Archive for April, 2013

29
Apr
13

Confessions of a “heretic”; why I believe we are living in the Age of Grace

For nearly 45 years I have heard people tell me that I am deceived, “off balance” and not to be trusted because I dare to believe that the keys to understanding God’s will for us living in this day and time are found predominantly in the epistles written AFTER the Day of Pentecost. For reasons that still both amuse and befuddle me, the vast majority of Christians refuse to believe that what is written in Romans through Jude is anything other than “icing on the cake of the four Gospels” or nice little letters written to churches in the First Century.

One of the main reasons there tends to be incredible friction within the Body of Christ is the schism between factions which believe Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the Holy Grail of recorded revelation, those who believe the Book of Revelation is the absolute authority, those who zero in on the epistles and those (like myself) who look specifically to those epistles written by the Apostle Paul as the “all truth” Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would lead us into.

I understand my position is in the minority among Christians. In fact, there are very few men and women who believe that if we spend most of our time reading and studying the writings of Paul, we will understand who the Church is, the role of the Church and who we are and what we have available to us as children of God living today.

Of course much of this comes down to whether one believes Paul’s epistles are indeed the “all truth” Jesus promised. The overwhelming majority of Christians flatly reject such a notion as either foolishness or blasphemy. Good, bad or otherwise I happen to believe that Paul’s “church epistles” form the foundation of understanding the rest of the Bible in light of all God did for us through Christ.

I believe with all of my heart that the greatest revelation given to the Church is found in the epistles of Romans through Titus. I believe that without a proper understanding of who Jesus Christ was, what He accomplished, what God did when He raised Jesus from the dead and what is available in the Holy Spirit first given on the Day of Pentecost; there is no way to appreciate or walk in the newness of life promised in Romans.

I believe that The Law was nailed to the cross and we now live under a far greater law, the law of love. I believe that we are saved by grace and through God’s grace we are allowed to live and move and have our being in Christ. I believe that that we live in the dispensation of grace and until Christ returns, man can chose whether he will obey God’s Word or live in sin. I believe that the day is coming when everyman must appear before the Great White Throne and give an account of what he chose to do and how he chose to live in this life.

I believe that if a believer puts on the whole armor of God and seeks to walk in love, live in Christ and walk in righteousness; God will be well pleased and that believer will receive rewards and crowns after Christ returns. I believe that once the church is “gathered together” (according to 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15), all the horrible things mentioned in the Book of Revelation and much of the Old Testament will take place and those who have rejected Christ will endure the Great Tribulation.

I believe that the old man was crucified with Christ and that we are to put on the new man through renewing our minds to the Word of God. I believe that God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation whereby we are to bring the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a dying world. I believe that God has instructed us to love one another with a pure heart fervently and seek to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

I believe many more things and in setting a few of those things out in this blog, I understand that I will probably lose many friends and be looked upon as a heretic by many more. I am willing to accept this as the price I must pay to boldly proclaim what I believe to be true. I respect each person’s choice to believe as they see fit and I will neither condemn nor think any less of anyone who vehemently disagrees with me. To me, this is the beauty of the grace which defines the current age and love which binds us together.

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28
Apr
13

The Greatest Name in the universe

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,

6 who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God,

7 but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.

8 And being found in the fashion of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death—even the death of the cross.

9 Therefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven and things on earth and things under the earth,

11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”

Philippians 2:5-11

There are perhaps no greater verses in the Bible which explain who Jesus Christ is, what He did and what God did for Him than these verses. If we can grasp the truths laid out in these incredible verses, we can in turn understand the will of God as manifested in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Simply put, Jesus willingly emptied Himself of His heavenly reputation and became a servant, made in the likeness of men. He humbled Himself and obeyed His Father’s will, even though it meant death on the cross. It was because of the willingness of Jesus to empty Himself, humble Himself and lay down His life that allowed God to redeem us from sin. Without those three things, our redemption would not have been possible.

Through the willingness, humility and obedience of Jesus, propitiation was made once and forever for our sins. Through the willingness, humility and obedience of Jesus, God was able to legally justify us and acquit us of all our sins. Because Jesus was willing to empty Himself, humble Himself and obey the Word of God we have eternal life and exceeding great and precious promises that far surpass our mind’s ability to understand.

