Thursday, January 31, 2008

Everybody Wang Chung Tonight

Wang Chung - Everybody Have Fun Tonight
These guys have the most serious faces for people promoting fun. :) Yet as a child (teen) of the 80's, this brings back a lot of great memories!


Point of Grace - How You Live
When I first heard the title of this song I thought it was just another legalistic song about 'how to live the Christian life.' After listening to it, however, I think it's about living LIFE to the fullest!

Derek Webb on Christians and Art

The video below is currently on Derek Webb's myspace site. Webb was formerly a member of the CCM band Caedmon's Call and has enjoyed a solo career in recent years. This clip shows him on a program that appears to be called "TN Mornings." He mentions Nashville and it appears to be a local Fox morning show.

Anyway, based upon this interview, it appears that Webb has a similar view on "Christian Art" as I do. I don't think the subject is black and white at all and I know there are all kinds of view on this, but again, my views seem to line up closely here. I would perhaps word things a little differently, but the part of the interview that caught my attention is when Derek says this:

"Every artist has a way they look at the world... and the art that people make... reflects the way they look at the world. Most of what's called "Christian art" or whatever is typically about the most, like, spiritual 2% of stuff. I think we need art about all hundred percent though. I mean, not just transcendent moments, you know, like, worshipful moments and the afterlife. I mean, you know, that's part of it but it's only like 2%. We need Christians writing songs about the government and relationships and family and sexuality and everything... like the other 98% of the stuff..."


(If you watch the video, this part of the interview begins at around the 2:30 mark).

I totally agree with the essence of what is being said here. The way in which I would word things differently would be in a way such as this: "ALL of life is 100% spiritual (including government, relationships, family, sexuality, etc), so we need Christians writing about all 100% of life."

I totally get what he is saying, though, and again I fully agree with the gist of what he's getting at. We worship God. We praise Him. We love Him. We honor Him. It's great to sings songs about Him. But every single detail of our lives is lived in HIM, and if it's on an artist's heart to sing, write, draw, imagine, think, paint, perform, dramatize, film, etc, etc, etc, then that artist should just DO IT! It doesn't have to have a "Christian" theme to be "Christian." It doesn't have to be a presentation of the gospel in order to be part of the 100% of our lives in Christ.

Agree? Disagree? Anything to add?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

For the lonely leader's heart club band

Received this from a friend and I thought many of you would relate to this in one way or another.
"God's leaders are not essentially leaders because of certain natural qualifications. . . They go to school with God, and in a hard school the kind of qualities required by God are inculcated. Another general thing about leaders chosen by God is that they while being very human, are, in many respects, a class by themselves They are pioneers, and pioneers are lonely people in more respects than one. In some ways they are difficult people. Their nature generally likes not to be disturbed, but would seek the easy way, the pioneer is often a bit too much for people. He is restless, never satisfied, always pressing and urging forward. The keynote of his life is 'let us go on.' His is not the easy way, and because human nature does want the easy way, the leader is not always popular. The whole nature of man is either downward or to a quiet and happy mean and snugness. The pioneer is therefore not always appreciated, but often very much otherwise. He is so much contrary to this mediocre gravitation. A part of the price of leadership is loneliness." (Sparks September 1962)

I think this quote from T. Austin Sparks is true in just about any area of leadership and I just want to focus in on one specific area - and that is the teaching of grace. It can be lonely at times. You preach to blank faces, and angry faces. You face rejection. You are the "difficult person" in the room, not because you're tactless or a jerk or self-serving or self-righteous, but simply because your honest heart speaks things that go against the flow of the norm, no matter how lovingly you do it. You are most definitely not always popular. But yet you cannot find it within yourself to compromise or sell out for even a minute, just to be accepted or at peace with everyone.

I'd like to borrow from a story I heard from Bill Gillham (Lifetime Guarantee) a while ago (using my own words, because I can't remember the exact words he used). One time somebody essentially 'accused' him of teaching "that easy grace stuff." Gillham's reply was that grace is by no means easy. It goes against the religious preeminence of the flesh.

I agree. Grace goes against the way people are wired by default. Grace is hard to accept and believe and trust, especially when the bewitchery of the foolish Galatian world is so prevalent in today's Christian culture.

However, when you've been released from the bondage of religion and you've experienced the freedom of true, pure grace, you know that you can never go back! You have a joy within you that sustains you and that cannot be defeated. You know that when you're sharing your heart with other believers who are entrenched in the dead works of religious duty, you have their best interests in mind, even if they reject what you are saying, or even reject you personally. And yep, it can be lonely but yet there is that peace and that joy within, and the knowledge that Jesus Himself, grace Personified, was rejected and scorned long before you were. He was despised, and yet for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God!

I just want to say that I'm thankful for the community of friends I've become acquainted with during the past few years through the internet, especially the friends I've met through Blogger and MySpace during the past year to year and a half. My life will never be the same because of you all! Although I haven't shared much about the lonely road that I've been on in my personal life (not in regards to true friendships, but in regards to sharing God's grace with my church friends), I can say with all assurance that my online friendships have truly helped to make the burden light and the yoke easy. Thank you!

Heeeeeeeeeeeeere's Aida!

Just wanted to give a quick plug for a new blog. For those of you who don't keep up with the comments on this blog, Aida mentioned the other day that she has begun her own blog, "Forgetting the Former Things." Her first post explains the title of her blog, based upon scripture. I've enjoyed Aida's comments on my blog and on other blogs and if you remember, she sent me her "grace story" not too long ago. Go Aida! Happy blogging to you!

Big Difference 1 - Imputed sin vs. Sin taken away

In our kitchen we have a calendar that includes a Bible verse printed on every Sunday of each month. The verse from this past Sunday is Numbers 14:18. Actually, only the first part of the verse was printed:
"'The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.'" (It's a quote within quotes because the verse is a quote of Moses, who is quoting the Lord).

At first I was thinking that this might be a nice verse to share with others to provide some encouragement. However, as soon as I opened my PC Study Bible and came to this verse, I realized what I really already knew... this verse is not for Christians!

WHY?

Now, I am trying ever so hard to make this brief, although I'm tempted to go into all of the context here, but let me just get right to it. This verse is not for Christians, because first of all, the part of the verse I quoted represents part of what God has already done for Christians through Jesus Christ (it's a done deal!), but here's what really stuck out to me. The verse continues:
"'Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.'"

SOOOO much false Christian doctrine has been built upon this verse being ripped out of context!

Christian friends, here's the big difference between this Old Covenant passage from Numbers and the truth of the New Covenant:
Rom 4:5-8
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."

In Christ, not only does our sin NOT get passed on to the third and fourth generations, but it doesn't get imputed to us at all! In fact:

"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John the Baptist in John 1:29).

If our sin is taken away, what sin is left for there to be imputed to us or to our children? Halleluiah!

Big Differences

For quite some time I've had an idea of something that I've wanted to do on this blog, but I guess what has held me back is that I haven't figured out exactly how I'm going to do it. I want to do short posts that point out the differences between the Old Covenant and New Covenant, or between living by law and living by grace, and things like that. A few years ago I caught myself using the phrase "there's a big difference" quite often when I would record my thoughts onto a recorder.

