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Monday, July 16, 2018

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” (Galatians 6:7-8)

While digging into the subject matter, I decided to use my own personal study on Karma and  “You reap what you sow.” I also pulled a few other thoughts from “I Believe with Britnee B.” and Jennifer H.

Let me begin with what sowing and reaping is not. It’s not “karma.” Even though the concept of karma is loosely based on reaping and sowing.
For many people, the word ‘karma’ is used interchangeably with the biblical concept of reaping what you sow. And that’s understandable, given how these two principles sound like the same exact thing. However, they are two very different concepts.

If we aren’t careful, we can easily mistake karma and reaping what we sow as being one in the same. Christians must be mindful of the difference, or we run the danger of erring in our understanding of what Christ did on the cross, what the Holy Spirit is currently working out in us, and the truth about eternity.

For some people, The word ‘karma’ was in their vocabulary before they ever understood the biblical principle of sowing and reaping. Before they ever knew Jesus Christ as their personal savior, they knew what karma was. When they came into the knowledge of Christ and his Word, they knew something didn't line up between what karma taught and what the Bible tells us.

One primary difference between karma and the biblical concept of sowing and reaping is their source.

Karma’s origins are in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions and it is defined as the sum of a person’s actions in this life and previous lives that decide the fate of their future existences.

Problem #1:  Multiple Lives

The first problem that I have with the idea of karma is that it is deeply connected to the belief of each person having multiple earthly lives. This simply doesn’t match up with the Bible. We get one life that feels as short as a vapor and vanishes quickly (James 4:14). One short life to either accept God’s loving provision or reject it. Therefore, I must be very careful how I live and make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-16).
Problem #2:  Karma’s History

The next problem is the history of karma. India’s caste system lists many poor people in their “untouchable” category because they must have done something very bad in this life or in a previous life and therefore deserve poor living conditions. Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa attempted to fight the atrocities of this system by showing that there is dignity in every human life. 

This bottom of the caste category means that they are unworthy of help. On the other hand, Jesus came to help ALL—especially the sick, poor, and downcast.

Problem #3: Tit for Tat Mentality

Another problem that I have with karma is that it is often used in a tit for tat way. If I do this, I’ll get this other thing of equal value. I have to do this good thing and I’ll receive equally. It’s like I’m saying, “If I do this, God will owe me.” That’s not how God set up the world to work. He doesn’t owe me anything.
Problem #4: Revenge Mentality

Lastly, a lot of people use the word “karma” as a revenge mentality. The word is screamed out when you see someone who did you wrong in the past have a similar thing done to them. You’re glad that they were put in their place. Revenge has NO place in God’s kingdom! God’s kingdom is all about repentance and forgiveness. 

Of course, there’s also justice, and sowing and reaping also includes sowing bad things and getting consequences in return. The Bible says that “whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken” (Proverbs 22:8). But even in those consequences, there is much opportunity for repentance and forgiveness.

God’s Solution of Sowing and Reaping

“The concept of “sowing and reaping” is immensely better than “karma.” The sowing part is not just a duty that I must perform. There is nourishment that accompanies doing the will of God and helping other people. There is a joy in finishing good works for the Lord (John 4:34) “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:5). God can even bring joy out of dire, even tragic, events. God’s love is so much greater than karma.

In God’s economy, things are hardly ever tit for tat. In some moments, I plant but never really see the harvest, at least not a harvest that is directly related. In other moments, I receive a harvest that I didn’t plant (John4: 37-38)! God’s kingdom is a world of walking by faith not sight. Faith that God will bring good things from all that I plant even when I don’t see it. And faith that there will be much grace even when I am not able to plant.

Reaping and sowing is all about blessings and consequences. I seek to live in obedience more and more by sowing good things and then I reap other good things, but not necessarily in the same field. I often sow in one field and reap in another. Always remember that whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6). So, go ahead and sow generously and even lavishly. There is always some kind of reward. Some rewards are instantaneous and easy to spot. Others take a little more introspection to see but they are there all the same.” J.H.

Don’t Forget Grace and Mercy

Then, there’s grace! Karma believers don’t often take grace into account. God’s law of sowing and reaping includes much grace. You can learn from the good things you do, and you can also learn from the wrong things you do. You can learn from successes as well as mistakes. You can do better each day as you grow in obedience. Dire circumstances don’t mean that you deserve to stay down.

Sowing good deeds can give me benefits. But I can also receive benefits even when I don’t deserve it (grace). I can also receive benefits, lessons, and second chances even when I do wrong things (mercy). God is extremely generous with both grace and mercy!