Because Jesus was willing to humble Himself and die for us, God has HIGHLY EXALTED Him and given Him THE name which is above every name. Incredibly, it is now the name of Jesus ( who was beaten, spit upon, humiliated, tortured and hung on a cross to die) that is the greatest name in all of creation. At the name of Jesus EVERY knee must bow, whether in heaven (angels), on earth (people) or under the earth (demons).

Every tongue now must confess that the same Jesus who was humiliated and obedient unto death on the cross, is now CHRIST the LORD. The humiliated Jesus is now Christ Jesus the Lord. There is no name greater than Jesus for He is indeed the risen and exalted Christ who God has made Lord of all. In so granting Jesus this place of dignity and power, God is glorified and His redemptive plan of the ages comes to pass. Always remember that there is no name greater in all of God’s creation than Jesus Christ who is our Lord!

25
Apr
13

Legalism vs grace; the battle rages on and on and on

The battle between legalism and grace has raged in the Church since the First Century. The Jewish Christians wanted to retain elements of The Law while the Gentile Christians desired none of The Law. The apostle Paul pulled his hair out trying to preserve the unity of faith in the bond of peace, but the legalistic influence was so strong it prevailed in most areas in the end.

Paul spends an entire epistle (Galatians) trying to reason with and persuade the Galatians to wake up and understand what Jesus Christ did and accomplished through His death and resurrection. At the counsel in Acts 15 the men involved almost came to blows over the wording of an official proclamation regarding this subject. The arguments were passionate on both sides of the aisle.

Each of the original 12 apostles were Jewish converts to Christianity. Each one of them must have grappled with this subject most of their lives. They were raised under The Law but they knew what Jesus had taught them and thus they had to know something profound was taking place. They had to have known that whatever it was, it would make their old legalistic religion undesirable and unnecessary.

When Jesus Himself personally called Saul on the road to Damascus, He specifically ordained him to be the minister to the Gentiles. Saul, who became Paul, was himself a Jew above all Jews and the idea of preaching to and being a pastor to the Gentiles had to have utterly repulsed him. If it were not for the personal prodding of Jesus along with the time he spent alone in the wilderness, Paul would have rejected the idea as pure heresy and told Jesus to choose someone else.

Paul did indeed become the minister to the Gentiles just as the original apostles were ministers to the Jews who became Christians. Paul’s ministry took him to Asia Minor, Macedonia and Rome among others. Paul’s message (preserved for us in his epistles) is dramatically different than the message of James, Jude and even Peter whose ministry was to Jewish believers.

The Jews hated Paul as much as Paul used to hate Christians. They followed him, mocked him, beat him and thought they had killed him. They believed that if they could kill the messenger of grace they would kill the message. The legalistic tap root runs deep and is not easily modified or destroyed.

Although a miniscule number of Christians believe it, if we would concentrate on the epistles of Paul which are addressed to those with Gentile backgrounds we would see the unmistakable foundation of grace as opposed to a legalistic tap root. Assuming Paul wrote the epistle of Hebrews (no one knows for sure), it represents his final attempt to convince legalistic Jewish born Christians that grace did away with animal sacrifices and all other elements of the law when it comes to remission of sins etc.

There is no question that what is recorded in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians is very different than what is found in Hebrews, James, Jude and to some extent 1 and 2 Peter. Put together all these epistles are the Word of God, but we would spare ourselves much confusion and turmoil if we looked at those sections of the Word of God specifically addressed TO US as being FOR US and the other sections as being FOR OUR LEARNING.

24
Apr
13

My personal testimony to the overwhelming mercy of God

When I became involved with the ministry that dominated my life for 15 years, I was an energetic teenager who loved God and just wanted to help people. When I left that ministry, I was a broken down and bitter man who was barely holding on to my relationship with God. It says a lot that the result of 15 years in a ministry was the personal devastation of all that was good in my life.

I have spent many years of my life living with a pain I could barely endure because of what I allowed myself to become and do in the name of God. I spent years of my life cowering in fear of terminal retribution by God for things I had done, said and allowed while serving as His minister. I spent years of my life wondering and questioning whether I had lost all my eternal rewards and perhaps even my eternal life because of what I had done or allowed to be done.

