Thoughts from Mike Ryan’s Message June 24, 2016

To Desire the Lord, Remember KFLO

We’re always looking for men to talk to them about the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the one man we should be looking for is the man in the mirror. What is it that a man of God should desire most? God said through the Psalmist, “delight thyself also in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” In order to desire the things of God we must actively, deliberately, and purposefully delight ourselves in the Lord. Then when our delight is his delight, and our desire his desire God will work in us and through us to will and to do of his good pleasure.

To desire the Lord and to set our affection on things above, remember the acronym KFLO.

The first and highest desire is represented by the letter K: to “Know God deeply and abidingly”…to know his character and his nature. The Bible says repeatedly, rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Know him intimately because he’s worth knowing. According to Philippians 3, Paul said, “I consider all things but loss except for the knowledge of God.” Everything else is worthless, detestable, and repugnant except for knowing the Lord. The Lord through the Apostle Paul says, in Ephesians 1:17, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of mercy may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened that you may know the hope of your calling and the riches of the glory of your inheritance in the Saints. This passage refers to the precise and correct knowledge of our Father. We must know correctly who God is according to his rightly divided Word. Prayer cannot come from a depth of fear, rather prayer must come from a confident and faith-based trust in the sovereign Lord. Unless the Lord builds the house it is built in vain. Jesus said, “ye do err, not knowing the scriptures or the power of God.” An intimate knowledge of God is required to appropriate the power of God.

F stands for “following Christ more closely.” In any situation the best course of action is to closely watch Jesus. Our heart’s desire must be to “choke in the Master’s dust.” Jesus said, “if you continue in my word, then shall you be my disciples (disciplined followers) indeed. When we follow him closely there is no distance between myself and my Lord. Follow him in lockstep. He knows the destination and the way. Jesus said, “If anyone comes after me he must deny himself, pick up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus said to the crowds that followed him, if you want to be my disciples, you will need to “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” They didn’t understand that he was talking about the communion ceremony that would memorialize his death and resurrection to redeem them from their sin nature. They did not follow Jesus around because they wanted to be his disciplined followers. They just wanted to be entertained by witnessing a miracle. At that point the crowds scattered because they didn’t understand the depth of the commitment required to follow Christ.

L stands for “loving him more deeply.” If you profess to love Christ, but don’t do his will, do you really love him? Do we desire to love him the way he asks us to love him? Jesus said that anyone who loves his father or mother more than me does not deserve me, he is not worthy of me. The example of love is that Jesus Christ, even while we were yet sinners, laid down his life for us. To lie down means to appoint or to position ourselves to serve our Lord by serving one another. Jesus Christ said, in this shall they know that you are my disciples in that you love one another.

O stands for “obeying Christ more completely.” In our politically correct culture, the word “obey” is a dirty word. But if anyone obeys his word, truly his love is made complete. Chose ye this day whom you will serve and obey, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” His obedience resulted in your salvation and mine. Therefore, trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.

Remember the acronym KFLO: to know him more intimately, to follow him more closely, to love him more deeply and to obey him more completely. The prayer if a man of God is, “Oh for a closer walk with thee… But what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Gary Stubblefield’s Message June 17, 2016

What about Divorce and Reconciliation?

In Matthew 19. When Jesus had departed from Galilee the Pharisees came unto him testing him saying, “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

All married men have marital problems. From time to time because we’re all fallen human beings we will have disagreements. Divorce is always a sad occasion. In times past some churches considered divorce an “unpardonable sin.” However, there is a measure of healing that comes from the love and mercy of God.

