Monday, August 29, 2011

Christian Compassion, Part 2

During my childhood, I was a Boy Scout for several years. It was drilled into me—and it is still with me—that I was to turn a good deed every day. That means do something good for someone every day. Right? We should seek opportunities!

So in discipling our five-year old son, I said, “Zachariah, here’s the deal. I’m going to challenge us. You and I are going to look for an opportunity to do something good for somebody else.” He said, “Okay, Dad.”

As some of you know, my wife and I own a small business. A little bit later that morning we received a call from someone whose carpet had been cleaned by our company, and they thought that our technician had damaged their carpet. There was a big puddle of water in their living room, and they called us to come and take a look at it. They’re regular customers, and they weren’t coming across as angry, just concerned. So I said, “Hey, let’s go over and look at it.” Vickie and I went to check it out and said, “This is not our doing. There’s no way; you have a lot of water here. It appears that you have a serious problem. This wasn’t just a little bit of water leaking from a hose. You still have water coming in here.”

We were walking on the carpet, and this was not water that had come in from the top; it was coming up from the bottom. So we began to scrutinize the situation and pull the carpet up. The padding was drenched, and there was about an inch of water on the living room floor. I said, “You know, you really need to get this water up, and we can help you, but I assure you this didn’t just happen ten days ago. This is an accumulation. You’re going to have a structural issue and a major problem here if this isn’t dealt with, not to mention mold and/or mildew. She said, “Well, can you get someone over here to get the water up?” I said, “We can! But we normally charge for that.”

So she asked, “Well, what do you charge to have somebody come over and do an emergency extraction,” and I’m thinking, ‘Ca-ching, Ca-ching, Ca-ching.’ I love the word, “emergency”; I’m just being honest. That’s the business side. I said, “Well, normally we would charge “x” amount of dollars, and my wife looks at me and interjects, “However, just this morning we were talking about charitable deeds, weren’t we, honey?” I said, “Yeah,” and she said, “And wouldn’t this be a great opportunity for us to do a charitable deed? How about we get somebody over here and take care of this situation at no cost?” And I said, “Okay, okay, how about we do that? We’ll call the technician and see if she can be there in about fifteen minutes and extract all this water.” We thought this was great; we were able to do a charitable deed!

We said, “Ma’am, this is not going to cost you a dime. We’re going to pay for the gas; we’ll pay the technician.” She was like, “Oh man, you guys are such a blessing, thank you, thank you.” We said, “You know, it was kind of coincidental that we were teaching our little boy about charitable deeds, and we even prayed for an opportunity to do one today. It looks like you are God’s answer to our prayer.”

As it turned out, she got on the phone with her insurance company and said, “I have water damage, etc.” What started off as a charitable deed had now turned into a profitable situation for our company. Now, I’m only sharing that to make a point, not to boast. All we wanted to do was a charitable deed, and God turned that whole thing around. It was as though He said, “Because you sought to do something good by committing yourself to meeting the needs of others, I am committed to meeting your needs.”

How many of you believe in sowing and reaping? Do you believe in that principle? Here’s the point: we need to be committed to meeting the needs of other people. When we commit to meeting the needs of others, God demonstrates His commitment towards us by meeting our needs, and much of the time, He’ll go way over and above our expectations in doing it.

~ pg

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Christian Compassion, Part 1

I have a testimony that I would like to share. The other day Vickie and I were reading with Zachariah, our soon to be six-year old. Lately I’ve been taking him through the Gospel of Matthew, really focusing on chapters 5, 6, and 7, which I believe are perhaps the most profound three chapters in the entire Bible. There is no portion of Scripture that has spoken into my life more than those three chapters.

I am convinced if we, the Church, would hear and heed what Jesus teaches in just those few chapters, we would be quite successful in giving Him glory and fulfilling our destiny and call. They are that essential to Christian living in my opinion. I make no claim to personify Matthew 5, 6, and 7, as I do not. But I do see it as a challenge in my life, a personal goal and challenge. I’ve been reading these passages, these three chapters, for a whole lot of years. Yet I am always struck by the fact that I’m not doing some of these things.