Karma leads to doing things to earn other things. But God prefers that I do good things as a gift out of the gratitude that I feel for His love.
We get the opportunity to reap what we sow. We often reap more than we sow. Sometimes, we even reap later than we sow. And we even reap some things that we never sowed.

God always brings many blessings—both deserved and undeserved. And actually, even the ones we work for are undeserved. God is much better than we deserve!

"Without the Holy Spirit...we could easily mistake one for the other."
Sowing and reaping in a Christian’s life of faith relates to the eternal implications that faith has on the Kingdom of God.

I find it interesting how similar in verbiage and basic understanding these two concepts seem to be. Without the knowledge of Christ and the discernment of the Holy Spirit, I believe we could easily mistake one for the other. However, both of these principles have very different effects on our beliefs and ways of thinking.

The Big Difference
In Hebrew, “to ‘sow” means “to conceive, to bear, or to yield. “To reap” means “to harvest.” Sowing and reaping can both be applied to the Christian’s life on earth as well as in eternity. However, it’s different from Karma in that faith in Jesus Christ is a major component. The doctrine of Karma is one of the most important religious doctrines invented by man. "You reap what you sow" is the Word of God. Galatians 6:7

J.P. Olson

Monday, July 9, 2018

Submit Yourselves Therefore To God. Resist The Devil, And He Will Flee From You. James 4:7 The most crucial word here is Submit. This is where we get in trouble because we are not willing to submit. When we submit to Him, we can resist gossip, addictions, offense, lust and many other of temptations.

What I want to do this morning is serve notice to Satan and to all his angels and to any of his servants)2 Corinthians 11:15 we will not be intimidated. "We have not been given a spirit of timidity but of power and love and self-control!" (2 Timothy 1:7). On the contrary, we are renewing, here and now, our dedication to the command and the promise of the Lord Jesus when He said: "Resist the devil and he will flee from you!" 

We rededicate ourselves to fight back, and not only to defend the spiritual ground we have gained but to go on the offensive and to take new territory for Christ from the strongholds of the devil. We don't say this with a cocky or presumptuous spirit, as though we in ourselves were stronger than Satan. We say it in the name of Jesus Christ—the one who has sent us into the world under this banner: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me; go therefore. . . and I will be with you to the end of the age" Matthew 28:12-20)

We dedicate this week of prayer to strengthening our hands for war. And the point of this morning's reading is that focused, war-time prayer is an essential part of our assault on the strongholds of Satan.

Listen to this: In 1917 Aqaba seemed impregnable. And the word “impregnable” literally means “unable to overcome.” You see, any army approaching its port would have to face huge naval guns. Behind it in every direction lay barren, waterless, inhospitable desert. To the east lay the deadly “anvil of the sun”, the hot sands along what is now the border between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The Turks believed Aqaba to be immune to attack, But They Were Wrong! Lawrence of Arabia led a force of irregular Arab cavalry across the “anvil of the sun.” Together they rallied support among the local people. On July 6, 1917, they swept into Aqaba from the North, From the Blind Side! A climactic moment of the film “Lawrence of Arabia” is the long, panning shot of the Arabs, their camels, and horses, with Lawrence at their head, galloping past the gigantic naval guns That Were Completely Powerless to Stop Them! Why? BECAUSE THE GUNS WERE FACING THE WRONG WAY! Aqaba fell and the Turkish hold on Palestine was broken, to be replaced by British mandate and eventually by the nation of Israel. The Turks failed to defend Aqaba because they made Three Mistakes:
The lesson we need to learn from this is that like the Turks there are three reasons we keep losing the battle and the reasons are the same as theirs:

1. WE DO NOT KNOW OUR ENEMY! Sad as it may be, but the truth is, we spend more time fighting one another than we do fighting our Real Enemy! And Jesus Himself makes it crystal clear who our Real Enemy is! “Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that ENEMY OF YOURS, THE DEVIL, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 AMP). Believe it or not but the brother who lied on you or the sister who talked about you, IS NOT YOUR REAL ENEMY! The Word of God is Clear, YOUR REAL ENEMY IS THE DEVIL! And with his description in 1 Peter 5:8 as being like a roaring lion in fierce hunger ready to seize upon you and devour you, do you really think you have the time to waste in fighting People over what they said?! The Devil is out to Devour You, not take your position in the church, not to replace you, not to break up your clique, not to make people, not like you…

THE DEVIL IS OUT TO DEVOUR YOU! That word “Devour” is defined as “to eat greedily and to consume destructively.” Its Latin Origin “Devorare”, from “Vorare” literally means “to swallow”! Your enemy is not trying to ruin your reputation, attack your character, or steal your anointing! People of God, your Real Enemy, THE DEVIL, is out to greedily eat and destructively consume you in one swallow! The enemy is not here to play games, he’s here on a mission to Seek, Capture, Consume and Destroy! He’s out to steal and snuff out your LIFE! “The THIEF comes ONLY in order to STEAL AND KILL AND DESTROY…” (John 10:10 AMP) 