At times I've made lists of differences/contrasts in my own notes. In the past I've posted some of those on this blog. Bino and others have created lists, too, such as this recent one, Religion Vs. True Grace. Well, since this is a rather informal blog, I guess there's no need for me to try to find some formal or flashy way to do this, so I think I'll just get started on it! I guess the way that I'll begin going about this is by posting them at intervals, in a similar way to On Coffee's "random" posts such as this recent one, Random 41, and Steve McVey's "101 Lies" posts such as this recent one, "Lie #21 We Need To Continually Ask God To Forgive Our Sins."

There is a Big Difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. They are not the same and we're not living under some of one and some of the other. There is a Big Difference between grace and law. There is a Big Difference in how we go about living our lives, based upon all of this!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

MyCCM... and questions for you about "Christian music"

Check out the home page of MyCCM.org. (MyCCM is a social networking site, along the lines of MySpace, that has been built especially for Christians). I received a message today that they have me as the featured MyCCM blogger of the week! I joined MyCCM when it was brand new, back in the summer of 2006. I was quite excited about it at first, and I edited my profile a little bit and I posted a few blogs, but then for whatever reason I kind of backed away from it for a while and didn't do much with it. However, not too long ago I thought it wouldn't be too bad of an idea to begin blogging there again. Basically, what I do is I copy and paste the same content from this blog to my MyCCM blog. This, by the way, is also what I do with my MySpace blog.

Here are the links to my MyCCM profile and blog.

If you keep up with the comments that get posted on this blog, you may sense a bit of irony here! Just the other day, in a response to comments by LivingSword on my Testify To Love post, I proceeded to rip right into the CCM (contemporary Christian music) industry! :) Well, ok, I didn't really rip into them! What I did was I simply explained a few specific negative aspects of the CCM industry as I've seen it, behind the scenes.

But I do think a lot of good has come out of CCM and actually this gives me an opportunity to clear something up that I wrote in those comments the other day. My comments read, "I'm not a fan of Christian music." However, that blanket statement that I made isn't fully true. As I went on to say, "I do like some music that comes out of the music business known as CCM."

It would probably be more accurate for me to say that I'm not a huge fan of much of the CCM music that comes out, although I do think the quality of the music and lyrical content has dramatically improved over the years. I've gone through several phases in my view of CCM, including going to two extremes. At one time I remember applauding what I considered to be not only the fact that the quality of some CCM music was on par with a lot of quality "mainstream" music, but also that some CCM artists were really setting the standard in quality music and lyrics. I still believe that has been the case at times. (One example: I believe DC Talk was always way ahead of the curve). However, at other times I've been much more of a cynic and I've questioned how Christians could allow such poor quality music and lyrics to be released!

All that said, I think the very same thing is true in the "mainstream" music world! There is a LOT of cheesy, cookie cutter, low quality ear candy no matter where you go in the music world. And you will also find a decent amount of high quality, solid, well-put-together music. The "problem" for those in the CCM music world (at least as I see it) is that there is simply a much smaller pool of music to choose from when it comes to the choices program directors have when deciding what to play on the radio. They can only add a handful (or less) of songs every week. What I think that translates to is that the average CCM listener has less of a chance to find good, quality music to listen to. Perhaps if you're a CCM fan that hasn't been your experience?
Allow me to interrupt my ramblings here for a second and state that all of this is really my own opinion! If you feel the same or if you disagree, I'd love to hear from you!
As many of you who know me would imagine, another problem I have with CCM music is the terrible amount of legalism, even if ever so subtle, that I hear in the lyrics of a lot of the songs. I will say that I think this has changed for the better in recent years. I don't cringe as much as I used to when I'm listening to CCM radio. :)

The bottom line for me, as I said at the end of my response to LS, is that "I listen to all types of music, both on the radio and stuff that I have in my personal music collection. If I personally like a song, I'll listen to it. If I don't, I won't. I was once a huge cynic about all this, but now I just live and let live." :)

I spent 11 years at a CCM radio station, and we received letter upon letter (or email upon email) from people who had been positively affected by the music we played. I'm overall very thankful for the CCM industry, even if there are some negative aspects to it. As for the artists themselves, I really don't think that many of them are in it for the glory or the money or the fame, because overall there's not a whole lot of it to be found! Money... only a handful of artists can really quit their day jobs. Fame and glory... might perhaps be a little bit more accessible for some, even if they don't make a whole lot of money, but yet I've met so many artists and I've listened to what they have to say, and it really does appear to me that they really, genuinely are in this to spread the gospel and to encourage the church, and not for their own fame.

Any thoughts on this? Also, I've been careful to use terms like "CCM Music" in this post, as opposed to "Christian music." By CCM Music, I mean music that comes from the music industry known as CCM. (It is an actual industry, based mostly in Nashville, although you will find bits of it spread all around the U.S. and the world). Do you believe there is such a thing as "Christian music" or a "Christian band?" Or is it more like, "Christians who happen to be in a band?" Or is it a matter of music that has lyrics that speak of "Christian" things? Is it a matter of artists who happen to sing about Jesus? What about a "non-Christian band" that sings doctrinally sound lyrics? What about a Christian who sings songs that have nothing to do with "Christian" things? And so on and so on. Is there a need for solid lines and definitions, or should a Christian have the freedom to sing about whatever is on his or her heart (whether it's about his love for Jesus or whether it's about his wife or his job or his car or his last vacation, or whether it's about nature or a museum or... whatever he wants to sing about), with no need for a definition such as "Christian music?"

God's love confirmed to me

Early on the morning of October 8, 1993, the Lord woke me up and got me out of bed. It wasn't even 6:00am yet and at that time in life I was not normally an early riser, but yet I felt refreshed and for whatever reason I grabbed my yellow notepad and got in my car and went driving out into the country. I had no plans, I just went driving. I ended up pulling over into a tiny parking lot out in the country, near a radio tower. This lot is often used for carpoolers. I was the only one there. Sitting in my car, I was facing Highway 63, just south of Tripoli, Iowa.

In my heart, I was longing for something or looking for something, but I didn't necessarily know what it was. I was also simply observing the beauty of my surroundings out in the country and praising God. I sat there for over an hour and a half, and I took notes as I prayed and observed and longed. Below are the notes I took that morning. I was 24 years old, and just a year and a half into my new walk with Jesus. I had grown a lot, but was still unsure of a lot of things. In a large way my view of God was legalistic, but yet I knew that God was good and I knew He was full of grace. One big problem I had (which is easy to see now, looking back) is that my life was a big mixture of legalism and grace.

I guess some of the mixture of the views comes across in the notes I took that day, but overall this was a very memorable morning, full of grace. Although my notes are dear to my heart and they bring back a wonderful memory of that day, I know that sharing these notes does not do justice to what truly went on in my heart that day.

I was questioning God about His love for me, asking Him to show it to me. I was looking all around to try to spot Him showing it to me in one way or another. In the end, after I'd waited for an hour and a half, He suddenly showed His love to me in a very unexpected way!