Long before Moses wrote the 5 books of the Pentateuch, there was the “Code of Hammurabi,” the law code of ancient Mesopotamia. This code said that a man could divorce his wife at any time and for any reason. If after the man left, the woman developed a farm that prospered, the man could return later and claim the wife’s property. The first of two Old Testament passages about the subject of marriage and divorce resolves this injustice. According to Deuteronomy 24:1-4: When a wife takes a man and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, he writes a certificate of divorce and sends her out of his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

This passage raises the question, “What does indecency mean?” What is the grounds for divorce? This is the subject of the second Old Testament scripture about divorce. Exodus 21:8-11 says “If a woman does not please her master who has paid for her and selected her as a wife for himself, he must let her be redeemed… If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.” The man has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. This passage implies that the marriage vow includes marriage terms of fidelity, affection and provision. If any of these terms is broken, the injured party can leave and does not annul the right to remarry. According to this passage, there are three grounds for divorce: abandonment which is breaking the vow to provide, abuse, or breaking the vow to love, and infidelity, which is breaking the vow to be committed one to the other.

In Jesus’ day there were two forms of Rabbinical doctrine, about the meaning of the word “indecency.” The group that followed Rabbi Hillel said indecency consists of sexual immorality and any other cause whatsoever. The followers of Rabbi Shammai said that indecency meant adultery and only sexual unfaithfulness was grounds for divorce. The Hillel group was composed only of men. From this man-centered viewpoint, even if the wife burned the toast or dressed inappropriately, either offense could be grounds for divorce. The drawback of Hillel’s teaching was that the certificate of divorce had an explicit condition. If the wife could prove that her husband had committed adultery he would have to pay her a support tax.

The story of the angel’s encounter with Mary results in Joseph considering a certificate of divorce. The angel Gabriel said, “Hail Mary blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” Mary said to Joseph during their betrothal, “I have good news and bad news, I’m pregnant but I’m still a virgin. I have never been with a man. I was impregnated by the Holy Spirit.” Joseph upon hearing this news said to himself “I’ll put her away privately and obtain a certificate of divorcement so I won’t be obligated to pay her the support tax.”

The two opposing viewpoints regarding the meaning of “indecency” as grounds for divorce triggered the Pharisee’s question to Jesus, “How do you interpret the meaning of indecency in Exodus 21?” Jesus quoted from Genesis about God’s design that marriage is meant to be a permanent commitment. Jesus said, “if you divorce for any reason other than your spouse’s unfaithfulness and marry another, you’re committing adultery.”

In Roman times, Herod the king who was married fell in love with Herodias, his brother’s wife. John the Baptist was politically incorrect when he pointed out the error of Herod’s taking his brother’s wife. Jesus likewise was politically incorrect when he answered the Pharisee’s question, “I’m a Shammai guy: Sexual infidelity is the meaning of “indecency” in Exodus 21.” However, Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. What then, is today’s grounds for divorce? If a wife is abused by her husband, isn’t the wise and reasonable course of action to get out of danger? At that point the husband has broken the commitment to love his wife. The Roman laws about marriage and divorce in the early church were in chaos like they are today. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul taught the believers that “when in Rome, do NOT do as the Romans do. Paul’s exhortation to Christians is to model the nature of Jesus Christ himself. Willful desertion was already a condition for a certificate of divorcement in Exodus 21. Jesus and Paul both knew the law about abuse, abandonment, and sexual immorality as marriage conditions in the Old Testament.

When there is a defiant attitude against reconciliation, the relationship will be permanently broken. One divorce recorded in the Word of God touches all of us. This is about the covenant that God made with his bride, the nation of Israel. That bride was commanded to be faithful to God. However, the nation of Israel committed adultery and turned their back on a loving God. Jeremiah chapter 3 recounts the sad story about God’s writ of divorce against Israel because of all of her adulteries. However God always makes a way of redemption and reconciliation. God’s divorce workshop was the Cross of Calvary. Hosea 2:19-20 is the prophecy about the future reconciliation or the Lord with Israel: I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion, I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.

As Christians, we have all divorced our hearts from our Lord. In this respect we are all adulterers. However, God keeps reconciling us back to himself. For if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and forgive us from all unrighteousness. To reconcile with God we must meet our Lord at the foot of the cross. Ephesians 5 says, “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” To reconcile with our wives, we must likewise meet each other at the foot of the cross. A threefold cord is not quickly broken. 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.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message June 10, 2016

Love Versus a Critical Spirit

The “charity checklist” in 1 Corinthians 13 says Love is patient and kind, love makes no parade, it gives itself no airs, it is not boastful or proud. Love is never rude, it is never envious, never resentful. Love does not seek to reward itself. Love is not easily provoked. Love thinks no evil of others and keeps no record of wrongs. Love is always eager to believe the best of others. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… Love never fails.

