Keep the Gift!

In my last post I encouraged you to completely unwrap and embrace The Father’s gift of grace; imputed righteousness, power, knowledge, readiness, and insight into the Father’s heart of grace.  Assuming you have opened, unwrapped and embraced the free gift of grace by faith in Jesus, you have all the enrichment spoken of in 1 Cor. 1:4-9.
Many believers receive the gift grace and open it, but as time goes by begin to fall into old patterns of belief and behavior. They begin to forget the value and full dimension of God’s gift of grace. They begin to fall away from grace and enter into works; often subtly and slowly. Why? Because most people and our world systems do not reinforce the concept of unmerited favor, blessing, power, righteousness, and insight. Therefore, so many believers are drawn backward rather than being led forward by the Spirit.  Paul told us that if we are led by the Spirit, we are ‘not under the law’ (Gal. 5:18).

It’s a lot like what we Americans do after Christmas. We have opened our gifts and finished the celebration. Then we decide to return the gift.  We decide one particular gift is not quite right for us. So, we go to a merchant and either get a refund or exchange it for something else. We don’t keep it! We return it! That is exactly what Paul warned the Galatian believers about. They initially received and believed the good news of grace with great joy. Then others influenced them to return to certain aspects of the Law of Moses, such as circumcision, to prove they were righteous. He said ‘I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel’ (Gal. 1:6).  They were returning the gift...exchanging grace for works. They were giving up grace and going back to works to be justified and righteous in the eyes of God.  Paul said they had ‘fallen away from grace’ (Gal. 5:4). Wow!   

This Christmas season hold firmly to the gift of grace. Don’t let go of it!  Don’t get a refund. Having unwrapped it, opened it, and enjoyed the enrichment of it, continue in that gift. Keep it!  It has the power to keep you!  So, you may exchange some of those other material gifts you received at Christmas, but not the gift of grace. Cherish it. Live it. As Paul spoke of grace, he also speaks to you saying, "in every respect you were enriched, in full power and readiness of speech (to speak of your faith), and complete knowledge and illumination (to give you full insight into its meaning)." ~ 1 Cor. 1:5.


Grace - The Enriching Gift of God

The Apostle Paul began each of his letters to churches by speaking grace and peace to the churches. For example, he said to the church in Corinth, ‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’(1 Cor. 1:3) This frequent greeting was Paul’s way of undergirding and reinforcing the doctrine, value, and position of grace for the believer under the New Covenant. He reminded the Jews that they were no longer under the law.  He reminded pagans that they were no longer multi-theistic worshippers of idols. He reminded them all that they were filled with everything they needed to live a life in Christ. Then he would go on to teach, instruct, correct, and admonish those same believers. 

I am drawn to 1 Cor. 1:4, 5 where Paul, after greeting the church with ‘grace and peace’ expands upon what that means to them.  The Amplified Bible does a great job of bringing fullness to this expansion.  I thank my God at all times for you because of the grace (the favor and spiritual blessing) of God which was bestowed on you in Christ Jesus. So that in Him in every respect you were enriched, in full power and readiness of speech (to speak of your faith), and complete knowledge and illumination (to give you full insight into its meaning).”  Paul says that grace was bestowed on them.  It was a gift. It was supernatural favor and blessing received by faith upon believing in their hearts that Jesus was truly the son of God and savior for all who would believe. To ‘bestow’ means ‘to present as a gift’.  They didn’t do anything to earn or deserve it. It was presented as a gift, received when they believed in their hearts, an act of faith at the deepest level. 

Paul then goes on to describe very succinctly the consequence of receiving that gift……. First, they were ‘enriched, in full power and readiness of speech’. Grace comes backed with the full power of the throne room of God, and gives a readiness and acuity to speak your faith and speak by faith. The NIV Bible says it this way “enriched in every way!”  You (a leader, a pastor, a church member, a new believer) have already been enriched in every way with the full power of God! Wow!  You are ready, aware, and dialed in to speak forth your faith IN JESUS with power, authority and assurance of Truth. 

Paul then says the Corinthians have ‘complete knowledge and illumination’ of the meaning of grace as the gift of God bestowed through Jesus Christ. They had power, knowledge, readiness, and insight by grace. This was the imputed righteousness and holiness that only Jesus could bring to them. However, we read later on in 1 Corinthians that many in the church were divisive, boasting, immoral, cheating, disorderly in worship, and on and on.

How can this be? It can be because many in Corinth had not fully embraced grace as the transforming power that the Father had offered. They had not completely opened the gift! It still had wrapping paper and packaging partially covering it. Many had embraced grace as not as enrichment but as entitlement……entitled to do whatever they felt like doing.  Paul said ‘everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial’ (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23). Grace permits us to make a choice…halleluiah! It is a choice to completely unwrap the gift!! It is our choice to embrace the fullness of grace, the fully imputed power and readiness of faith. We have the marvelous choice of fully receiving imputed enrichment in us, so that there is enrichment departing from us!

This Christmas season take the wrapping and packaging off of grace. Fully open and receive this gift. Choose to receive and embrace the enrichment, power, readiness, knowledge and insight of the Father’s gift. It’s His complete gift!


