“The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Defeat and despair is what those at the cross saw the day Jesus was crucified. Some even shouted “Save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” To those who don’t have faith, or eyes to see, a naked, dying man on a cross doesn’t seem to be much of a victory does it?

While the world clamors for wealth, strength, intelligence and power over their enemies, God calls us to see our weakness. You see the fall of man centers around the lie of independence. The root of humanity’s problem is we think we’re in charge of something. If there’s something we don’t like or want to hear we’ll simply shut it down whether it’s by ignoring it or putting it to death. In this case we, meaning all of us represented at the cross that day, thought we would kill God off. Maybe if we get rid of this Jesus we’ll be able to go about our way and live life the way we want to live it. Sometimes the truth is difficult to take isn’t it? If we could only hide our heads in the sand maybe the truth will go away, maybe we won’t be responsible.

You see God is Spirit, therefore He is invisible to the natural eye. So, when one looks upon a man dying on a cross what’s really happening may not be as it appears. Jesus was “put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18). We too must learn to look at the unseen rather than being fooled by the seen. The Apostle Paul told us to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

The Apostle Paul revealed the truth about real power and weakness in 2 Corinthians 12 after he implored God three times to remove something he saw as negative in his life. God’s response to him was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is perfected in weakness.” In other words, what appears to be strength in the seen really isn’t. This is why Jesus told us we must come as a little child and how He, himself, was meek and lowly. What appears to be weak to the watching world is really where God’s strength lies.

Although I have never really attended twelve-step meetings I have to agree with the first step wholeheartedly. The first step tells us we have to admit we have the problem and we are powerless over it. So whether it’s drugs, gambling, shopping, sex or eating too much chocolate cake the first step is admitting powerlessness. Weakness carried out to it’s fullest extent is death wouldn’t you agree? Now we’re starting to get somewhere. 2 Corinthians 13:4 says, “For indeed He was crucified because, or through, weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God…”

Let me give you an example in the natural to help explain the idea of weakness or powerlessness. Scientists have deemed 459 degrees below zero to be what is called “Absolute Zero.” At that temperature absolutely nothing moves. While nothing actually moves there is something in the unseen that will move even better at this temperature and that’s electricity. They say absolute zero is the best temperature to conduct electricity because there is no resistance. Similar to electricity, God’s Spirit moves better through people who have stopped resisting. When I say resisting I mean living under the delusion that we, in and of ourselves, can care for ourselves without God. In other words those still believing the lie of independence inherited from the fall.

You see if the truth is told mere weakness isn’t enough because we might still have a bit of movement left. This is why the cross is necessary. According to God’s perspective we don’t need a little bit of help we actually need Him to do all. The great revelation God showed us through the Apostle Paul was how the solution is for us to be co-crucified with Christ. When someone is dead there is absolutely no movement, or resistance. Weakness is one thing, but dead is something else! So we are told to “reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Once we start to see ourselves as having died and raised back in Him, we will discover the secret of the Christian life which is “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” The life of Christ will then find no resistance and He will finally be able to move freely through us to others.

Louie

 

 

We started studying 1 Corinthians in Sunday school this morning and talked about how there’s no division in Christ but always seems to be in His church. How can this be?

The Corinthian church was not unlike the church of our day in that it was filled with immature Christians who were self-centered and confused about who they were in Christ. Paul starts out the letter like many of his letters telling them they are sanctified saints by calling, they were enriched in everything, in speech and knowledge and weren’t lacking in any gift. He told them Jesus Christ would confirm, or keep, them blameless till the day of His return because God is faithful. Now that’s something to get excited about isn’t it? Today is no different in that those that are in Christ are blameless and kept by Him but most don’t seem to walk in it because they don’t yet believe.

After he reminded them of who they are in Christ he went on to let them know he had heard about division in the camp. He said, “some say they’re of Paul, some are of Apollos, some of Peter and others say Christ.” The Apostle Paul asked them, “Has Christ been divided?” Of course the answer to that question is No! You see as long as they were dividing into groups following after men, even if they were great men, they were still acting worldly. We were meant to be attached to another but sometimes we get attached to a visible person rather than the invisible Christ within them.

Think back with me for a minute. In the beginning God said, “Let Us make man in our own image.” God is a Trinity made up of Father, Son and Spirit; so in other words we humans were meant to be a visible, earthly, creaturely illustration of who God is. The invisible God being displayed in the visible by means of His image in and through us. What a plan! With this in mind the fall sort of takes on new light don’t you think? When man fell the image of the Trinity-Father/Son/Spirit- in him was divided. Don’t get me wrong there has never, nor ever could be, division within the Godhead but in man which is in His image. Man is at odds with himself.

