Tree of Life Blog

Engaging Culture with the wisdom and power of Christ!

A Lifestyle of Grace 01: Getting Grace Right

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Grace #1 – What Is Grace? | Westheights

One of my passions is that grace must not just be a doctrine we teach, it must be the way we live. I have a real concern that people are more concerned with dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s of grace teaching correctly that they do not know how to be gracious.

If you are the one with the right understanding of grace, but in every argument you go high, rather than go low and seek to listen and learn, you in fact do not have the right understanding of grace. Grace must permeate our lives, our confidence, our prayers, our relationships, how we perform at work, how we live out our marriage, everything. Grace has to be the way we live! The doctrines of grace must become flesh in our graciousness in our lifes!

If you think grace is an excuse for sin, a licence to sin, or God ignoring sin, you have not understood a thing about grace. Not Biblical grace, which actually teaches us to say “no” to sin (Titus 2.212). What has happened so sadly in many “grace “churches and ministries is what happened in the day of Jude – “some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives” (Jude v.4).

So let’s start by thinking about what grace actually is and how it can transform our lives. In this first post, we will look at what grace really is.

Grace at its simplest is this: God accepts you just the way you are, independent of your performance, your rituals, your actions. In other words, God loves you despite your worst behaviour and He loves you despite your best behaviour. Your goodness, your badness – none of it changes how much God loves you, accepts you and adores you.

The problem is that in most areas of life the world has linked acceptance with behaviour and performance. You start school and immediately your behaviour and performance are being reported on! Even with the best of parents loving you unconditionally as best they could, the idea that performance and acceptance are entwined starts infecting our souls. We then start our first job, and again acceptance and performance are linked. We watch the TV and the adverts tells us if you drive the wrong car, or use the wrong soap, you will not be acceptable to people!

Because of this constant linking of behaviour and acceptance in the world, it is all to easy to bring this into our faith in God, and our walk with God, and develop a religion of performance. We have to understand that is not the way God relates to us. God relates to us with grace. If you never did anything good ever again, if you burned your Bible to ash, if you burned the church down, if you never tithed and never gave in the offering and spent all your money on drink and drugs, God will still love you, accept you and adore you, exactly the same as if you lived 100% for Jesus! That’s grace!

You are accepted by God, you are valued by God, you are righteous, pure, holy. You are accepted, loved and adored by God. That is grace. We have to settle this before we can live a life of grace – you are accepted no matter what you have done, no matter what you are doing, no matter what you ever do. That is grace!

If you do not build that foundation, I could preach a great message on tithing, on prayer, on living for Jesus, but your mind because you are not settled on the unconditional love of God, would twist a great message into a message about performance. I say “lete’s share our faith”, and people who do not get grace hear “let’s share our faith or God will stop loving us”. If I say “let’s pray daily”, people who do not get grace hear “let’s pray daily or God will not accept us”. That’s not the way. We do not do things to be accepted, we are accepted, loved and adored by God irrespective of behaviour.

That is grace. If we do not understand what grace is, that God loves us totally unconditionally, then everything else in our lives gets twisted. You might have some good doctrines of grace, but unless you start to live a life of grace, you will never walk in victory. Unless it is settled in your heart that God accepts you without qualification, then you will not grow or develop as a Christian. We must understand and appreciate that God accepts us no matter what. That His love is without conditions. Then we are in a position to build a living genuine life of grace, and not a fake grace that leads to immoral lives.

The Greek word for grace is charis, it means a totally undeserved kindness. All of God’s love for you, all His acceptance of you – it is totally undeserved. You do not deserve it, you cannot earn it, it is not a reward, it is not wages.

A lot of us see God’s acceptance as wages, a reward for a job well done. Then if we do not do the job well, we feel that we have somehow lost God’s favour, acceptance and love. But it is not wages, it is a gift. You cannot earn it, you can never deserve it. That’s grace!

