When Jesus Says, Do We Believe Him?

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Dear Fellow-Believer,

When Jesus says “He is our life, joy, peace, love, compassion, grace, truth, strength……(fill in the blank), do we believe Him?

For example, Jesus is the Prince of Peace, right? So if we have Jesus Christ living and dwelling inside of us, do we not have the Prince of Peace living inside of us and therefore have peace dwelling in us?  Or do we hear/read the words that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and then because of our circumstances feel that we have no peace and begin to pray for peace in our lives and for the Lord to change our circumstances so we can cope?

Let’s face it. Sometimes our environment is anything BUT peaceful, that is for certain. When that is the case, do we become overwhelmed with the chaos around us and forget altogether that we already have the Prince of Peace living inside of us in that very moment? If Jesus is the Prince of Peace (and He is) and He lives in us (which He does) what should that look like for us? Does it mean that we are in a bubble of peace 24/7 in the midst of chaos, war, violence, annoyance, arguments, abuse, tragedy, our own or someone else’s mental breakdown? (Would we even have a mental breakdown?)

Jesus said to His disciples “…Peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives…” John 14:27.

I know that for me, someone who has experienced mental breakdowns in the past, long bouts of depression and anxiety, I have not always felt at peace and at times I have had little if any peace in my mind. Also, when the environment around me is chaotic, sometimes if not all of the time having been orchestrated by the subtle movements of the enemy, I have felt as though I am going to go crazy and cannot cope. I have become desperate for ‘peace’, as though it is something external for me to grasp after.

But if Peace is a person, the Person of Jesus Christ the risen Son of God, and He dwells in me, then peace is not an external thing for me to grasp after.  I am not called to live by feelings but by faith in God, who indwells me through Christ Jesus! There is no longer any room for being led by feelings for the child of God who is led by the Spirit. For those who are led by the Spirit shall be called the sons of God (Romans 8:14).

Let’s go through the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25 reads;

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”.

Who is the Spirit? The Spirit of God of-course. Who is God? God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit – the three are One.  That being said, what does that mean for us to keep in step with the Spirit? Jesus said in John 15:4;

“Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”.

Just prior to this, in John 14:23 Jesus said;

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him”.

So clearly, if we love Jesus, He, His Father and The Spirit all dwell inside of us for they are not separate from one another, they are One.  Therefore, all the fruit of the Spirit dwells inside of us also, to be an expression of Him through us. Therefore, Jesus as love, Jesus as joy, Jesus as peace, Jesus as patience, Jesus as kindness, Jesus as gentleness, Jesus as goodness, Jesus as faithfulness and Jesus as self-control, dwells inside of us. Did you get that? How incredible is this Jesus?

But here’s the thing…..Jesus said; “Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”. So I would say, that remaining in Him is the ‘keeping in step with the Spirit’ mentioned in verse 25 of Galatians chapter 5.

So in light of the above scriptures, if I’m not remaining in Christ, therefore not keeping in step with the Spirit, I am going to be overcome by circumstances and my environment and find myself grasping for peace, joy, patience etc., as in the past. However, if I am remaining in Christ and therefore keeping in step with the Spirit, in spite of my environment and circumstances I will remain in love, joy, peace, patience etc.

Therefore, God’s word, and Jesus is the Word, is true when Jesus says to us that He is our peace etc. These are not things to grasp, but they are characteristics of Christ, the Christ who indwells us. So to draw upon Him in those times of turmoil and havoc, is where we will find peace, joy and so on. But we can only draw upon Him if we are remaining and abiding in Him.

The fact that Christ calls us to remain, makes it very apparent that we are prone to leave. Personal experience confirms that for me. It is my human Adamic nature to leave and return to my own resources which fail me and therefore I am overcome at times by the circumstances of life. However, if I am to believe all that the Lord Jesus tells me, I am assured that my Adamic nature has been crucified and that I live by another life now, that is the life of the Lord Jesus Himself (Galatians 2:20).

So therefore, I am in reality (the true reality of the Spirit) not overcome at all! If I believe I am overcome, I have believed a lie! Christ is the overcomer and in Him, I am more than a conqueror, because of Christ who lives in me (Romans 8:14).  For in me, dwells the Lord’s life, that life that is peace itself and all those other aspects of Him that we have mentioned.

