Know The Father

As a child I always had the idea that God designed everything perfectly and then something went wrong.  Somehow He had to come up with plan B. This plan B was never intended as the original idea, but He had to fix what went wrong. Imagine that; Jesus being plan B?  Well, I honestly thought this was the case.

Until one day God showed me a truth I’ve never seen before in Ephesians 1:4-5, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

Even before God made the world He had it in mind to adopt us as sons through Jesus.  This plan never changed.  Before the Garden of Eden His plan was to adopt us as sons through Jesus.  After the fall of man into sin the plan never changed.  He wanted sons and daughters and the plan still remained the same.  Jesus is God’s predestined and chosen way for people to come into relationship with Him.

It has always been God’s desire to be a Father to us.  The idea has always been to be in covenant with Him through Jesus.  Sin just changed the way it happened a little, but the original plan has and always will be God’s idea.

To know God as Father has always been God’s first and foremost priority with us.  This kind of relationship with us is God’s primary motivation for doing everything He desires to do.  He loves us and will give anything for His children.

I have heard many teachers say that the ultimate revelation to obtain is to know the Father.  I disagree; it is the first. Nothing you do in God’s Kingdom should come from any other motive than relationship.  We cannot earn His love.  It is given unconditionally like only a Father can.

If you are functioning in your Christian walk and doing things for people and God without a deep understanding of the Father Heart of God, then you are not working from a place of rest, love or grace.  You are working from a place of law trying to do the right thing in order to gain acceptance. Your are serving from an orphaned heart.

Your motive should be love, having fully understood that you are part of His family. God is not a slave driver but a Father.  This is the Gospel. Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father. The Gospel is not that Jesus gave us power to serve in a Kingdom of slaves.  The unfortunate reality is that so many people look to God through the lenses of their own fatherly experiences as a child.

Before we can grow in our spiritual journey and mature in God, we need to get the father wound in our lives healed and understand that God is a loving Father.  

This is the first thing God wants us to understand.

It's time to grow up

In my book It’s time to grow up, I show how different people relate to God in different ways.  There are various factors influencing this of course, but the one I focus on in my book is the different levels of spiritual maturity we all find ourselves in.  A teenage boy will relate differently to his parents than his toddler sister, and so too the parents will expect different things from their children.

Although 1 John 2:12-14 mentions three different growth stages in our spiritual walk, it does show us seven different stepping stones we have to grow through in order to live in a fully mature relationship with God.

  1. Knowing the Father

  2. Having your sins forgiven

  3. Overcoming the enemy

  4. Becoming strong in your faith

  5. Living through the Word

  6. Knowing God’s purpose for your life

  7. Living fully in His Kingdom

These seven growth blocks are vital in every person's journey of faith. Too many people try to compare themselves with someone that is living in number 7 while they themselves are still at number 3, trying to learn how to identify and overcome the enemy.  This might cause them to feel very intimidated by a mature believer’s relationship with God.

This will lead to a lot of frustration and disillusionment and eventually to a person feeling very frustrated with God.  It is important for you to know yourself in order to grow in your potential. God will not expect you to overcome the devil if you cannot even overcome offense.  This is why He will be patient with you as you grow into that place of maturity so that you can live in the abundant life He has promised us.

Over the next few weeks I will take you through these seven stages and explain them individually.  It would be good for you to identify where you are and what it would take for you to grow to the next step in your own life.

Restored

Let’s look at some big theological words today and see why it is important to get them right.  

Justification and sanctification.

According to the Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “justification declares that all the claims of the law are satisfied in respect of the justified”.  This is what Jesus obtained for us on the cross.  Romans 5:1 states, “therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When you are justified by faith you are no longer guilty of sin but set free through the blood of Jesus from the curse of sin.  You are justified. Justification is the first step into God’s Kingdom.  You get justified when you acknowledge the fact that you are a sinner in need of a saviour.  Then, according to Romans 10: 9, you are saved when you “confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead”.

Salvation is made possible by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  You are then called a child of God. The next step is to grow up.

That process is called sanctification.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary reads, “sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man”.  This means, to be justified by the blood of Jesus from sin will make you a child of God, but will not make you live a Christ-like life without the ongoing empowerment and work of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Therefore it is important to understand that calling Jesus your Saviour is not enough to make you be fruitful.  You need to make Him Lord of your life and obey Him in order to live a life of blessing and fruitfulness.

We need to get this order right.  You first need to be justified by the blood of Jesus before you can be sanctified by the Holy Spirit.  So often, as Christians, we expect those who are not yet justified to be sanctified. We judge people who live immoral lives and argue with them about what is right and wrong.  Those who are not justified by the blood of Jesus cannot live lives that are sanctified.

This is the main reason it’s so difficult to argue about issues like abortion and sexual immorality with those who have not accepted Jesus as their Redeemer from sin.   As Christians, we should always live lives that are continuously being sanctified, yet love those who are not yet justified. We should never put sanctification before justification.  In every conversation it should always be Jesus first, and morality second.