The other day as we were reading with Zach, we began chapter 6 of Matthew. The points contained within those chapters are things that we all know. We’ve heard it before; we’ve read it before, and we know it! But sometimes even the simplest of truths need to be re-stirred in the life and the heart of the believer. So a lot of this is very basic, but I believe that oftentimes simple truth often has the greatest capacity, or potential, to change our lives. It doesn’t necessarily take some deep revelation. However, it takes a realization and a stirring to get us to the place of doing that which we know.

We’re not always doing what we’re supposed to be doing, are we, or am I the only one? Do you always do what you know you’re supposed to do? How many can say that you always do the right thing? You’d be doing the wrong thing by confirming that and lying. And yet the Bible says that to know the right thing to do and not do it is sin! Wow, how do you like that? Doesn’t that hit you right between the eyes?

And so we’re reading Matthew chapter 6, and it goes like this: Jesus speaking, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men.” And we stop right there and take a breath and ask our five-year old, “Do you know what charitable deeds are?” “No, I don’t, Daddy.” And so we begin to explain what a charitable deed is: “doing something good for somebody else, or doing something that will help alleviate distress in someone else’s life . . . and doing it deliberately.”

Jesus said, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men,” in other words; we don’t do good simply to be recognized by men or to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward from your Father in Heaven. God doesn’t reward that type of good deed. Therefore, Jesus said, “When you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may have glory from men. Assuredly I say to you, they have their reward.” Their reward is the fact that people have seen them and heard them, and they have made a big deal out of doing some good thing. Your reward is the fact that other people know you did something good. That’s all you can expect. God’s not going to reward that charitable deed if you did it as before men so as to seek the recognition of people.

There are rewards in Heaven, by the way. Heaven, eternal life, is a free gift. You can’t earn it; you don’t deserve it, we all know that. But there are rewards that are attached to our discipleship. There are rewards awaiting us, so Jesus is speaking of some of these. He says in verse 3, “When you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

So, point number one, we are all to be involved with doing charitable deeds. Now, I’m not suggesting that we just become a bunch of “do-gooders” that depend upon our good works to get us to Heaven. This is not about chalking up brownie points with God. It is simply about being obedient to the Scriptures, about being obedient to the teachings of Jesus, who made it very clear that we are to do charitable deeds. He didn’t say, “If you do,” He said, “When you do.”

I was reminded of my childhood and when I was a Boy Scout for several years. It was drilled into me, and is still with me, that I was to turn a good deed every day. That means do something good for somebody every day. Right? We should seek opportunities! So in discipling our five-year old son, I said, “Zachariah, here’s the deal. I’m going to challenge us, you and me, and we’re going to look for opportunities to do good things for somebody else.” He said, “Okay, Dad.” There’s quite a bit more to this story, and I will continue it in a few days, but I’ll stop for now for the sake of brevity.

My prayer for this series of blogs regarding “Christian Compassion” is that our hearts will be stirred to living out chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Matthew in new ways and with fresh realization.

~ pg

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Weapon of the Lord in our Hand, Part 4

Are we practicing His presence daily? How familiar are we with the weapon that He made available? Eleazar had a stubborn grip on his sword. The Bible says that his hand clave unto the sword even though the situation seemed hopeless. He was facing the Philistine army, yet his hand remained on the sword. The rest of the Israelites had turned away. And yet, here is Eleazar facing the Philistines alone.

How tight is your grip on your Sword, the Word? Have you allowed the Word to get a grip on your heart? What's coming out of your mouth when the enemy is coming in like a flood? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. How many of you have ever been in a situation where there was nothing for you to do but cling to the Word of God? To cling to it means to pursue it. It's like holding onto it for dear life. His hand was welded to his sword. It was like it was welded, or soldered. He wouldn't let go of it, and he couldn't let go of it. His hand and his sword became one. I believe that is an illustration of what our lives should look like. The Word of God is to be an extension, something that is welded into our hearts and employed in every conflict in which we find ourselves.

