Thoughts from Pete’s Message May 27, 2016

Love Wins, Part 3

Ephesians 2: 8- 9 says, For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, It is the gift of God not of works lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which he has before ordained that we should walk in them.

To approach the throne of grace, we must forsake our pride and enter into his presence with a heart of humility, brokenness and meekness. Love wins. The biggest enemy to the love of God is our prideful selves. According to 1 Corinthians 13, the love of God “seeketh not her own.” In order to end strife and contention against our own sin nature and against the sin nature of others in the church, we must swallow our pride and meet each other at the foot of the cross.

In John 13: 34-35 Jesus said that his disciples were ready for a new commandment: To love one another. There are no conditions on loving one another. Love is not contingent the other party’s deserving love. Love is to live in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. Our pride is the only thing standing in the way of our fellowship with God our Father, Jesus Christ his son, and one with another in the household of faith.

The natural man understands brotherly love and familial love. However, only Christians can understand the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation. A key to understanding 1 Corinthians 13 is to read it and to substitute our own name for “love” in the “charity checklist” in verses 4 through 8. According to verse 13, For now abides faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is Love… Love takes the preeminence: it is outstanding in rank, supreme, superlative, rising above the norm. Love supersedes “giving my body to be burned.” Without love, anything that we do will come to naught…it will be of no value whatsoever. Jesus Christ’s is the standard for loving according to the love of God in the renewed mind.

Focusing on anything except Jesus Christ will cause division within the body of Christ. If you’re justifying your actions, you’ve missed the point. The point is to love unconditionally, not because they deserve it, but because in the act of loving, we exemplify the very nature of God himself.

Love is genuinely patient, and genuinely kind. It demonstrates a gentle nature with a genuine desire to help others. Love is the nature of God, for he gave his only begotten son, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. Jesus Christ who knew no sin became the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The love of God is not jealous…it never suspects unfaithfulness. Love exemplifies trust. To see through the eyes of Christ, grace and mercy must overcome our fleshly desire for “just retribution.” The standard of love thinks no evil, is not easily provoked, seeks not her own. Agape love is the only kind of love that loves without conditions. All other types of love are capricious, and can change on a whim. If love is conditional on performance, it is an earthly love and not the Love of God. The only condition for Agape Love, is the spirit of God in Christ in us. The spirit of God will love through us unconditionally when we tap into the supernatural heart of Christ in us.

Others loving us cannot dictate whether we love them in return. Unconditional Agape Love activates believing according to the Word of God that appropriates the power of God into manifestation. Our commandment is to love even also as we are loved by God. Jesus said, “In this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye love one another.”

In the immortal words of the poem “The Love of God” by Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai,

Could we with ink the ocean fill;
And were the sky of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; Nor could the scroll Contain the whole Though stretched from sky to sky.

Beloved of God,
May God richly bless you,
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message May 20, 2016

Love Wins 2

When we first came into the presence of Jesus Christ, no one explained to us what the consequences would be. No one told us that we would need to forgive others even though they don’t deserve forgiveness. No one told us that we would need to love the unloveable. In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul penned these word by the spirit of God about the love of God.

Yea though I speak with the tongues of men or of angels…and have not the love of God, I am become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not the love of God, it profiteth me nothing.

Love suffereth long and is kind, love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. It is never haughty, never rude, never resentful, never seeks it’s own. Rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never faileth.

For now we see through a glass darkly, but when that which is perfect is come, then shall we see clearly for we shall see him face to face. For now remaineth three things, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.

When we read scripture, we often don’t believe it because it flies in the face of the doctrines of this world. The world teaches that we need to seek retribution for those who have wronged us. Natural love emphasizes tough love and demands just retribution. The world says that we will love God only if he helps us… I’ll love God only if he does what I want him to do. An extreme example of this “reciprocal” love was where the pagans sacrificed their children to their God Molech in exchange for favorable weather conditions to raise their crops. Another kind of worldly love in the book of Job says, “God I love you so much that you should just kill me because I’m a sinner. If you kill me at least I can give up my life in service to you.”

However the love of God seeks not her own. It requires that I sacrifice the rights to my selfish self. It requires that I step back and turn from the desires of my human nature to press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The cross road of life is the cross of Christ. At the cross, Jesus Christ who knew no sin was made the perfect sacrifice for our sins on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him.

When a couple comes for marriage counseling, the key to saving the marriage is for both parties to meet each other at the foot of the cross. Surrendering to the Lord’s will is the only way to love one another with the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation. If you come to a marriage with express terms and conditions for the other party to perform, there will be no grace, mercy, peace and unconditional love. If husbands and wives treat each other like three year olds who don’t know how to control themselves, the marriage is doomed to failure. The key to marriage is growing up into maturity in the love of God in the renewed mind. In Hebrews 5, Paul says that he will not give the Hebrew Christians the meat of the word because they are immature and need milk like babies. Their strife and contention proves that they cannot the handle solid food of the Word of God. An infant doesn’t know how to control himself…he doesn’t understand the difference between good and evil. The root of evil is pride… wanting to be in control instead of allowing the Lord to work in us and through us to will and to do of his good pleasure.

