It’s Within Your Reach

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Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17)

When a child sees something they want, they generally make every effort to reach out and grab for it…often to the frustration of their parents. They are determined.  As adults, our willingness to “reach out” seems to be on the decline with a sense of entitlement on the incline. We want every good thing to be handed to us and placed in our hands. We don’t want to move to action, we just want to receive.

God is a good Father who gives His children good gifts. But God doesn’t always place these directly into our hands. He often places them within our reach.

Matthew teaches us in Chapter 7, verses 7-8 to

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Before receiving, there is FIRST a call to action. Ask. Search. Knock.

THEN there is response. Receive. Find. The door is opened.

  • Would you get mad at someone for not getting you something you never asked for?No, you didn’t ask for it.
  • Would you be annoyed if no one opened the door for you despite standing there for hours? No. You should have knocked.
  • Would be bothered if you didn’t find something you were never looking for? No. You were not looking for anything.

We constantly have God’s attention but may never bother to communicate with Him. Why do we expect to receive from God without asking, seeking, and acting?

Only when we ask, search and knock can we then receive, find and have the door opened to us.

God has placed His love, grace, peace, joy, mercy, forgiveness and salvation all within our reach but it is still up to us to:

  1. Use our mind to contemplate our choices
  2. Use our will to freely decide how we will act and
  3. Use our body to then act according to what we have decided.

It is a call and response relationship that requires action.

Here are few other instances of this pattern in the Bible:

Verse Call to Action Response
Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16) Approach the throne of grace with boldness Receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need
Draw near to God and God will draw near to you. (James 4:7-8) Draw near to God God will draw near to you.
Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17) Hear the Word of God. Grow in Faith.
If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Confess our sins. Receive forgiveness.
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11) Ask God. Receive from God.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:3) Ask God RIGHTLY. Receive from God.

All these things we must do with right intent before God (James 4:3; 1 John 5:14) seeking first the giver not the gift (1 Corinthians 12-16)

God has not placed any good thing outside of our reach. God wants us to use our intellect to discern His will and then act by faith. Often, we are busy waiting for God to drop down His blessings into our laps or place it into our hands. We must act. Ask, seek, knock and keep knocking! God will answer but we must first reach out to receive.

PRAYER

Dear God, help me to come before you with a right heart to seek you. Give me patience as I wait on your answers. Help me to be still and to not run ahead of you if it seems like you’re not responding. I trust you and know that you will take care of me. I thank you Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

 

Your Gift Has a Purpose

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Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

A phone, by design, is a neutral object. It is not “good” or “bad”.

What brings it into a category of good or bad is the way we use it.

A phone can be used to:

  • Read the Bible
  • Listen to worship music
  • Connect with friends and family no matter the distance
  • Share Christ with others through social media
  • Locate each other

The same phone can be used to:

  • Bash and bully others with our words via text and social media
  • Post inappropriate photos, words and images
  • Hurt others
  • Access porn
  • Stalk and harass people

The phone itself is not good or bad but the way we use it can cause it to fall into a category of “good” or “bad”. This is where free will comes in.

Every good and perfect gift comes from above. God has given us each gifts and talents. He has given us so many good things but the way we use and share them with others is up to us.

Through our choices we either glorify God or we dishonour Him.

Your gifts have a purpose and the foundation of that purpose is to honour God, to bring glory to Him and to bring others closer to Him. You see it’s not just about it. Your gift was never just for you.

If God has gifted you with a beautiful singing voice but you choose to sing songs full of violence and swearing, you abuse the gift.

If God has given you the ability to bring people together yet you bring people together to gossip and slander others, you abuse the gift.

If God has given you the ability to speak eloquently yet you spend your time in meaningless quarrels, you abuse the gift.

There is a right way of using the gifts God has given us. What has God gifted you with?

PRAYER

Dear Lord, please help me to use the gifts you have given me to bring glory to you. Forgive me for all the ways I have abused your gifts and reveal my errors to me. Let my path be straight and your will be done. In Jesus name, Amen.