We talk a lot about what kind of church we want to be and about signs, wonders, miracles, revival, and all these outpourings. I'm telling you this: the key is faith. The question is: what are we putting our faith in? We won't have signs and wonders if we don't have faith in the Word of God. It's not just faith in some abstract thing. We see it done in the Word, and then we do it! Our faith is in the truth of God's Word, not in our own ability, not in our own limited capacity. But if it happened in the Word of God, it can happen in our lives today.

Eleazar was acquainted with his weapon; he had confidence in it which allowed him to take on the entire Philistine militia and take them down. Of course, his name does mean, "God is my helper." Eleazar knew that the Lord was his Helper, and that in Him, he would find the victory.

We need to be diligent in the Word of God and practice. Let me just encourage you. Some of you have been doing this for years, and maybe you're still doing it. I used to practice getting the Word in my heart and coming out of my mouth. I used to ready myself. I would get little 3 x 5 index cards and post or paste them, and I knew, "These are healing Scriptures . . . financial Scriptures . . . Scriptures for my marriage . . . Scriptures for my children. And I would actually write them down. Then I would tape them inside of my Bible, book, or wherever. I still have some that are over twenty years old, and the paper is discolored, but I won't throw them away. I could show you on the leaf or pages of old Bibles, "Healing Scriptures." When I needed healing, and I couldn't recall the Scripture, I'd simply look at what was written. If you don't know how to do war with the devil, open your Bible, open your mouth, and declare the written words!

Maybe you don't have it memorized; the only way you're going to get it memorized is to use it and to do it! So open your Bible and declare! I'd open my Bible and see, "By His stripes we were healed." If we were, then I am! Too many people are relying on too many things, and therefore their confidence is not solidly based on the Word of God. We get a headache, let's run to the doctor. Kid gets a fever, run to the ER. I'm not saying you shouldn't take care of and love your kids. I'm NOT saying don't take care of them. What I am saying is, "Who and what are you putting your confidence in?" That one always gets the same kind of response. I'm not anti-medicine, but my goodness, if the Church knew the truth about modern medicine, some of it, and how many people are dying from it, maybe they would think twice about what they are putting in their mouths.

Don't get mad. Don't worry. Be happy. If you don't know what to say, find out! We have the full advantage. We don't have to guess at what God would say. Do you know how many people have given their lives so that we could have a Bible in our hands? Ponder how God has moved throughout the history of the world so that today we can have easy access to the Bible. We have it so available. We think that since we have it in our hands, we don't have to get it in our hearts. Get it in your heart and let it be welded to you; let it be one with you.

The enemy, he's not going to stop. His time is coming, but it's not here yet. He's not yet been thrown into the Lake of Fire. It's like the old Hal Lindsey book, "Satan Is Alive And Well On Planet Earth," and he's not going anywhere for some time. You'll know when his time is up, but it's not yet, so this is your opportunity to rise up as the Army of the Lord, the glorious Church, the victorious Church. But we'll never be victorious unless we know how to use, with skill, the weapon. I challenge you to go back and look at all that armor in Ephesians. Put on the whole armor. There's only one weapon, and it's the Sword of the Spirit.

Eleazar knew how to use his sword and when to use it. It had become part of him. He was one with his sword; it was one with him. That's how God wants His Word to be rooted in our lives. So much so that it's automatic. It comes out of our mouths. I have a strong sense that the enemy is going to try and take us back to an old battlefield. ON GUARD! Take the Sword of the Spirit and go forth in victory!

~ PG

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Weapon of the Lord in our Hand, Part 3

As believers we should not be concerned as to whether or not the Word of God is going to work in our situation. Yet we do it all the time. Why? Evidently we sometimes doubt the Word because we have not placed our confidence in it, and perhaps that comes from a lack of experience or employment. We haven't employed it enough to build reliance upon it.

