During my life time, the American dream was having a white picket fence around a nice little house and 2 or 3 perfectly behaved children. It was the “Ozzie and Harriet”, “Leave It to Beaver”, and “Father Know Best” all rolled into one, the perfect family.
Unfortunately there is very little reality to this fantasy.
Christianity is sometimes also framed in unrealistic terms. It was something we all did on Sunday and personal faith was seldom spoken about. God was good but not really knowable. There was no requirement other than membership. Children were not taught the idea of sacrifice or being sold out for Jesus. In fact this foreign concept almost didn’t exist. Pot lucks were the ideal of sharing. Rummage sales were how we paid for the needs of the church. Does anyone remember this style of Christianity?
In the 1970’s there was a type of revolution called the Jesus Movement. Young people were tired of a faith and a God that was not real. Millions of these young men and women got radically saved. I was one of them. We wanted to see God move and touch humanity. We knew that we were not the sum total of everything and that there must be something greater than ourselves. The slogan “Jesus is the Answer” became our reality. I have been a Christian since 1971 and that reality has matured and gotten stronger.
I was introduced through a book to a man named Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a German pastor, martyr, and prophet). He was a man who truly lived out the Christian life. In the midst of Hitler’s Germany, Bonhoeffer stood up against the tyranny of Hitler, and for this, 4 days prior to the ending of the war, after 18 months as a prisoner of the third Reich, he was killed and thus became a Christian martyr.
Bonhoeffer lived and breathed the scripture. He believed it to be God’s word and a Christian must live by this book – the Bible.
He lived the following verse of scripture found in Galatians chapter 2 and verse 20:
I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Eric Metaxas states in his book, “Bonhoeffer”,
“Who stands fast?” he asked. “Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principle, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God- the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.
“Bonhoeffer’s life’s answer and call was as a part of the resistance to Hitler and for this he gave his life.”
I must admit that this is a far cry from the white picket life spoken of earlier. One must come to a place of complete surrender in order to enjoy the fruits of a set apart life. This life has a claim on you.
Paul said in Galatians, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.” I do not believe we can be world changers for Christ without this attitude. The halls of heaven are lined with those who have gone before us and heard these wonderful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
Paul, Peter, the other apostles, Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, all knew what it meant to live for Christ. We must ask ourselves this question. Are we ready to live our Christian lives as those who have gone before us? Are we willing to give our all for His utmost? I pray this for me and you.
If you’re like most people, it’s a lot easier for you to forgive someone if they come to you, admit they were wrong, say they’re sorry and ask for forgiveness. It’s hard to be unforgiving in the face of that kind of humility and repentance.
But what if they don’t come, never admit they were wrong, never say they’re sorry and never ask for forgiveness? How hard is it to forgive them then?
When my husband and I were first married he was quick to come to me when he’d done something that hurt me and ask for my forgiveness. And I was quick to forgive him. Then the day came when he did something that hurt me badly, but he didn’t come seeking forgiveness. I waited all day, unable to think of much else, and when I went to bed that night I was still feeling extremely hurt.
As I lay in bed unable to sleep I heard the Lord say, “Grow up. You know that you’re to forgive whether he asks or not. I’ve made it easy for you thus far, but now it’s time for you to grow up and do the right thing when it’s not easy.”
So, I took a deep breath and began to pray, forgiving my husband and releasing him and the hurt I felt to the Lord. The next thing I knew it was morning. I had slept through the night, and the hurt was gone. I tried to remember what my husband had done, but I couldn’t. To this day I can’t remember.
That’s the only time the Lord wiped a hurt from my memory as well as my heart. I think He did it to drive the point home that it’s my unconditional forgiveness that releases me from hurt and enables me to love the one who hurt me. Valuable lesson learned.
For many years now at the beginning of the year God has given me a scripture or word of encouragement that becomes my foundation for the year. As I have shared these with people, many have expressed encouragement and excitement. I believe these words are cumulative. What I mean is the previous scriptures continue to apply with the added dimension of new scriptures. This year is the same.
Last year, the term “Harvest Encounters” came to me as I shared that, from 2 Kings 3:17-18, God was ready to “fill the ditches we have dug” in our ministries, finances, relationships, health, etc. I’ve seen this provision happen and many have sent notes that they were experiencing similar events throughout the year. This year the “Harvest Continues”.
