Anathema

Have you known or do you know anyone that has been vehemently denunciated?  

Anathema(noun) is defined as something or someone who is greatly detested; a thing or person that is accursed or damned. The second definition of the word is used in reference to heresy and excommunication.  You will find it used in the halls of ecclesiastical institutions, specifically the vatican.  Its definition here is a formal curse by a pope or a council of the church excommunicating a person or denouncing a doctrine; a solemn ecclesiastical condemnation of a teaching judged to be gravely opposed to accepted church doctrine or of the originators or supporters of such a teaching.  So what it comes down to is it is a curse.

In answer to the question, I know someone who was cursed.  I was!  You will be surprised at who did this dastardly deed.  It was my dad and I was 10 years old.  Just a kid!  I tend to give him a break and say that it was a moment of discipline and he did not mean it.   He was frustrated because he had to deal with the fact that I have epilepsy and how would I make a living.  Regardless, that is not something you say to a child.  The sad part is it was not until I was 57 that I realized this was behind many of the issues that I have to deal with from day-to-day.

Just recently I heard a teaching on the fear of irrelevance.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Little did I know that I have been going through life trying to deal with the effects of what my dad said to me.  I suppose you are wondering what my dad said to me, what was his curse?  It was a Saturday afternoon and I had been playing with my sister.  I was chasing my younger sister and she was screaming as I did so.  My dad heard the screaming and called me outside where he was painting and told me to go sit on the bottom step of the staircase in the basement.  When he was finished with what he was doing outside I was called upstairs and lectured at the kitchen table.  He scolded me and he explained why he sent me down the basement.  Dad talked and I listened. He then proceeded to say to me – “Sonny boy, you are never going to amount to a hill of beans”. Then, three breaths, later he says to me; ‘son you could be a good salesman’.

At that age and time, I did not have any idea what this meant and what it would do to my psyche.  From that point on I was set up to search for who I was and make myself a name.  Grades in school, going to church on Sundays with the family and being an usher and reader.  In highschool, I was manager for three different sports. Basketball, baseball, track and field.  This continued in college.  Team manager for basketball, baseball, football and tennis.  College was where things started to happen or started to bubble inside.  I did not want to go home for the weekends. There was only one car in the family and my dad drove the car.  I did not like it when my dad came to games to see me manage the team.  

This went on like this even after college.  Subconsciously, looking back, it seemed like the only way I could get attention from my dad was my epilepsy.  Having seizures added a whole new dimension.  I have always told myself that I would never use this as a crutch but I guess I have.  

In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Victor Frankl tells the story of the Jew’s  in the Nazi concentration camps and being put into the gas chambers causing many to die.  He says “the only way to exist was to search for some type of meaning that would keep them alive.”  This search for meaning could be exhuasting and leave one fatigued.  What happens when you do not find wha you are looking for?

 So then started my search for worth.  Self worth.  I wanted to accomplish things and be a person person of relevance.  I wanted to be a man of distinction.  I graduated from college with a bachlor of arts in physical education and did substituting for a number of years while working as a cashier in a local department store in the liquor department.  The following summer I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal lord and saviour.  I never really did much with that though.  There were car problems (accidents and tickets) and I praise God that I am able to tell you about it. This search for significance, relevance, worth – is it worth it?  This journey is one you cannot walk away from.  It is a beast that is constantly nipping at your heels.

They say that some men find their identity in their job.  I cannot count how many jobs I have had.  Right now, my profession is massage therapy, I am a insurance producer and I work for a grocery store.  Scrambling for worth and significance takes a lot of energy.  Through all this I have learned that all my accomplishments take second to God’s message.  Getting married was a spark that fired up my relationship with God.  I went to a Promise Keepers event that blew me away with all the men.  It was a mens only conference that filled Soldier Field Stadium in Chicago, IL.  

Fast forward two decades, I started going to Bible Study Fellowship and it was at this time that I had brain surgury and heart surgery.  Now I do my devotional everyday and spend time with God.  I understand now that my worth comes from God.  God determines my worth and I determine my destiny.  My destiny is Paradise with my Saviour, Jesus Christ.  In the eyes of God, I am a man of distinction.

Justified

Divine justification is given by one God through one faith.

Biblical faith receives the gift of God’s righteousness.  Are we willing to fight or die for that faith?  The strength of one’s faith lies in the trustworthiness of its author, its object.  The object is the one to whom that faith is extended.  In this case, the object is its author – God.  By accepting God’s one and only Son into our hearts and lives, by believing in who He says He is and putting faith in who He says He is, we are justified.  This justification is instantaineous.  

Come on, is it that easy to be justified by faith?  

Well, once you are justified and accepted into God’s family, there are standards that He expects us to adhere to, and to follow His precepts which are found in His Word, the Bible.  We have the ten commandments of the Old Testament.  Jesus Christ and what He has to say in the New Testament.  Yet, because we have ‘free will’ which he has given to us when He created man – we become not trustworthy.  We can choose to do one or the other and not be a slave to that choice.  