October 8, 1993 Watching the Sun Come Up

6:20 Praise the Lord, the Mighty God
6:45 Who paints the eastern sky pink and orange, in the morning!
6:47 Praise You, Father as I wait to see Your Perfect Day begin.
6:48 The lights and the colors move and are hidden in the clouds. Then they light up the clouds.
6:49 No two seconds are exactly the same.
6:50 The sun is not up yet, but it’s coming. I can see that it’s coming!!
6:52 I praise You, Father for waking me up this morning. For bringing me to this place to behold Your awesome beauty! Early in the morning I seek Your face. I seek Your will. What do You want me to do, what do You want me to see, where do You want me to go, what do You want me to hear. Let me know, O Lord, and give me the grace to do Your will.
6:56 It’s becoming lighter around me, night is gone, but day isn’t here quite yet.
6:57 Just above the horizon the clouds are lit up. I can’t see the sun yet, but it’s coming. I know that it’s coming!!
7:02 It’s so still in the sky. I can’t see the changes, but yet minute by minute it’s all different.
7:04 The clouds shift about, the orange light smooths around looking to grab hold of another cloud, or else fly out into space father than I can see or imagine.
7:05 Most of the lower half of the sky is now a mixture of early morning blue and orange.
7:06 Beautiful! You’re wonderful, God!! The birds feel the same, as their morning song begins!
7:08 O, the wonders of Your Majesty! Let more people see this, God. How could they not believe in You if they could see what I see!
7:10 But where’s the sun? O, how I’ve waited to see the fiery sun pop over the horizon. I worship You Lord.
7:12 As I wait for the night to completely be gone and for a fresh new day and start, what else can I do but praise You and worship You!
7:17 Maybe I won’t see the sun – or am I just impatient! It’s light all around me now. I can see the trees in the distance that were once just shadows on the horizon.
7:22 The orange is tainting away as blue takes over. But still I see streaks and patches of orange here and there.
7:24 The birds around continue their morning song service, each one sharing his heart.
7:27 The creatures getting ready for their day, too I suppose; some preparing their beds, even. The orange clouds turn white up above and around.
7:28 But on the horizon they remain. The sun is coming!
7:34 O, how wonderful – a spot on the horizon, as fiery orange as fire! (Not the sun yet!) O, yes it is – it is the sun. The clouds were hiding it, but could hide it no more. Two inches above the horizon was the sun and I didn’t even know it!!
7:36 Now it’s a great full round ball of fire!!
7:37 But the street sign across the road is covering most of it.
7:41 Behold the love of God: Earlier as I was looking at the clouds, thinking about the shapes that are sometimes made to look like things, I asked God to show me His arms open wide (that I could be assured of His love). Well I didn’t see it in the clouds. But that street sign, with the sun surrounding it, became a cross for just a minute, and I could see God’s open arms. That’s where He had His arms open wide for everybody – on that cross. God showed His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
7:50 Well, I’ve been here for an hour and a half! I’m out on the corner of Highway 63 and C33. I’ve seen the beauty of a new day beginning, but more than that I’ve seen God’s love and I’ve learned a lesson in the importance of waiting. I waited here all that time and God blessed me! I’ll say it freely and surely – God blessed me for waiting! Praise God! He blessed me in a way that I never imagined and wasn’t expecting. What if I would have gotten so tired of waiting that I just turned around and went back home! I’d be sleeping and would have missed out on this beautiful display and assurance of God’s love. All the while through this I was comparing the coming of the sun with the coming of the Son (in my mind). Then as the sun appeared, the Son truly did appear!! God, I can’t fully comprehend all this, although it’s probably really simple – but one thing I know – You love me. Thank You – I don’t deserve it. But it’s true!

Those are the exact words I wrote that day, and again, my notes do no justice to the vision I was seeing! I had been paying absolutely no attention to that street sign, and as the colors danced all around me it intrigued me for a moment that the big fiery ball of the sun was hidden behind the sign and covered by the clouds. Then suddenly the clouds disappeared - moved out of the way - and what was left was the sun, positioned perfectly behind the 'cross' part of the street sign. I don't think it was a "real" vision, as in a street sign literally turning into a cross, but by the way it looked it may as well have been! I could no longer see a "street sign," and the sun was shining and glowing in just the perfect way to make it look like a cross with Jesus' arms spread wide open. God confirmed His love for me that day, by giving me a stunning and undeniable view of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Below is a picture that I took of the actual street sign a couple of months ago. This place is now my "holy ground." LOL. Every once in a while I stop by there and just sit for a while. Although I've never seen the same "vision," Father has spoken to my heart as I've sat in that place. The photo is taken from approximately the same position I was sitting in 14 years ago. Imagine an early, dark morning. The sun begins to rise. The partly cloudy sky is constantly changing. Imagine the clouds clearing away, exposing the sun in a similar way to the second picture below (not my own photo, but it just gives an idea of how the sun looked). Imagine the sun, right behind the street sign. Merge the two pictures together. Words and pictures can't truly describe it, but I was never the same after that morning!



Monday, January 28, 2008

Double talk

Bino posted what I think is an excellent list of "Double Talk" coming out of the mouths of Christians! Bino's purpose is not to bash other Christians, but just to point out amazement at the things that are taught to Christians that are so contradictory! I love lists like this that point out the big differences between the Old and New Covenants, and between what is taught in church and what the Bible really says.

Some examples from Bino's blog include:

-Isn’t it funny that we tell people that Gospel is all about Jesus, and explains them things to ‘do’ to be saved or stay saved?

-Isn’t it funny that we tell people that the church is the body of Christ (group of believers), and invite them to a building calling it ‘church’?

-Isn't it funny that we tell people that sinners are welcome to our 'church', and bash them with law?

The one that had me laughing out LOUD was this one:

-Isn’t it funny that we teach people to tithe, and then serve them pork for dinner? :) LOL (And while it's funny, there is a very valid point here!).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Testify To Love

Warning: Vulnerable moment here. :) This song brings tears to my eyes almost every time I hear it. In fact, I just looked at youtube to find a video for the song and it seems that many people have been creative, making their own videos for the song, so I listened to it four times and I teared up during each listen. What can I say? I'm a softy sometimes!

There is a lot of love, grace, mercy and peace in this song. Not just "me" receiving it from God, but love, grace, mercy and peace that goes around as we reach out and share our lives with each other.

A couple of years ago, my daughter "graduated" from preschool and they had a ceremony with songs, skits and other activities. One of the songs the kids sang was this song. Actually, a "grown-up" sang the verses and then the kids sang the chorus. It was hilarious and cute, because you could see these little 'uns getting ready to sing their part each time the chorus came up, and when it came they would sing it out LOUD (almost to the point of shouting it out) so that everyone could hear them. Priceless. :)

Avalon - Testify To Love

Saturday, January 26, 2008

We're trying to fight it?

I heard this Billy Joel song on the radio the other day on the way home from work. It had been a while since I'd heard it. For better or for worse, my mind often goes to work analyzing things (although I've really cut back on thinking about things too much), and I really had a quite a time thinking about this song. Just wondering if any of your thoughts line up with mine (or not)!

Although my thoughts were somewhat extensive, I'll be brief here. The chorus goes, "We didn't start the fire, it was always burning since the world's been turning. We didn't start the fire, no we didn't light it but we're trying to fight it."

