Thursday, July 31, 2008

Strive to rest

Matt 11:25-30
At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Hebrews 4:10-11
10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

Walking with Jesus (or as it really is, "in" Jesus) was never meant to be hard for us. But man, I've seen some people make it very hard! Now, I don't mean it's meant to be a life without problems. I just mean that being in Christ is a matter of walking in His footsteps, not side by side with Him or trying to keep up with Him. We dig into our Bibles and find all kinds of things that we're "supposed to be doing," thinking life with Christ is a matter of trying to fulfill all the things God has told us to do. But what we miss is His life in us.

We are His workmanship. The workmanship of our lives is not our own. It is God who works in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. All this is done, not through an analytical look at the "do's and don'ts" of the Christian life, but through something the church today seems to know very little about: REST!

If there's a struggle in the genuine Christian life, it's not a struggle between doing good and doing bad. It's not a struggle to keep the commandments. I think the verse from Hebrews says it well. It's a striving to rest. Now, in that verse I think it's actually telling us that those of us who are in Christ have entered that rest, and it's telling the readers that those among them who haven't entered it... strive to enter into it! But yet there are so many people who truly are believers and have entered God's rest - which in reality is a Person, Jesus - who aren't experiencing that rest as a normal part of life. In that sense, the struggle remains.

And I fully understand it! I deal with the struggle too! Grace, and God's rest, goes against the fleshly tendencies we have to do the job ourselves. Walking by faith is not the way of the world around us. "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor 5:7). To not walk by sight... is not easy!

To trust that there is a Person living in me who says I am not my own workmanship, but I'm His workmanship, doesn't make sense to my senses. Through my senses, it's easier if I can just read the pages of my Bible and get a list of things that I'm supposed to do, and then set off on a daily quest to try to do those things. But of course, often that list gets hard to do!

Aside from not being by sight, faith is also contrasted with something else. "The law is not of faith" (Gal 3:12). To walk a walk of faith - to walk in God's rest - means letting go of at least two things: walking by what we see and walking according to the law/commandments.

If you're walking in love because you've been commanded to love, then you're not walking in love, but by a commandment. However, if you're walking in love because you are resting in God, and by His work in you, you are working out the love that is already in you (because His life is in you), then you're following a commandment without even following a commandment!

Strive, be diligent... to walk in the rest that is yours in Christ. Look around at all the busy people, trying so carefully to follow all the rules and principles, and you will generally see people who are not at rest in their souls. Look around at the few people around you who are at rest in their souls, due to abiding in Christ's rest, and you will see people who are walking naturally in love.

As a person who is learning from Christ (see first scripture above)... are you walking in a love-relationship with Him or a performance-based relationship? If you say 'performance-based,' please let it be HIS performance you're talking about. :)

He ain't heavy, he's my brother

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Heart and The Scriptures

I have really been enjoying hearing what others have had to say about "the heart" lately. For example, understanding that in Christ we have been given a new heart. In the Old Testament, it was said that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." (Jer 17:9). But God's promise for the New Covenant was, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." We have a new heart that is indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and that is not deceitful. Aida recently linked to a website that talks about the heart, and while I've yet to fully look it over I've at least found a few neat things on it. One thing is this post.

On that post, something very key stood out to me:
Contrary to popular culture’s view, the heart is not the emotional or feeling side of us. Popular culture tends to think of the heart as the sentimental part of us. (Think of Hallmark cards.) Biblically speaking, our feelings can express what is going on in our hearts, but the heart is much more than feelings.
I very much appreciate many of the teachings I've heard lately that talk about us being able to trust our hearts... because they're new hearts that are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. I think it's a good thing to understand this. However, I still think it's very possible (and sadly common) for Christians to mistake their feelings, emotions, logic, gut sense, etc, for the true heart. While our true heart (spirit) is fully in line with God, and can indeed express itself through our minds, feelings and emotions, at the same time our minds, feelings and emotions can express things that are not true... that are not of the Spirit... and I think it's very important to grow in our understanding of the difference. Otherwise, we may mistake anything we think or feel for truth, when really our minds, feelings and emotions can still deceive us and take us away from the truth.

This is why I'm thankful that we have the Scriptures. The sad thing is that I see many "heart" people getting defensive when the Bible is put on the table! To trust God with our new heart is a great and wonderful thing, but how do we even know about the old heart/new heart apart from what the Scriptures say? How do we know many, many wonderful truths apart from the Bible?

I'll be the first to say... because I've said it before... that most people who have ever lived have never had access to a Bible, and yet God's word has been true and has been revealed to mankind since the beginning. But here's the thing that I've seen, if only a little, in some of the "heart" teachings I've heard: A disregard for the truth that we do have in the Scriptures. Sometimes (although rarely) it's even been almost to the point of animosity against studying the Scriptures. And a little more often the teachings have, in my opinion, been contrary to what the Scriptures do reveal as New Covenant truth. I'll be honest and say all of this concerns me.

Truth be told, we don't all agree on the interpretation of all the Scriptures. That's not what I'm addressing here. I'm talking about people's feelings, logic, emotions, gut reactions, etc, that they regard as "truth" when the Scriptures reveal something to the contrary. Again, God does indeed reveal Himself to us in our spirits, often through the avenue of our minds, feelings and emotions. But also again, our thoughts, feelings and emotions can deceive us.

Here are a couple of examples.

1) A man comes to Jesus by faith alone, trusting solely in the truth of the gospel. Then his thoughts and feelings begin to make him wonder if the gospel is really that good, and if maybe God is angry with Him for falling short, and he begins struggling and striving to maintain his righteousness in an effort to stay right with God - all because his mind and emotions tell him something contrary to what the Scriptures really say.

2) A woman comes to Jesus by faith alone, and then becomes emotionally connected with a man who is not her husband. She begins having deep feelings for him, and in her "heart" she really feels that God wants her to be with this man, so she divorces her husband and marries the other man.

In both cases, the people really did believe something about God and about themselves that wasn't true. They believed their hearts were telling them something, but it wasn't really their new heart (spirit). It was their minds, feelings and emotions. They were truly deceived.

That's the point of all this. We can believe some really "good" stuff about who God is and who we are, or some really "legalistic" stuff about who God is and who we are - or anything inbetween - that may not really be the truth. The whole point here is that we can easily be led in our minds, thoughts and emotions by things that seem to be true, but yet the Scriptures tell us otherwise.

Some other examples include the ideas that hell is just a fictitious place, and that everybody is saved. I've heard people say, "how could a loving God put people in hell, never mind creating it?" (A recent comment by Matthew in another post reminded me of this). Or, "It's just not logical that God wouldn't save everyone." It's supposedly the new heart from which people have gotten these doctrines - but it's really their own thoughts, logic, emotions, feelings, etc. It doesn't line up with what the Scriptures say.

