A Change of Heart

Change of Heart was a reality-dating show that aired back in 1998.  The show featured unmarried couples who were each sent on a date with a new woman/man.  After the new date, the unmarried couple decided (on TV) if he/she wanted to break up or stay with this person.  The show ran for about five years before ending.

In the Gospels Jesus talks about our need for a change of heart.  He warns that anger and adultery reside in our heart as well as defiling words.  Uh oh.  In other words, Jesus tells us that our hearts can lead us into trouble and can also become hard.  Thankfully, that was not the case at our beginnings and will not be the case at our end.  Here’s how.

One day Jesus was being baited into giving His view on the lawfulness of divorce.  The Pharisees were up to their religious shenanigans once again trying to test Jesus.  This time they were comparing Jesus with Moses.  In a brilliant move, Jesus completely moves past the question and brings things back to the picture of perfection within Eden.  He says, “Haven’t you read the Scriptures about creation?  The Creator made us male and female from the very beginning”.  He continues, “Moses permitted you to divorce because your hearts were so hard and stubborn, but originally there was no such thing.” (Matthew 19:4,8 TPT).

Did you catch that?  Jesus said that ‘originally there was no such thing’!  Sometimes this verse is taken to emphasize that there was no ‘divorce’ in the beginning.  However, in this context I believe Jesus is referring to the hardness and stubbornness of the heart not existing in the beginning!  In other words, our beginnings did not include broken relationships.

It is my belief that God is intentionally bringing us back to that perfect state once again.  Along with creation, we are being made new and will ultimately be restored to Eden once again.  Jesus is the maker of all things new (Rev. 21:5), and He continues in this process until the end of time as we know it.  The eternal Kingdom will be just like Eden.

This gives me wonderful hope, purpose and passion in my everyday life.  Knowing that He and Eden will be my eternal destiny impacts my heart and outlook on life.  Knowing that one day I will be made new brings divine assurance and peace within.  It also makes me realize that I can push for that reality here on earth.

As a follower of Jesus I believe in the reality of His Kingdom.  I believe that we can experience the Lordship and power of Jesus here on earth as in heaven.  Even though Jesus is fully glorified and sitting with The Father, His Spirit has been poured out on earth to accomplish the task of Kingdom building.  The Holy Spirit enables the reality of The Kingdom. 

Paul says that righteousness, peace and joy is available in the realm of the Holy Spirit (Romans 14;17).  This means that our lives can be filled with the very Spirit who manifests these divine qualities of God’s Kingdom.  That sure sounds like paradise to me!  How about you?

If you have never accepted the reality of this Kingdom before, I encourage you to reach out and ask Jesus to be the King and Lord or your life.  When you do, His Spirit will begin to live inside of you.  Continue to feed your spirit by focusing on His Kingdom and the life that He has for you. 

If you are in the Lindsay area, please feel free to come to Calvary church.  We’d love to have you journey with Jesus here.  You can visit our web-site here:

www.calvarypentecostal.com

If you live elsewhere, be encouraged to find a group of believers and journey with Jesus in your community.  Either way, please dialogue with The Spirit and journey toward Jesus each and every day.  A wonderful change awaits!  

One day we will be with Him and each other in the new Eden for eternity. 

Until then,

Maranatha! 

Hero Fulfillment

As a father there are moments when I feel like a heel and moments when I feel like a hero.  A number of years back my oldest daughter lost a tooth at our trailer.  Very traumatized that the ‘Tooth Fairy’ would not be able to come, she burst into tears which also sent her younger sister into sobbing fits.  In that moment I sprang into ‘hero mode’.  With both my young girls now crying, I immediately pulled out my cell phone and carried on a conversation with the Tooth Fairy herself.  Needless to say, both my girls were wide-eyed and overjoyed.  Their Dad not only knew the Tooth Fairy, but she also knew where the missing tooth was and would come nonetheless, as long as they were sleeping!  That was a good moment. 

The Bible tells us that when Jesus took his buddies to the top of a steep hill, he was ‘transformed’ in front of them.  Everything not only changed for Peter, James and John, but also for us.  Here’s how. 

I believe that in this moment God’s Presence was manifested here on earth as in heaven.  This means that through Jesus, God’s very presence is now abiding. 

The Gospels tells us plainly that God is present in Jesus.  This may not seem like a radical claim since the Jewish people believed God to be present through men like Moses and David in their past.  However, Matthew seems to suggest that Jesus is ‘God with us’ (1:23).  Also, Jesus is present in His followers.  Whenever believers come together in His Name, Jesus is there (18:20).  As His followers go into the world to make other followers, Jesus will be with them (28:20).  Finally, Jesus is present in the world.  Followers of Jesus will be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (5:13-14). 

