Friday, August 28, 2015

Not just a moment in time...the moment!

John 19:30  It Is Finished.

Those words spoken in finality by our Lord Jesus Christ represent both His final words
prior to His Resurrection and the finishing of His work here on earth. At the moment
when these words were spoken, redemption began and the veil separating God from His
creatures was torn. The sins of all had been heaped upon the back of this dying Messiah,
a propitiation had been resolved for sins and defeat was realized, at last, for satan,
death and sin's hold on those who would believe in Christ.

It was, therefore, not just any moment but a moment that changed the world, a broken
world into which Jesus came as servant and savior. It was the birth of a new covenant,
one that would provide the one true means to redemption, an opportunity for creatures
to be born into the light of grace and their sins forgiven. It was the ultimate example of
God's love toward His creatures, unconditional and complete.

It was, at the same time, the most terrible and most wonderful moment in history since,
in addition to all these wondrous benefits, a sinless God-man hung as a curse
on a tree, His body defiled and beaten, His blood flowing as the once and done
sacrifice needed for atonement. God had, in a plan agreed upon even before creation,
sacrificed His own Son as a means of providing righteousness where there was none,
borrowed, as it were, from He who was completely righteous.

I always cringe when I hear it said that this was a 'free gift.' It is a gift that demanded
the death of the Christ, that made it appear that satan had, indeed, been victorious,
left the followers of Christ in despair and confusion only to be finished by the
glorious Resurrection of  the Lamb and the eventual return to His Glory at the
right hand of the Father.

Without this history defining moment, there would simply be no hope, no
joy, no purpose, no completion, no pathway to reconciliation with the God of
the Universe.

It was THE moment. Praise and thank God for his grace!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Unrealsitic Expectations

 “‘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.”

Might as well label these as commandments 11 and 12 because they, like the others, are
goals for which to strive and not reasonable for success, even in the most serious
Christians. I cannot speak for you, but I always let my daily activities, goals, businesses
and pride get in the way of loving God as I have been commanded. It's not that I don't
value that command, not that I would not like to achieve that command, it's just
something that can always be improved upon.

The later command, loving others as Jesus loved, to your neighbor as yourself, is
also a matter of effort..maybe even more so. What about looking out for number one?
What about getting back at those who mistreat us or disappoint us? Revenge? Eye
for an eye? You know.

Perhaps an off-shoot of this consideration is the problem that can come from having
unreasonable expectations of others. This, also, can lead to difficulty not only loving
them, but just getting along with them. Let's face it, people, yes Christians, too, often
don't live up to our expectations. They aren't moral enough, aren't caring enough,
aren't compassionate enough, aren't fair enough... there are a lot of enoughs!
When we expect others to live up to expectations that we, often, cannot achieve
ourselves, it can lead to avoidance, conflict and irritation. 

When it comes to other Christians letting us down, that's a toughie! How can
someone who claims to be Christians, in Christ, behave that way? Not only is it
an issue of letting us down, their behavior does not reflect well upon what it
means to love Jesus, to act like Jesus. We are models of Christ, reflections of His
will and character; yet, we often see ourselves and other Christians fall short.

So, it is important, I believe, to be realistic in our expectations of all the people 
with whom we interact. Wish for the best, but expect non-perfection. Hope to
help weakness, don't become irate or isolate from others. That isolation takes
one out of the very real job of seeking the kingdom for others. Seek to react
in love and compassion. Easy, no way. Important, WAY!

Praise our God! He is worthy!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Don't need to go back 2,000 years to see a miracle of Jesus!

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen

Wouldn't you like to know? When one reads and re-reads the amazing things said
and done by Jesus, one longs for  more examples and more to be amazed by! 

Wouldn't have been great to have been there, actually been there to see and witness
some or even one of the amazing things that took place in those brief three years? Which
one would you most have loved to see....

..perhaps the funeral procession that approached Jesus and His companions on
the road? To see Jesus halt the progression by placing His hand on the coffin,
something that made Him unclean. He brought back the widow's only 'living' son
...or perhaps to be seated in a group on the hillside as Jesus broke a few loaves
and fish into a feast that left all who were there, five thousand, satisfied
...perhaps a touch of a man who had leprosy
...perhaps the stilling of the waves and the sea with the simple command from His
...perhaps blind bartimaeus calling out to Jesus, 'Jesus, son of david, have mercy on

We, obviously, can only read and wonder about these and countless other situations
that were included in the gospels. But what if I was to tell you that it is not too late
to experience a Jesus miracle on your own?

