dark hour, and before you are in a dark hour, you must worship Him. Quit being controlled by your feelings or what the circumstance looks like or what your emotions are telling you, and praise your Deliverer!

Acts 16:25-31 reads, "Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, "Stop! Don't kill yourself! We are all here!" The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household."

They sang praises at the darkest moment, in the lowest part of the prison. Theologians say that was the place where the sewers ran. They say that old Paul and Silas could have been waist deep in unspeakables! Oh, but at the midnight hour they sang praises! The whole prison heard them. They were LOUD! Then, the "suddenly" happened. It would do you and me a whole lot of good if we'd just praise Him at all times! That way something good is always happening to me!

God is always faithful and always present. Ready to move if we would just open up that door corporately and personally.

Abraham Lincoln

It's been said that President Lincoln had an appointment one day with a very elderly lady. As she entered the President's office, he arose, seated her, and asked, "How may I be of service to you, madam?"

The little lady said, "Mr. President, I know that you are a busy man. I have not come to ask you anything. I simply came to bring you this box of cookies, for I heard that you enjoy them so much."

A silence followed in which tears overflowed the eyes of the President. Finally, he raised his head and spoke to the little lady. "Madam, I thank you for your thoughtful gift. I am greatly moved by it. Since I have been President of this great country, thousands of people have come into this office asking for favors and demanding things from me. You are the first person who has ever entered these premises asking no favor and indeed, bringing a gift for me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Church, we need to always be aware that our existence is not so that we can have a new car or house, money, etc. God cares about us, and He will always bless us. But our existence is to have fellowship with our creator.

So many President Lincoln said. So many requests, and our Father simply wants our companionship. Amen.

Prayer: Father, I choose to be thankful! I choose to worship and adore You. You are an awesome God! Thank You for saving me and delivering me! Amen.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Your Personal Home Maintenance & Repair

October Devotional

"And David inquired of God, saying, "Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?" The Lord said to him, "Go up, for I will deliver them into your hand." So they went up to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there. Then David said, " God has broken through my enemies by my hand like a breakthrough of water." Therefore they call the name of that place Baal Perazim."
1 Chronicles 14:10-11

The Amplified Bible says in verse eleven "the Lord of Breaking through." One translation says in the literal sense that the Lord is the "Master of Breakthroughs." Our God is a God of breakthroughs! He's never late, but He's always right on time all the time. He is the Master of Breakthroughs for you and for me! So much of the time we yield our "eyes" to other things. We allow ourselves to pulled away from being fixed and on track. We allow ourselves to be pulled away from being on course and fixed on purpose and hitting the mark.

There will always be times in our lives when we seem to be held up or we "feel" like our wheels are moving slow. There will be times when things just don't seem to be right. We must be alert that we are not allowing fear to take hold of us with feelings of inadequacy. We must not allow these feelings to shackle us and hold us back right when we are about to step into our victory!

When I was in high school, I took a class called "Home Maintenance and Repair." I learned so much in that class. I learned about wiring, fixing a wall, hanging wallpaper, building shelves, even soldering copper water lines with a propane torch and so much more. It was a fun class and it was an easy class to score a perfect grade, but you had to do it right! If you didn't do it right your project would turn out wrong. If you didn't do it right your project would be lopsided and goofy and to beat it all, you'd have to do that particular project all over again till you got it right! This devotional can help you get hold of some truths to help you "get it right" every time!

One of the greatest truths that the enemy just does not want you to understand or grasp in any way, shape, or form is the simple but profound truth, "You can control your thought life."

All of us deal with our thinking. That old stinkin' thinkin'. A lot of the time it's that old stinking thinking that is keeping those feelings hanging around in our lives. They may be feelings that we keep fighting off and on in our lives like feelings of defeat and discouragement. You know all those words that begin with "de" and "dis" like disgruntled and deflated etc.

Proverbs 23:7 tells us, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." The goofy devil's purpose for attacking your mind is really simple. If he can get you to think about something long enough and hard enough, he knows that you'll become the object of your meditation. You choose what you dwell on. The only thing that the devil can do is throw those curve balls, you're the one that chooses to catch them and keep them.

If you meditate on fearful thoughts, you'll be afraid. If it's discouragement, then you'll be discouraged. If it's inadequacy, you'll be incapable. You alone can hinder yourself from fulfilling God's plan for your life all by being bound by your own thought life! Ouch! That's good preaching!

Here are three Home Maintenance and Repair keys for you and me to apply to keep us breakthough-minded!

