The righteous sinner

God declares a sinner righteous because of the perfect life, death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ.  The life of His son, Jesus Christ was preparation for the cross.  It was the life of Jesus that prepared Him to go to His death on the cross and take with Him the sins of all mankind( past, present, and future)subsequently purchasing the redemption of man with His blood.  Jesus’ glorification came through the cross.  Jesus said “Love one another as I have loved you.”  He then backs that statement up with an absolute-“There is no greater love then this, for a man to give up his life for the sake of another”.
The love of God is determined by His character.  God is love and He cannot be anything else because He came from love.  When Jesus came to live on earth in the form of a man His life was the crux-and it still is-of what unconditional love looked like.  So Jesus treated Judas no differently than the rest of the disciples.
Based on this and the fact that our identity comes from Christ, love is the greatest outward indicator of our faith.  This causes us to search inward and ask the question “How am I loving like Jesus.”  The love of God is who God is and not who we are.  So what does God think of us?  This is an absolute.  The only way for us to Jesus is thru the Father.  The only way for Jesus to the Father  was the cross.  Therefore, Jesus is the ONLY way to eternal happiness with God.  So, the only way through the muck, mire and pain of this life to the eternal presence of God is through the gate, which is accepting the gift of grace and going thru the narrow gate.  A Christian’s greatest works show that Jesus is God and they spread His kingdom.  When we pray in Jesus’ name we are not asking that a mystical power be released to accomplish what we ask.  We are praying in Jesus’ name so that what we ask comes in line with His will for us.   Nothing tears at a father’s heart like the death of his son.
I have stayed away from defining justification and sanctification – as they have been touched upon here – because they are two very distinct but separate concepts, ones that are worth exploring.  They ‘piggyback’ each other as one is an act and the other is a process.  The act is important in starting the process and the results of the act are instantaneous while the results of the process are life long and may never be seen by the individual.  One is temporal and the other is eternal.

 

 

Mile Markers

When a believer commits to following Christ, God will show himself to the believer.  These clues are mile markers on a journey.  The wedding at Cana was an early beginning to Jesus ministry.  Wine, which could be considered a household necessity in some places, is a symbol of joy and merriment.  The wedding was a big community event and a social activity.   Through His ministry Jesus was socially active and not a recluse.  People began to believe in Jesus and follow Him.  True faith in Jesus is to grow personally in Him and is active, not static.
Jesus will not tolerate sin in that which is righteously His.  When we commit to Him we become His.  While we are believers and in Jesus, our personal Lord and Savior, we may be knocked down but we will never be destroyed.  We best honor the Father when we honor His Son.  In the life of a believer, Jesus turns death into life, a valley into a teaching and sin into grace.