God said through his prophet Hosea, “My people have committed two evils, they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters and hewn out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” They believe that the systems of men are the solutions to life’s problems. However the solution to the problem is Jesus Christ. We cannot approach the cross of Christ on our own terms. The road to the cross is a narrow way through the narrow gate. The world, according to 2 Timothy 3, subscribes toa a “form of godliness” but denies the power of God. However, the Holy Spirit works, empowered by believing faith according to the Word of God activated by the love of God.

Read 1 Corinthians 13 twice this week… Meditate on these things, commit thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear unto all. We must crucify our sense of having been violated by the world. For I was crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live, I live by the faith of in the son of God , who loved me and gave himself for me.

The fine print about the love of God in 1 Corinthians is the key to living life more abundantly. Giving up my sense of justice and fairness and relinquishing these selfish “human rights” to God will set me free. I forgave and set the prisoner free, only to find that the prisoner was me. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto thee… love one another.”

All that I am, All that I have, all that I hope to be…I give to thee. Lord you are all I need… You are my strength, my provision, my righteousness, my grace, my mercy, my peace, my love. You are my best thought, my portion, my sufficiency, my all in all. Oh Lord, only you are deserving of love. May I love others with your love. Thank you that in loving others I can demonstrate my love for my Lord who said, ” in that thou hast done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

May God richly bless you.
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message May 13, 2016

Love Wins

As Christians we often struggle with doing the number one duty of a Christian… loving God above all and loving our neighbor as ourselves. There are many different types of love. However, “agape” the Greek word for the the spiritual love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation, is a rare thing. The ability to love with the love of God requires that we are born again of God’s spirit. Many people in our popular culture emphasize the importance of brotherly love, or “philio” in Greek, which is a natural affection for our friends and loved-ones. Another type of love is “storge” the Greek word for “love of family.” This is also a natural type of love independent of God’s Holy Spirit. The highest form of love “agape” is “the spiritual divine unconditional love of God.” To love with God’s love, we must be born again of God’s spirit for our sinful nature of the flesh cannot love without the spirit of God in Christ in us.

According to 1 Corinthians 13, though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not the Love of God, I’m like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And though I can prophesy through the spirit and operate the manifestations of word of knowledge and word of wisdom and have not the Love of God, it profiteth me nothing…
Love is patient, love is kind, it is never boastful or proud, it never demands its own way. It rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in the truth. Love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things…Love never fails. For now we see through a blurry mirror but then when Christ returns we shall see him face to face… then shall we know him even also as we are known by him. Now abide faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.
According to 1 Timothy 4:15, meditate upon these things, commit thyself wholly to them that thy profiting may appear unto all.

The context of this passage in 1 Corinthians was Paul’s teaching about the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the abuse of the manifestations of the spirit. The manifestations of the spirit are to be operated in love. The manifestation of tongues in the first century church was as decisive then as it is today. If “speaking in an unknown tongue” is not operated with the love of God in the renewed mind according to God’s orderly process, the result will be “confusion and every evil work.” The Corinthians had no problems with the “doctrines of the faith.” However, they had a problem with loving their brothers and sisters within the body of Christ especially if they were divided regarding the proper operation of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Believing action according to the Word of God must be motivated by love. If I gave everything to the poor and even if I gave myself to be martyred, without the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation, it would profit me nothing. All my worldly accomplishments and praise of men are of no value if not accomplished through the love of God. All men need is to be loved. Would you rather be right or would you rather love and be loved? When someone forces you to go the second mile, do you think that your human rights are being violated or would you gladly serve in love? We must die to our “human rights” in order to live and love unconditionally with the love of God. The Apostle Paul encouraged the church to live and love with no regrets. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Love thinks no evil…it is always eager to believe the best of others. The key to growing in Christ is to focus on living in and within the love of God.

When you love those who don’t love you, this is a manifestation of the love of God in the renewed mind. An act of love is to forgive and to set the prisoner free… only to find that the prisoner was me. Like the martyrs throughout the history of the Church, the Apostle Paul said, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” The love of God is never offended when wronged by others. The key to overcoming evil with good is to love unconditionally. Although this type of love is rare in the world, this is normal according to the spirit of life in Christ. For I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me and the life that I now live I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.

