Thursday, April 8, 2010

Not Guilty!

While we all know that salvation is a free gift and that God’s love is unconditional, how much do we really "believe"? Sounds like a pretty presumptuous assertion on my part but it is likely that some of us believe it far less that we think we do. Presumptuous indeed.

If you need to enhance your conscious knowledge of the depth of salvation and this message causes you to examine the strength of your beliefs, then I may have done you the most important favor ever in your walk with the Lord. We’ve all read this passage and understand what it saying: Ephesians 2:8-9:For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Now here’s the issue-what is your response to yourself when you fall short? I mean, when you sin,what’s your reaction? Of course you feel badly, in fact we certainly should, but after that what does your mind and your emotions tell you about your relationship with him? Far too often a real feeling is that the Lord has withdrawn his love-that his willingness to bless you has been altered by your sin and that, at least for a while, he’s angry at you and doesn’t want you hanging around.

The sad thing is that a lot of that makes perfect sense to us realizing that we have all grown up in a performance-oriented culture. We have been unconsciously trained by well-intentioned and loving people that love is in fact, NOT without condition. Most of us have been raised in a stimulus- response environment that says good behavior equals blessings and poor behavior gets a spanking, or a “time-out” at a minimum

If you’re free from this then great, because we as saved people need to be free from this. As much as it feels right to our training and indoctrination, it is NOT the gospel and it is NOT what grace is all about.

Does sin have consequences? Absolutely and if you sin you will reap the consequences of it whatever to may be. But here’s the hard part, and here’s what very few churches will preach-the consequence is not God’s anger and removal of his love for you. Either Jesus paid the full price for our sin and iniquity or he didn’t. And if he paid the full price for your sin then no amount of guilt or shame will put you back in right standing with him.

Feel bad about your sin? Of course, Godly sorrow brings you to a place of wanting to change. But change doesn't take place because God is mad at you. That's not what grace is all about. We change because he loves us until we get tired of trying to meet our own needs. That's the basis of sin-our futile attempts as immature believers to try to meet our own needs.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Waiting On The Lord

The real power of gospel is how the Lord sustains us in times of trials and difficulties. Chances are you are dealing with some right now whether they are financial difficulties, dealing with an illness or facing family problems. If you’re saved then you the assurances of possessing the endurance to hang in then until the time of your deliverance comes. Here ‘s a familiar scripture: Isaiah 40:31- But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

The key word here is “wait”. Often the King James has a difficult time translating Hebrew thought and idioms into clear pictures. The English translation of wait-not that it doesn’t have relevance-simply misses the power of what the scriptures are saying.

Wait is the Hebrew word “Ka-va”-to twist or bind together. This is a word that has some powerful implications and connections to scripture that you are probably familiar with.

In Numbers 15 the children of Israel were commanded to put fringes on the ends of their prayer shawls or tallith. These twisted tassels were called tzitzit- that same word kava meaning twist/bind together. When the woman with an issue blood pressed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, that hem was the tzitzit on the ends of his prayer shawl.

So what is really being conveyed to us in Isaiah? Those who literally twist their lives together with the life of God put on His strength. They can go the distance without losing heart. They can exhibit patient endurance and resist the pressure to give up and quit. I have observed that right before the appointed time of my blessing, right as the healing is about to rise up from within me, right as the financial breakthrough is ready to come, the pressure to give up and quit seems the most intense.

In the midst of difficult circumstances how do you “wait” upon the Lord? Well there are several ways to “wait” but let’s focus on just one. Intimacy with the Lord is the by-product of spending time. Prayer is great but too often that’s a one-way conversation, right? It’s when we tell him everything we want and need…and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m talking about just quieting yourself, bringing your body mind into a state of calm and just focusing on the awesomeness of God. No talk, no requests, just the peace, the power, the purity, of his presence. In no time all of those earthly concerns will begin to melt away and the assurance that all things are working together for your good will well up in your heart and mind. Your resolve to hang in there will be bolstered and your confidence that his promises never fail will rise to the surface.

No, his promises never fail and those that really “wait” upon him will definitely renew their strength.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What Really Is The "Church"

You'd have to go all the way back to 300 AD or so, to a time when there was probably no such phrase as "going to church". As I read the history it seems that back then the saints thought of themselves as the church, not as some place you go. The New Testament word for church is "eccelsia" which refers to being called out. We are called out of a life of adherence to the dominance of our biological and neurological impulses, to a life where the Holy Ghost leads us into making those decisions that agree with the Lord's will for our lives. The church then was intended to be an organic community of believers who came together everyday to help each other grow and to reinforce their ability to participate in what was happening to them. Yes something was happening to them and should be happening to us-every waking moment the "calling out" process of sanctification claims another area of our psyche and decision making. We willingly relinquish control of those areas because we know the Lord has a more fulfilling option for us.

So when did we start to go to church? I don't really want to malign Constantine, but a lot of stuff sorta' began to go awry when he came on the scene in the early 300s. The beautiful cathedrals were originally designed as an expression of the glory of the Lord. (I have seen many of them in Europe and they are amazingly beautiful) Over time though, people began to conceive that the building was where the Lord was. The more a person entrusts their knowledge of spiritual things solely to others, the more they lose the reality of the Lord's active presence. And so, you have to go somewhere else to find him. 

We love coming together to worship. The scriptures encourage us to do so. But we try not to "go to church" We try to "be" the church.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Which God is which?

Ever wonder why the God of the Old Testment seems like such an onery being and the one in the New so welcoming and forgiving? It's almost like we changed Gods in between the books! The fact of the matter may lie in the difficulty of translating concepts from the image-filled language of the Aramaic to the more cut-and-dried Greek, and then to English. The Old Testament God had "laws" which implied that he was just looking to punish someone for messing up. While the God of the New had "grace" and was willing to understand the frailty of his creation.

Well, as it turns out, the OT isn't about "law" as we would think, but about "instructions". Definitely go look this up yourself because it may well change your whole understanding about all things biblical! Think about it-would you be willing to listen to "instructions" about how to walk in holiness, how to eat things that prolonged life and promoted health? Would you be willing to follow the guidelines that insured blessings? Chances are the answer is yes, but if you have always believed the point was "laws" that could be broken and consequences meted out, that's not a God that makes it easy to love, to follow, or obey.