We should love like Jesus loved.  

Romans 5:8 reads, “but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Next week we will start looking in more detail at the sanctification process we all need to embrace in our lives.

Thank you Jesus.

Redeemed

Romans 5:10 (NLT)  For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 

Do you get what this verse is really saying?  Because of the death of Jesus, you are restored to a relationship with God.  This is great news. This is the GOSPEL!

I recently asked a few people what the Gospel meant to them.  I was honestly shocked to see how familiar people have become with the greatest news we have ever received.  As Christians, we have come to a point where that which happened on the cross of Jesus has become more of a story and a familiar history to us, instead of it being “the power of God” (Rom 1:16) that brings salvation.

Jesus explained it well in Luke 6 when He said that your life will be like a house built on sand if you give attention to all kinds of revelation from Scripture, yet the foundation is not strong on the essentials.  I have seen many people who once had a very impressive faith life, but who’s faith got shipwrecked during intensely dramatic life struggles.

Because their faith was built upon revelations about things that are good, but not essential, they suddenly lost sight of the important things in life.  They lost sight of the person of Jesus and who He was to them.

If you can teach about prophecy and authority, the gifts of the Spirit, the kings of the Bible, financial wealth, or any other biblical truth, but you are not well acquainted with and truly live out the truth of the Gospel, your beautiful house of knowledge built on sand will eventually be flattened by a storm of life.  All revelation from Scripture has to be founded upon the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

When the Gospel is the foundation, then all other truths will be able to stand the test of trials.

Do you fully understand what it means to be a Christian?

WE HAVE BEEN RESTORED!

Take a few moments and meditate on this:

THE GOSPEL IS THE GOOD NEWS THAT GOD BECAME MAN IN JESUS CHRIST.  HE LIVED THE LIFE WE SHOULD HAVE LIVED AND DIED THE DEATH WE SHOULD HAVE DIED - IN OUR PLACE.  THREE DAYS LATER HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD, PROVING HE IS THE SON OF GOD AND OFFERING THE GIFT OF SALVATION AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS TO ANYONE WHO REPENTS AND BELIEVES IN HIM.

Thank you Jesus.

Clean your land

Did you know that your struggles might be because of someone else's sin?

Jeremiah 3:1
God says, “If a husband divorces his wife
And she goes from him
And belongs to another man,
Will he still return to her?
Will not that land be completely polluted?


When someone sins on a land, the land itself becomes defiled or polluted. So, when the next person steps onto that land, the pollution of that land will influence them negatively; unless they clean it up.

I have prayed for many houses and physical land.  It is remarkable to see the difference in both the land and the people after the land has been cleansed from previous pollution.  

A friend once asked me to pray for her house.  She was living with a few friends in shared accommodation in London, England.  While we prayed, I sensed that there were occult activities taking place there in previous years in specifically the garage of the house.  After we prayed to break the curses and cleanse the land, my friend reported the next few days that things drastically changed around the house.  The relationships between the housemates improved and even the plumbing issues were resolved; something no plumber could fix despite months of investigation.  

Jesus did not only give us fire insurance.  We are not just simply saved from an eternity in hell.  Jesus became flesh so that He could also redeem creation.  This is the Gospel. All of creation got set free from the power of sin.  

The Gospel is not just a feel good story of hope for heaven.  It is the power of God that brings salvation and restoration to people and creation.  In many instances in Scripture we see God always doing miraculous things on the same piece of land but over multiple generations.  This is because that land has the ability to absorb spiritual power.

This power actively influences the people that live and move on that land. The land itself cannot decide what power it absorbs, e.g. good or evil. This is determined by the people living on that land.  What is important to understand is that your words and actions carry tremendous spiritual power and have a direct influence on the land you occupy.  Pray over your house, land and property regularly and bless it in the Name of Jesus.

God has redeemed creation and gave us full authority over it.  It is time that we start to take back the land that is not yet in possession of the Kingdom.

If there are things happening in your life that you know might be out of character for you, then consider that the land you are living on, working on or even just stepped on to might be the source.  Take Joshua’s approach and claim every place your feet walk on for the Kingdom of God.

Inform vs Transform

Romans 12:2 (NASB) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Last week I was in Nashville with our Every Nation Assessment centre to help assess the suitability of some couples to plant new churches.  One of the gentlemen on our team is currently busy with a Doctorate programme and he said something that stuck with me.  He quoted one of his lecturers, saying “those who don’t write, don’t think”.

This statement has echoed in my mind for the last few days.  Ignorance is not something I would want to be known for.  I love to think about things.  I want to seek truth in everything I do.  But more than that, I desire my life to be transformed for the better.

This verse in Romans states clearly that we should not be INFORMED in our minds but TRANSFORMED.  There is a pretty big difference.  Most of us who just read but not write, ends up being informed and not transformed.  It is only through teaching others that you really challenge yourself to make statements of truth and conviction.  Being somewhere in the middle with a lot of knowledge will make no difference to you or anyone else.

