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1 Corinthians 1: 1-5 “When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom.  For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.”

What is that “powerful demonstration by the Spirit” that Paul is talking about?  I don’t believe it was magical miracles.  I believe that the power He is talking about is the power of God to change one’s life and cause them to abandon everything and follow Jesus.

It doesn’t take a lot of charisma to declare the truth of Jesus’ love for people.  In fact, charisma can detract from the message and put the focus on the individual rather than on the intended object–JESUS.  I believe that a person who has fully submitted their life to God and is living moment by moment reliant on the Spirit of God, is prepared to declare God’s testimony to the audience He has prepared.  It is from a person’s faith that the Spirit of God works and where His power is seen; it is NOT from our good speaking ability.  Our ability to speak well in front of others does not point straight back to Jesus.  If we are able to speak well and our words and tone are impressive, then so be it.  However, that ability has nothing to do with the effectiveness of one’s ministry.  Great speakers lead people astray every day–it is the content and the behavior of the speaker that should be examined.  Every time I have seen a great public speaker there is one thing I feel: ENVY.  I want to be able to talk as good as they do, but almost always it is so that other people will think highly of me.  Does this mean that being a good speaker is bad? No.  But it is just a fact.  It is not a prerequisite for speaking God’s truth and the one who speaks well should be careful that their human abilities are not elevated above any spiritual gift.

I submit to you that the humblest person you know who is relying on Jesus for their full sustenance is more prepared to deliver the gospel than the one who speaks like Billy Graham but whose life is their own and not submitted to Jesus. The reason is simply this:  when people see what only the Spirit of God can do to a person they are captivated by that individual’s demonstration of power–the power that comes from God to enable a person to forget their life and lean on Him for everything.

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Recently I have been switching the word “love” for the word “value”.  We are desensitized to the word “love” in our society; essentially it has become a self centered concept that focuses on our own desires and our own feelings, rather than its intended meaning. Love is not about us, but this is how we always consider the idea.  For instance, when we say we love our girlfriend or that we love our car, or whatever, we are primarily considering how the object of our affection affects our feelings.  We only say that we love something because it is bringing us some type of warm fuzzy.  This self serving type of “love” has corrupted our God given right and responsibility to love God’s way–love that is focused outward rather than inward.

If you take the same examples above and apply the Godly concept of love to it, then our “love” becomes focused on the object, rather than ourselves.  In fact, we can love the object without envy, jealousy, or anxiety because we appreciate it/him/her for its objective qualities rather than what those qualities are doing for us.  Jesus chastised his followers for using Him as their personal genie when He said “I assure youYou are looking for Menot because you saw the signsbut because you ate the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26).  By using the word “value” instead of the word “love” we can see why the thing or the person we say we love is truly meaningful to us.  Do you love your husband or your wife because of who they are?  Or because of what they can do for you?  Do you love God because of who He is, or because of what He is able to do for you?  Take a moment and think of a relationship in your life and say:  “I value you because _____________!  If you feel guilty because you cannot think of a very good answer then the truth is you’ve been loving, or valuing that person for what they are able to do for your feelings or your life, rather than for them as an individual.

If you refocus your love on the individual rather than on their ability to make you happy, then you will truly be valuing them, loving them.  But if you continue to only love people for how they make you feel, then you will only continue to be disappointed because people will always fail to validate you; it is our human nature.  Take a moment today and begin to focus on the value of the people in your life rather than on their weaknesses and their failures.  If you consistently encourage others based on their inherent value then those relationships will inevitably begin to flourish.  However, if you only value you them for how they please you, then you will suck them dry and they will wither.  People can only give so much before they fail, but God’s love never fails.  It is our duty not to receive endless love, but to give endless love.  When we refocus our goal of life to giving love by valuing and encouraging others rather than being edified and validated by them we will be transformed.

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Rejected by Men by Mark Mcclure - 7M ago

1 John 4:9  “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.”

As Christians we always talk about Jesus being the “Son of God” but I don’t think that we do a good job of helping others understand what this means, in fact, I have known many Christians who struggle to articulate what it means that Jesus is the “Son of God”.  For this reason, I want to take a moment and clarify this concept in order to add a layer of depth to our faith.  I will do so very quickly so as not to complicate an already mysterious topic.