In other words, the THIEF’S ONLY ORDER OF THE DAY IS TO DEVOUR YOUR LIFE! So why are you wasting so much valuable time, efforts and energy fighting the wrong enemy?! Regain your focus and clarify your vision so you can see clearly who your enemy really is so you can fight and win instead of becoming distracted and losing! There is, of course, a time when you are to simply resist the devil and he will flee from you according to James 4:7, “…Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” But there are also times when you need to gear up and fight! Why? Because you are in a war! The battle is real, so why aren’t you ready to fight?! “Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that THE ENEMY [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you.” (Luke 10:19 AMP) You have Weapons, Power and Authority, so why are you fighting people instead of your Real Enemy…THE DEVIL?!

2. WE DO NOT KNOW OUR WEAKEST POINTS! You need to know your blind spots, temptations, enticements, and triggers if you’re going to win the war! And contrary to popular belief, Your Enemy, the Devil, will not show up dressed in a red jumpsuit with horns and a pitchfork! In fact, your “Devil” will show up tall, dark and handsome or slim, light and gorgeous. In other words, your “Devil” is going to show up ready to Entrap you with what Entices you! “Let no man say when he is TEMPTED, I am TEMPTED of God: for God cannot be TEMPTED with evil, neither TEMPETH he any man: But EVERY MAN is TEMPTED, when he is DRAWN AWAY OF HIS OWN LUST, AND ENTICED. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:13-15). The Message Bible says it like this: “Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil and puts evil in no one’s way.

Self Control is one of the Fruits of the Spirit, yet it is one that we rarely acknowledge and is one of our weakest areas of life.

The TEMPTATION TO GIVE IN TO EVIL COMES FROM US AND ONLY US. WE HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME BUT THE LEERING, SEDUCING FLARE-UP OF OUR OWN LUST.  The Turks lost the battle because they didn’t see their blind spot, are you losing the battle for the same reason? Think about it, the one area they didn’t think needed coverage was the very area that gave the enemy entry! Which is why Scripture admonishes us: “LEAVE NO [SUCH] ROOM OR FOOTHOLD FOR THE DEVIL [GIVE NO OPPORTUNITY TO HIM].” (Ephesians 4:27 AMP). That word “foothold” is defined as “a place where a person’s foot can be lodged to support them securely.” However, the second definition is the one I want to highlight, it means “a secure position from which further progress may be made.” 

Do you not understand that the enemy doesn’t need to come in and invade your entire life? All he needs is an entryway. Just a small space big enough to put his foot, so he can step in your life and instead of you trampling him underfoot, he now has the opportunity, invite and advantage to trample you! You cannot afford to ignore your weaknesses! David, Solomon, and Samson all were distracted by their weakness for women. And dare we talk about Gomer (Hosea’s wife), surely she wasn’t invited to any of the Minister’s Wives meetings. There’s the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well with 5 husbands (none of which were her own). 

HOWEVER, let me insert something here before you get overly excited about the sexual sin you didn’t commit! We need to be certain that Weaknesses aren’t always Sexual Sin! “But when you follow your own wrong inclinations, your lives will produce these evil results: impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, spiritism (that is, encouraging the activity of demons), hatred and fighting, jealously and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group- and there will be wrong doctrine, envy, murder, drunkenness, wild parties, and all that sort of thing. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21 TLB). 

So before you focus all your sight on the Weakness of Sexual Sin, please be mindful that the Word of God indeed lists a lot more sins than that! It doesn’t minimize it, but it certainly broadens our scope to see the many sources for our blind spot distractions! Therefore, WHATEVER your blind spot is, today, discover it, and get rid of it, because it WILL cost you the war! Remember this: Saul lost his entire kingship simply because he didn’t utterly destroy his enemy!  Then God spoke to Samuel: “I’m sorry I ever made Saul king. He’s turned his back on me. He refused to do what I tell him.” (1 Samuel 15:7-10 MSG) Then after multiple bad (and deliberate) choices, finally God has had enough! “You rejected God’s command. Now God has rejected you as king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:26 MSG). And it all stemmed from the same source when God says to DESTROY the Enemy, He means DESTROY the Enemy! Leave nothing alive, and make no exceptions! If not, just a little foothold into your weakness will grant the enemy the room he needs to come in and DEVOUR YOU! Don’t put yourself in the position where God has to take Everything from you because you wouldn’t give up Anything for Him!