The enemy might throw all kinds of distractions and seemingly natural events my way to convince me that I have no peace and that I have no joy in these circumstances, etc. But the very opposite of that is true. Whilst noise, distraction, arguments, mayhem and even hurt goes on around me, my spirit is at peace. Not because of me and my ability to practise breathing exercises and quote scriptures and mantras, but because of He who indwells me and who He is.

It seems at times however, that circumstances are too big, too loud, too overwhelming and it is an impossible task to draw upon the Lord’s peace in those moments. But is it? If that were so, would that not mean that His grace is actually not sufficient for us? If circumstances were too big, bigger than Christ, wouldn’t that mean that our faith is pointless and in vain? So we come to that question at the beginning of this post….when Jesus says He is our (fill in the blank), do we really believe Him?

If we don’t believe His words are true about Himself, then we will be overcome because then we are not by faith remaining in Him and not keeping in step with the Spirit. We are in fact being hoodwinked into living again by that Adamic nature that has already been crucified. Basically, we’re being deceived. But if we do believe Him, by faith, we abide in who He is. We are safe there, He is our hiding place, our fortress, our mighty strong tower into whom we run and we find we are abiding in Him who is the Prince of Peace.

So, all that I have written so far has been on an individual level. What if we take all this and put it on a corporate level? Let’s change all the references to an individual’s experience and make it about the corporate body of Christ, which of-course it is anyway, but for so long we have lived and interpreted scripture according to an individualistic Christianity. Let’s look at the circumstances and events that surround and impose themselves upon the corporate body of Christ. This might be the local ecclesia or the wider body of Christ all over the world. Let’s look at He who indwells us – all of us – together! What an incredible Christ we have!

As the corporate body of Christ we are facing all kinds of trials, tribulations, persecution, harassment, distractions, suffering, hurt, pain, sacrifice, torment, pressures and so on. And the world we live in but don’t belong to, is going through perilous times of unrest, no peace, war, fighting, terror, fear, poverty, displacement. But let’s look at this mighty Lord who indwells us corporately and just meditate for a moment on what He brings to the world and the witness He is to the powers and principalities of the air, through His Church! – This Lord who is LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GENTLENESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, SELF-CONTROL – this Lord whose grace is sufficient for us. This Lord whose life we corporately live by. This Lord who is Head of this body we exist in.

May the church abide and remain in her Lord, as the branch remains in the vine, that He by His Spirit will be free to express Himself who is all these things and more, to the glory of the Father.

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).

Help! I can’t seem to unload my burdens!

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I don’t mean to carry burdens. Sometimes I don’t even see them coming and its not until weeks later I realise I’ve been labouring under them. Burdens are cares, right? They’re worries, anxieties, concerns. They are matters that weigh heavy upon our minds and hearts.

But Jesus said to cast ALL our cares upon Him for He cares for us. He said to come unto Him all who are weary and heavy laden, to learn from Him, that He would give us rest because HIS yoke is easy and HIS burden is light.

Obviously, the Lord knows we have burdens, He knows we carry them. But He has a burden of His own that He wants us to carry which is the matter of His own heart and His own mind. (I’ll post about this another time). His burden and my burdens are very, very different. In fact, they are literally ‘worlds’ apart. His burden is of His Father’s heart and the Kingdom of God whereas my burdens are of my flesh/soul and this earthly kingdom. My burdens are loaded with care, concern, anxiety, worry, fear but His burden is light!  So clearly, there’s an exchange of burdens that’s meant to take place.

Now I’m not talking about having problems. We all have problems. Problems are a part of life and very often they are the very means by which the Lord changes us. What I’m talking about here, is the ‘burden’ and the ‘carrying’ of that heaviness that weighs us down to the point of despair.

In the same way that I am called to exchange my burden for His and therefore clearly can’t carry both His burden and my own at the same time, I am reminded that I can’t live in His Kingdom while I’m living in the cares and burdens of the kingdom of this world. How can I live in the Kingdom of God, in which I belong, while I’m carrying cares and anxieties that belong to the world? That’s right, they belong to the world, which means they do not belong to me for I am a citizen of another Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. If I’m carrying burdens of this world, it’s a good sign of my attachment to the place, of my being bound to it in some way, and there’s something wrong with that picture. Sounds like I’ve been hoodwinked!