Contrary to popular opinion, the abundant life is lived by washing feet. This is the example Jesus Christ himself gave to his disciples. He who approaches God’s throne of grace must do so with a humble and a contrite heart. The Abundant life is blessing them that persecute you, despitefully use you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for Christ’s sake. Jesus gave his disciples a new command, to love one another. He said all men shall know that ye are my disciples if you love one another.

From a heart of love, the mouth speaks…therefore, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto thee, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

May God richly bless you.
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Steve Ridgway’s Message May 6, 2016

A Lesson from the Persecuted Church: My Utmost for His Highest

Steve Ridgway was the Chief Executive Officer of Open Doors Ministries and traveled extensively, especially in the Middle East. As a result of experiencing many different cultures, Steve observes from the heart of a missionary that life is not to be lived having evil thoughts and being easily offended by others. Our exhortation is to walk in love as Jesus Christ himself is love. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.” The message of the Gospel of Christ is the message of deliverance from the bondage of hatred and sin. Jesus’ mission was to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

Unless we have an understanding of other cultures, we will never be able to love with empathy and compassion as Christ loved. We have been called to share the gospel in “unsafe” places and to “unsafe” people. Eighty percent of the Church of the Body of Christ lives under persecution. We Americans are part of the twenty percent of the Body of Christ where the church is not persecuted. However, the Christian church is exploding in places where persecution is the greatest. For example, sixty five percent of the population of Iran is under the age of 25. Contrary to what the media reports, these young Iranians love America and the freedom our country represents. Although unreported in the news media, the underground Christian church in Iran is growing exponentially. The media paints the Muslim world with a broad brush. However, only a small minority of Iran’s influential Muslim leaders vehemently oppose Christianity and these leaders violently oppress their own people.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “it is said ye shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy…BUT, I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute and despitefully use you.” Loving your enemy can be done only through the love of Christ. Many have seen the viral video where twenty one Christians were lined up on the shores of the Mediterranean by their Muslim captors. They were asked by their captors one one at a time, “do you love Jesus…are you Christian?” All but one answered, “yes I am a Christian.” Each of the twenty Egyptian Christians who professed “Jesus is my Lord” was gruesomely beheaded. When the executioner returned to the twenty first man and asked him again, “Are you a Christian,” he replied, “yes, the testimony and the witness of my brothers has convicted me to profess, yes, I am a Christian.” He too, was beheaded like his other faithful Christian brothers. As the scripture says, “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake, for great is your reward in heaven.”

Islamic terrorists intended to use this viral video as a recruiting tool. However, many young men in the Muslim world have said that this video has compelled them to turn away from the stark evil hatred of these Muslim terrorists and toward Christ. The word of God says, be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good. The Apostle Paul would have been considered by the Christ followers of his day a member of a terrorist group like ISIS. However, what men meant for evil, the Lord meant for Good. Paul’s radical conversion illustrates that the best way to defeat your enemy is to make him your friend and to introduce him to your friend, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Muslim world, no one has ever denied Steve the opportunity to pray for Jesus to heal one of their loved ones. Muslims believe according to the Qur’an that Jesus is the Healer. If we don’t reach them they will rule us. However, the field of the Muslim world is ripe for the harvest. The darker the night the brighter the light shines. It’s not difficult to talk to Muslims. The average Muslim is not a radical extremist. They believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, that he is a great healer, and that he is coming back. They do not believe however, that Jesus is the son of God. The message is, “We have good news for you my Muslim friend…Jesus loves you.” We must win them according to God’s goodness or they will rule us. One compelling question to ask a Muslim is, “do you believe that God can speak to you in a vision?” Their answer will be “Yes” because their holy book says that the Lord reveals himself through visions. Our prayer is that they will meet Jesus in a vision and that he will lead them to the Truth.

Most Muslims don’t want to be Muslims, but they don’t know how not to be. What do the 80% of Christians in the persecuted church need from us? They need our presence and our prayer. Intercessory prayer is God’s force-multiplier. We can pray for them in the name of Jesus and that he will open the doors for salvation through Christ. How do you win Muslims? You win them by praying for them, by being a friend to them, and by valuing them. The goodness and love of God calls a man to repentance. We don’t need to go to the Middle East to witness to Muslims. Muslims within our midst are coming to Christ. We ourselves can choose to engage Muslims in our own neighborhoods. This may not be “politically correct.” However, we need to remember that we are citizens of heaven first and America second. Loving our enemies is politically correct in the Kingdom of heaven.

When we keep our witness to ourselves, the Christian church in the west will continue to decline. However, the persecuted church, 80% of the world’s Christians, is growing exponentially because they know what it means to stand in the front lines of the spiritual battle. They are proving the truth that Christ’s strength is made manifest in their own weakness. We may lament that in the United States we are losing our freedoms. However, in the Middle East, the persecuted Christians would gladly give up their physical freedom to serve their Lord and Savior. They understand what it means to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and to be not entangled with the yoke of spiritual bondage.