When helping Timothy to understand God and the gospel, Paul didn't tell Timothy, "just follow what your heart is telling you." He reminded him about the Scriptures, "which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." He told him, "All scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..." The Scriptures he was referring to were, of course, the Old Testament. How wonderful that we now also have all of the New Testament to learn from as well! There is a TON of truth about who God is (and who we are) that we can be assured of through our studying of the Scriptures. Life is most certainly not about living by doctrines and theology. But if we're going to teach or share with each other things about who God is and who we are, and since we do have the Scriptures, which do indeed contain the truth about God and us, then let's not disregard the them as we learn to walk according to our hearts.

Tradsville - Should I Stay Or Should I Go? / Ponderous

Meeting of One brings draws out some very ponderous things from a video today on his post "Sunday - Tradsville...mmm...". ;) "To O.R.E.C* or not to O.R.E.C"

It really got me thinking... Should I stay or should I go?!

*O.R.E.C. - Organized Religious Entertainment Centre (...or Center, in places where they don't have theatres).



And now for something completely different and unrelated... all based upon the word "ponderous" above. Anyone remember this song from the 80's? I couldn't find the original band (2NU - pronounced "too new") with a video, but at least two people have done their own. Ponderous, man. Really, really ponderous.

2NU - Ponderous


Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Shaq

Saw this "ad" link on another blog. :)

The Shaq

Friday, July 25, 2008

Whatever the law says... (Part 5)

"All things are lawful for me," Paul said twice in 1 Corinthians. I can do whatever I want without fear of the law condemning me or making me guilty. "But not all things are helpful... but not all things edify... but not all things are beneficial." "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." (see 1 Cor 6:12, 10:23)

In the verses prior to 1 Cor. 6:12, Paul goes through a list of sinful behavior and he says that those who practice those things will not inherit the kingdom of God. He then goes on to say, "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." It's after all this that he says, "All things are lawful for me... but not everything is beneficial."

As people who have been washed clean (a done deal), we are now among those who have inherited the kingdom of heaven. Since we've been washed, sanctified and justified... there is no legal case that can be made against us - no charge that can be brought up against us - no matter what we do, because "(God) has made (us) alive together with Him (Christ), having forgiven (us) 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). We are now under a new covenant, because "He has made the first obsolete (and) what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Heb 8:13).

All things are lawful for me. Even my sinful behavior doesn't stand in the way of my having been washed, sanctified and justified. However... since I have now been made alive together with Christ, I should not allow myself to be mastered by anything. Not everything is beneficial. All things are permissible, but not everything is constructive.

The main thing I'm pointing out here is that law is not the issue! Real, vibrant, constructive LIFE in Christ is what matters! Whatever the law says, it does not say to those who have LIFE!

This will be the last post in this series for now, unless I think of anything else to add or if anyone has any thoughts or questions that they'd like me to address.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Whatever the law says... (Part 4)

This entry might seem a little odd coming from me, but the subject matter here has come up from time to time when I've been discussing grace and law with others. On rare occasions, New Testament writers such as James and Paul have brought up "law" in their talk of the Christian life. So I've heard people say things such as, "See, both James and Paul said law was part of the Christian life!" And so I just wanted to include an entry here in which I shared my thoughts on all this. As always, I'm open to your thoughts as well.

First off, I want to make clear my personal conviction that the law itself does not convict a Christian of sin or of guilt or of having fallen short in any area of Christian living. In the examples I'm going to share from James and Paul, it looks to me as if it has more to do with 1) silencing Christian hypocrisy and legalism, and 2) showing us what is good. I'll explain below.

The life we live, we live by faith in Christ. We live by the life of a Person, not by rules that were written in cold stone. We don't live by law, and we don't look to the law to see how to live. There is no life in the law, but there is life in Christ. In fact, we have died to the law in order to have life in Christ! We don't go back to our old lover... especially when our new Lover is sufficient in every way! We know that "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3), which is something we will simply never, ever find in the law. We live by the very life of Christ, not through looking at the law.

My first example of one of the rare cases of an New Testament writer talking "law" to believers is from James. Again, I can't stress enough that I believe we need to look at this in the context of the full understanding of the law that has been revealed in the NT.

James wrote, "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:8-13, emphasis mine).

Keep in mind what we've already said in this series... that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law. Keep in mind that it was given to stop the self-justifying mouths of unbelievers. Keep in mind that it was given to make the world guilty. And keep in mind that after it did all this in the life of a non-believer, that person turned to faith, and died to the law in order to be married to Christ (Rom 7:4). Keep in mind that "the law is not of faith" (Gal 3:12).

And keep in mind that James was talking to people who knew the law. Remember in Romans 7 when Paul talked about how we had to die to the law in order to be married to Jesus? Paul started off by saying, "I speak to those who know the law." In other words, "I want to explain to you how a person has to die to the law in order to have Jesus, and since I'm speaking to those who know the law, let me use this example, from the law itself, to make my case." Paul wasn't talking "law" for the purpose of putting anybody under it, but rather to make an illustration of something else. Paul could have illustrated his point without using the law, but that's simply how he chose to do it.

I see James doing something similar. James says here, "If you really fulfill the royal law according to scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well." How does one do this? It most certainly can't be a fleshly act (our own attempts at following the law). It's the result of God's divine power that has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. James then says - and this, to me, is the key of the entire passage - "but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors."

Now, if James' words mean that a Christian stumbles in one point and is "guilty of all," and is actually convicted by the law as a transgressor, then that has just made void all that Christ has accomplished on our behalf, and it makes void His life in us! Indeed, as Christians we sin. But we are not convicted by the law as transgressors. The law already did that, and then we died to it and turned to life and righteousness in Christ. Please give me liberty in paraphrasing, then, what I believe is being communicated here:

"My Christian friends, through Christ you fulfill the royal law ("love your neighbor as yourself"), and that is good. But if you show partiality (or "if you have respect of persons," as another versions says), you sin. I know you're familiar with what the law says. Don't you even remember that under the law you were convicted as transgressors? Even if you had kept the whole law and yet stumbled at one point, you were guilty of all! If you didn't commit adultery, but did murder, you were still a transgressor of the law nonetheless. So... now that you're in Christ, by His life love one another and don't sin by judging one another and showing partiality. You know that you were saved by the principle (law) of liberty, not the law of Moses. In the end, you will be judged by this wonderful law of liberty, in which you were made free by the love of God. Act and speak towards others in this same way!"

Another rare example of bringing up the law in the life of a believer comes from Paul in Eph 6:1-3. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.'"

A quick read of this would perhaps make it seem as if Paul is talking about actually using the law as a guide in the life of a Christian. But I don't think so. In admonishing children to obey their parents, Paul points out how this is a good thing. Again, my own paraphrase, "It's such a good thing that God even promised long life for those who would honor their parents."