The First Thanksgiving

The early years after the birth of the United States of America were filled with challenges, conflict and civil concerns with establishing a government and society that would endure the tests of time. However, the leaders of that day always found time to give public thanks for the favor and blessings of God.  They saw God as provider, protector and savior and, therefore, directed the people of this newly born nation to honor, extol and thank Him for who He was and what He had given them. They were openly public in their thankfulness and in their declaration of Him as God of the new nation. So in honor of our founder’s wisdom in seeking and thanking our Lord and Savior I offer here the full content of President George Washington’s presidential proclamation establishing the first official Thanksgiving Day. May it bless you this Thanksgiving Day!

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been able to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted' for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd day of October, A.D. 1789.”
(signed) G. Washington


What Do You Believe?

“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart”, that is the word of faith we are proclaiming. That if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." Rom. 10:8-10 

Paul wrote these words to describe the mystery of faith and belief under the new covenant. Notice he says that we believe in our heart. It does not say we believe in our ‘soul’, or our ‘spirit’ but our ‘heart’. The heart is the intersection of the human soul and the born-again spirit converging our thoughts and will with the righteousness, truth and holiness of our born-again spirit-man.  The heart is the epicenter of believing while our born-again spirit is the epicenter of truth, righteousness and holiness.  We make decisions, especially important decisions, from our hearts. From the overflow of the heart we speak. The Word tells us to guard our heart. As we think in our heart so are we. It is the place of believing and, therefore, the place of living life.
Jesus spoke of the power of believing numerous times including in John 5. He was addressing the Pharisees who did not believe He was the messiah and He said to them, ‘If you believed Moses, you would believe me for he wrote about me. But since you did not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say? (John 5:46, 47)  The Pharisees, while thinking they were believers in the scriptures, never really BELIEVED! They never really embraced the essence of the law or the prophets. They were outwardly compliant but inwardly resistant to Truth. They lived outwardly what they believed inwardly, i.e. to put forth a good image, to do good things, and to impose an outwardly righteous standard on everyone…while never believing the central point, believing in their heart the central truth…the Word of God.  What Jesus said did not line up with their hearts. Therefore, they did not believe what Jesus said. 

There is power in what we believe in our hearts. It reveals who we are in our decisions. It affects everything in life. Jesus was so bold that in John 8:44 he said to the Pharisees, ‘You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.’ Strong words!! A confrontational challenge to what they really believed versus what they said they believed!   Jesus was not afraid to challenge them. 

Today the Holy Spirit is not afraid to challenge what you and I believe, not just in our heads but in our hearts! He will speak directly and indirectly to challenge the beliefs of our heart…that place of decision where we choose to follow the ways of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of man. The Pharisees were all about the kingdom of man, pleasing man, satisfying an outward expression of the law so men would be impressed and their image would be re-enforced.  

Today I challenge you, a leader in some sphere of ministry, to consider your heart. Do your decisions match up with who you are in Christ, with your call to ministry, with your purpose for living, with the imputed righteousness and truth of Christ in you? Does the intersection of soul and spirit bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in your ministry and in your family?  

Do a heart check and see what the Holy Spirit says. Also check out Deborah’s recent two part audio series on the closely related topic of faith at www.crossfirechurch.us. Listen to these messages and…have ears to hear.


Overcoming the Enemy Through Testimony

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Rev. 12:11

In the revelation given to John we see believers overcoming the power of Satan by the blood of Jesus and by their testimony.  The Greek word for ‘word’ here is ‘logos’ meaning the communicated, declared word. There is POWER in a spoken testimony grounded in the finished work of Jesus. When we speak it to the enemy we overcome every negative defeatist arrow he may sling at us.  We overcome doubt and blended beliefs and bring forth the clarity of God’s Kingdom in us. 

Note that it was our own testimony that helps overcome the enemy. Our testimony authenticates the work of the cross and the resurrection. Our testimony carries power that angers, yet defeats the enemy. Our testimony solidifies our own confidence and faith to the point we no longer shrink from the enemy’s threat of physical death.  Supernatural power resides in OUR testimony of who Jesus is in US.  It is always the testimony of Jesus, the Name above every other name, that imparts fear and failure in the enemy.  You have the testimony of Jesus in you. Speak it forth! It is the reality of the cross, the redemption of your soul, the power of the Spirit, and the eternal nature of who you are in Christ forever and ever!  

We see just a few verses later in Rev. 12:17-- Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. The devil hates the testimony of Jesus and wars against those(past, present and future) who carry that testimony. Welcome to the battle! But you win!! The testimony of Jesus represents his defeat firmly established at the cross and the empty tomb. It represents the Truth of God’s kingdom as he attempts to deceive with his own kingdom. It represents his destiny in the lake of fire. It represents your victory! Your testimony of Jesus overcomes his every tactic. 

Anytime you openly testify to what God is doing or has done in your life you will be attacked by the enemy; an attack of thoughts, of doubt, of circumstances, from someone near you being used to undermine and cast a shadow on your testimony. Don’t be surprised at or alarmed by the battle. You have the victory. Stand in that victory. Triumphantly carry the banner of victory through the battlefield! ‘… thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him’(2 Cor. 2:14).

Your personal testimony grounded in the Truth of Jesus has God leading you in victory over the enemy’s assault.  And in it all you will smell good! The words you speak are a fragrant aroma of His kingdom. The right people in the right place at the right time will be drawn to that aroma and His kingdom will be advanced.  

Every word of God’s goodness in your life is a winner for you and for the Kingdom of God. Fear not. Live it. Speak it. Believe it.