ONE: Cast down goofy imaginations!

Second Corinthians 10:4-5 says, "for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

When the enemy sticks a thought out there, don't just sit there! CAST IT DOWN! When bad thoughts come, say it out loud, "In the Name of Jesus, NO, I will not think that way!" Bring your thoughts into captivity and think on what His Word says! You don't have to think on all that stuff if you really don't want to. Stop it!

Don't sit there and wait for God to do something. He already did it! Jesus has already died and been resurrected! You've got it. You do something about your thoughts! Cast down those vain imaginations. The problem so much of the time is that we look for some "outside" help or influence to help us deal with the problem. There are times in the midst of a situation that we do need some outside help. But when it comes to our thoughts, it's up to us to cast them down!

TWO: Fill your mind with thoughts of faith!

Did you know that the word "success" is only mentioned one time in the Bible? It's true. The one reference is in Joshua 1:8, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."

What is interesting here in the only reference to word success in the Bible, is that it is connected to our meditation! We must make a decision to be dominated by faith and not fear. I was coming back from a trip once on one of the major airlines. As we were coming in for the landing, the plane banked hard and you could feel the landing gear doors open. Flying as much as I have, certain sounds in flight can become "comforting". The landing gear doors opening and then hearing them come down is one that I recognized. It felt different this time. All of a sudden, as we were approaching, the pilot pulled the gear doors closed, and we were going back higher in the air. The approach was made again. And again the gears didn't come down. The pilot came on and told us they were having some problems. The person beside me started asking me serious questions about what would be next. For the next hour and a half we flew around as they tried to get that gear down. Isn't it funny that when we're in a situation like that, we find ourselves thinking the worst? The worst thoughts come up first because of the way we have programmed our own thinking!

Well they got the gear down and we landed safely, but I tell you, the thoughts were real. I chose to cast them down and believed instead, "We'll be just fine!" And we were! People will sometimes react with the worst of thoughts, "Oh, I've got a terrible headache, it must be a brain tumor!" No, you've got to change your thinking. "I dwell in the secret place of the Most High, His angels have charge over me. I will not fear!"

We are the ones who make the decision about what we dwell on! Thoughts are out there, but we choose whether we'll take that thought or not. A computer will only do what somebody has told it to do. You and I only do, act, and say what we've plugged into that space between our ears!

THREE: Watch your thought intake!

A lot of us struggle with our thoughts. People wonder why they struggle with certain things. It always goes back to what we've taken in!

The old adage, "You are what you eat." That is so true. Too much intake of things that cause you to drift is very dangerous! Too much secular things will dull you and lull you into a drift. A ship that is not anchored is a hazard to other vessels. Your anchor must be sure and steadfast. Warning signs for drifting are things like: a diminishing desire to study the Word, a diminishing desire to be with God's people, a diminishing desire to share the Gospel, and an increasing thrill over the things of the world. All of those things create undercurrents that will pull you off course. Put the Word in and the Word will come out! Jesus said in Mark 4:24, "Take heed what you hear." We must be careful of the type of seeds that we plant in our heads. If you don't keep your grass cut and treated you'll have a mess of weeds. Watch your thought intake!

Make a quality decision and the necessary adjustments, and set a guard on your thoughts. Be faithful to take care of your "Home Maintenance and Repairs."

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am a believer, full of faith in Your Word. I cast down every thought that would prevent me from walking in victory. I control my thoughts; my thoughts do not control me. There is no weapon formed against me that shall prosper, and You are leading me in Your triumph through Christ. I thank You, Father, for the mind of Christ. I am releasing Your miracle-working power to flow through my life and circumstances now, in the mighty Name of Jesus! Amen!

Pastor James Farmer

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Your Thought Life

Our thought life before we were born again and after being born again should be different like night and day. The fact remains that we all struggle with our thought life. Romans 8:7 tells us, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” It says here that your mind is at war against God. Your flesh doesn’t want to do certain things at times. Especially regarding spiritual matters. There are a lot of spiritual things that can be tough on your flesh.

Appetites are developed in life. Habits are developed. Desires are developed. Your thought life is developed as well. You feed all those things too. I’m not crazy about broccoli, but when you put cheese on it, it is a little easier to eat. That’s a developed appetite. There are all kinds of wrong thoughts and “habitual thinking” which can create wrong processes in your life. When I say “habitual thinking”, I am talking about the way you have been programmed either through the way you were brought up or through your own consistent way of thinking. Much of who we are and how we act is a reflection of how we grew up. How we think is a reflection of our feelings and experiences in life. It is always good to ask yourself at times, “What are the most dominant thoughts in my mind and heart right now?”