If we take into account everything else that Paul said about the law, we can clearly see that he is not telling Christians to follow a certain law here. For one thing, Paul himself said that there is no law that could ever give life. This particular commandment promised life... but of course it was conditional upon people keeping the law - the whole law - and no one has ever done that. As James said, if you keep all the laws but break one, you're guilty of all. No matter what, under the law, we're guilty! This case in Ephesians is a very rare reference to the law that Paul made to remind us what is good.

Again, I've heard these scriptures brought up from time to time and I just wanted to share my thoughts on it all as part of this series. The fifth and most-likely final post in this series will be tomorrow, and I'll also get Part 2 of "Love in 1 Corinthians 13" posted soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

555

The number of the blog post is 555.

Yep, this is my five hundred and fifty fifth blog post! (I don't have much to say, do I?). :) In late May, I had in mind to make a special entry when I hit the 500 mark, but I totally spaced that off. So then June 12th was coming up, which was my 2nd year blogiversary, but again I spaced it off! So I thought, hmmm, what special milestone is coming up? How about Post Number 555! Why not, eh? And I didn't space it off this time!

What I'd really like to do on this "occasion" is just to take a moment to explain what "Grace Roots" is about, especially for those who might be new here. A few times in the past, I've shared how it all got started. Here's a link to what I think was the first time I shared it.

The core of Grace Roots is this: being rooted and established in grace, growing in grace, knowing who we are in Christ, and living out of our true identity.

Hebrews 13:9 says "it is good that the heart be established in grace" and 2 Peter 3:18 says "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Colossians 2:7 says "Let your roots grow down into him (Jesus) and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught."

In Christ we have received a brand new identity. We've become new creations (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15). We've been born again of incorruptible seed (1 Pet 1:23). We've become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). We are living stones, being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood (1 Pet 2:5). We are complete in Christ (Col 2:10). We are the righteousness of God (2 cor 5:21). In Christ, we are a lot of wonderful things! We have been joined together with God as one spirit! (1 Cor 6:17).

What Grace Roots is about is encouraging one another in all these wonderful things, and allowing time to become established in all these things and to grow in all of them. Fruit is a natural product of becoming established in grace and growing in grace. The fruit that grows naturally in the life of a Christian includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Gal 5:22-23). But what I think the church fatefully forgets is that becoming established, growing naturally, and bearing fruit is a process. This natural process is not automatic and it doesn't happen overnight. Roots take time to grow down into fertile soil and to draw up nourishment, and it can't be forced.

Ps 92:12-14 (NKJV)
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing...

As mentioned in the first link above, the palm tree doesn't bear fruit during the first ten years of it's life! It spends that time becoming established in the fertile soil by digging its roots deep down, and simply spreading out its branches toward heaven. Humanly speaking, it's simply setting our faces towards heaven (God), basking in His love and getting to know Him over time (not instantaneously). The full DNA of the cedar of Lebanon is in the tiny seed, and the seed eventually becomes a mighty, mighty tree! But... it doesn't become a mighty, mighty tree overnight! It takes years. Similarly, even though the fullness of Christ dwells in us, neither do we instantaneously grow and mature quickly into people who understand and live in this fullness.

Grace Roots: Becoming established in grace. Growing in grace. Digging our roots deeper and deeper into grace. Plants don't grow by striving. They grow by resting, abiding, in fertile soil. The fertile soil of our lives in Christ is... grace.

Whatever the law says... (Part 3)

I think we really misuse Jesus' "law" words in the church today. We wrongfully and woefully treat them as if they are aimed at Christians, when in reality they are words to those who are under the law. (Can I mention enough, that the purpose of those words would be to stop their mouths and make them understand how far short they really fall - and ultimately that the purpose of the law was to charge the world with the guilt of their sin?)

I think many people have come to Christ for the wrong reasons. They think they have come to Christ so that they can start living better. And if they aren't doing so well in that, they go back to the law or to any or all of Jesus' law words and get "convicted" all over again (and again and again and again). They have missed the whole point of the Law, and ultimately of what it means to be in Christ!

Here's the key to all of this. Once a person who is under the law has heard what the law says and has had their mouth stopped by it, they then die to the law (Gal 2:19) (see also Rom 7:1-6, which contrary to popular application is not a passage about Christian marriage, but is an example of lawful Jewish marriage that Paul uses to show how we had to die to the law in order to be married to Christ). Then by faith (not law), they are raised up and made alive together with Christ. They are then no longer under the law. "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Rom 6:14).

Under the law, sin had its reign over everyone. It's only by dying to the law and being raised together with Christ that sin no longer has dominion over that person. Having died to the law, that person is no longer under the law (and again, no longer under the dominion of sin!). The law has done it's job! The law has spoken and the person has finally understood the message. "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Gal 3:24-25). The law no longer has anything to say to that person, because it's job has been accomplished. The law doesn't go on convicting a person once they've come to faith. From that point on, the person is led by the LIFE of Christ, not by law.

The person now has LIFE, which is the very reason Jesus came. As mentioned above, He came to fulfill the law, He came to redeem those under the law... and He came to give Life. The law could never give life. "For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law" (Gal 3:21).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A woman meets grace

Within the past month or two, I've come across a new blog and I'd like to share the latest post. I believe I first came across "RJW" through a comment left on Steve McVey's blog. I followed the link to the profile, and found this blog: Better Than We Know. From what I've read so far, I'm thinking you might want to get to know this blog. :) In the post from yesterday, entitled "When We Meet Grace," RJW describes Jesus' encounter with the woman caught in adultery, and uses the entire encounter to illustrate the "finished work" of Christ. This includes the full story, from The Fall and The Old Covenant, to The Incarnation, to The Cross... and so on, all the way up to The Resurrection. Check it out.

Whatever the law says... (Part 2)

One very important point that I've been leading up to is this: If Moses is talking law, or if a prophet is talking law, or if David is talking law, or if Jesus is talking law... they are speaking either to those who are under the law and/or as those who are under the law themselves. Many of them didn't even understand at the time what was ultimately happening. So, what did this ultimately accomplish? It stopped the mouths of people and to showed them the guilt that they were under as long as they remained under the law.

