Sunday, January 31, 2010

GIG 226 - Responsible or Response-Able?

Sometimes the question comes up, "Do we have 'responsibilities' as Christians?" Are we responsible to live the Christian life? Does God do His part, and now it's up to us to be responsible to do our part?

This week we explore the idea that rather than God requiring us to be responsible to live a certain way, He instead has placed His very life in us and makes us response-able (that is, able to respond) to His working in and through us.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dyers Eve

It's not always true that a strict religious/legalistic upbringing will produce rebellion and angst, but in many cases it really does light the fire.  Although I don't have the inside scoop on James Hetfield of Metallica, it seems that that may have been the case in his life.  Metallica lyrics have often contained a lot of seemingly anti-religion themes.  The Wikipedia article on Hetfield mentions his strict Christian Science parents.  Here's one song that reveals what I think a lot of the children of strict religious parents go through.

(Video warning: language at one point)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Free Grace e-Book

A new compilation of grace-based articles has been made available for FREE, in the form of an e-book.  The book consists of 80 excellent articles from 31 authors.  Our Norwegian friend Ole Henrik Skjelstad has taken a great deal of his time to compile all of these articles, and Jean Rittenberg has provided the artwork for the cover.  This is a very refreshing project, featuring many great words with such great insight about the grace of God and His unconditional love.

You can download the e-book, entitled The Lord Your God Is In Your Midst, here. (Click 'Download' and save the file to your computer). Again, this is FREE!  You are welcome to spread the word about this.  Or in Ole Henrik's very own words, "Please feel free to share it as you like; send it to your friends by e-mail, make a link in your homepage or use other means in accordance what you are comfortable with."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Seeing Jesus

"We may say that our salvation was a matter of seeing ourselves as sinners. But had it been left there it would have been a poor lookout for us. No, the whole matter is summed up into seeing Jesus: and when you really see Jesus, what happens? What happened to Saul of Tarsus? Well, a whole lot of things happened, and mighty things which nothing else would have accomplished. You would never have argued Saul of Tarsus into Christianity; you would never have frightened him into Christianity; you would never have either reasoned or emotionalised him into being a Christian. To get that man out of Judaism needed something more than could have been found on this earth. But he saw Jesus of Nazareth, and that did it. He is out, he is an emancipated man, he has seen."

Sparks - From: Spiritual Sight - Chapter 2

Sunday, January 24, 2010

GIG 225 - Freed From Sin

Romans 6 talks about the "body of sin" being done away with and it says that "he who has died had been freed from sin." What does that mean? What does it mean that we're no longer bound by sin? The good news is that our sin has been taken away and no longer separates us from God! We'll talk about this and more on this week's edition of Growing in Grace.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

GIG 224 - Not Judging One Another By Our Performance

This week Kap and Joel share some thoughts on Paul's words in 2 Cor 5:16, "From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh." People tend to focus on what we do and don't do - our performance and outward appearances - and to judge one another according to that, rather than focusing on what Christ has already done. We are to no longer regard ourselves and others according to our own efforts and performance. Rather, in Christ, our sin has been taken away and what counts is not our performance and abilities, but rather "what counts is a new creation" (Gal 6:15 NIV).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Grace Roots on Facebook

Grace Roots on Facebook

Roots go deep

This past Thursday, January 7, marked 18 years that I've been consciously engaged in a walk with the Lord.  I say "consciously engaged," meaning that prior to that, I believe I was saved (I've been a believer as far back as I can remember in life), but it wasn't until that day that a very noticeable, undeniable change took place in my life that forever redirected my path in life.  I've already told the story on this blog, and perhaps I made it a bit long, but you can check it out here if you want.  Suffice it to say that I believe the Lord has always been 'at work' in my life, even when I had no clue and when I was not giving Him the time of day, so to speak.  And it's always been His doing, not mine.  I didn't consciously go chasing after Him that day.  Even though I told my friend on that strange and wonderful day that perhaps I was looking for Jesus, it was more that He was coming after me!

In fact, a passage that I clung to in those early days, back in 1992, was Philippians 1:6 - "He who has begun a good work in you will carry it onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  With all that had suddenly changed in my life, I knew that it wasn't "me" who was making it happen.  I knew it was the Lord's work.

And yet --- I spent the first three years essentially making it about my work for Him.  And I've spent the past fifteen years overcoming the mess that was made during those three years!!  You see, as I said, I had the underlying confidence that all that was happening in my life was the Lord's faithful work in me, but even so, my understanding was "leavened" with a faulty view that it was up to me to "do my best" to keep myself in line.  I not only had to try to keep myself from sinning, but I had a laundry list of activities that I was to keep up - Bible reading, praying (for long periods of time), listening to teachers on the radio, going to church, being involved in various ministry activities, "witnessing," getting people to come to church, etc, etc, the list goes on and on.  All of that stuff was preached to me and taught to me, and I taught the same stuff to others.

Grace, to me, was not really much more than having a feeling that God would forgive me if I sinned.  I did also have a general feeling that God's grace would enable me to do all those things that (I thought) He wanted me to do.  However, no matter how much I did, and how much I "asked God for forgiveness," I always felt my sin was too great and I never felt I was doing enough.  Of course there were many "convicting" sermons that got me all pumped up, making me feel as if I was finally going to leave church on Sunday morning and go out into the world and live the "Christian life" in victory!  That is, doing all the stuff I was "supposed" to be doing, and refraining from all the stuff I wasn't supposed to be doing.  But by the time Monday morning came around, I felt like a complete failure.