We should take an inventory of what is going on in our thought life. What are you allowing yourself to dwell on? If you dwell on “Twinkies” you’ll go get one or a Little Debbie snack! We only resist what we want to resist. It’s one thing to think on it, but it’s another thing to yield to it. Can you see the seeds that have been sown in your thought life over time? Everything in your life begins as a thought. What you allow yourself to dwell on can change your destiny.

Thoughts that are dwelt on and pondered will eventually lead to actions. You don’t just wake up one day and find your life in shambles. All those things started as a thought that was planted into your mind and you let it take root and grow. It is in our mind that the battlefield rages. Most of the hardest battles that we face in life are faced in our minds. The battleground is truly between our ears!

Have you ever had weeds in your yard? Weeds can really be a problem if you let them go unchecked. If you don’t take care of your yard, those weeds will creep in and multiply until they take over and choke out your good grass. What do you do with weeds? Well, you use certain products that you can spray or sprinkle on your grass that will defend against weed “attacks”. Your mind can have “weeds” that creep in. You resist them at first and they go away. But over time, if you dwell on them, they will multiply.

What do you do? Well, going to church and having a daily devotional and Bible study plan, and having godly relationships can be like getting your mind “sprayed” with the Word of God. That can make a big difference. What you are doing or not doing can make a difference as well. Just like you would spray for weeds in your yard, you need to keep your mind sprayed too. The more you spray, the more you will find that those “weeds” in your thought life will start coming down one, two, three, four and they are NO MORE! You will find yourself coming to a point where it is a rare thing to struggle with those “weeds” in your mind. It will be rare that those wrong thoughts come up. When they do surface, they will be much easier to deal with because you keep them sprayed. Remember, weeds will grow and multiply if you leave them alone and don’t deal with them.

You can keep the doubt out by allowing the “abundance of the heart”, God on the inside of you, to be the “playmaker” of your life. One preacher once said, “It’s a whole lot easier to pull up a weed than to cut down a tree.” Deal with yourself and your thought life. Keep yourself and your flesh sprayed with the Word of God.

It is so vital that we be very selective about what we plant in our soul (which, of course, is our mind, our will, and our emotions). Philippians 4:8-9 tells us, “Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious - the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (The Message Translation) Think right and your harvest in your personal life will be joy, health, long life, prosperity, peace of mind, and stability.

What do I do to insure my stability in the walk of life? The Bible tells us in Psalm 103:1-5, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

You know, we have so very much for which to be thankful! I like another really good word, “grateful”. The word grateful, in the Webster’s Dictionary, means: appreciative of benefits received, expressing gratitude: affording pleasure or contentment: pleasing; pleasing by reason of comfort supplied or discomfort alleviated. Wow! Psalm 103:1 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Your soul is your mind, will, and emotions. There are many times in life that you need to just tell yourself to bless the Lord! Thank Him! Praise Him! Your mind will say a lot of things that will not remind you of God’s goodness in your life. Verses 2-5 tell us of His goodness and that we should “forget NOT”! Amen! Again, you have so much to be grateful for! Sometimes you just need to tell yourself so that you always “KEEP” your joy and peace in any circumstance or situation. Be grateful!

Here are a few things to “Think On”!

• Get the right “Spray” on your “Weeds” (Your thoughts).

Get into the Word of God. Hang out with God. Stay there! Read and meditate and be a doer of the Word. There are many bystanders in life, but participators get results. Be a doer of the Word. Spray your mind by being a worshiper. Spend time worshipping Jesus apart from church, apart from anything else. You worship Him and make it intimate by fellowshipping with God one on one. Fill yourself with Him. Spray your mind with the Word. Renew your thinking according to Romans 12:1-2. Get the right “spray”.

• Direct your affections.

Lot set his tent toward Sodom and Gomorrah. He set it toward that direction and he wound up there! Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. “ You direct what you dwell and think on. You direct what you have an affection or a craving for. You are the director of your life. You alone sit in the director’s chair. You call the shots. You yield to and do what YOU WANT. It’s time to DIRECT your affections.

1 John 2:15-17 from The MessageTranslation reads, “Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father.”

Practically everything that goes on in the world - wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important - has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him. Direct your affections!

• Ask God To Help You.