As followers of Jesus, you and I can launch into ‘hero mode’ with God’s help to build His Kingdom and advance His Mission.  The Church that Jesus is building is one that will overcome the gates of hell and move triumphantly against the forces of death, evil and darkness (16:18).  How is this being done?  Here are three ways that I see Jesus working according to the Gospels: He fed the hungry, He healed the sick, and He rescued the lost. 

We can see God’s abiding Presence operate today just like back then.  By asking His Spirit and power to operate through our lives, we can see His Kingdom come on earth as in heaven.  The world may not always appreciate us, but it will be a better place because of us.  So go for it.  Jump into ‘hero mode’ and help someone who is hurting.  Bring God’s Presence into the earth by praying for a need in His Name.  Grow His Kingdom by telling someone about the Man from Galilee.  He is better than the Tooth Fairy by a country mile, and you have a direct line to Him. 

Maranatha! 

A Fulfilled Life

This past week I had lunch with my oldest daughter. It’s not too often that we get the opportunity to do so. During our lunch together I asked her about this “Christianity” thing and what it meant to her. Now in high school, I realize that there will be competing worldview’s that she will need to perceive and navigate. Following Christ means seeing the world as He did.

Popular theologian Steven Tyler sang the following words:

There’s somethin’ wrong with the world today I don’t know what it is Something’s wrong with our eyes We’re seein’ things in a different way And God knows it ain’t his It sure ain’t no surprise

Another theologian said: ‘A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.’ These words of Jesus have been ringing in my spirit that last number of days. Here’s why.

At the end of list of Beatitudes Jesus states that He has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Jesus has come to carry them into fullness. In the OT, the Law was given to Moses in order to essentially lead the Israelites back to their Creator God. It was never meant to accomplish anything else. It was given to help them walk in His ways and worship Him correctly. The Prophets were people who continually contextualized God’s Word and spoke it to those around them. They acted as heralds proclaiming God’s truth in situations as well as championing His Mission and coming Kingdom. However, the Law and the Prophets could only accomplish so much. They were not meant to be an end unto themselves. They needed fulfillment.

One day Jesus takes His closest friends to the top of high mountain. The Bible says that ‘He was transformed in front of them’. His appearance changed. Jesus was being covered in the very Presence and Glory of God. All of a sudden Moses and Elijah are there talking with Jesus. Why those two? In my opinion this is Jesus showing us what fulfilling the Law and the Prophets looks like. Moses (Law) and Elijah (Prophets) show up in the Presence of God with Jesus who manifests the very Glory of God on His body here on earth. Jesus is not only God, but God is now establishing His Divine Presence here on earth through Him. This is what the Law and the Prophets could never do. They could not bring the Presence of God here on earth as it is in heaven; they could never be the Temple.

I will come back to this concept as we journey together throughout the year. It is a concept that we desperately need to recapture in our Western Christianity tradition. Here in the West we have been taught that Jesus came in order to forgive our sins so that we can go to heaven when we die. In other words, Jesus came and died so that humanity could get off the hook. This is not what Jesus teaches, nor is it the main thrust or lens of the NT.

In the NT you can make a strong case that ‘kingdom of God, salvation, and eternal life’ are all synonyms for the life altering reality that happens when we become a disciple of Jesus. In other words, following Jesus brings the Divine Life of God into me, so that it can grow and flow out of me. This is what I hunger and thirst for more of. This is what I desire to see manifest in those I love. This is what I long to see in my children. This is the faith of Jesus living in me. This is what it means to be His followers.

Maranatha!

The Milo Miracle

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Matthew 7

Last Sunday night at church I shared a testimony involving our cat Milo.  The gist was that Milo had obviously consumed something in our house that was making him sick.  After three days of vomiting, not eating or drinking we took him into the Veterinarian.  An x-ray revealed something was ‘blocking’ Milo’s digestive tact.  The option of surgery was presented before us.  A very difficult conversation ensued between Trish and myself regarding the costs and likelihood of the surgery fixing the problem.  Our decision was that we could not financially do the surgery.  The other hurdle is that I could not bring Milo home only to potentially watch him die.  I began to break down when talking to the Vet about Milo and the reality that this may be his last night with us.  The clinic agreed to keep him overnight, put him on an IV with some pain medication to see if he would make the night.   