In other words, the fall not only affected our relationship to God and each other it actually caused us to be at odds with ourselves. You see when God created us we were in harmony, whole in spirit, soul and body but in the fall a death, or separation, took place. Our spirit was deadened to God’s Spirit therefore our entire being was affected. We became enslaved to the outer realm of light and dark, cold and hot, good and evil and so on. For the first time we found ourselves dealing with trouble on a body/soul level in a way we never had. Immediately Adam and Eve ran for cover and sowed fig leaves together for clothing. They felt fear and shame for the first time; and they had fallen into an earthly creature and became dependent upon earthly provision. Let me just say, “they saw that they were naked” doesn’t mean they weren’t always naked in a sense, but what it does mean is God’s glory had departed leaving them needy of a covering.

What Paul was dealing with in Corinth was believers who didn’t really have a clue how far they had fallen. It is only natural to look to others that seem to have it together, in hope that they will help you get it together, but that only works for a while. These folks apparently had broken down into groups of people following after men but never really coming to know Christ for themselves. They had become dependent upon the teacher/preacher and not learned how to depend on Christ within them. I see it like a relay race of sorts where the one runner hands over the baton to the next one in line. There is a brief moment where they are connected by both having their hands on the baton at the same time but only until the new guy gets hold of it for himself then the first one lets go. You see God’s plan is for all of His people to have their own baton, or His Spirit, for themselves. Others help us on but we are never ultimately needy of them in the same sense we need Christ.

Louie

Throughout life we are all called to move on from time to time. Sometimes the workplace we’re in becomes too much or maybe we simply have an opportunity to move into something we find more suitable for us and our family. The same could be said about a church. Maybe we’ve been called to go out from the environment, or group, we’ve been with for many years either way how we go is very important. We can either go out with joy, or we can go out dragging hurt feelings and offenses, it’s really our choice in the end.

Sometimes we find ourselves divorced and remarried but we never really healed or dealt with the hurt that caused the division to begin with. This is what some would call baggage. You know what I’m talking about. We leave a situation, whether it be a job, church or even a marriage, and take all of those same problems with us into the next job, church or marriage. So at first it may seem like a fresh, new start, but give it time. The “stuff” you carried with you out of the one comes along into the next. Maybe we’re attempting to solve an inner problem by outer means. There’s an old tale that addresses this very subject I would like to share with you, and I hope you take it to heart because it really doesn’t matter if we move to the moon if we don’t do it with the right heart and attitude.

Back in the days when the settlers were moving to the West, a wise man stood on a hill outside a new Western town. As the settlers came from the East, the wise man was the first person they met before coming to the settlement. They asked eagerly what the people of the town were like.

He answered them with a question: “What were the people like in the town you just left?”

Some said, “The town we came from was wicked. The people were rude gossips who took advantage of innocent people. It was filled with thieves and liars.”

The wise man answered, “This town is the same as the one you left.”

They thanked the man for saving them from the trouble they had just come out of. They then moved on further west.

Then another group of settlers arrived and asked the same question: “What is this town like?”

The wise man asked again, “What was the town like where you came from?” These responded, “It was wonderful! We had dear friends. Everyone looked out for the others’ interest. There was never any lack because all cared for one another. If someone had a big project, the entire community gathered to help. It was a hard decision to leave, but we felt compelled to make way for future generations by going west as pioneers.”

The wise old man said to them exactly what he had said to the other group: “This town is the same as the one you left.”

These people responded with joy, “Let’s settle here!”

How they viewed their past relations was their scope for their future ones.

Louie—- the wise man story was taken from John Bevere “The Bait of Satan”

Approximately one year ago Tracey and I spent a few days at what might be called a halfway house for women. It is a place where women, coming from jail, drug addiction, abusive situations or maybe even all three, go to get a new start and learn how to live in the freedom of Christ.

While there are many, many recovery programs available this one is completely focused on the Bible and Jesus Christ. It is based in a church and headed by a lady with a heart for these broken women. You can tell within just a few minutes she loves what she’s doing and loves these women and they love her.

One lady, who Tracey met in jail, went through the program and was living in a house directly across the street from the church. Not only was she helped, she decided to stick around and help others through their journey. When Tracey met her she had been in and out of jail numerous times and, like many others, just couldn’t seem to get it together. She had spent a great deal of her life on drugs and all the things that particular lifestyle involves. One night after being free for a while, and becoming fugitive of the week, she found herself back in jail. As Tracey walked beside her on the way to the church service; she looked at Tracey sort of dejected and said, “Why do you even care?” For me this was the best story yet, because sometimes people have heard the gospel message so many times they almost seem inoculated to it, but this time she not only heard but saw the gospel. You see Tracey didn’t condemn her or look down on her she simply was present walking beside her during her moment of need. As a Christian our job is to express Christ and one of the ways we do that is simply by being there for others. Sometimes it may even be after someone has made repeated trips in and out of jail.