From Within…

There have been many scandals throughout history.  Scandals of all kinds and sorts with plots ranging from ‘this to that’.  One of those which took place in our time shook our trust in leadership and formed our thoughts about who we want to lead us.  This particular scandal took place in non-other than Washington D.C.  That is right, our federal government and the Watergate scandal, as it became known, which started with a break-in of one of the party offices and it ballooned from there.  What came out of that was some prison terms for some men in the top echelon of government.
One of them that became well known after getting out of prison wrote some books about what he did and his conversion to Christianity.  He has left an impact on many because of ability to be forthright and fess up for what he did and how he had destroyed peoples trust in him by the role he played in all of this.  Chuck Colson has left a legacy for all to learn from.
We select our leaders based one their past experience in politics and what they have done to uphold the law of the land.  The candidates also have their academic and business acumen, as well as their personal lives gone over with a fine tooth comb.  Debates are set so we can hear their answers to various questions that are put together for that purpose so we get a better idea of what makes the man.
There is another way.  In His selection of a king for Israel, God said to Samuel “Do not judge from appearance or lofty stature…Not as man sees does God see, for man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart”(Samuel 16:7).  Later on in the life of David and his son Solomon, David says to his son “As for you, Solomon, my son, know the God of your father and serve Him with a perfect heart and a willing soul, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the mind’s thoughts.  If you seek Him, he will let himself be found by you; but if you abandon him, he will cast you off forever.  The Lord has chosen you to build a house as His sanctuary.  Take courage and set to work.”(1Chr 28:9-10)  Then there is the testing of Gideon and the way his army was pared down from 32,000 troops to 300 men with whom he defeated the Midianites.  The way that God chose to test those men was curious but God works in mysterious ways.  Jesus knows the hearts of men;  Jesus knows the hearts of many.  “You may look spiritual on the outside, going to church and acting ‘Christianly’, but your heart may be full of sin.”(JOHN F. MACARTHUR).
Nicodemus, a rabbinical scholar in Jesus’ time, did not understand when Jesus said man had to be born again.  He knew that man could not reenter the womb so he asked how that was possible,  to be reborn.  The crux of Jesus response was that the heart needs to be healed, to be regenerated.  This is done why?  God cannot live in a place full of sin so it needs to be healed and cleansed.  The source of that healing is the Father and the Holy Spirit does the cleaning to prepare that place for God to take up residence.  Regeneration precedes FAITH.  Regeneration is not a fruit but rather it is the work of the Spirit.  Thus by faith, we are a new creation.  This healing is not the full experience of conversion.  “What we do should flow from who we are”.(Chuck Colson)  Now because my nature is darkness, I can never regenerate myself.
Everyone who believes moves from condemned to saved and being born again is the beginning of that process.  Being born again involves my heart and not my head.   God’s decision is to regenerate, my responsibility is to believe and receive.

Uses for suffering

God uses suffering for His good.  That is nothing new to Christians for we know that God suffered in the person of Jesus Christ.  The Bible says this clearly in Romans 8:28 -“For we know that all things work for good for those who love God.”  The point here is – Christians will suffer at some point, for God and His glory.  So what should a Christians mindset be suffering?  If we equate suffering with a storm, you are either not in a storm; just entering a storm; in the middle of a storm or just coming out of a storm.  To have a proper view of the role of suffering in the life of a Christian, it can be used to test our faith, promote growth in grace, show God’s grace, bear witness to Christ in the suffering.  In the end all suffering should lead to God.  For God designed His children to be a cohesive unit, a spiritual family.
At times, the question is asked if we could provide enough to have us pronounced ‘guilty’ of being a Christian.  God provides enough evidence for us to believe in Him and that evidence is JESUS.  It is our responsibility as Christians to share our story with others, for example, with non-believers.  Jesus sought us out so we could become Christians – followers of Jesus.  For those who desire to be His followers, we need to be prepared to suffer.  So let me leave you with this truth; Encountering Jesus leads to a stronger faith or a harder heart.

 

Starting Point

Big things have small beginnings.  Lets look at two examples.  First, language:  as a group of people come and settle in a land they bring their own thoughts, ideas and manners of speaking.  As time moves forward, this little parcel of land becomes a nation as more people come to establish a life here.  At the same time the language get tweaked here and there, accents are put on different syllables and so forth. There is one national language but thru out the land you have different forms of the same language being spoken and these are what you would call dialects.  Small beginning,  big finish.  Now lets look a game, played by children and adults alike, known as “Secrets”.  Some one starts off by whispering something into a persons ear.   That person passes it on to the next person just as they heard it.  Along the way, as that secret get told from one person to the next it gets tweaked along the way.  So what you hear at the end may not be what you started out  with.
What does this mean?    It’s all about change.  There is one caveat and that is- with change comes fear.  Change is inevitable and it happens all the time.  Change is a way of life so what about it.  Well, let me ask this question, ‘why do people fear new beginnings’  Often we wait for the conditions to be perfect before we try something new.  In Mt. 25 Jesus talks about identity; about the lilies of the field and the clothes you wear and Solomon in all his regalia and says not to worry about these things. Why?  God gives us our identity and we determine our destiny.  How does God think of us?  He thinks of as His children.
Another reason people fear  new beginnings is that they want to be comfortable with the new surroundings.  All things being comfortable and convenient are obstacles to us.  Often, people will believe that their motives or  reasons need to be perfect.  Then people become paralyzed by indecision.  Another way to put that is “paralysis by analysis”.  All of this is about fitting in.  If fitting in with the right crowd is more important then the identity that God has for us, then Christ died for nothing.
We cannot waste our time looking for this and waiting for that because there is to much at stake to remain on the sidelines.  Sometimes the simplest answers are the best better yet they can be right in front of us.  The trick is not minding that it hurts.  All to often, while waiting for opportunities to present themselves, we may pass by those who need us most.