Recently I have had to deal with a pretty challenging pastoral situation with someone who confesses to be a Christian but whose life is not at all bearing the fruit.  The person shows no remorse or repentance for any hurt caused to people, or for the sinful behaviour which caused everything, for that matter.  Yet, in our conversations, I could recognise an amazing insight into the Bible, but there was no conviction of truth.

This means there is information through knowledge but no transformation through a relationship with Jesus.

I tend to find this in many who confess to be Christian.  They have knowledge about forgiveness, yet carry deep offences against their parents and others.  

We need to be transformed by Christ, not informed by books.

When you read and gain new knowledge but your behaviour stays the same, you will only have gained information but no transformation.  New knowledge that results in new behaviour is equal to the transformation this verse refers to.  This seldom happens unless you actually start teaching and discipling others.  Therefore, “those who don’t write don’t think”. 

This is why I believe it is important to make disciples.  When I have to duplicate myself into someone else, I need to pass on who I am, not just what I know.  We need to be able to reflect Christ in everything we do and be able to pass on His nature, not our own brokenness. 

I believe that love is the greatest commandment, exactly for this very reason.  We cannot influence anyone with the Gospel if we are not transformed by Love ourselves.  This starts by forgiving (unconditionally) those who have done us wrong.  

Make a commitment today that you will not just be informed, but transformed. 

Own your space

Have you ever walked into a room and it felt like something crawled up your back?  It feels as though the hair on your neck are standing up straight! Or maybe you experience the exact opposite? You go to visit a friend and as you walk through the doors your heart sighs as it feels as though you have stepped into a haven of indescribable peace?

God designed us with a mandate to rule over creation.  The basic elements of creation are time, space and matter.  It is easy to explain the authority that we have over matter (next week I’ll explain the power of physical land) but we are seldom taught that time and space are also under our jurisdiction.  

We have to remember that the devil is called the prince of the power of the air in Eph 2:2.  The best way to influence people and the earth is to take control of the atmosphere that surrounds them.  That way you can have a direct influence on every person's mind and the physical matter inside that space.   

To take authority in the Name of Jesus over the spiritual realm is hugely powerful but that is also true for the space that physical matter occupies.  The physical world and the spiritual world are so closely linked together that it takes very little to step from the one into the other. In fact, I believe you cannot really separate them.  If you understand the power of “space” you will know that everything you say and do have a direct influence on the spiritual realm. The spiritual realm that occupies all space will then in turn have a direct effect upon your immediate physical world.  

This is the reason people who live in the same residential area are usually subjected to the same behaviour and thought patterns.  The atmosphere is saturated with a spiritual principality that influences their thoughts. When Jesus destroyed the enemy, He took back the authority from the prince of the power of the air.  This means that the Gospel can change the atmosphere you live in.

The Gospel is simple but profound.  The four simple ingredients of the Gospel are so easy to understand, yet we overcomplicate it and therefore miss its power.

  1. God created everything.  He created us to have relationship with Him.

  2. We rebelled against God and sin destroyed both the planet and our relationship with God.

  3. God became man in Jesus and lived the life we should have lived.  He then died the death we should have died in order to redeem us from sin.

  4. In the resurrection, everything got restored.  

When this simple but profound truth settles in your heart, you will realise that you can bring the salvation of the cross into your physical world and change the atmosphere of any place you step into.  When the atmosphere is filled with God's Glory, then even those who do not believe in God will starting thinking and acting according to His Kingdom, because it is occupying the space around them.

The two most profound ways to change your atmosphere are through words and actions.  You need to speak out the promises of God. Do not strengthen that which already exists by speaking that which already is.  Speak and act in the opposite to what is around you and speak and act according to God’s Word, regardless of how you feel. Your life has authority in Christ Jesus.  Become the agent of change for your household and community!

Romans 8:19 (ESV)  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. Creation is waiting for the redemption of the cross, but we are the ones to minister redemption to creation.   

Next week I’ll explain some aspects around the power of land.  This will put everything into context. Time, space and matter.  We need to live like sons.

Ahab & Jezebel: Know the real enemy

“Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:33).

A lot has been said and written about Jezebel in the last three decades.  Some good, some not so good and some downright wrong. There has been some who have gone so far as to suggest that any woman who with a remotely strong personality or distinguished leadership skills can be called a ‘Jezebel’ in Christian circles.

I would like to bring clarity around this issue from my studies and experience here in Belgium over the last eight years.  What I will say might shock some and inform others, but I believe that it is necessary to bring clarity to this topic.

Even though I do not believe that there is a particular demonic spirit, stronghold or entity with the name ‘Jezebel’, I too use the name Jezebel to describe the behavioral characteristics of certain people or demonic entities.  This is simply derived from the name we get in scripture given to a very evil and manipulative Queen, Jezebel.  So, in referring to a person or spirit, it does not mean they carry the name, it is a reference to behavior or characteristics. 

From my experience, so much energy has gone into fearing Jezebel or trying to predict or dissolve her schemes and tactics, but that should not be our attention.  The solution is much simpler. The way we respond is of most importance.  Jezebel is simply not as big as many make it out to be.

