Sunday, October 25, 2009

GIG 212 - Justified By Faith AND Works?

James, James, James... Why'd you have to do it? Why'd you have to say it?  Why'd you have to go and say it the way you said it? Why'd you have to say things like, "You see then, that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:24) and "Wasn't our father Abraham justified by works...?" (James 2:21). Didn't Paul say, "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God" (Rom 4:2) and didn't Paul repeatedly say that we are justified by faith apart from works? (Rom 3:28, Gal 2:16, Gal 3:24). And James, what's up with that "faith without works is dead" statement?

Were you having a bad day when you wrote that letter?  Did you simply disagree with Paul?  Was Martin Luther on track with his comments about your letter being a "right strawy epistle?"  Is there another way to look at your epistle?  Do Kap and Joel have anything to say about this?

Hmm... Let's see if they do!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

International Grace Party \O/ \O/ \O/ - Friday, October 23

Attention All GraceWalkers!!!! Attention All GraceWalkers!!! This is a Grace Walk Internet Radio Special Report!!! ;) :D ..... There are up to 250 freed up grace believers meeting at your house this coming, Friday!!! ... We're from all over the world!!! woo hoo!!!!! We are free, crazy, love life, love each other, and most of all love, Jesus!

Make the time, prepare the coffee and cyber goodies!!! It's even ok, if you're not home ... we'll still be there, if you want!!! :D

Come join us Friday morning at 9am Central USA Time.

You can call in via your phone or even listen in LIVE via internet.
Visit the new International Grace Party website for more info.

Hope to see you at the party! \O/

Dave Lesniak
Joel Brueseke

Monday, October 19, 2009

You ran well - who hindered you?

You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Gal 5:7)
 It's a long story to tell about the years leading up to the beginning of what some would call my "walk with Jesus," but suffice it to say that I can't remember a time in life when I was not a believer.  Yet I do recall a specific day - January 7, 1992 - when things really changed in my life and I began "running," so to speak.

I was 22 years old, almost 23, and life really did change dramatically.  I "quit" doing a lot of the stuff that I used to do and I began intentionally going to an evangelical (pentecostal) church and hanging out with evangelical people.  AT FIRST, I ran well.  I truthfully felt like there was a literal "halo" around my head!  I mean, I knew there wasn't, but the freshness of this new thing the Lord was doing in my life made it feel like heavy weights had been lifted, and my head felt light and happy.  I loved the Lord and I naturally (with no one pressuring me to do it) went around sharing this new thing with other people. It was as supernaturally natural as it gets!

But eventually the supernaturally natural life began to fade and I became hindered from obeying the truth.  How did this happen?  Did I "slip into sin?"  Did I go back to my old carousing ways?  No, it was nothing like that.  What happened is that I began listening to the things that were being taught to me (!) (in church, on Christian radio, etc) and it began penetrating my soul. The result - I began "trying" to live the Christian life that I had begun living without a whole lot of thought about what was right and what was wrong.

See, I knew that the changes in my life were not "of myself."  (See this post that I wrote a couple of years ago, about my full understanding that all of this - even my being drawn to God - was by grace alone).  As one who had already believed for years, I had previously been through a few "phases" in which I ignorantly thought I could live the Christian life, but there had never been any lasting effects. So by this point, I knew "I" couldn't do it.  But this time, it really was different.  It was very obvious to me that the Lord was doing something in me that I could not do by myself.

But again, it didn't take long before I began listening to all the teachings about what I'm "supposed" to do as a Christian.  I began soaking up all of the "shoulds" and "musts," and all the rules and principles for good, holy Christian living.  Eventually the joy and the love faded.  I had been "running well," and my Christian life had been a living testimony to the power and life of God in a person.  But now, I was hindered from running well, and the problem (although I didn't know it at the time) was that I'd fallen from a supernatural life of grace into a life of rules and law.

What's interesting (and sad) is that the verse above, which is part of a passage in which Paul is trying to help the Galatians go back to grace and freedom and leave behind forever their futile attempts to live by law, was (and still is) actually used in the church to get people like me to see how they were hindered in their walks with Jesus by not following all the supposed rules and laws and principles of good, holy Christian living!

