A sure fire way to damage relationships, minds and emotions is withholding love and affection. Using love and affection to manipulate or punish others is not love nor true affection. It teaches children that true love is conditional, and being some sort of perfectionist is the way to one’s heart. It instills the idea someone is never enough, especially, since perfection is unattainable. Nothing will ever be good enough. While it’s true that it is a bad idea to reward bad behavior, and discipline is necessary, it is also true there is a difference between discipline and abuse. True love disciplines with the view of helping someone become a better version of his or her self. In short, it is always for his or her benefit. Punishment destroys when anger, retaliation and/or displeasure are at its core. The why questions can be very effective when we apply them to ourselves. For instance, “Why am I doing this?” Introspective questions can help cut off misguided behavior and attitudes. “Why do I think this way?” “How is this going to benefit another?” “What are the possible outcomes to what I’m doing (or about to do)?” If we want to love well and build up others, our best Example to emulate is God. Let’s take a look at some ways He deals with us.
The well-known John 3:16 makes something very clear about God: the reason He does anything for us is love. He gave and constantly gives because He loved us first. The verse does not say, “The world was perfect, so He sent His only begotten Son.” Here’s what it really says: “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.” His love was not predicated on our “good and perfect behavior.” In fact, His love created a way to raise us up out of our sin. He gave us His perfection, so that we could be made perfect or whole in Jesus Christ. Remember, perfection on our part is unattainable. 2 Corinthians 5:21For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
Scripture makes it clear that God disciplines us for own good (read Hebrews 12:1-11). He gave us everything we need to be partakers of His divine nature (see 2 Peter 1:1-4). God never withholds love; however, because of His great love He will do things we don’t always understand or even agree with for that matter. Moreover, His love will cause Him to not do things we think He should. He knows the long-game, and views it with our benefit in mind.
If you want your marriage to fail, punish your spouse by withholding love and affection. In some cases, spouses sought affection from those more willing to give. This does not excuse adultery. No way, no how! For clarity purposes, understand that failure to celebrate your spouse may underscore a possible temptation to seek fulfillment of his or her need to be loved or valued elsewhere. If you decide your spouse’s behavior, or what he or she does for you is more important than your spouse, your priorities are out of order. God’s love gives everyone the freedom to do what they will -good or bad. Love enables your loved ones to freely serve you without resentment. Which is better, taking or receiving? Of course, this principle applies to other relationships, including the ones found in a churches.
How many adults are people-pleasers because their parents or close family members withheld love and affection from them? More than any of us can count! They didn’t receive the love they needed, and therefore, never learned to properly love themselves. That is, the way God loves them. As a result, many have become needy because the vacuum has never been filled. It makes it difficult for some to receive the Father’s love, because they equate their parents’ love to His. However, once they connect to His love, they become unstoppable. They become free to be who they were designed to be, regardless of people’s opinions. Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32). Your inner healing begins with a relationship with Him. Immersion in His love will enable you to love well. Your intentionality to be love as He is love will go through the roof. You can’t help but desire to edify others. If you find you cannot say, “No” when you should say no, you may have a disconnect. Connect to His heart, and you win!
If you desire unbreakable relationships and see your loved ones thrive, make the decision to love them well. Be affectionate. When someone or something needs correction, ask God for the necessary wisdom to handle it the right way. 1 Peter 4:8Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails . . .
By definition, a gimmick is a novel device (trick) or idea designed primarily to attract attention or increase appeal, often with little intrinsic value. Notice it seldom has built-in or essential value. In relation to church growth, consider what Scripture has to say.
Psalm 127:1Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.
Whether methods or things used to build a church might be considered gimmicks would be determined by why they’re being implemented in the first place. Where did the ideas come from? Are they Spirit led or contrivances of people to simply build a big church? What makes a church effective is not necessarily based on its size. It’s the results that matter. Consider the Great Commission.
Matthew 28:19-20Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Did Jesus say, “Go and build churches?” Not exactly; however, churches do come into existence when we obey what He actually said, “Make disciples.” So why so many books and seminars on church growth? Nothing wrong with books and seminars in of themselves, but are they engaged in true discipleship, or just getting people into your church? Why the emphasis on church growth to begin with? When you examine the book of Acts for example, you will probably notice a correlation between the moving of Holy Spirit with actual numbers and results. On the Day of Pentecost, how many people received His word and were baptized when Peter stood up with the twelve? About 3,000 (see Acts 2:1-47). Not only that, we’re told that “The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Who added to the number? The Lord! In Peter’s second recorded message, we find that 5,000 were added. There were no gimmicks used.
We’ve already established that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Body; otherwise known as the Church. We also know that we walk by faith, and that churches are built by faith. There is a key ingredient required for something to be of faith, and that is hearing and hearing by the Word of God (see Acts 10:17). There is a very significant phrase in Acts 1:1-2 to which is worth paying attention: “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.” What does that mean to us? Simply that our marching orders come from Jesus Christ through Holy Spirit. Throughout Scripture, we find that the Holy Spirit was involved in everything the disciples did. Simply read the book of Acts, and you will find example after example. The Apostles didn’t act on their own accord; they waited on the Lord.