What a simple chorus, but just watch me complicate it! They say that art is interpreted by the viewer/listener/hearer/beholder, and judging from the all words in the verses of this song, I've interpreted "the fire" as all the things that mankind has done over the years... both good and evil.

And so... I would say that "the fire" was started when Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From that perspective, I would say that "we" (all humans) didn't start "the fire," but it came through the one man, Adam. However, every single person has contributed to "the fire" (living from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).

And so my question is... are "we" (the human race) trying to fight it? Is it up to "us" to make things right. Can we make things right? (By "right," I'm not talking about fixing the world's woes. I'm talking about restoring mankind to the tree of Life rather than living by the knowledge of good and evil)!

I say "no," because the "fight" has already been fought and won! There's still a lot of good and evil in the world, but the fight that was necessary to get us out of living under the curse of that tree has been won and we're now able to go back to the tree of LIFE, rather than living by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil!

I know I could do a sermon here, or a series of sermons, but I'll simply ask if what I've said so far stirs any thoughts in you? Do you think I'm utterly mad? ;)

Either way, it's still a fun song!

Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire

"One" (In the Name of Love)

Ok so overall this song doesn't go along with my "One" post from the other day, but as I was out and about this morning I was thinking about that post and this song came on the radio. A couple of the verses do go somewhat along with my post. And... I simply like the song, so I thought I'd post it. The song, of course, also goes along with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, celebrated earlier this week.

"One man come in the name of love..."
"One man come here to justify..."
"One man betrayed with a kiss..."

U2 - Pride (In the Name of Love)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

One

In June of last year, Bino posted a great blog that I keep going back to called "Dismantle the confession booths." The post is simply a series of Bible verses that show how, among other truths, we have already been forgiven. We don't keep getting forgiven over and over again, through confession of sins or through any other method or act. As I've previously stated, I've printed out all the verses (over two pages worth) and I'm using it to memorize many of the scriptures.

The scripture that I'm on right now is this one:
Rom 5:17-18
17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. 18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. (NASB)

I don't like pulling scriptures out of their context (like many people do with, oh, say, let me try to think of an example, hmmm - oh yeah, 1 John 1:9!), especially the above passage with the rich verses and chapters that surround it. Romans is definitely an epistle in which Paul used a lot of words at a time - many sentences and paragraphs - to form larger points. But yet if I keep the whole context in mind this is one of many smaller sections that are worth taking the time to memorize and meditate upon.

There is one word in particular that I want to focus on here. That one word is "one." It's such an important word when it comes to understanding the gospel! Why? Well, as the passage points out, the bad news - the condition that all of mankind has been in (sin, death, judgment, condemnation) - was the result of the transgression of one man, Adam. Sin and death entered the world through one man, Adam (oh yeah, context - see verse 12), and through this one man's offense, judgment came to everyone, resulting in condemnation. You never had to even commit one single sin, and yet you were condemned from the start because of the transgression of Adam. It's not fair, is it?

Well, the gospel isn't fair then, either! (Thank God!). The gospel - the good news - is also based upon what one man did! Whereas sin, death, judgment and condemnation came through one man's disobedience, the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness came through one man's obedience. Paul uses the words "gift" or "free gift" six times in Romans 5 and 6. The gift of righteousness and eternal life came solely through the obedience of one man, Jesus. You never had to even commit a single righteous act, and yet you've been given the gift of righteousness because of the grace of God given through the one man, Jesus!

Take some time and read through Romans 5 (not limiting yourself to that, of course) and see what it says about you, all because of the act of one man (having nothing to do with your own acts or lack thereof). Justified! Standing in grace! Saved from wrath! Reconciled! The grace of God abounding to you! Righteous! Reigning in life! Eternal Life!

Ego-Surfing

In my post the other day, "Jumping around and having fun," I ever-so-briefly envisioned the Apostle Paul doing some ego-surfing (had he been around today). If Paul was to do internet searches for himself, can you imagine what kinds of information he would find! I imagine he's one of the most quoted (and misquoted) people ever to have lived!

Anyway, ego-surfing is one of those things that can be a vain (but fun) thing, and it can also be a useful tool for businesses, ministries and even individuals, for the purpose of finding out what others are saying about them, who is linking to them, who is quoting them, who is using their products, etc, etc.

I've mostly had fun with ego-surfing, and I've found it to be useful from time to time. I've googled (and yahoo'd) "Grace Roots," "Joel Brueseke," "Brueseke," and other such things, just to see what's out there. I've found distant relatives. I've found blogs and websites that are similar to mine. I've found blogs that have linked to things I've written. Because of all this I've been able to "meet" new people that I wouldn't have otherwise met.
[By the way, I have a question that someone might be able to answer. When I google "Grace Roots," one of the entries has a 'thumbnail view' of my blog. The thumbnail image is a picture of Mark Metcalf, who played sadistic ROTC Leader Doug Neidermeyer in National Lampoon's Animal House and also appeared in two Twisted Sister Videos (angry father in 'We're Not Gonna Take It' and angry high school teacher in 'I Wanna Rock'). I'm sure this thumbnail image has something to do with the fact that I posted a Twisted Sister video on my blog early last year. :) Not that I'm bothered by the image, but does anyone have any technical advice on how that image could be changed?]

Last week I mentioned how I had visited alexa.com and found old (archived) versions of my own website, as well as old versions of several other websites. I had fun doing this! Here is what my website looked like back in 2005 and 2006 (note: some of the links no longer work, nor does the contact form), compared with my website now. I'm kind of thinking about changing it again.

A couple of other things I found using Alexa's "Wayback Machine" are archived versions of the websites of the radio station I used to work at, including my old DJ profiles. My on-air name was "Joel Sommers," AKA "The Breezeman" (check out my profiles to see why). Here are my profiles from kwof.com in 2002 and 2005. This is before the website was changed to 891thespirit.com. The Wayback Machine worked for that site too, but the links to the more recent profiles didn't work. Anyway, it's not as if these profiles are ancient, but since I've been gone from the station for almost two years, it seems like forever ago!

"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" Ha ha!

Waaay below zero

This time of the year, by default I look at my local news channel's website every morning to see if school has been canceled or delayed, whether or not I see snow on the ground outside. The reason is - mornings like this morning. There is a two hour school delay today, not due to snow but due to the extreeeeeme cold. When my wife went out to start her van this morning, the temp was -22! Yep, for all you non-midwesterners, that's a minus sign in front of the 22. :) By the time I snagged this image of the temperature, it was -17. You could really feel the difference, too. Instead of your skin freezing in 5 seconds, it took 7.



The good news is that the winds are supposed to shift east tonight, beginning a warming trend that will bring us into the 20's (+20's) tomorrow. Can you say HEATWAVE!!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jumping around and having fun

This morning I received a message from a new friend on myspace. He shared his website with me, and on the website was a link to a pretty cool site, the Personal Promise Bible. On this site you can order a Bible that is personalized with YOUR name in various verses (5,000 verses, I think). You can view samples here. (Example: Col 3:3 For Joel died, and his life is hidden with Christ in God).

On the sample page, I typed my kids names in this morning as they were playing on our other computer next to me, and the sample verses appeared with their names in them. I read the verses out loud so they could hear them. They perked up as they heard some verses that they recognized with their names in them! I think it's a great idea to personalize the Bible in this way (keeping the Bible verses in proper context of course)!