Our salvation is not founded by works.  It is founded on God’s grace.  His mercy and grace are extended to us if His Son, Jesus Christ, is the object of our faith.  Through accepting Him and being justified for that acceptance, our salvation process begins. In fact,  Paul says in Romans that the only work we have to do is to believe in Jesus Christ.  The biblical doctrine of faith is just that, the exercising of our faith which finds its object in Jesus Christ.  In other words, faith does not cause salvation but rather, faith receives salvation.  If my salvation were to be precipitated from God then God would be obligated to honor it.  If salvation were a reward for my obedience, then I would have reason to boast.  That is not how it is though for there is no boasting about faith.  The object of our faith – the one true faith – the risen Jesus Christ.  The one true God saves through one true living faith.  The Living God offers true salvation.  Is my faith aware of the trustworthiness of its author?  This biblical faith fulfills the purpose of the law.  Biblical faith receives the gift.  Our faith comes from an external source – God.

You can’t handle the truth!

Here is a buck naked truth:  “He who receives the righteousness of God avoids the wrath of God”.  For the sake of this paper there are two dimensions of time.  The temporal(the here and now)and the future end times.

God must judge all sin!  Everyone is without excuse.  We are all sinners,”Sinners in the hands of an angry God”.  Through out creation, we can clearly see the effects of God’s divine nature and yet we take that nature for granted.  Suppressing the truth leads to anything and everything else goes.  Without truth everything is permissible and sin has no boundaries.  If sin were to invade every aspect of our lives then life would seem to be pointless.  Pointless is a lack of purpose and a lack of purpose is sin.  Pointlessness offers no hope of a future.  There is nothing to stop sin and put it in its place.  Replace truth with sin and anything goes.  This leads to idolatry

What am I neglecting to thank God for?  Thanking God starts to unveil our desire for God’s truth in our life.  What we are experiencing now in this life is temporal and not eternal punishment.  A lie that exists and lived out by some it that real fulfillment comes from self and not from God who is unseen.  Spiritual idolatry is an offense against God that is just as bad, if not worse, as an aldultrous woman against her husband.  Rejecting God opens the door to utter depravity.  So ask yourself this question – ‘From what utter disgrace and embarassment has God’s grace saved me?’  For me the answer is from living a life that I based on a lie.

 

 

 

 

Setting the Standard

“He has set eternity in the human heart”.(Joe Stowell)

Standards.  Who sets them?  Who decides?  God does!  This is His world because He created the universe.  

Romans has a very interesting but humble start with Paul as he begins this book with his introduction of who he is and God’s purpose for him.  Romans 1:1-17 states this clearly – “This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God…..It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”  He introduces himself as a bond servant, a slave, being set aside for God’s purposes.   Paul explains Jesus’ human nature and divine nature; fully man and fully God.   He stresses that what God wants is for men to have a relationship with the one true Living God and that His plan of redemption is for all mankind.

The good news of God’s redemptive plan was revealed centuries before Christ.  We must be intentional about turning away from a life of sin and giving our hearts to God.  At that point, the Holy Spirit imparts spiritual gifts on us thus creating a heart transformation.  In that new life there will be times along the way when a person needs encouragement.  The question is where do you go for that encouragement? Most go to family, friends and parents.  Where a person needs to go is to the church, other men and the pastor.  

A heart that is changed by God’s righteousness is a transformed heart.  When Paul greets his audience, whatever town he may be in, it is not his purpose and desire to spread the Good News to let his message bring about a change or effect a change in the hearts of his listeners.  No, that is God’s purpose and desire!  God has set Paul up and given him everything he needs to accomplish this mission.  God has made Paul dependent on Him through the workings of the Holy Spirit.  Paul understood this and realized he had the most valuable form of currency in life.  A moral compass.  A compass that would lead and direct him.  A compass that would direct him to that which is right and keep him away from that which is wrong.  A compass that would keep him safe from the clutches of evil.  This moral compass leads directly to God.  Again, God sets the standard.

The efficacy of the Gospels is far greater than salvation alone.  The righteousness required for the aquittal of a sinner is not the righteousness of the sinner but of God.  It is intrinsic in each of the three persons of the Trinity.   God imputes His Son’s righteousness into the heart of a believer.  Self righteousness only works to seperate me from God.  The Gospel reveals God’s righteousness which is given to us by God.  Faith is not a blinding thing, for faith believes facts of which it is sure. Faith begins with knowledge.  It is not a speculative thing.  It is not an impractical dreamy thing, for faith trusts and stakes its destiny upon that of revelation.  Faith is the eye that looks, the hand that grasps and the mouth that proclaims.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Convention

The success of the Church speaks to the spiritual strength of the Body of Christ which would be those who are in Christ.  The Church-the Bride of Christ-reveals God’s love of His people and puts that love into a proper perspective.  The power of God’s love is stronger all the members that make up the Body of the Church.  Among the members of the Body of Christ there is a need for community.  We need to embrace the doctrine of the church.  Romans 16 is all about relationships and building those relationships.  The church and its people are by far more important than an institution.  It is about relationship and socialization.

