The Apostle Paul was a Father to the churches he had founded. Throughout his epistles you can sense an underlying Fatherly concern for them that goes beyond how one might feel about a fellow church member. He told the Corinthians “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For it you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” In the Galatian letter Paul said, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you.”

As a Father to these many believers Paul talked to them straight; he never pulled any punches but it always came from a place of concern for their well-being and wanting what was best for them. This of course is yet another proof God’s Spirit had in fact taken up residence within him because prior to that Paul was a mean spirited and violent man. He thought of himself as above others and didn’t hesitate to do whatever it took to demonstrate it.

As the guys in the small group Bible study and I made our way through Philippians 2 we read where Paul said, “Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” Paul so longed for his readers to see and experience what they had received in Christ he was willing to have his very life poured out for them if that’s what it took. I shared with the guys how this is the heart of God because his mind is “others first”.

We can see this demonstrated in the life of Moses when God seems to have become fed up with Israel’s shenanigans at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses went before God on behalf of Israel saying, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if you will, forgive their sin–and if not, please blot me out form your book which you have written!” Wow! This is what it means to be one with God. “God so loves the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” Moses loved Israel so much he was willing to take what they deserved upon himself.

In the ninth chapter of Romans we read where Paul had the exact same heart for his people. He said, “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh…” This is God’s heart for the world. He loves us and wants us to be saved so much he was willing to give everything in order to do it.

When Jesus walked the earth he said things like “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no part of me” and “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven”. Jesus whole earthly life was to be a ransom for many. In fact everything in all of creation is designed to give itself for others. Think for a minute with me. A tree is meant to give its wood to be a table, bed, chair or house. A plant is to give its fruit or vegetable in order to provide food for the eater. What about a cow, goat or chicken? They give milk or eggs, and even their very life, in order to provide sustenance for others. One main difference between these things and us humans is we were created in God’s image and have to choose to give ourselves for others whereas these others don’t have a choice. So Jesus, God in the flesh, lived a life for others purely by choice and because he knew it was only in losing one’s life that we find it.

As we discussed these things at the jail one of the men stopped me and said, “You just answered a question I had.” He then proceeded to tell me about a conversation he recently had with his bunk-mate. He said, “I was just talking with him about how I would die for my children and he said, “that’s not right man.” As we read and talked about how God’s heart is always for the other person first he truly saw how his attitude and willingness to die for his children was really God’s Spirit in him. Bang! And that ladies and Gentlemen is why I love teaching the Bible in the jail. If these men can truly receive revelation from God and begin to understand their role as husbands and Fathers the impact on their families and neighborhoods is immeasurable. It isn’t difficult to find tutors or instructors but God is looking for Fathers; men who learn to regard others as more important than themselves.

Louie

One of the few things God really demands of us is for us to repent. Although in a sense repentance is even a gift of God we still have to have our minds changed. We have to get God’s point of view on his world. From the World’s point of view the Kingdom of God is upside down. What if the world’s point of view is the one that’s really upside down?

Jesus said some really radical things while he walked the earth. In what is possibly his most famous sermon, what’s come to be known as “The Sermon on the Mount”, he said things like ” Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who hunger and thirst, blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” The average person hearing this would be thinking “what in the world is this man talking about?” What planet is he from where it’s a blessing to be so needy, mistreated and empty?

One of the root problems since the fall of man is pride. Just like Lucifer before him man has come to think of himself more highly than he ought therefore he is blinded to his true condition. So Jesus is saying those that come to see themselves as desperate are in the perfect position to be blessed. It is only after we see ourselves as we really are that we cry out for God to fill our emptiness. Jesus did say, “The well don’t need a doctor” so as long as we think we’re okay we’ll continue to walk around under a false sense of security. Even a glance through the gospels shows us how Jesus performed miracle after miracle for sick, blind, broken and sinful people that acknowledged their need but refused to when the “religious leaders” demanded him. In fact he told them they were really only cleaned up on the outside but inside they were rotten. They really were in a desperate situation but blinded by pride they refused to acknowledge the truth.

If you look in Isaiah 14 and read the description of the mind of Lucifer and why he fell and compare that to the mind of Christ as described in Philippians 2 you will see another seeming opposite. Whereas Lucifer thinks too highly of himself and believes he can be “Like” God; Jesus, even though he is God, didn’t consider that something to be grasped or held tightly to rather he came as a servant and was obedient even to the point of death on the cross. You see the God revealed to us through Christ is a God that thinks more highly of others instead of himself so much so he even died for them (Us).

