Saturday, August 23, 2014

We All Stumble in Many Ways

Do you sometimes feel as if you're the only one who messes up over and over again, who just can't seem to get this thing right? Well, according to James you're in good company, because he says "we ALL stumble in many ways" (James 3:2), and he's right!

That's not to say that any of us wants to ever remain in a less-than-mediocre life, but it IS to say that we're all in the same boat, even if we put on a fake shiny exterior to hide what's going on inside.

There truly is victory in Jesus, and He Himself is our hope and sufficiency in ALL things! Just remember, though, that you're not alone when it comes to wishing that you had your stuff more together than you do. This isn't defeat-ism. It's just reality.  Again, Christ Himself is our only hope!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Have I gone too far to be forgiven?

In my inbox the other day was an email from a woman who shared a very emotional story regarding her very difficult past and her current struggles regarding her fears and worries about her salvation.  I won't go into any of the details that she shared.  I'll only say that in general she has dealt with a lot of hurt and pain that she's received from others, as well as a deep sense of guilt and shame due to her own failures and sins.  She also shared with me that she'd recently heard some teachings on "falling away," and it's led to much more fear.

I responded to her, and I'd like to share my response here in the hopes that it will be of comfort and encouragement to others as well.


I do want to share the good news with you in regards to your standing with God.  As you probably know, the word "gospel" means "good news," and that's what God has declared to mankind through Jesus Christ.  When Jesus was born, the angels were declaring "good tidings of great joy" and saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:14).  The "goodwill toward men" is from God to humans.  It's God's goodwill towards people.  That's why Jesus came.

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him."  Rom 5:8-9

"God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their sins against them."  2 Cor 5:19

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:17

So, no matter what you've ever done, no matter what you've ever been through, no matter what sins you've ever committed, no matter how big or bad your failures have been, Christ has not come to condemn you or to put you to shame, but He has come to save you.  God has not come into your life to point out your sins, but to show you how He has saved you from your sins.  He's come into your life to give you LIFE - and not to put guilt, shame or condemnation upon you.  Christ's sacrifice has delivered you from guilt, shame and condemnation.

The great Enemy likes to skew God's good news message, by portraying God and Christ as being angry and vengeful with us for our sins.  But that's not what happened in Christ.  It's actually exactly the opposite!

God has shown great love and kindness towards us.  He has offered all of His goodwill to us freely, without cost to us.  Our good works cannot earn it, and our bad works cannot take it away.  We receive all of it, not through our efforts but by God's grace, through faith.  We simply believe Him, and trust Him in what He has done on our behalf.

There is a mention in Hebrews 6 of those who "fall away."  It's a hypothetical situation, but the main point about it that I'd like to make is, what is it that they would "fall away" from and what is it that they would fall away to?  Many in the church would teach you that to "fall away" is to fall away from God by sinning, or by living in constant sin.  But that's not what the passage in Hebrews 6 is talking about - at all.  This epistle to the Hebrews was written to people who had been under the law all their lives.  (It was written to Jews - Hebrews - who had been under the law).  After having been under the law for so long, in which they would sacrifice bulls, goats and other animals for their sins, day after day and year after year, they found out that Christ's ONE sacrifice actually took away all sin, once and for all!  The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin, but Christ's sacrifice did!  So through faith, that's what they had originally turned TO.  They had turned away from their own efforts and sacrifices, and they had turned TO trusting in Christ's sacrifice.  However... many of them were questioning if Christ's sacrifice was really enough, and they were turning back to sacrificing animals.  They had turned FROM faith in Christ, back TO trusting in the sacrifices of animals.  This is the "falling away" in Hebrews 6.

Falling away from God isn't about sinning.  It's about turning away from Christ's sacrifice, and turning back to animal sacrifices (or keeping God's law in general).  Salvation is found only in ONE name, Jesus Christ, and it can't be found in any other name or in any other way.

So that's the good news!  You are saved, sanctified, justified and made righteous all through the ONE sacrifice of Jesus.  It's through nothing you've ever done, and it's not taken away through anything you've ever done.  God simply asks us to trust what He has done over what we have done.

I hope this helps you to understand and realize that your salvation isn't dependent upon YOU. :)  It's solely dependent upon HIM... and He has not fallen short in any way in saving you or keeping you saved. :)  It's all by His grace, and we can't add to or take away from what He's done.