A cows cud(what did you have for breakfast?)

via Daily Prompt: Ruminate

Hear an interesting thought or statement that you are wrestling with, grappling with, trying to get your hands around or grasp its meaning and cannot ‘just do it’.  Trying to digest this and it is just not happening.  Well, what do you do?  Well, here’s some food for thought.  You do not have to win this fight in one 24 hour period.  Let it take its time and not your life.  So here it is, the answer you have been looking for!  Ruminate on it!
This is what you do.  Take that thought, statement or what ever it is and write it down on a piece of paper.  This makes it concrete and gives it boundaries – the six sides of a piece of paper (front side, back side, left side, right side,  top side, bottom side, etc….) – you get the picture.  Whatever was written down is not going to go anywhere unless it is erased or the paper is burned.  If that paper is burned then that thought did go somewhere.  It went up in flames!  Not to fear because you still have that thought.  It’s in your head where you are still trying to squeeze some meaning out of it.  Well, now hold that thought a minute and lets see how to make some sense out of it.
Leave that piece of paper on the table or wherever you have it and walk away from it.  For an hour, a day, a week, a month, and it goes on.  After what ever time has elapsed, come back to it and read it.  See if it makes any sense to you.  Maybe a light goes on and you say “I got it now”.  If nothing changes then here is what you do.  Go get a glass of water and take a drink.  Now, go back to the piece of paper and rip it up into tiny pieces.
Before we go any further let me explain.  When a cow goes to eat its food it could be a long and involved process.  It likes to get all the nutrition it can out of its food.  The cow takes in the food and chews it up, just as any other cow would chew up its food.  The cow swallows it  and then after a bit it regurgitates its food and at this point it is called cud.  Then the cow noses it cud, dances around it or whatever it does and he eats it.  Thus the phrase “chew your cud”.  This process continues a few more times – eat, chew, swallow, digest, regurgitate…..eat, chew, swallow, digest, regurgitate and so on.  This is what ‘ruminate’ refers to.
So, anyway – back to the pieces of paper.  Where were we, oh yes! So,  take a drink of water and then take those pieces of paper  and get them wet and put them in your….
Ruminate on it!