As I went home, I began to think about how I was going to break the news to our children.  I was already emotional to begin with.  The news of Milo’s potential outcome was very troublesome for our entire household.  We were all upset.  But we were also all left with a feeling that this cannot be the end.  You see, Milo was rescued by our family as a kitten.  He was abandoned and left outside in a box along a local walking trail.  It just so ‘happened’ that on a Sunday afternoon my family found this poor little guy.  That was approximately 4 months ago.  I say that to explain why we began to feel that this could not be the end of the line for Milo.  It just did not sit or feel right at all.  So we prayed.

On that very evening that I left Milo with the clinic I was driving home from my son’s hockey practice.  While driving home I had a conversation with God that looked this this:  “Lord, I realize that I do not have a chapter and verse example of someone bringing an animal to You in order for You to heal them … in fact I do not of any Biblical example at all for what I am about to ask …  But I know that You made the animals from the dust of the ground and You gave them the breath of life.  I know that You are a merciful, caring and compassionate God.  You have healed my body and loved ones in the past, and I am asking You Lord Jesus to touch Milo’s body and make him well.” 

The next morning I called the clinic to be told that Milo had eaten his food without vomiting and was up walking around and receiving cuddles from the workers.  That afternoon I went in to bring him home.  While at home with Milo his digestive system kicked into overdrive.  He was eating, drinking, and … well let’s say I needed to clean his litter box!  The clinic was shocked, our children were overjoyed and I was thankful to God.  A week later, Milo is back to his wacky self.  He is back with his family.

I share this testimony to encourage you to have faith in the God of the Cosmos.  He loves and cares very much for His creation.  His Name is Yahweh.  He is the Great I AM.  You and I can approach Him by having faith and believing in His Son Jesus Christ.  He is able to be sought and delights in being found.  His divine presence, action and ability is here to break through potential blockages that stand in our way.  I will never fully understand His ways, but I do know that He opens doors.  He is the God of mystery, marvel and miracles.  He is a good God.  He is wonderful and I will praise and thank Him.   

Maranatha!      

Radical Righteousness

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness …”

What does it mean to be ‘persecuted for righteousness or for righteousness’ sake’?  I know that it’s not suffering because of our foolishness or suffering from our own wrongdoing.  Also, suffering for the sake of righteousness is also not about suffering for being noble, good or self-sacrificing.  In general the world praises heroes who embark on noble causes such as ending world hunger and establishing world peace.  Crowds cheer such people who make those statements.  But that is not true righteousness because suffering does not generally come to people who make such noble claims. 

What then does practicing righteousness look like?  It is to simply be like Jesus.  The Bible tells me that those who are like Him will always be persecuted (John 15:18-20, 2 Tim. 3:12).  Old Testament examples of Abel, Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Daniel come to mind as well as the Apostles.  Those people truly suffered because of their desire to be like God and walk in His ways.  Suffering came their way, and oftentimes not only from the world.  It’s been said that the most grievous persecution has been done at the hands of the Church and religious people.  Jesus’ chief persecutors were such.  Jesus exposed their cold, religious hearts that hated the pure faith He exhibited, taught and endorsed. 

Formal Christianity is often referred to being the greatest enemy of raw, pure and genuine faith.  It is because pure faith does not fit into a formal religious category or tradition.  Pure faith in Christ is radically different because it is rooted in Someone who was radically different from the religious traditions of the day.  Jesus was different from the standard religious thought and practice.  He did not fit into orthodoxy.  He in fact blew it up. 

Being Jewish Himself, Jesus drove the religious leaders into fits of rage.  Many threw stones and hated Him.  They eventually murdered Him.  I wonder what the religious leaders of today would say if Jesus was able to speak?  But wait, He already did, and the repeated message was for us to repent! (Rev. 2:5, 2:16, 2:21, 3:3, 3:19)

This Beatitude tests us if we allow it.  It ought to test our ideas as to what being a ‘Christian’ is.  Contrary to popular opinion, a Christian is not someone who never offends, is always easy to get along with and popular with everyone.  The world attempts to paint Christianity this way.  However, it is the wrong view of Jesus.  If our conception of Jesus is that He would be admired and applauded by the religious community and world alike, then we have a wrong view of Him. 

Martin Lloyd Jones says this, ‘if you try and imitate Christ the world will praise you; if you become like Christ the world will hate you’.  In other words, persecution becomes inevitable if we are to be like Christ. 