After I had read a few verses out loud, my seven year old daughter, in sort of a funny-sarcastic way, asked, "Does it say anything about me jumping around and having fun?"

I snickered for a moment and then I realized what an "out of the mouth of babes" statement that was! Although she was joking, I had been seriously thinking about a similar thing just yesterday evening as I was finishing work. It's great to understand doctrine and it's great to hear how specific scriptures relate to our daily lives in Christ. It's great to study Bible doctrine and to understand what it means to us.

But I know that sometimes I can get so caught up in the meanings of verses and in understanding God's grace and growing in it that I forget to enjoy each precious moment, no matter what I'm doing! I do laugh every day and I really do enjoy life overall, but yet sometimes my over-thinking, over-analytical mind keeps me from enjoying my life in Christ to its full extent. Having read several of your blogs lately, I know I'm not alone in this! Again, I love studying scripture. I love digging deep and learning the meanings of words and verses. But I guess sometimes I can get so caught up in head knowledge that the peace of Christ doesn't reign in my heart (Col 3:15). When Christ's peace reigns in my heart, LIFE is lived to the full!

Is there anything in life that distracts you from letting the peace of Christ reign in your heart?

I don't know exactly how I started thinking about all this last night but I think it came as a result of me feeling like I had squandered a big chunk of my day yesterday. The kids were off school due to snow and my boss had called, telling me that most of my job was canceled for the day due to the weather. I just needed to come in and the end of the day and do a few things. So I was home most of the day, and basically I did a whole lot of nothing! I did do a couple of "serious" things like folding laundry and clearing snow off the drive, and I attempted to help a friend with a computer issue by writing an email. But as I looked back on the rest of my day I felt like I had wasted a lot of time. I pretty much messed around on my computer as the kids played on theirs. We usually have time limits for the kids on the computer, but I pretty much let them play most of the day yesterday.

Throughout the day yesterday, and into the evening as I was looking back on my day, I felt tinges of guilt creeping in because I wasn't "about my Father's business," either in the way of doing something to spread the gospel or in giving of myself as much as I could to my children or others. However, the guilt did not last because I'm grounded in the truth! And my daughter unknowingly helped to solidify this in me even more this morning! Not that I don't want to spread the gospel and not that I don't want to spend time with my family, but is it not also ok for me to jump around and have some fun?!?!

The seeming problem would be that I cannot find a Bible verse that specifically commands or admonishes Christians to "jump around and have fun!" And I can't seem to pinpoint the exact chapter and verse that says, "Go therefore and play a computer game." And why can I not find any scriptures that say, "husbands, love your wives and take the family out and have some fun at the bowling alley?"

But yet can't all those things (and so much more) be part of the beauty and enjoyment of our LIFE in Christ?

We can get so caught up in studying the scriptures and trying to apply them to our LIVES that we forget to LIVE! We read all of the New Testament epistles and we see all the things Paul and others said about holy living and loving one another and serving one another. It would seem, from reading these epistles, that these guys never laughed or had fun. All their words seemed to be about serious Christian doctrine. Paul's own life seemed to be nothing more than traveling and preaching the gospel and confronting people and leading people to Christ. We don't see Paul ever stopping to play a game of UNO, or ego-surfing (imagine what he'd find!), or saving up enough money to buy a Nintendo Wii (if he could even find one). We don't know if he ever told any jokes. I think there are hints of sarcasm in some of his letters, but what I'm getting at is that Paul's letters were not moment by moment journals of all of his life's activities. We mostly find doctrine in his letters. And doctrine is a great thing! I'm thankful for doctrine. And I think that as an apostle, it was Paul's biggest joy to teach and preach the gospel.

But shouldn't that doctrine, shouldn't that gospel message, be freeing us to live, rather than keeping us in joyless cages of head knowledge and trying to keep ourselves in line with every jot and tittle of scripture? We find a lot of doctrine in Paul's writings, but isn't the overall point of the doctrine to lead us into the living out of the full, abundant life that we have in Christ? One more time, I love scripture and I always hope to learn more and to understand better. But if I'm not living - if I'm not jumping around and having fun - then what's the point of knowing?

Thoughts, anyone? I typed this up kind of hurriedly, and even if my thoughts didn't come across perfectly I hope my overall point came across.
Col 3:15-17
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
NIV

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Treasure

Have you ever considered that whatever God treasures, that's where His heart is? :)

Just within the past few years, the song "In Christ Alone" has crept slowly into first place over this song, as far as my all time favorite songs go, but yet this song remains in a strong second place and will always rank highly. So many times I have meditated, through this song, on God's love and goodness and on how He treasures me.

The video quality here isn't perfect, but it's not too bad either.

Iona - Treasure

"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Matt 6:25-30

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Faith Looks Back

A couple of days ago I posted "God's armor 4-6," and after Aida made some comments there about faith, I replied and said that on my old website I had written a long article on faith (which is no longer on my site), and I said that I would try to find that article and tidy it up a bit and post it here. Well, instead of finding the document on my computer, I ended up trying something yesterday evening that I hadn't done in a loooong time. I looked up an old version of graceroots.org over at alexa.com, and I found my old article there! (Alexa.com archives old versions of websites and also ranks the traffic of websites, and you can check out the site info for websites. Using the "Wayback Machine," you see how websites have looked at various stages in the past).

As I imagined, as I read my old article I found a few little things that I would have said differently, or may not have said at all today, but yet I still think it covers a lot of stuff that I solidly believe, so instead of editing it I'll just link to it here. (As you can see, I had a very, very basic website!)

And while on the subject of faith, I have to share something else that I "accidentally" or "coincidentally" stumbled upon. Those words are in quotes because to me, this was really too coincidental to be a minor coincidental happening. What happened was that I decided to look at a few other old versions of various websites, including gracewalk.org. (I've had gracewalk.org bookmarked as far back as I can remember, since the late 90's or early millennium, and I sort of wanted to reminisce). I "randomly" clicked on Feb 02, 2001, and right there on the home page was a link to an article called "Faith Looks Back" by a man named John Moneypenny. Not only does this article relate to several things that have been going around in my mind, but I also thought it related to a couple of other recent blog posts from friends' blogs that I read, and so I shared it with them.

If you're struggling with the idea of what it means to walk by faith, or if you've ever been in a place where it seems as if "grace isn't working," or if you are simply interested in any of this (who says you have to be struggling with something to enjoy a good article!), then you can check it out. You'll also get to check out the old look of the Grace Walk website!