False Teachings

The Holy Spirit’s work in us, helping us to grow and develop like Jesus everyday is a life long process known as Sanctification.  Due to free will, modern day technology along with our choices and lifestyle can slow that process down.  Due to God’s sovereignty we will learn what God has in mind for us but His holiness will never intersect with our free will and our choices.  We need to decide to accept Him so that He can start a work in us.  The Davinci Code and Dan Brown threw the Christian community a curve ball with the introduction his novel.  It was based on research that was twisted and worded to make a good story and put doubt into some minds which caused some to question the Christian faith.  A right relationship with Jesus is demonstrated by how we apply our words and actions.  Do they line up or do they contradict each other?
Both John and Peter addressed the issues of false teachings in their respective times.  The central thought around what they were addressing was about the results of prayer – what do we get out of it?  Their answer was we do not need to be concerned about any special knowledge or power if we stay true to our faith.  In John’s time, the teaching of Docetism was being spread.  Docetism, in Christian terminology, the belief that Jesus only seemed to be human and that His human form was an illusion, as was His crucifixion; that Jesus Christ did not have a physical body.  It is not one single heretical movement, rather it is a doctrinal point intrinsic to a number of some early Christian heresies.  The problem with Docetism is that if Jesus was an illusion, He could not have been nailed to the cross, He could not have died on the cross, nor could He have bled on the cross.  Here is the only special knowledge we need:  we can though, be sure of this. Salvation is certain.  It is based on God’s word and Jesus’ work.  If we know God and Jesus then our eternal life is secure.  So God has saved us from the wrath of sin.  Sin is any lack of conformity to the law of God.  It is a constant battle of the soul.  Do I go out and ‘make a name for myself’ which would mean I would give into the world and its agenda and pride.  Or, do I accept the name that God has made for me.
Antinomianism is another form of thinking that was being spread by false prophets which is still very much prevalent today.   Coming from the Greek, it means lawless.  It is a pejorative term, in Christian theology, for the teaching that Christians are under no obligation to obey the laws of ethic or morality.  This is something that one group might charge against an opposing group.   If you put Antinomianism up against legalism, they would seem to be polar opposites of each other.  Legalism, being the notion that obedience to or an improper fixation on a code of ethics(religious law) are a necessary part of the salvation process and in this case would be considered errant extremes.  When we sin, we are convicted by the Holy Spirit and moved to repentance and forgiveness.  God spiritually convicts us to turn away from sin.  One changes over from death to life when justification happens or when a sinner accepts Christ.  Sinn no longer characterizes a Christian, where as a non-Christian turns to sin.  The perfect love of Jesus casts out fear and leads us to the light.  Who ever has the Son has the testimony of eternal life.  The confidence of eternal life is found in Scripture and leads to prayer and is evidenced by my life.

“Stay thirsty my friend”

I am sure we all remember the interaction that took place at the well, between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  It was quite a conversation and an eye opening one for the woman.  Jesus took her to class as He taught her about the different kinds of water – that which came from the well and the ‘living water’ which only He could offer.  Jesus expressed sympathy for her as he told her about somethings going on in her life – not married, the men who were apart of her life etc…  He showed that He was curious as He asked her questions about her lifestyle and provided answers to her question.  She left herself and her sin there at the feet of Jesus and went and told her friends about who she met and who she thought He was.  Here’s the question – what do I need to leave at the foot of the?  The heart of every sinner, which is everyone, has or yearns for the “God induced” thirst to be quenched by the living water that Jesus has to offer.  Some of us let that need be filled by God and others fill it themselves.
So once the challenge of accepting the free gift of grace that is extended to us by God, the lifestyle we have lived will change an it goes from “Me” centered” to “God” centered.  Christ will meet you where you are at.  Now the question to be asked is ‘who are the enemies in my life’?   It is said that there are three enemies for the believer to be on guard for.  They are Satan, the world and pride.   I think indecision should be added to that list.  These are the same for the non-believer but they are busy making a name for themselves instead of accepting the name that has already been made for them.  The name the world gives is temporal and the name God gives is eternal.
How do we fight those enemies?  It is spiritual warfare out there so how do we prepare and protect ourselves.  We prepare for conquering our enemies with prayer and we protect ourselves by putting on the armor of God.  That is the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the sword of faith and shoes of the Gospel.  I suggest that we get some rest in between battles because this type of battle is very draining.  “Thou hast made us for thyself for we desire to rest in thee.”(St. Augustine).  Stay fresh and hydrated.  There is nothing that can satisfy your thirst , other than Christ. Then when something gets in the way of the relationship with God keep this in mind, repentance is the evidence of trust and faith in Jesus and a source of great joy. 
Again, ‘stay thirsty my friend’.

