Word of the Day

The lemonade scripture

Romans 8: 28

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

I call this the lemonade scripture because what it means to you is that God will take the lemons that life hands you and he will add a little sugar to them and make for you lemonade. I had a rough journey coming to this understanding and I would like to tell you that story today. First, though, I want you to know that this scripture is talking about you. Do not disqualify yourself. God Himself has called you to His purpose. He is constantly calling you to Himself. You are His beloved.

Years ago, in my High School days and my freshman year of college, I went through a rough patch. Although all of my young life I had believed in God and His son Jesus there came a point in my confusion that I concluded that there could not exist a benevolent God given the pain and turmoil I was experiencing. Then I had an even greater epiphany. I decided that there was, in fact, a God because, I reasoned, it was He who was causing these problems in my life.

I ran across some really bad teaching in those years. People were actually teaching from the pulpit that God was putting hurt and anguish on people in order to make them strong. Of course that is exactly what I did not need to hear because it only solidified my belief that God was the author of my pain. There was a part of me that could not completely accept this position though so there raged within me a battle. Who is this God of ours? Is he a loving God or is He a God who strengthens us through pain?

Over the years I began to come to know this God and discovered that He is in fact Love itself. What I didn’t realize though is that in my heart of hearts there was still lodged a fear of what God would do to me if I ever drew really close to Him. I had a pretty good relationship with Jesus but to my horror I discovered that there was a definite mistrust in my heart towards God the Father. Insane! That realization was one of the most humbling and core shaking moments of my life but it opened the blinds on the window of my heart so that God’s light could shine and reveal truth to my heart.

I still hear people accuse God of putting bad stuff on them for various purposes and I even still hear ministers preach that message which grieves my spirit immensely.

Our God is love. If there is only one message that we share it must be that. He doesn’t have to put bad things on people, Satan does plenty of that. No, God can use love. There is nothing that trouble can teach you that love cannot much better reveal to you. Jesus came to show us the way and that way was not the way of trouble. God is not in the lemon business; He is in the lemonade business. He will take all of the junk the devil slings at you and He will turn it for your good. He is the one that will take the thunder cloud and turn it inside out so that the silver lining is all you see. He will take every missile of the devil which is meant to hurt you and turn it into a blessing. That is His way. Our Father causes everything to work out for our good because He loves us.

As for me, I so despised this scripture for many years and now it is a favorite. Jesus set me free from the lie. I wonder if that is why I love lemonade so much. 

Imitate Jesus and the Father

John 5: 19 – 20

Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him that you may marvel.”


I heard Kenneth Copeland preaching on this recently and I have been trying to get my head around it ever since. Jesus told his followers that the Father reveals to him everything the Father is doing. We could sit and meditate on that all day but let’s keep going. The next thing is that Jesus said he could do nothing on his own. Okay, now that begins to mess with our theology a bit, doesn’t it? Don’t we believe that Jesus is and was capable of all things? How would we react to a person who said that Jesus could do nothing of himself? I am sure that I would take exception to that but then Jesus did say it himself.

The next piece in the puzzle is that Jesus tells us that he does what he sees his father doing. So, Jesus can do nothing of himself BUT he does whatever he sees his father do. Now we see the empowerment returning. Copeland taught that throughout Jesus’ ministry he only did what he saw his father do and only said what he heard his father say. This brings me to two conclusions. First, this revelation changes the way we read the Bible. think of it this way, whatever you read in red ink and whatever acts performed by Jesus that are reported in the New Testament, all of this was seen and heard by Jesus from the Father first. So we are now able to look at the inner workings of Jesus’ ministry and his relationship with the Father. I just read about when Jesus cursed the fig tree. So, as I read that passage I realized that God first showed Jesus or told him what to do and what to say to the fig tree. This revelation also means that Jesus walked in step with the Father every hour, every minute of every day. Every act in the gospels, every word uttered by Jesus was all at the specific direction of the Father. That is pretty big.

The second revelation I am gleaning from this teaching is that this is how we are meant to walk in this earth. We know that we are supposed to imitate Jesus and the Father (See Ephesians 5: 1). We are in Jesus, he in us. The Father has now made His abode in us and is with us at all times. It is through this miracle of God in us that we can do anything but only as we are led. And although we can do nothing in our own power and strength we know that in Christ all things are possible. You see, we receive our empowerment through Jesus. We imitate his listening for what the Father says and we watch what the Father does. We can live in the same space of Holy Spirit guidance when we turn our hearts to letting God lead us on a daily basis. If Jesus didn’t hear the Father speak then He didn’t speak. But when Jesus saw the Father move, he moved. He allowed God to be the power in his life and every miracle he ever performed was not of his own strength or wisdom but of the power of God that was one with him. In fact, Jesus said that he wasn’t even the one who performed all of those miracles but rather that it was the Father in him that did the works. Jesus just perfected the ability of letting the Father move through him all of the time.