3. WE DO NOT KNOW OUR WEAPONS! Which is sad because they are clearly listed in the Bible! “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies – the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world. So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up. But to do this, you will need the strong belt of truth and the breastplate of God’s approval. 

Wear shoes that are able to speed you on as you preach the Good News of peace with God. In every battle, you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. And you will need the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God. Pray all the time…” (Ephesians 6:11-18 TLB). He gives us weapons, tells us how to effectively use them, who to use them on, and how to win the warfare! So why are we still walking around ignorantly fighting the wrong enemy with faulty weapons? 

Today Is The Day You Stop Losing And Start Winning Your Spiritual Warfare! Know Your Real Enemy; Know Your Weakest Points That Need to Be Protected and Certainly You Must Know Your Weaponry!

J.P. Olson

Monday, July 2, 2018

Hebrews 4:12-13, “For the Word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart. And not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, and revealed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give account” (AMP)

 Well, if we are to be completely honest, there are those days when we simply don't have time to wash our hair or get it to look just right, so what do we do? We cover it up, and some of us with a hat! Now, for a bad hair day, that is acceptable and even understandable, but when it’s time to come to God, cover up is never a good idea.

I don’t believe in exposing others, so I’ll just expose me! There are times when I enter my prayer closet with God, and truth is, I wasn’t on my best of behavior throughout the day. So, talking to God in the evening becomes more eloquence of speech. I ask Him to bless all those who are in lack and in need. To be there for those in the hospitals, nursing homes, jails, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, rehab, etc. I ask Him to provide for those are without. And all that sounds wonderful. But truthfully, it’s just a mask because I really don’t want to discuss my bad habits, bad judgments, bad decisions and choices that were made all throughout the day, some accidental, but most deliberate. There are times when my prayers are more flattery of speech than true, heartfelt sincerity. Lord, thank You for the roof over my head, the clothes on my back, my job, and family. You’ve been such a wonderful provider, an awesome comforter, a timely counselor…And again, all of that sounds wonderful. But I’m still keeping myself “covered up.”

Which made me think of Hebrews 4:12. It says, "For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. EVERYTHING IS UNCOVERED AND LAID BARE BEFORE THE EYES OF HIM TO WHOM WE MUST GIVE ACCOUNT” (NIV)." In other words, “HATS OFF!”
No matter how bad your hair day may be, eventually, at some point, if it is to get any better, you’ve got to remove what’s covering it and fix it! Likewise, no matter how bad your attitude, habits, addictions, decisions, choices have been, you can’t keep covering them, at some point, you have to uncover them, so they can be fixed!

If you think about it, how retarded are we to think that we can hide, mask, masquerade, shield, pretend or cover up before the One Whom the Bible says, “…EVERYTHING IS UNCOVERED AND LAID BARE BEFORE THE EYES OF HIM TO WHOM WE MUST GIVE ACCOUNT”

Believe it or not, but even with your baseball cap on to cover-up your bad hair day, you do realize that the One Who has numbered the hairs of your head, still sees it all right? Take a look at a few translations of Matthew 10:30:
“But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered [for the Father is sovereign and has complete knowledge].” (AMP);

What I love most about this Scripture translation is the word “Numbered”, it’s defined as “to assign a specific number to or mark with a number”. That literally means that every strand of hair on your head has its’ own specifically assigned number. Look at it like this, many of use a brush on a daily basis. And for most of us, our brushes are full of hair that has come out over time. Do you know that God can look at that brush and tell you the specially assigned numbers of each strand of hair?! How crazy is that?! He can tell you that hair numbers 4, 39, 1,102, 333, 972, are the numbers specifically in that brush! And what’s even crazier than that is most of us have shared our hair brushes, either with a spouse or children. And do you know that God can differentiate each person’s hairs and the numbers that were assigned to each!? I know, absolutely insane! So, where am I going with this? YOU CANNOT HIDE, MASK OR COVER UP WITH GOD NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY! If He knows the specific numbers to each of your hair strands, surely He knows what you did last night, where, with who, why and how many times. Please understand, you can hide your bad hair from the world, but you can’t hide your bad habits from God!

“God means what He says. What He says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through EVERYTHING, whether doubt or defense, laying us OPEN to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.” (Hebrews 4:12-13 MSG) I love that word “impervious”, it’s defined as “unable to be affected by”. So, you may as well come clean and come uncovered because it is absolutely impossible for you to be a believer, and yet go unaffected by the Word of God! 