It seems strange to be sharing about harvest when the last few years have been a struggle for many- especially financially. Nevertheless that is what my spirit keeps hearing as I pray and study the bible. For those who can’t wait any longer, the scriptures for the year are Joel 2:19 & 26 but here is the long version.
Joel 2:12 (ESV) “Yet even now” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning”
My wife and I are in the middle of a twenty one day Daniel fast and we are expecting breakthroughs just as Daniel did as he prayed and fasted for his answer (Dan.10). I encourage you to consider a no meat, no sweets fast for your own breakthroughs. Fasting helps us be more sensitive to God’s promptings.
Joel 2:18-19 (ESV) “Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. The Lord answered and said to his people, ‘Behold I am sending to you grain, wine and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.”
God is jealous over you. He wants to bless and provide for you. He is sending grain- financial provision; wine-health and physical healing; and oil- anointing. I expect an increase in each of these areas this year. I anticipate more “harvest encounters” with greater results so don’t ever stop “digging the ditches”. Joel 2:26 tells us God will restore. That means things will be better than before.
Joel 2:26 (ESV) “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your god, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”
Plenty sounds pretty good to me. Bring on the grain, wine, and oil! But don’t forget the purpose- God gets all the glory.
Joel 2:27 (ESV) “You shall know that I am in the (your) midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”
I was talking to a friend recently and our discussion turned to my new position as State Director for Victorious Christian Living International. And as we talked about what my goals were and discussed what this ministry might look like I think I had a glimpse into the heart of John the Baptist. “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” (NIV Matthew 3:1-2) The Message states it this way, “While Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John, called ‘the Baptizer,’ was preaching in the desert country of Judea. His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: ‘Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.’”
So I guess I have to ask myself this question: if “the kingdom of heaven has come near” or “God’s kingdom is here” or, as I first read it 16 years ago, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” what then does it look like to truly be a disciple of Jesus? What is “discipleship?” It certainly seems to be a lot more about living than about dying. I wonder sometimes if we’ve become so focused on eternity, which we can do nothing about other than accepting Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for our sins, that we’ve forgotten about today. And please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I believe completely that the message of the cross MUST be the beginning of the journey for everyone. I could spend hours and days and weeks talking about just that the cross. And as I type those words it occurs to me that maybe therein lies the problem. Because until what happened at the cross became real and applicable to my own life, until what happened to Jesus was no longer just a historical fact but became the central focus of my life because of my desperate need for forgiveness, none of the rest of it mattered. Wow. The entire message of this letter just changed.
I grew up in church. I assume I heard the Gospel on a regular basis from the time I was a small boy. So what happened? Where did I miss the message? Or maybe I just didn’t care about the message. Or maybe the message wasn’t there. I honestly don’t know. But what I do know is this: my “concept” of God was a million miles away from where I am today. Then, God was the great scorekeeper in the sky. God was very unhappy with me. God was a distant authoritarian figure that wanted me to follow the rules, rules which I either could not or chose not to follow. And man, did He have lots of rules! Don’t do this! Don’t do that! Don’t have any fun! I really and truly believed those statements. And the only thing I was one hundred percent sure of was that he was angry with me. I think of Jim Carrey’s line in the movie Bruce Almighty when he says “Smite me almighty smiter!” I simply waited day to day for God to crush me like a bug.
We compete in everything and for everything. Football, baseball, soccer, basketball and life itself. Companies compete against other companies, countries compete against other countries and of course individuals compete against each other. As we strive to be the best, it is fueled by a competitive spirit that wants to destroy the competition. Unfortunately we even find competition going on in the church.
The church today has fallen prey to this hideous attitude of competition. We want our church to be the biggest, the coolest, the hippest place going. We want the best preacher, the best music program and too often we couch it in spiritual terms. We say things like we want to give the best we can for the glory of God. We may even use scripture to cover up our competitive spirit.
We do things as “unto the Lord”. Now I am sure there are people with pure hearts but I want to talk to those like me! I must fight the urge to put down another ministry in order to put mine in a more perfect light. I want to do it God’s way not mine.