Imagine when you are at work today that everything you do is led by the Father. You would enjoy a new level of success wouldn’t you? Jesus said that all things are possible to the person who believes (Mark 9: 23). Through today’s verse we see how that is true because our Father illuminates the path for us. We also see ever more clearly that our job is to believe. We are called to be believers. Through believing and listening to our Father we will be more like Jesus and we also will say, “It is the Father within me that does the work.”

Old and New Covenant

Exodus 24: 2

Moses alone, however, shall come near to the Lord, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him.

Hebrews 4: 16

Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

There is quite a difference between the old covenant and the new covenant and as you can see there is a substantial shift in our position in this new covenant. When you read the Old Testament and see the great promises there you should be overjoyed because you know that your standing with God is much improved as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice. Hebrews 8: 6 says that we have a better covenant which is enacted on better promises. So no matter how good those Old Testament promises are, and they are great, ours are better.

You are now the redeemed of Israel. You can go boldly into the presence of God. Truly there is nothing better than being in God’s presence. Time begins to have no meaning and all of the desirable things of the world fade away. When God enters the building you no longer care about getting to the restaurant before the crowd. We even stop caring if we eat at all. There is life and sustenance in the presence of God and He, through Jesus and the new covenant, invites you to share His presence, to come in confident assurance into His presence.

Everything you need and everything you want is in that space you share with the Father. The God of the universe has set up His throne in your heart now go spend some time with Him there.

Possible

Mark 9: 23 -24 NIV

“Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

So how is your belief level today? We all have trouble from time to time with our belief level but as we continue on this journey with Jesus our ability to believe grows. That is part of our renewal. As we renew our mind with the word of God our heart develops the capacity to hope, believe and trust.

There is nothing impossible to you if you believe. So here is the first hurdle? Do you believe that statement? You must recognize the speaker here. Jesus is the one who said, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Now, if we are truly Christians, as we claim to be, then would you accept that one of the first requirements of Christianity is believing Christ? For us to blow by this sentence or erase it with our doubt is to call Jesus a liar. None of us wants to do that so we must reconcile ourselves to belief and faith. We must have a heart to heart talk with ourselves and determine what we choose to believe. Are we going to accept Jesus’ words as absolute truth or are we going to wrestle and argue with them.

The father in today’s verse had a son who was possessed by an evil spirit and he wanted Jesus to cast out the demon but the man had little faith. His approach showed Jesus that the man’s belief level was low. So Jesus addressed the first problem which was the father’s lack of belief. Notice that Jesus did not immediately pray for the boy. The father’s unbelief stood in the way of him receiving that for which he prayed. So Jesus first directs his attention to the father’s unbelief. We know that this father was not a man of no faith because as soon as Jesus told him that all things are possible he exclaimed, “I do believe.” But there is another key phrase in the father’s response. He asked Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief.

Remember that Jesus is with us at all times to help us in all things. He can, therefore, even help us to increase in faith. He can deal with our unbelief. We are called to be believers and everything we are called to do the trinity helps us to do. There is nothing that you must do on your own. You do not have to work up faith or develop belief. The father has already provided the means for you to be a faith giant. The answer is Jesus. He is the truth and the way and the life. He has given you his words in order to encourage you and to transform you into the image of himself. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10: 17).

If you are having trouble believing that God can or will give you the desires of your heart then ask Jesus to help you overcome your unbelief. It works. We know it works because the father received what he asked for, the demon fled from his son and the boy was completely restored. God will restore you too.

Faith is something real

Hebrews 11: 1 (King James)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith is the substance of those things you are praying for. Faith is something real. It is substantive. It is not just an idea or a concept. It isn’t just theology or a feeling. It is the substance that becomes your answered prayer.

My dictionary defines substance as: the real or essential part or element of anything; essence, reality, or basic matter. You see faith isn’t ethereal. It is real even though it is not tangible. A thought is real as is a word. You cannot reach out and touch them with your fingers but they still are real and have real world consequences. Some have said that we are the sum of our thoughts. That is a powerful statement whether or not it is true. Certainly our thoughts greatly influence our lives. And by now we all know that our words have power. And although they are not palpable they undoubtedly affect the substance of our lives. So it is with faith. Although we cannot bottle it, it is a crucial element in our answered prayers.

Faith is the very essence of the things you want or need. And although you will not find it listed in the periodic table it is the element which God uses to form your answers. Imagine, if you will, a periodic table of spiritual elements rather than physical elements. Faith would be right up there. Maybe its symbol is Fa. Looking at the table we find that faith is the key building block for all things spiritual just as the physical elements are to the things of the physical realm. In order for us to operate in the spiritual realm we must first grasp this concept that faith is substance. It is something real. It is something perceptible if not tangible.