In any church assembly there are two kinds of people: Christians who know Jesus and non-Christians who don’t. Among the Christians there are also two kinds of people: those who have received salvation and follow Christ casually and those who are committed to follow Christ from a heart of unconditional love. Casual Christians who still think as a child have not grown up into the heart of the love of God. These “baby” Christians love conditionally and have not committed themselves to become like their Lord. Only those committed to the truth will we be set free. Only those committed to follow Christ from a heart of unconditional love will experience the fullness of the joy of the Lord.

If we’re on a performance based system, we will never enter into the love of God. There is nothing that we can do to deserve God’s love. The love of God is unconditional…it is not contingent on our performance. The world’s love is conditional on whether the other person performs… on whether one party hurts the other party. This type of love is doomed to failure. It is here today and gone tomorrow. Conditional love, even in a marriage relationship will fail. However, the love of God keeps no record of wrongs done. The love of God will overcome all obstacles. This type of love requires that we surrender our hearts to our Lord Jesus Christ. To love others unconditionally we must meet each other at the foot of the cross. Love endures only when we love unconditionally with the love of Christ in us. Unconditional love requires that I give up my own “human” rights in order to surrender to the righteousness of God in Him.

A critical spirit will break up any relationship. It blinds our eyes to everything that is attractive in the other person. “Falling out of love” is a deliberate intentional act of the will to turn against the other party. However the love of God thinks no evil of others. It keeps no record of wrongs done. It has the capacity to persist even when there is no reciprocal response from the other person. A critical spirit must be fed.. Focusing on how the other person has “violated my human rights” will result in contempt and resentment. In contrast the love of God gives gladly and its reward is in the pure loving act of giving. The love of God says “forgive her even though she’s done nothing to deserve forgiveness.” God says that the marriage relationship according to his Word is the picture of Christ and the Church. Jesus Christ loved unconditionally those whom God would call and he endured the cross because of the joy set before him… His joy was your redemption and mine. According to Ephesians 5: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

God has revealed his truth to everyone through the glory of the handiwork of His creation. Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Even the Devils believe and tremble. However, the devil is the deceiver and the accuser. His critical spirit deceives us to question God and his motives. He distracts from the glory of our sovereign God by telling us that the purpose of our life is to be “self actualized” with the emphasis on self. The original sin is when Eve believed the devil’s lie that “ye shall be as God… God’s not God, you are.”

Although my heart says it’s hard to surrender, the spiritual love of God says that surrendering to his will is my only option. As Peter said, “to whom else shall we go Lord? Only thou hast the words of eternal life.” In Matthew 11 Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The ultimate freedom is the ultimate captivity… for ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. From the heart of Christ in us, our first priority is “make me a captive Lord, and then I shall be free.”

Therefore, delight thyself also in the Lord and he will give thee the desires of thy heart. When we “set our affections on things above” and deliberately make his delight our delight, then God will work in us and through us to will and to do of his good pleasure. Prayer is aligning our heart with his heart… aligning our good pleasure with his good pleasure. Our joy is in the the next step in the journey of life: I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me. The joy is to live by faith and to let go and let God work his miracles in our lives. A heart of love and gratitude will defeat the critical spirit in everything we say and do. God calls us to surrender under the shadow of his mighty hand…this is the doorway to the more than abundant life. As the prophet Micah said, but what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. Living under God’s grace, forgiveness, and loving kindness is living in the joy of the Lord.