Another vital element of faith is love, since faith works by love (see Galatians 5:6). That leads to a couple important questions when it comes to what we do in the Church. Is this what Jesus wants done? Why am I doing this? Some things sound really good, especially if we’ve seen them used successfully elsewhere. However, it’s one thing to a good thing; it’s quite another to do the right thing. We can turn a God-given thing into a gimmick by merely copying what someone else did. Moreover, we can use something that worked at particular time, and turn it into a tradition of man. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” You may be given a direction for a moment or period of time, but that does not necessarily mean it should be replicated over and over. Unless of course, the Lord says so. It would be very easy to move from faith to formulas; from a genuine move of God to a move of man. Such traditions can vacate faith and effectiveness.
If ambition is the real motive behind what anyone does, then faith has very little to do with the action or method. Why? It’s not based on love. Faith works by love, remember? If you do things to feel important, you’ve already missed the fact that you are important to God.
Some may ask if technology and the use of modern instruments are gimmicks. Both of these are neutral. It’s what’s behind them that counts. Face it, technology can be very instrumental in helping our effectiveness. Communication is huge in this area. People play modern instruments as deep personal expressions of worship to God, based on their love for Him. Obviously, they can be used with wrong motives and have less than stellar results. It boils down to love and the will of the Lord. At the same time, it’s a great idea to guard our hearts from becoming dependent on methods and technology, instead of depending on the Lord. Pray and obey. If He leads you to do something, go with it. If He doesn’t, you may want to wait until He says go, if He does indeed say go. Obedience is key to avoiding gimmickry.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Are you where you’re supposed to be? Are you doing your own thing, or what God has called you to do? Do you really believe Jesus Christ is Lord of all and the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18), or do you merely say so?
In relation to where you’re supposed to be, are you at the right church? If you’re not in one, why not? People says things like, “I want to be part of a church that . . .” You fill in the blank. Of course, others say, “I don’t’ need to go to church to be a Christian.” It sounds as if they are more concerned with what pleases them than about what pleases Jesus. 1 Corinthians 12:18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. Understand that Jesus has His reasons for where He places everyone. It is His decision to make; not ours. Church hoppers jump from one church to another because they’re looking to please their flesh. Not to be confused with those who are visiting different congregations until they find the right one according to the will of the Lord. The bottom line is that they are determined in their heart to be where the Lord wants to plant them.
Have you left a church, or perhaps you’re thinking about leaving? For what reason(s)? Being offended, or dissatisfied with the way things are done and so on, are not legitimate reasons to leave. They may appear so, but the only reason to stay or go is because the Lord said so. Granted, there may be places which are not exactly what He intended; however, that may very well be the reason He would have you stay. Another purpose is the work He is doing in you. Proverbs 27:17Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. If one has been offended, then perhaps he is at the right place. There may something contrary to the nature of God coming to the surface that needs to be addressed. Frankly, for some, it does not matter what church they attend, they’ll always get offended. That means the problem is with the individual; not the congregation or even the leadership. They may have an underlying agenda that keeps getting in the way. In short, ask Jesus where He wants you, and allow Holy Spirit to lead you.
It can be hard for leadership to see people coming and going, especially for pastors. One thing that might make this easier is simply submitting individuals to the will of the Lord. If they’re called somewhere else, encourage them to obey His voice and bless them as they go. They’re called to go; they’re not leaving you. Contrary to what some might believe, someone is not necessarily “backslidden” because he or she left. In fact, it’s quite the opposite if he or she left out of obedience.
Ephesians 4:1-6I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
As stated in a previous blog (Understanding Your Bible), we cannot approach the Bible like an ordinary text book, because it is not a textbook.It is important to allow Holy Spirit to guide us through its pages, so the words we read become His Word to us.We cannot equate earthly principle and knowledge to heavenly things.It’s important to allow God to speak to us on His terms.The Bible is not subject to private interpretation; nonetheless, people continue to try to create and disseminate their own views as though they are the absolute truth.Hence, there are doctrines of men and demons.There is only one true Doctrine of Christ, and there is only one viewpoint we should concern ourselves with: God’s!Don’t try to compress the Word of God into your limited intellect; rather, allow the Mind of Christ to blow your mind with His truth as He sees it.In short, the Bible far exceeds the capacity of human reason; and yet, God intends for us to know it.He does not waste anything, including the words found on the pages of The Book.The diligent who have a sincere heart to know His Word will come to know it by faith.Without trying to conform the words found in the Bible to limited understanding,let them say what they say.Allow His Word to conform your mind to His thoughts and ways.In so doing, those words you read will make more and more sense to you.Your spirit understands, it takes time for the rest of you to catch up.Let Holy Spirit reveal what God meant by what He said.Some have adopted an attitude that says, “I know what you said, Lord; but this is what you meant!”Scary!
Here is one statement Jesus said: “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2, KJV). Some have asked if “rooms” would be an appropriate rendering in lieu of “mansions.” Before going any further, understand no one is asking you take this writing at face value. Search the Scripture for yourself to see if it is so. What is about to be presented are some things to consider. This is not an exhaustive study by any means, but it is designed to give the curious a place to start. Ask Holy Spirit to guide you.