The sermon on the mount is a great example of this. Jesus not only talks "law," but He gets to the very heart of what law really means. It's not just the physical act of adultery. Rather it's what's in the heart. It's not just a matter of doing a pretty decent job of keeping the precepts of the law. Rather, "you shall be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect." And remember what Jesus Himself said near the beginning of the sermon? I quoted His words in Part 1 and it's worth quoting again:
"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matt 5:17). He then went on to say, "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matt 5:18).
And since Jesus went on to talk a lot of "law" talk, who was He talking to? Well, let's make one thing clear. He wasn't talking to Christians. There was not yet any such thing! One thing I think we seem to miss is that this is before the death and resurrection of Jesus. This was before anyone was ever born-again. This is before the New Covenant came into effect (through Jesus' death). Jesus' life on earth was still during Old Covenant times! He was born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law. He taught the law and Old Covenant! Now, at times, Jesus did also speak New Covenant talk. Our challenge today is to rightly divide the Old from the New. We must make a distinction between Old Covenant talk and New Covenant talk, whether we find it in the Old Testament writings or in the New Testament writings.

So, if life in Christ isn't about "law," why did Jesus teach the law and the Old Covenant? Because the Law is the tutor that leads people to Him! (Gal 3:24-25). It's the law that stops every mouth from justifying itself and that puts all the world under the sentence of guilt... and that ultimately leads people to the Savior. You may say to me, "well, doesn't John 3:17 say that Jesus didn't come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it?" I heartily agree! In speaking the Law, Jesus was not Himself condemning people. The LAW itself condemned people, and Jesus simply taught the law (and again, He got to the very heart of the law) in order to stop the mouths of those who would justify themselves through the law. His law talk showed them how unrighteous they really were.

Not to mention that all His law talk would be fulfilled by Himself! "I came not to destroy, but to fulfill," He said. Everything He said in the Sermon on the Mount, He fulfilled Himself.

And so, as He spoke "law" to those who were under the law, He was doing more than one thing. He was fulfilling the law Himself and He was simultaneously sending a message to those who were under the law! What message? A mouth-stopping message! In fact, whether they would realize it or not the Law already made them guilty before God.

Many people, perhaps feeling they've done a good enough job in keeping the law, do not understand this all, and I think Jesus often used to law to point out the reality of their guilt (to stop their mouths). I think the "certain lawyer" from Luke 10 and the "rich young ruler" from Luke 18 are wonderful examples of this. Scripture even reveals that in the Luke 10 case, the man was "wanting to justify himself." What do you do with someone who wants to justify himself before God? You dig deeper and deeper into the heart of the law until they finally "get" that they are guilty... and if needed you even leave them sad, as Jesus did with the rich young ruler.

"Love" in 1 Corinthians 13 (Part 1)

Another post that I've have in draft mode that I decided to just go ahead and publish. I hurt my back on Sunday morning and I haven't felt like sitting at the computer for long periods of time, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get some of the pre-written drafts cleared out! (By the way, my "Whatever the law says..." series is on automatic pilot, scheduled to be posted daily for a few days).
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Throughout my life, "the love chapter" (1 Corinthians 13, specifically vss. 4-8) has been one of, if not the most quoted passage of scripture I've ever heard (perhaps second to John 3:16). The setting is usually a wedding, or else a sermon that's based in one way or another on "how to love."

But during the past dozen years or so I've seen a handful of people look at this passage from another angle - an angle that has really helped me to grow in my understanding of God's love - and I'd simply like to pass along some of what I've gleaned out of all of it. "Love," in 1 Corinthians 13, is the Greek word agapē (ag-ah'-pay). I've heard lots of definitions of agapē, but one thing that is done in 1 Corinthians 13 is that agapē is actually described. It shows what agapē-love looks like in action.

Ok, well that by itself might not be new news to anyone. In fact, the many "how to love" sermons I've heard have generally been based upon the idea that 1 Corinthians 13 shows Christians "how they should behave" (how they should love). Paul is indeed saying that as a Christian, I can do all kinds of things - speak in tongues, have the gift of prophecy, can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, have faith that moves mountains, surrender my body to be burned, etc - but if I don't have love, I'm nothing.

But here's the thing. Does a Christian automatically know and understand God's love? A Christian is complete in God, and the love of God has come into the Christian and is integrated into their new identity, but does it work itself out automatically? Can a Christian simply "work on" these things as a matter of "principles" to follow in order to love people? I don't know about you, but as I read 1 Corinthians 13, and set out to "try" to do these things, I really only end up in failure. It's simply something that all the "trying" of my flesh will never be able to accomplish!

John says, "In this is love (agapē), not that we loved (agapē-d) God but that He loved (agapē-d) us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved (agapē-d) us, we also ought to love (agapē) one another" (1 John 4:10-11). The thing is... with all the rules and principles and legalism and religion out there, and with the huge external (fleshly) focus on "doing the stuff," people may be learning how to do the stuff without actually knowing God's love. They know they're "saved by grace," but yet they don't have a clue about God's love. The love of God is actually in them, but they are so focused on the externals (the flesh, "doing the stuff") that they don't know the power and love that's in them!

John also said "God is love" (God is agapē). As we see Paul describing agapē in 1 Corinthians 13, he is not only showing us what our love for others can look like, but what the love (agapē) of God looks like! In fact, unless we know God's agapē (and unless we know God as agapē), we're going to always continue to have a really hard time (an impossible time) with all our "trying" to agapē people! And so I've looked at this passage during the past dozen years or so from the perspective of seeing what God is like.

If 1 Corinthians 13 shows us what agapē looks like, and how it's demonstrated, and if God is agapē, then isn't this a good look at what God is like? And if God wants us to agapē people in these ways, is He not going to first demonstrate it Himself? In other words, can we not look at 1 Corinthians 13 as a demonstration of God's love?

I believe the first person I heard this whole idea from was my pastor in the late 90's. Then, over the years my friend Mike (with whom I record the Growing in Grace program) has talked with me about it and has also brought it up on our program from time to time. He and I had the same pastor, so I'm sure he got this idea from the same place as I did. In recent months and years, I've heard Paul Anderson-Walsh sharing about it, as well as Darin Hufford. From what I understand, Darin talks about this in his book "The God's Honest Truth" (which I haven't read, but I know several of you have) and he talked about it in this "The God Journey" podcast (14MB download). I believe I've also seen this idea on a blog or two in the past year, but I can't remember specifically which one(s).

More on this in Part 2, and I'll also look at the various descriptions of God's agapē in action from 1 Cor 13.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Whatever the law says... (Part 1)

I've had this in draft mode for over two months, waiting to put some finishing touches on it. But since this is not a formal thing, I decided I'd just go ahead and post what I have. You'll find a few similarities here to my recent "2,500 years" and "430 years" posts. After all, it's the same subject matter.

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law..." (Rom 3:19a, emphasis mine).

I have known this verse (and the entire surrounding section of scripture) for a long time, but a few years ago as I was reading it, the above emphasized part stood out to me like never before. Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law. Lights went on in my head and I pretty much spent the next six to twelve months camped out on those words, and I began to understand so many other passages of scripture that had previously confused me. I eventually came around to the second part of the verse, which I'll get to shortly because it's very important in understanding the "why" of the first part, but it was that first part that really began to illuminate so many things for me. Please follow me all the way through.