Of course as we look at the entire passage in Galatians, we see that the Galatians had been "running well" because they had died to the law and had trusted solely in the life of Christ in them.  But they were hindered from obeying the truth because they went back to trying to be perfected by the law.  Paul told them that they had fallen from grace - not because they were sinning but because they were trying to maintain their righteousness by keeping the law!  He told them a little leaven (the law) leavens the whole lump.

I found that to be true when my "run" slowed to a very bumpy and unsteady stagger.  I had begun with much freedom, and with a trust that it was God's work that He was doing in me but I was now burdened and weary with musts and shoulds.

There is one verse in particular that really helped me along the way, during those years before I came back to grace again.  "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it" (Phil 1:6).  I was definitely walking a legalistic line, but yet in the midst of all the leaven, grace was working its way back through, and I knew deep inside me that it wasn't up to me - it was up to God.  And I knew He'd be faithful to do His work in me.  And HE TRULY HAS BEEN!

If you're hindered in your "run" with God - who has hindered you?  How did you lose sight of His freedom, love and grace?  I encourage you to go back to the deep end of the impossible Christian life that is made light and easy because it's Christ-in-you who is living it, and it's solely God's work in you, not your work for Him!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

GIG 211 - God Is At Work In You

So often we seem to make the Christian life about our work that we do for God. But as we discuss this week, it's not about the work that we do for God, but rather about His work that He does in and through us! HE has begun a good work in us and HE is faithful to complete it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

GIG 210 - Work Out Your Own Salvation?

We're going to spend a little bit of time talking about confusing or misunderstood "works" passages in the Bible. This week we talk about the Apostle Paul's words that he writes to the Philippians - "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Those words, when taken alone at face value, might cause a type of fear and trembling that was never intended, as it might seem to be saying that our salvation is somehow dependent upon our works! So what did Paul mean with those words? As usual, a look at Paul's surrounding words - as well as other things Paul said in his other letters - helps us to get a better grip on what this is really all about.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Being "not ashamed of the gospel" is not the same as standing for morality

Over the years I've heard the phrase "I'm not ashamed of the gospel" (the first part of Romans 1:16) many times. Generally speaking, when people have used that phrase what they've meant is, "I'm not ashamed to make a stand for my moral convictions."  They quote this phrase and use it in their proclamation that we Christians need to "stand up for what is right!"  You've perhaps heard this phrase used as a mantra in political and social rallies in support of various moral causes and agendas.

My question is, is that what the gospel is about? Is that what "not being ashamed" of the gospel is all about?  Is that anywhere close to what Paul was trying to communicate?

The gospel was never meant to be used as a means of protesting the sins that are committed in the world.  That's not what the gospel is about.  The gospel is a declaration of God's love and grace toward people and it's the power that defeated sin - not protested it! As Paul says in the second half of the sentence, the gospel is the power of God for salvation! The law's job was to protest sin, so to speak, but it never had any power whatsoever to help with the problem of sin.  In comes the gospel of Jesus Christ - the good news - and what the law could never do, God did by sending His own Son! (Rom 8:3-4).

What gets even more interesting for me is what Paul says in the sentence that follows "I am not ashamed of the gospel."  In Rom 1:17 he writes, "For in it (the gospel), the righteousness of God is revealed..."  Contrary to being about man's morality and righteous deeds, the gospel is a revelation of God's righteousness, which can only be received by man as a gift. It's not something man does. It's something he receives and walks in freely.  To be ashamed of the gospel is to be ashamed of the gift that God gives and instead to try to attain it by your own deeds.

But Paul's only getting started in Rom 1:17 with his talk about the gospel being a revelation of God's righteousness.  Now, Paul does do some important backtracking, and takes some time to make sure his readers really get a grip on the unrighteousness of ALL of mankind, to set a foundation before digging into the meat of what "the gospel" and "God's righteousness" is all about.  You have to skip all the way ahead to Rom 3:21 before Paul gets back to his original point, but he does get back to it, and he then builds on it for several chapters.  Rom 3:21 - "But now, the righteousness of God is revealed... through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe... being justified freely by His grace..."