There are many reasons we can find ourselves in a mental and spiritual state of not being 100% sure that our weapon is going to work. How confident are we that the Word is going to work in our situation? Have we allowed the Word to prove itself faithful? Have we proven ourselves faithful to it? Maybe we ought to make a new bumper sticker: "The Word of God, don't leave home without it." We try a lot of different means, particularly in our American culture. I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I'm going to say it anyway. We act as though we have no need of God. It's almost like, "I've got this, God." Many times we don't express a need for Him until we find ourselves at the bottom of a hole, and then we want to cry out to Him. Meanwhile, we can't figure out why He will sometimes let us dig our own way out of it. Why? Because we think we deserve instant gratification or instant success.

Our foolishness gets us to the bottom of the pit, but we're expecting God's mercy to somehow land on us. We think that God might even throw us a lifeline; let us call a friend, or even worse, do an audience poll! Oh yeah, that's a good one, rely on the audience.

How familiar are we with our weapon, the Sword? Eleazar mastered his by constant use. I want to encourage you to use the Sword! Use your weapon! Put the Word of God to work in your life. I am sure that this warrior practiced with his sword for hours on end. It's kind of like shooting a weapon. I did not realize how bad a shot I was until I picked up a gun after not firing one for some thirty or thirty-five years, and I couldn't hit a target! It was embarrassing. I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Now God did give me some gratification while up at Moravian Falls. I had my son and my grandson up there with me. And Tony said, "Papa, I bet you can't hit the cap off that bottle across the pond over there." So I whirled around, shot the pistol, and knocked the cap right off it. I think God did that just so I could impress my grandson. That was total mercy; it had nothing to do with my ability.

Eleazar was very acquainted with his weapon. He knew how the sword would cut; he knew how much force was required to swing it. He knew how to use it both defensively and offensively. He was comfortable with the sword. The sword had essentially become an extension of his arm. So the question is: How familiar are we with our weapon? The Word of God . . . is it an extension of our lives? Do we know it well enough to have unflinching confidence in it? How much do we truly trust the Word of God for healing, deliverance, provision, or anything else? The Bible is God's Word to us, and God is not a man that He should lie, nor a man that He should repent. He said it, and it is true, and it is to be trusted by those who call themselves by His name.

No matter how many times you hear me say it, I realize that I can't convince anybody. It's not my job. Preachers think that they're anointed to be in the convincing business. I learned a lesson years and years ago in ministry. I would try to persuade people to get saved. I soon came to the realization that I couldn't persuade anybody to get saved. It requires revelation that can only come by the Holy Spirit. And God wants to reveal to us, not only our need for the Word, but revelation regarding that Word so we can truly walk in victory in every realm of our lives. It's not just coming into church and shouting "hallelujah," even as precious and priceless as that experience is.

Are we experiencing the presence out there? I've been working really hard this week, and I've been saying to Him, "Lord, it is so awesome that I can experience Your presence right here. With all of this going on around me, and boom, there's Your presence. And as I'm talking to God, I'm aware that His presence is just as real out there as it is in our church.

I'm going to stop here for now, but I have a bit more that I want to share regarding "The Weapon of the Lord in our Hand." I'll wrap up this topic in a few days. As a believer, be sure to pursue becoming even more acquainted with your weapon: the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

~ PG

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Weapon of the Lord in our Hand, Part 2

They say that sometimes our greatest challenges in life are encountered after our greatest victories. Why? Because through victory we can set ourselves up with pride into thinking, “Oh man, I have this thing licked,” and then, boom! The enemy comes at you from a different direction. But it could ultimately be the very same battlefield that we’ve previously encountered, and this is what I want to point out.

In the last blog I mentioned, “Pas-dammim: the place, or dell, of bloodshed.” It was a wide-open battlefield. As in the case of Eleazar in the Chronicles’ account, we see that the Philistines are a very formidable force against Israel. So much so that all the men of Israel have fled. They’re nowhere in sight, and they’ve taken off in fear. But David and his warrior, Eleazar, position themselves in a barley field and take on the Philistine opposition. It is made clear that they route the Philistine army completely. They do so to the extent that when the other men of Israel came back, all they had to do was loot the dead bodies of the enemy. So as David and Eleazar took off, Eleazar accomplished this great feat.