We have a responsibility to do that which we know is right. But there are many times in life where we need help. John 15:4-8 out of The Message Translation reads, "Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me. "I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relationship is intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is - when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”

When you need help, run home to the Lord. Hook up and let Him help you to grow. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” You cannot do it all yourself, you need His grace and strength to move upward and onward in Him.

God wants you to walk a life of joy and victory every day. God wants you to walk in His peace and in His joy. God wants you strong and stable because you are HIS NAMESAKE in this earth. Live for Him and consistently and habitually yield yourself to His Word and His way.

Prayer: Father, I thank You that I have the mind of Christ. I have Your wisdom. My mind is continually being renewed to think exactly like Jesus. Because I am diligent to Your Word, my thoughts tend only to plenteousness. Every thought that I have is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ Jesus! Amen. (1 Cor 2:16, 1:30, Eph 4:23-24, Pro 21:5 & 2 Cor 10:3-5)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Special Guest Post: Tony Cooke

Grace, Repentance, and Confession
By Rev. Tony Cooke

I recently had the privilege of doing some extended meetings at Pastor Jerry Weinzierl’s church in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and was able to teach in-depth on the topic of grace. One of the areas I taught related to how God’s grace affects whether believers need to confess sins or repent. Some have the distinct impression that being under grace means that it is unnecessary to repent of or confess sins we commit. Instead, it is thought, believers simply need to recognize that they were already forgiven.

Before addressing this, it is vital to define our terms scripturally. The words “repent” and “repentance” do not mean that we anxiously wallow in guilt, hashing and re-hashing our failures, or that we walk perpetually in sin-consciousness. Here is what some of the most respected Greek scholars have to say about the Greek word for repentance:

“The Greek noun metanoia literally means, ‘a change of mind.’ It is more than an emotional sorrow, which too often does not produce any change of life. Rather, it is a change of mind, or attitude, toward God, sin, and ourselves” (Ralph Earle).

“...the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good deeds” (Joseph H. Thayer).

In his outstanding work, A Light in the Darkness: Seven Messages to the Seven Churches, Rick Renner writes: “When the words meta and nous are combined together; the new word depicts a decision to completely change the way one thinks, lives, or behaves. This doesn’t describe a temporary emotional sorrow for past actions; rather, it is a solid, intellectual decision to turn about-face and take a new direction, to completely alter one’s life by discarding an old, destructive pattern and embracing a brand new one. True repentance involves a conscious decision both to turn away from sin, selfishness, and rebellion, and to turn toward God with all of one’s heart and mind. It is a complete, 180-degree turn in one’s thinking and behaving.”

Resolutions are not the same as repentance. William Douglas Chamberlain wrote, “The Christian faith turns men’s faces forward. Repentance is the reorientation of a personality with reference to God and His purpose.” Further, he states that in order for believers to enjoy the kingdom of God, they must “undergo a mental transfiguration, which we call ‘repentance.’ Repentance looks ahead in hope and anticipation while remorse “looks backward in shame and forward in fear.”

Jesus Preached Repentance
The very first words Jesus preached (according to Matthew 4:17) were “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Notice that Jesus didn’t simply advocate people turning from the negative, but He wanted people to awaken to the positive - the kingdom of heaven - that was becoming available to them. In this sense, we can say that repentance is really prophetic preparation; it is the preparation of our hearts for something wonderful that God is making available to us.

Repentance occurs when we awaken to God’s glorious potential for our lives. In the light of God’s goodness and good intentions toward us, we recognize the deficiency of our selfish perspective and the destructiveness of our sinful behavior. Thus, we turn from them in order to embrace a new, better, and higher life offered by the God of grace. Like grace, repentance involves both attitude and action. There is the discontinuation of wrong behavior based upon a heart and mind that have turned completely toward God and His ways.

But Do Believers Have to Repent?
Some believe that confession of sin and repentance is important for unbelievers, but becomes unnecessary once a person has become born-again. After all, it is reasoned, if Jesus already died for and has already forgiven all of our sins, why would we need to acknowledge them or confess them if they’re already under the blood?

Long after His ascension, Jesus addressed believers in various congregations throughout Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3). He told five out of seven congregations that they needed to repent of certain sins, and specifically told the Laodiceans: “Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]” (Revelation 3:19, Amplified).

Jesus was not telling these believers that they needed to earn their forgiveness by repentance, but He certainly wanted them to acknowledge the areas where they needed to make adjustments and align themselves with His Word.

The Apostle Paul certainly believed that it was important for believers who had missed it to repent before God and, with the help of God, to get their lives in order. In 2 Corinthians 12:20-21 (NLT), he said, “For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior. Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.”

