You Must Renew Your Mind

At the new birth, God gives us a new spirit. It is a glorious truth worth exploration and meditation. He does not however, give us an entirely new mind. The seat of the mind is where our thoughts and perceptions are concentrated. It’s though the mind that we perceive life as it plays out in front of our eyes.

There is a necessary distinction that must be made as we process the dramatic change of the believer’s salvation. Think of a slave who is suddenly freed, or an orphan that is newly adopted. Legally their status has changed; for the slave is now free and has access and rights they did not before. The orphan now enjoys the love and privilege that comes through nurturing parents in a family. Now here is the distinction that we are going to look at; in both cases, their thoughts are still mostly the same as when they were slave or orphan. To be more specific, their memories weren’t erased, their self-perception wasn’t immediately changed, and their life experiences weren’t blotted out. They are beginning a new life and awaiting the new experiences that will enfold through it. In many ways, they are the same person they were before; the only difference is that they hold a new legal status.

Consider this testimony –

It’s a different universe…there is no human word to describe what it’s like; miserable, oppression…there is no love. I couldn’t tell my mother that I loved her because the only love I could express was love for the Regime. There was no love that I could express. It is the darkest place on the earth; there is no place like North Korea on the earth. It’s hard after you went through that hatred, that injustice. You fear that there is no compassion inside of you and no love…I experienced it, I hated everything. I couldn’t love people when they said, “Life is beautiful.” – Yeomi Park (North Korean defector)

In her testimony, she describes these feelings of fear, lack of compassion and love after her defection. She had not been trained in these things. They were completely foreign to her experiences and way of thinking. Those there were privilege of freedom to be had, and new experiences of love and relationship to encounter, the framework of thinking was mostly still the same.

Similarly, for new believers, they may experience thoughts and emotions more closely resembling their pre-salvation way of thinking than that of a follower of Jesus. Why is this important? If we don’t have a biblical understanding of the change that must take place after salvation, we may wake up discouraged in 15 years thinking this thing is sham. Certainly we wouldn’t be critical of Ms. Park, if after her defection, she exhibited patterns of thought or behavior that hearkened to her past experiences. We would be compassionate and patient. Why then do we hold ourselves to a demanding standard related to the new birth?

God’s part is to justify us through the cross of Jesus. But it doesn’t stop there. We have a real part too. Paul said it like this-

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

Our mind is clouded with the world. The world’s ways, fears, ideas, solutions, wisdom has established roots deep in the minds of humanity. This is our starting point: thinking like the world. Until that mind is renewed it will operate out of the mindset of the world. The glorious truth is that we don’t have to live there, under the world’s mindset, we can be transformed.

Here are some practical ways our mind is transformed:

  1. Fill our mind with the Word. The old adage, “What goes in must come out,” is quite true here. If we pour in the opinion of others, we will pour out the same. When we immerse our minds in the Word of God, the truths of God’s Word begin to show up in our lives. We will begin thinking differently, then feeling differently which leads to acting differently.
  2. Paul refers to the Word as that which “washes.” The bible has a trans-formative power that upends lies and wrong ideas about God, establishing new ones. We engage the word not stoically but through relationship. In other words, we talk to the Holy Spirit as we read.

The transformed mind sees the God differently. It sees people differently, including self. When it looks in the mirror, bible verses come to mind. Rather than seeing what the world sees, values and criticizes, we see what God sees and values. This is the fruit of the transformed mind. Looking at others, we view them through the lens of God’s word. This liberates us from relating others on the basis

The Battle for Jerusalem

Jerusalem, the most unique city on the earth. Everyone has an opinion on it. It divides, it unites, it infuriates; rejoicing and sorrow have filled its ancient streets. Is there any other like it?

