Faith

This page will host posts that concern the “Faith once and for all contended for by the saints” as Jude puts it.  Theology and Christian life issues will addressed.

 

To be a Follower or Friend or Both?

This morning I was dwelling on the use of the word relationship as it pertains to Jesus and confessing sinner. We have come to use the word relationship almost exclusively in certain contexts and corners of Christianity. While I think that this shift in vocabulary is by and large a good thing (Jesus is called the friend of sinners and one of my favorite old hymns is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus) if we aren’t careful we begin to forget that this relationship clearly has a master and apprentice aspect to it.

Our friendship with Jesus is entirely initiated by Him. He is the authority in the friendship, he is the one who leads by both example and directive. We are called to be followers and then by His gracious condescension we are called friends. Jesus is our friend but he is also our master and Lord and this shouldn’t be cause for separation, but it does and should keep us from misusing our connection with Him for deceitful or nefarious ends. Jesus isn’t beholden to us, we are beholden to Him. Jesus isn’t going to go with us to or condone our going to a strip club or party to get wasted or any other such thing.

don't Follow Me 1The impression of Jesus that I am seeing in some circles is that Jesus is my buddy is a great guy to have a beer with.  It makes me wonder sometimes who is following whom?  Are we asking Jesus to follow us? This couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus will never compromise His holiness to enjoy a relationship. He was loved by sinners, but not because He excused or participated in their sin, but rather because He freely forgives and frees from sin!

Jesus is my friend and I am His follower. As I read the epistles I see that our foundation, the apostles referred to themselves as bond-slaves. They understood better than we do the relationship we can enjoy with Jesus. They ate with Him and walked with Him daily for 3 years and forever afterward by faith. They probably played with Him, laughed with Him and wept with Him. Yet as close as they were to Jesus, they also understood and I believe were in awe of HIM. So it should be with us. Jesus is my friend and I am His follower. If he decides to call me His friend, well, that’s just awesome.



7 Questions To Enhance Your Bible Study (Repost)

Repost from TomMesser.com

Essential to growth for a Christian is cultivating the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study. Often times, those disciplines become dry, routine, and duty instead energizing habits that bring you into  a deep soul connection with God where you are experiencing Him.

There is no real life transformation for the Christian if we are not taking the truth of God into our minds (learning about Christ), having that truth move into the heart (where you are moved by that truth) and then having that truth fleshed out in the will where you begin to think and act differently on the basis of that truth.

Over the last few months, I have been doing specific exercises in my personal Bible study to help make the scriptures come alive and help me connect what I am studying in the word to what God is doing in my own life.

Hands of Prayer Christian Stock ImageHere are seven questions, not original with me, that I have used to help in reading and studying God’s word in an attempt to meditate on its truth, apply it into my life, and connect with God in a personal way.

  1. What does this passage teach me about God and how can I praise Him from what I learn?
  2. How can I confess my sins or humble myself on the basis of this text?
  3. If this is true, what wrong behavior, false attitudes, and faulty emotions result when I forget this?

Read the rest of the post here.



More of the Same?

I have been asked recently why I just keep beating the presumably dead horse called legalism. I do this simply because it is what so much of Paul the Apostles ministry became about. It amazes me how his defense of Grace is riddled throughout his letters to the church.  His attitude toward legalists at one point was so dramatic that he said that he wished they would castrate themselves! I write and preach and teach against legalism and for grace because even today on Facebook there was yet again another church condemning other churches simply because they had a different take on ministry than they did.  I saw this church pull out of context the same verses “remove not the ancient landmark”  and “ask for the old paths” that they seem to always use to support their legalistic “I’m always right all the time” remarks.

The sad reality is that there are so very many wounded Christians littering the landscape of our nation because once grace is gone, the broken will eventually follow.  I have seen firsthand what happens when a church abandons grace in favor of law.  Not even God’s Law, but extra-Biblical, or I should say unbiblical standards in place of the Holy Spirit and a vital relationship with Him.  I once spoke with a pastor that called himself Mr. Law, and he was proud of the fact!  How you can read Romans, Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians and come away with such an attitude is disturbing to say the least.

overflowing-glassWhat we need is grace.  An abundance of grace in our churches and in our culture.  We need to trumpet the goodness of God and the mercy that is new every morning.  We need to saturate ourselves with His goodness and fill our cups to overflowing with His amazing grace, so that all of the darkness and sin in our lives will be washed away and so that we will have something to share with the wounded around us.  We need to see Jesus as He is, transfigured and glorified, beautiful and wondrous and someone to be desired more than sin or pleasure or any other thing.