Our relationships with other people are different, of course.  There's nobody who has ever loved like God loves or who has given us mercy and grace like God has given us.  And we've not done the same for others, either.  We all still fall very short in our actions towards each other, and towards God.  And because of that, we will indeed have varying degrees of strife and situations that we will have to deal with in life.  That's just the reality.  But with GOD, we never, ever, ever have to deal with Him being contentious towards us.  He will never condemn us or make us feel guilty.  When we are in Christ, by grace through faith, feelings of guilt and condemnation do not come from God!

I wish you all of God's grace and peace.  May you truly know and experience the love, mercy, grace and peace of God.

Monday, June 09, 2014

No 'Cloning' Around

It should go without saying that you were created to be who you are and not who somebody else is, or who somebody else expects you to be or thinks you should be.

The human body is one unit, and it's made up of many different and diverse parts.  It's the same with the body of Christ:  One body, one unit, many different and diverse parts.  We're not all meant to be the same, or to do the same things.  Christ Himself is the head of this body.  As the head, He has specially gifted you to carry out certain "functions" in His body (just as an arm or a tongue carries out certain functions in a human body).

Other people may be able to see things in you and point things out to you that help you to see the part you play in the body of Christ, and that's a good thing.  We're called to encourage one another and build one another up in who we are and how we fit into the body of Christ as a whole.  But in the end, it's not anybody else's determination as to what part you play in the body of Christ.  It's Christ's determination as He leads and guides you.  Follow His leading.

At the same time, don't expect others to do the same things you do or to walk in the same functions that you walk in.  They're not meant to!  They're meant to walk in the functions that Christ has ordained for them to walk in.  If you're "equipping" or helping others find out what special gifts and abilities they walk in for the sake of the body, it shouldn't be your goal to create copies or clones of yourself and your particular acts of faith and service, or even to create copies or clones of various Bible characters and their particular acts of faith and service.  What God does in people may look absolutely nothing like the "religious" or "spiritual" ideas we get when we think of Christ's work in people.  (For example, Rahab the Harlot was known for hiding spies.  How spiritual-sounding is that?!)

Your job isn't to point others to a robot-like series of preprogrammed instructions to follow, but rather to point others to Christ Himself and His unique ways of working in them.  He knows what He's doing in them individually and in the body as a whole!

Friday, May 23, 2014

We Live in the New, Not the Old!

Israel was under the old covenant. They were promised something new. This new thing wouldn't be like the old, nor based on the old, but would be completely different... Brand new. It would be a "better covenant," a "better hope," based upon "better promises" (see chapters 7-9 of Hebrews). They were even told in advance that what was promised in the new covenant would be for the Gentiles as well.

So now we who are in this new covenant (whether Jew or Gentile) don't live according to anything that pertains to the old. We live according to what is new. We don't live according to the way Israel lived. We live according to what Israel was promised. Israel was promised something new!

What's new in the New is that the Old Covenant laws have been "abolished" (Eph 2:15), made "obsolete" (Heb 8:13), and have been "wiped out," "taken out of the way" and "nailed to the cross" (Col 2:14), and it's all been replaced with new-creation Life in the Spirit! ("Life" is something that could never be brought about by law - see Gal 3:21). What's new in the New is that there is no longer any self-effort involved in trying to keep laws, but in place of the law is the Life of the Spirit of Christ in us, who produces the fruit of the Spirit - which again is something law could never do!

The Old Covenant law was never God's will. "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God," Jesus is quoted as saying in Hebrews 10:9. The verse continues, "He takes away the first that He may establish the second."

So today, not only are we not under God's law, but it is the very thing that had to be done away with - "abolished" - in order for this new life in Him to be possible. It's not that there are no longer Jews and that there are no longer Gentiles, but anyone who is in this "one new man" (see below) is neither Jew nor Gentile. We (Jew and Gentile believer alike) have been grafted into Jesus, with the law having been "wiped out," "taken out of the way" and "nailed to the cross."

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. Eph 2:14-16
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.Col 2:13-14

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hot Lovers

Great Facebook Post by Ralph Harris.
“Hot Lovers” – Those invaluable and heroic people who, out of a genuine and burning love of the truth, persistently annoy us to the message of the cross and the anti-slavery message it insists. “Christ set you free to live by His grace,” they might say, “and I will not be silent when someone suggests even a subtle return to the prison of the law.”  I am deeply thankful for them.
Hear hear!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why I'm Successful

Here's a list of reasons why I'm successful. As you'll see, it all depends upon how you define "success."