The Body of Christ is charcterized by godly, intimate relationships which come together in small groups.  Small groups are a building block to the body of Christ as this is where the work of the church takes place.  People get together and share their story of redemption and how God brought them to this point, this point of sharing their beliefs about God and encouraging others along the way.

The Body of Christ functions best by serving and encouraging one another.  The Body of Christ is characterized by love and sharing.  “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.  Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”  The work of the Church is all done for the glorification and manifestation of God’s name here on earth.  God brings glory to Himself forever through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

The whole story of God and Jesus Christ are written down in the Bible.  Here you will find real answers to lifes questions.  The Bible is more than a resource that everyone should have, it is a guide and a road map.

Christian Faith – is it or is it not?

I say not!  I have always stayed away from calling it a faith.  I believe that most Christians would agree with me when I say that Christianity is a journey.  It is a journey of insurmountable proportions.  Thee ups and downs or peaks and valleys that are experienced along the way – you have to be teachable and vulnerable to learn from them.  As the saying goes, “a journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step”.  Every journey has a beginning and an end.  For the Christian, it is to cross the finish line and be more like Christ.  To live in a new home called ‘Heaven’.  To live in a new home with Jesus Christ and all the saints who have crossed that finish line.  In a new earth and a new heaven.

Both Paul and Peter say “faith in what is seen offers no hope at all”.  Rather, faith in what is unseen offers a hope that has eternal consequences.  Phil Yancy says “faith in what is unseen offers much more of a challenge than what is seen.”  This type of hope not only allows one to grow, learn and come away with a new perspective but it also allows one to doubt.  Now after one does some R & D, that doubt has become a belief that has expanded their horizens.  The otherside of that coin is that we are independent minded people but God wants humbleness of heart from  all mankind which He created.

Christianity is not a faith in its purest sense because there is something much much more to it.  This is something that is put into action.  Timothy says in his second letter “a faith without action is no faith at all”.  So, Christianity might be a belief but it is something much much more.  It is a journey with endless opportunities.

So who would like to embark on a journey with me!

From The Past

My dad would remind me that God had a hand in my life and little did he know how right he was.  I learned that God is intrinsically and intricately interwoven into the very fabric of my life.

How does the crucifixion assure me that God’s justice has been satisfied?

The only way that I can be assured is by believing that this was carried out not only for all mankind but specifically for me.  He did this because He loves me.  He did it because He loves His masterpiece of creation.  What is more important is that we are the pinnacle of that creation, being made in His image.  He was not going to let that creation go to waste.  He wanted a relationship with man and wanted man to have a relationship with Him.  Jesus Christ, His son, came into the picture.  Jesus Christ had to be born, live like man, be crucified and die and be risen from the dead.  This glorified God and purified Jesus.  God got something out of this.  He got a Son.  A Son who trusted Him completely.

Heaven is where…

the work of redemption finally becomes complete.

we are completely released from every consequence of the Fall.

God’s glory reigns supreme and we can bask in that glory for eternity.

we not only park our hearts and minds but our affections as well.

freedom from Satan and his temptations abound.

we will live when we decide to make Jesus our life and not just a part of it.

God’s throne is and will be there for eternity.

the mysteries of Jesus’ parables will be unveiled.

I will be going when God says to me “It is finished”.

I

Three in one

The doctrine of the Trinity is not something that is easily understood by some. “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit calls out, ‘Abba, Father’.  Discovering God the son means that we must stumble or trip over our preconceived ideas about Jesus Christ’s role in the Trinity.  Just as any other father would have a future planned out for his sons, God the Father has plans for His son, namely to come when the time is right to start fulfilling God’s mission here on earth.  This mission was foretold way back in Genesis.  The time is something only God the Father knows.

Is 9:6-10 talks about the names that Jesus will be called and His government.  When Jesus came, Jesus claimed to be God and the Son of God and this claim was counter intuitive to the belief system of the governing party.  He became offensive to the ruling party who eventually murdered Him.  Probably the most important claim of Jesus was His fortelling of His death and resurrection.  Likewise, God the Son offends our desire to be in charge.  His role was to fulfill the Father’s mission yet He was limited to the structure of creation which God had put in place.  He had to work with what His Father had given Him to accomplish that mission.  Jesus is all powerful but He also had to have His diaper changed.  As any other father on earth would want their sons to do, Jesus had to listen to His father.   He had to take time to be with Him and listen to Him so that when Jesus had accomplished the mission He was sent to carry out so that God his Father could say “well done good and faithful servant.”  He had to come in order for man to be redeemed.  

So why did God send His Son?  He loves us and was willing to use His Son to redeem us.  Nothing can seperate us from the love of God and He was willing to go to any length so that we, sinful man, could be redeemed.  God can take suffering and make beauty out of ashes.  Jesus chose to get into the mud so that we could be lifted out and washed clean.  Jesus’ power extends beyond time, limitations and boundaries.