Sunday, August 30, 2009

Love and grace out of tragedy

Last year's horrendous May 25 tornadoes dealt a huge blow to this little community which is about 30 miles west of where I live. Then just a couple of months ago the head coach of the football team, who had been a huge inspiration to many people during this tragedy and throughout his 36 years as the coach, was shot to death. But love and grace have triumphed.

GIG 204 - Sermon on the Mount - Jesus' Words To You? (Part 1)

Jesus said it, so we're to follow it - right? Not so fast! Over the next few weeks Kap and the Breezeman will be taking a look at various words of Jesus that seem like hard sayings. And they're hard for a reason! This week we begin with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Check out some of the things Jesus said:

-You will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Phariees.
-Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment
-Whoever says, "You fool!" will be in danger of hell fire!
-Whoever looks at someone with lust has committed adultery in his heart
-If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out
-If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off

And so on! Read the whole thing for yourself. Is this a word from Jesus that is to be applied in daily Christian living? Who was He talking to? What was His purpose? What covenant was being represented here? We'll take some time this week and next week to go through what we believe is the true meaning and purpose of the Sermon on the Mount.

Hopefully, if this passage has caused you any fear, worry or anxiety, this will take a load off!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Red Letters - of death and condemnation!

I'm assuming everyone knows what a "Red Letter" edition of a Bible is. It's where the words of Jesus are printed in the color red (representing His blood). Fascinating words, are they not, those words in red? They're the very words of Christ, right? And so it's all about how to live the Christian life then, right? After all, He's the Messiah! And whatever words the Messiah spoke, we just do it and we're on the right path, right?

Let's back up just a bit and look at something else. Actually, let's look "ahead" to Paul's writings, which of course were written years after Jesus' death and resurrection. He says some interesting things that have helped me to see a lot clearer when it comes to some of the words of Jesus. Regarding God's law, Paul called it "the ministry of death" and "the ministry of condemnation" (see 2 Cor 3:7-11). Paul talked much about the purpose of the law. It was a "tutor" to lead TO Christ, but once faith has come, the tutor's (law's) job is done and we are no longer under it (Gal 3:24-25). And the key verse that turned my thinking upside down in such a way in which I can never go back is Romans 3:19, "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 become guilty before God."

The law was meant from the beginning to be the ministry of death and condemnation. It was not meant as a source of life, but of death. It was not meant as a way to live a godly and holy life, but rather through it we died and were then made alive together with Christ (Gal 2:19-20). Its purpose was to speak to those who were under it, stopping their mouths and making them guilty! All of this is important, but I want to focus on that one phrase, "that every mouth may be stopped."

Now that we know what the law's purpose was, we can look back and see how Jesus used the law when speaking to people. They didn't have Paul's epistles, and Jesus was very clever and skillful with His use of the law, so we're very fortunate today to have Paul's epistles to understand all of this! Let me give a few examples of what I'm talking about.

In Jesus' encounter with the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23), the man asked Him, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Now, we know through Paul's epistles that we cannot obtain eternal life through keeping the law, right? But yet Jesus answered the man, "You know the commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother.'" Huh? And what about this - Another time "a certain lawyer" asked Jesus the same question (Luke 10:25-37). Again, two commandments came up. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind," and "Love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus replied to the man, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live." Again, I say, "Huh?" Paul said in Gal 3:21 that there is NO LAW that can give life!

But if we put all of this together I think we get the bigger picture. The law was meant to make everyone guilty and it was meant to stop mouths! Jesus used the law perfectly with these two men, and He used it perfectly and skillfully elsewhere as well. Follow the "certain lawyer" story all the way, and the man sought to "justify himself" by probing Jesus a little bit further about the meaning of those laws, and Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. We've often looked at this parable as a "Christian teaching," but look, it was spoken as an answer to this man who was seeking to justify himself! It was a mouth-stopping parable! "My neighbor" is EVERYONE, including my worst enemies.

Keep all of this in mind when reading the "Red Letters" (the words of Jesus). Very often it's not a "Christian teaching" that He's giving, but rather it's the ministry of death and condemnation! But you say, "Joel, Jesus didn't come to condemn, but to save!!!" And you're very correct! The thing is, often it takes a mouth-stopping, guilt producing word to bring people to the end of themselves and their self-reliance, and their trust in their own works, and that acts as a tutor that leads to faith and salvation!

Brian "Head" Welch

This is Head talking about coming to know Christ - how the Father's love was revealed to Him.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

GIG 203 - I Give My Life To God?

We've all heard expressions like "I gave my life to God" and "God, I give my life to you." But is it really true that we give our lives to God? Do we really think that we are the ones who offer our lives to Him? Or is it the other way around? The good news of the exchanged life is not that we had something to offer God for Him to use but that we had nothing to offer Him, and instead He gave His life to us and came to live in us! We didn't give our lives to God. Rather, we died - we were crucified with Christ - and the lives we live are no longer our lives but are His life in us.

Many people are trying to do their best to offer their "all" to God. They're trying to "do" in order to become something. But in Christ we've already become something (complete in Him, new creations, etc), and the lives we live are not a matter of performing for God or offering our "best" to Him, but rather resting in Him and having Him live His life through us!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

No Pointing Fingers (video blog)

This video blog is similar in nature to my blog post from the other day, The Gift of Life. It's essentially the same subject matter, with a few other thoughts thrown in.

As an alternative to the video, I've posted an MP3 of the audio below.

No Pointing Fingers MP3 (1.5MB)
(Click to Play, Right-Click to Download)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

GIG 202 - Identity - How Did I Become Who I Am?