As pastors of churches, we need to trust that the Lord is IN His children.  We need to teach and preach to them the wonderful grace of Jesus that is more than a song, and more than salvation, but is actually a way of life.  May we grasp the power of grace itself in our lives, may we begin to understand the depth and height and width and length of the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.



Great post on how to spot a legalist (repost)

Great post on how to spot a legalist;-) http://ow.ly/jWkLu



Grace and the Word

I am finding more and more ‘Christians’ have an aversion to the Word of God rather than an attraction to it… this is a disturbing trend. The Word of God is perfect and beautiful.  It is the misuse of the Law that should be decried. The Law of the Lord leads one to salvation and then guides one as the agent of the Lord within. We need to internalize God’s Truth.  Prior to salvation  the Law showed us our guiltiness and condemned us as sure as the sun sets in the west.

Following our salvation the Word has been written on our new and living hearts and has become our friend and guide as we journey towards heavens shore.  It should be a balm and comfort.  Yes it will convict, but isn’t that what a true friend does?  What true believer doesn’t want to be convicted and shown where we are in opposition to the Spirit?  Without the Bible we would be subject to what?  The Spirit certainly, but we must never forget that the Spirit works in conjunction with His Word.

Nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament epistles and commanded to believers.  We must also remember that there are seducing spirits that seek to pull believers astray.  Grace and the Truth are not mutually exclusive, the one points to the other and is the embodiment of the other.  When we are convicted by the righteousness of the Law we cry out for grace and receive it to walk in NEWNESS of LIFE.

Phariseeism focuses on the external alone giving lip service to the internal and intent of the Law in favor of order and control. Grace focuses on the internal, and the internal will still produce external results, we will still see changed behavior resulting from a changed heart. Indeed we must see these ongoing changes if the faith we have in Jesus is a living faith!  When we fail to see  the changes which should be produced by a changed heart we need to address the heart.  Our heart.  Where is your heart today, do you enjoy the Word of God, do you stay away from it?  God forbid, do you disdain it?  Remember that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God and that faith and grace are inseparable.  The Word, Faith and Grace all compliment each other.  In Romans 6:1 the apostle seems to be bewildered that the children of God would even consider that grace would mean more bondage to sin and lawlessness.  Grace has come to free us not from the Word but from sin. The keeping of the Law cannot free us from sin for we cannot keep it perfectly, but the one who did (Jesus)  lives within us and provides us daily with His grace to live righteously amid an evil and perverse generation.  Romans 6:18 (NKJV) “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”  The definition of righteousness and holiness is not subjective and is found only in the Holy Word of our Holy God.  As believers we will never fall under condemnation because we do not keep the Law, but neither should we disdain it and ignore it as it is the tool that the Holy Spirit uses to guide us.  He empowers us to do what as unbelievers we did not want to do and could not do.

God bless!



Please Him?

Just thought I would share a few passages of Scripture this morning on the topic of pleasing God. There are some authors out there that are proposing that in Christ we please God so there is no need to try to please Him, or to consider our works before him. swingAs seems to be the case with men, we swing far beyond the boundaries of Scripture ignoring clear passages or dismissing them; crying that the greater context of Scripture is more important. Well, my friends read the words of Jesus in context, read the words of Paul in context. They each say the same thing. Jesus laid down His life for us, giving us the free gift of salvation. In turn we became the children and servants and friends of God. Though we have no obligation to serve Him to secure His love, or our salvation, we do have an obligation to Him as our CHOSEN Lord and Savior to please Him, to obey Him, to participate in His mission and to offer our lives to Him.  We are not our own, we have been bought with the price of the blood of Jesus Christ and His grace has been shed on us abundantly, not so that we will wallow in failure and guilt over our sin, but so that we may rise above our former master and serve the living and true God and please Him who has saved us.  Grace is not an ethereal stagnant thing; rather like faith is is alive and enabling and it is what makes our works and lives acceptable to the Lord, it is what empowers us to do that which we could never even attempt without it.  Grace is not earned but is available for all that need it and we all need it.  Without grace there is not service for the Lord, there is only pride and contention.  As I have studied this topic, I have found that there are many facets to grace and that it is a limitless gift of God.  There is grace in salvation, there is grace in service, there is grace is holiness, but there is no grace in sin.  Grace and sin are mutually exclusive where one reigns the other wilts.