This introduces the word ‘yoke’ that Jesus talked about. What is a yoke? It is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plough or cart that they are to pull”. We see this referenced in 2 Corinthians 6:14, where the Lord tells us to not being unequally yoked. So if I’m all loaded up with burdens and cares of this world, I am clearly yoked to this world, I am fastened to it and it’s ways, its cares, its burdens and I’m going to end up walking around in circles or standing still. But I don’t want to be like this and neither does the Lord want me to be.

So here’s the thing. How can I cast my cares upon the Lord? How do I unburden myself and take on His burden instead? I’ve come to the conclusion after years of practice, that I can’t. Oh yes, I’ve even wrangled and wrestled many weeks at a time with this overwhelming reality that I cannot unburden myself no matter how much I want to. It seems at times that no matter how much praying, resting, escaping, I cannot unburden myself. Yes, even my prayers are filled with anxiety and doubt and I feel I am wasting my time because I can’t stop myself. So what is the answer?

In Christ! I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me! What incredible news! What is impossible for man, is possible with God, through Christ! He has taken all my cares and burdens and placed them on Himself and took them to the cross! If only I could see this as the truth! But that would require faith!

So in faith, in living by the Kingdom of God of which I am a part, I can turn to the Lord Jesus who lives in me, and ask Him to hand my burdens over to the Father for me. In my flesh I can do nothing but in Christ, I can do all that He asks of me. He asks me to come unto Him, learn from Him, find rest in Him. He asks me to cast my cares upon Him. I can do this only in Him!

Now Christ is in me and He is in you believer! So you and I both, can turn to Him who lives and dwells in us and ask that in Him, we would hand over our burdens to the Father, the God of all comfort, the Father of compassion, to the One who cares for us.

Remember, we cannot but He can. Flesh cannot deal with the things of the spirit, only spirit can deal with spirit. Anxieties, worries, concerns, fears, doubts and burdens are matters of the spirit of this world, not the spirit of the Kingdom of God. We who are led by the Spirit are unequally yoked if we are being burdened by the things of this world. So it is by the Spirit of God, that we are called to live by faith. It is by faith we turn to our Lord and say “I cannot but You can”. “I cannot hand over these burdens but Christ in me can”!

No matter what burdens you are carrying in your heart and mind today dear brother or sister, I encourage you by faith, to turn to the Lord Jesus and ask Him to enable you by His life which indwells you, to hand them over to God. He is willing, He is able and He is waiting.  I can guarantee, as is my testimony, that the word of the Lord is true and that you will find rest for your soul.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 -30, NIV).

In Christ! Again, I say, in Christ!

 

 

 

 

7 Indicators of Religious Bondage & 7 Ways Out

On my walk today I noticed with new eyes, all the barbed wire lying around the place, that has been cut down from the many fences that were used to separate all the land into paddocks. IMG_1507 Now the barbed wire has been pulled down and in some places you can see it rolled up and pinned to a pole here and there. In some cases, there are coils of it lying in the grass where it’s been left. In another place, along the path, there is about 2 feet of barbed wire standing up out of the dirt as if it has grown there. It isn’t even in the paddock or attached to a pole, it is literally under the pathway and sticking through ready to catch anything that brushes past it. It is quite out of place.  There are traces of it everywhere.IMG_1508

All this reminded me of religion. One might ask of another “What barbed wire are you wrapped in?” and they might reply “Oh, I’m Pentecostal” or “Good works and bible study”. Another might answer “Oh yes, I’m all caught up (entangled) in what other people think of me”, “I’m ensnared in keeping up appearances” or “I’m always trying to make sure that I’m living the right way and avoiding the wrong way”.

Religion is bondage. It is binding just like barbed wire. When one is caught on, in or by barbed wire, it is very difficult to escape and to do so really hurts. To be free of barbed wire once caught, generally means you’re in for a bit of agony, at the very least some torn clothes if not torn flesh to some degree. If you’ve ever experienced this you know what I’m talking about. Getting yourself free from religion is just like that.

But how do you know if you’re bound by religion?

  1. You’ll feel a separation between you and other Christian brothers & sisters
  2. You’ll be concerned with what others think of you on a spiritual level
  3. You’ll see yourself as different to other believers  (usually, more spiritual than them)
  4. You won’t have a genuine sense of freedom
  5. You’ll be bound to some expectation of performance
  6. You’ll be crushed with disappointment in yourself when you sin in front of others
  7. If you do recognise any of these religious ways in your own life, even hating them, you feel powerless to change

So on this land where I walk every day, I was reminded by seeing these traces of barbed wire, how the Lord Jesus has removed the separation, the division, the fences if you like, amongst His people, His body.