In John 13:35 we read:
By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another
If we want to be known as Christ’s disciple it does not come from our superior intellect or the grandness of our sanctuary but how we love one another. Agape love will give the world a glimpse of who we really are. Because the world is competitive and they see those in the church being competitive, they draw the conclusion that we are no different than they are. We must not let it be so. We must guard ourselves and love one another. We must work together to show the world that we are truly different.
We must not be the seventh thing, spoken about in Proverbs 6:19, that the Lord hates.
A false witness who breathes out lies [even under oath], and he who sows discord among his brethren.
No, we should be like the church at Thessalonica:
Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Instead of sowing discord among believers, we must be building up and edifying them as we join forces in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
People will sometimes try to encourage someone who’s going through a hard time with the following scripture.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.
But often it’s hard for the person being encouraged to see what good could possibly come from what they’re going through.
I think that’s primarily because, although we are familiar with Romans 8:28, we are much less familiar with the next verse.
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn with many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:29.
In this verse we are told what God’s purpose is in every circumstance in which we find ourselves, that we become like Jesus – humble, selfless, patient, trusting, forgiving, etc. – and part of His family. This is the good God is bringing about.
We as humans tend to be rather shortsighted and have our own ideas about what’s good and what a good outcome to a situation would look like. God, on the other hand, sees the big picture and is working for our ultimate, eternal good, that we be like Him and with Him.
If we can keep that as our perspective in the hard times, they won’t seem quite so hard.
Have you been confused after you talked with someone?
What happened It just didn’t go well.
Did they get defensive?
Did you hold back what you really wanted to say?
Ephesians 4:15 give us the two sides of the communication coin.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the
mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
Did you see the two sides? They are truth and love.
Both are necessary for good communication. There are two kinds of communicators.
One is very concerned about sharing the truth.
You always know where you stand with these people.
They tell you the truth even if you are not asking for it.
They can be overbearing and judgmental. They miss the love ingredient.
This results in people becoming defensive.
They say that you don’t seem to care.
On the other side of the coin are the people committed to love.
They care about you and don’t want to offend you in any way.
As a result they hold back and don’t give you the truth.
You know they love you but you don’t know what they are thinking because they can’t confront you.
On which side of the coin do you communicate?
Are you a truth teller that can offend people with your harsh words?
Or have you been so concerned about not offending someone that you didn’t say what needed to be said?
Miscommunication is the result.
Jesus was a master communicator. He spoke the truth in love.
In john 8:11 He says to the woman caught in adultery,
“Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.”
He called what she did a sin and told her to stop it. He also showed His love by saying
that He did not condemn her.
This is often seen in parenting. The truth talker lets the children have it. They know where
they were wrong but often forget the issue and just remember that Mom or Dad was very angry with them.
The love talker sees the child disobey but doesn’t want to rock the boat and says nothing.
The child knows when wrong has been done and wonders why he or she is not corrected.
The proper way to communicate is to have the courage to speak the truth and
the love to share it without rejecting your child.
If you are a truth talker ask God to soften your words with His love.
If you are a love talker ask God to give you the courage to speak the truth.
Let’s look for opportunities to speak the truth – and do it in love.
The Golden Rule
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
We all learned this biblical principle as children but when it comes to money and finances, there is another “Golden Rule”. It states
“Those who have the gold make the rules.”
You may chuckle at this but it is a true adage regarding money and finances. It is actually a biblical principle regarding money,
“The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Ps.22:7 (ESV)
R. Nelson Nash in his book “Becoming Your Own Banker” devotes an entire chapter to this principle. He states that it is a pity this “golden rule” isn’t looked on with more favor. Wouldn’t the world look different if committed Christians controlled and stewarded more of the world’s money pool? Instead we often turn to the world in the form of government to provide what is necessary to sustain our way of life- hence our astronomical national deficit.
Creation of capital by saving has become a lost value. The savings rate in America is miserably low. Yet with a little discipline and a good financial plan, any person has the ability to create a pool of money that he controls, grows safely, and is guaranteed with a minimum of taxation. Nash suggests that using a whole life, dividend paying, insurance policy from a mutual company structured to grow cash value will eventually provide for all our financing needs and provide a death benefit as a bonus.