There is nothing you can do to Shield yourself from an All-Seeing God, just ask Hagar! Genesis 16:13, “She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “YOU’RE THE GOD WHO SEES ME!...” (MSG). Or ask David, “Is there any place I can go to avoid Your Spirit? to be out of Your sight? If I climb to the sky, You’re there! If I go underground, You’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—You’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, He even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to You.” (Psalm 139:7-12 MSG)

You see, what we've managed to cover up from everyone else, God sees. The covering comes off when you pray...or it ought to. But we have a tendency to get all dressed up for God, and we come to Him with this flowery prayer language. We talk to Him about religious stuff. But real prayer begins when you come into God's presence with the real you; the one who isn't together like everybody else thinks you are, the one who's struggling and honest about it, the one who's hurting, the one who's doubting, or the one who's grieving, the one who's sinning. Maybe you're falling. Maybe you're giving out or maybe even giving up. If in fact any of that describes you, you need to go to God Uncovered in prayer, not Masked in Pretense!

 “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and He knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who You are. Set the world right; Do what’s best—as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with You and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything You want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.” (MSG)

Prayer is never to be a performance. The prayer closet is not a stage and you need no longer be a play-actor. Come to God as you are so He can change you into what you should be. You’ll never find yourself in a better place if you keep hiding yourself in your last bad place. Genesis 3:8, 10, “When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife HID in the trees of the garden, HID from God…He said, “I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I HID.” (MGS) Adam sounds like some of us in prayer. We know what we’ve done. We know how bad our motives and intentions were. We know we had no business being there, doing that, being with them etc…we knew the mistakes and deliberate bad decisions we made throughout the day. You can hide from other people, but you can never hide from yourself. So going into prayer, we knew exactly who and what we were taking into prayer. And even though we know God sees all things, for some reason, we don’t want to think that He saw “those” things. And so the performance in prayer. For some of us, we’re in the same position as Adam. You realize you messed up and so you immediately go into self-preservation mode (cover-up and hide)! But just as God knew where Adam was, He also knows where you are. And that’s something to take comfort in, not hide from. 

I always find it amazing that when we mess up the first person we want to hide from is God. “…the Man and his Wife HID in the trees of the garden, HID from God…” (MSG). That makes as much sense as having a toothache but hiding from the Dentist; having a stroke but hiding from the Doctor; having car trouble but hiding from the Mechanic; drowning but hiding from the Lifeguard. In other words, when you’re hurt you don’t hide from the Healer. So, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, fornication, adultery, lying, cheating, stealing, depression, suicidal, lonely, empty, confused, desperate, take it all to God…Uncovered…after all there is Nothing He Does Not See!

See, the first reason to come to God honestly is this: God already knows! That's what this says, "All things are uncovered and laid bare." There's no point in coming to impress God. You come, not as you ought to be, but as you are! Then in verse 15, we've got a second reason we can come honestly to God. "We do not have a high priest who's unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way just as we are yet without sin." So let’s walk right up to him and get what He is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” (MSG).

Isn’t it wonderful to know that you’re going to someone with issues they can relate to? No, Jesus didn’t sin, but how comforting to know that he sympathizes with our weaknesses; He’s been tempted in every way; He understands; and He knows exactly what it feels like to simply be human. The Son of God Himself, as sinless as He is, can relate to us mere humans.

With that said, you should be encouraged today to go to God just as you are. Why? Because He doesn’t need your façade, your baseball cap, scarves, wraps, masks, Maybelline; 3 piece suit and the like. He already knows. He’s already seen. You don’t have to “fix-it-up” for Him. You don’t have to style it or spray perfume or cologne on it. You don’t have to dress it up. You don’t have to give it all the right words. You don’t have to perform. You don’t have to perfect. You don’t have to worry about your appearance. He wants you…as is! All you have to do is go to Him Uncovered just one time, and empty out. You’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes to continue to do so. He’s easy to talk to, because He understands.

God really understands…
You're talking to the God who's been here. He's been hurt, He's been lonely, exhausted, and criticized. Jesus was abandoned, slandered, tempted, betrayed, He was beaten, He was stabbed in the side like many of us have been stabbed in the back. What a Savior! We can come uncovered to this Lord because He's walked this road. Jesus gives us someone who laughs with us, who struggles with us, who cries with us.

But God doesn't impose himself. He only comes by invitation. You'll only know the empowerment of God's grace in an area that you have totally opened up to Him. Remember, bring the real you to God. Like the hymn says, "Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me." The “you” that has been hidden from everyone else is the “you” God wants. He wants to carry and He wants to heal that person. He wants you to stop hiding, stop shielding, stop masking, stop covering.

A bad hair day is one thing; it's the bad heart days that Jesus is concerned about. And when you pray, uncover what's really there. He’s the master-stylist who can fix anything!