If the law has anything to say - and it has a LOT to say - it is speaking to those who are under the law (not to those who aren't under it). This has always been true. It didn't become true just when Paul wrote those words. He was simply revealing a truth to the Romans (and eventually us) that was already true. It was true when the law was given. It was true when the prophets (and any and all other Old Testament characters) spoke the words of the law. It was even true when Jesus spoke the words of the law. Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law.

Remember, Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matt 5:17). He then went on to say, "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matt 5:18).

Paul tells us in Gal 4:4-5, "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (emphasis mine).

We see at least two things here. 1) Jesus, born under the law, came to fulfill the law. 2) Jesus came to redeem those who were under the law.

Which actually brings us to the second half of the first verse mentioned here. Here's the full verse:

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19, emphasis mine).

In the full verse we see two things that the Law was given to accomplish. 1) The law came to stop every mouth. 2) The law came to make the world guilty before God.

So whatever the law says, it says to those who are under it. Why? (Or for what purpose?) To stop the mouths (of those who are under it) from justifying themselves in front of God and to make them guilty before God. (Rom 5:13 says that sin was in the world before the law, but the law was needed in order to actually impute sin - to make people guilty by putting sin on their account).

----------
Addendum (a few hours after original posting):
In the comments, the question came up of what "make the world guilty before God" means. I thought this was important, and I realized that I had mentioned Romans 5:13 in the above paragraph, but hadn't gone into any detail about the word "impute," so here's what I said in the comments:

That key word, "imputed," makes all the difference. It means to add to one's account. Sin was in the world, but the world had not yet been actually charged with sin. It had not been put on their account. When the law came, man was actually charged with sin, and "made guilty before God." This was necessary, in order for Jesus to come and take the guilt of the world upon Himself.
----------

We find the law all over the Bible, in both the Old Testament books and in the New Testament books. But no matter where we find the law, we must keep in mind what Paul said: Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under it. And whatever the law says to those who are under it, it says for the purpose of stopping their mouths and making them guilty. The law aids in no way in helping a person to be righteous nor to redeem them or give them life.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Christian The Lion - into the wild

Ok so I couldn't not post this. Aida posted this video today. A couple raised a lion cub but then had to release him into the wild. Here's what happened when they went to see him a year later. Grab the tissues.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What record?

From 1 John 4:16
God is love (agape)

1 Cor 13:4-5
Love (agape) is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it (agape) keeps no record of wrongs.

Ps 130:3-4
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.

Isa 43:25
"I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What sin?

Jesus has taken away my sin!

Isa 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

2 Cor 5:21
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

John 1:29
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Heb 10:15-18
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says, "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." Then he adds, "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."
Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

Matt 26:27-28
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Ps 103:12
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

430 years

As I mentioned in the last post ("2,500 years"), most people in the history of mankind have never even heard of "God's laws" that He gave to Israel. If God had intended for His laws to be the staples that held mankind together in salvation and right living, don't you think perhaps He'd have done a little better of a job of making His commandments known to all of mankind? But as I also said in the last post... that was never the point of the law!

The law did have a point and a purpose - a very legitimate and necessary purpose. I mentioned last time that Rom 5:12 says that sin entered the world through one man (Adam) and sin spread to everyone. The next verse contains a key to the purpose of the Law. "For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law" (Rom 5:13). In other words, sin was in the world but it had not been charged to man's account (imputed to him). The law entered, not to help man live right or as something for man to follow as a way to inherit eternal life. The law was "weak and unprofitable" because it could not do that! (Heb 7:18-19). Rather the law's purpose was to charge the world with the sin that they already had, but had not yet been charged with.

A dozen paragraphs earlier, Paul had begun to make this point: "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19). In short, the law's purpose was to charge the world with sin. It made all of humanity guilty. As Paul also said in Gal 3:19, "What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made..."

And so what's this about a "Seed?" It all has to do with a promise God made to Abraham (when he was still known as Abram), four hundred and thirty years before the law. An inheritance was promised to Abraham:
Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him," So shall your descendants (Hebrew word Zera`, meaning 'seed') be."
Paul illuminates: Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ (Gal 3:16).

Paul continues, "And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ [the promise to Abraham], that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise (Gal 3:17-18).

In other words, "Here's what it's all about. Life with God is not about Law, it's about living according to the promise of God." The law charged everyone with guilt, but God's promise was an inheritance and a life that was lived by faith, not law.
But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Gal 3:22-25)
Abraham's response to God's promise in Gen 15:5 is what those who are of the faith also live by: Gen 15:6 - "Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness."

Abraham is known as "the father of all those who believe" (Rom 4:11) because the blessedness of life and righteousness that is imputed (accounted, credited) to man apart from works came through him. He received the promise long before the law came, and that promise supersedes the law! We have absolutely no need for "law" in order to have a full-on relationship with God. In fact, "the law is not of faith" (Gal 3:12). We had to "die to the law" in order to "live unto God" (Gal 2:19). "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith" (Gal 2:20) just as Abraham did.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

2,500 years

Without getting into a discussion about evolution (because that would be far from the point here...)

From what I understand, when scholars figure out all the dates, ages, lineages, etc, in the Bible, it's figured that there were approximately 4,000 years from the time of Adam to the time of Christ. Well, the Law of Moses was introduced approximately 2,500 years after Adam (which was 1,500 years before Christ). This means that up until Christ, during five-eighths (5/8) of the history of man, there was no concept of "The Ten Commandments" (nor of any of God's other moral laws, ceremonial laws, purification laws, civil laws, etc, that are laid out in scripture).

Why is this? Why did 2,500 years go by before the law was given? Did God suddenly give Himself a V-8 bop on the head and say, "Oops! You know what? I could've given these people some rules to live by!" Or did He perhaps simply get fed up one day and say, "Man, these people sure are a rowdy, sinful bunch. What I'll do is I'll come up with some laws, precepts and ordinances that reflect My holiness and I'll set it all up as the standard for them to live by. That'll set 'em straight."

If God's law was given as the standard by which man should live, why didn't He give the law as soon as He created Adam, or at least right after the fall of Adam? Why did God give the law quite some time after Adam? How did all those people live, from the time of Adam to the time of Moses - without the 10 commandments and all the other laws!?!? How were they supposed to live righteously?

Did they live righteously? Actually, no they didn't!

"...sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned..." (Rom 5:12)

Well, ok then... when God's holy laws and statutes finally came into the picture, surely they began living right... right?

Wrong!

Even with God telling people exactly what He expected from them concerning righteousness and godliness through His law, there has never been a person who has actually kept it.

Why do I bring all this up? To make the point that God's law never had anything to do with making people righteous or helping them to live righteously! That was not the purpose of the law. If that was God's purpose in giving all His laws, then it was a tremendous failure! I'll get into the purpose of the law later.