This idea goes contrary to what we have been taught for at least a generation. However if you study the SALT Financial teaching regarding investing, it becomes a logical place to sow your increase for more increase. A caution we must all look out for is the thinking that we already know all the answers. This activity will keep us from learning and growing. It is actually based on the desire to control, judge, or seek praise which takes us back to the original sin in the Garden of Eden (SALT Spiritual lesson 1).
Here is a quote from the historian, Daniel Boorstin, that has impacted me significantly.
“The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance- it was the illusion of knowledge”
For as long as I can remember I was driven to perform. Unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to be the best at something, I wanted to be up front proclaiming loudly LOOK AT ME. I was the youngest in a family of over-achievers. A brother who sang a solo at the World’s fair, sisters who were leads in the school plays, gifted singers in their own right and all good students. It was a daunting task but I was up for the challenge. I would not only sing and have the lead in the school play I would add sports to my resume. I played football, baseball and even wrestled!
At the same time I desperately wanted my parents approval and love. I would do just about anything to get it. The one area I did not succeed in was in scholastics, after all my plate was already full. So, instead of receiving praise and approval for all I was doing, I heard, ‘you better get those grades up or you will never succeed at anything’. Well I thought to myself, I’ll just try harder. Have you ever been in this cycle? You try hard to get someone’s approval and you get rejection so you try harder only to get rejected again so you try even harder.
In the VCLi SALT series we call this the ‘rejection cycle’. It’s no fun at all. I liken it to a cartoon where there’s a donkey hooked up to a cart and the driver of this cart has a fishing pole with a carrot on the end and he holds this carrot out just in front of the donkey. The poor donkey tries and tries to get that carrot but it was always just out of reach – which is the way I felt about my parents approval. Have you ever felt like this about a relationship your in?
I want you to know there’s an answer. It is found in the Bible and it looks like this: when you experience rejection you remember your identity in Christ instead of trying harder to earn acceptance. The basis for this is found in the first chapter of Ephesians:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace Ephesians 1:3-7
There are 9 things that are true about you as a Christ follower:
You are, blessed, chosen, holy, blameless, loved, adopted, accepted, redeemed, and forgiven by the creator of the universe.
When I learned this truth I realized that I no longer needed man’s approval and love because God has given me His! I also learned that I must love those who reject me because they really don’t know who I am!
Well, I want you to know that when I learned this (and lived it) I was set free from the need to perform. Then I started to really know deep down that Ray L’Amoreaux is who God proclaims him to be!
“I am Spiderman!!!” my 3 year old yells from the top of his lungs as he is sporting his said costume. Let me try to explain why this is important. My son Aiden for the past year has been consumed with superheroes – not an unusual thing for a boy his age. I was the same way. I remember tying a towel around my neck pretending that I was superman. There is something about super heroes that makes every little boy want to be one. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the super powers or catching the bad guy or maybe it’s getting the hot girl. But there is something about it that consumes us. Maybe it takes us to a place where we are something different – something more than we have become.
I long so much to be a super hero to my kids. Sometimes I am far from even acting like a superhero. Like when I blow up after a hard day, or blow them off when they just want to spend time with daddy and all I want to do is veg out in front of the T.V. Then I think to myself, “what a loser superhero”. Where is my cape? Where are my powers? In those times of feeling like a loser superhero my personal worth goes out the window.
I am ashamed to say, but I’ve been trying to get my super powers from the wrong source. I’ve been believing a lie and basing my faith on a deception. A new friend of mine enlightened me on the matter. He explained it like this. Man has three deep needs: to be significant, accepted, and secure. These three things give me personal worth. Now, the world teaches us that we get these deep needs met through marriage, children, education, possessions, power, job, popularity, looks, and encouragement. God’s word teaches something different. My friend went on to say that we as Christians tend to look for our identity through the world we now live in, believing that if we could get enough of the things in the list above working for us then these things would filter down and give us acceptance, significance and security and finally a sense of personal worth. The truth of the matter is that these things produce only a fading glory.
I was happy to be reminded that my worth is not based on the things above, but on what Christ did on the cross. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). I had forgotten what kind of words were used to describe our worth through Christ; like Saint, holy, blameless, beyond reproach, priests, ambassadors. My super powers come from the cross. Not the cross and something else that only takes away from the power of the cross. Christ alone is sufficient. I am a new man and I want to teach my little spiderman this same thing.