God knows that I repented of my sins many years ago. God knows how deeply sorry I am for letting Him down and allowing corrupt people to lead me astray and I in turn lead others astray. God knows the pain that even now dwells in my soul as I remember what a monster I became and how deeply I hurt others. God knows what I did and yet He has allowed me to live a quiet life with a beautiful and loving wife, writing blogs and at times being involved with helping others. How could God do such a thing?

God has forgiven me because He loves me and He is a God of mercy. Without God’s mercy I would have died in 1985 on a cliff in Colorado, in 1987 in a tornado in Kansas, in 1991 in a tornado in Missouri or on and operating table in 1998 in Kansas. God had numerous opportunities to “kill me off”, but He didn’t. Why didn’t He?

The only explanation is MERCY. God had mercy on me and by His grace He gave me one more chance to prove my heart is pure and the bad things I did many years ago were because of wrong teaching, immaturity and manipulation. With all of my heart I have sought to be what God wants me to be (and no more), do what He wants me to do (and no more) and live the way He wants me to live. In so doing all of these things He has blessed me with a quiet and peaceful life lived in Godliness and honesty.

Because of how God has dealt with me, reproved me, corrected me and instructed me in His righteous ways; I have absolutely no doubt as to how great is His love, grace and MERCY. The very life I live is because of His love and forgiveness in my life. Let me say again, if God wanted to punish me I would have perished long ago or be locked up in prison somewhere. Since I am very much alive and free to live my simple life as a testament to His grace, love and mercy; I know (better than most people on earth) that God is LOVE, His MERCY has spared my life and His GRACE has allowed me to live.

23
Apr
13

Are we really willing to “surrender all” to our Lord?

If you added together all of your assets and subtracted all of your liabilities, you could determine your net worth. Your net worth represents the sum and total of all you own in this world. If you have a lot, you are considered wealthy. If you have very little, you are considered poor. If you have nothing, you are considered destitute.

If you added together all of your friends and subtracted all of your enemies, you could determine your popularity. Your popularity represents the sum and total of how many people think you are “cool” and like you. If you have scores of friends, you are considered popular. If you have a fair number of friends you are considered “normal”. If you have few or no friends, you are considered a social outcast.

If you added together how important your decisions are, you could determine how much power you have. Your power is directly reflected in how many people are directly impacted by what you say and do. Simply put, the more powerful you are, the more lives depend on the words you speak, the things you do and the decisions you make.

According to the world’s standards, unless you are wealthy, popular and powerful you are a failure. According to the world’s standards, unless you have everything money can buy, are a beloved celebrity and a person of powerful influence you are a failure. According to the world’s standards, unless you devote all your time and energy to earning money, developing huge “friends lists” and becoming a powerful figure in the world you are a failure.

That which defines greatness in the world’s eyes is NOT what defines greatness in God’s eyes. God does not care how wealthy you are, how many friends you have or how much power you command. In fact, God demands that a person be willing to surrender all of these things if they truly want to commit themselves to Him. No man can serve two masters, thus each one of us must decide whether we will serve God or mammon.

Money, popularity and power usually distract and make it impossible to serve and love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Money, popularity and power may enable a person to become a celebrity in the world’s eyes, but usually drive a person away from God. Who needs God if you have money, friends and power?

The only way to determine how committed you are to God is to determine how much you are willing to surrender to serve Him. Anything you are unwilling to surrender represents something in your life more important than God. Unless we are willing to empty our bank accounts, become unpopular and become a servant instead of a master, we cannot say we are fully committed to Jesus.

Tell me how important money, friends and power are to you and I will tell you how committed to the Lord Jesus you are. Would you be willing to live in a cardboard box, with no friends or influence if God asked you to do it? Would you be willing to sell everything and live as a vagabond if God demanded it? Would you be willing to be a destitute social outcast if God so willed?

PLEASE, take a few minutes and ponder “I Surrender All” by Clay Crosse. Please take a few minutes and honestly determine where you are at and what God wants you to do with and in your life.

22
Apr
13

God is looking for a few good men and women to rise up and make His church great again

I know it is not politically incorrect to use the word “man” or “men” vs. “people” etc, but I am thinking this morning about the significance of men in the Bible. This is not to say women are not significant, for that is crazy thinking, but there is no doubt men play a huge part in the both the Old and New Testaments. There obviously is something uniquely special about men from God’s point of view, just as there is about women.