The two kinds of Christians are “carnal” Christians who walk according to the flesh and spiritual Christians who walk according to the Love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation. Jesus said, “In this shall they know that ye are my disciples, that they love one another.” The love of God suffers long and is kind. It gives unconditionally and forgives the unforgivable. To know the love of God and the joy of the Lord, I forgave and set the prisoner free only to find that the prisoner was me.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message June 3, 2016

Love Wins, Part 4

The basis of the love of God is goodness and mercy, for loving kindness and tender mercy are the nature of God himself. Unconditional love is to love the unloveable. This is the type of love whereby God loved us. For even while we were yet sinners, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. We cannot fathom the depth of the love of God this side of heaven. In 1 Corinthians 13, we’re reminded that whatever we do, even if we give ourselves to be burned alive, if we do it without the love of God, it will be of no significance, it will profit us nothing whatsoever. The charity checklist says that charity, the love of God, suffers long and is kind; it does not glory in itself; it makes no parade. Love is never rude, never irritable, it is not easily provoked. Love thinks no evil of others; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. It is always eager to believe the best. Charity, the love of God beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never fails.

Everything in this life will come to an end, including manifestations of the gift of the spirit. However love will always endure. Our exhortation is to grow up into the heart of Christ in us the hope of glory. For when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things. Growing up into the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation will profit us not only in this life, but also in eternity.

Agape love is unselfish: It does not concentrate on its own well being. This truth flies in the face of our WIIFM (what’s in it for me) culture. Even so-called “churchinanity” is not immune from this insidious worldly doctrine. 1 Corinthians reminds us that the love of God is not about me. Ultimately it’s about Him. In him we live and move and have our being. However, the old man of the flesh is “heavily defended territory.” Only by the love of God can we conquer the God of self. Religion emphasizes the works of the flesh. Religion says that I can approach the throne of grace if I’m “good enough.” However, Jesus Christ said to the religious leaders, “in vain do they worship me, they draw near me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” They think that they can approach God in their own goodness and self righteousness. Religion says that I’m good and that I can really love only those who are “good” like me. The religious Pharisees of Jesus’ time would not “defile” themselves by associating with others whom they deemed were “not good enough.” Their “self righteousness” was the one thing that Jesus opposed the most. He called the Pharisees “whitewashed cemeteries.” They appear beautiful and carefully manicured on the outside, but inside they are rotten and full of dead men’s bones.

Jesus said that if you abide in me, you shall bear the fruit of Agape Love. The characteristic of agape love is that God, through Jesus Christ’s atonement accepts you just as you are. This is the essence of the goodness and loving kindness of our Heavenly Father. The heart of God is love and forgiveness. Jesus said that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the religious leaders, you have no part in the kingdom of Heaven. How then can our righteousness exceed their righteousness? We must shake off “religiosity,” man’s so-called “goodness” which is a form of godliness, in order to enter into the genuine love of God. The nature of “churchinanity” is to squeeze you into its mold of conformity. The opposing factions of “denominations” divide those who think that they’re following the truth of the Word. How do you tell which is the correct road, the right way. Jesus said that there are two trees, one that gives good fruit and one that gives evil fruit. There are two houses, one built on the sand and the other built on the rock. Jesus said, by their fruit you shall know them. What is the foundation of your faith? Upon which rock is the building of your faith founded? Jesus Christ himself is the chief cornerstone, the foundation of our faith.

Jesus did not call us to church, rather he called us unto himself. Jesus said “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things shall be added unto you.” The apostle Paul said, “we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ and him crucified.” It’s not about us and our own righteousness, it’s about him. Jesus exhorted his disciples to be “narrow minded.” He said that I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the father but by me. There is a narrow way through the narrow gate. Jesus Christ himself is the narrow way.

Oswald Chambers said that the greatest hindrance to God is the “servants” of God. These “servants” are consumed by their “busy-ness” trying to approach the throne of grace. However, Jesus said, nothing you do is good enough. God is not concerned about your “performance.” He is however, concerned about your heart. 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.

Jesus Christ came and redeemed us so that we may receive his righteousness. For he who knew no sin became the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him. Jesus called us to love unconditionally according to the love of God in Christ in us. Our prayer is that we should “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” We need to cultivate an appetite to serve God from a heart of love.

According to the prayer of St. Francis,
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

According to John 13:34-35, A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Do you say, “I love you Lord?” The key to loving God is to love God’s people. Jesus Christ said, “in that ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren you have done it unto me.”

May God richly bless you,
Your brother in Christ,