Right now I guess I'm still intrigued when I think that during 2,500 out of the 4,000 years from Adam to Jesus... man lived apart from "the law." NOT TO MENTION that most of the people who have ever lived on the earth, even after the time of the giving of the law, were not even a part of the Covenant that included God's laws! Most Gentiles (non-Jews) around the world have probably had no idea that such laws even existed, or at least have not had a clue what the laws actually said!

More to come...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Matthew 5 - How well are you doing?

are you poor in spirit
do you mourn
are you meek
do you hunger and thirst for righteousness
are you merciful
are you pure in heart
are you a peacemaker
are you persecuted for righteousness' sake

are you the salt of the earth
are you the light of the world
do you let your light shine before men

have you broken one of the least of the commandments
and taught men so

does your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees

have you ever been angry with your brother without a cause (if so, you're in danger of the judgment)

have you ever said to your brother, 'Raca!' (if so, you're in danger of the council)

have you ever said, 'You fool!' (if so, you're in danger of hell fire)

have you ever been at the altar, and remembered that your brother had something against you, and you left your gift at the altar, and you went and were reconciled to your brother, and then returned and offered your gift

do you agree with your adversaries quickly (lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown in prison. you won't get out until you have paid the last penny)

have you ever looked at a woman to lust for her (you've then committed adultery with her in your heart)

do you still have your right eye or have you plucked it out, and do you still have your right hand or have you cut it off, because it is more profitable that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell

have you ever been divorced or married a divorced woman... if so you've caused your wife to commit adultery or you are an adulterer yourself

have you ever sworn by anything

is your 'yes' 'yes' and your 'no' 'no'

do you turn the other cheek

if someone sues you for your tunic, do you also give him your cloak

if someone compels you to go one mile, do you go two

do you give to him who asks, and from him who wants to borrow do you not turn away

do you love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you - that you may be sons of your Father in heaven

do you love only those who love you

do you greet only your brethren

are you perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

ZoneAlarm / Internet problems today

I woke up today and had no internet. I checked and rechecked my modem and my router. I rebooted them. I rebooted my computers. Nothing! Then I turned off ZoneAlarm and everything worked. Hmmm. That's no good. After much hassle, I looked for help online.

Turns out the problem is cause by one of the Windows patches released yesterday. If you have Windows, and ZoneAlarm, you have probably been affected by the problem if the patch was installed. (Many computers are set to install the patches automatically, so you may not have even known your computer installed them).

Here's a link with some suggested workarounds:
(http://download.zonealarm.com/bin/free/pressReleases/2008/LossOfInternetAccessIssue.html)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The answer is always B - 7/8/08 - "He saved us"

Haven't done this for a while!

Which is the correct wording of Titus 3:4-7?

A. But when we'd done enough good works to satisfy God, he saved us, because of all the righteous things we had done, not so much because of his mercy. He saved us, through our careful washing of our souls everyday, and through proving ourselves to be good and faithful servants. He made sure that we had poured our lives out in generous giving (especially to our local churches), so that having been justified by our generosity and good works, he might grudgingly accept us into his kingdom.

B. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

C. His hard drive crashed and he had forgotten to save his work. Ooops!

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Logical Song (please tell me who I am)

I posted this song about a year and a half ago but I just noticed that the video is no longer there so here's an updated version.

Roger Hodgson - The Logical Song


My never ending drumbeat: The church can tell people what to do and how to act, but what good is it if they don't know who they really are?

One body, many parts - We're not all the same!

There's no such thing as a cookie cutter Christian. We're simply not all the same... and that's a very good thing!

Looking back to when we first got married, I remember my wife and I doing various things to try to get one another to conform to our own way of doing things. I don't think we did it intentionally. We simply were both used to doing things a certain way, and we didn't think it was right that the other would do things a different way! (Some simple examples: how to do the dishes, how to make the bed, how to fold the clothes, which way the toilet paper went, squeezing the toothpaste from the end or from the top, etc).

As we grew together, we realized that neither of us was wrong in the ways we did certain things. We simply took different approaches to different things. And slowly we took our grips off of trying to control each other in those things. Some issues are of course not so small, and they take a lot more work and compromise, not to mention the key factors of love and grace. But the point is that we can't expect each other to be exactly the same.

It's the same within the body of Christ. There seems to be a lot of "conforming" going on instead of us allowing each other to be who God has made us to be. In 1 Cor 12:12, the Apostle Paul says "the body is one" (or "the body is a unit"), but that doesn't mean every part of the body is the same! He goes on to say that while the body is a unit, "it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ."

So we are one body, made up of many different parts. A little later, Paul goes on, "In fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body" (1 Cor 12:18-20).

The ways in which my wife and I respond to different situations within the body... are different! Let's just say there's a disaster, such as the recent flooding that took place here in Iowa. My wife is usually quick to say something like, "I'm going to make a meal for so and so, and I'll see if anyone else wants to do the same and we'll set up a schedule to get meals delivered to the family at different times." My mind goes nowhere near thoughts like that! In those situations, my part in the body has more to do with helping clean up basements or rubble or stuff like that. Other people are really gifted at simply "being there" for people and either offering encouraging words or simply putting their arms around people and remaining quiet, or letting them simply talk about what they've been through. Some people work at trying to help people find places to stay.

Again, the point in all of this is that we're not all the same... and that's a very good thing! Each of us has a unique identity in Christ, and a unique "part" in His body. Who are you?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I don't 'really care' about my bad reputation...

I'm taking somewhat of a risk posting the song below. I think most of you "get" me and you understand why I would share something like this, but I know that for some I'm crossing an unnecessary line. And that's all right - I'll take my chances! (I'll say right off the bat, if you're one who doesn't care for certain 'bad' words (one of the tamer 'bad' words is repeated throughout the song - the "D" word), or certain 'bad' attitudes represented in film/video, then you're one of the people I'm taking my chances with and you might not care to read further or watch the video!

As I first give a little background, I'll start off by saying that I've met so many people - in person and online - who have dealt with, in one way or another, the nasty effects of legalism and who are wanting to break free in their hearts from those who have oppressed them and who have been the cause of spiritual abuse in their lives. For me personally, ever since I began to become free in the wonderful grace of God, one thing that has tended to hamper my own growth in freedom is the fear of losing my "reputation" among my super-religious peers.

You know who I'm talking about. Those who follow all the rules. Those who are in church every time the doors are open. Those who dress right. Those who listen to the right music. Those who follow through on their duty to tithe to their local church. Those who don't drink, smoke or chew, or go with girls who do. Those who have all their spiritual i's dotted and t's crossed. Those who do all they can do to protect their godly reputations and who frown on anything that appears even a tiny bit out of line.

