Grace and truth

Posted: February 2, 2016 in Thoughts on God

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)

Sometimes we view grace and truth as opposite sides of the spectrum rather than as two sides to the same coin. In truth we are confronted with our sinfulness and our need for someone to free us from ourselves and the current sin of the world around us. This truth then points us to grace and not a feeling of hopelessness.

As we proclaim truth as Jesus did, we need to make sure that there is an equal measure of grace ready to be given. In grace, rather than God giving us what we really deserve, He gives us what we desperately need. As Jesus entered the world, he came “full of grace and truth.”

In today’s culture we’ve substituted tolerance for grace. Tolerance says I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all ok so let’s just stay that way. But grace is a much more radical acceptance because grace says come as you are. Let’s see the real you—the good, the bad and the ugly of who you are—and by the way you get to see the good, bad, and ugly of my life too. But we don’t stay there—we recognize that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has something better for all of us to pursue. Grace says we’re all messed up and God has something better…and we are going to pursue this with God together.

How can you share grace and truth with others?

Ambassadors for Christ

Posted: February 1, 2016 in Thoughts on God

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV)

As His ambassadors, God has entrusted to us His message of reconciliation and God is making His appeal through us. An ambassador does not represent his own interests, but the interests of the ruler he represents. The big question, then, is what are the primary interests of our King? What are His desires, values, and priorities?

Jesus was incredibly clear about His mission: proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and freedom to those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18-19). As we read through the gospels He may restate it somewhat, but He returns to this over and over again. We can repeatedly see Jesus living this out as He seeks the lost and serves the least.

Eliminating pain, poverty, and suffering are noble goals, BUT the elimination of these things alone will we not bring people true contentment. If modern western culture has taught us anything it is that we can have access to everything we want, attempt to minimize pain and suffering, and still live empty lives. By addressing the obvious external needs we win the opportunity to address the most important spiritual needs of people’s lives. This is Jesus 101. Jesus always addressed both the obvious external needs and the deeper internal needs. If we don’t address the deepest need of the human soul which is to know God, we’ve just given people in our community, our culture, and this world a repackaged version of empty consumerism.

Are you reflecting Christ?

Render what is Caesers

Posted: January 31, 2016 in Thoughts on God

 

And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s,” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:20-22 ESV)

The Pharisees were plotting against Jesus, attempting to “entangle him in his talk” (Matthew 22:15). The Pharisees, being cowards like many overly religious people, sent their disciples to Jesus with a controversial question, hoping to provoke a condemnable response. The Pharisees’ lackeys approached Jesus and prefaced their question with flattery to deceive him, and then asked, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Matthew records here that, “Jesus, aware of their malice” (Matthew 22:18) asked the hypocrites why they put him to the test, and proceeded to give a gospel answer that encompasses all of life.

He held up a coin and it was plain that Caesar’s image was upon it, stamped as a sign of ownership, validating Jesus’ response to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”.That answered the deceitful question, but Jesus went one phrase further saying, “and to God the things that are God’s.”

These men each would have been well acquainted with the Old Testament, and given the context, would have understood the implication of Jesus’ statement. It was an unstated question, “Whose likeness and inscription is on you?” It was a gospel answer to a sinful question, encompassing the whole of life. We bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and we are to render unto God, that which is God’s; our life. Marvel at the brilliance of Jesus today, knowing that we bear his image and likeness, and are made alive through the Holy Spirit who lives within us (I Peter 3:18).

What have you not rendered to God today?

Who cann you talk to?

Posted: January 18, 2016 in Thoughts on God

There much temptation already in the world today, and Satan is working overtime to create even more. In the face of such temptation, many Christians seek out an “accountability partner” to pray with and help share the burdens that come with doing spiritual warfare. It is good to have a brother or sister we can count on when we are facing temptations. King David was alone the evening that Satan tempted him into adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). The Bible tells us we fight a war not of flesh but of the spirit, against powers and spiritual forces who threaten us (Ephesians 6:12).

Knowing we are in a battle against the forces of darkness, we should want as much help as we can gather around us, and this may include making ourselves accountable to another believer who can encourage us in the fight. Paul tells us that we must be equipped with all the power that God supplies to fight this battle: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). We know without a doubt that temptation will come. We should be prepared.

Satan knows our weaknesses, and he knows when we are vulnerable. He knows when a married couple is fighting and perhaps feeling that someone else might better understand and sympathize. He knows when a child has been punished by his parents and might be feeling spiteful. He knows when things are not going well at work and just where the bar is on the way home. Where do we find help? We want to do what is right in the sight of God, yet we are weak. What do we do?

Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens his friend’s countenance.” A friend’s countenance is a look or expression of encouragement or moral support. When is the last time you had a friend call you just to ask how you were doing? When is the last time you called a friend and asked her if she needed to talk? Encouragement and moral support from a friend are sometimes the missing ingredients in fighting the battle against Satan. Being accountable to one another can provide those missing ingredients.

The writer of Hebrews summed it up when he said, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25). The Body of Christ is interconnected, and we have a duty to each other to build each other up. Also, James implies accountability when he says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Accountability can be helpful in the battle to overcome sin. An accountability partner can be there to encourage you, rebuke you, teach you, rejoice with you, and weep with you. Every Christian should consider having an accountability partner with whom he or she can pray, talk, confide, and confess.

It is important to know God’s will. Jesus said that His true relations are those who know and do the Father’s will: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). In the parable of the two sons, Jesus rebukes the chief priests and elders for failing to do the will of the Father; specifically, they “did not repent and believe” (Matthew 21:32). At its most basic, the will of God is to repent of our sin and trust in Christ. If we have not taken that first step, then we have not yet accepted God’s will.

Once we receive Christ by faith, we are made God’s children (John 1:12), and He desires to lead us in His way (Psalm 143:10). God is not trying to hide His will from us; He wants to reveal it. In fact, He has already given us many, many directions in His Word. We are to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We are to do good works (1 Peter 2:15). And “it is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

God’s will is knowable and provable. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” This passage gives us an important sequence: the child of God refuses to be conformed to the world and instead allows himself to be transformed by the Spirit. As his mind is renewed according to the things of God, then he can know God’s perfect will.

As we seek God’s will, we should make sure what we are considering is not something the Bible forbids. For example, the Bible forbids stealing; since God has clearly spoken on the issue, we know it is not His will for us to be a bank robbers—we don’t even need to pray about it. Also, we should make sure what we are considering will glorify God and help us and others grow spiritually.

Knowing God’s will is sometimes difficult because it requires patience. It’s natural to want to know all of God’s will at once, but that’s not how He usually works. He reveals to us a step at a time—each move a step of faith—and allows us to continue to trust Him. The important thing is that, as we wait for further direction, we are busy doing the good that we know to do (James 4:17).

Often, we want God to give us specifics—where to work, where to live, whom to marry, what car to buy, etc. God allows us to make choices, and, if we are yielded to Him, He has ways of preventing wrong choices (seeActs 16:6–7).

The better we get to know a person, the more acquainted we become with his or her desires. For example, a child may look across a busy street at the ball that bounced away, but he doesn’t run after it, because he knows “my dad wouldn’t want me to do that.” He doesn’t have to ask his father for advice on every particular situation; he knows what his father would say because he knows his father. The same is true in our relationship to God. As we walk with the Lord, obeying His Word and relying on His Spirit, we find that we are given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). We know Him, and that helps us to know His will. We find God’s guidance readily available. “The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, / but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness” (Proverbs 11:5).

If we are walking closely with the Lord and truly desiring His will for our lives, God will place His desires in our hearts. The key is wanting God’s will, not our own. “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

Pastor Mike Says

My body is so inflexible. I cannot even sit cross-legged on the floor. Most of this is due to the disease I am afflicted with along with the treatments, but I’m currently trying to change this. I realize I am not. Physical fitness is a combination of strength, flexibility, aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Some people are exceptionally strong but cannot even run to catch a bus. Others are aerobically very fit (they could run a marathon), but are not very strong.

However, spiritual fitness is far more important than physical fitness. It also involves balancing a number of areas of your life.

1. Humility and confidence

Proverbs 29:19–27 I find it very hard to maintain the balance between humility and confidence. There have been times in my life when I have been humbled (perhaps by some failure) and not felt very confident. At other times, I have felt great confidence…

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The reasonable Christian

Posted: January 3, 2016 in Thoughts on God

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; (Philippians 4:5 ESV)

“They will know you by your love.” This saying is often used in the church as we talk of reaching others for Jesus. This is taken from the famous verse in John 13:35. A question we need to ask ourselves though is, “What does this love look like?”. It can be helping those around us, giving to the needy, or just lending an ear to someone as they vent. But, what if showing love meant being a reasonable person?

The greek word for “reasonable” can also be translated to the word “gentle” with its definition: seemly, equitable, yielding. Does this sound like you?

Aren’t we called to be strong in our stances and to not bend in what we believe? The answer is yes!! But we can do it in a reasonable manner.

Too many times Christians can be looked at as a hard headed group of people who want argue with everyone we don’t agree with. You know that guy who wants to always argue and is never wrong. I know I am guilty of being one of those people at times. We aren’t going to change people by belittling their views and putting them down. We are going to win them over with love when we reasonably disagree with them and lovingly show them where we differ. Our arguments don’t change people, Jesus changes people.

Have you been a reasonable Christian today?