The Commander of the Lord’s Army

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BATTLE of JERICHO | Joshua 6; Angel of the Lord; Walls of Jericho; Rahab  helps spies; Invasion of Canaan

13 When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”

14 “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”

At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”

15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. (Joshua 5.13-15, NLT)

Moses has died, and now Joshua as the leader of the Israelites is tasked with getting them into the Promised Land on the other side of the river Jordan. The people have crossed the river and are camping, waiting to start conquering the land. The manna stopped and the people ate something other than manna for the first time in four decades.

Joshua left the camp to go for a walk – to pray, to scout out the land, to think, we don’t know why – but he is looking at Jericho. I can imagine those high walls were more than a major concern to him. He looks around and realizes he has no battering rams, no ladders, no trebuchets, nothing that can get in. Just some sticks, a few swords and a whole lot of inexperience.

As Joshua is getting closer to the city, he sees a man with a drawn sword in His hand, and asks a great question to ask any armed man approaching you – whose side are you on! The man says “No, I am not on your side, I am in charge”. We are here to serve God’s purposes in our generation, He is not here to serve ours. There is a sense that He is for us – He loves us and cares for us and will do anything for us, but there is another sense in which we need to come in line with His purposes. If we pick a fight with someone for carnal reasons, we cannot then go “hey God is on my side”, it does not work like that. The battle is the Lords and the way we win is join Him and His strength, and yield and submit to Him as the Great Commander.

Joshua’s response is wonderful. He takes his sandals off, which is a powerful reminder of Moses at the burning bush. You see Moses needed to know God was the great I Am, the God who could provide, the God who was there. When we first becoming Christians and start our journey that revelation is the one we need. He is the I am. But to take our land of promises, to win our battles, we need a new revelation – He is not just the God who is always there, He is the Commander of Armies, He is the God of strength and victory!

This man was no angel, Joshua fell on his face before him and no angel would receive that worship. No angel is the Commander of the Lord’s Armies. This is none other than Jesus Himself.

Not only that, the plan to take Jericho is one only Jesus could come up with. Walk around the city and shout and the walls will come down. When you come to know Jesus not just as the provider, and start to yield to His leadership and authority, and have a revelation of His authority, power and command, He will start giving you strategies to take cities, to knock down walls and to inherit your land of promises.

Moses, A Prophet Like Jesus

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A Prophet Like Moses

In the book of Deuteronomy, prophesying the coming Messiah, the Lord speaks to Moses and says the Messiah will actually be someone like Moses:

15 Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. (Deut. 18.15)

That’s a remarkable thing to say: Jesus is like Moses! Jesus is a prophet like Moses. The more I study the life of Moses, the more I see a parallel with his life and that of Jesus, and it shows me Jesus more. Right from the start of Moses’ life, there are parallels to the life of Jesus, pictures prophesying and pointing to the coming Christ!

Look at the beginning of the life of Moses:

About this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him. (Exodus 2.1-4)

Right at this time the Israelites have been slaves for 400 years. 400 years have passed without God speaking. The people are reduced to slavery, and it is hard for them. Pharaoh is concerned about the Jews! They are growing in numbers and he is concerned that they could even overturn the great Egyptian empire (Exodus 1.7). So he decided to start murdering the Jewish babies. It was the first of many such attempts on planet earth to wipe out the Jewish people! The plan was to kill all the male babies, but let all the female babies live. The male babies were supposed to be thrown into the Nile and drowned. Moses, a baby boy was ordered to be thrown into the Nile. And he was thrown into the Nile, but protected by the ark that his mother made for him, he did not die, but that saved him.

When Jesus was born, there was a king ruling Israel. The people of God were under martial law from a foreign invader, and there had been 400 years of silence. It parallels perfectly. This king ruling over Israel, he was not an Egyptian Pharaoh but he was like them. He was violent, concerned about a Jewish uprising, and as soon as this King, Herod, was told that the Messiah was coming, ordered the murder of all the male babies. Both Moses and Jesus grew up in a time where male babies were being murdered. Moses’ deliverance from the Nile was a picture that the prophet like him, when he came, would be the survivor of a government supported massacre of boy babies!

Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter and brought up as her own. Jesus was adopted by Joseph and brought up as his own. Both had to be called out of Egypt – Jesus went to Egypt to avoid the massacre in Bethlehem, and Moses was setting his people free!

Both set their people free from slavery, Moses from the slavery of the cruel Egyptians, Jesus from the slavery of sin, sickness and death.

Both of them turned their back on untold riches and glory to go into the wilderness to set God’s people free!

Both of them were rejected by the very people they wanted to rescue!

Both were shepherds. Moses was an actual shepherd for Jethro, Jesus was and is the good shepherd.

Both did miracles. Moses turned water into blood, showing the power of the law to bring death. Jesus turned water into wine, showing the power of the gospel to bring joy and freedom!

Both were examples of the highest levels of humility,. Moses was the most humble man who ever lived (Numbers 12.3, and Moses was humble enough to tell us how humble he was!) until Jesus turned up who had the humility to become a human!

Both were priests, both were kings, both ruled over people who did not always want them to! Both started covenants. Moses brought us the Mosaic covenant with the 613 commandments – the law came from Moses. Jesus brought us the New Covenant with the new birth (it’s the better one – Hebrews 8.6). Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ!

Moses appointed 12 spies to go into the promised land, Jesus appointed 12 apostles to go into all the nations. Moses had 70 elders, Jesus appointed 70 others.

Both had shining faces. Moses washed his brothers, Jesus washed his disciples. Both of them gave up their lives to serve and set free God’s people!

What a beautiful honour for Moses, not only did he get to visit earth and meet Jesus in the flesh (it’s in Matthew 17) but God used his life as a picture of some of the things Jesus would do and did do! What a true honour! And how wonderful is the Bible to show us these powerful parallels and let us know God is always with us, and He still works miracles today!

Before 05: Before You Build a Tower

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Image result for Eiffel Tower

Count the cost.

But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? (Luke 14.28, NLT)

Before 04: Before You Go to a Conference

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Before you go to a conference, what sort of questions are going to help you get the most out of it:

  • Do I have a way of recording what I have heard? For example, an expensive notebook. The more expensive the notebook the better care you will take of it, and the better care you will take of your notes.
  • Have I got a way of minimising distractions while I am there? Are there things I can put off, or things I have to get done so that when the conference is on my attention is 100% there?
  • Have I prayed? Have I spent time asking the Lord what He wants me to get from the conference? Have I spent time building myself up so I can get the most out of it?
  • Have I got a plan to make this conference part of the process of my life? I don’t want to career from conference to conference and never have it change the process of my life! Life is built by process not events, so what is my plan?
  • Have I got enough sleep and am I eating right so I am 100% in the session?

Before 03: Before You Go To Sleep Tonight

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We are just throwing out questions that you should be asking every day before you go to bed. I think these five are the most important… what question do you think should be asked of yourself daily?

  • Have I dreamed today?
  • Have I read God’s Word today?
  • Have I encouraged or inspired someone today?
  • Have I thanked someone today?
  • Have I made a difference today?

Before 02: Before You Co-Sign a Loan

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Before you co-sign a loan for that friend or family member, it’s a really good idea to think twice. There is a reason the bank needs your signature. The people who work with money every day and earn money from loaning it out think that this person is risky for a reason. No matter how much you love them, that is the case! So ask yourself:

  • Will I still be able to love this person if they walk off with all the money and I get all the debt?
  • Are you ok if your ability to take out loans in the future is impacted?
  • Are you able to forgive that person if you have to bail them out of the whole amount?

Ask the other person:

  • Do you have any other debts at all?
  • Why have the bank said they will not give you this loan?
  • What will happen if you cannot pay and I have to? Will you then pay me? How?

I never recommend that someone co-signs for another, and the Bible says it is a foolish idea (Proverbs 22.26), but at the very least do not do it unless you ask some questions.