The New Testament word (Greek [Strong’s Concordance number, 3438]) means residence (the act or place), mansion, habitation or abode. There is nothing in the word to indicate separate compartments. It is rendered as “abode” or “mansion” (KJV, American Standard Version and Revised Standard Version). The only other place it is used is John 14:23: Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him. The Amplified Bible and The New American Standard Bible use “dwelling places.” Jay P. Green Sr.’s Interlinear Bible uses “dwellings,” while George Ricker Berry’s Interlinear say, “abodes,” So yes, “mansions” most definitely apply. Obviously, we cannot describe their construction; however, in context, Jesus makes it clear that there’s room for everyone who believes.
The New International Version (NIV) and English Standard Version (ESV) use the word, “rooms” in their translation. However, in the NIV’s case, it is not a word for word translation; rather, it is more thought for thought. This is not meant to get into some sort of debate about what version to use. It is strictly for awareness. What you decide read or study is between you and God. In short, ask Him to lead you. On the surface, it might appear “house” would infer a single building in reference to “My Father’s house.” If that were the case, it would naturally make sense that there would be rooms involved. Remember, the earthly is not the heavenly. So what does “house” refer to?
As we search for the definition of this word, or any other for that matter, keep in mind that it is important to go beyond the dictionary for its meaning. In other words, it’s essential to use both word study tools (language dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, etc.) and biblical context to get a more accurate definition. “House” (3614, Strong’s Concordance number) means residence (abstractly), but usually (concretely) an abode (literally and figuratively). It not only refers to a building or a house; it also means household, estate (including one’s possessions) or family. In the Bible it is rendered as “home,” “house” or “household.” Consider the following for biblical context:
2 Corinthians 5:1-5For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, Who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
Revelation 21:1-4And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God (read entire chapter).
There are many passages of Scripture to examine, and many more aspects to consider in relation to these few passages of Scripture. That being said, here is one more thing to consider: none of us can say emphatically what all lies ahead of us, we only know in part at this present moment. We’ve been given snapshots of things to come, but they do not give the entire picture. You can be sure that whatever lies ahead, it will exceed any expectations you may have.
Have you ever gave sound advice, but it felt like you were just talking to the wall?Perhaps, it was the other way around, someone gave you words of wisdom, but you didn’t listen.We’re not talking about the stereotypical, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve made up my mind!”Simply, something went wrong shortly into the conversation.Didyou know it’s possible to turn godly wisdom into confusion?If we truly want to give and receive wisdom from above, then it would be best to recognize what God’s wisdom looks like.Let’s first look at the components of wisdom, then how people corrupt it, even with the best intentions.And finally, how do we keep it pure.
James 3:17-18But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
In order for wisdom to be complete, all these elements must be present: purity or righteousness; peace; gentleness; reasonableness (easy to receive or obey); mercy; good fruits; impartiality and without hypocrisy or pretense.Take away any one of them, and you have partial or even ungodly wisdom.If we allow the flesh to get involved, it’s over!We’ve all seen those conversations that started peaceably, but then turned into debate, and then escalated into a heated argument.Nothing good was accomplished.What happened?Pride found an opening, crept in and took over the conversation.At that point, natural or even demonic wisdom was at play.So what are the elements of this kind of wisdom?
James 3:14-16But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual (natural), devilish (demonic). For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
Some key ingredients that maintain godly wisdom are love and humility.Love seeks the truth in order to benefit the other person.Pride uses factual statements to look good in front of others.Lust causes arguments, which simply is self-centeredness on steroids (see James 4:1-6).If you feel like you have to prove your thesisto save face, you’re departing from love.Remember, Holy Spirit does the convicting; it’s not our job.If we try to do the convicting, we may actually start using shame like a weapon.If we remain mindful to speak what He wants us to say, conviction will come because our words will be spirit and truth.1 Peter 4:11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (see also John 6:63).
Love has to remain at the forefront of the conversation.An interesting aspect of love is it allows others to make their own decisions and choices.As a messenger of God, you’re only responsibility is to deliver the message in love.What other people do with it is not up to you; it is up to them.In this sense, they are not accountable to you; they’re accountable to the Lord.If you attempt to convince them of the veracity of the message, and tell them what to do, it is very possible to undo everything that was said.If a person feels like you’re meddling in his affairs, he will reject what is spoken.Stay on task, and leave the rest to God.Truthfully, the main thing left for you to do is simply love and pray for him.
If we are recipients, it is vital to stay teachable.Humility is the order of the day.Humility will lead to an honest assessment of what we need in the moment.We cannot afford to become prideful, nor resort to anger if we don’t like what we’re hearing.That kind of anger is not our friend.James 1:19-20 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.There is a time to listen and a time to speak.In all, it’s important to be Spirit led.One can have the right message, but still deliver it at the wrong time.One can deliver a message at the right time, but deliver it the wrong way.It is important to be slow and deliberate before speaking, even if the message is urgent.In short, if one is motivated by anything other than love, more than likely the message will be rejected, the dialogue will degenerate and no one will be the better for it.Keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace with all love, will lead to the right solutions.This is wisdom from above!