Are You In Order?

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Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

You may be falling into sin simply because you are out of order.

The Bible tells us to “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” but the line immediately preceding this says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God”.

This means before we can resist the devil, we must submit to God. We cannot resist the devil without submitting to God.  We must first do step 1 before we can do step 2 so my question is, are you in order? Meditate on the steps below and ask God for wisdom and knowledge to deepen and widen your understanding. Set time aside to spend with God in prayer, conversation and in His Word.

Getting into Order

Step 1. Submit to God

You need to voluntarily rank beneath God and accept His will not your own. You need to die to yourself daily and surrender your life to God. You no longer live to satisfy yourself and your desires but to please God and to do what He asks of you. This is called “waking by the Spirit”. It is when we are connected to God and move as He directs us.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:24-25)

As believers, we have a mission to walk by the Spirit. We can tell if we are walking by the Spirit if we see the “fruits” of the Spirit which include:

“..love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control(Galatians 5:22-23)

However, the works of the flesh are obvious:

“..fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God(Galatians 5:19-21).

It is not only important but critical that we learn to live by the Spirit and not the flesh. When we live by the Spirit, we do not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

Step 2. Resist the devil

Once we are submitted to God and walking by the Spirit, then we are in a position of strength where we can “resist the devil”. It’s not a sin to be tempted. We are all tempted. Sin is birthed when we start entertaining temptation and breathing life into. Sin is given full effect when we cave in and give in to temptation.

Temptation is often a temporary suffering in the flesh.

“A silly idea is that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.”  (C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity)

We must do our best to endure temptation as it will pass. To “resist” is not a one-off attempt to try not to sin. We must enforce God’s Word and it’s authority (even speaking it out loud!). God has given believer’s authority over all power of the enemy according to Luke 10:19 which says

See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.

The enemy fears the Word of God because it contains the means to overcome his tactics and foil, expose and bring to nothing Satan’s mission to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Indeed, even the demons believe in the Word of God – and tremble (James 2:1).

The Word of God is powerful. It is your spiritual sword. Hebrews 4:12 tells us

the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart”

If you fail, repent and try again seeking wisdom in the Word of God.Remember, Jesus sympathizes with us. He knows what it’s like to suffer in the flesh when we are tempted. He, Himself, was tempted in every way but He did not sin. So He must be source of advise and guidance that we run to in order to learn how to overcome the temptations we face.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need(Hebrews 4:15-16)

God’s got your back and He will help you through it, just ask Him! Don’t let fear or shame hold you back. Go to Him boldly and He will give you mercy and grace.

Step 3.  The devil will flee

The enemy cannot withstand the power and authority of God. Satan is a defeated foe (Isaiah 14:12; Philippians 2:9-11). We just need to enforce our God given authority. Satan is a temporary nuisance to those walking with God but a real threat to those still coming to God. Pray for one another.

Step 4. Repeat steps 1-3

There is power, protection and blessing in walking by the Spirit with God. You can do all things through Him who gives you strength. Keep going. Keep trying. God will get you to where you need to be. He will strengthen  and equip you with everything you need. Your job is to pray, to spend time with Him and to learn to recognise His voice. God is patient and He’s got you in the palm of His hand.

PRAYER
Dear God, Search me and correct any wrong way in me. If I am out of order, please show me and teach me your ways. Give me the willpower to die to myself and submit to you, the strength to  resist the devil and the love to sincerely and aggressively pray for others. In Jesus’ Almighty name, Amen.

 

The Debt Collector

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“The debtor fell down and begged: ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’”(Matthew 18:26)

Ever had a credit card debt?

Imagine owing the bank millions and having no way of repaying it. The bank threatens to take your home and all your assets leaving you and your family broke, homeless and in a state of poverty. The bank has every right to do so. It’s YOUR debt that is outstanding. They are completely justified in casting you aside for failing to repay what you owe.

But what if the bank turned around and said “hey, you know how you owe us millions? Forget about it. We’re going to cancel the debt and wipe your record clean”.