You see God understands the predicament we are in so rather than flood the earth again to put an end to everything he decided to come to us in the form of a man and give his own life as a ransom for many. While the preaching of the cross is foolishness to the world, to them that believe it is the power of God. I love the fact that God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak to shame the strong. He does this so no one has any room to brag about themselves.

Have you ever thought how it might be in Heaven? I know one thing that won’t be there and that’s any room for bragging on anyone except Jesus Christ. No one is going to walk up to you and say, “What did you do to get in here? I did___” No there is only one way anyone will enjoy Heaven and that’s because Jesus Christ, the God man, lived a sinless life and died a sinners death. He became sin so we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Louie

Our friend Nicholas Pudjak's artwork.

Our friend Nicholas Pudjak’s fabulous artwork.

Jesus told Nicodemus “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Being born again means God has given you a new heart and put his Spirit within you. When it comes right down to it our troubles revolve around heart issues. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

If you’ve run in “Christian circles”, or have very many Christian friends, you may have heard the saying, “It’s a God thing.” A God thing means it’s one of those moments or events only explainable by crediting God for it. You know it’s those people, or happenings, in life that seems like “a coincidence.” Of course if you believe in a Sovereign God you know it isn’t a coincidence, rather it’s God breaking into your life for a purpose.

When Jesus walked this earth he taught many kingdom principles by way of parables. He would use simple illustrations to define God’s way of seeing things. More times than not his teaching would blow right past his hearers, but it wasn’t because they couldn’t understand the words coming out of his mouth rather they had a dull or hard heart. Jesus confirmed what the prophet Isaiah had said hundreds of years before. He said, “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.”

Recently someone told me they heard a preacher say, “God isn’t interested, or involved, that intimately in our everyday lives.” I was shocked at first hearing this because I thought to myself “How long would I want to listen to this man teach me about a God that isn’t concerned about my everyday life?”

On the other hand C.S. Lewis said, “There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter claimed by Satan.” I don’t know about you but that sounds as if God is very intimately involved in our lives. We are in a battle between the forces of Good and Evil and Light and Darkness and without a new heart we will continue with dull eyes and ears. But thank God we don’t have to.

Several times throughout the Gospels Jesus’ disciples would pull him to the side and say something like “I don’t get that what exactly does that mean?” Jesus would then go on to spell it out for them so they could understand. He told them “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.”

What is the solution then? Well let’s look back at the original prophecy found in Isaiah 6. God told Isaiah to prophecy to a people who wouldn’t perceive what he was saying; so Isaiah asked “For how long?” God’s response was “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate…” In other words until calamity overtakes them to the point where they cry out to me. It is then, and only then, that we despair over our lives enough to be open to receive the promised new heart and Spirit. Once that happens our eyes and ears will be open to the kingdom we have been longing for for so long. We will start to see God in our everyday lives and want everyone to experience it and will become the witness God has wanted all along.

God will not withhold any good thing from his children. In fact Jesus said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Louie

“You act just like your Father.” Have you ever had someone to tell you that? It’s true isn’t it? We really do behave like our Fathers even when we may not want to. I have heard many people say, “I’ll never be like my Dad” and yet they grow up to be exactly like them. We can’t help it; it’s just the way it works.

In John eight Jesus had quite an interesting discussion with the religious leaders of his day. While they tried to convince Jesus they were descendants of Abraham and were therefore God’s children Jesus knew better. He told them “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.” Even though they might have been descendants of Abraham in an earthly sense Jesus knew spiritually they were the children of another, namely the devil. He told them “If God were your Father,you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God…”

Of course people don’t like it when they are told they are of the devil and these men didn’t either. But Jesus wasn’t through with the lesson quite yet. He went on to tell them something revolutionary. Not only was the devil their father their actions and attitude came from him too. Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires/lusts of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is not truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for the is a liar and the father of lies.”

Jesus is clear in John 3 we must be born again. The term born-again means to be born from above or born of God. So, could it be that since the fall of Adam, our common Father, we were all born in sin or born from below? I mean when Adam agreed with Satan and disobeyed God he opened himself to the spirit of error. This is the spirit that is even now working and acting in the children of disobedience. This is the same spirit that was operating in the religious leaders that constantly found themselves at odds with Christ. Jesus knew exactly what he was dealing with and told them very clearly it wasn’t even their lusts or agenda but Satan’s. He is the Father of lies and he apparently had those men fooled into thinking just because they could trace their heritage back to Abraham they were okay with God. In reality it is only those that are of faith who are sons of Abraham.