The big devil behind it all is Ahab.  Once Ahab is dealt with, Jezebel will not be a problem at all.  

Ahab was the King.  In all understanding of the way a monarchy works, the king is the higher authority.  Unless the King dies or, like in this case, is extremely passive, the queen would need to submit under the authority of the king.

The biggest empowerment behind Jezebel is passive leadership.  Jezebel does not usurp the authority of the king, but uses it to manipulate and so achieve personal gain.  Without the passivity of Ahab, Jezebel cannot function. 

When a leader is standing on principle and acts out his delegated authority, there will be no room for the manipulation to take place.  Once a leader is insecure and does not stand for what is right, there is a vacuum of authorityjust waiting to be taken in. This is the space which Jezebel steps into and takes the lead.

The biggest enemy in this equation is not Jezebel, but passive leaders, i.e. Ahab!

The reason it is so difficult to see this is simply because the one who makes the most noise gets the most attention.  For so many years we have tried to fight Jezebel. The characteristics of this type of spirit or behavior are just everywhere today.  Over the last eight years, we have seen many Jezebelic characters trying to get their way in our ministry. I can now spot them a mile away.  The reason this attitude has not been able to take over the lead is that we learned to simply refuse to get into a fight with Jezebel. Instead, we focussed our efforts on addressing an ‘Ahab’ attitude.  We refused to be passive in our leadership. We did not compromise on our values and principles but instead, we stood for righteousness and truth.

You don't overcome Jezebel by confronting this, but by pro-actively and strongly refuse to compromise on holiness.  Let me give an example.  When a Jezebel will make you angry, this will open the door for her to take the upper hand.  You need to refuse to let go of your love walk and keep God's great commandment as the highest priority.  Do not be manipulated by the tactics and fall into the trap.  Seek holiness, not revenge.  On the other hand, do not tolerate the sin issue, but speak out against it in love.

On many occasions, we were presented with the opportunity to not address sin issues.  We all know how messy those confrontations can be.  It’s definitely something we all wish we don’t have to deal with. In one case we were even pushed by manipulative parties to stay quiet about gross sin in leadership circles.  But we had decided to honor God instead of allowing sin to dominate. Jezebel surely did not like her sin to get exposed, but also had no foothold to stand on and had to leave.

Jezebel can only function where passive leadership allows sin to stay hidden.  Jezebel cannot function in a holy and righteous environment.This is why this verse quoted above is focused on the sin of Ahab, and not the queen.

Even in the book of Revelation, it does not say that Jezebel was the problem, but the fact that the church TOLERATED her.

Revelation 2:20 (NASB) But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

Whatever you tolerate will dominate.  If you tolerate sin in your leadership, Jezebel will have a foothold to manipulate you. The moment you stand strong in your relationship with God and lead according to righteousness, you remove all of Jezebel’s power.  

The real problem comes in when Jezebel is tolerated and gives birth to Athalia.  Athalia was Jezebel's daughter.

I’ll explain this evil spirit next week.  In the meantime - do not be an Ahab who tolerates sin.

God created time

Time can be empowered by a blessing or cursed by evil.  This will result in either effective, productive time spent or wasted time spent on unnecessary things. To bless something (the Trevor definition) means you empower it with God’s favour and strength and to curse something means you are imparting evil and unrighteous power into something or someone.  When something or someone is blessed, the nature of God will be seen in the way that it functions or in the fruit it produces.  When something is cursed, it will bear the fruit of darkness.

At night, I would oftentimes look back at the day and evaluate.  Oftentimes, it would be a frustrating exercise, realising I had spent too much time in traffic, my food took far longer to prepare than normal, or I struggled too much to get the kids to bed on time.  Days like those make me feel supernaturally ineffective. I have often wondered why it seems that when one thing goes wrong, oftentime it all goes wrong on the same day!  

I have come to realise it is because, somehow, time got defiled by the enemy and he is stealing my time from me, robbing me of my effectiveness.

God is the source of all blessing and He was the first one to bless anything.  Strangely enough, God declared time holy. Genesis 2:3 (ESV), So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Throughout Scripture we see God being very specific about the way He wanted the Israelites to spend their time and how they were to pray for it.  In Numbers 28:11, for instance, we see the Israelites getting a command to make sacrifices in the beginning of the month. They had festivals and instructions for certain times of the year, months, weeks and even instructions for daily time spent.  Many people think it is because God gave the Israelites laws to keep, but what was the design or purpose of these laws?

Time is a created element and we should be intentional to rule over it.  When we bless time and take authority over it, we are taking a part of creation and redeeming it to function in God’s ways.  

So, I started to be more intentional at blessing my time.  I will often-times take authority over time and pray a blessing over my day, week, month, etc.  When I pray for our services on a Sunday, I will bless the time slot of the service. I am often amazed at how efficient I suddenly become without deliberately putting any extra effort into what I was doing then and there.