Paul says ;

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

14For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.…(Ephesians 2:14-16)

He has made us One New Man just as this land here is one lot of land, far and wide and no longer divided and separated by barbed wire.

The Lord wants us to be free of religion, remember it wasn’t the sinners but the religious leaders of His day that Jesus continually rebuked. However, it is a very real challenge to get ourselves free of it once we’ve been caught by it and to do so is often a very long and painstaking process.IMG_1512

Yet, our Lord Jesus is always cutting down the barbed wire of religion that has seized many a heart. One of the nastiest aspects of religion is that we never realise how deep it goes. It has been described by many who have gone through and are still going through this process, as a rabbit hole.

Jesus often frees us by connecting us with others who have been freed also, who can then help us.Only a free person can help free a person. So if you sense that you have been caught in the barbed wire of religion and you want to get free so you can roam and explore the entire land that is Jesus Christ Himself, I’d like to encourage you to ask the Lord to help you find others who have been freed. From their place of freedom in learning to live by His indwelling life and not by religious strongholds, just sharing life with them will support you greatly in your journey toward freedom. I know it has been paramount to my ‘losing my religion’ which is ongoing.

Ways in which being with Christ centered believers who are free from religion, can help;

  1. We learn Christ
  2. Christ is revealed in us
  3. We begin to know for the first time what freedom really is
  4. We learn for the first time what God’s greatest purpose is
  5. We begin to understand who the church is
  6. We begin to love the church and see Christ expressed in every member
  7. The gifts of Jesus to the church become apparent and free-flowing

Jesus said “I have come to give you life abundant.” Paul said “It is for freedom’s sake that Christ came to set us free”.

As T. Austin-Sparks writes, “How did Paul come out of his narrow Jewish conceptions about the Messiah? Simply by the revelation of Christ in him, and as that revelation grew his liberation increased…it was the revelation of Christ which was emancipating him, leading him out, freeing him all the time” (By T. Austin-Sparks from: All Things in Christ – Chapter 1).

Are you free today friend?

 

How to Love Others Perfectly

I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” Psalm 16:2

 

Dear Reader

I am happy to say, that I cannot love you.

Please hear me out. I have finally come to realise that I cannot love anybody as they deserve to be loved, not anyone. I’ve finally come to truly see the FACT that nothing good dwells in my flesh (Romans 7:18).

In my ‘self’ – I am so full of flesh and the capacities of the flesh which are profoundly faulty and lacking, no matter how hard I try, what counselling training and courses I do, studies, reading, the company I keep, no matter how much I pray and read the bible. My flesh will always be just that, flesh.

For so long I have bought the lie from that tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that if I did all these things above, coupled with being raised by a loving Christian family, that I automatically have the capacity to love. It is definitely living from the wrong tree.

When I’ve been confronted by your quirks and perks, the things about you that rub me up the wrong way, I’ve only just tried to love you more. But this has failed and turned into frustration and offense, offending you and me being offended.  In my efforts to resolve this I’ve turned to my own resources to do the right thing. I’ve stayed in touch, I’ve continued to pray for you, I’ve kept up ‘godly’ behaviour of “do unto others” in your company, at times silently confessing my un-forgiveness and then my forgiveness. All the while I have thought this was good. I have thought this was loving you, how I should.

Sure, I could laugh and smile with you, genuinely enjoy your company, listen to your stories, enquire of your wellbeing and make small talk, perhaps even pray with you or engage on a deeper level of communication with you. Still, judgement, criticism, self-righteousness, pride, prejudices, stubbornness and offense have remained in my heart to varying degrees and at different times. I have to admit this if I’m to be brutally honest.

I started off saying that I was happy to say that I cannot love you. Well, you see at one time, all of this would have been confessed to my utter shame. However, in recent times, I’ve learned to turn to the Lord and ask Him to love through me because I was beginning to see I wasn’t able to love well. My true belief was that I just wasn’t all that good at it, not that I actually couldn’t! Therein, lay the problem and in the answer to this problem, lies my happiness.

You see, I thought having to turn to the Lord for Him to love through me and instead of me, was to my shame. I thought it was an admission of weakness, slackness and defeat. I believed that by doing this, I was admitting that I wasn’t a good enough Christian, all of which I now see is completely and ironically, liberatingly true.