The short and sweet of it is this:  The phrase “Son of God” or “God’s One and Only Son” is not referring to Jesus being a child of God as a result of his sexual interaction with a spiritual female in heaven.  It is important to know that our Mormon friends believe this to be case, which is different from Evangelical Christianity and its belief that Jesus Christ is completely equal with the Father and that they have always existed together as One.    The truth is that it means Jesus is the perfect mirror reflection of God the Father.  When we see Jesus we see God the Father and we see the Holy Spirit.  This is the relationship that is described.  The verse that does the best job in clarifying the topic is this:

Hebrews 1:3 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

When you read the Gospel of John it becomes very evident that the Jews, who stated that they believed in God the Father, truly did not believe in the One true God because they did not believe that Jesus was equal with Him.  When they saw Jesus they did not see God; they saw only a man (The Son of Man).  But those who believe in the One true God see the Father when they see Jesus.

We see the conflict in John 10:31-33, which reads:

Again the Jews picked up rocks to stone Him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. Which of these works are you stoning Me for?” “We aren’t stoning You for a good work,” the Jews answered, “but for blasphemy, because You—being a man—make Yourself God.”

What they refused to believe was that they were looking at the image of Father God when they looked upon the person of Jesus of Christ.  It would have been OK for Jesus to claim to be a prophet, or even a perfect human being perhaps, but not God in Flesh.

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1 Corinthians 1: 1-5 “When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom.  For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.”

What is that “powerful demonstration by the Spirit” that Paul is talking about?  I don’t believe it was magical miracles.  I believe that the power He is talking about is the power of God to change one’s life and cause them to abandon everything and follow Jesus.

It doesn’t take a lot of charisma to declare the truth of Jesus’ love for people.  In fact, charisma can detract from the message and put the focus on the individual rather than on the intended object–JESUS.  I believe that a person who has fully submitted their life to God and is living moment by moment reliant on the Spirit of God, is prepared to declare God’s testimony to the audience He has prepared.  It is from a person’s faith that the Spirit of God works and where His power is seen; it is NOT from our good speaking ability.  Our ability to speak well in front of others does not point straight back to Jesus.  If we are able to speak well and our words and tone are impressive, then so be it.  However, that ability has nothing to do with the effectiveness of one’s ministry.  Great speakers lead people astray every day–is the content and the behavior of the speaker that should be examined.  Every time I have seen a great public speaker there is one thing I feel: ENVY.  I want to be able to talk as good as they do, but almost always it is so that other people will think highly of me.  Does this mean that being a good speaker is bad? No.  But it is just a fact.  It is not a prerequisite for speaking God’s truth and the one who speaks well should be careful that their human abilities are not elevated above any spiritual gift.

I submit to you that the humblest person you know who is relying on Jesus for their full sustenance is more prepared to deliver the gospel than the one who speaks like Billy Graham but whose life is their own and not submitted to Jesus. The reason is simply this:  people see what only the Spirit of God can do to a person and they are captivated by that individual’s demonstration of power–the power that comes from God to enable a person to forget their life and lean on Him for everything.

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Rejected by Men by Mark Mcclure - 10M ago

Matthew 5:12 says  “Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven…”

When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 He essentially told them that the life of one who lives for God is characterized by an expectation of receiving ____________ in the future…not in the present.  It is the life of faith that pleases God, not the life that expects satisfaction now (Hebrews 11:6).   It is the concept of reaping and sowing.  One does not plant a seed and yield it’s fruit in the next moment (Galatians 6:9).  Christians must wait to receive their reward.  Ironically, when one waits on the Lord IN FAITH they experience His peace which transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

If we do not wait IN FAITH, then we will not have peace.  That means we will be waiting with a spirit of complaining, of grumbling, and of whining because we are not getting what we think we deserve.  We know that God commands us not to live as whiners (Philippians 2:14).  Therefore, living IN FAITH means that we consciously understand that we expect to be satisfied at a future date, a day determined by God, and the truth is that the day of our reward may not be until after our death.  In fact, we will never be completely satisfied until we reach our final destination–the presence of God.

Understand that it is our humanity that will suffer when we wait IN FAITH.  It is our temporary sense of justice, of harmony, of emotion, that suffers when we allow room for God’s work to be done.  God calls us to let our earthly nature die and embrace the Spirit of Jesus which has little regard for earthly comfort when God’s truth is at stake.  Remember how God the Father treated God the Son: “It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” (Isaiah 53:10).