The reason is simple: my time is being empowered and governed by the favour of the God who created it.  

You need to remember that we were given a mandate to rule over creation.  Time is a created element and we should bless time in the same way we bless anything else.  When your time is empowered by God, you will get so much more done in a shorter time.

 

 

Creation cries out

Romans 8:19 (ESV) For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

 

I always thought that creation was waiting for Jesus to return in order to put things back in order again.  Sin busted the world up so badly that everything is dying and decaying.  It is the same as when kids mess up their room so badly that they cannot fix it themselves.  They need mom to come and fix it again for them.  Or that’s what I thought.

But this Scripture says that creation is waiting for the sons of God to show up.

You see, God expects us to clean up this mess.  The unfortunate reality is, my three year old doesn’t have the ability to clean up the mess but I definitely expect my eleven year old son to clean his room by himself.

This term “sons of God” refers to a level of maturity.  I explained this in detail in my book “It’s time to grow up”.   Creation is not waiting for God to come clean up this mess.  Creation is waiting for us to grow into maturity from children of God to sons of God and take up the mandate that was originally given us to rule and reign on this planet.  God wants His children to be mature enough in order to entrust us with His Kingdom.

The unfortunate reality is that most of God's children don’t know what they need to take authority over.  This is because we don’t know what God created to be ruled.  This is simply found in Genesis the first chapter.

The very first act of creation involved God creating time, space and matter.  Throughout my entire Christian life I have heard people take authority over many kinds of things, but very seldom do people take authority over these three elements, in principle.  When we neglect to take back the rule of these three basic elements, we will not be able to govern the rest of God’s creation.  

Over the next few weeks I will explain a few clear principles on how to make sure that you are in charge of your time, the space that you own and the physical matter that you engage in.  All three of these areas are very intentionally being defiled by the enemy and should be intentionally redeemed in Jesus’ Name.

Birthright

Last week we looked at identity. Your identity can only be understood and found in your creator.  But what exactly does it mean to be a child of God?  When you have the spirit of adoption and you don't feel like an orphan, what will the result of that be?

 

You need to understand the term “birthright”.  A birthright was the privilege given to the firstborn son in a Jewish family. The firstborn son received double the inheritance from the father and inherited a certain amount of the authority in the family. This was not because of anything he did right but simply because he was born first.

Imagine the oldest son not realising his identity and place in the family. This would be the same as having a million euros in your bank account but you live on the streets because you are simply not aware of your wealth and birthright.  Because you lack identity, no amount of wealth you own will make a difference until you realise who you are and what you have as your own.

Jesus Christ is the firstborn from the dead. Because of this all the authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Him.  Not only all authority, but everything in the Kingdom. Because of this, there is no lack of resources available to Him.

Unless you fully understand how much you have in the bank account of your covenant with God through Jesus, your lack of identity will make you live far below what God has intended for you.

This identity got completely destroyed by sin.  When our first ancestors decided to rebel against God, they not only lost sight of the reality of God’s provision, they also sold their birthright like Esau and lost their identity and place in the family. This is the reason Jesus became a man. He restored the birthright, identity and relationship of mankind to God.

In His resurrection, mankind now has a restored birthright and full access to all of heaven’s resources.  Even though your heavenly bank account contains everything that God has available for you, according to Ephesians 1:3, you will not live in the fullness of that birthright unless you understand who you are in Christ.

So many Christians claim God’s promises and provision but still feel and think of themselves as much less than what God has for them.  Your identity in Christ and knowing you are a child of God, adopted into the family and part of the first born from the dead it Is vital to understand in order to have access to the fullness of God’s Kingdom.

One of the most successful tactics the enemy has to steal your identity from you is to make you focus on what you don't have instead of the blessings you have received in Jesus.

Make a quality decision today, to praise God and thank Him for everything you have received from Him, through Jesus. Do not follow your emotions based upon your current experiences. You will only get stuck on a homeless state of living on the street.  Rather, focus on the blessings that God has for you in His Kingdom and give Him praise for that.

When you understand your positional authority in Christ and your birthright, you will live your life in a completely different way.

Identity

Identity is something really personal.  To know who you are is probably one of the most foundational aspects of living a fulfilled life.  

 

Man's true identity was lost the day we fell into sin.  We didn’t only lose our relationship with God.

Identity is not found in who you are, but whose you are.  This is the reason for family.

Children find their safety and their identity in their families.  The love that mom and dad show each other is a vitally important factor in helping children shape character.  This is the reason why God places such a high priority on family.

Like we saw last week, the relationship between individuals come under attack in order to discredit the Gospel and destroy hearts. The result of broken relationship is broken identity.  It is crucial for us as human beings to be restored in our ability to love God and one another. This will have a direct influence on the next generations.

The legacy of sin, broken relationships and lost identity goes all the way back to Adam.  So when God restored the human race through the blood of Jesus, one of the four pillars that was restored was our identity. This is why God has revealed himself to us as our father.  Your identity is shaped by your father and the way he loves you.