Before 01: Before You Date

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I am going to start a series of a short posts of simple questions you should be asking before you do something. Today I am going to give you some questions you should ask before starting to date someone. It amazes me that people date and do not ask questions! Our pre-marital counselling course is essentially lists of questions to ask each other to make sure you are going to be able to enjoy marriage and that your marriage will extend the kingdom of Heaven.

So, before you even start to date someone, here are the three key questions you should ask (obviously you don’t have to ask them as an interrogation, but you should be able to have a conversation where these questions are brought up and discussed):

  • Are you born again?
  • Are you baptized in the Holy Spirit?
  • Do you tithe?

You do not want to date an unbeliever – you will have real problems with the spiritual in-laws! And if you are flowing in the power of God you want to be with someone who has the same dedication to the things of God that you do, and has received the Holy Spirit. Otherwise you will definitely be unequally yoked.

That third question is a bit sneaky, as the answer will let you know if that person goes to church, how serious they are about church, how they handle money, are they good with money, whether their faith impacts their life. It’s an amazing question that will tell you so much about someone.

These three questions could save you from a planetload of hurt and pain. You are welcome!

How To Be Fruitful 02 Don’t Do What You Are Not Called

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Wrong Lane - Photos | Facebook

One of the things that messes with you doing what God has called you to do is spending your time and energy doing things that God has not called you to do. We are not Superman, we are not super-human, we are not able to do everything! Even the calling of God does not turn you into superman, it just empowers you to do what God has called you to do.

We have not been given the grace to do everything and anything, we have been given the grace according to the measure of the gift (Ephesians 4.7). What you are gifted and graced to do by Jesus is what you can do! Your calling gives you the power to do what you are called to do, but you do not have the power to do what you are not called to do.

Many great ministers are exceptionally deficient in certain areas, but they do well because they stick to their lane. I know miracle workers with no gift of administration, I know teachers who cannot preach and preachers who cannot teach, but they know to do what they do well and they do it well. We only have a measure of the Spirit. We have to be humble enough to admit we cannot do it all. The grace of God is for the call, not for what we just decide to do.

The best pastor in the world is Jesus, the second best pastor in the world will not be the best teacher, the best prophet will not be the best evangelist. We need all of us to be together and learn from each other.

Now something the church is doing very badly is we oscilliate between despising ministers for not being everything we want and idolizing some ministers for what they do and not recognizing that they have any limitations. Both come from immaturity. A mature response is to realize every minister has limits, but we still love them and learn from them. Too many people see the limits of a minister and hate them, others see no limits and idolize! It is strange to realize that in one area we are absolutely remarkable, but in others we are totally rubbish, but it is true of all of us!

Each one of us must recognize our limitations and recognize what we are called to do and are graced to do! Too many prophets want to prophesy over everyone. Too many pastors fail to distinguish their opinion from what the Lord has led them to do and where the Lord is leading them to lead their people. We are all limited and if you don’t realize this yourself – you will find out soon enough!

When we realize our limitations the only solution is to then work with others who have gifts we do not have – and we have gifts they do not have. We all need others to be complete. We need people different from ourselves, we need people who in the natural we might not like that must. This is part of God’s plan to keep us humble, sweet and gracious.

This is so important for all of us. Find out what you are called to do, and do it, and what you are not called to do do it. Also, remember you can learn from all five of the five-fold ministry, in our conferences, you can learn from all the speakers not just the ones that you prefer. And whatever God tells you to do, you can always overcome your limitations – not personally, but by finding the people who can do what you cannot do.

God is fitting the body together. And every part would supply something that you need for your life and ministry!

How To Be Fruitful 01 Do What You Are Called

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If You Want to Get Called Back, Leave a Clear Phone Message | Speak Up For  Success

Every Christian has been called to do something by the Lord. That’s a simple truth but so many people do not realize this. Now if you were Jesus Christ and there were billions of people on the planet who do not know you would you just call the pastors to reach them, or would you call every single Christian to be part of a local church, call them all to grow, call them all to world mission? I know the answer, the Bible knows the answer, but do you know the answer? You are called.