When we undertake love as a Christ follower we are guaranteed to be persecuted.  Our love will often not be received because it sheds light on the failure of people to love God and one another.  Those who desire to please God will be encouraged by our love, but those who are enemies of God will punish us because we stand for Him.  But remember, the reward comes later.  Suffer now and go unsatisfied now–that is living IN FAITH.  But when you demonstrate that type of faith, the Spirit of God will minister to you and remind you that you are in God’s will, which will make every suffering worthwhile as it happens. After the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus assured us of this fact.

Matthew 5:11-12 “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

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Matthew 3: 7-9 says “When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the place of his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Therefore produce fruit consistent with  repentance. And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones!”

It is easy for us to look at others and clearly see their faults and hypocrisy–but do we see our own?  Based on the above passage it seems that the source of hypocrisy comes from a spirit of entitlement which is produced from a person’s inclination to make decisions about their life without fully submitting to the standards of God.  Let me give some practical examples:

  1.  Should you get divorced?
    1. What does God say about divorce in the Bible?  There is your answer.
  2. Should you marry “Joe” or “Suzy”?
    1. What does God say about marrying a person like him or her?  There is your answer.
  3. How should you respond to your disrespectful, hurtful, or inconsiderate spouse?
    1. What does the Bible say about dealing with people who sin against you?  There is your answer.

The point is that when we decide how we are going to handle the situations in our lives without giving God full reign over the standards by which we make those decisions, then we are hypocrites.  We say we believe in Him but we are not producing fruit in keeping with repentance.  We are not living under the submission of His leadership and His standards.  We are being rebellious.

John the Baptist saw the hypocrites coming to be baptized and he stopped them before they got in the water.  “Slow your roll” he said!  If he would have baptized them then John would be accountable for condoning a life of hypocrisy.  When we are Christ followers our decisions are no longer made out of our sense of justice, or self preservation, or even what we believe would make us happy.  Instead, our decisions are made based on the principles, values, and Spirit of the God that we have said we believe in.  When we demonstrate that our lives are no longer our own and that we will always seek to live according to God’s way, rather than our own, then we can be baptized.  Then we can call ourselves Christians.

I pray today for the Spirit of God to convict each one of us of our rebellion against Him and bring us to the place in our lives where we yield our will to His and obey Him in all matters.

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Rejected by Men by Mark Mcclure - 10M ago

1 Peter 1:17-19 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

A Christian is someone who has given up on this world.  They no longer hold on to any comfort or peace that they used to derive from the physical elements that would occupy their time, money, and affection.  All of the things on earth that used to give them a “warm fuzzy” have lost their appeal.

Why?  Because it is all going down in flames!  We who are called Christians now live with a healthy fear of God because we have come to believe that He is going to hold people accountable for their lives–for the decisions that they made on this earth.  This is why we forget this world because it has only brought us judgment. The only thing that remains is the love of God that we know of because it was revealed when Jesus came.  We who love God love Jesus because Jesus is His perfect representation–this is why He called Him His Son.

So, today, like Paul, consider everything that is a part of this temporary life to be as worthless in view of the surpassing value of getting to know who Jesus is.  Every thing you try to do to improve your life today must be filtered through the blood of Jesus.  We can make our lives all nice and neat and achieve great things for ourselves and our communities that mean nothing in light of eternity.  Our priorities, goals, and decisions today must be set and made in light of the fact that only the eternal will remain.  Therefore, cut away anything in your life that does not glorify God.  Restructure any passion or goal that is out of alignment because it does not have Jesus at the top of it.  We can be tricked into thinking that there are pieces of our lives that God does not care if we do on our own.  This is a lie!  Every single second of our day can and should be committed to Jesus.  We should desire above all else to be molded and crafted into the image of God–to look like Jesus.

May your day be blessed and may you live in victory today as you shed the impulses you have to satisfy your temporary urges.   I pray today that you will live out the will of God by first and foremost giving up your will to live the way that you always have and to instead live a life totally focused on the eternal relationship you will have with Jesus.

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Rejected by Men by Mark Mcclure - 10M ago

If we do not start with with a correct understanding of what the Christian life is meant to be like then we will misinterpret Scripture, and consequently, God’s will.  The Jesus follower has an experience on earth that is completely different than every other type of person.  The mistake that many Christians make is thinking that they are similar to other people they just “believe” a certain way about God–but their actions do not reflect any real difference in the way they believe than a person who “believes” in something totally different.