During its long history, Jerusalem has been attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice. (wikipedia)

5 verses that help us understand this conflicting world epicenter:

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— Gen. 15:18

This covenant with Abraham is an everlasting, unconditional promise. In the promise, God took up both sides of the agreement while Abraham slept. No one, save God, is able to nullify this pact. In fact, even the descendants of Abraham can’t nullify it. It’s as sure as the sunrise. Read these intriguing developments for yourself in Genesis 15 (see also: Gen. 12:1-3, 7, 13:14-15, 17:8, 22:2)

“Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” – Ps. 2:6

Who is speaking here? David, is eavesdropping into a heavenly conversation between the Father and the Son. Here the Father is asserting His insistence that Jerusalem (Zion) will be the capital of His Son’s Kingdom. The Father will establish His King, Jesus, on that mount in Israel.

“Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the Lord, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore. “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem.” – Jeremiah 3:17

The throne of Christ will be seated in Jerusalem. This is the place on earth from which He will rule the nations. This is a future promise. Notice what the prophet is highlighting “at that time;” Israel will be multiplied and increased in the land and they will not call to mind the Ark of the Covenant. This indicates a future state of the Jewish people after they recognize Yeshua as Messiah, the Coming One. After that time of revival (see Rom. 11:26; Zech. 12) Jerusalem will be established as the seat of Messiah’s government.

“[Jerusalem]…is the city of the great King.” – Mt. 5:35

Christ, as the descendant of Abraham, is inextricably linked to this city. He, Himself, calls it the city of the great King. This title did not change or take on a spiritual fulfillment after His ascension to heaven It remains the city of the great King. That king will come and restore the kingdom of Israel, as the apostles anticipated (Acts 1:6), and make Jerusalem the capital of the whole world.

“I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” – Is. 62:6, 7

We are in the days that the Lord is raising up intercessors who will stand up on behalf of Jerusalem. They will pray in accordance with the desire of God for this city and its people. God does not hold His peace in His relentless purpose for this city (Is. 62:1); believers will not hold their peace for His purposes for this city. The city will be a praise in the earth. Very few people see it as a praise; more often, it is seen as troubling. When the Lord makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth it means that the other nations, especially the surrounding nations, will acknowledge the sovereign purpose of God for this city. They will rejoice in its light (the glory of God) and bow before its King- Christ. (see also Ps. 122:6; Rom. 10:1)

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations [after the Day of the Lord, 14:1) which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

Jerusalem will exist after the Day the Lord ensuing judgment. The nations who are left will come and worship before Christ in His capital. These nations all stood against Israel and her King prior to the Day of the Lord. After that time, they (we) will celebrate the feast that honors the commitment of God to dwell among His people forever.

As believers, we must resist the temptation to accept any narrative devoid of the Word of God. We must seek to have the heart of Jesus for all players involved: Israel, Palestine, and the nations. If we neglect seeking divine understanding of the conflict, we will by default accept the secular narrative. This issue is a complex issue involving the lives and destinies of many peoples, all the more it is critical that we are in line with Jesus during these historic times.

Finding the Will of God

Of the 20 or so times that the phrase “the will of God” appears in the NT not one of them is in context to ones occupation, job, ministry assignment, geographic locale or spouse. Take a look at some of these:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification (holiness)…(1 Thess. 4:3)

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— (1 Pt. 2:15)

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

Nearly all of them have to do with an inner change occurring. Maybe the Lord did this on purpose. Maybe His written Word, that reveals His will, wasn’t meant to be an answer key for every one of life’s decisions. That might essentially undermine the central nature for which we exist. Clearly, there are some directives that are given to us by the Spirit, however, as it pertains to our search for the will of God you won’t find an explicit answer of the oft asked questions above. The will of God for our lives isn’t a role or title it’s a person – Christ. God wants us to search and seek for Him. This is the ultimate will of God for our lives – that we would know Him, deeply (see Jn. 17:3). If we don’t know Him does it really ‘t matter if we’re an engineer, school teacher, pastor, mailman or sandwich artist?

Presupposing that  the Father is after relationship (as revealed even in His name), we can be assured that He won’t give a quick answer to every single question we have. Seeking a one-word answer takes the relational process out of the equation. Think of how frustrating it is to relate to a close friend who only offers one-word responses! The lack of clarity related to our questions means that we have to keep coming back to the Lord and talking with Him. That’s one thing we often forget: He loves and wants the process as much as anything. So much happens to the heart in the process.

