Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sometimes I don't feel the victory.... ;(

We were joking around in Sunday School this morning about there being school in Heaven, so that God would have a format to explain all the things we can't understand in this life such as a) Jesus was 100% God and 100% man (200%), b) The Trinity (nuff said), and a bunch of other stuff...

Then we go to church and have a special prayer for the Wilsons, because the smallest of their 3-week-old triplets died this morning... Noah.

....THEN, while I am still crying... we start singing "Victory in Jesus"... I just couldn't do it... I wasn't feeling the victory today - in fact, I am still on the verge of tears... don't preach to me, I KNOW about the victory in Jesus, but... why?... a baby... three weeks old... I don't get it... it really tears me apart...

...but THEN the offering music started. The new-piano-lady started playing " great is our God, sing with me how great is our God..." and I just remember relaxing right there at that moment, because in my grief I lost sight of how great my God is. I couldn't feel the "victory" today, but I never doubt how in total control my God is... and because I so completely believe in God's power and sovereignty in this world, a peace overcame me concerning Noah Wilson. My grief remains... but I will learn God's bigger plan for Noah one of these days when I enter 1st grade in Heaven... For now... my job is to trust Him....

Rest in the arms of your Creator, Noah....

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The God of "Plan B"

God of Plan B

I was just thinking today of all the instances in the Bible where the person who should have been chosen for an inheritance, or a certain position, or whatever (that sounded very scholarly, didn’t it? Lol) – was bypassed and the less likely person was chosen.

Think of the 3 Patriarchs; Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, was not the line that the Covenant passed through, but his second son, Isaac. Then Isaac’s firstborn, Esau, was not the one the Covenant passed to, but Jacob. The Patriarchal line ended with Jacob, but you would have to admit if not the covenant, then certainly God’s favor was with Jacob’s twelfth son, Joseph. Moses was an orphan and a murderer, but God chose him. I think this is an interesting pattern in the scriptures. Look who God chose to be the king of Israel. David was so far down the line of brothers that he didn’t even show up for Samuel to consider – yet that was whom God had in mind for the position. Don’t forget that we weren’t even the first people who were chosen to hear the Gospel. According to Paul, the Gospel was to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles. Hello, we are Gentiles, so we were even the unlikely recipients of God’s redemptive plan.

You might ask what all this means. Am I just trying to bring you down and remind us of how lowly and undeserving we are? Well, yes – in a way. I think nothing in God’s holy word happened by coincidence. There must be a reason that the “ugly duckling” is always receiving God’s blessing.

I think the most obvious lesson from these stories in the Bible is that even though Jesus is God’s “only begotten Son” and the rightful heir to EVERYTHING – the Father has also called us His children, and He wants us to know that the inheritance and the benefits of the Covenant are also ours to claim as step-sons and daughters of His. The other nugget of Truth that I get from all of these unlikely people being favored in the Kingdom, is that God is the God of second chances. He is the God of new birth, of regeneration. He is the God of the disenfranchised, the disinherited. He is the God of the clean slate. He is the God of plan B, and plan C, and plan D, and plan E, and so on and so on and so on…. He is the God of never giving up. As I think back over my lifetime, I am obviously the Poster Child of Plan Bs and Plan Cs, etc. That’s why God is my God. He has taken all of the wrong turns in my life and instead of leaving me totally lost; He has directed me back onto His road. He is the God of finding your way back home. He is the God of fresh starts. He is the God of new life. The God who bought me back out of slavery when I had nothing to offer… He is my God. He is the God of Plan B.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm a mutant...

I guess you could call me not so much a geek, as just an old-timer that enjoys a good Sci-Fi story every now and then. OK, right, I’m a geek. But admit it, when Wolverine had to kill Dr. Jean Grey in “The Last Stand” to save her from herself, it brought a tear to your eye, too, lol.

Y’know, Wolverine is an interesting mutant. His ability is not something he can set aside. His titanium endoskeleton is part of who he is – it would probably kill him to try and separate that aspect of who he is from the rest of him. That’s why Magneto has such terrible control over him. But for better or worse, he IS the Wolverine – no changing that fact.