Well, I got rooted in that mindset, and those roots go deep.  It was only three years, but it has taken A LOT of unlearning during the past fifteen years to overcome all of that stuff, and I still feel sometimes as if that old mindset keeps me down in various ways.  Don't get me wrong - I've learned a lot and I've been freed up in so many ways.  I live with an internal joy and peace and sense of freedom that I really can't even comprehend or fully express.  And I'll never, ever, go back to that legalistic lifestyle.  But yet even after fifteen years I can tell you that some of those roots are very stubbornly and deeply rooted, and hard to dig out!

I say all of this not to promote a "victim mentality," but rather to promote the importance of being rooted and established in God's unconditional love and grace!  Each of us has had varying levels of legalism in our lives. For whatever reasons, God has allowed us to go through it.  And now that our blinders have come off and we've seen the true freedom and grace and unconditional love of our Lord, we "strive" (hehehe) to remain free!  We've entered the land of rest and freedom and we never want to go back to the land of religious legalism and burdens.  It is good that the heart be established in grace.

So let's encourage one another often.  Let's help one another to be rooted, grounded and established in God's unconditional love and grace.  Let's help one another to be free.  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!

Cease striving

"Cease striving and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 (NASB)

Or "Be still, and know that I am God." (NKJV)

The Hebrew word that is translated "Cease striving" or "Be still" is 'Raphah.' What a great disposition for us to have toward God. The word means:

to sink down, to sink, drop, to relax, withdraw, idle, to let drop, abandon, refrain, forsake, to let go, to refrain, let alone, to be quiet, to show oneself slack

So chill, would ya? :) Relax, give yourself some slack, let go, stop struggling, cease striving, be still, abandon yourself to God... lighten up and know Him.

GIG 223 - What About Those Who Continue in a Sinful Lifestyle?

As we talked about last week, it's by One Man's obedience - the obedience of Jesus - that we have been made righteous. Jesus' obedience has been imputed to us, and He is not just "in" our life - He is our life.  The righteousness that we stand in, and even our faith, has been given to us as a gift.  Righteousness is "the state of him who is as He ought to be," "approved by God."

And so the question arises, if all of this has been given to us freely as a gift, what about those who continue in a lifestyle of sin?  Do they remain saved?  Do they remain righteous?  Obviously we all have to deal with the natural consequences of our sins, but do they stand between us and God, and do they negate the free gift of righteousness?

Everybody sins, but is there some "standard" by which we are to judge whether one person is still "ok" in front of God and someone else isn't?  If so, what is that standard?  Where do we draw the line?  Hmmm.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

NEW Covenant! (Get out of the shadows)

Heb 10:9 "He takes away the first that He may establish the second."

About this New Covenant: This is not "Old Covenant, Part 2."  This is not a continuation of the Old Covenant.  This is not a mixture of two Covenants.  This is not a "new" way to do the same old thing.  This is not an amendment to the Old Covenant.  This is not "picking up where the old left off."  This is a completely different covenant.  This is "a better covenant, which was established on better promises." (Heb 8:6).

The old system of a priesthood of mortal men (see Heb 7:23-25 "prevented by death from continuing"), and everything that went along with it, served a purpose under that old covenant, but it is now done away with.  The old tithing system that was set in place to provide for the Levites, widows, orphans and strangers, served its purpose under that old covenant, but it is now done away with.  All of the sacrifices, which had a purpose under that old covenant, have now been done away with.

The curse of the law has been done away with.  In fact, the Law has been "wiped out," "taken out of the way," "nailed to the cross." (Col 2:14).  Did Paul really say that?  YES HE DID!  Trying to be obedient to God's Law has been done away with.  Man's relationship with the law altogether has been done away with!  One has to be dead to the law in order to be married to a completely different spouse, Jesus Christ.  (Rom 7:1-6, Gal 2:19-20).  They are not the same, and you cannot be married/joined to both.

God's law was "a shadow of of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things" (Heb 10:1).  It, along with the sacrifices, could never make anything perfect and could never take away sins, but really only brought about a reminder of sins! (Heb 10:2-4).


JESUS HIMSELF - the PERSON - is the reality, is the substance (Col 2:17).  The reality/substance is not a system of rules and laws and sacrifices, but is a Person.  Jesus' one-time, once-for-all sacrifice did away with ALL of that!  With one sacrifice, the system of laws and ordinances was done away with, as was the entire priestly system and the entire OLD COVENANT.  "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh..." (Rom 8:3).  Jesus Himself became a curse for us (Gal 3:13) and became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21).  With one sacrifice, Jesus TOOK AWAY the sin of the world!  "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).  "But now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb 9:26).

If we want to live in the fullness of the reality of Jesus Christ, we need to get out of the shadows and instead focus on the substance - the Person of Jesus Christ who IS our life and who is our light.  He Himself IS the reality of the abundant life.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

GIG 222 - Made Righteous By One Man's Obedience

Romans 5:19 says that it was through one man's disobedience (Adam) that people were made sinners, and that it's through One Man's obedience (Jesus) that many are made righteous. We were sinners, not because we ever sinned (not because of our actions), but because we inherited Adam's nature when we were born. And we have been made righteous, not because we ever did anything righteous (not because of our actions), but all because of the obedience of One Man --- Jesus!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

My 'office' view this morning

I know Iowa's not the absolute coldest place in the U.S. or world, but just thought I'd let y'all in on what we got going on today. Pic taken in my work van.

Friday, January 01, 2010

All Things New

Happy New Year! On the outside, we celebrate a new year every year. But on the inside, where the kingdom of heaven is (Luke 17:21), we have been made new and are "renewed day by day" (2 Cor 4:16).