On one hand such an admission seemed to me that I was buying into Satan, the Accuser of the Brethren’s, lies. To believe I wasn’t a good enough Christian and couldn’t love people properly seemed a dreadful accusation. I saw it as condemnation from the enemy for the purpose of keeping me naval gazing into my own failure and sin. So I consciously rejected the thoroughness of this admission.

However, I instinctively knew (and they say that one’s spirit is the place of intuition) there was some truth in this but at that point any truth was to my shame. For me to feel shame over this, indicated I wasn’t yet convinced of my total inability. There remained still some self-belief that I was able to love but that I was not living up to my abilities, hence the shame. That is, until today.

When I prayed today and asked the Lord to help me to see others through His eyes, I discerned this sense of admission of weakness rise in me from deep within and I didn’t like it. Then I didn’t like the ‘not liking’ it. So the Lord was beginning to show me that I still held some portion of belief in my self to be able to love. Yet my experience was telling me the opposite. My experience was that I nursed judgements, criticisms, anxiety and offense. However, my core belief was that I should and could overcome these negatives but my experience proved that I could not.

I cannot. I can’t.

These are not popular phrases in the pop culture environment of many believers today. Yet they are words that are completely theologically and biblically sound and are in fact the words spoken by this Jesus of ours, Himself. The very One who was showing me my incapacity and revealing to me the subtleties of the enemy’s lies, this very One, this same Jesus, said those same words about Himself! How can this be?

Jesus said “By myself I can do nothing” – John 5:30

And Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does”. – John 5:19

To us, Jesus said “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” –  John 15:5

Paul said “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” –  Romans 7:18

But then Paul also said “ I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” –  Philippians 4:13

T. Austin Sparks writes;

In the case of the Lord Jesus there was all the time an underworking to get Him to adopt the contrary course, to act without inquiry of His Father, without direct leading from His Father; to act in His individual capacity as though He were His own Master, as though He had not to make appeal elsewhere. (By T. Austin-Sparks from: Excerpt from The Risen Lord and the Things Which Cannot Be Shaken – Chapter 3).

I see this same underworking in my life, to try and convince me that I don’t need to make appeal elsewhere. Yet, Jesus Himself had to make appeal elsewhere, to His Father. What a fool to believe otherwise of myself. It seems pretty clear and to be said on the highest authority that exists, that outside of Christ, I cannot love.

So why does this make me happy? Do I offend you by this? Perhaps, if we only know one another according to the flesh and not in accordance with the Spirit, this will indeed offend you. Perhaps also, it is because of only knowing you according to the flesh that I have tried to keep my lack hidden from you and to keep up appearances in what I now recognise as something utterly impossible.

But does all this mean that I do not love you? Of course not! I simply can’t! I don’t have the capacity. My love fails. But, I want to… I want to love you and this is why I’m so happy. You see now, I can love you perfectly! – that is, through the One who IS Perfect Love. It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). 

You see, I no longer have to strive in my incapacities and weakness or my anxieties over my failing efforts and works. I can now simply abide in Him who IS Love and therefore He gets the room and the expression in my life to love you perfectly, as you deserve, with His love which does not fail.

For His love is…

patient, His love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. His love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

See, I can’t love you like that, but Christ in me can. Christ in me, Christ in you, Christ in us, we in Christ. In Christ. Christ is the key.

That makes me happy.

Until Christ Is Formed In You – (A poem by my husband)

Until Christ is Formed in You

There is a Christmas morn

Celebrated each an’ every day

When Christ the Saviour is born

Not in feeding trough or hay

But in hearts who choose believing

Having seen the Son of God

Through faith in hearing receiving

The Life that comes from above

That Life grows daily increasing

In hearts of those now changed

Ever fuller deeper and wider

None will ever be the same

A will of our own no longer

Our life surrendered from view

A decreasing of one for the other

Until Christ is formed in you

One heart one mind one purpose

Given to His will from above

To surrender all for our Master

His Life expressed through Love

As one this Christ is revealed

Not a single part left out

We need each one to see the Son

Full measure full stature full clout

He’s revealed to all His timeless plan

To unveil His ageless story

His Victory over death ‘n’ Devil

Christ in us the Hope of Glory

All Praise the King of Life

He’s done with shame and loss

He’s restored to Him the Fullness

Who entrusted to Him the lot

His Love is never failing

Eternally none shall ever fall

From Grace complete and saving

His Life that is All in All.