Here are some reasons people attempt to hear the will of God for their occupation:

  1. They do not know who they are in Christ. Their identity is formed by a secular ideology rather than the truth of God’s Word. This ideology can pressure people into defining their success by a title, position, or salary.
  2. They are afraid of missing God and being displeasing to Him. There are several issues with this. Undoubtedly it’s done in good intention; yet many things done in good intention end up wildly incorrect. Firstly, this puts an enormous amount of stock in their ability to discern the voice of the Lord in the first place. Why are they assuming that they’re suddenly able to hear the voice of God with clarity and distinction when they haven’t cultivated this type of relationship with Him prior to this moment? It also assumes that God is waiting to reveal His displeasure over our life. This is a broken and harmful view of God. It is simply not one that is in accordance with scripture. The fear of disappointing God can be a powerful deterrent of relationship. As children of God they must have their view of Him reconstructed, from one of fear to trust.
  3. They are bored and wanting God to motivate them. This may be more one of the more common reasons. People are passionless, or often passionate for the wrong things. The motivating dreams of success and productivity are fueled by the truer passions for pleasure and comfort. Rarely are we thinking in terms of success related to internal character, family, marriage, or relationships. Most think materialistically. Success therefore equates to materialistic gain. That becomes a driving motivation. Now we try to add God into the equation, “What do you want me to do?” We cross our arms and wait impatiently for a thunderous voice to command us what to do. Are we naive enough to think that the Lord is going to fancy our misguided delights disconnected from genuine relationship with Him?

Settle the fact that we’re not that great at hearing the Lord and He is really good at leading us in spite of that fact. What if we trained our children and the next generation to value what the scripture actually highlights pertaining to the will of God? A people who value renewing their mind according the Word; a people who do good putting to silence the foolish ways of the world; a people who prioritize being changed into Christ-likeness? Whether my kids are librarians, histories or soldiers I want them to have a deep life in Christ. This is my will for them.

Here’s another article I wrote for students trying to figure out the next step after high-school.

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Fear: Master It or Be Mastered By It

There’s this old story about a notorious criminal who is finally captured. He appears before the king to be brought to justice and the king presents him with two options, the man could either be hung by the gallows or choose what was behind an imposing, iron-clad door nearby. The criminal chooses the gallows, fearing that much worse must lay in wait behind the door. With the decision made, the sentence is pronounced and then the criminal asks the king what lay behind the door. “Freedom,” the king replies.

Fear

Often, fear of the unknown can be more debilitating than the actual threats that face us. We, like the criminal, can fall prey to the power of fear that binds up lives, rendering us immobile. I recently heard that fear, frequently described as anxiety in modern speak, is one of the primary reasons that people seek counseling, medication and all manner of help. I don’t blame them. It can be fearful when we feel that the future holds uncertain outcomes beyond our power to influence change.

The first usage of the word fear in scripture is actually a positive one. This surprised me.

So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.[a] 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. (Gen. 9:1, 2)

After God reaffirms the mandate to humanity to be fruitful and fill the earth, He tells them that they were to be a source of fear to all the beasts and birds and fish etc. More importantly, the Lord affirms to Noah and his sons that they were to be the masters over the created order. Their dominion, their sphere of authority, would produce fear in these beasts. Fear was to follow authority.

Fear in connected to authority. When one is under authority, like the beasts under Noah, there is a healthy fear that is established. Not all fear is bad. For instance, scripture speaks often of the fear of the Lord. But that subject is beyond the length of this article.

However, the root of fear may be bound up in this issue of authority. Check out what Paul says in Romans chapter 8:

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Rom. 8:14-16)

Our starting place is this, “the spirit of bondage to fear.” “Fallen humanity begins with fear; it’s our natural state. The starting line for every person is bondage to fear. Why? Because we are not under the authority of God, we are under the authority of sin and death, we are serving a false god, therefore we are riddled with fear.