If we look and see what "the gospel" really is, we'll see that it's all about the free gift of salvation, by grace through faith, and the receiving of God's very own righteousness as we chuck aside any and all of our own sense of morality and righteousness.  I love how Paul, in Philippians 3, showed how this all had played out in his own life.  He first gives seven reasons why he originally trusted in his own sense of morality and righteousness - including having considered himself blameless in his law-keeping! He essentially says, "Man, I was the stuff! No one could hold a candle to me!"

But just as soon as anyone might begin to be impressed with his superior moral credentials, he takes a complete 180ยบ turn and says, "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ... and count them as dung that I may gain Christ." (Phil 3:7-8).  My own paraphrase: "Forget my own morality and righteousness! I might as well shovel the floor of a cow barn and offer up my findings to God if it's going to be about that!"

Unfortunately, dung is often what is being presented as "the gospel" today.  Paul's words, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ," and all his words that followed, were very bold words that flew in the face of the religious, morality-conscious people, as he defended his stance that the gospel was not about man's morality. Let's keep on being bold like that as we count our own righteousness as dung and lay hold of the free gift of Life!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

GIG 209 - Jesus' Harsh Words to Self-Righteous Hypocrites

Did Jesus approach everyone in the same way? During the past few weeks we've hopefully been successful at throwing that idea into the shredder! Jesus spoke differently to different people, and didn't always approach and respond to them in the same way - and it always depended upon all kinds of varying factors. It never was black and white.

So what about Jesus' interaction with self-righteous people and hypocrites (essentially one in the same)? It seems as if these people bugged Jesus the most, and He often had more than a mouthful to say to them. This week we look at one such example of His interaction with them in Matthew 23, as He speaks openly and harshly to and about the self-righteous, hypocritical scribes and Pharisees.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Keep the conversation going

We are eternally joined together spiritually in a relationship with a God who is a communicator, a relator (someone who relates), a listener.  He's someone who is conscious about us all the time - inclined toward us all the time - and ever aware of what we're thinking, feeling, saying, doing, being, wanting, contemplating, desiring...

There's nothing going on that God's not aware of.  He's in us, He is our life.  I was recently listening to someone teach a "method" for praying, and all I could think of is that I've come to know this personal, relatable, relation-based God in such a way that it makes "methods" for praying such a foreign concept to me anymore.  I won't knock you if you've got your own "methods" that "work" for you, but I just can't do that anymore.

For me, I find that it's so much more about open, ongoing communication with a lover, a friend, a Father.  If I'm dealing with something - fear, worry, finances, a certain sin, a job situation, confusion, anger... whatever... I find that I can bring it all out into the open with the God who already knows alllll about it!  In the same way, of course, I can share all my joys, loves, good times - everything - with this God who relates to all of it!

Many times, my communication with God about these things is simply for my own peace.  It's not as if the circumstances always change.  But very often my perspective, my outlook, will change as I lay it all at His feet.  I think it's absolutely all right to pray - to speak openly and confidently - about anything and everything with God.  If things change, then great!  If they stay the same - or even get worse - that doesn't mean God hasn't heard or isn't listening.  And it doesn't mean you have to stop talking with Him about it!

My point in all of this is that we are free to openly communicate with the One with whom we are joined.  We are free to be weak and open and vulnerable with Him, no matter what.  He's not surprised by anything we bring to Him!  He's not phased by it.  As we grow in being open with Him, sometimes our way of relating to Him will change over time.  I know my communication with God has changed dramatically over the years!  There's no "set" way to relate to God.  It's all by grace, and it's all about His loving care for us.  Just be yourself - your real self - with Him, and relax in His ever-presence and in His sufficiency.

1 Thess 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Phil 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Another clip of Jay Bakker on Mark Lowry's show

Mark Lowry shows a clip of Jay Bakker on Jim Bakker's program. Jay talks mostly about love, relationships, differences, etc. Mark talks about Banana Puddin'. :) This is an earlier program than the two that I previously posted, and much shorter.  Please check out the other two if you haven't already.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Mark Lowry interviews Jay Bakker

I posted these videos a couple of years ago, a few weeks after Tammy Faye Bakker died.  I thought Jay had some great things to say about grace and relationships - but not only "talk" - it seems as if he is really living it out.