There used to be a great old hymn, “Rise Up Oh Men of God” that reflected the need for men to rise up and assume their God given responsibilities within the church. That hymn is not sung much anymore due to it being viewed as “sexist” or demeaning to women. Oh dear, why must we be so hung up on such things.

Please look at these lyrics to this song and see if there is really anything wrong with them:

. Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
to serve the King of kings.

2. Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
and end the night of wrong.

3. Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
her strength unequal to her task;
rise up, and make her great!

4. Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where his feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
rise up, O men of God!

Is there really anything wrong with exhorting men to give their heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of Kings? Is there anything wrong with urging the brotherhood of men? Is there anything wrong with challenging men to rise up to make the church great? Is there anything wrong with laying before men the goal of treading where Christ’s feet trod?

At the time this hymn was written, men were the ones who served as pastors and teachers within the Body of Christ. Of course now days there are countless women who do the same thing and even lead ministries. Why can’t we simply realize that for thousands of years, the word “man” was synonymous with “people”. Some things in our modern society just drive me up a wall.

God needs all of us, men and women, to rise up and make His church great. Specifically God needs men to quit copping out on their duties and be who God intended them to be, which is the head of the family and the spiritual rock within the family no matter how bad things get. Rise up oh men and women of God for our families and the church needs us.

21
Apr
13

Before the throne of God

What do you see when you gaze at the sky on a clear night? Are the stars laid out as a canopy simply white specks or do they give witness to the vastness of our God and the majesty of all He has created? With God there is no beginning and no end, and that is what I see when I look upward. The vastness of God’s creation surpasses our feeble mind’s ability to comprehend.

The skeptics decry God’s creation and seek to diminish its greatness. Somehow to them, the universe just sort of happened without the help of a creator. The natural man cannot grasp or understand the things of God, including the most foundational aspect of them all which is that God created the heavens and the earth.

That this awesome God would see fit to call us by name and reach into our hearts and touch us with His mighty yet tender hand boggles the mind and melts the heart. That this High and Holy God would plant within us His Spirit and allow us to worship Him in spirit and in truth should bring us to our knees in humble adoration. That this mighty and strong God would allow us to stand before Him clothed in righteousness should blow us away.

Almighty God through the finished redemptive work of His Son Jesus Christ has made it available for us to not just worship Him from afar, but know, love and worship Him intimately from within. His Holy Spirit within us gives us the freedom and ability to stand before His throne and dwell in His most holy habitation.

There are many incredible things we should be thankful for every day of our lives, but at the top of the list should be the right we have as sons of God to stand before Him with no guilt or condemnation because of the righteousness we have through and in Christ in us. We do not need to cower in fear as we pray to our God, for we have been cleansed and washed of all sin through the blood of Jesus. We do not need to feel unworthy or insecure when we approach Almighty God for He is our Father and we are His children.

I feel sorry for those who do not know God and thus reject Him as being some fictional character or crutch for weak and helpless people. I feel sorry for those who feel it wrong to have a personal relationship with God and thus relegate Him to the status of being a “thing” that is not to be touched, felt or known. I feel sorry for those who believe God hates them and live their lives in fear of being smitten by God for their sins.

When we are saved, God cleansed us from all unrighteousness and gave us freedom of access into His presence. When God called us by name, He expressed His desire for intimate fellowship that involves the depths of worship but also the incredible honor of being held tightly by our Father during times of distress or confusion.
God does not hate us nor is He waiting for the right time to smite us for our sins. God does not have a box of lightning bolts at His side, ready to hurl them at us when we mess things up. God loves us and longs for us to open our hearts to Him and trusting Him as our loving Father which He is.

I sincerely pray that each and every one of us never forget the awesome privilege we have to know, love and share our lives with the creator of the heavens and earth. I pray that we never forget the awesome privilege we have to approach His throne with boldness in time of need and stand in the grace which we have in Christ Jesus.

I leave you with my second favorite song of all time. I believe this song beautifully and accurately shares the truth regarding what God has done for us and the freedom of access we have through Christ to His throne. For your blessing, I give you “Before Your Throne” by Dallas Holm.