Anyway, this lady had been living across the street from the church where these young women go to celebrate recovery meetings, attend church services, sing songs etc. Even though she had gone through the program and had come a long way she still seemed to have a bit of a problem handling offenses and solving relationship problems. This isn’t meant to be a knock on her, we all have to work through how to deal with others from time time, I’m just mentioning this because it plays into the story I’m about to tell you.

There was one particular young lady who had arrived just a few days before we did. We were told a judge allowed her to participate in this “halfway house/rehabilitation program” rather than sending her to prison. Her and her husband had a history of drug addiction, and in fact her husband had actually smuggled some pills in to her during a visit and it was discovered. The judge could have sent her to prison for this but miraculously he allowed her to stay on but her husband could no longer visit. Without going through all the extra details let me just say, the day Tracey and I were scheduled to leave the pastor called us and told us this young ladies husband had killed himself the night before. We were asked  if we could meet them at the church, and of course we said yes, and were on our way.

On our way there it dawned on me to ask the lady living across the street to join us. I thought, she’s having a tough time right now and what could be better for her than to help someone else. Besides, her husband had died while she was in jail, so she would have a better understanding of what this young lady was going through than any of us. God himself had orchestrated this whole thing so the one could comfort the other with the comfort she herself had been given.

When we got to the church I felt somewhat like a trapped animal that didn’t know where to go or what to do, and part of me just wanted to run away.  Even though Tracey and I have taught and prayed with many people, involved in some very bad situations, for me this one was going to be the most difficult. These are the times when the Holy Spirit becomes more real than any other, because there is absolutely no way I could have gotten through it otherwise. I know some of you are saying what do you mean you? What about the young lady? I know, I know she definitely had more to deal with than we did, but there we were. What do I say? What could I possible do to comfort her? Do I keep silent, hug her, pat her or stay far, far away from her? I know one thing to do and that was to pray, pray, pray!

We all gathered in the sanctuary and someone turned some music on quietly in the background. Thankfully there were two ladies there that gently broke the news to her, and she started wailing uncontrollably as we silently prayed. As they consoled her we all took turns, although feebly, speaking life and encouragement to her the best we could. For the most part I didn’t say much, but we sat with her for about three hours and it seemed like fifteen minutes. God truly shows up in the most painful of life’s situations and brings comfort in the way only He can. As our time with them came to an end it dawned on me that I do have something to tell her. I shared with her how three of my friends had passed away, directly or indirectly, because of drugs. One was killed, one became ill and passed away, and the other committed suicide.

I shared with this young lady how for a while I actually felt guilty for being alive. I looked around and thought to myself, “It isn’t fair that my friends have died and I’m still alive. I lived just as dangerously as they had, so why am I still alive?” I told her,”Do not take guilt for being a survivor! Whatever you do don’t do that to yourself. The greatest thing you can do is to get sober and live for Christ and your children. That’s what your husband would have wanted.”

This took place close to a year ago and it seemed a bit too fresh to share it then but now it seems right. I hope you have been touched by this story and you would say a prayer for this young lady and her family. This isn’t something you ever get over, but with the Spirit of the God of all comfort living in you there is a way to get through. We are called to “Rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those who weep” this time it was the weeping part hopefully we will see her again and get to do a little rejoicing with her.

Louie

 

The Christian life is a life of living from another. God’s plan for us humans was never meant to be a life of continuous striving to get somewhere or become something rather it is a life of rest produced in us which comes from Christ’s very life within . Think about this with me for a minute. God created everything and then on the sixth day He created man. His plan was to prepare everything beforehand so the only thing man was left to do was to rest with Him. Adam’s first day of existence was, by God’s design, a day of rest on the seventh day.

Of course we know the story. Adam, along with the prodding of the deceiver, made the conscious choice to set himself up as independent from God. He came to the conclusion that he could run things in his own life and he could be “like God.” Notice what this really means is he could become a separate god, right? This is the same lie the enemy operated from when he said, “I will make myself “like” the Most High. You see, just like we humans, angels were created to be containers for God’s Spirit to dwell in but rather than retain there rightful place many fell, along with Lucifer, because they began to think they could live a life of independence, separated from God, as if that’s even possible.