Today, expose your heart issues to God so He can heal you. Truth is, if the heart issues were in the natural, no one could beat you running to the cardiologist! So, treat your spiritual heart issues with the same urgency! Let no one beat you in running to God! Take uncovered you, messy hair, no make-up, run down, tired, frustrated you, straight to God. You’ve been in hiding long enough, it’s time to come out, come out wherever you are and receive the help, healing, and wholeness that He is so desperately desiring to give you!

J.P. Olson

Monday, June 25, 2018

Hebrews 11:5-6, “By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because ANYONE WHO WANTS TO APPROACH GOD must first believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” (MSG)

This story is told of a bulldog and a poodle who were arguing one day (don’t laugh). The bulldog was making fun of the poodle, calling him a weak little runt who couldn’t do anything. The bulldog said, “I challenge you to a contest. Let’s see who can open the back door of their house the fastest and get inside.” The bulldog was thinking he would turn the doorknob with his powerful jaws, while the poodle was too small to even reach the knob of his back door. But to the bulldog’s surprise, the poodle said, “I can get inside my house faster than you can. I accept the challenge.” So with the poodle watching, the bulldog ran to the back door of his house and jumped up to the doorknob. He got his teeth and paws around it and tried with tremendous effort, force and strength, to turn it, but he couldn’t get enough grip on the knob to do it, so he finally quit in exhaustion. Now it was the poodle’s turn. But his approach to the challenge was a little different. You see, he just did what he’d been doing every day consistently for the last several years. He went up to the door and scratched a few of times, then waited patiently. Within a few seconds his master not only opened the door, but picked him up in his arms, patted him on the head affectionately, carried him inside and gave him a treat!

Moral of the Story: The Difference in Approach is Based on Relationship!

Truth is, some of us are ‘Bulldog Christians’. It’s all grunting and growling in our attempts to access God. We want to prove we’re more anointed, gifted, blessed, strong and powerful. We want to show our titles, positions, rings, robes, and crosses. We want to be elaborate in worship; loud in prayer; creative in praise; complicated in teaching; and theatrical in preaching. But the problem is that you can’t access God through such futile methods. In fact, getting to God has nothing to do with methods at all, just the right approach. And the right approach is laid out Clear, Plain and Simple in James: “… Come close to God and He will come close to you…” (James 4:8 NLV)Not all that complicated and dramatic now is it? 

In fact, as comical as it sounds, this approach is much like our poodle friend’s approach to his master. All he did was approach the door where he knew the access to his master could be found. He scratched a few times (as he had done every day, consistently over the years, which made it easy for his master to know who was at the door). After he did what he’s always done (that clearly worked for his master), he sat back and patiently waited knowing that his part of the relationship had been accomplished. And what happens next? His master (in a few seconds), not only opens the door to give the poodle access, but he also picks him up in his arms, pats him approvingly and affectionately on the head, carries him inside AND gives him a treat! This poodle knew how to access his master with the right approach that works, but do we?

Listen; when you take the time to develop your relationship with the Lord you’ll be amazed at how easily it is to have access to Him. You see, contrary to what we now see in many churches, God never requires favors, tricks, productions or performances. In fact, His Word says, “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.” (Matthew 6:1 MSG). God seeks for you to Embrace Him, not Entertain Him! 

Which means we can finally put a stop to turning the Church into a Circus! We don’t have to have clowns dressed in silly get-ups, theatrics, high-flying-acrobats, tricks, folks setting themselves on fire (and not with the Holy Ghost!) Neither do we need to have eloquence of speech, lofty words, long prayers, impressive resumes, unlimited initials, and extensive credentials. God’s presence is for believers, not Broadway performers. We do not need to put on a show trying to get God’s attention. Getting His attention is nowhere near this entertaining. We need only to humble ourselves and …Come close to God and He will come close to you…” No fireworks, no confetti, no horns, bells and whistles! God simply requires faith walkers in His church, not tight-rope walkers to entertain a Circus! 

Approach Him Correctly to Access Him Thoroughly!

I love the above story because the poodle also reminds me a lot of Isaiah’s description of the Messiah: “The servant grew up before God – a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum…” (Isaiah 53:2-6 MSG). Isn’t it amazing that the very ones we suspect have little or nothing to give, are usually the very ones God deliberately chooses to use to do great things!? Think about it: Just looking at the above description of Jesus, who would be excited to see Him? Who would look forward to anything He had to share, say, give or do? Who would be impressed by such a person? And yet, without Him, we’d have and would be absolutely nothing! My Father is glorified and honored by this when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples.” (AMP) And how do we benefit from this blessing? Simply by remaining in covenant, remaining near, remaining vitally united, remaining attached, remaining connected, remaining in Relationship! 