Well that’s exactly what Jesus has done for you.

Jesus often spoke in parables. Parables are stories with a deeper meaning to help break things down for us. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells us about this man (the “debtor”) who had borrowed millions from the King (the “creditor”).

A debtor is someone who owes money.

A creditor is someone who is owed money.

The King decided to collect what was owed to him however the man could not pay so he was to be sold along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned to pay the debt. Talk about loss. That’s literally losing everything.

The debtor fell down and begged:

‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’

Filled with pity for him, the master released him and forgave his debt.

The King FORGAVE his debt. All of it. He knew the man had no way of repaying what he owed so instead he took pity on him and cancelled the debt setting the man free. The debtor did not repay the creditor. He did not earn forgiveness of his debt but forgiveness was freely given by a merciful King who took pity on him.

So what happens next? This same man, the debtor, leaves the King and finds his fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. We see the debtor is now the creditor having someone who owes him money. You would think that the he would be ecstatic and grateful that his GIANORMOUS debt was forgiven that he would forgive the tiny debt this fellow servant owed him.

Unfortunately that’s NOT what happened.

The debtor/now creditor leaves the King, finds his debtor and grabs him by the throat DEMANDING instant payment.

WHOA! That escalated quickly!

His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time.

‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded.

We’ve seen this scenario before. However, instead of forgiving the debt (as the King did for him), the creditor had his fellow servant arrested and put into prison until the debt was repaid in full. Some of the other servants who saw this were upset and reported to the King. The King called in the man he had forgiven and said:

‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’

Then the angry King handed the man over to be imprisoned and tortured until he had paid his entire debt. This is the parable and Jesus warns:

“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

It’s not that God imprisons or tortures us but our decision to sin means God must hand us over to the consequence of our sin. God would rather have us suffer temporarily on earth and come to a repentance then to suffer eternally in hell for our sin.

“By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10)

God is holy and He cannot affiliate with anything that is not. In order to receive forgiveness, we must forgive (Matthew 6:12). In order to receive mercy, we must show mercy (James 2: 12-13Matthew 5:7 ). Our failure to act in this Christ like manner causes us to lock ourselves out from God’s presence. We imprison ourselves and we suffer when we are separated from God but forgiveness through Christ reconciles us back to God.

I wonder do you show mercy to others? Do you forgive like Christ has forgiven your debts or do you keep a record of wrongs? Do you hold the sins of others against them and bring them up when it suits you?  The debt you owe Christ will always far outweigh the debt anyone will ever owe you. Don’t believe me? Ask the Spirit of God to search you.

“..the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? (1 Corinthians 2: 10-11)

God knows exactly what’s inside your heart and your mind. The world might not always see what’s inside you but the Spirit of God can search every nook and cranny inside of you and reveal the wickedness that lies there. Don’t be afraid to ask God to search you. Don’t be ashamed to bring the darkness into the light. Only then can it be defeated. It has power over you when it is hidden but in the light, the power of sin is destroyed. The Holy Spirit can identify your sin and help you recognise it so you can bring it into the light and destroy it through Christ.

We don’t know all the ways we have offended God. I can sum it up and say that most of us have all sinned against God in some way if not, every way. Our righteousness is as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6).

Some of us act as though we are God’s personally appointed debt collectors. We’re not. Love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). When God forgives our sins, He blots out our transgressions and forgets them (Hebrews 8:12; Isaiah 43:25). He casts our sin into the depths of the ocean (Micah 7:19). Jesus was manifested to reconcile the world to himself not counting our sins against us (2 Corinthians 5: 18-19). If Jesus Himself is not counting the sins of those forgiven, who are we do to so? There is only one judge. We need to pray for those who fall into sin not hurl their sin back in their face.