Steve recounts the testimony of one Christ-follower he met in an underground small Christian fellowship in the Middle East. This dear brother dropped his pants to show Steve where Islamic terrorists had mutilated his body by castrating him. He testified that his captors ordered him to renounce the name of Jesus. When he refused they brutally castrated him while his wife watched. Then while he was writhing in pain they forced him to watch as they put a bullet through her head at point blank range, murdering her. What has your faith cost you? This man knew first-hand the meaning of Romans 12:1, I beseech you therefore brethren, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy (and wholly) acceptable unto God which is your reasonable act of worship. Because of testimonies like this, the church is exploding in the Muslim world.

The persecuted church knows by experience the meaning of Paul’s words in Philippians 1:20: According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. The question is not whether we will live or die. According to the Word, “it is appointed for all men once to die.” The question is whether or not I will glorify Christ in both life and death. Regarding this verse Oswald Chambers said in his devotional My Utmost for His Highest, “my eager desire is that I will continue to do honor to Christ by fearless courage whether I live or die. We will all be ashamed if we do not yield to him in all areas of our lives where he has asked us to yield to him. It’s as if Paul were saying that my determined purpose is my utmost for his highest… My best for his glory. To reach that level of devotion is a matter of the will, not of debate or reasoning. It is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will at that point. An undue and insidious thought for ourselves is what keeps us from making that decision. Therefore shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in one thing only, my utmost for his highest…to live for him and him alone.”

This is our lesson from the persecuted church: pray for them that revile you, and persecute you, and despitefully use you. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

May God richly bless you,
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message April 29, 2016

Our Call to Influence

The question is, if we could never meet again, would it make a difference in your family, your neighborhood, your church? If we closed our doors today, would it make a difference in your culture and your community? If the Holy Spirit left a lot of churches, would anyone notice? We have been called to influence others for Christ and to make a difference. God has called us as his ambassadors…to be on duty at our post in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation until the Lord releases us from our call of duty.

Do we go to church just to fellowship with those of like minded faith? God has called us to be good to one another, especially those of the household of faith. However, he has also called us to shine as lights in a world of darkness.

Influencers Men’s Ministry doesn’t do fund raising events because that hasn’t been God’s direction. Our prayer is, “God give me that which is my portion.” According to Proverbs 30:8-9, Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. Influencers is like any other mission organization funded by the gifts of those who have been transformed… by men who because of this ministry have allowed God to help himself to their lives. Men’s lives are transformed by fellowship with other men who have decided to live in close proximity with Jesus Christ. Therefore, trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy path. Those who come to Christ must come to him with total abandonment and absolute trust. Jesus Christ died in our stead even while we were yet sinners. For he who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him.

Without Christ, we cannot understand why bad things happen to good people. However, in the presence of Christ, the eyes of our understanding are enlightened that we may understand that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Every local Influencers group is self funded by to those who have purposed in their hearts to give cheerfully from a heart of gratitude. Influencers was started in Arkansas by Rocky Fleming who had a large group of men meeting regularly. However, Rocky came to understand that men in order to grow needed to abide in proximity with Jesus Christ.

Memphis Tennessee, Tulsa Oklahoma, Bakersfield, Fresno, Lancaster, Pismo Beach, Valencia are places where men have risen up to start local Influencers groups. In Orange County, Influencers has been going for 24 years. La Cresentia, Long Beach, Garden Grove, Pasadena, and Beaumont are other communities where men gather to influence one another to allow God to work within their lives to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Rock of Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and other countries in Africa are other areas where Influencers groups are thriving because of men who want an intimate relationship with Christ and one with another as a “band of brothers.”

There has never been a time where ministry to men has been more urgently needed. Ministering to men is training Christian soldiers to become the tip of the sword of the spirit, the Word of truth. It is training laborers for the harvest of God’s people…for the harvest is plenteous but the laborers are few. Oswald Chambers wrote a book about spiritual leadership…where servant leaders are called to serve the Lord Christ from a heart of meekness, humility and love.

We’re a mission, faith based organization to create an environment where the Holy Spirit can come help himself to our lives. We make faith based and not fear based decisions. We exist at God’s pleasure to influence men of God to become just like Jesus Christ. Only 10% of churches have a ministry to men and most of the 90% of churches without a ministry to men are on the decline. The devil has sold most men a bill of goods that our Lord is a hard task master and that his love is contingent on our performance. On the contrary Jesus said, “come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.

We can never out give God. Our prayer is that we may endeavor to give to missions to minister in various ways to God’s purposes. As we reach out to others, God says “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” We’re here to fan one another’s flame that we may set ourselves on fire that others may come from miles around to watch us burn. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven!”

May God richly bless you,
Your brother in Christ,