No Temperature



It's 4:50pm on Saturday here in Northeast Iowa. This doesn't happen all that often, but there is no temperature right now. ;)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

God's armor 4-6

This is a follow up to my two recent posts, The Full Armor of God and God's armor 1-3. I'm essentially attempting to demystify spiritual warfare and the armor of God. It's not that spiritual warfare can't sometimes involve deep emotions or various types of miraculous outward manifestations. It's not that at all! But I do believe that in our day to day lives in Christ, we have an enemy who often fights in more subtle and quiet ways. 2 Cor 10:4 says that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God..." The weapons of our warfare are supernatural, but that doesn't mean they have to be spooky! Isn't our entire life in Christ a supernatural life? And as our life in Christ is a gift, and a matter of God working in and through us by His power and might (not our own efforts), so are these weapons. Continuing on with the final three weapons mentioned in Ephesians 6 by Paul:

• Faith - Paul talked about faith earlier on in his epistle to the Ephesians. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Even our faith is a gift of God. I remember times in my life in which I would try to muster up as much faith as I could in order to get God to work in and through me. I would strive and struggle to try to work up enough faith (which basically was a matter of me crying out for greater faith), and feeling so bad when I thought I just didn't have enough faith to get God to do anything. MY how I had it so wrong! I can rest in the faith I have, rather than struggling to try to gain more. What's more, my faith is not to be in how much faith I can work up! Rather, the life I live in this body, I live by faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus is not a matter of striving to have more of something. It's really a matter of letting go of any amount of trust I have that I can accomplish anything and instead trusting solely in Jesus. There's so much more that could be said here, but I'm wanting to be brief. Any and all comments are welcome, of course.

• Salvation - Paul says earlier, in Eph 1:13-14, "In Him (Christ) you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." I love that phrase. "The gospel of your salvation." The good news of our salvation. Our salvation is a weapon in God's arsenal. Sorry, devil, but I'm saved. I'm one of God's children. You cannot lay a charge on me and you cannot lay a charge on my loved ones who are saved!

• The Word of God - Again, being brief, Jesus Himself is the Word of God! As Colossians 2:9 says, in Him (Jesus, the Word of God) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and we are complete in Him. Not only that, but Jesus, the Word of God, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells, dwells in us! (See Rom 8:10-11, 1 Cor 6:19, Col 1:27). "The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb 4:12). We can also rightfully call the God-breathed Holy Scriptures the Word of God. And more than that, God speaks directly to us in various ways. It's His personal Word to us, sometimes individually and sometimes corporately. Either way, His Word is a mighty weapon in our spiritual arsenal.

I do want to say that the Word of God is sufficient in and of itself. Not that I want to dismiss all of the outward, over-emotional times that I've witnessed in my pentecostal experience, such as people shouting at the devil or somehow acting in some holier than thou way as they declare God's Word, but sometimes it seems as if emotion trumps the Word of God, and people come to rely more upon having the right emotions rather than simply trusting in the truth of God's sufficient Word. I believe that sometimes, perhaps even many times, the emotions are truly genuine, and they reflect a natural response to the true Word of God. Other times, however, I become concerned when it appears as if people have become emotional out of desperation rather than out of truth.

Again, there's much more to be said on all six of the weapons mentioned in Ephesians 6. I'm sure I'll touch on them more in the future and I always welcome your input as well.

On the radio again...

A couple of months ago I shared how I overcame a fear. The "fear" that I overcame had to do with talking on the phone - especially in regards to calling into a radio program - and I've recently had a small victory in this area again! I know there are some people in this world who would say, "What a wimp!" :) On the one hand, I admit that this is a very strange and wimpy thing for me, considering that I spent eleven years on the radio and for three years I've been recording a weekly internet program with a friend! On the other hand, most of my on-air time was prerecorded and for the most part I was able to avoid the "pressure" of live radio. If I messed up, I could start over. Same with recording our program (we generally don't stop and start over, but I am able to edit our recording afterwards as needed).

Thinking about all this, I'd have to say that my main fear of being "live" is either saying something stupid or else losing track of what I'm saying, and fumbling and mumbling while grasping to get back on track. It's so very different from writing, which I love doing. I can take as long as I desire to write and it's no big deal if I stop and start up again at a later time. But when it comes down to it, when fear is set aside I really do love communicating through speech, and I really do think that the Holy Spirit is slowly providing these opportunities for small victories in that arena.

Why blog about this? I wasn't going to, but I do want to be vulnerable here and share some of these things because I do think that at least some people will relate in one way or another. And part of the overall gist of "grace roots" is the idea of a life of slow-cooking (digging our roots into Jesus and growing in Him over a period of time, rather than thinking one has to have it all together right now). I've grown a lot in my life and I have a lot of growing yet to do, and when I have a "victory" such as what I'm going to share here sometimes it's worth bringing up.

I do indeed think that the Lord has really been changing my mindset in this area (from fear to faith) and as a result I've called in to live radio programs again, twice in two days! This past Saturday I called in to WHO Radio's "Saturday Morning Live" program (1040AM, Des Moines). They were having people call in with strange names of rock 'n roll bands and artists. I was enjoying listening to the program, and I knew I had a couple that I could mention, but as usual my shyness and fear kept me from picking up my phone - at first. But then I suddenly said, "what the heck," and I called. It started ringing right away and my heart started beating faster, but not as much as I thought it would. In less than a minute I was on the air, and when I was done I said to myself, "What was so hard about that? That was fun!"

Then three days ago (Monday) I was listening to a program on Christian Radio called "Along the Way," hosted by Kim Jeffries. Kim was talking about a woman who is waitress at a restaurant and she has to serve alcohol to customers but she doesn't feel right about it. This woman wondered what she should do. Quit her job? Or what?

It's a controversial subject, I know, so of course the types of "advice" from people ranges vastly. But as I listened, it seemed as if a lot of callers were focusing in on one thing in particular that I didn't agree with: the assumption that since this woman's conscience is telling her that she was in a bad situation, then it must be that the Holy Spirit is telling her to go find another job somewhere else. I want to say right now that I don't know how the Holy Spirit is leading this woman. But as I kept listening to the program, I kept thinking about how sometimes our consciences have been programmed by legalistic preaching and teaching, rather than by the Holy Spirit and the truth of the Word of God. I thought about what I might say if I called the show, and I knew it wouldn't be my intention to make a case either for or against drinking, but I thought it would be neat to make a point based partially upon Romans 14, that no one should judge another for the freedom or lack thereof that their conscience allows them in regards to food and drink.

The point of this part of my post isn't to discuss drinking, but rather to talk about this phone call that I hesitated to make, and how the Lord is working in me at this point in my life. Again, perhaps someone can relate in one way or another. The reason I hesitated to make the phone call is because of what I've previously mentioned. Fear. What if I fumbled and mumbled while trying to make my point? The heart of what I wanted to say was clear to me, but what if it didn't come out right? And so on. But again, I really do think the Lord is doing something specific in me, and in the end this wasn't so much about making my point and speaking eloquently as it was about overcoming fears. I ended up calling, and to tell the truth I had a harder time explaining my thoughts to the call-screener than when I was actually on the air!

The neat thing about this (for me) is that I was not only able to make my brief point, but I was also given an opportunity to "stay on the line" and further elaborate after a commercial break. In the end, it was quite fun and I simply rested in Christ and didn't worry about whether or not I said everything perfectly. Kim is a very gracious host, and rather than wanting to get out of the conversation as soon as I could, I was wishing I had more time!

NOT that anyone really gives a rip whether or not I was on the radio, but the program is archived here (Hour 2) if you are interested in hearing it. (They have a typo - it says "January 13th Podcast," but it was the 14th). It's a 23MB mp3 file. My part starts around the 40:25 mark, although you may want to back up a bit if you want to hear more of the context and more of what the host and other callers had to say, including the story of a man's teetotalling mother who knows that Jesus turned water into wine, but who wishes He hadn't. It's, um, interesting to hear what others have to say!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Make-up

I was looking for something on AOL Video tonight and this video was on the home page.