Now going back to 2 Samuel 23:10 and looking at Eleazar, we want to learn from his example. The Bible says that Eleazar took his weapon in his hand. He arose and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary. The Scriptures say that his hand “clave to his sword, and the Lord brought the great victory.” From this account we can understand that Eleazar took down the entire Philistine militia with just one weapon in his hand. What was the weapon? His trusty sword.

First comes the natural, and then comes the spiritual. What is your trusty weapon? What weapon are you putting your trust in while in the conflict of life? People may have a lot of different answers. They might say, “prayer.” Well, a lot of praying isn’t praying the Word, it’s simply bellyaching to God.

Somebody else may say, “Worship is your greatest weapon.” As much as I’m a worshiper and I love to do so, it’s not your greatest weapon. It is amazing that people will always point out Jehoshaphat, and then they’ll try to base a religion on that portion of Scripture. They’ll say, “God always puts the praisers out front.” No, He doesn’t always. I can point to several examples in battle where He didn’t. We like to take our pet little thing and base our Christianity upon it.

Quite often the reasoning is, “Well, God did it with Jehoshaphat, so He’ll do it with me.” With that thought process, I guess every time that we have a conflict in our life, we should run in a circle several times, shout, and blow horns. Hello! Don’t make a doctrine out of one example in Scripture. Don’t think that if it worked the first time that it will work every time. No, it won’t. There are many strategies that the Lord uses to accomplish victories in your life. You have to know what strategy to use and when to use it!

This was Joshua’s problem at Ai. There was sin in the camp, but Joshua also did something wrong. He went to battle before consulting the Lord and got whooped. The Bible says that after he was defeated, that’s when he consulted the Lord, and then the Lord gave him a different strategy. So when he employed the different strategy, the people of Joshua’s army accomplished the victory. If one strategy worked for someone in the Bible, don’t presume it will work for you.

We don’t always want to research the Word on our own, and we don’t always want to hear from God for ourselves, so we look at one little illustration and base our life upon it. Big mistake. I’m all for worship, but there’s only one weapon in the whole armor of God that the Lord has provided for me to use to accomplish victory over my adversary. That is the Sword of the Spirit. He didn’t say, “the sword of worship,” even as much as we like to worship. He didn’t say, “the sword of declaration,” unless you’re declaring the Word.

He did say, “and praying always,” so we are to pray according to the Ephesians’ discourse. But make no mistake about it; our greatest weapon is the Word. You can try to skirt, walk around it, or walk away from it, but the only weapon that God has placed in your hand in which you are to accomplish ultimate victory over the adversary is the Sword of the Spirit which Paul says IS the Word of God.

Eleazar was very accomplished with the sword. He was skilled and familiar with it. It was a weapon with which he wielded with tremendous confidence. He had no doubt fought many battles with that sword before this encounter. It had proven to be reliable. He took care of it himself, and he sharpened his own weapon. He kept it oiled and in battle-ready condition. I’m sure it was kind of like a modern-day soldier with his rifle. You have to know how to take that thing apart and put it back together blindfolded! You have to be very familiar with it and know your weapon.

Have you allowed the Word to prove itself reliable? Maybe you’ve tried every other means. But have you employed the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God? It is the offensive weapon, according to the Bible, that God has made available to every one of us as believers. Don’t depend on somebody else to take care of your weapon. What would happen if you were to lose it? Let’s say you go out to the field and one weapon comes up missing. What happens in that situation? Everybody around you is miserable! You’re miserable. Here’s the point. When we go into battle, we should not be concerned whether or not our weapon is going to work. We should wield it with complete confidence and assurance that it will do what it says!