That’s both saddening and encouraging. It is encouraging to me because it means that I am not alone in my fear; I’m not the foregone basket case of despairing anxiety, and neither are you. The unredeemed are holed up with all the rest sailing on a ship named fear. Thankfully, that spirit of bondage is exactly what Christ has delivered us from. He has the power, and has exerted that power, to break us from the chains of fear delivering us into His glorious family. Through Christ our spirit of fear is exchanged for the Spirit of Adoption – here, we gain a new father, we gain a new master: Abba. We have a new identity and a new name. No longer under the authority of fear, we as children of God are under the authority of the Father.

Ok, so the reality is established that believers are not under the authority of fear, but of the Father. But why do I still struggle with feelings of fear?

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (1 Jn. 4:18)

John gives us insight into the quelling of fears. He notes that fear involves torment. To unlock a heart from fear requires perfect love. Note the quality here. Perfect love. This isn’t just any old love. It’s certainly not power or control or anything else. It’s only the love the Father can give. He is the source of this perfect, fear-obliterating love. We also see that there is a process involved to overcoming fear. It doesn’t happen immediately like the old advice tells us, “Just face your fears.”

Fear is rebutted as the believer gains confidence in their Father. Our source of authority is changed from bondage to the Father; from fear to freedom. As we believe that the Father is ourWinter Dawning Inspirations Snow Sunlight Wintr Sky Wallpaper Pictures Free life-giver our fear of death subsides. As we believe that our Father is our provider the fears of lack subside. As we believe that the Father is our judge our fear of condemnation flees. The quality of the love that the Father currently bestows upon is perfect; we still battle fear because we see and experience that love imperfectly.

A key to overcoming fear is to experience the Father in a deeper way. As we grow in the knowledge of God the grip of fear begins to loosen its hold upon our lives. Walking in freedom from fear is available for everyone in Christ. May the Lord grant us revelation of who He is and who we are in Him.

The Appropriate and Realistic Nature of the House of Prayer

Is the House of Prayer a valid modern expression within the body of Christ that both honors the Word of God and gives expression to the prophetic trajectory of that body? I believe that the House of Prayer is a most appropriate and realistic modern expression for the following reasons.

It is appropriate because it primarily exists to declare the incredible worth of the nature and beauty of God. This stands in stark contrast to the world and its value system which advertises all manner of important “must haves.” It asks not, “What can I come and get,” but, “What can I come and give?”

Further, it’s expression is the only realistic response we may have as finite creatures that must eat and sleep. No single person can worship God day and night. Which begs the question, how few or how many people can adequately worship God in light of the following ideas?

God called His house a “House of Prayer,” and this He knew and named with both our fragility and His glory in mind. With our vaporous existence and limitations of natural strength a House of Prayer is what was concocted in the mind of God. It is the perfectly constructed place for those children adopted into His glorious nature and family.

Just as a father adopting children makes provisions that adequately meet the needs and purposes of those He brings into his household, so the Heavenly Father constructed the optimal place of relationship and belonging and named it “A House of Prayer for all nations.”

But, why prayer and worship? What can we really give God? What glory can we really add to Him whose glory possess no bounds? What good or merciful deed can we do for the Author of goodness and mercy that would impress Him or adequately convey those attributes to another?

None. This why incense is repeatedly used in scripture to denote our worship before God. It is portrayed as incense simply because it is for the enjoyment of the God to whom it is offered.

In God’s dwelling, when the confines of sin, death and common mortality are put off we see the life and activity of those constituents. What do they do? What do they say? When do they say it? The answer is found in Rev. 4:8 – unceasing worship and adoration of God. This is not a novel expression but a necessary and practical one.

Is America a Christian Nation?

Never has there been a Christian nation. Yes, you read that right. A common idea espoused by well-meaning American Christians, it’s time that this idea falls into the shadows of a bygone fantasy. A wake up call is needed. Merely building a nation’s governmental value system upon so-called Judaeo-Christian beliefs never forged a Christian nation as much as hanging the 10 commandments in a court room caused criminals to like Moses.

The Christian expression of faith isn’t built upon the idea of national conquest enacted by believers themselves. This idea is precisely one of the key factors that laid the stumbling stone of offense at the feet of the first century Jew. There was great, generational anticipation that Messiah would enact a military/political conquest, subdue Israel’s surrounding enemies and American-Flag2usher in the golden age that the prophets so beautifully (and accurately) foretold.