Someone might be reading this and think “Okay, so how does one become a child of God then?” What must I do to make God my Father? Let me just say it isn’t what we do it’s what God has done already by way of the cross. You see the Bible tells us Jesus “came to His own, and those who were his own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Through the cross God has opened the way for us to be born-again, born of His Spirit. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God…”

Louie

 

 

I’ve recently noticed the Apostle Paul talks a lot about heavenly beings and how God’s plan is to reveal himself to them through the church. Apparently mankind, made in God’s image, was always how he intended to do this. It seems as though we just don’t really understand how far we have fallen, but thanks be to God he has restored us in Christ.

The letter to the Ephesians tells us we were chosen all along to be holy and blameless before him. Even though we fell in Adam; God’s plan was always to join us to Christ through the cross. We that believe have been raised up with Christ and seated in heavenly places in order to display God’s grace in kindness toward us. “We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand so we would walk in them.”

Even though we have been seated in the heavenlies according to Ephesians 3 we have a job to do. Not only are we called to display God’s kindness we are also to reveal his wisdom. The church is the administer, or way, in which God shows his wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. God’s ways are not our ways, therefore he chooses the foolish things to confound the wise and the weak things to shame that which is strong. It must leave the “heavenly beings” scratching their head when God fills human beings with His Spirit and moves them to trust him even when they can’t see. We are called to walk by faith rather than sight you know.

Now that we know we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places in order to display God to the watching spirit realm we are called to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. We are told in Ephesians 4 & 5 to “walk not as the Gentiles (the world) walk in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart”… rather we are to “walk in love, walk as children of Light and walk in wisdom.” Finally in chapter 6 we are told to put on the armor of God and take our “stand against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

In summing up, Ephesians tells us we are seated in the heavenlies, but we are to walk in the body still on the earth, in order to stand against the real enemy in heavenly places. You see heavenly places and being’s aren’t way out there somewhere, as if measured by miles, they are even right here only separated by our inability to see. Don’t you remember the story of Elisha in 2 Kings? Elisha reassured a nervous servant facing a great and mighty army saying, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed ‘O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Paul’s letter to the Colossians tells us Christ disarmed these wicked rulers and authorities and made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through the cross. In Romans 6 we are told those of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death, and if we’re joined with him in his death, we are also joined with him in his burial and resurrection. Therefore we have died to sin and those wicked, spiritual forces of darkness too. They really have been disarmed through the cross of Christ.

“They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

Louie

The whole of the Gospel is defined for us in Romans six through eight. The Apostle Paul tells us We have died to sin and have been joined with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection in Romans six. Immediately after we read the great news of having died to sin we discover in Romans seven we have also died to the Law. Dying to the Law means it has no jurisdiction over we who have placed our faith in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Romans 10:4 tells us “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Thinking about Galatians 2:20 I sort of saw it in new light; let me see if I can explain. Paul said, “I (our supposed, independent I but the I that is really in union with the spirit of error) am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I (new me now separated from the prince of the power of the air and in union with Christ) live; yet not I (as if independent), but Christ (in union with me) lives in me; and the life which I (really Christ) now live in the flesh I (joined to Christ) live by the faith (faithfulness) of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Ultimately the work of God, through the cross of Calvary, is the breaking of man’s unholy union to the spirit of error in order to restore mankind to our oneness with God. God’s image in man was damaged through the fall so Christ (God in human form) came here, lived the perfect sinless life and yet died our sinful man’s death on the cross. In that horrible death he “became sin” so we might be made “the righteousness of God in him.” Jesus Christ took the spirit of error into himself and died. When he died the spirit of error left him, because he had no sin of his own, and once a body dies the spirit has to leave. So God is telling those, that have placed their faith in Christ, we have been crucified with him so we might be freed from the spirit of error through him to walk in newness of life.