In Romans 8 we see that God gave us the spirit of adoption in Christ. This spirit of adoption not only restorers who you are, but gives you a sense of family and a place to belong. This is the foundation of identity.

Adoption can be seen in two ways. First of all a child that does not have parents and lives as an orphan can be adopted by a family and receive a name. The second, what I believe is important here, is the way a father adopts his own children.  

In any child's life the father particularly has to unconditionally reach into the child's soul and own the child. This is usually done around the age of a young teenager.  In some cultures there are specific rituals to accept children into adulthood. The importance of this is that the child will feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.

This is what God does with us. He reaches into our hearts and souls and adopts us as His own. This is not just so that we can call ourselves children of God, but so that we can have that deep sense of knowing that we belong to Him.  

I believe that all fulfillment in life is found in our primary relationships. Your ability to bond on a deep level with people and God dependents upon how you feel about yourself.  When you are secure about yourself you will be able to give your heart in love to others. When you are not sure about yourself you will not have enough trust in either yourself or others.  Therefor you will not give your heart, unconditionally.

This is the reason God restores your heart first and not your understanding.  

In order to love and feel accepted, your heart needs to be healed.  The Gospel is all about God reaching into your heart and recreating your spirit so that you can be a child of God.  If you truly understand what that means, your identity will be found in Him.

So many people serve God with their minds, but still carry an orphan heart.

If this is you, I want to invite you today to ask God give you that spirit of adoption.

Pray this simple prayer.

Father God, I realise my heart still longs for acceptance. I ask you today to give me that spirit of adoption so that I can feel accepted into your family.

Please help me to forgive and love unconditionally so that my heart will not be hard and separated from you.

I receive the full work of the Holy Spirit in my heart today.

Strengthened by Grace

Us humans have always been trying to define God's grace.  

 

Some of these definitions are very Biblical and some of them are downright wrong.  I don’t want to attempt to add yet another definition of grace.  I want to look at what happens to my life because of God’s grace.  God’s grace strengthens us.  I love the way Hebrews 13:9 puts it,  “do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.”

The human heart is not strengthened by knowledge or works.

It is only strengthened by God's grace.

Let’s look at the following analogy.

Imagine you have to move one ton of sand from one spot to another. When you think of using a shovel, it will take you a long time.  This is like living in the flesh. One unit of input will give you one unit of output.  The moment you start running out of strength the units will start getting smaller, the work will slow down or even come to a holt.  

Now imagine you are sitting in an excavator that has the hydraulic strength to move 100 shovels of sand with one scoop.  How much power are you putting in? How much power are you utilising? How effective will you be at the job?

You only use a little of your own strength, but you are utilising the hydraulic power of the machine. This is what Grace is like.

You cannot work in God's kingdom by your own fleshly power.  You'll be very slow in your work, you won’t be very effective and you will get tired quickly.  But when God's grace empowers your heart you will be able to accomplish far more by His power than what you will ever do by yourself.

Unfortunately there is something that can hinder grace.  

Hebrews 12:15,

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”

When you carry bitterness in your heart towards anyone, it will stop God's grace in your life. This would be like you getting out of the excavator to have a fight with someone and still expect the sand to be moved like before.  In order to be effective in living in God's kingdom, we have to be inside His grace.  Whenever you take offence and let a root of bitterness come into your heart, you will come short of the grace that empowers you.

Whatever you want from God, whether it be salvation of friends or family, healing, finances, or any other promise in Scripture, you have to understand it is given to you by grace.  You do not receive this from your own works.  If you choose to carry bitterness, will hinder your prayers from being answered.

In fact, bitterness and offence will hinder you from receiving anything from God.  

When you carry bitterness you fall short of God’s grace. Remember this verse in Matthew 6:14-15, “for if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

In previous weeks we saw the four relationships that God restored in the Gospel; God, people, self and nature.  In order to live in the full Grace of the Gospel, we have to understand that God places a high priority on us to forgive and to living in love towards others. Our relationship with other people is the second of these relationships that God restored in Jesus.

Next week I will give you some practical tips on how to forgive.

Hearing God

In my previous mail I mentioned that we could all hear from God in a close relationship.  To talk to God is a privilege that we have received through the Gospel of Jesus Christ when He restored our relationship with Him.

Today, I would like to give you five simple and practical tips on what you can do to increase your sensitivity to God’s voice.  I wrote an e-book with some more detail, explanation and examples, but in this mail I would like to give you just 5 practical exercises that can benefit you.

Although this is not a step-by-step ticklist of how you should spend your devotional time, these five things I mention here are the basics I believe you should practice on a regular basis to be able to become attuned to the way God will guide you and speak to you.

None of these things are disciplines you practice naturally, nor will they be easy at first.  Do take the time to be intentional about practicing them and press through the awkwardness you might feel in the beginning.