However, if we only went by Jesus’ appearance described in Isaiah, many of us would’ve run away from Him, instead of remaining attached to Him. And what a loss that would’ve been! You see, in a relationship with Him, there’s nothing we can’t do, without a relationship with Him, there is nothing we can do! 

Appearance is Never as Important as Approach! 

For instance, I’ve preached in churches where there was no more than 20 people, and the offering was $20 plus a sandwich! Yet, those were the churches that I felt God’s glory weigh in the heaviest! On the other-hand, I’ve also preached at larger churches, with a greater offering, even an elaborate lunch afterwards, and yet the house felt like Ichabod…1 Samuel 4:21-22, “The Chest of God gone, father-in-law dead, husband dead, she named the boy Ichabod (Glory’s-Gone), saying, “Glory is exiled from Israel since the Chest of God was taken.” (MSG) Sounds comical, and maybe even a little harsh, but sadly it’s the truth! Which is why I'd rather have 20 people with the glory of God than 2,000 with just a form of godliness, with no power! I reiterate, 

Appearance is Never as Important as Approach!

I don’t know about you, but I’m so grateful that God doesn’t look at my outer appearance and pass judgment on me either: But GOD told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. GOD judges people differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; GOD looks into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 MSG). 

Sidebar: Before you judge that little store-front church, be careful, it may very well be the dwelling place of God’s glory, a people with a heart of pure and true worship who know how to approach God and access heaven’s bounty!
Now, this is going to hurt some ego’s, but truth is, our looks and appearances don’t move God. Our haughtiness does not attract His attention. Humility is what gets to the heart of God: “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, BE HUMBLE. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless – that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. GOD LOOKS ON ALL THIS WITH APPROVAL, LISTENING AND RESPONDING WELL TO WHAT HE’S ASKED; But he turns his back on those who do evil things.” (1 Peter 3:8-12 MSG). That’s how you get God’s attention, access and approval! By being agreeable, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble. Is this your approach to God? Are you the poodle who receives His bounty or the bulldog He turns His back on?

In a nutshell, you can’t force your way as a bulldog, you must instead humble your way as a poodle. Remember this: Your conduct says a lot about you, so make sure yours is saying something you would want everyone, including God, to hear.

Back to the above story, even though the poodle didn’t look like much of a competitor, in the end, he still won! And he didn’t do it by force, but by relationship. His consistency got the attention of his master. You see, just seconds after scratching on the door, his master responded. With that said, maybe it’s a good time to re-exam our prayer life too while we’re at it. Are we going to God with a long to-do-list for Him to accomplish immediately? Or have we learned to enter into prayer with praise, worship, thanksgiving, and gratitude because of the continual kindness of our Master? Have we learned to lay at His feet just to hear His voice? Have we learned to enter into prayer without speech, just open ears, a softened heart and a ready spirit to receive? Do we spend so much time coming Boldly before the throne of Grace, that we don’t take the time to Listen to Grace speak?

Truth is, you can’t bully your way into heaven, or into the presence of the Lord. It’s a humble journey. Just look at the poodle, all he did was get his master’s attention and his master did the rest! He scratched and patiently waited. His master opened the door, picked him up, rubbed him affectionately as he carried him inside and gave him a treat! And when you look at the challenge, the poodle received more than the initial challenge! All he was to do was get inside the fastest. But when you take time to know your master, and your master learns you, through your consistent approach, you will always get more than you bargained for! Not only did the poodle get in the house first, but the master opened the door for him, picked him up, and embraced him affectionately with treats.

Look at it like this: No one in a relationship forces romance or intimacy. It’s a smooth, slow process. Little step, by little step, small sentiments of affection are shown. And the more consistent it’s done, the closer you become. All God is looking for is for you to care for Him in a like manner. Come close to Him in prayer, and not only speak to Him, but be quiet and listen to Him. Come close to Him in praise, show Him that you love Him enough to celebrate Him. Come close to Him in worship, after all, nothing shows the value of His Worth to you like acts of worship. Come close to Him by reading and believing His Word. 

Like anybody in a relationship you want to be trusted, and the other person likewise wants to be trusted. And when we come to God like this do you know what it does to His heart to know His children come near to Him, not for stuff and things, but because they want to, they need to, they desire to. They want to be in His presence because they trust Him with everything that’s going on in their lives. And truthfully, there are many relationships that have love, but not trust! How wonderful it must make God to feel in knowing that His children don't just love Him, but they also trust Him?!