Are you re-born?
Are you indwelt by the Holy Spirit who intercedes in your prayers to God, 
  helps you understand the Bible and grieves over your smallest sins?
Are you a real Christian, not a check-the-box christian?
Do you desire in your heart one day to meet this Jesus, to be with Him
  into eternity?
Do you delight in reading the Bible?
Do you talk in prayer to the one true living God?
Do you see and feel real change in your life, change that is being done to you.
  not by you?
Do you understand the Gospel and the true grace that has saved you, a sinner?

Then, ready... look in the mirror. What you see is a miracle. Sure it has happened
to many, but, and here's the key, it can ONLY be done by one person. He who
lived sinless so that your sins could be forgiven, He who died cursed on a tree,
willingly, so that you might be saved, He who came into this world for the express
purpose of saving sinners. Only He can perform this miracle. Only HE!

Praise our God!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Not of this world BUT not above this world!

Listening to a sermon by a guest pastor helped to remind me of one of the most
intriguing concepts I had to face while transitioning from a 'check the box' to a 
real Christian: the attitude of some Christians toward this world in which we live
and reside.

It wouldn't even take a Christian to admit that there is something fundamentally
wrong and mixed up about this world. Take a quick look at the newspaper or, heaven
forbid, tune in CNN or Fox News and just listen to what topics are being discussed.
It tends to be both stupid and not real positive in nature. There is no question that
sin's entrance immediately turned things God  called,'Good!' into a whole
different place. Murder ensued, deceit, God's very first creatures hid from Him in
shame and guilt, and on it went. So no debate that we, as Christ's followers, live
in a world that Christ will return to and  completely judge, right down to the
blades of grass in our lawns.

But here's the problem with emphasizing that we are aliens, that we do not belong
here, that this place is a place we need not care about or steward, it is God's
world, and it is full of beautiful, masterful creations that sing of His essence and
creativity. To not care about this world, therefore, is to eliminate one of the major
ways that God has revealed Himself. The pastor, yesterday,mentioned
birds on an early morning walk who seem to be singing as if things are quite fine.
Secondly, it becomes easy to isolate ourselves from the very real task of reaching
out to others who are not saved in love and a desire to share the gospel message.
We can develop  a superiority stance that ensures that others will look at us as
Christians who do not emulate Christ.

The New Heaven and the New Earth, depending on ones interpretation of
Revelation, seem to be located 'right here on this planet,' having descended
from above into a world that has been cauterized into purity. So this planet,
both beautiful and messed up, will be the home of all who live with God
as His adopted sons and daughters. This world. That's right, this world. 

We may be aliens in relation to the workings of sin that have changed
things, but we are hardly aliens to the creative genius and love God expressed
when he spoke things into creation.

Be a steward. Care about this world. Value this world. Through love and
respect, do what you can to worship God's magnificent work.

Praise our God!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A slow motion conversion!

No brilliant lights on the Damascus Road. No walking down to the front of a Billy
Graham revival. No 'moment' when I can remember the instant of conversion. No.
Just a very slow, gradual, almost frightening progression that has become the
focus of a new life and purpose: Jesus Christ!

Beginning with an immersion baptism, joining a small Bible church and progressing
through numerous weeks of Bible reading, Sunday school classes, sermons, books
of various topics, and prayers that certainly began awkwardly, the whole road to really
believing and trusting took a turtle's pace. The one constant was my 'desire' to know
Jesus and to give up sixty years of sin and self-determination. I wanted to know in
my heart that I was saved, that I had faith, that I was re-born.. I wasn't prepared for
the pace that all of it was taking. Once again, I was trying to make things happen that
only God and God's timing could achieve.

Even in the midst of this progression, there were no sudden revelations or changes
that occurred; there was no exact, specific moment when it all came together, there
was no moment of completion..and there still is none. What did happen, as I
understand it, was a growth that followed God's plan and eventually brought about
subtle understanding of the gospel, of my purpose,  of my changes. Often times it was
others who seemed to notice  progression.

I have talked to some who Do have a moment, an epiphany, a drastic reversal
that they clearly can remember and share, not in my case. God was working
on my faith, understanding, belief at His pace and He is still at work, today,
walking me along the progression to Sanctification. 

I no longer question whether I believe, I know that I do. I no longer
feel that I do not know my Savior because I know that I do. I no longer
wonder about the Gospel and its application in my life, I am a sinner
who has been saved by grace, not of my doing but the doing of a Father
God who loves me in spite of myself. I am no longer in a big rush, either.
I am just happy to be on the journey!

Praise our God of Glory!