The Bible has a lot to say about the new life that Christians have. Various passages talk about our new identity in Christ. How did we gain this new identity? How did we become who we are? Was it by works? Or was it simply by birth? Are we trying to become something through our behavior, or are we already who we are on the basis of having inherited a new nature and identity, apart from anything we've ever done or will ever do? We'll discuss these questions and more this week on Growing in Grace.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Gift of Life

Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. (Romans 2:1, MSG).
The Bible verse above is right in the middle of a larger point the Apostle Paul is making. He makes a great point here, but it's not his final point. He's laying the foundation for something much bigger, which I'll get into below.

I've noticed that many people seem to pick out pieces of Romans 1 without continuing on in Romans 2 and 3. Romans 1 mentions various sinful deeds, and I've seen people choosing a handful of those sins and going around judging the people of the world for those sins. But that's not why Paul wrote Romans 1. It's not a list of sins for Christians to watch out for or to judge one another for, or to judge to world for. His point in this first chapter leads up to Romans 2 (including the above verse)... which then leads up to Romans 3! (Again, I'll get to that in a minute).

Paul says in essence, "Who do you think you are, going around judging others? You are no different! Who do you think you are, teaching the law and rules, and trying to get people to live by them, but yet you fall short in keeping them yourself! I just got done listing a bunch of 'things which are not fitting,' and people who are 'filled with all unrighteousness' (see Rom 1:28-29). Don't you get it, that if you're going to point out and judge others for their behavior, you're right there on the list too!!! So quit your judging and quit trying to get others to keep the rules!"

Sadly, many people have used Romans 1 to go out and protest the sins that the people of the world commit. And many have made Romans 2 out to be a harsh word to those who aren't keeping the rules. But if you look at the whole thing from start to finish, Paul is being harsh toward legalists! He's being tough on those who think they actually make the grade and/or who think they're better than others. And again, he's leading up to something even greater!

The GOOD NEWS in all of this - which is what Paul is leading up to the whole time - is that even though all have fallen short, there is this thing called a gift through which people are freely justified (see Romans 3 - "to all and on all who believe"). Read the whole thing all the way through and see that it's not about sin and it's not about judging others... it's about the gift of life!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fallen From Grace

Would I be wrong in saying that in most of the world, including the church world, the phrase "fallen from grace" usually means that a person has been in some sort of "respectable" position, but then has done some bad deed or deeds? As long as I've heard people using that phrase, that's generally what they've meant by it. And I do understand it... because the word "grace" does have several meanings. It can mean "a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment." So in a worldly (and religious, legalistic) sense, to "fall from grace" can mean to fall from such a respectable position.

But thank God that that's not what it means to Him! To be walking "in grace" has absolutely nothing to do with any "respectable position" that we hold among our peers, or even before God, through our own deeds or performance. Walking in grace means to be trusting solely in the finished work of Christ, and in the life of Christ that indwells us. It means that we have trusted in God's grace, not only for justification, but also for the living of our daily lives in Him.
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4)
It's not those who have "performed well" and then have turned to "performing poorly" who have fallen from grace. It's those who have once trusted solely in grace but have turned to trusting in their own deeds for justification and daily living.

Some would argue that Paul's words to the Galatians (not only the verse above, but the entire passage surrounding it) are only in regards to "getting saved." But Paul is not talking about getting saved here! His whole epistle is written to those who are saved by grace through faith but are trying to maintain their salvation by their works!

Paul goes on to say:
You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Gal 5:7-9)
They had been "running well." What, on the basis of their performance? No! Performance set aside, Paul was talking about their living by grace, not by their works or performance. They were now hindered from "obeying the truth." What, on the basis of obeying laws and commands? No! Obeying the truth of lives that are lived solely by grace!

O foolish Galatians! O foolish church! Come back to grace!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Faith and Uncertainty

I loved this tweet from Paul Young yesterday:
Faith grows in the house of uncertainty.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

GIG 201 - Dead People Don't Keep Laws and Don't Break Laws

Continuing on with our conversation that we were having before our 3 special highlight editions of Growing in Grace, Kap talks about an actual person who no longer breaks the laws of the land to illustrate how we as Christians no longer break God's laws!

Also this week: The Christian life is, of course, not about keeping or breaking God's laws, so how in the world do we live our lives in Christ? Might it have something to do with grace?! Can too much grace be preached? We'll talk about all this and more on this week's Growing in Grace podcast.

Monday, August 03, 2009

You are so valuable to God that He paid the full price to have you

YOU are the pearl of great price that a Man, when He had found you, went and sold all He had and purchased you!

YOU are the treasure hidden in a field, which a Man, for joy over you, went and sold all that He had to buy the field!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

GIG 200 - Special Celebration Edition - Highlights Part 3

Thanks for helping us celebrate our landmark 200th podcast! The third and final highlights program is now available for downloading.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


There were 457 unread blog posts in my feed reader, when I checked just now. :)

Actually... :(.

But I'll smile anyway! :-D

I just wanted to pop in and say hey to everyone. I feel so out of touch with many of you! This blog, along with your blogs, have been the essence of my "online family" for some time now and I feel a bit sad because I've been occupied with other things that have taken my time away from the blogging world. It's all good, and hopefully just a season, but I sure miss all the great friendship and interaction!

If you think about it, would you pray along with me? Sometimes there's a lot on the plate and it's a good thing, and sometimes there's too much on the plate and it's not necessarily the best way in the world to live, if you know what I mean. :) My friend Ole from Norway (who some or many of you also know) wrote this in a recent email to me:

"I hope everything is well with you and that all unnecessary voices will be subdued so you can concentrate your energy on what is in your heart!"

What sweet words from a friend! I pray this for myself as well as for anyone else out there who needs those unnecessary voices to be subdued...