The Power of our Agreement

Three times in John 17, Jesus prayed that we, as believers, would be one, with the same intimate unity that He enjoys with His Heavenly Father. What is our scorecard as a nation, a culture, a community and even as individuals in cultivating the unity that our LORD prayed for?

Right now, contemporary media is working overtime to ensure that we choose a side and offer an opinion, whether related to politics, COVID-19, or any number of other issues. These days, it is assumed that winning the argument can only result from hurling insults, spewing negativity about the opposition, and/or putting a “spin” on truth. We feel compelled to take a side and draw swords, fearful that if we do not, something bad might happen. That mindset ignores the sovereign power of God to accomplish His best plans and purposes.


Do we believe that Father God will answer Jesus’ prayer for our unity? Is an answer to that prayer even possible or practical at this point? How will the cavernous gaps between humans ever be bridged? The initial step to co-laboring with Jesus’ desire for oneness is to share that desire with Him! Do we want unity enough to pursue it and believe Him for it, or is it just easier to hate and to disagree?

Perhaps a key point to remember is that people who are acting contrary to God’s ways have been taken captive by the enemy to do his bidding. (See 2 Timothy 2:15-26.) That breaks God’s heart and it should break ours, too.


Jesus desires that not one human being will be lost for eternity (2 Peter 3:9). And yet as Christians, perhaps without realizing it, we are using the power of our words to speak in agreement with satan about other people! Revelation 12:10 tells us that the accuser is before the Throne of God accusing our brothers and sisters day and night—nonstop, perpetual accusation. Every time we use our words to declare negativity over another human made in God’s image and whom He loves wildly, we are standing
in agreement with the accuser, condemning them with our judgements.


The unity that Jesus prayed for most certainly did not mean that we all just turn a blind eye to what He considers sin for the sake of getting along. But what He did command was that we love our enemies and pray for those who oppose us (Matthew 5:44). Because God is love (1 John 4:8), love is the most powerful force in the universe, not just a “feeling.” So how do we unleash the power of His love in order to co-labor in His unity-building desire for our one-ness?

The key is to guard our agreement. It is vital that we know God, know His will, and agree with Him in that. If we’re willing, He can show us what His best plan is for individuals and groups that are not yet redeemed. He can move our hearts to compassion for people who have been taken captive by the enemy to do his bidding instead of the LORD’s. We can pray fervently for the power of God’s love, His hesed, to overtake them and woo them into the Kingdom! We can pray and ask God to forgive them and to give them the same gift of repentance that He gave us!


Let’s stop using our words to predict negative outcomes about people and situations—expecting the worst and patting ourselves on the back when bad things happen just like we said they would. Instead, let’s speak, pray, and believe that the power of God’s love in Christ to redeem all things is infinitely more potent than the hatred and division that abounds. Let’s use our words to bless and to speak life, not to tear down and destroy (Proverbs 18:21).


Know that the speed of light—His light—can permanently overtake any and all forms of darkness. Given that light is the fastest speed in the universe, let’s be His light, seeking His love and compassion for every person made in His image. Then let’s release that love and light through the power of our agreement via our words.


At the end of it all, what matters is that God already owns the greatest victory of all time – the defeat of evil and darkness! Let’s purpose to line up on His team, cheering on those who don’t yet know and love Him so that they, too, stand a fighting chance of living in the light of their personal, eternal victory.


But the lovers of God walk on the highway of light, and their way shines brighter and brighter until they bring forth the perfect day! (Proverbs 4:18)

Remembering 9/11

Heavenly Father,
As we remember September 11, 2001, we lift up to You all those who continue to mourn the tragic loss of someone precious. We ask that You be the God of all comfort to them today and always. And as we reflect back on how our nation unified over and through that time of shock and tragedy, we ask that You once again accomplish a mighty work of unification across our land. We are suffering from many of the same pains and fear as we did in 2001 – fires raging in the west, not feeling safe from evil, wondering about the stability of our nation’s financial strength, and grieving the unexpected loss of nearly 200,000 souls since the spring onset of the pandemic.

This time, we ask for a lasting unification—one that only comes from knowing You and being hidden in You. We call forth Your Kingdom and a violent overthrow of every form of evil in our country. We repent on behalf of those who have been captured in the snares of the evil one to do his will, and ask that you grant them the same gift of repentance that You blessed us with (2 Tim 2:25-26). Cause our nation as a whole and every person in it to seek and find every form of security, satisfaction, and comfort in You alone.

Your Word reminds us that in the world we will have troubles, but to take heart because You have already overcome the world (John 16:33). May we believe and agree with You for the victory that is already ours in Christ. And may the power of Your love and tender mercy flowing through use serve as Your catalyst for the enduring unity that we co-desire with You.
Amen!