You see, to get the attention of the Master, and to enter His presence does not take force, just humility. A humility that says, I have nothing to worry about, because my Master’s got me covered! Wherever I need to get into, He’ll open the door; when I’ve fallen, He’ll pick me up; when I’ve been put out, He’ll bring me back in; when I feel abandoned and rejected, He’ll embrace me in His arms; and no matter what I could possibly ask Him for, He’s always going to supersede my request! How do you not love on a God like that? Today, love on God by approaching Him in a loving manner. And when you’ve gotten His attention by coming near to Him, wait patiently. He’ll come the rest of the way to you. He’ll pick you up. He’ll embrace you affectionately and He will fulfill His own Word: …Come close to God AND HE WILL COME CLOSE TO YOU…

Remember: God does not require fireworks, pushing, shoving, or displays of grandeur. He’s not deaf and does not require you screaming, shouting, yelling and hollering! He doesn’t need tricks and treats. He doesn’t need to be entertained or performed for. He doesn’t need theatrics from the drama ministry. He doesn’t need flattery. He doesn’t need to be impressed. He doesn’t need a show. He doesn’t need you to approach Him as noisily as possible trying to garner His attention. No, in fact, we can come to Him, just as He comes to us: “Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before GOD. GOD will pass by.” A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before GOD, but GOD wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but GOD wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but GOD wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12 MSG). You do not need to bulldoze or bulldog your way into the presence of God. Simply humble yourself and quietly enter His presence. He’ll hear you and you’ll most certainly hear Him.

Be quiet and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10 NLV). Saints, there’s no need to be loud and shout; there’s no need for dramatics; there’s no need for lights, camera, action! God does not require a performance. So, no more bulldog mentality. Just be consistent in your relationship with the Lord. And as you continually come close to Him, He will continually come close to you. You don’t have to do back flips, scream, yell, perform or entertain. Just quietly come before the Lord, and He’ll meet you there. Think about it: If He’s speaking in a “…quiet whisper…” how are you supposed to hear Him if you’re yelling, screaming, and hollering? His quiet whisper is low, so it serves you no purpose to be loud, especially if the whole point is to get His attention, His access, and His approval.

So, now what are some ways we can ‘poodle-approach’ God? Clearly, one way is by faith! If we want to please God, we have to do so, by faith! “…It’s impossible to please God apart from faith…” That’s how you approach God, knowing that He’s in full control and that there is absolutely nothing He cannot handle! Therefore Saints, approach God by faith; but also approach Him in praise! Psalm 22:3-4, “for You are holy. The praises of our fathers surrounded your throne; they trusted you and you delivered them.” (TLB) As big as God is, can you imagine a people offering Him praise so big that they could only describe it by “THE PRAISES OF OUR FATHERS SURROUNDED YOUR THRONE…” That’s how big our praise for God should be! God, we want our praises to You to be so big, that it’s described as surrounding Your throne! 

Talk about getting God’s attention! Remember: He inhabits (dwells in, lives in, abides in, resides in, occupies) the praises of His people! So, come near to God in praise so that He can fully occupy the space you’ve set aside just for Him in your life! Approach God using His Word! Jeremiah 1:12, “I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.” (AMPC) Another translation reads, “…I’ll make every word I give you come true.” (MSG) God grants us permission to bring back to Him every word He has spoken to us, for He alone promised to full it; perform it; and make sure every word comes true! That’s why we can approach God with His Word, no matter what we’re going through. For instance, Father, this is what the doctor said, but YOU said, by Jesus’ stripes I am healed! Father, my bank account is empty, but YOU said you would supply my every need! Father, our marriage is in trouble, but YOU said You hate divorce. Father, our children aren’t living right, but YOU said train them up in the way they should go and they will not depart from it. Father, this situation has me fearful, but YOU said you did not give me the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. Father, sometimes I feel so unloved, but YOU said You loved me first and Your perfect love casts out all fear. Are you getting this folks? This is how we are to approach God using His Word! Also, approach God in worship! John 4:23, “But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him.” (CEV) How amazing! When we seek God in spirit and in truth, in return, HE SEEKS FOR US! Sounds a lot like His, “come near to God, and He will come near you.” Now, we’ve talked about us approaching God, but when we worship, God approaches us! Yes, that’s the way to live before God! In addition, Approach God in prayer according to His will! 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us. And if we know [for a fact, as indeed we do] that He hears and listens to us in whatever we ask, we [also] know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted to us] the requests which we have asked from Him.” (AMP)

People of God, Appearance Will Never Be as Important as Approach! 

Therefore, determine not to worry about how you look or sound, just approach God with Humility! And do so with consistency. You can have all the access to God you desire, but you have to get your approach right! No more bulldog, you don’t force a relationship with anyone and expect it to work! Poodle approach instead, a few scratches of faith, praise, worship, word, His Will and prayer, then wait patiently for your Master! He’s not only going to give you Access but He’s going to give you Abundance!

J.P. Olson