Example:  If Jesus says that to believe in Him we must turn the other cheek, but our humanity rejects that concept and we continue to respond to mistreatment with retaliation, then we do not really believe in what Jesus says. We may like the idea of believing in Jesus, but belief is supported by action–by submission to it’s tenants.

The belief that I want to address in a 5 part series is that of Christian suffering.  The bottom line up front is that Christians are promised constant suffering while they are on earth and this suffering reinforces to the Christian that they are a follower of Jesus Christ.  If you as a Christian are not suffering then you have not embraced the call of Christ to pick up your cross daily and follow Him.  Picking up a cross entails suffering every time you do it.  The opposing belief that Christians have is that “God wants you to be happy” thereby avoiding suffering by making decisions that would secure temporary happiness within relationships, occupations, and every other area of life.  The lie of Satan in America today is that Christians have entered into a time of peace where they isolate themselves from the world and believe in Him and have a “good life”.  The problem with that is other people are going to hell while we enjoy the “good life” of peace.  If we were spreading the gospel we would be suffering and the “good life” would still be “good”…just not by the world’s standards.  It would be “good” because we would know that we are in God’s will and getting closer to entering into His presence one day.

The reason there is misunderstanding about suffering and happiness as Christians is because God truly does want everyone to be happy.  He wants everyone to be blessed beyond their wildest dreams, but the lie that Christians buy into is that God is speaking about situational happiness when he is actually referring to the happiness that comes with sharing in the suffering that comes with faith in Jesus Christ–because faith in Jesus will cost you everything that this world has to offer.

CONCEPT 1–  Pleasing God often means upsetting people.

Galatians 1:10 –  For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ. (HCSB)

Our beliefs in God are in direct opposition to the wisdom of the natural world.  Everything that a Christian stands for is revealed by God and cannot be comprehended and obeyed by someone who has not submitted their will to the one and only God of all creation. Why? Because people will always try to take the path in life that preservers their flesh when they are not being coerced to behave in a way contrary to their individual will.  When the Bible talks about “the flesh” it is speaking about a person’s humanity–their bodies, their emotions, and their will.  People do whatever it takes to experience daily happiness, but situational happiness is never guaranteed to correlate with  God’s will.  When we tell  people that faith in God means releasing control of our lives and relying on God alone for happiness we are not celebrated.  As Christians we have the responsibility of revealing the truth of God to all people regardless of how they respond to it.  Telling people that there is only one God–Jesus Christ–and that loving people though they mistreat us is one of the key aspects of Christianity, is not popular.  Living to love others is not popular.  People talk about wanting to serve others in the secular world, but when people who reject Jesus serve others they are not doing it out of a compulsion to glorify God–which matters in the end.  I will always celebrate people doing good, even if they do not believe in God.  But for their own sake, if they do not believe that Jesus is God, then I am compelled to convince them that they should submit their lives to that fact and experience forgiveness of their life of rebellion against Him because in the end their good deeds will have passed and they still have to answer to God for what they have done wrong.  Living to help others see that unless they repent from their own selfish lives and live for Jesus and live to love others, is not popular.  Especially when we assert that a lack of doing so will wind up with them being to sent to an eternal hell apart from the one and only God.

I pray that every believer would remember that being a slave of Christ means to only live out of the revelations that come from God and that each Christian would stop abiding by the wisdom of this world and mixing worldly concepts with Godly ones.  Additionally, that each Christian would embrace the idea that rejecting worldly concepts will result in suffering through emotional pain, physical pain, and a lowly view of us in the eyes of the world.

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People treat us bad, things go wrong, life is not working out like we want…this is where the excuses begin and life ends.

At the outset, this sounds harsh, but stay with me–there is redemption.  When we are mistreated there is an emotional response that begins within us.  Justice starts to cry out and demands to shine through like the noon day sun.  However, justice is often blocked out by the clouds of unfairness.  In every moment of everyday we are involved in the reconstruction of what is just, right, and fair, because the world is broken.  We often find ourselves on the receiving end of injustice which makes the issue that much more real and important.  What this dynamic creates for each of us mere mortals is a vacuum that sucks in and steals our forward progress.  If we thought we could improve or be happy, we were wrong, because ________________ happened and now we must spend our time recovering from the emotional fallout that results from guilt, shame, regret, anger, bitterness, and sorrow.  The disappointments of life are the landmines that take our legs out from underneath us and too often cripple us from living in the fullness of what God has designed us for.  The truth is that justice fails.  It fails big time.  For some people it is enough for them to end their own life.  For others, it keeps them oppressed under the crushing despair and cycle of addiction and self harm.  Those who should be held responsible are not.  And we are doomed to live under the unyielding misery that comes with a lack of accountability…right?!

