1 John 3:16

Hereby perceive we the love [of God], because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren. 

Put Your Love where Your Mouth is!

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Isn’t it ironic how John 3:16, the love of God through Christ and 1 John 3:16, the love of Christ through us, coincide so closely together?  Both of these scriptures involve the giving of a sacrifice in love.  Both of these scriptures involve the laying down of a life as the ultimate expression of love. 

My conviction today is how shallow and conditional my love is.  It is not nearly so focused on others as it is on its own agenda.  That self-love wants to preserve and cater to this life rather than sacrifice and give it.  Rather we think it out loud or not, how much of our life is motivated by, “what’s in it for me?”  What is even more convicting is how we so often treat the ones that are the closest to us and that we say that we love the greatest with the most contempt, disrespect and selfishness.  Where does all of that line up with the love of God in us?  We talk about the love of Christ, we preach it to others and we go through the motions, but is that love, that agape love, alive in action in our personal day to day relationships.  

Husbands, why are we not bringing the love into the home?  Why do we not love our wives, like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it?  Why do we not love our brethren, rather than using and taking advantage of them?  Should it surprise us that the world has so much contempt for us as Christians?  A good deal of the contempt and mockery of Christianity has little to do with how much we are like Christ.  Our hypocrisy betrays us.  When Christians and churches don’t pay their bills, borrow and don’t return, and only take, but never give, what does that speak about the love of Christ in our lives?   Many of us need a reality check about what the love of Christ is, because it isn’t being seen in us.   Where has the depth of God’s agape love gone?  When that love is operating people will be drawn to Christ and they will know us by our love.  How do others perceive and know us now?  Is that self-giving, sacrificial love what we are known for?  

Our prayer should be, “God make me a giver like You are a giver.  Make me a lover like you have loved me.  Make my life a living sacrifice daily poured out to You as I serve and love others as You have served and loved me.  Help me to experience in daily deed and reality what it is to love my neighbor as myself.  Help me to put Your love where my empty hollow words have been.  Amen.”

 
 
Blessings,
#kent

Antichrist among Us

September 18, 2014

1 John 2:18-22
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

Antichrist among Us

An antichrist spirit is that which denies and abides not in the Truth. Those who are in Christ know the truth and embrace who they in Christ through obedience and faith. Many of us have been concerned about the Antichrist that is coming, but the scripture is warning us that his spirit is already here among us. The scripture says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” This suggests that the spirit of antichrist in our very midst and assembly. Now don’t construe that just because someone doesn’t embrace your particular doctrinal beliefs or stay with your group that they are antichrist. This goes beyond that. This touches those that may have an outward confession or appearance of a Christian, but in their hearts they deny that Jesus is the Christ. In their hearts they have not been joined and made one with Him. Those who are in Christ will find their identity in Christ for they are of the same Spirit as He. They no longer are seeing Christ as separate, up, out and away from them. They are coming into the identity of who they are in Christ and who He is in them. It is a mindset and revelation that we are in Christ now. While we may be absent from Him in body, we are present with Him in spirit.
One thing that trials and testing do is they prove the substance and spirit of a person. If we do not truly possess Christ and find our reliance and life in Him, we will not be able to stand the test. We may go to church, serve on the board and sing in the choir, but if Christ is not in us, then we are only living a religion and not a reality. The proof of a child of God is seen in the fire. It is when they hold fast their faith even when all of natural reality speaks and testifies against it. They are born of the Truth and the Truth abides in them. They live out of that reality. It is not based on their understanding, their goodness, or their knowledge; it based on the substance of Christ in them. In that faith they stand, even to the yielding up of their natural life. This is why the scripture says in 1 Peter 1: 6-9 “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”
It is he who denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, and God’s only Son that is the antichrist. When we deny the Son, we deny the Father as well for by One we know the Other. If we fail to embrace that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life then we are of an antichrist spirit. We are conditional believers who will forsake the faith when we perceive that God has not met our conditions or expectations. Those in Christ are unconditional believers that are sold out. They will follow Christ to the end no matter what the cost. Our faith is not conditional upon our circumstances, our understanding or what we feel. It is based on an inward knowing of Him who abides within us. The knowing is so great that even death does not move us from it, because in Him we have the assurance of Life everlasting. Outside of Him what do we have but the assurance of death and judgement? You who are in Christ know this Truth because you have an anointing from the Holy One and you know all things. You may not think that you do, but the One who knows all abides in you.
If this word moves you at all to question your faith then come to the Lord in true repentance and embrace Him in faith. Ask Him to come into your heart and remove every spirit in you that has opposed Him. Don’t carry with you the outward appearance of a Christian; possess the inward reality and assurance that can be yours through your commitment to Christ in faith. You can possess that inward peace and assurance that you are His.