~ PG

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Weapon of the Lord in our Hand

Our Core Values at Cliffdale Christian Center are based upon "W.O.R.D.," and perhaps the most essential element of our foundation is the Word. That is also the most fundamental part of your Christian life. There is nothing more important than the Word. Sometimes it almost seems like we want to stray; we tend to want to get away from the Word. It can also appear that maybe it isn't the most important thing.

Upon what do I base my statement that nothing is more important than the Word? Let me ask you this: is anything more important than Jesus? Well, Jesus was the Word of God made flesh; therefore, Jesus and the Word are synonymous, or inseparable. You can't distinguish between the two of them.

It's good to understand proper biblical interpretation when you read the Old Testament. It requires that we comprehend a couple of things. First comes the natural, then the spiritual. For example, the events that happened in the natural in Israel are things that are to be experienced in the "spiritual Israel," the Church. In biblical prophecy, there are things that are experienced first in the natural, and then we see the spiritual implication of it in the New Testament.

Now 2 Samuel 23:9 speaks of Eleazar. He is one of the mighty men of David. In fact, he is one of three of David's mightiest. David had surrounded himself by warriors, and he had distinguished himself as such. He had these three guys who were standouts, and Eleazar was one of them.

9"And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel had retreated. 10He arose and attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand stuck to the sword" (2 Samuel 23:9-10).

I want to make a few points in regard to verse 10, "He arose and attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand stuck to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day, and the people returned after him only to plunder." Let's focus on this guy, Eleazar. He has been specifically remembered for his heroic deeds against the adversary known as the Philistines.

This is also a reference to 1 Chronicles, and in that account, we get a little more specificity as to what it was that Eleazar accomplished in 1 Chronicles 11-14. Those chapters talk about the battle scene, and this is what our verses in 2 Samuel are actually referring to. There was a battle, according to the Chronicles' account, that took place in Pas-dammim. And by definition, the name of this place means, "the dell of bloodshed." Now, it's interesting that this is the very same place in Scripture where David defeated Goliath. I think that's an important point. Why is that important? For one, it's a place that appears to have been a recurring headache for the people of Israel. How is that relative to our lives today?

Well, the enemy will oftentimes take us back to old battlegrounds or places where he has kind of held us up in the past. Have you ever noticed that a lot of times you're going through the same conflict over and over and over? That's what I'm referring to here.

The exciting thing about this is that David defeated Goliath there. So these old battlegrounds can be a place where victory was won on behalf of the people of God. It can also be a place that the enemy routinely brings you back to fight the same battle.

This is the good news: you have won the victory somewhere in the past. Maybe you thought, "Well, I have this thing licked, man, this is done." But then "boom," like a year later, maybe six months, could even be five years: there it is! Is that only me, or is it anybody else? Well, think it not strange. The very place where David defeated Goliath is the place that Eleazar defeated the Philistine army, and he did it in a most miraculous way.

There's a warning to be issued through studying these biblical accounts: be on your guard!

~ PG

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back To The Basics, Part 4

In my last blog, I shared Cx3’s core values: W (Worship), O (Outreach), R (Relationship), and now I’m wrapping it up with the last letter, “D,” of the acronym “WORD.”

“D” is for “Discipleship”: We, Cliffdale Christian Center, are getting back to solid discipleship. It’s not going to be for everybody. I want to go on record: our goal is not to be one of the biggest churches in Fayetteville. Never was, never will be. God bless those who have that vision; it’s a wonderful thing. I hope they see their goal fulfilled, and they have thousands and thousands of people coming to church on Sunday. Our goal is to raise disciples. That doesn’t make us better; it doesn’t make them better. I’m just saying that our goal is to make disciples. And if you’re in, “Come on.”

If you just want to be comfortable going somewhere and putting a little money in the basket every week, well, I don’t know how long you’ll want to remain around here. Stay as long as you’re comfortable, but there will be a time that you’re going to get itchy feet and say, “I ain’t stayin’ here no more. Too much is expected of me. I’d rather go where I feel better, put my money in a basket, and Pastor, don’t get in my face every week.” We’ve tried that. It doesn’t work! Not for us. And who wants that? Man, I don’t want a church full of corpses!