Here is what I have come to realize about my life with Christ. 

  1. My life will bring division.  Jesus said that His effect will do this very thing (Matt. 10:34).  In my life, the effect of Jesus’ ministry created a clear-cut distinction between myself and the world.  I am no longer to live according to the pleasure of my eyes, the desires of my flesh or the pride of my lifestyle (1 John 3:15-17).  I still have lots of work to do in this area, but the closer I get to Him the further away I am from other things. 
  2. My life is to be controlled by Jesus. Our culture does not like the word ‘controlled’.  We are influenced by culture to pursue individual freedom of choice, expression, desire, and thought.  The Apostle Paul said that living for him was Christ (Phil. 1:21).  I think Paul was a very smart man who was full of God’s Spirit.  To ‘live’ is Christ.  That means He and He alone is the author and perfecter of my faith.  In other words, Jesus is to dominate my living in such a way that my life becomes very much like Him.  Again, I am a work in progress, but thankfully His Spirit moves and transforms me moment by moment (2 Cor. 3:17-18). 
  3. My life should be controlled by thoughts of heaven and the world to come.  If living is Christ, Paul says, then to die is even better (Phil. 1:21).  Have you ever noticed that the non-Christian does everything to not think of the world beyond?  In our pleasure mania culture we are taught to seek after every worldly passion and pleasure under the sun.  The world prioritizes a temporal mindset.  The problem I have is that the more I follow Jesus, the more I think about eternity and the return to Eden.

To close the Beatitude list Jesus looks at His followers then and now and simply reminds us of the focus of our living: ‘Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven’ (Matthew 5:12)

As we become like Christ we are to experience persecution.  In the Canadian culture this is beginning to happen.  Our government is beginning to establish some clear cut definitions it expects its citizens to attest and endorse.  The follower of Jesus needs to remind themselves that before the world hated us, it first hated Him (John 15:18-27).  May we be a people who are committed to be like Him. 

Maranatha!    

What’s the point?

For the eyes of Yahweh roam throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His. 2 Chronicles 16:9

What is the point of religion?  Why do people commit themselves to a certain path and practice?  Is it for the promise of a better life in the here and now?  Or is it for eternal joy, ecstasy and happiness?  I simply ask those questions to ask this:  What is the purpose of following Christ? 

Contrary to popular western thinking, Jesus Christ did not come to earth just so that ‘my sins would be forgiven so that I could go to heaven when I die to live in my mansion over the hilltop.’  That is definitely not the message of The Bible. 

Psalm 24 asks a rhetorical question:  Who may ascend into God’s presence? Only the one who has clean hands, a pure heart, and honest motives.  Most of us have issues with those conditions.  One condition especially gives us trouble: pure hearts

Have you ever been told to ‘follow your heart?’.  It seems like such a noble quest.   To discover love and happiness we are told to do whatever our hearts desire.  Well, I don’t know about you, but sometimes following my heart leads to heartache! 

The Bible tells us that the heart is wicked and deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9).  But worldly wisdom says to follow my heart and do whatever it desires.  The Bible never says that.  Jesus actually said that the heart is our seat of trouble, because out of our hearts the mouth speaks.  Has your mouth ever gotten you into trouble?  Good news, it’s not your mouth but actually your heart!  Wait, that’s maybe not good news.  But this is where Christianity can help us. 

It’s been said that Christianity is not a doctrine of intellect or understanding.  True.  But what is it?  Christianity is a condition of the heart.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is very much concerned about the condition of your heart because your heart is the very centre of your being.  Biblically speaking, the heart is equated with the centre of your personality (mind, will and emotions).  In other words, your heart is the source from which everything flows.  The Psalmist tells us that a pure source (heart) is needed in order to ‘ascend’ into God’s presence.  Thankfully God offers us a new one! 

Christianity is a promise of a new heart and spirit (Ezek. 36:26).  Jesus came to fulfill and establish this very thing for all humanity.  Accepting and following Christ brings the reality of new creation and joy of being ‘born again’ (John 3:1-18, 2 Cor. 5:17).  Receiving Christ’s salvation means the old heart is gone and the new one has come.  It is a glorious mystery that only God fully understands.  All I know is that it works and brings a divine outlook and life from within.         

Jesus said that ‘blessed are the pure in heart because they will see God’ (Matthew 5:8).  Christianity brings a better outlook on life that any other world religion or faith system I know because the Christian can see God in nature, people and world history while the non-Christian cannot.  With eyes of faith the Christian is able to see God in a way that nobody else can.  Following Christ also brings a sense of knowing that He is near and with me all the time.  We just celebrated a time when Mary, like no other person in human history, was literally able to ‘see’ and know God.  One day so too shall we. 