Paul has often been called “The Apostle of Grace,” and yet he obviously believed that repentance is important for Christians who get off-track. I believe the clear teaching of Scripture is not that grace makes repentance unnecessary, but that grace makes repentance possible. Because God is gracious, He doesn’t reject us or cast us out when we struggle or fail, but He invites us to, “...come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul said that, “godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

What About Confession?
When we understand what confession (of sin) really entails, we realize that it is THE first step in the repentance process. The Greek word “homologeo” is derived from two words meaning “same” and “to speak.” Hence, it is typically defined as meaning to speak the same thing. Confess also means to agree with, to concede, to admit, and to acknowledge. If a person doesn’t first acknowledge that there is a problem, how or why would they bother to change their mind, their attitude, or their conduct about that problem? A person will never repent unless they first confess (or acknowledge) that the issue is a sin.

It is unfortunate that some have endeavored to diminish the significance of confession by claiming the 1 John 1 was not written to Christians, but to unbelievers or gnostics. Many epistles were written against backdrops of doctrinal error, but every New Testament epistle was written to Christians. 1 Corinthians was written against a backdrop of antinomianism, Galatians against a backdrop of legalism, Colossians against a backdrop of asceticism, and 1 John against a backdrop of gnosticism, but ALL were written TO Christians.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary states: “In modern times some have occasionally denied that a Christian needs to confess his sins and ask forgiveness. It is claimed that a believer already has forgiveness in Christ (Ephesians 1:7). But this point of view confuses the perfect position which a Christian has in God’s Son (by which he is even ‘seated…with Him in the heavenly realms’ [Ephesians 2:6]) with his needs as a failing individual on earth. What is considered in 1 John 1:9 may be described as ‘familial’ forgiveness. It is perfectly understandable how a son may need to ask his father to forgive him for his faults while at the same time his position within the family is not in jeopardy. A Christian who never asks his heavenly Father for forgiveness for his sins can hardly have much sensitivity to the ways in which he grieves his Father. First John 1:9 is not spoken to the unsaved, and the effort to turn it into a soteriological affirmation is misguided.”

Grace does not eradicate or make unnecessary any other New Testament teaching or discipline. Grace does not do away with the need for repentance, obedience, holiness, church involvement, or giving. Rather, grace provides forgiveness when we have fallen short of His directives, and if we will respond to His grace, we will find the power to obey Him in all things. Grace is not an excuse; it is enablement. Grace is not a cop-out; it is a catalyst. Grace is not divine permission to do wrong; it is divine empowerment to do right!

May you find great strength in His all-sufficient grace!

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Friday, March 4, 2011

What Is Your "Real Threat Level"?

What is your "Real Threat Level"? The other day I was reading something from another minister where he made the statement that adverse circumstances are not your greatest threat, but your greatest threat is in the incorrect thoughts and beliefs that do their best to slip in during our hardships. Victory should always be a way of life and not a "one-time" event! Many times our troubles will sour our thinking and our believing.

The Bible says about the righteous that believe, in Psalm 37:19, "They shall survive through hard times; even in famine (or economic hard times) they will have more than enough." (NLT) Even in adversity we should hold fast to what His Word says and not circumstance. Don't you sit there and say "my circumstance" either. It's NOT your circumstance and it is NOT your problem...unless you are taking it. In the military they assess the "threat level" in a situation. I'm asking you, "Are you taking it?" Are you taking your circumstance or problem and holding it close to you because you believe it more than you believe His Word? If you are, you need to re-assess by asking yourself, "Whose report do I really believe?"

You see, faith is the ability to not panic. If you are in panic or worry, you didn't pray. If you prayed, then don't worry or panic. Why? Because we believe what His Word says! Guard your thoughts! Guard what you dwell on! When you dwell on something, you'll find it getting down into your heart. Once it gets into your heart, you'll begin to start believing it. After you start believing it, you'll start speaking it. After you start speaking, you'll be living in it. Circumstances and problems will come and go, but His Word never changes! It's a constant that you can stand fast on. It is your duty to honor the Lord by, "casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5) Remember that your feelings are nothing but a thermometer, but your confession is your thermostat.

If you are in a "dark place" or battling incorrect thoughts and beliefs because of adversity, here is a scripture to encourage you and help you to re-assess your "threat level". “Because you got a double dose of trouble and more than your share of contempt, your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever” (Isaiah 61:7, The Message). I believe that the Lord wants to bless you and not just repay you, but the God of restoration wants to bless you double for all your trouble! Keep Philippians 4:8-9 in your thoughts,"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies." (The Message) So, what is your "real threat level" right now? Amen.