It is time for Cliffdale to return to our first love. Time for us to do what God has called us to do. His calling has never changed. We had changed, but God’s call on this church has never changed. And we’ll only be fulfilled when we are busy about the Father’s business and when we are doing those things that God created us to do, not only as individuals, but also as a church.

I don’t want to follow a god that I imagine what he is, and then he fits my schematic of what my idea of a god is supposed to be like. Sometimes I think that we’ve done that in the American church. Yes, God is love, and He is merciful, but you know what? He’s also fire. What are ya gonna do with that one? We’re sometimes so fearful of a word on judgment. Well, read your Bible! “Oh, we’ll just leave that part out.” What did Jesus say? He said in that day many will come to Me and say, “Lord, Lord,” and I’ll look at them and say, “Depart from Me, workers of iniquity, I never knew you.” May we not be guilty of claiming the lordship of Christ unless we are willing to obey Him!

Every kingdom has a king (king-dom, king’s dominion). The kingdom in which you live has a king, a final authority. Is it you, or is it Jesus? You live in a kingdom. The question is: who is the ruler?

So God is calling us back. Oh yes, He’s calling us up, He’s calling us deep, but He’s calling us BACK! We don’t hear too much about being called back. We want to go higher and deeper, higher and deeper, higher and deeper. “No, I’m calling you BACK to those things that you first did that were making a difference.”

And so plans are underway, and my family and our leadership are saying, “Here we are, Lord,” and if it means selling our stuff, well, so be it. “I’ll sell everything except . . . except . . . my golf clubs. I won’t sell my golf clubs.” I was looking around the other day and saying to my wife, “We gotta get rid of stuff, we gotta get rid of it, and we have to start to do some things here.” And she said, “Tell me!”

Even in the challenge that Wesley made the other day, you don’t sell something so that you can buy other things for yourself. I used the example earlier: “I’ll sell my golf clubs so I can buy a new surfboard. Huh, how about that, Jesus?” And you know what Jesus says, “Do whatever you want, just remember, I see your works. I see them. I see what you’re doing.”

Now, He did have a couple of commendations there in verse 2 of Revelation chapter 2; He saw several good things about the church at Ephesus. They had tested those who said they were apostles and found them out to be liars, and He also commended them regarding the fact that they had not taken the course of the Nicolaitans. And then He said, “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give to him to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”

What is it that we have to overcome? It’s not just the powers of darkness: Satan and demons. Oftentimes the most powerful force we have to reckon with is that of our own flesh. That is why over and over again Jesus said, “If you’re going to be My disciples, then you must learn to deny yourself.” “Deny yourself,” if you don’t know, means to say “NO” to what you want. Now I would add a further challenge. Tell yourself “NO,” and see how your “self” responds. Sometimes we are so unregenerate in our soul. You can deny yourself a piece of cheesecake and practically have a self-conniption. If you don’t know what a conniption looks like, imagine your picture after you’ve told yourself no about the cheesecake. No. No. No. No. No, you cannot have your plastic Jesus. No, you can’t. God is not going to be conformed into the image that we want Him to be!

My grandmother came from Italy. If ever there was a Catholic grandma, it was my grandma. She went to mass every day and had candles and a little shrine in her bedroom. I was raised Catholic, and we were so Catholic that we had our plastic Jesus up on the dashboard, and next to Him was St. Christopher. And if you don’t know what that one is for, it’s for safe travel because Christopher carried Jesus over the river. Oh my. Hallelujah, thank God for Jesus! Huh?

There is no plastic Jesus, and He will not be conformed according to the mold that we try to put Him in. We’ve been made in His image and in His likeness. As we yield to His Spirit, we can come to a place of knowing and doing His will and that’s where we find fulfillment. That’s where we find true happiness and satisfaction in this life and even greater reward in the life to come.

~ PG