For some reason, I have thought about my Faith in God recently. Is it something I do; is it something I can set aside if its not going the way I want it to; is it even something I could recant or apostate myself from if I wanted to? Is it even something I believe that I can just change my mind about? I have gone over some rocky terrain in my life lately – real 4WD kind of stuff – and have basically reinforced my knowledge (because I really already knew the answer to all those questions in my heart) that I am a changed creature. I have been mutated from the rest of humanity that are apart from Christ. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are a new creation, but I am one of those people that tend to have to find things out on my own. And, like I recently told my little girl who thought VISITING kindergarten was great, but she was ready to go back to her daycare and Pre-k; I said, “Sorry, Honey, there’s no going back at this point.” It is the same for us spiritually, there is no more “going back” to your previous state of being spiritually than there is for a newborn babe to go back to THEIR previous state of being! That sounds a little crazy, but that is the way we tend to think about our Christianity sometimes. We think we will leave it in the briefcase while we are at work, or we can’t find 15 more minutes in the day to spend with GOD, or we are going to set it aside while we watch our sit-coms about homosexuality, or some people even think that they have done something so horrible, that GOD either won’t accept them in the first place or if they already were a Christian, then they must have been thrown off the boat for that one…

I really liked the illustration in our SS class last week. You’re either a parent or not. There is no ambiguity whether or not you have kids. You either do or you don’t. You can NEGLECT your duties as a parent, but you are STILL a parent. The same goes with our Christianity. Sometimes we neglect our responsibilities as Christians, but that does not change the core of who we are or what we are; it just makes us ineffective and miserable Christians.

This may sound like an extremely elementary spiritual point, but it is just one more assurance for me that I am HIS no matter how hard I get hit by the Enemy or the world. Nothing can change what GOD has mutated me into. I am a new creation. I believe this is the assurance that Paul felt when he said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Friday, August 28, 2009

The "L" word....

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

This is about Legalism, so if you came here for the other "L" word, sorry to disappoint, lol. Man, this is a huge subject, isn't it? It is so hard to encapsulate. Perhaps this should be the subject of a book, not a blog. I have been labeled many things over the years. I recall vividly the church I grew up in. We closely followed the Bible; we thought we were even fundamental in following God's Word. However, we were labeled "moderates". Since then, I have agreed with some people Theologically, and disagreed with others who often times felt it necessary to stick some kind of degenerate label on me for my beliefs. One thing I can say for my beliefs – they are tested by the Word, I don't ever just swallow a Theological pill that someone gives me just because of their high standing in the Religious Community. I happen to believe that that is one responsibility of mine as a priest of the Way. A priest you say? Yes, that's right. Remember the doctrine of the Priesthood of the Believer? We are all our own priests in the Kingdom. As such, we are accountable for what we believe. Well, I won't follow that line of thought any further. That sounds like a subject for another blog at another time.

All of that is just to say that I personally think I KNOW the mind of Christ. I prefaced that statement with all of the other just so that it would not sound boastful. I think ALL believers should know the mind of their Savior.First, I think we should state the purpose of the Law. The Law was never given to "save" anyone. It was not like, if you can keep the Law perfectly, then you are going to Heaven. Why was it not like that? Because NO ONE can keep the Law perfectly, so it is a mute point anyway! The Law was given to HIGHLIGHT the sin in our lives – to make it crystal clear to us that we cannot be good enough on our own. Basically, the Law was given so that we would realize our need for God, our need for a Savior.Ok, that is the PURPOSE of the Law. However, as a redeemed people, we are FREE from the Law. Think about it – laws only have power when there is a penalty that coincides with breaking them. If there was no danger whatsoever of getting a speeding ticket, every interstate would turn into the Autobahn, because why should you pay attention to the speed limit if there was no penalty for not keeping it? What makes you watch your speed is the chance of paying a fine or having your license taken away, or possibly the safety factor of not causing a wreck. The penalty that coincides with breaking the Law, or sinning, is death. The Law has always demanded blood as a payment for disobedience. Since Jesus' sacrifice on the cross paid that blood sacrifice for EVERYONE for ALL TIME, past and future, there is no longer any penalty for not keeping the Law. If you had the wrong mindset, you might even call it a License to Sin. Just like James Bond has a "license to kill" which means that he cannot be prosecuted for killing someone – we (as Believers covered by the blood of Christ) cannot be prosecuted for breaking the Law. Ok, so we all agree at this point that the Law served a purpose, but that we are free from those terribly heavy chains of trying to keep that Law.I like what Pastor Charles said Sunday, that the Pharisees thought that if they made enough rules about what you could do, and about what you couldn't do, then following all of those thousands of rules would make you good enough to be in the presence of God. However, what they didn't realize was that they were making it that much more impossible to keep the Law by making even more of them! It just doesn't work.Ok, the next logical step from what I have said so far is that "believers" with their License to Sin, should be the worst, most depraved group of people on the earth since they are no longer worried about the consequences of their sin. However, that is not the case, is it? Why? Because we are governed by a NEW law – the Law of Love. Take note of the following verses:

Matt 22:37-4037 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."(NIV)

Ok, what is the Law of Love? Basically, if you perfectly love God the way you are supposed to, and you love your neighbor the way you are supposed to – then you don't need any more laws or rules because you are not going to do anything wrong anyway!!! Do you believe that is a true statement? If you love your neighbor the way Jesus commanded, then are you going to steal, murder, lie, covet, scam, injure, take advantage of, slander, or do any other hurtful thing to ANYONE? No. Because if something is potentially hurtful to others, then it does not fit, there is no room for it under the Law of Love. Ok, the Law was useful, we are free from the Law, we are governed by a new law given by Jesus Himself – the Law of Love.If we are now only governed by those two commandments given in the four Gospels, then everything in your life should be examined under that new light. Can you drink a beer? For you, does it violate either one of those two commandments? Can you eat Pork? Does it violate either one of those two commandments? Can I beat my kids? Does it violate either one of those two commandments? You get the idea. So you can begin to see how even though we are "free" from the Law, we are not free to do WHATEVER we want, we should have perfect love in our hearts for everyone we meet and, of course, for God. That is why the Bible says that perfect love defeats the fear of Judgment. Because if you are perfectly loving God and everyone else, then you will not commit any transgressions that will be brought up on Judgment Day (of course, they won't be brought up anyway if you have confessed them to GOD and asked His forgiveness – He promised to COMPLETELY FORGET them).

It may sound strange, but when I think of Legalism, I think of the parable of the two sons whose father asked them both to work in the fields. The first son said that he would work in the fields, then he never got around to it and didn't go. The second son said that he would NOT work in the fields, but ended up going anyway. Well, of course, the one who actually worked did the will of the father.In the same way, one man studies his Bible all day long until he can't see straight, then he goes to church and sings and listens to a sermon and speaks to his friends, then he goes home to study some more. A second man gets off work, stops to get a couple of beers, then sees a homeless man at an intersection. He gets the homeless man something to eat and puts him in a hotel room for the night, making sure all of his immediate needs are met. He does not push the Gospel down the man's throat, but he does let the man know that what he has done has been sponsored by his local church and given in the name of Jesus.Ok, who did the will of the Father? The guy going through his check list of things he thinks he is supposed to do, or the guy putting his love into action and helping somebody out. The Legalist would never get that far – he would still be caught up over the fact that the second man stopped for a couple of beers! However, I assure you that the second man is doing the will of the Father. That is not to say that anything the first man did was wrong. I believe in all of those things; reading the Word, corporate worship, etc. But if your life is not characterized by the Law of Love, then all of the "religious" things you do are no more meaningful than someone clashing symbols together all day long for no apparent reason. It is just a lot of noise.

Are you still legalistic? The next time you find yourself in the "judgment seat" concerning another person, ask yourself if that thing that has offended your fragile sensibilities actually violates the two premiere commandments (as if you should be judging anyone else anyway). Does it keep that person from loving God completely or from loving his neighbor completely? Or is it something more along the lines of keeping you from accepting that person completely? If it is, then it is more your problem than it is theirs.I challenge you to go one week applying that test to all of the things that really get under your skin. Legalism is a difficult tumor to remove from the mind. For some people, if it was removed there would be nothing left!! However, with practice and patience, and asking God to change your outlook, it CAN be done – and you will find yourself blessed more than you ever imagined possible.

Living and breathing...

Sunday, October 28, 2007
It just always amazes me how God's word is still living and breathing! I don't know how many times I have heard lessons and sermons on being the "salt of the earth" or "being the light of the world" like this morning's sermon was on. But in all of the things I have ever heard of what being the "salt of the earth" means, I heard a new one today that really made me think!Charles said, what is one thing that salt does for you? It makes you thirst. If you are truly being the salt of the earth, you will make people thirst for God by the way you live. They will want more of what they saw in you. As simple as that is - it really spoke to me. Way to go Charles! Just goes to remind me that you can ALWAYS learn something new out of scripture - because it is dynamic - and it is the living Word of God!!!

I am NOT a Pisces!!!