What Feeds You?

Think about this one, "What feeds you, will lead you." Oh there is so much truth in that statement. If you are led by your flesh, that will be what will lead you. If you are led by your spirit, then that will be what will lead you. Paul told us in 1 Thessalonians 5:23,"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Notice that Paul said, "spirit, soul, and body." Even in the old texts, that is the order of the words. I believe that there is a point to be made here. Paul wrote those words in that order! One, two, three! Divine order! We tend to live it backwards! If you are led by your "body" first (your flesh), then your body will be the one telling your soul (which is your mind, your will, and your emotions) what to do, and keep your spirit man down. BUT, if you are following after the Lord, feeding your spirit man FIRST, then your "spirit" man will be telling your soul and your body what to do. You see, "What feeds you, will lead you!"

You can tell a lot about what you feed on by what you say out of your mouth. Even the things that you do willingly and the strife that you're in. Some people feed on so much "subtle" stuff that they drift so far from shore that they cannot see the answer to get back. Usually, they are in deep sin and blame everyone else and refuse to look in the mirror and correct their life. Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you way more than you want to pay!

So, what are you feeding on? Have you lost your friends and your godly relationships because of your "feeding habits"? Is it controlling you and keeping from walking closer to God? Or is it causing you to hunger and thirst for MORE of Him? Who or what are you yielding to? What are you feeding on? What's leading you? Amen or Oh me!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Putting First Things First

“Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.“
I Corinthians 4:2 The New King James Version

Years ago I heard somebody say, “You live your life, first, up to God, second, outward to others, and thirdly, inward to yourself.” In all of those areas we should be faithful. The Bible says, “A faithful man shall abound with blessings.” (Proverbs 28:20) We need to be dedicated to our walk with the Lord. In doing that, whatever you put into your life on a personal level in regard to your relationship with the Lord will show up on the outside in your public life. What goes on in private shows up in your public life. So, being faithful to serve the Lord causes your outward life to be a testimony to others and in the long run, you are inwardly applying Christ's character to your life. We all need to be faithful in doing those things on a daily basis.

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” You are a steward of God's presence and character. These things dwell in you and should radiate from you to others.

There are a lot of people who will say that they want a powerful relationship with God, but most of us struggle with the discipline to do it. There is an old saying that is so true, “We all talk about it, but none of us do it.” Powerful and lasting relationships come by spending time with someone. When people get married the true power of marriage is after years go by and you start becoming one in mind. You are one flesh when you get married but oneness of mind comes from years of partnership. Strong, lasting marriages develop over time. Time is that which brings the reward of things in your relationship becoming better and stronger.

A good cheese becomes great by being aged. An award winning wine comes by age. A strong relationship comes with age. A powerful relationship with God comes by taking the time to enrich it, bring depth to it, and bring oneness into being. It only comes as we discipline ourselves to do so. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” If you don't have a vision of God being BIG in your life, you will be weak and fall prey to the things of this world and the attitudes of its influences.

You honor God by putting Him first in your life. He must be the center of your focus. If it's not real to you, it won't be real to anybody else around you. You cannot trust the Lord as your healer if you don't know the Healer. You cannot trust the Lord as your provider if you don't know the Provider. You cannot walk in perfect peace if you don't really know the Prince of Peace.

Many Christians have a “mental” relationship with the Lord. Or you could say it like this: Many Christians settle for the “positional” presence or relationship with the Lord instead of the “manifested” presence of God in their daily lives. All of which begs to ask the question, “How are you walking today?” Are you honoring the Lord by putting Him first?

It has been said that excellence has its own reward. The Bible says that as a faithful man you will abound with blessings. As you are faithful to the Lord and your relationship with Him, you will abound with blessings of His manifested presence. That's the key to living a joyful life, full of His peace and His presence, a life full of His power and His majesty flowing and working in you and through you. That's life and life more abundantly! Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and life more abundantly!” (John 10:10)

You will only worship Him to the degree that you know Him. What shows up on the outside is a direct reflection of what you're doing on the inside in your private time. If you'll just get excited about it and let it be real to you, then it will work for you. AMEN!

Prayer: Father, I choose to put You first. I choose to put You first in my life on a personal, intimate level. I will honor You by putting You first. Amen.

Pastor James Farmer