Jesus himself invited us to regain this promised rest and told us how we could receive it. In Matthew 11 He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” A yoke is an apparatus placed upon two oxen so they would work as one, the two would essentially become one. Jesus is inviting us to be joined to Him and let Him do the pulling. This is an invitation to union with God through Christ. This is God’s solution to our fall. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”

With this as the foundation, look now at what Jesus taught us throughout the gospel of John. He said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself…”, “I can do nothing on My own initiative”, “I live because of the Father”, “I have not come on my own initiative, but He sent Me”, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” In other words, there was never a time in Jesus’ whole life that He operated apart from His Father. You see this is the key to our humanity. Whereas Adam joined up with the self-deceived, so called, Mr. Independence himself; Jesus lived a life of total dependence upon His Father. We too must learn to depend upon another for our life.

In chapter 15 of the gospel of John you’ll read where Jesus tells us outright, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” There it is! There is no mystery in that kind of talk. If the truth be told there is no such thing as an independent being other than God himself. He is the real Mr. Independence and all others are counterfeit. All others are attempting to operate in a manner they were never created to operate and this is the root of sin.

Everywhere you look in the Apostle Paul’s letters he too elaborates on this theme of dependence. His Roman letter tells us we are either a slave to sin or slave to righteousness, in other words, we are always dependent upon another. In his 1st Corinthian letter he tells us at least twice “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? In Galatians he says, “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me”, and he longed for “Christ to be formed in them.” In Ephesians, rather than use the vine/branch picture, he says, “Christ is the head and the church is the body.” Philippians tells us “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” In Colossians we read, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” and “Christ is our life.”

There are so many well-intentioned Christians living their lives as if it all depends upon them. They are trying to repay God, manage sins, improve themselves and just all around trying harder to be “like” Jesus. Sounds sort of like someone else doesn’t it? My prayer is that they would finally come to the revelation the Christian life isn’t difficult to live, it’s impossible!  This is why Jesus taught and did what He did. He came here in order to set us free from the deception that we can make ourselves like the Most High and to show us how to live a life of total dependence upon another, namely God the Father.

Not only did Jesus and Paul teach us we are to live from the life of another Peter did too. In his second letter right from the start he shares how, through Christ, God has promised us we can become partakers of His divine nature. We are never the origin of the life but we are a recipient. We truly are meant to live from the life of another.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

Louie

“It’s not I but He,

not just me but we.

It takes new eyes to see,

but Christ in us is the key.

So He becomes we,

but we never become He.”

 

Louie

God’s plan foresaw man’s sin and separation from Him. In fact I’m starting to see more and more that the fall of man is exactly what had to happen in order to fix us in God. We have to experience a brief separation in order to be prepared for an eternal union.

Immediately after Adam sinned God went searching for him. He went searching for him, not to punish or destroy him, rather to restore him. You see God already knew he/we would fail to live up to His perfect standards; so His plan of redemption was already in place even before the fall. Jesus is “The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, right?”

In the Apostle Paul’s brief letter to Philemon he tells him his runaway slave Onesimus has been born again and how much of an asset he has been to him. In fact even though he is still considered Philemon’s slave; Paul asks him to receive him back as a brother in the Lord. As I read this short letter verses 15 & 16 seemed to light up to me. Paul said, “For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”

Did you notice how he said he had been separated for a while so he might have him back forever? There it is! This statement suddenly took on a broader meaning. You see Adam, and we in him, became God’s run away slaves. But thanks to Jesus Christ, and what He has done on the cross, we, like Onesimus can be born-again and return to our rightful owner. Then our brief separation will actually lead to God keeping us forever.

This idea of being separated for a while in order to fix us in our union with God is a principle throughout the scriptures. You see it in the story Jesus told of the prodigal son. The son took off with what the Father had given him and spent it foolishly, ended up in poverty and desperation, only to return home and find his father waiting with open arms. Not only did the father have open arms he gave this once foolish son the keys to everything he owned. You see once he had attempted to live separated from the Father, and had finally come to his senses, he could be fully trusted. This is what is being said by the Father giving him the shoes, robe and ring. This is the father fully trusting the son with all he owns.

In chapter eight of the letter to the Romans Paul makes this statement, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” So you see the fall of man is part of the plan. God knows the only way to make us “safe sons” is for us to give life a go on our own first. It’s risky but God thinks it’s worth it.

This also shines a bit of light on the purpose of the enemy. You see without Lucifer’s fall, and his enticing the human race to join him, we wouldn’t be lead astray. If we wouldn’t have been lead astray we wouldn’t have discovered the “vanity” or “meaninglessness” of existence without God. So, ultimately I guess what I’m saying is the devil is still God’s devil and he actually fits into God’s overall plan pretty well but many can’t quite see it yet.

Louie