1 Corinthians 7:32 (NKJV)
But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord.

1 Corinthians 10:1–13 (NKJV)
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. (Looking ahead in faith towards the coming Messiah) But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.  Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.  Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is  common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 

1 Thessalonians 4:1–8 (NKJV)
Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.  For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 11:5–6 (NKJV)
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Hebrews 13:10–16 (NKJV)
We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.



Context!

A quote out of context can be a terrible thing. Be careful that what you hear from someone is the whole truth. This is the problem with listening to stories from others and not hearing it yourself first hand.

There are false books that do this very thing to early New Testament Greek Scholars Wescott and Hort in order to support a faulty defensive strategy of an English Translation of the Bible.  When we must resort to ripping things out of context to support our positions, we might want to reconsider them.

However, this post is not about Bible translations.  It’s about integrity.  It’s about listening to the whole conversation, especially in preaching and in ministry.  Pastors are not perfect people no matter what denomination you may belong to and no matter what church you may attend.  They will slip up in their preaching from time to time and may or may not  notice it.  That said, their pulpit ministry should not be subject to sound bite gotcha’s.  Many labor hours over their messages, studying and spending time with the Lord and then spending time in the pulpit trying desperately to convey what the Word is saying to people that at times would rather not hear it.  They do this week in and week out and their messages are a tapestry that should be taken as a whole.  Yet some are determined to hear only what they think he will say.  They lay hold on one topic or line and miss the message.  They may even study the Bible like this focusing so much on the minute that they miss the message.  The Pharisee’s were this way.  Jesus said they strained at gnats and swallowed camels… that they thought they knew the Word of God and yet they missed what it was pointing to, namely to Jesus HIMSELF.

Observe the following quote from our December 30 am service…
“Debbie you ought to get your heart right, because you are a filthy rotten sinner and you are lazy, and good for nothing and a sinner.”

OUCH!  I cannot BELIEVE that a pastor would say that!

Sounds bad doesn’t it? However the full quote concerns the problem of being judgmental.

Observe the context…
“You don’t judge another servants work, we are not the masters of one another, you don’t look out over this congregation and say well Debbie isn’t doing as much work as Karen and so Debbie you ought to get your heart right, because you are a filthy rotten sinner and you are lazy, and good for nothing and a sinner. This church (Corinth) was so busy judging one another that they weren’t getting anything done!”

This trouble of taking things out of context often finds its start in the pulpit with the pastor himself.  As pastors we need to be sure that we model the right example to our flocks concerning this difficulty.  I am sure that over my 14 year ministry of preaching I have done this very thing.  Used a sound bite to characterize an individual instead just sticking to the Word.  Let’s leave these things and get back on track my friends, the time is short and we have work to do.



Right or Responsibility?

Just a thought on the hot debate over women’s rights.  I am all for them, specifically the unborn female children in the wombs of the women that have participated in the act of creation.

When does our right remove our responsibility from the equation?  Why does the unborn woman not have the right to live? She didn’t ask to be created in your womb, but she has been and deserves to have her rights championed by those with voices.

I understand the pressures that society brings to bear on women these days, and that we all make mistakes, but is a child truly the mistake?  All three of my children were unplanned.  After my first child, who has moderate to severe Cerebral Palsy, Trisha and I decided to stick with her; and not to spread our attention and finances out over other children.