MORE than Conquerors!

white stone

 

You are “more than a conqueror” according to Romans 8:37. What does that mean, exactly? For most of us, we would be glad to win the battle over an illness, see someone set free from addiction, or be assured of a political victory. We could feel completely satisfied to live free from the fear and anxiety of life on this planet—no hatred or violence, our children safe and thriving—set free from the unspoken anxieties about what the future may hold. But there’s that word “more,” taunting us to wonder if the
satisfaction of the win is in and of itself insufficient?
In Bible times, public games were part of Roman and Greek culture. Those games were conducted with great pomp and circumstance. The winner of a great game was given a white stone with their name inscribed on it. For the rest of their lives, the white stone entitled the victors to be maintained by the public—every need fully met. This cultural reference gives meaning to Revelation 2:17, “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new
name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”
The incredible part is that for everyone who believes in God, He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57)! Our part is to believe God for the victory that He has already promised to those who love Him. And in equal measure, we must know the new name given to each of us, personally. The name is known only to the one who receives it—yet another gift from God!
Consider Peter, a fisherman turned disciple. Jesus declared over him, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18) The name Peter is from petros meaning a rock or stone. In a singular declaration, Jesus spoke Peter’s new identity over him with the victory explicitly inherent in his new name. His new name made him a “chip off the old block,” hewn from the Rock of Ages. “There is no rock like our God!” (1 Samuel 2:2)
How does God see you? Do you know the new name given only to you? God declares that in Christ, you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). You are as Jesus is in this world (1 John 4:17). From that place of knowing who you are, you have all authority over every power of the evil one (Luke 10:19). “In gazing with wonder at the blueprint of God displayed in human form, we suddenly realize that we are looking into a mirror, where every feature of his [God’s] image articulated in Christ is reflected within us!” (2
Corinthians 3:18, MSB) Once you perceive the truth of how God sees you in Christ, you are set free to live from an unending source of strength and victory. Your white stone is your victory marker, as a reminder that you have full access to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20).

When we understand that we are more than conquerors in Christ, we are no longer threatened by situations or people that oppose us, nor do we have a need to oppress our adversaries, because we see them through God’s lens with the same love and compassion that He has for every single person created in His image. From our victory position, we realize that the battle is not against other humans (Ephesians 6:12), but rather, against the spiritual force of evil led by satan who has taken men and women captive to do his will (See 2 Timothy 2:25-26). Secure in our place of victory, we are freely empowered to pray over our enemies and to love them up into becoming more than conquerors as well.

Jesus is what God believes about you! Living out of your new identity as a reflection of Christ is what causes you to be more than a conqueror. Believe and receive your new identity in Christ and His victory that has become yours! Let’s embrace the joy and fullness of God’s victory as a key feature of this very Good News because there is great power in living from the perspective of victory! You are indeed more than a conqueror!

One Nation, Under God

man-behind-an-american-flag-4667339

 

As we celebrate the 244th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence there is much turmoil and division within our nation. The Pledge of Allegiance tells us that we are “one nation, under God,” that our country is “indivisible,” and that we stand for “liberty and justice for all.” But if you are an informed and watchful citizen you know that right now our country, and our people, are portraying quite the opposite. The brutal treatment and death of George Floyd has sparked worldwide riots and protests advocating for liberty and justice for all. They are words which we recite quite regularly, but it is a reality which even now eludes many people of color. The George Floyd riots and ensuing chaos is just the most recent event in a long history of events that signals our beloved country has not yet achieved liberty and justice for all and is in fact quite divided.

There have been many diverse and mixed responses to the poor treatment of Blacks and other people of color that we have witnessed in 2020. But does the Bible have anything to say about this important matter? Does God have a response to all of the pain, hardship, injustice and disunity felt by so many around the world?

The very first chapter of the Bible tells us that “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). How wonderful! We see that from the very beginning God instilled value in us by creating mankind in His image, in His likeness. We were not made like the animals, we are different, and we are special. We, the human race, were designed to bear the image of God wherever we go; we are to be God’s representatives, His ambassadors in our time on earth, regardless of the color of our skin.

Much later, Jesus of Nazareth arrives on the scene. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived and died the death that we deserve to die because of our sin, our rebellion against God. He gave Himself up by dying on a cross for us so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). Jesus came to set the captives free so that they might have life abundant in Him (Luke 4:18 and John 10:10). He showed no favoritism in regards to race,
ethnicity, social status, etc. Rather, He came to show us how to love God with all of our heart and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40).
Paul, a follower of Jesus and the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament, took Jesus’ teachings to their logical conclusion. He argued that the gospel, the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, breaks down the barriers that man has put up. “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28). For those who turn from their sinful ways and place their faith in Jesus Christ alone
for salvation and for life, there is a transformation that occurs. In Christ we are adopted into God’s family as “sons (or daughters) of God.” In God’s family there is no division based on race, ethnicity, social status, etc. Instead, our identity comes from our relationship with God, and because we are created in the image of God, each and every one of us deserves to be treated with love, dignity, and respect. Hallelujah!

God’s Kingdom came and is still coming to bring everlasting change to a broken world and a broken system. He will one day “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21:4-5). We have a promise from God that things will improve; everything that is wrong will be made right. But we must have faith in God, we must trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. For He is the one that will return to consummate his Kingdom and bring us with Him.

This message could not be more relevant for our world today. The road that leads to “liberty and justice for all,” both in this life and the life to come, is a long and arduous one. It is an uphill battle that will require Holy-Spirit empowered love, sacrifice, and perseverance from millions of people. But there is hope. Our nation, by God’s help, can once again act and operate as “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” But we must take the narrow path, the path of most resistance. It is the path that Jesus walked on and is now inviting you to walk with Him. As we celebrate
our country’s independence and our freedom, will you choose to walk with Jesus and love like Jesus, the true emancipator, the true King, the true judge, the true friend who died for you and died for all?