The next premise we must understand is that faith is the substance, the essential building block of the things we are hoping for. So, stop right here. What are you hoping for? For what are you praying? Now picture a child’s building blocks. Instead of the letters of the alphabet these blocks have their spiritual symbols on them. You look there on the rug where are scattered all of the building blocks and you see a block with Fa on it. You grab it. Perhaps you can find more Fa. You collect all that you can muster and you build the first level of your edifice. As you look you see other blocks there with symbols on them. Maybe there is P. You reason, “That has got to be prayer.” Another on has Co for confession, another W for the Word. As you look you see more and more essential spiritual elements, the building blocks of a spiritual reality. You gather them up, stacking them one atop the others until you have constructed something magnificent. Then you realize that it was all rather easy and fun once you realized the blocks were there and that they were for you. It is though the building blocks were in your toy chest all along but you didn’t know they were there or you didn’t realize what they were for. Now you know, though and armed with new information you can begin to build anything that you need or want.

There is one more premise that you need to understand though. Everything that exists in the physical realm first came into being in the spiritual realm. Everything that you can see, touch, taste, etc. first existed in the realm of the spirit. Before the earth existed, before even the sun or the moon, God had an idea, a thought, a vision. He then created in the physical that which existed first in His spirit. Every creation of humankind was first birthed in the spirit of a person. The spiritual realm is the realm of creation. The physical realm is the realm of fabrication. Therefore, before you manifest anything in the physical, you must first perceive and create it in the spiritual but now that you have your spiritual building blocks this will be child’s play for you.

So we have today, opened up the toy chest and let the wonder of God’s creation flow out. Perhaps you will identify some other spiritual building blocks other than the ones I mentioned and can write me telling me their spiritual symbols. As you begin construction, though, remember that Fa (faith) is the essence of those dreams you are building. It is a crucial element and must be included in every construction project. Without it, you are building a house of cards. Faith is the substance; it is the raw material of your hopes and dreams. Dream big dreams. Live large but begin in faith.

Grace gives and breeds life

John 1:16

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.

The grace of God has come unto us. We are no longer slaves under the law. The Law kills while grace gives life. Grace begets grace.

I hope you were able to see Les Miserables while it was in the theaters. It was a very moving drama based on the struggle of common French people painted on the backdrop of the French Revolution. There are extremely strong Christian themes in the movie. For me it was an incredibly poignant demonstration of the effect of grace and law upon the human condition.

The principle character is Jean Valjean. The picture opens with him as a prisoner at very hard labor. He was enslaved for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread because his sister’s child was starving. We visit him upon the day of his parole and are introduced to another central character, that of Javert. Javert represents the law. He is very strict and codified. He knows the letter of the law and does his best to live by it. He is ruthless and without mercy and this proves to be his undoing.

Valjean is a character of great turmoil and the audience follows him through this turmoil as he tries to determine right from wrong in a complex and changing society. He is taken in by a priest and is shown great kindness and mercy. But the hardness of prison life has changed Valjean into a criminal so in the dark of the night he arises from his bed and stealing the silver service and other items of value slinks away into the night. He is caught though, and the police drag him back to the church and present him to the priest. They say to the priest that this man, Valjean, insists that the priest gave him these articles. What is the priest’s response? What would our response be? The priest told the constabulary that yes, he did give those items to Valjean but he asks Valjean, “Why did you forget these?” wherein he goes to the table and picks up two enormous silver candle stands and puts them in Valjean’s arms. Now that, my friends, is the love of God. That man of God showed the grace and the love of God that Jesus came to bring to us. That simple act of grace changed Valjean forever. It transformed him from a criminal to a man of principle. He went to a new town and made a life for himself, became the mayor of that town and tasked himself with helping others. He became a man of much compassion in the very image of Christ himself.

But then who appears but our arch villain Javert. Principally, though, Javert is not a man of evil. He is just a man who does not know the love of God. He does not understand that Jesus’ life brought forgiveness and mercy to a world of sinners. He begins to suspect that the mayor is actually prisoner 24601 who has skipped out on the terms of his parole. Then when he believes that he has accused Valjean wrongly he gives his life into Valjean’s hands. He doesn’t beg for mercy. He wouldn’t because he knows nothing of the mercy of God. Twice, three times Valjean has Javert’s life in his hands. Valjean, however, is a man who has come under grace and appreciates the God of lovingkindness so each time he extends mercy to Javert. In the end the conflict within Javert becomes insurmountable. He is the beneficiary of mercy and grace but he cannot allow it to transform him. He is rigidly and dogmatically legalistic even in the face of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus. Unable to resolve the conflict, he commits suicide.

The law kills. Grace gives and breeds life. Valjean who was shown mercy became a person of great grace, compassion and kindness. He extended himself to help others even at great personal risk. His life honored the kindness of God which was visited upon him by the priest. The priest had Valjean’s life in his hands even as Valjean would later hold Javert’s in his. And like the priest, Valjean shows mercy.

The message of grace, which I truly believe is the message of the age, is not a message of promiscuity and permissiveness. It is a message of love through which we all seek to return the gift bestowed upon us. Grace does not accentuate or condone sin. It pardons it so that we might be renewed into the image of our beloved Jesus. I hope you will deeply consider the presence of both grace and legalism in your life. It is by grace that we have been saved. Even the Javerts of the world are saved only by grace. Perhaps as we accept the grace and mercy that Jesus died to give us we can not only be transformed ourselves but we can also extend that same mercy to others.

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