Now here's the thing. I love Jesus. I love Him more and more as a result of growing in His love for me. I'm FREE in Him, and my freedom allows me to just be myself and watch Him work His works in me as we have a relationship together, instead of following some divine "do" and "do not do" list. But can you believe this - some people actually frown on all of this, and consider it a flagrant disregard for the things of Christ! Hmmm!

And so at times I've (unnecessarily) carried with me a bit of concern about what they think of me. Sometimes I've (unnecessarily) worried about my reputation among my more-religious brothers and sisters. And it's been too much of an unnecessary burden for me. Now if you know me, you know I'm not bitter or angry about any of this. I've just seen how it's hurt me in the past and I've seen how it's hurt others. But I've become increasingly free of it all and I've also seen many other people breaking free! And so when I see or hear something that seems to represent an example of all of this, I tend to like to share it!

"Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts is a song from the 80's that I heard recently (a few weeks ago) after having not heard it for many years. Then this morning on the radio I heard a rerun of one of Casey Kasem's old Top 40 countdowns in which he played Joan Jett's "I Love Rock N' Roll." Casey mentioned that before hitting it big with that song, Joan and her band had been turned down by twenty three record labels while trying get a record deal.

I then remembered that the "Bad Reputation" video had kind of an "In your face / So there!" theme to it, with somewhat comical scenes showing the various record label executives rejecting the band and their music. But then it goes on to show the Billboard chart with "I Love Rock N' Roll" in the Number 1 position, and gee golly, the record execs suddenly liking the band!

The video and the lyrics (some of the lyrics, not all of them) got me to thinking about the whole "reputation" thing in the church. How often are people looked down upon and rejected when their act doesn't seem good enough for everyone else. It's only when (if) they start to put on a good performance that they get showered with all kinds of attention and accolades. And then they have to keep working hard to maintain their good reputation. If they should slip, even to a degree... Ooooh I shudder to think about it.

Of course the reputation thing is nothing new. The Apostle Paul certainly dealt with it. He came up against those who would "desire to make a good showing in the flesh" (keep up the 'good reputation' of the church) by making Christians keep the Law, just so that they wouldn't be persecuted by the Jews (see Galatians 6:11-15). Paul also had to deal with a similar problem with Peter. When the law-keeping Jewish Christians would come by, Peter would withdraw and separate himself from the Gentile believers (with whom he would normally have no problem having fellowship with), fearing his own reputation among the religious people. Paul "withstood him to his face" about this hypocrisy.

And so, on to my main purpose in bringing all this up: We who are free in Christ, and who have gotten off of the performance treadmill and who have embraced Jesus the Person and chucked aside Christianity the Religion, have no real reason to be concerned about our reputation among our legalistic brothers and sisters in Christ! We are free and we can't let fear of religious people stop us from enjoying our freedom!

The attitude represented in the song "Bad Reputation" doesn't necessarily represent my own personal attitude, and perhaps my way of expressing the thoughts would be a little more toned down than the lyrics of the song. But yet as I've continued to toss around the idea of sharing this video, I just can't deny that once again I've come across a song that was never, ever intended as anything close a 'spiritual freedom' song but yet has spoken volumes to me in that regard!

Second warning on the "D" word... here are some of the lyrics, followed by the video:

I don't give a damn about my reputation
Never said I wanted to improve my station
And I'm only doin' good
When I'm havin' fun
And I don't have to please no one
And I don't give a damn
About my bad reputation

Oh no, not me
Oh no, not me

I don't give a damn
About my reputation
I've never been afraid of any deviation
And I don't really care
If ya think I'm strange
I ain't gonna change
And I'm never gonna care
About my bad reputation

Oh no, not me
Oh no, not me

Friday, July 04, 2008

Video Killed the Radio Star / Radio Ga Ga

The song Video Killed the Radio Star from the band Buggles, recorded in 1979, was both nostalgic and prophetic at the same time. The video for the song was the first video ever shown on MTV when the station launched on August 1, 1981.

The song was nostalgic in the sense that it looked back upon the days when radio ruled the world, with its soap operas, game shows, dramas and comedy shows... but then TV came on the scene, and video "killed" many of those who had become stars through radio.

And yet the song was prophetic in the sense that the video music era that would be ushered in by MTV (Music Television - back when the cable TV station actually played videos round the clock) changed the whole landscape of popular music. The music "radio stars" of the 60's and 70's who had become popular through radio airplay would soon be replaced by those who had the best visual effects in their music videos.

The song Radio Ga Ga by Queen had a somewhat similar nostalgic aspect to it, looking back on the good ol' days of radio. The theme of the song was not necessarily as prophetic as Video Killed the Radio Star, but rather hopeful in saying that radio was yet to have "its finest hour."

I think my favorite part of the song is this:

Let's hope you never leave old friend
Like all good things on you we depend
So stick around cos we might miss you
When we grow tired of all this visual
You had your time, you had the power
You've yet to have your finest hour
Radio...


If you know me by now, you know I'm not bringing all of this up simply to make a case about radio vs. video. :) I do enjoy these songs exactly as they are - after all, I grew up with them and I simply dig the music (and videos)! - and yet I also see some metaphors and symbolism that can be applied to the difference between the church as we know it today (that I think has gone off course), and how it's perhaps meant to be.

In simple terms, as I listen to these songs and follow along with the symbolism, I see "radio" as the way church (life in Christ) was meant to be and "video" as the way church has lost its original intent and meaning. Church as it was meant to be - again, in simplistic terms - was people knowing Jesus and being known by Him, and helping one another to grow close to Him and helping one another with the various needs of life. But what it has become is principles, programs, buildings, projects, sermons, morality lessons, attractions, visuals, social clubs, political bases... and so on and so on... you get the point.

I report, you decide. Maybe you have a different take. If nothing else, enjoy the videos!

Buggles - Video Killed the Radio Star


Queen - Radio Ga Ga

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What's the rush?

This post is kind of a follow-up to Quit Jammin' Me. My own personal experience in my church life has involved listening to sermons every week that have been based largely upon principles for Christian living. There's generally been a new 'topic' every week, or sometimes a sermon series spanning several weeks, usually based upon some aspect of "how to live the Christian life." Each week several principles have been laid out in regards to that subject, with various subpoints to go along with each principle. With the continuous, ongoing cycle of topics, principles and subpoints, week after week - all having to do with doin' the stuff (one of the mottos of a particular large association of churches) - I've often felt jammed, or overwhelmed, in trying to keep up with it all.

I'm not trying to make myself out to be a victim here! On the contrary, I've simply had many questions and many observances that in the long run have helped me to overcome the principles-based (and performance-based) Christian lifestyle, and I'd like to share some of it.