Louie

 

Tracey and Alan Parker at the "God Unlimited weekend 2014"

Tracey and Alan Parker at the “God Unlimited weekend 2014″

Have you ever had an experience and said afterward, “I never want to lose this feeling?” Well, I am here to thank God for the experience I had and I want to tell you it is not a feeling. For the past five years we have attended the God Unlimited Enrichment weekend in Louisville, Ky., with our friends, Brian and Tandy Coatney, at the home of Scott and Sylvia Pearce. The first year we went, my husband and I didn’t think we would be back. It seemed like everyone was saying the same thing in a different way, and although that was true, it would prove an attraction for us in the future. Every year has its own precious jewels that develop into life changing lifestyles.

This year is no different. Some of the same people were there and even the same things were said over and over, but there was one particular difference. It was me. I am different, and I feel like my life has changed forever. It’s one of those pivotal moments you can put your finger on. I must interject, that there was a series of events that lead up to this life-changing experience. One of the elements included suffering, then perseverance, and it was all upheld by faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the Universe, which, by the way, lives inside me.

It would be hard to explain to you what it means to be loved with an unconditional, everlasting love if you have never experienced Him. Being loved by Jesus is the touch of love, “I can’t touch you without being touched by you,” said Alan Parker. Love is the greatest gift you can give to another, but please remember that God is love. He gives of Himself to others, He is a poured out life so others can live. It was never about how much we love Him, because we have no power within ourselves to love others unless it’s with His love.

As my husband and I wrapped up in a blanket on the cold Friday afternoon under the tent at the conference, we saw a distinguished man and his older son walking up “Mimi’s Way,” which is a cobblestone walkway which leads to the back of the Pearce’s house in memory of our dear Mimi Anderson. “Who is that, do you think?” I said to Louie. “I think that is Alan Parker,” he replied. I kept an eye on him trying to make sure that was him. I had been looking forward to meeting Alan Parker ever since I read “THE CROSS IN THE HEART OF GOD” booklet. Let me quote the introduction of this booklet and see if it does to you, what it did for me: “This is written for those people who want to receive the truth, for only they are going to posses the Kingdom of God. This is written for seekers. These writings have nothing to say to those who are wise in the wisdom of the world.”

Later on that evening Alan gave a talk that lasted almost 3 hours. I got as close as I could and listened by sitting at the edge of my seat. I wanted to absorb everything he had to say because I know he speaks the truth of God. I admire this man and wanted to know everything he knew. I am not sure what draws me to his teachings, but I hung on to every word. The next day, Alan spoke again, this time not as long. He talked about Hebrews 4:12, He said the Word is alive, conscious, and it knows and it’s energy. The word of faith is God’s faith, not ours. He said, “Do you know why the word of faith has no doubt? That’s because it’s His faith, His word, His life, the life of the Son. He continued to say, “You can never be Christ, but He can be you.”

Alan quoted the passage of James 1:5 which says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally, without doubt and it will be given.” Alan asked if anyone wanted Wisdom, to come up front and ask without doubting. I said to Louie, “Come on, let’s go.” I told him I wanted Wisdom, so I ran up there. I was third in line. After Alan prayed with the first person, he knew it would take too long to pray individually, so we all stood in a giant circle and prayed in our own voices and asked for Wisdom. Guess what, the Spirit of Wisdom penetrated my inner being and I knew it. I started getting filled up, tears ran down my face and I began to giggle from way down deep inside, my breathing started to accelerate and I felt dizzy, but Louie was close by and I grabbed him and said, “don’t let me go.” I knew something supernatural happened to me. I felt like running, but I couldn’t leave. I can’t say I understand everything that happened to me, but what I do know is Wisdom has been here all along, I just didn’t hear from her (Proverbs 8:1 tells us she is wisdom). The first part of Proverbs 2 tells us seek her, wisdom, verse 4, “if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures.” I desired her and sought after her and found her. God has opened my eyes to understanding and I have become more sensitive to the Spirit of the Lord.

Since this time, I feel humbled by His love and hear Him more than ever before. I am looking forward to my new life in Christ as He lives in me as me. Thank you, Jesus for loving me so much and for giving me opportunities to be a life poured out for you and to invest and have you change lives through me. The branch never takes credit for producing the fruit, we bear the fruit. Others see this fruit and are drawn to it, they take the fruit and it is Jesus. He is a person to experience not something simply to obtain. We have no power by ourselves, but are a vessel that He works in and through. I asked for the Spirit of Wisdom to live in me and that is why she (Wisdom) is a person and not a feeling. Wisdom and understanding now are in me always, never leaving me, but changing me from glory to glory forevermore.

Tracey