Blessings,
#kent

Isaiah 55:6-9
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
7Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

When God Doesn’t Seem to Come Through

Most all of us that have been believers for some time have experienced times when we prayed or believed for things that ended with a “no” from God. We were under the impressions that if we just prayed in faith everything would go our way. Many have given up on their faith and turned away because they felt God disappointed them and let them down. They may have succumb to a sickness or disease, lost a romance or marriage, lost a loved one or experienced financial ruin. No matter what the tragedy was to you, you felt God let you down. Isn’t God faithful?
We need to be clear that God’s faithfulness doesn’t hinge on our circumstances and perception of answered prayer. We see through the tunnel vision of such finite understanding. We see only our perspective and we feel that should be God’s perspective as well. Like the scripture says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God is not a puppet or celestial Santa Claus. It doesn’t mean that every time we ask or pray we get what we want. He is the Creator and operates out of His wisdom and not ours. Do we love and trust God for who He is and who we believe Him to be or is our faith and love conditional upon God’s performance to us? Is God’s love and faithfulness to you conditional upon your goodness and faithfulness or does He love you unconditionally? Why are we so conditional of our love and commitment to God when His is unconditional towards us? Usually, it is because we are reacting out of the emotional pain of a loss or disappointment. “God’s in charge, let’s blame Him.” Many times we don’t stop to even consider if our lives were lining up with all of God’s principles and ways. Even if they were let’s look for a moment at the example of Job.
Job was a righteous man in God’s eyes. He was abundantly and supernaturally blessed. That coincided with the belief of the day that if you walked upright and in favor with God you would experience good things in your life. Then God steps out of Job and his friends paradigm box and does something totally contrary to their way of thinking. He allows satan to come in and lets everything to go south for Job. His friends were convinced Job must have some sin in his life because that is what their perspective had taught them. In the end when God reveals His ways and grandeur to Job, Job is undone and sees even his righteousness in the light of such a majestic God is but filthy rags. God took away all that Job had to put something greater back in His hand. Sometimes, even in our lives, God has to destroy our old box of thinking so that He can increase and expand us into His.
Let me give you a “Reader’s Digest” version of a personal story that illustrates this. I took Sharon, my wife, out house shopping one day and it must have been under the unction of the Holy Spirit, because it is certainly not in my nature to house shop. I took her across town and we went through this newly custom built home that was beautiful in a lovely area of town at the base of the mountains. It was only five hundred thousand, which in our budget might as well have been five million, but you know, we began to believe that what we couldn’t do, God could. God seemed to be adding fuel to the fire of our faith by providing outside encouragement and confirmation from various sources until we became fully confident that this was the house that God wanted to give us. We continued standing in faith until one day the house sold. The rug just go pulled out from under our faith. Sharon even had us to go up to the new owners and ask how long they intended on being there, because she was still seeing it as hers. Needless to say my enthusiasm for house hunting was gone. Had God let us down?
Over the next year or two the Lord directed Sharon to plant a seed and she did it totally in obedience to what she felt God was directing her to do not because she necessarily believed in the way it was being done. Some months later we were gifted with thirty thousand dollars that allowed us to pay off our current house and have no debts. A little more time goes by and we’re driving home from a delivery when Sharon spots a house that again seems way out of our league and I am not even wanting to go there. So she arranges to go look at it and I won’t even go with her. Perhaps I am still nursing that disappointment. She is so impressed that she gets me to go and look.
Now before all of this house hunting I had told Sharon to write a list of everything she would want in a house. She did, and this house had everyone of those things. It was perfect for my photography business and was really better suited to our needs and wants than the original house we had believed for. We put a bid on it and two other parties were also interested, but we got the house and it is where we live today. We have loved it and have not ceased to thank God for His goodness since. You see, God said no to the lesser to give us the better. He truly is able to give us abundantly more than we can ask or think. Our perspective and earthly understanding didn’t allow us to see God’s highest for us at the time, but that faith we had for the first house positioned us for the better.
1 Peter 1:3-9 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
It is not the blessings and all the “yes” answers to prayer that builds our faith. It is what our faith is made of through the fires of trials and testing that make it much more precious than gold. Does our faith stand the fire of trials, disappointments, losses, persecution and failed expectations? Are we going to still trust God when He doesn’t fit in the box of our understanding and reasoning? Like Job, God is bringing us up into something higher that far supercedes any loss in the earthly realm. If we are only naturally minded then we won’t comprehend that. We will only see our immediate circumstances and judge God based on that.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I always remember the verse to a song that says, “when you don’t understand His hand, trust His heart.” God is love and you are the object of that love. If your faith has been shaken, then know that it is to grow you stronger and even more faithful. Even through every trial Father remains with you, for you and will only allow it to burn up the things that hinder you from coming up higher into Him. Like Andre Crouch used to sing, “Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all, through it all I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.” Don’t give up, don’t give in, keep your faith, continue to trust in Him!

Blessings,
kent

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