The way my mind works:

As I viewed this video, I saw it as a picture of dead works. People can put on a lot of "make up" (dead, religious, good works) and they can indeed have a very beautiful outward appearance. But when all alone, and the make up is removed, all you're left with is "whitewashed tombs" (Matt 23:27). Please note, I am not attempting in any way to judge the individual people in the video! I simply see this as a good illustration of the deceitfulness and hypocrisy of a good outward appearance when matched up with true righteousness. In Christ, we can indeed have a good outward appearance, but it's not the result of good make up (fleshly, religious strivings). It's the result of the living God taking up residence on the inside and displaying Himself on the outside as we rest in Him.



More Celebrities Without Makeup - video powered by Metacafe

"Don't think about it so much"

I like thinking. I like thinking so much that I do it all the time. :) Ok, so maybe it's not a matter of whether or not I like thinking. It just happens. However, in Christ I do have the power to take control of my thoughts and to not let them carry me away. Our thought-lives have the potential of being very destructive if we don't intentionally guide our thoughts with the truth of God's word, renewing our minds to the truth of who God is and who we are in Him.

Sometimes our thought-lives can be quite humorous! One day when my son was 4 years old he had sort of a puzzled look on his face and finally he said, “Daddy, I try to stop thinking but I can’t.”

I wasn’t exactly sure if I’d heard him right so I said, “What???”

He said, “I try to stop but it keeps doing it.”

I replied, “What keeps doing it?”

He said, "My head."

:D

There's no such a thing as a switch to turn off our "thinker." But again, we want to take our thoughts captive rather than being captive to our thoughts. In the past I've shared how I overcame panic attacks through scripture and through turning my trust over to God. Through a counselor who I met with in my late teens (shortly after my panic attacks began) I had come to see that my panic attacks were partly due to thinking about things too much and especially worrying about things. I didn't realize that I was over-thinking things and over-analyzing things, and worrying about things so much. Unfortunately, although my counselor did help me to see the cause of my problem, she didn't speak the truth that I needed to hear to overcome my problem. It wasn't until 2 or 3 years later that I overcame by the truth of God's word.

This post is mainly just a reminder to us all (including myself) that we can turn all our thoughts and worries over to God - all of our thoughts and worries - and walk in the truth of His word. He loves us and cares for us. We can cast all our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). We don't need to endlessly think about all these things. If we simply include God in our thought lives (He is, after all, One with us, as 1 Cor 6:17 says), then we can think restfully rather than anxiously. God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Cor 14:33), and He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7).

I've been thinking about some of this lately, and my thoughts were highlighted through a conversation with a lady who works in housekeeping at some of the places I visit daily for my job.  This lady has shared with me lots of times about how she is a worrier and how she really thinks way too much about things. A few days ago we were talking about this again and she told me that most of the time she'll focus in on one thing and she'll be obsessed with that one thing and she can't let it go and she'll let it bother her all day long. She says that occasionally that one thought will turn into several thoughts and she'll be overwhelmed by many thoughts instead of just one. Can anyone relate? :)

Well, on Sunday evening here at home, my daughter opened the wrapper of a little Dove chocolate. Each individual wrapper has a saying on the inside, and my daughter read hers out loud. The wrapper says:

"Don't think about it so much."

Ha ha! I really got a kick out of that. I'm saving the wrapper to give to my housekeeping friend. And to top it all off, as my innocent and naive little daughter was reading the wrapper again, she looked somewhat confused and she asked, "Don't think about what so much?" "What is 'it'?" We laughed and we explained that "it" means "anything that you may be thinking about too much!"

I'm pretty positive that this saying will not help anyone to automatically stop over-thinking things. In fact it's one of those things that we could easily and unintentionally turn into a law or rule that in the end works the opposite of what we intended. However, I do think that it can be used as a good reminder that in our lives in Christ, we have been made free and we shouldn't let our thoughts control us and take us over.

Monday, January 14, 2008

God's armor 1-3

2 Chron 20:14-17

14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. 15 And he said, "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the LORD to you:'Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you."

I realize that I'm ripping this passage right out of a larger story and out of larger context, and my purpose isn't to misuse scripture but I simply wanted to point out that this passage, to me, is essentially a good illustration of the "spiritual warfare" that we fight as Christians. The battle is not ours. It's God's! In my post from a couple of days ago called "The Full Armor of God," I mentioned the six elements of battle gear that Paul writes about in Ephesians 6: Truth, Righteousness, The Gospel of Peace, Faith, Salvation, The Word of God. In that post I left off with the idea that all of this is a matter of God's gifts to us and His working in and through us, and I want to continue with those thoughts here. I should mention that I believe the whole of our life in Christ is a matter of God's gifts to us and His working in and through us, and so these six things should seem no more spooky or spiritual than anything else in our lives!

I'm purposely being brief here, and I'll start with the first three. Perhaps someday I'll look at each element more closely and in depth.

• Truth - Jesus Christ is the truth. And along with that, His word is truth. So many of the battles we face are a matter of truth vs. lies. (Steve McVey's "101 Lies Taught in Church..." series is, to me, a great example of how spiritual warfare is not spooky, but is simply a matter of exposing lies and replacing it with simple truth). The point is, it's the truth of God. We can't conjure up our own 'truth,' but rather we rest in the truth of God. There is a direct correlation between truth and victory/freedom. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." If you, or someone else, is in bondage, the battle is fought and won with truth.

• Righteousness - One of my 'favorite verses' is Romans 1:17. In the previous verse, Paul says that the gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. In verse 17, he goes on to say that something is revealed in the gospel: God's righteousness. This is not man's righteousness. It's nothing that man can conjure up on his own. Our righteousness is a gift from God. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor 5:21). Even walking according to this righteous nature that we now have is a matter of trusting in God's working in and through us rather than trying to muster it up in the strength of our flesh or willpower.

• The Gospel of Peace - As the above paragraph mentions, the gospel of peace (the good news) is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. The angels declared the gospel of peace at Jesus' birth as they praised God and said, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:13-14). The gospel is a mighty weapon! How do we use this weapon? We simply declare the gospel. We simply declare the good news. Note, in the use of these weapons, we're not responsible for the outcome. The battle is the Lord's. We simply bear the weapons, by faith, and the Lord fights the battles.

To apply some of this practically, some real life situations may include dealing with another person who is habitually angry or downhearted, and perhaps the lies of the enemy have caused this. Perhaps you're dealing with a troublemaker. Perhaps you're even dealing with a very good person who doesn't think he or she needs Christ. Perhaps any of these scenarios could have to do with yourself. If the lies of the enemy have gotten a hold of someone, and brought them into bondage, even if they don't know they're in bondage, the truth holds the power to set them free! Again, we're not responsible for the outcome, but we can speak the truth to others (or to ourselves) as a "weapon" to help dispel the lies, and we can let the Lord engage in the "battle."