  1. Focus on God.  Teach your soul to intentionally forget about the things of this world and the cares of life.  Quiet down the voices of worry and doubt and simply focus on who God is.
  2. Thanksgiving.  Create an atmosphere of thanksgiving in and around you.  This is the place where faith will grow.
  3. Use your imagination to see scripture.  Live and feel scripture.  Read with more than just your analytical mind.  Scripture will come alive for you and God will be a real person and not just a concept.
  4. Bless and do not curse.  Become a funnel of blessing.  As you release God’s Kingdom through blessing, it will flow through your heart and change you from the inside out.
  5. Be sensitive to the move of God’s Spirit at all times during the day.  Practice obeying Him in the small things and you will learn to feel what the weight of what His voice sounds like.

Like I mentioned in a previous mail, God restored 4 types of relationships for us through the Gospel.  We’ve briefly looked at the first of these four, i.e.  your relationship with God.  Next week I’ll explain more about the second one; our relationship with people and why this is vital to our sanctification.

Restored to God

The first thing that was restored through the Gospel is our relationship with God.  The implications of this is enormous.  To be born-again into God's family is not a matter of religion or faith only, but a matter of becoming a new creation.  

The term new creation is not simply a comparison or metaphor, but an actual re-creation in your spirit to become a child of God.  Throughout Scripture the term "sons of God" is used to refer to creatures or a beings directly created by God.  In other words, it is not a being that is an offspring from another created being.  A son of God did not have predecessors, but is the first generation created by God into the earth.

In Genesis 6 we read about the sons of God having intercourse with women. These were angelic beings directly created by God, who came to the earth to be with women.  In the genealogies of Jesus we also see Adam being called the son of God.  Adam did not have a predecessor. Got directly created him; first generation in existence and directly coming from God.

A son of God; this is what you are called when you are born again. In Romans 8 we read that we are sons of God and creation is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed.  This is why Paul told the Galatians, “for neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” and John explained to us in chapter 1 of his gospel that we are “children of God”.

When God reconciled our relationship with Himself, it wasn't simply a new religion that started.  Through the resurrection of Jesus and infilling of the Holy Spirit we are physically made into new creatures, directly created by God, without a preceding generation. Therefore we are now called sons of God.

What are the implications of your spirit being created directly by God?

Direct communion and relationship with God is now again a reality.  The same close, intimate relationship Adam and Eve had with God before they fell away from Him, we can now have with God.

Still, not all born again Christians can testify to this.  The unfortunate reality is that many people who are born-again don't have the ability to commune with God because their minds are still too focused on the flesh.  This is why Romans 8:6 warns usm “for the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”

We also see the same in Galatians 5:16. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”

In this restored relationship we need to learn how to live from our spirits and be sensitive to the Spirit and the voice of God.  This is the biggest and most profound privilege any human being can ever ask for.  We can talk to the God of creation, personally, without a priest to intercede for us.  Jesus Himself is this intercessor and mediates for us.

To learn how to be focused on the Spirit and not the flesh is something that needs to be strengthened and developed.  In my next email, I will give you some practical advice on how to achieve this great blessing.

The Gospel


For many, the Gospel is only a theory or a theology.  But, the Gospel is much more than that.  The Gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16).  It is a life giving force that comes straight from the throne of heaven.  It is the power that makes us His children.

The question most people have is not whether the Gospel is powerful or not, but “How do I know it is changing my life?”   

If this is you, my first question to you would be do you really understand what went wrong because of sin and what was restored through the resurrection?

Sin and Salvation affected (and still daily influences) four major relationshipsof everyday life.  Let’s look at each.

When God created the universe He first of all created time, space and matter.  (These three elements are the basics over which we need to take authority.  But more about this in a later email).  This was the creative activity that took place when He spoke the words, “let there be light” (Gen 1:3).  Later, we were created to rule and reign over creation.  We can only do this if we love creation and have a caring relationship towards it.

After God created the physical world, the second significant thing He created that was influenced by redemption was Adam; a human in His image.  The first thing Adam saw when he opened his eyes after God breathed into him, was the face of God Himself.  His creator.  His friend.  We were created in perfect union with God.  This relationship is the source of all life, love and goodness.  

The third thing God did was to give Adam his identity and “job description”.  He was to take care of God’s creation.  It was now under Adam’s rule.  To know yourself and love yourself as a child of God is important.  The way we approach everything in life is linked to this third relationship; the way we see ourselves.

The fourth and final relationship God designed was human interaction and relationship.  He created Eve and together with Adam he gave them the mandate to multiply.  We were created for bonding relationships.  It is never good for man to be alone!

Creation. God. Ourselves. People.  

Sin separated us from God but it ultimately destroyed all four these relationships, as designed by God.  

Creation. Death and decay entered into the world and the destruction of nature was the result.  It also resulted in mankind losing its connection with nature and the spiritual world.  

God.  Our spirits died and we lost our connection with God.  Everyone has fallen short of God’s Glory.  

Ourselves.  Our own personal identity became that of sin instead of godliness.  The love for self turned into pride instead of humility and resulted in people lording it over each other.

People.  We lost our ability to connect with each other on the level that God intended us to bond.  This resulted in relational breakdown and people waging war against each other.