Friday, April 04, 2008
We have been talking about Christian symbols in SS lately to some extent. We talked about how people SHOULD be wearing an empty tomb on their chains instead of a cross, since that is REALLY the crux of our Faith. Then, Jeff Beacham found some websites that actually make pretty cool jewelry of the empty tomb. I will have to post those URLs in another blog.Anyway, something happened to me the other day that was another eye opener for me. It doesn’t take much for something to be an eye opener for me – in fact, I must walk around most of the time with my eyes closed, it happens so much, lol. Well, on with the story…. We had a "work meeting" at Hooters a couple of weeks ago. It is an annual thing when the Sweet 16 basketball tournaments start up. We all go, talk about work for about 5 minutes, so we can call it a work meeting, then we eat hot wings and such, and watch basketball.As it happens, our waitress was the girl that has waited on us for the last 5 years at our meeting. So, she sat down and was talking with us, and she asked me if I was a Pisces. I thought, of course, that this was either a lame attempt at conversation or a lame attempt at hitting on me ( I don’t blame her for trying of course ). So I said, no, I am not a Pisces. So she replied, "Then why do you have a ring on that has two fish on it. That seems kind of odd." Well, needless to say, I was taken aback. I just pretty much fall into the realm of thought that everyone I see has either heard the Gospel and rejected it, or they have heard the Gospel and are a Christian. I don’t really leave room for another group of ppl right here in good ’ol McDonough, GA!!! So, anyway, I replied that the fish were based on a story out of Matthew, a book in the bible, where Jesus called his followers "fishers of men". She said, "Oh, I have never heard of that one." Can you believe as much as we take for granted the phrase "fishers of men" that there are ppl, thousands I am sure, here in town that have never heard of such a thing?! I have to say that that was a humbling experience, to know how many evenings I sit on my backside at home watching mindless T.V. or playing a mindless game on the PC when there are ppl less than 15 minutes away from me that have not even heard enough of the Gospel to make an educated decision whether to accept it or reject it. Forget Africa, Europe and the farthest reaches of the world…. We drive through a mission field every day of our sad, pathetic lives.I was looking at one of the web pages Jeff sent me last night, and it said "…how long has it been since someone asked you what your cross necklace means, or what it stands for?" I think that is a sad statement of our society, but it is true nonetheless, that even Porn stars and murderers wear crosses around their necks!!! It means NOTHING to the world. I challenge you to at least look at the Tomb jewelry, so that maybe you will have a "conversation starter" hanging around your neck instead of an icon of our degenerate society.

Danger!! Thin Ice!!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Danger!! Thin Ice!!
Category: Religion and Philosophy

I am sure you have all seen movies where something rolls out onto a "frozen" lake, then the ice cracks and it proceeds to fall through into the water below. And, if any of us saw a sign posted that read, "Danger! Thin Ice!", we would walk pretty carefully around that spot. The moral being that it wouldn’t take much for the thin veneer of ice to crack and then you would literally be up to your ears in trouble.Well, I never cease to surprise myself. And, even though that is usually said in a good way; I say it in the sense that I never cease to surprise myself how close I am to cracking! I feel like I ought to wear a "Danger – Thin Ice" sign on my head as I walk around. That is really disappointing as a Christian. You devote your life to the calling of Christ; to the learning of His ways; to hopefully bring your life into line with His values and His love; only to have all of that crash into a thousand shards when a little pressure is put on you. If you don’t know what I am talking about at this point; think about when you are driving, is there anything that makes you want to cuss the person in the other car? Are you ever in line at say The Cattle Crossing, I mean Wal-Mart and it just peeves you that everything is not moving faster? Have you ever called a "customer service" line, and about had steam coming out of your ears before you had finished your conversation? Whatever it is that makes you "lose it" sometimes, that is when you are "thin ice".I said earlier that the thin veneer of ice breaks and then you are in trouble. I hope that our Christianity is more than just a veneer over our lives, but it really concerns me (if I am being truthful with myself) how easily I am drawn into totally un-Christ-like behavior. The other day I actually lost my temper over a VIDEO GAME! I mean, what’s up with that, anyway?! Of course Michael, with his unerring insight into things heard me ranting about this and said, "So, if you are a good Christian, you are frozen solid and totally cold-hearted!" Ok, you know what I mean… Anyway, I think this is what Paul was talking about in Romans when he said:

Rom 7:14-25
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing.20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.(NIV)

Is he basically saying, "The Devil made me do it"??? lol Well, I don’t know why the Old Nature seems to be so close under the surface sometimes, but I guess we just press on, and continue to try to become more like Christ. I think that is why we have to "take up our cross daily", because it really does take a fresh commitment every day to keep from slipping into our "old mode". Maybe the times when our ice gets too thin and ends up cracking will get farther and farther between as we grow more like Him. And, yes, Michael, maybe one day I will have a totally frozen, cold, heart!!! lol