One of the questions I've asked is, "What's the rush?" Many times on this blog I've brought up the whole idea of slow growth in the Christian life [1], as we rest in Christ and dig our roots deep into Him [2], drawing up nourishment from Him, allowing Him to grow us at our own individual paces. What I've found to be a problem with the constant bombardment of Christian principles week after week is that instead of digging our roots into Jesus, and into a deep, intimate relationship with Him, we find ourselves digging our roots and trying to grow in "how to perform the Christian life." In other words, we end up with a constant focus on our performance of Christian principles and we really don't get to know Jesus.

The result has been that while these principles are perhaps meant to be a lovely part of the overall landscape arrangement in a healthy, vibrant garden, they have instead become weeds that stifle true growth in the garden. There are many weeds that look like flowers, and through the pleasant appearance of the performance-based principles being lived out by some, I think it often goes unnoticed that true life is being choked out. I see this on a first-hand basis all the time.

I've said often, and I'll continue to say it as long as I see this problem in the church: I think there are far too many people who know the do's and don'ts of the Christian life - "the principles of Christian living" - but who really don't have a clue who God is or who they are in Him. Some of these people may have a pretty good appearance. They may really appear to be successful in peforming the principles of the Christian life. Others may come across in the opposite way, struggling to make the principles work. The point is... either way, do they know Jesus or do they just know the principles?

And so more questions: Is it possible for us to slow down... perhaps waaaay down... and get to know Christ apart from our performance? What's the rush in getting people to "do?" Can we let go of trying to get everybody to live the Christian life, and instead help them to know Jesus? Will not the fruit of that be a natural desire to bear good fruit, along with the fruit being produced naturally and not forcibly?

Why do we not take the time - as much time as is needed- to get people established in grace? Why do we only touch on grace now and then? Do we not think we have the time (or do we simply not want to take the time) to help individuals heal and become whole, apart from telling them what they need to be doing? Again, this is just my experience and it may or may not be yours as well, but it seems to me that the church today is far more interested in getting people "do" than to teach people who God is, and who they are in Him. And I've also found that the more I know who God is and who I am in Him, the less I need someone teaching me what to do! Is it just me or can I get a witness up in here? ;)

-----------------------------------

[1] For some examples, see:
Slow-cooking together
Microwave Christianity
The Fertile Soil of Grace
The Right Place (a personal favorite)

[2] Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done. (Col 2:7 NLT)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Love is Like a Rock

Donnie Iris - Love is Like a Rock
(I don't know anything about the animation in this video. It's the only video I could find for this song. But it's a great song!)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Rapture

Happy 63rd birthday Deborah Harry!
(Yeah, this really has nothing to do with anything).
(BTW, I can sing all the lyrics to this song, rap included. Am I something or what?)

Or what.

Blondie - Rapture

Quit Jammin' Me!

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Jammin' Me. Ahh, great song! (Co-written with Bob Dylan) (See video below). Brings me back to my late teenage years. :)

I've heard this song a couple of times on the radio in the past week and a half, after having not heard it for a long time. I love my local station that plays songs from the 70's and 80's!

Anyway, this song is kind of like an anti-'information overload' type of song. We're definitely in an age in which we're constantly bombarded with all kinds of information and happenings. From songfacts.com: "In the lyrics, Petty mentions various places and events that were in the news and getting constant media exposure." What I see as the original intent of the lyrics, is, in a nutshell, "Quit jamming me with all this stuff!" It's too much!

In one part Petty sings:
Take back Vanessa Redgrave
Take back Joe Piscopo
Take back Eddie Murphy
Give 'em all some place to go

I heard good ol' Casey Kasem talking about that verse last week. (Casey's Top 40 countdowns from the 70's and 80's are rebroadcast on the radio station I mentioned above). Casey said that it's not that Tom Petty has anything against those people. They simply are (were) a representation of what was big in the media. (By the way, we're talking 1987 here).

Well, the real reason I'm writing this post isn't so much about living in the information age, although it's certainly a legitimate concern. My reason has to do with how I see a parallel in this song to my previous experience in church.

Now, I've been in some pretty legalistic settings in my church life, in which law and rules are heavily mixed into the teachings. But I'm not really talking about that. I'm talking about more of a subtle type of legalism that seems to get past the radar of a lot of my 'church peers.' What I'm talking about is the information overload of principles for Christian living.

I was under the spell for years! Every week I would go to church and put myself under what I thought was really good teaching about how to live the Christian life. I would listen to the pastor preach, and I would get all pumped up about how I was going to go out and begin putting all these wonderful principles to work in my life. Sunday afternoons were always an exciting time in my heart, as I couldn't wait till Monday, when I would be back in the real world applying all these principles.

But then Monday actually came.

Somehow I wasn't fired up anymore. Somehow all the wonderful things I'd heard on Sunday only seemed like pure fantasy now. And so I'd be so downhearted; I'd feel like such a failure.

But there was always NEXT Sunday! I couldn't wait! NEXT Sunday I knew I would hear some really great stuff and I knew I'd finally put it to good use!

And of course, the circle continued.

Well, finally I heard the good news of God's grace, and I got myself out of that performance treadmill that really was getting me nowhere. Or at least I thought I got out of it. What happened was I found out that it wasn't about what I could do, but what Christ could do through me. It wasn't about my performance, but what God performed in me. That's true, right? Sure it is! But yet I found myself under a new kind of spell. New to me, anyway.

See, I became confident that indeed it wasn't about my works, but about God working in me. I was confident that without Christ I could do nothing, and I could do all things through Christ who gave me strength. Yeah! With God's grace I could overcome everything and finally have complete victory in all areas of life! But unfortunately this wonderful truth - and it is truth - was being mixed together with a very fatal teaching. Oooh, is it a bad mixture! It was mixed together with the constant teaching of principles for Christian living.

Every week a new set of principles was taught. Yay, a new set of principles to apply to my grace walk! Ok, not yay. One week it was 8 principles of giving. Then 5 principles for a godly marriage. Then 6 principles to use in the workplace. Then the 7 "R's" of Relationships. Then there were all the "how to's." "How to worship." "How to love your kids." "How to overcome anger." On and on it went. Every week, new Christian principles to live by.

And here's the thing. Just as Tom Petty had nothing against Joe Piscopo or Eddie Murphy - and probably even loved them! - it wasn't so much that all these "principles" were bad! It's not that they weren't biblical. (Well, some of them I questioned). But the problem was that I was being JAMMED with principles! I sincerely wanted to be a good husband. I sincerely wanted to get my finances in order. I sincerely wanted to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength! All these principles - I sincerely wanted my life to be a reflection of them!

But man! Give me some room to breathe! Give me some time to grow! Quit Jammin' Me! Let's take one or two of these things, and let's sit down over coffee, and let's talk it out. What's the rush?

Am I the only one, or can anyone relate?