All human pain and brokenness is the result of broken relationships.  Any struggle you have in life, whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual can be traced back to the fact that one or more of these relationships are not completely functioning in its God given design.

But then Jesus came.

The reason God came in the flesh and lived among us was to restore these four relationships.  As a human being, Jesus restored our human response to a relationship with God, He restored the relationship with nature and with people.  He lived in the identity as the Son of God and destroyed the broken image that sin caused in us.

God has called us to this ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18, Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

This is how you know the Gospel is fully at work in you.  You will obey the Great Commandment in Matt 22:37-38  “ … love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’... love your neighbor as yourself”.

When the great commandment is visible in your life, the Gospel is healing your relationships.

Over the next few weeks I will unpack these four relationships individually and explain how the Gospel restored this for us.

 

Spiritual discipline

Discipline is one of those uncomfortable words that most people shy away from, but a few years ago this word gained a whole lot more respect and appreciation from me.  Donald O. Clifton, the father of Strengths-Based Psychology and the grandfather of Positive Psychology, developed the Clifton StrengthsFinder, Gallup’s online psychological assessment.  He put out 35 themes, each characterising a different kind of strength in human behaviour.  One such theme is the strength called discipline.  Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?  It talks about a person’s natural wiring to need things structured.  A person with this strength has a natural pull towards timelines and deadlines and has a deep appreciation for precision.  In the detailed explanation of this strength it says, “your world needs to be predictable. It needs to be ordered and planned”.  That doesn’t sound too painful now, does it?

Most people will see discipline as a very negative thing.  They mostly confuse it with punishment.  Punishment is simply the result of when you did something that was unlawful and you receive negative consequences for it.  Merriam-Webster defines it as “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution”.   This is vastly different from discipline, although discipline might in certain occasions include some punishment.  Discipline is mostly an act of love.  The Message Bible says it well in Hebrews 12:6, “It's the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects.”

Punishment by itself is a negative thing.  Discipline however, though it might be painful and unpleasant, is positive and encouraging.  We need to understand that discipline is a necessary part of life for those who want to grow in maturity.  God knows this better than anyone, and therefore disciplines the children He loves.  In other words, He teaches us boundaries, proper behaviour and order.

According to the definition of the Strengthsfinder assessment, disciplining someone will help them to order their lives better.  Having completed the online assessment, my wife turned out to have this signature theme as one of her strengths.  I could have told you that without her taking the test.  By just looking at the way she is disciplined in her health has made me thank God over and over for giving me a wife with this particular wiring.  

In strong contrast, my natural wiring is to fly by the seat of my pants.  I am much more of a free spirited person than my wife.  When I was in my early twenties I remember asking a good friend in our church in a joking fashion why he was so overweight.  He emphatically told me that by the time I would be 35, I would also look like that because according to him, it is absolutely unavoidable.  I have to admit, that nearly happened to me.

Having spent so much time in church all my life, I can confidently say that church parties often present the most unhealthy food choices.  The amount of sugar and fat presented on the average church’s hosting table will blow your heart out, but make you die with a smile on your face. I have to say, I used to love those foods.  Yes, I used to relate well with these choices but over the years I gradually came to a healthier revelation on the topic of food.   But, like all things, our behaviour is determined by our internal motivation.  

When I was younger, my motivation was not to look after my body.  I had not developed that internal discipline yet.  My one and only motivation was the immediate pleasure I had in front of me. This in itself is the main reason why so many people do not want to embrace discipline.  Discipline very seldom brings an immediate satisfaction or pleasure.  This is the main difference between those who desire maturity and those who give up on it.  Immature people live for the moment and their immediate desires.  Their prayers usually revolve around asking God to meet their immediate needs.  Sacrifice is not a word or attitude easily embraced by the immature.  When an individual lives a life that stretches wider than their own desires and temptations, they will sacrifice for the sake of a long term, bigger goal.  Their prayers are usually determined by the needs of God’s Kingdom.  To live like this takes a pretty mature character.

In the case of people like me who are not naturally wired to be so disciplined, I would like to suggest partnering with someone else with that strength.  I am not very disciplined in the area of health, but I am fairly fit and healthy because I have allowed my wife to look after me in that area.  She makes sure I get to the gym and eat right.  I have no problem to admit this, even if it might make me sound like a weak person.  The reality is, I am healthy because I am embracing someone else's discipline.  So if you want to say I am weak for allowing my wife to influence this part of my life, please remember to call me weak and healthy.

The main idea here is to recognise the value which discipline brings into our lives.  Discipline is very painful when you do not want to be disciplined.  When an athlete builds discipline into a training routine, determination will be the result and fruit will follow, no doubt.  When discipline is properly embraced, no matter how difficult it is, it will eventually make life easier.  Sooner or later you will develop trust in your coach that will replace the initial frustration and anger you felt.  The ultimate purpose of discipline is to build trust.

God desires to father us into a deep relationship with Him.  Trust will serve as the solid foundation.