When Jesus, who claimed to be the Son of God, King of the Jews, and Savior didn’t do this exact thing, he was rejected en masse; even his closest friends and family doubted. Jesus put to rest the timing of this notion quite plainly before His ascension. He never denied it. There will be an earthly conquest in the Father’s timing, done the Father’s way.

If a militant/political campaign will happen, how and when and more importantly by whom, must be seriously considered.

The Christian faith declares the kingdom of heaven. Jesus and John both attested that kingdom of heaven was at hand, and the proper response was to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.” Salvation by grace through faith gains entrance into that kingdom. The King of that kingdom is Christ, and the capital of that kingdom is Jerusalem. To say it plainly, the fullness of that kingdom on earth is enacted by Christ, through Israel AFTER His enemies are made His footstool.

It is Christ Himself, not we, that wage the national/political war, bring the sword upon the earth until the kingdoms of this world are the kingdoms of our God. Conquest requires war and the weapons of warfare of the believer are not against kings and armies but are “mighty in God, for the pulling down of strongholds.” Worship, intercession and the power of the Holy Spirit are the primary means that God’s kingdom is advanced in the earth.

The faulty notion that America IS or WAS a Christian nation is, in my opinion, a misunderstanding of the role of believers before the coming of the King. To be a Christian nation, the adherents must be governed by Christ. The American governmental system has been a democratic republic for the last 300 years, a far cry (albeit possibly the very best of the bad options) from the Kingdom of the Christ . The first nation to be governed (in the fullest sense) by Christ will be Israel; all the nations will be submissive to Him as he rules with a rod of iron. Yet many Christians busy themselves worrying about making America the so-called “Christian nation it once was.” 

The hope of the believer is not in a Christian president who legislates Christian law. Our hope is Christ, His coming kingdom, and His commitment to make the wrong things right, judging the nations with righteousness and justice. More a full Senate or Congress America needs full prayer meetings, full altars, and more importantly hearts that filled with absolute love for Jesus.

The Church must set herself into the divine order of scripture as a witness to the nation’s, crying out day and night until the justice of the Lord is hastened and Jesus returns to the earth.

Pursue the Heart

Pursuing the heart of those we’re leading, whether in ministry, or in our home can be extremely powerful and personally humbling.

From the hearts springs forth the issues of life (Prov 4:23, Mt. 12:34). Nothing that is done externally is disconnected from something internally. The heart beats, the blood flows, the body moves.

Emphasis in ministry can be put on outward fruit of those we’re leading. Every leader has created some sort of ideal. That ideal determines how much action we put forth into a situation. When someone we’re leading breaks the mold of expectation, red flags are raised and we respond with action.

Sometimes I feel like I’m scrambling to put out fires when my aim should be starting fires. A fire started for Christ in the heart of a person becomes more powerful than exerting my pastoral energy to put out their heart fires. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is much better pastor than I will ever be. A. W. Tozer said something to effect of, “When we think rightly about God 10,000 lesser problems are dealt with.” (not an exact quote)

The root of our life, as Proverbs says, is the heart. What is in the heart? The answer to 01-06-11_OldAppleTree_Hxbythat will tell you what type of fruit will be born. Scrambling to “pick off” the bad fruit from someones life can be as frustrating as picking off damaged apples from an orchard of apple trees. If the apples are diseased the root of the tree must be examined to see of what quality it is.

In the garden God called to the man and the woman saying, “Where are you?” God knew where they were. The problem was that they didn’t know where they were. They were disconnected at the heart level from the current situation. Their hearts had believed a lie, bought into deception, and acted upon it. Similarly, Jesus when restoring Peter doesn’t say to him, “Peter, don’t ever deny me again.” What does He ask?

“Peter do you love Me?”

Peter’s denial would never resurface again if his heart was deeply connected to loving Jesus. A revelation of Christ on the inside will lead to an expression of Christ on the outside.

Pray Ephesians 1:17. Pray it for yourself. Pray it for those whom you lead. Let God give us revelation of His Son at the root of our lives.