It all comes down to what value has a life? When is it okay to take it?  Is it ever okay to take it? If you go by life begins at a detectable heartbeat, then that would be as early as 5 weeks. Abortion after 5 weeks stops a beating heart.  Of course there is God’s point of view as well…

Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJV)

5Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;

Before you were born I sanctified you…

As far as what quality of life will that child have if brought into the world without married parents, a certain amount of wealth etc… I am reminded of the amazing good that Kierstin has brought into this world.  However if you listen to the extreme proponents of abortion rights you find the following… In the book Practical Ethics, author Peter Singer argues the case for selective infanticide. “At present parents can choose to keep or destroy their disabled offspring only if the disability happens to be detected during pregnancy. There is no logical basis for restricting parents’ choice to these particular disabilities. If disabled newborn infants were not regarded as having a right to life until, say, a week or a month after birth it would allow parents, in consultation with their doctors, to choose on the basis of far greater knowledge of the infant’s condition than is possible before birth.”  What kind of quality of life does Kierstin have? Well, her life is so much more than what she gets out of it, she has given more than the world could ever give back.   As far as my personal situation, God had other plans and 10 years later Chloe was conceived.  She was a puzzle piece that we hadn’t even realized that we were missing.  Then about 5 years later came Nate the Great the son of my old age.  Wouldn’t trade these ‘mistakes’ for the world.  The mistake in unwanted pregnancies is not the creation of the innocent child in the womb, it was the mistake of the act of creating them.  When this occurs, responsibility trumps ‘rights’.

In my discussion with a young lady that was concerned about her rights she pointed out that when you find yourself alone in this predicament (of an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy),  things that used to be black and white become grey and that no one else should be able to make this decision for her.  Unfortunately, there is more than one person in the predicament, there are three. In particular, there is one without a voice… The unborn. The laws of the land ought to protect the weakest among us. The real question is who’s body has more rights? The woman that chose to participate in the act to create life has more responsibility than right. The child, innocent in the womb ought to have the right to live.  

This same young lady agreed that abortion should not be used as a contraceptive and yet chose to argue through the merit of simply making a mistake and having an accident.  What is that if not contraception?  Check out these stats…

WHY ARE ABORTIONS PERFORMED?

  • On average, women give at least 3 reasons for choosing abortion: 3/4 say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities; about 3/4 say they cannot afford a child; and 1/2 say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner (AGI).
  • Only 12% of women included a physical problem with their health among reasons for having an abortion (NAF).
  • One per cent (of aborting women) reported that they were the survivors of rape (NAF).

Having now known a number of women that have been the willing victims of abortion,  I have so much more compassion than ever before. The Lord has a pardon waiting for every sin, every mistake a human being could possibly make.  Whether she was told, it’s just a glob of tissue or whether she went into the abortion willingly knowing that glob of tissue was a living soul, Jesus death, burial and resurrection can secure forgiveness and deliverance for anyone willing to come.  Our problem in regards to any sin, be it abortion or divorce or drinking or homosexuality is that many of us refuse to look at it for what it is and  therefore can never really be free from the condemnation of what we have done.  My dear friends, accept responsibility for what you have done, come to Jesus and live!

As a disclaimer, I will concede abortion for rape, and incest, as these women weren’t willing participants in the creation of the life within their wombs, but I do applaud and I am humbled by the women that carry the child to term .  I must also concede those rare occasions where the life of the mother is at clear and present risk.  This position is one held by perhaps the majority of the nation, it isn’t extreme in the least and yet, it is being painted as such.  I really hope that perhaps the Lord would use this post to encourage those that have been through the horror of abortion, and for those that haven’t perhaps you will think twice.  Then  there is the time coming in a few short weeks where all must vote our conscience.  I vote life.  I hope that you will too.  Vote women’s rights if you must, but at least consider all of the UNBORN women’s rights that have no voice and maybe, just maybe be their voice.

God bless.



Someone Else III

I have a few more thoughts on someone else that I  thought I should share with whomever may be reading.  In my last post I mentioned being a blessing to someone else in your church.  That church shouldn’t be all about what you receive but also what you give.