The point of Christianity for me is this blessed hope: seeing God.  The Bible tells us that humanity will go from not being able to see God’s face and live (Ex. 33:20), to ultimately being like Him (1 John 3:2).  Now that is a glorious, mysterious journey that I am all in for!  What about you?

The invitation is open and universal.  Our God loves us so much that He took matters into His own Hands and fixed our heart problem.  Our self-giving God gave us the ability to receive a new heart via the way of His Son.  Give God a chance.  Give Jesus your ‘heart’ and allow Him to be your source.   

Consider praying with me:  Father God in heaven I thank You for loving me.  I thank You for providing me with a way to come back to you.  I ask You, Jesus, to come into my heart.  I believe, confess and desire for you to be my Lord and Saviour.  I believe that You are God’s One and Only Son; that You came to earth, died and was raised to life again; I believe that You are coming back and I want to be in Your Kingdom when You come.  I pray that you will receive me now into Your Kingdom of light.  Amen. 

If you prayed this for the first time, or rededicated your life to Christ, please let me know.  Send me a note through my website.  I’d love to hear from you.  There’s a party in heaven if you did.  I look forward to partying with you in eternity.  Until then …


Maranatha!    

The Manger of Mercy

In the sixteen years of being married I have grown considerably in my knowledge and understanding of my wife. I better understand who she is because of the time we spend together. That’s what should happen in any growing love relationship. The same can be said of my relationship with my children. The same is also true of my relationship with God.

As far as Christianity goes, I am largely a product of ‘Classical Pentecostalism’. On my mother’s side, the Faught family has a strong Pentecostal tree. With that being said, I am most likely a fourth generation Pentecostal who grew up being taught traditional, conservative and most likely Reformed theology. Although the Reformation did bring some important realignments back into the Christian faith, there is one theory in particular that has been troubling, and it has to do with a central aspect to our faith: The Incarnation.

The Incarnation is a term used to describe God’s coming in the flesh to live and dwell among humanity. The birth of Jesus Christ was such. The God of Israel looked down upon creation and humanity and took it upon Himself to redeem it. The Bible tells us about the One God who loved the world in such a giving way that He took it upon Himself to act in merciful compassion towards His Creation.

We are told in The Bible that the One God who rules the cosmos is Yahweh. He revealed His Name to Moses and us back in Exodus 34:5-6. Biblically speaking, a name is more than family association. A name expresses a person’s essential character and essence. When God reveals His Name there are two important words associated with it: mercy and compassion.

Down through the Biblical writers, this knowledge of God was passed along within the Psalms and prophets. Yahweh is a merciful, compassionate and forgiving God. There is no greater example than the Incarnation. The Incarnation is an act of Mercy from the Triune self-giving God. In the birth of Jesus Christ God’s Son we see The Father, Spirit and eternal Logos come together to express His nature through the Promised Messiah. Zechariah thanked and linked the coming of the Messiah as an act of God’s merciful compassion (Luke 1:78-79). In fact, Jesus is the very Mercy seat of our God. In Christ, God guarantees a meeting place of mercy for Creation, Israel and the Gentile world. This is what Paul had in mind in Romans 3:25. Jesus is the One who brings about God’s ‘putting-right’ purposes in the world.

Why do I say all of this? Simply to highlight something that traditional Reform theology does not: God is not a God who needed Jesus to fulfill some sort of payment, penalty or ransom to get humanity off the hook so that we could go to heaven when we die. NO! Such a narrow view completely misses Israel, Creation and the character of our merciful, compassionate, self-giving God.

Our relationship with God is not birthed from a legal transaction but is more of a relational reality that flows from a manger of mercy. When I look upon the birth of Christ I see the face of our merciful, compassionate, loving God. Jesus is the place where God’s Mercy flows. From Him it flows out of me. It helps me to be merciful to those around me. It helps me to show others that I am one of His followers. In fact, being merciful is something He expects from me as I grow in my love relationship with Him (Matthew 5:7).

The manger is place where we can meet, receive and ‘be’ His mercy. We can meet His Mercy by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We can receive His Mercy through the forgiveness of our sins and the breaking of its power. We can be HIs Mercy by telling others the good news.

Like the angelic host, we too can partner in the proclaiming of good things.

Merry Christmas and Maranatha!