Now the Bible says that many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 22.14). Many means lots of people. That includes you. But sadly, most Christians do not believe they are called. They think their pastor has to do it all for them, they think they are called to just sit down and listen to a TV ministry, they think they are called to just be unfruitful. No you are called! You are called to be fruitful, you are called to be part of a church, you are called to contribute, you are called to do something for God.

It’s true to say you are called to be healthy, you are called to be wealthy, you are called to live a great life on earth. When we teach on that, lots of people are interested. Many people like to hear teaching on God’s unconditional love… for them. They listen to sermon after sermon about how much God loves them, and sadly just that diet, that imbalanced diet, leaves those people starving for other nutrients, and leads to selfish and very unfruitful Christians. My job as a pastor is not just to feed you what you want, but to feed you what you need to be equipped to do the works of the ministry!

Keith Green used to a sing a song called Asleep in the Light that says “You don’t need to hear a call, you are already called”. That thought did not come from him, it comes from John’s gospel, where Jesus tells his disciples “you did not choose me, I have chosen you”. If you are a disciple of Jesus, He has already chosen you and called you to be fruitful. You should be fruitful. You should be making sacrifices in your life that involve doing something for the kingdom of God. It still amazes me to meet Christians who do nothing for Christ. They can’t even go to church if the pastor disagrees with them over one point, because their entire Christian life is not about the kingdom it is still all about them – their comfort, their ministry, their spotlight, their feelings, their this and that. You were only saved because Jesus did not care about His own comfort or prosperity or career or future or reputation, and got involved in the greatest act of grace in the universe. Then we call ourselves grace people, but never give up anything to help rescue anyone else ever! That’s not grace. That’s laziness and deception!

Not every call is like Paul the apostles involving Jesus knocking you off your horse. That can still happen and still does happen today, but some people will not get off their sofa unless that happens to them today. But God prefers to call with an inner witness, with the small, still voice, what I call the spiritual voice. You just see a need and something deep inside you is touched and compassion rises up inside you and you need to then step out and stop waiting for an angel to visit you! Your desires to help and love and show kindness does not come from satan or your flesh – that’s God!

In our eldership training, we start at 1 Timothy 3.1 which says if you desire to be an elder, you desire an excellent task. How do you become an elder in the church? It all starts with you wanting to become an elder in the church! It’s that simple. I have never been knocked off a horse, I have never been slammed to the ground, I have never looked Jesus in the flesh in the face. But I am 100% called to be a pastor. I know exactly what I am and what I am called to do.

What are you called to do? You might feel like a failure right now. Moses was, and God still called him. Moses said “who am I”, and God said “Called by me”. Of course you are unworthy for the call, and only the least self-aware people do not realize they are not worthy to be called. I know you are unworthy to change the world. You know you are unworthy to change the world. God knows you are unworthy to change the world. But God still called you. If you fail to accept the call of God because you are unworthy when God called me and a host of others equally if not more unworthy, you are missing out!

Another thing Moses said (in Exodus 4.1) was that when I speak people will not believe me. That’s how I felt when I started preaching, I felt that I was not credible, that people would never believe God spoke to me. I didn’t look like in my mind someone who God speaks to, someone who could help others, someone who could change the world. I don’t have anything special about me. But God still called me and God still uses me. God loves using people that are nothing special! If God can cause a donkey to give a prophetic word, He can use you.

Jeremiah did not think he could express himself well, he told God “I can’t preach, I’m just a child”. Some of us are called to share our faith and don’t think we can do it well. If you listen to some good preachers, who have been preaching for decades, you do start to think how can I ever speak like them! But God calls people who have never spoken to speak! God calls us to action!

Gideon was called and he was from the least family in the least clan. You can believe God has called you! God has called you to a specific purpose. Do what it takes to find it out. The first step is to stand up. Stop sitting around waiting for a talking donkey and start being the talking donkey! Stop waiting for an angel and be the angel. Stop waiting for a man of God and be a man of God! You are called.

Get up, go to church this weekend, go to a small group, serve your church in some way, and start expecting your calling to manifest. I challenge you, it will change 2021 forever.

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