A Prayer

Lord, make your Bible, your Words, come alive to me and make Jesus real to me.  Help me to truly understand that I have offended You big time and that I need to make things right with you.  AND that the only way I can become right with you is through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to trust Jesus as MY Lord and MY Savior And to follow Him and obey Him all the days of my life.  Make me a new creature.  Change my loves and desires.  Cause me to love Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else.  Please Lord, show me your Glory!  In Jesus precious name I pray these things to you, AMEN!

God’s Word – God’s Truth

Do you want the truth – we are God’s people.  We are loved to much to be allowed to let sin and its consequences shackle us which leads to death.  Thus, it was the mission of Jesus Christ when He was born, to free us from this scenario by His death on a cross.  That is not new to those who believe in God as the creator of all of creation or to those who accept Him, to come and take up residence in their hearts.
The role of God’s people is to proclaim His word and His coming back to collect His own.  God’s people are charged to digest and deliver His truth.  This begs the question what is keeping me, what is keeping us from  proclaiming God’s Word?  He assigns each believer to proclaim His truth.  God’s Word and God’s story come from God.  As we grow in knowledge and in awe of God, we speak more of God’s word and less of ours, so that when we speak, our words have God’s power and wisdom behind them.
God is love.  This is His nature.   He can be nothing else.  God loves His people and exposes us to His truth.  Love is not love if truth is withheld.  That being said, The End will be hard for Him.  The end of life as we know it.  Here is an absolute:  God will conclude human history His way.  Everything from Genesis to Revelation will be fulfilled when the end comes.  This is a certainty:  God’s timing is perfect.   When the end comes, the earth will be purged of sin and it will be destroyed.  Then the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.  God will triumph once more over Satan, a second time, and he will be locked away for 1,000 years.  God’s people are called to celebrate His triumph.

Washing the feet!

What is the most humbling thing that you ever did?
The power in that question is awesome because ‘across the board’  it is different for everyone.  There are some faiths and religions that find truth and meaning in humble acts.  What about God?  What was the most humbling act that made Him who He is today?  I think Paul would agree with me when I say ‘denying Himself and His divine nature then taking on the form of a man’.  During His life here on earth it was something else.  It was during the last week of His life, that Thursday night, at the close of the Last Supper – He washed the disciples feet.
Washing someone’s feet is the most humble act a person could perform because of what it involves.  That is denying one’s self, emotions, feelings, what one thinks of the recipient, etc….  If this is done with unconditional love the effect on one’s life could be astounding.  There are some religions and faiths that use this last act – before His death – of Jesus as part of the Easter celebration.
Humility begins with identity in Christ; pride is rooted in the wrong identity.  An earthly identity will end, it is temporal.  An identity rooted in Christ will never die since He rose from the dead.  This identity is eternal.  An identity rooted in Christ gives us a new perspective of who we are.  Humility begins with recognizing my identity in Christ.
Now, back to Jesus and the Last Supper where He took on the being of a servant and washed His disciples feet.  He said “Those who bathe are cleaned.  All they need is their feet washed”.  This statement speaks of the cleansing powers of water and baptism by immersion.  Being baptized into the newness of life and God’s love and the forgiveness of sins.  This is part of the act of justification .   Santification, on the other hand, is a life long process by which I participate in my identity in Christ.  It is a process by which there is a progressive growth toward the image of God thereby being set apart for God becoming more fully obedient to God through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Blessing comes from humbly serving.  This has a double meaning here as implied by Jesus, pointing to life in Christ and serving others.  His suffering would have caused many of us to break down in sorrow.  Identity in Christ gets us through devastating relationships.  Imagine, what if Judas had repented for his betrayal of Christ.  If you take the two beams of the cross and label them both life you have the horizontal beam which is temporal life,  representative of our sojourn here on earth.  The vertical beam being the transcendent life, our life in Christ.  God does not call us to lay like a rug and be walked on but rather to walk with His identity given to us.  When we are humble our hearts will be broken by God.  Humbly serving humbly restores joy in God and others