Can you think of any other ways (the ways are endless I think) in which these three things (truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace) can be put on and applied practically in our daily lives? I'll talk a little about faith, salvation and the Word of God when I get back to this.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Aida's Grace Story

Before I get back into the full armor of God, I want to post this story from Aida. Early last year I asked to hear from YOU about your true stories of grace! So far I've received a few stories, and I want to thank those who have shared so far, and I'm really hoping that you will share YOUR story(s) as well so that others can be blessed and encouraged by hearing your real life experiences with God's grace. The above link explains it all.

Yesterday I heard from Aida. I hope her story encourages you as much as it encouraged me! It's amazing to hear the different paths we've all taken that have led us to where we are. If you have anything that you'd like to share about His grace in your life, you can email me:




Aida's Grace Story

As a child, I was raised Roman Catholic even though we didn’t go to mass nor did we follow the Catholic traditions. When I was in high school, a friend invited me to her Baptist youth group. Looking for a place to belong, I became active in the church and in the youth group. One day, the pastor’s wife asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus. Wanting to please her, I prayed the sinner’s prayer with her.

Even though I continued being deeply involved in their activities, I really didn’t understand what salvation was all about. Consequently, when I went off to college and I didn’t have the support of a local group of believers, I drifted away. While in college, I met my husband and married.

Although he had been raised as a believer, neither one of us was a follower of Christ. Several years later, we moved to my husband’s hometown in South Carolina. His parents were very active in a local fellowship and, seeing this, I began to yearn for a relationship with Jesus like I had once had. I became involved with a local group of believers but my husband did not attend the meetings with me. I continued to attend and took my two children with me. Since, I didn’t understand grace, I raised them deeply in religion. After a number of years, my husband began attending with us.

In time, I began seeking a deeper walk with the Lord and, in 1997, while in a bookstore, I was very strongly impressed to buy Charles Stanley’s book “The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life.” That’s when my adventure into this life of grace began. That book led me to other books about grace. I eagerly read them but, for some reason, it didn’t connect. Then, in 1998, Father led me to an Assembly of God church. It was there through the pastor’s teachings that I began to question a lot of what I’d been taught. This pastor is the one Father worked through to teach me how to think outside of the religious box.

Unfortunately, he was very insecure and very controlling and later became very abusive. I finally had to leave the group and wandered several months feeling like a little lost sheep. I finally ended up back with the previous group of believers but this time it was different. Although I tried fitting back in, I couldn’t because I could no longer accept a lot of what I had previously believed.

Father later used a women’s conference I attended to get me to continue searching. I started searching the internet and discovered that there were others who were also questioning what they had been taught. I made some online connections with believers who encouraged my search.

Several months ago, one of my friends sent me an article by Steve McVey. I enjoyed it so much that I did a google search and found his website. I bought some of his books and began to devour his teachings. It was what I had been searching for all of these years. Following a link on Steve’s website, I found Grace Roots and other blogs and websites that taught the truth about grace.

As a result, I have grown more in these last few months than I have in all of the 30+ years that I’ve been a believer. It’s finally making sense and I’m now learning how to live the grace walk on a more consistent basis. I find it amazing that what made no sense to me 10 years ago when Father first started teaching me about grace is now making perfect sense. I’m so thankful that he didn’t give up on me but took me on a different path that ultimately has led to where I am today.

Thanks for sharing, Aida!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Full Armor of God

Eph 6:10-20

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints — 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

I was recently sharing my thoughts with someone on the issue of spiritual warfare and I thought I'd post some of those thoughts here. Several years ago, when I was beginning to more fully understand the grace in which I live, the above passage was opened up to me in a fresh way. Up till that time, Spiritual Warfare and The Whole Armor of God had been kind of a spooky subject for me. I would hear people talk and preach about it in a very mystical kind of way, even in such a way that made you think you had to be some sort of spiritual superhero in order to apply the armor of spiritual warfare. I do think that by using the imagery of a soldier wearing and applying all of this mighty battle gear, Paul was showing how mighty and magnificent God's armor truly is. But again, I couldn't get rid of the hopeless and helpless notion that all of this heavy gear was for me to use on some all-too-distant day, way off in the future, when I would finally become a mighty soldier for God!

Fortunately, like I said, this passage became fresh and new to me one day and I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief and begin resting at the thought of spiritual warfare, rather than trying to work up some huge amount of unction within me in order to begin fighting demons and principalities, etc.

Here's what I did. Not to take away at all from Paul's excellent, God-inspired imagery of a soldier going into battle with all the gear, but what I did one day was to remove all of that imagery and simply look at the actual substance of each individual piece of "armor." What it really comes down to is that the "full armor of God" is simply this:

• Truth
• Righteousness
• The Gospel of Peace
• Faith
• Salvation
• The Word of God

At first it was kind of a "DUH!" moment (a 'smack yourself upside the head' moment) for me when I realized that this whole passage really boils down to six simple truths! I had been so focused on all the imagery (again, not to take away from the God-inspired purposes of the imagery) that I hadn't really seen the substance. And what made this into more of a joyful, positive "Eureka!" moment is that as I looked at each word or phrase, something became even more clear. Here's the gist of what I exclaimed to myself as all of this came into focus: "Each one of these things is God's gift to us! This is all stuff that He gives us freely and that He Himself works in and through us! This is all stuff that we can't conjure up on our own! It's all HIM!"

Oh, there are plenty of battles to be fought, and as the passage reminds us, the battle is not against people (flesh and blood) but against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness, spiritual hosts of wickedness, etc. But there is something that is equally as important (or even more important) that, ironically, I think people of faith (those who say they trust the Lord, not themselves) tend to give lip service to: The battle is the Lord's, not ours.

These battles ("spiritual warfare") aren't fought and won by the mighty super-spiritual grind work of people of faith. The battles are won as people of faith rest in Christ! In the next post I want to briefly look at each of the six words and phrases in the passage and see how they are God's gifts to us and how they are all about His working in us, and perhaps discuss some practical, non-spooky and non-super-spiritual applications of the full armor of God. In the meantime, I'd welcome any comments and discussions on your views of all of this.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tradition

I got a kick out of this pic I found over at on coffee.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Lies, Lies, Lies!!!

Ha ha! I figured that title would be an attention grabber. :)

Most, or at least many of you who read this blog are familiar with Steve McVey and Grace Walk Ministries. I thought I'd share something interesting and enlightening that Steve is doing. In the past couple of days Steve has begun a new thing on his blog in which he is planning on uploading short videos in which he talks about lies that are taught in church every week. This isn't meant to be a negative thing, ripping pastors apart for the legalistic things they preach. Rather, as Steve says in this video (in which he explains all of this), "Jesus said, 'You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.' If knowing the truth sets you free, then what would lies do? Lies would put you into bondage."

In other words, this is more of a "shake 'em to wake 'em" type of thing in which lies are exposed for the purpose of bringing the truth to light, thereby setting people free!

As of the time of this post, Steve has posted the first video, Lie #1 - Salvation Is You Giving Your Life To Christ. If you have a problem with calling that statement a lie, I think Steve's explanation will help turn your thinking around. :) Keep your eye out for upcoming videos, and also keep in mind that Steve is offering you the opportunity to email him the religious lies you've heard during your life.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

If God is for us...

Rom 8:31-39

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

"For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
NKJV