WRONG!

Just when it seems that injustice has won the day, there is a savior that flanks it–spears it–and moves forward like a champion.  That hero is OWNERSHIP.

When we get beat down it is because we are too busy fighting injustice; we cannot help ourselves from trying to defeat it.  But all the time we are fighting one injustice another one jumps on our backs.  Then another one punches us in the gut.  Even if we got one victory, the onslaught never ceases.  How can one defeat the cunning and ever so accurate jabs of injustice?  The simple answer is OWNERSHIP.  You may ask, “How can I take ownership of something that I did not do?” or “Why should I be responsible for the bad behavior of someone else?  Isn’t this akin to being a whipping post or a doormat?”

Those are reasonable questions.  Why this seems so counter intuitive is because injustice is like a magician who uses smoke and mirrors to distract its opponent from what is really going on; keeping the victim’s eyes fixed on the distraction, or the illusion. The problem with seeking justice in our daily lives, in our every problem, is that it does nothing to address the emotional wound that was delivered.  Someone was punished, someone got what they deserved, the truth was told–but we are still hurting.  ______________ still happened!  These evil magicians, once their tricks are discovered, only leave us feeling bad.  We do not feel refreshed and recharged. At best it was a wash; we wish we never would have seen it or have gone through it and hope to forget about it.  It’s like a murderer getting sent to the electric chair for a crime he did commit.  There is satisfaction that justice was served, but the victim’s family would give anything for the whole thing to have never happened.  Which brings us back around to how we can take ownership during times of injustice.

The answer:  Stop trying to figure out why you are right.  Stop trying to defend yourself. Stop trying to demonstrate that someone else is wrong.  

If your default response to pain in your life was to accept it, the pits of injustice would no longer be an issue.  You could keep moving forward with your own life, your own goals, and your own dreams because there would be nothing stopping you.  When you accept everything that happens in your life with your eyes wide open you will begin to see that there are many things that you brought on yourself.  There are many things that you should be responsible for that you are desperately seeking to hide from. And then there are things that just plain suck and you were completely a victim of.

At any rate, you take OWNERSHIP of your feelings, of your behaviors–even the ones that you feel justified for AFTER you were clearly wronged by someone else.  When you can do that and not blame someone else for your actions, even if it seems justified, you will exit the fight with injustice and start living for what really matters–your destiny.  What happened to you that was wrong was a distraction.  But choose not to be distracted.  Learn from it.  Accept it.  Grant forgiveness where you can–this allows you to let go of the fight.  Every fight that you step out of means that you are able to move faster down your path.

To go back and address the concern of being a doormat and a whipping post; this is a misconception.  Now you can be those things, but taking ownership does not entail taking responsibility for what SOMEONE ELSE did.  Ownership is taking FULL RESPONSIBILITY for what YOU did, and more importantly, what you will do.  There will be a day of reckoning, a day when justice will be served.  God Almighty will sort out every wrong doing, we need not worry about that.  Taking ownership does not let other people off the hook.  This is where we often stay our whole lives.  We won’t take responsibility for ourselves because there is something that someone else has done that we are waiting for them to take responsibility for or otherwise be punished for.  This will destroy our destiny.  This will kill every ounce of purpose and forward movement that we have.  They will get theirs in the end.  Forgiving someone does not remove accountability of their actions.  They will pay.  Or God will forgive.  But that is above our pay grade.  In this life we cannot control those things.  But if we want to live with joy and a sense of peace, we have to put to death our compulsion to judge others.  We have much to be forgiven for ourselves.

It happened.  Whatever it was, it happened.  Sometimes you had a part to play in why it happened and other times you did not.  You cannot change it.  You cannot improve it–not in the historical sense.  It is what it is and you feel the way you feel.  Do not be afraid to take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for every thing that originated from you–even if those actions were influenced by whatever another person did.  Own your response.  Learn to be one cares more about listening to others than convincing them why you have the right to be inconsolable.  In the end, you did what you did and you could have done it differently, good or bad–know the difference.  They did what they did.  If we take responsibility now, in the day of accountability, where God judges every person for every thought and deed, there will be no surprises, no regrets, and no excuses.

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