Before we look for the speck of sawdust in our brothers eye, we should look at the plank in our own eye (Matthew 7:3; Luke 6:41) and in humility value others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

PRAYER

Dear God, please help me to see all the ways which I have sinned against you so that I may repent and draw closer to you. Please forgive my sins known and unknown and move me to pray for others who sin and not pass judgement. I know my righteousness is filthy rags before you and I want to please you with my whole life. I know I can do all things through you who gives me strength. In Jesus name, Amen.

New Year, New You?

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So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view… if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:16- 17)

A new haircut is not a new you. A better diet is not a new you. A bucket list of places you want to go to is not a new you.  People seem to be willing to change their hair, their body and their lifestyle but not their heart. Real and lasting change has to begin in the heart. If you want a new you, to be a new creation, then let me introduce to your creator.  Only Jesus can instigate the changes necessary to change your heart, renew your mind and make you truly new.

When God changes you, the old you will be unrecognisable, perhaps not physically, but in all other respects. People will notice that something is different about your life and the way you carry yourself. We see in Scripture that when God instigated identity changes, it was so transformative that He even renamed the person whose life He changed!

Abram to Abraham.

Simon to Peter.

Saul to Paul.

Just to name a few. It doesn’t mean a name change is required; the point is their new identity in Christ is so far from who they used to be without Christ that it is as though they are a new person. And they are.  The old has passed away. The “old” is their previous sinful person outside of Christ. We all need to say goodbye to our “old” self. We need to recognise that we have no goodness, peace, joy or any deep rooted sense of fulfilment and satisfaction outside of Christ.

The “New You” is when you become a new creation in Christ.

How many “New Years” have come and gone where you’ve seen short lived change or no significant change in you? Or no matter how much you change, you’re still not satisfied, still not complete? We may have people, things or accomplishments that offer temporary fulfilment but before we know it, we’re empty again. We need someone or something to fill us up and validate us to make us feel good about ourselves. Someone to tell us how great we are, to cuddle us and make us feel loved or we run to get “likes” on social media.

This is a futile exercise. Only Jesus can fill that void inside your heart.

If you want a transformation then welcome Jesus into your heart and watch Him wreck and pull apart the old you and build a beauty and perfection words cannot describe nor do justice. Yes the process hurts at times but it is the best decision you will ever make. As you continue learning new things about yourself in Christ, you will fall in love with Him because you are getting to know who He really is. Remember, Christ is building you up into HIS image. You are getting to know Christ and your true self in Christ. You better believe you are so valuable, so precious and so loved.

We invest all this time in getting to know others but we never invest in getting to know ourselves. We need invest time in getting to know our true selves and discovering our identity in Christ, our true identity.

When the “old” is passing away, it is being removed as one sinful nature after another. You get to pass one test at a time.  The Holy Spirit will invite you to cut off or change anything that is stopping you from growing into the image of Christ and hindering the process of change. It could be a bad relationship, a habit or changing your way of thinking.  You may need to forgive someone, let go of resentment or learn to surrender every aspect of your life to God.

Imagine going out with someone and as you are trying to get to know them, they dump their entire life story on you beginning from their first breathe up til that specific moment in time. It would be overwhelming and confusing. You would quickly excuse yourself to leave or hatch an elaborate escape plan!

God doesn’t just dump your “new identity” on you all at once. It’s a process. You are getting to know one another and this takes time. You need to spend time with each other and be intentional about your relationship with Him. How else do you get to know someone? Sit before God, spend time reading His Word, write to Him, sing to Him, and speak to Him. There are so many ways you can connect and you don’t have to worry about your phone battery dying or exceeding your data plan or minutes. He’s always there, always ready plus heaven has the best phone plan and its lines are never down.

Be patient.  Although you may be a “new creation” through repentance and reconciliation back to God, you may still see some remnants or residue of your “old self” but fear not, God is going to work through it with you. He invites you to change. If you don’t get it right the first time just keep trying. God will get you to where you need to be if you keep seeking Him no matter how many times you fall. Seek forgiveness with a genuinely repentant heart, pick yourself back up and try again.

This year, focus on changing the only person you can change, you.

Jesus is calling you by name. You are invited.