Why I'm Successful:

Simply put, I'm successful because I do what I'm called to do.

I'm successful because I'm not trying to be what I'm not. I'm simply being what I am.

I'm successful because I'm not trying to be or copy someone else. I'm being who I am.

I'm successful, not because I'm the best among those who do similar things to what I do, but because I am the one who does what I do. I am not trying to be the best among my peers, but among my peers I'm the best at being who I am.

I'm successful because I'm not trying to be "big." I'm not trying to be "larger than life." I'm simply being me.

I'm successful bcause I'm not trying to be part of a "movement." I'm just doing what I do.

I'm successful because I'm not trying to cater to anybody else. I'm not trying to please other people and I'm not trying to fulfill the expectations that others would have of me. I'm being who I am.

I'm successful because what I do benefits one person.

I'm successful because I don't care about what people think about what I'm doing, but rather I think that what I'm doing is worth caring about.

I'm successful because I don't hold myself responsible for how others respond to what I do, whether positively or negatively.

I'm successful because I listen to the counsel, criticisms and objections of others and then I go with what I believe in my heart is right. I weigh things out and I'm teachable, but I don't allow myself to be in bondage to the thoughts and opinions of others.

I'm successful because I'm neither jealous nor envious, nor haughty nor vain when other people have "bigger" audiences or "bigger" ministries, or "smaller" audiences or "smaller" ministries. "Comparison is the thief of joy." - Theodore Roosevelt. To compare my works, activities, fruit, knowledge, etc, with that of anyone else is to compare an eye to a nose. And so...

I'm successful because I'm not competeing with others, but rather I'm working alongside them. We're one body. It's a support system, not a competition. We support one another, not break each other down or compete to see who's the "biggest" or the "best."

I'm successful because I'm content doing what I do.

I'm successful not because I have a big vision, but because I have a big God.

I'm successful because God Himself is at work in me to will and to do according to His good pleasure.

I'm successful because I follow the wind of the Spirit, not the whispers of man.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Be Who You Are

There are billions of people here on Planet Earth.  Billions more have lived in times past.  Out of those billions of people, how many of them are you?  And how many of them are you supposed to be?

The answer to both questions is, of course, Zero.  None.

You are who you are.  Nobody else is you, and you are nobody else.  It's meant to be that way!  God designed it that way.  He's such a magnificent Creator!  He knows how to make billions and billions of unique individuals.  He didn't make you to be like any of them.  He made you to be you, and He made other people to be who they are.  There is something so incredible in all of this:  We are individuals and yet we belong to God and we belong to each other.  When each of us is who we are, it all works together.

God Himself makes it work together in a similar fashion to how the individual parts of a human body function:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Rom 12:4-5, NIV

So be who you are.  You are free to be who you are!  You were created by your Creator to be who you are!  He didn't make a mistake when He made you.  He made you to be who you are and He made you in such a way that you, as you are, fit into a much larger body.  You are a not only a part of that body, but you are a vital part of that body, along with all the other parts of that body.  (So allow them to be who they are, as well!)

God's not asking you to be like someone else.  He's not asking you to be something that you're not.  That would be like a body's brain sending a signal to the knuckle of a thumb to act like a lung!  In reality, a lung has certain functions that a knuckle can't even begin to try to emulate.  A knuckle is meant to be a knuckle, not a lung!  And it's the other way around, too.

You are special to God.  You are His beloved child.  The Holy Spirit works in and through you just as He works in and through all the members of Christ's body.  He has created many different parts to fit into His body.  You are unique, as is everyone else!  There is such a vast diversity in the body of Christ, and while we can each appreciate and admire what God is doing in and through others, we've each been called to be the unique person that we are.

God's not impressed with any member of His body any more than He's impressed with any other member.  Hello?  He made them all!  And He made them all to function together as one body!  God thinks highly of each member, because He is the one who created them all, for the sake of the body as a whole.  No one is greater, no one is lesser.  We are individuals and we are one.  God takes great pleasure in each of us being who we are.

Here is the podcast version of this blog post: Be Who You Are.