That said there is someone else that needs, desperately needs your attention.  He or she isn’t in your church, meeting under your steeple.  He is someone else.  He or she is  the waitress at the restaurant, the co-worker or classmate.  Someone else needs you because they need HIM.  Like it or not, folks, if you name Jesus as your savior, you are responsible to Him to witness of Him to someone else.  Someone else may be your enemy or they may be your friend; that you are afraid will ditch you if you tell them about Jesus.  Someone else may be someone that is at the end of their rope and they are barely hanging on.  Someone else is divorced, is a single parent, has never been to church or was hurt by a church, someone else is addicted to drugs alcohol or sex.  Someone else is harsh and hard, or soft and kind.  Someone else without Christ is someone else that will spend eternity in hell.  I’ve never read “Just Walk Across the Room” by Bill Hybles, but the phrase seems to be just about right to me.  There is someone else that needs Jesus and Jesus has given us the charge to be as He is in this world, so as the Spirit leads, we should just walk across the room and speak of Jesus to someone else.  Oh yeah and when you have done this for a while and you have seen people come to Christ and follow Him… don’t ever stop.

This leads me to one last thing, it really is someone else that this is all about.  It’s all about HIM.  It isn’t about me being a successful pastor or even a successful Christian, it’s about Jesus.  He directs, and empowers and brings circumstances about to challenge us to lean into HIM.  Our church is about Jesus.  Evangelism is about Jesus.  Caring for someone else does two things, it displays Jesus to those looking on or being cared for and as Christ said; when you care for one of the least of the these… you care for Him.  For all of us that find that first step of witnessing of Jesus difficult; remember this, you have someone else in you that will do it through you.  It might be time to read up on the “fear nots” of Jesus.

We live in a what about me culture.  We live in a consumer culture.  What if we all started to think of someone else.  What if we invited THE someone else to LIVE and LOVE through US?  In studying Colossians it seems to me that Jesus is just waiting for us to let Him in and He will change you and then… you will look like someone else:-)



Someone Else II

Been thinking that the last post was just the beginning.  We have many in churches that are focused on themselves and not on someone else.  Today I was speaking with someone else about ministry and relationships and in our conversation I was reminded of my time as a teen in our church. I had been in teens for almost 2 years, Trisha had moved on from our Youth Group and I was bored.  I didn’t like the way the group was being run and being all of 17 or so, I knew better how  to run it.  That was when Ken Bournival my future father-in-law made an observation that maybe I shouldn’t be going to Youth Group for what I could get out of it but for what I could give into it.  I then began to look at my teen leader in a different light.  I saw a man and his wife that were sacrificing their time every Saturday to minister to a bunch of cranky and crabby teenagers.  I determined that night that this ministry would no longer be about me; it would be about someone else.  Even though Rick was my leader, and I was his responsibility, I determined through God’s help that I would be a blessing to him and that when he looked back on his time with me he would have no regrets.

Churches today (even in my church:-0) have developed a me first and consumer mentality.  There are business models for churches and management models for churches and programs for churches and you name it for churches that leave out the fact that we are here for someone else.  A church isn’t a business.  It has business aspects, but it isn’t a business.  Church isn’t the military.  It has aspects of the military, we are a war against the devil and his agenda, but we aren’t the military.  A church is a sheepfold.  A church is a body.  A church is a family.  If you are a Christian, you should be a part of a local church.  You can toss your excuse as to why you aren’t, God established the local church for you and for His glory.  Usually when I have spoken with a person out of church they blame someone else.  The pastor changed the dress standard, the children’s ministry isn’t being run effectively or someone else hurt their feelings.

It’s time for church to be about someone else.  It’s time to look out at the congregation and ministry that God has called you to, and be a blessing to someone else.  Find that frazzled leader and be a blessing to him.  When I determined to bless Rick, I didn’t ask his permission, I didn’t even tell him I was doing anything (I might have been afraid of his mustache at that point) I just did things to ease his burden for.  I showed up, was friendly to new kids, helped clean up and set up and above all I tried to follow Jesus.  Jesus said that we should do the things that he said.  The fact is that we need to be here to bless someone else and that we ought to bear someone else’s burdens, that we that are spiritual ought to restore those that have fallen in meekness and care and gentleness (not seeing a lot of that these days in churches).

So how about it?  Is church and ministry about you?  Or just maybe, is it about someone else?