Posts Tagged ‘grace

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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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.

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.

21
Mar
13

Fifteen years ago I died, yet today I live

Fifteen years ago today I died. I know of no other way to say it than to simply say I died. I did not see any bright light or my Savior standing there with open arms. I saw nothing. I tasted physical death fifteen years ago yet I am still alive. How can this be?

On March 21, 1998 I had consented to have a double heart by-pass operation. I knew the risks with this major surgery and I tried not to think about them. Although the whole thing seemed surreal at the time, I felt the procedure was needed to preserve my ability to live. NO ONE involved believed I would live more than a few years or be back for another operation within five years for I was in pretty bad shape.

Between June of 1997 and March of 1998 I had 10 heart catheterizations with a total of six metal stents put into my right coronary artery. I can think of no nine month period of my life more miserable than that one. Unfortunately, my body kept rejecting the stents and they failed thus throwing me back into the same state of pain, shortness of breath and anxiety each time.

My 83 year old dad had suffered a major stroke in January of 1998 in Wichita Kansas. In spite of all my physical problems, I made numerous trips from Missouri to Kansans helping my mom deal with the myriad issues associated with my dad’s condition, nursing homes etc. The stress at the time was beyond description and more than once I thought I would be the one ending up in a coffin instead of my dad.

When I slumped on my mom’s kitchen floor having suffered yet another heart attack on March 19th, I knew it was time for drastic action. When the cardiologist informed me that all of my stents had collapsed I was giving the choice of more attempts to open them or by-pass surgery. I chose the surgery even though I was in Kansas. I was frustrated and believing I would get all better with the surgery.

All I know about a heart by-pass is that they rip open your chest, pull your heart out and put it in ice while attaching the various arteries and veins to a heart/lung machine. To this day, when I think back to the fact that for a few hours my heart was outside my body in a tub of ice and my circulatory system was working by machines it freaks me out.

When the by-pass was done, my heart was put back into my chest, massaged and warmed up with the expectation it would start beating again. My brother had this operation a few years ago and his heart did NOT start beating. In due time the doctors shocked his heart and massaged it back to life. I do not know what happened with me other than I survived meaning my heart did indeed “come back to life”.

It is indeed a bit strange to remember the day you died and came back to life, but that is how I look at what took place 15 years ago. As I lay there on the operating table under the heaviest anesthesia of my life, my physical heart was not even in my body. I guess my heart had an “out of body experience”.

The months after that surgery were filled with repeated stays in the hospital due to complications and a general downturn in my overall health. Five months later, as I attended my dad’s funeral in August of 1998, I honestly believed I would be joining him shortly due to how horrible I felt and how unable the doctors were at diagnosing and treating me. But that is a story for another day.

I thank God that by His grace and mercy my heart resumed beating and 18 hours after I went under anesthesia I was up walking and most definitely alive. Much to my enemy’s disgust, God brought me through my ordeal and in His due time allowed me to help others again, as I pray I am able to do for you through these blogs.

Thank you for allowing me to share the details of this special day with you. I truly thank God for life and for YOU, the people who give my life such meaning and joy.

19
Mar
13

Oh to know and love our God more and more

Sometimes we get so caught up in the details of our faith we lose sight of what our faith is all about. Simply put, we were dead in our sins and Jesus Christ paid the price as God’s perfect sacrifice for those sins so that we may live. God raised Jesus from the dead, defeating the sting of death and forever winning the battle for redemption.

God so loved the world that He gave His Son so that we might live through Him. God so loved the world that we now can be called the children of God. God so loved the world that He poured out His mercy and forgiveness on a creation which had rejected Him. God so loved the world that He gave us His Son to live and reign in our lives.

The beauty and simplicity of what God did for us through His Son Jesus Christ defines the word awesome. The greatness and power manifested by God in the resurrection of Christ defines majesty. The grace and mercy poured out on us by God defines love.

There are many things people devote their lives to, but the greatest thing any of us can fully be devoted to is knowing and loving our Savior more and more each day. In man’s unquenchable quest for knowledge, he has lost sight of that which is most important in this life and that is humility and meekness to know and love God more.

The prayer of our hearts should be that God would teach us about who He is and what He has done for us in Christ. The prayer of our hearts should be to walk humbly before our God, clothed in His goodness and bathed in His greatness. The prayer of our hearts should be to know Him more and more each day so that we can proclaim to all how great God is.

May we never become so vain we forget that without God we are nothing. May we never become so busy we forget about the God who saved us. May we never become so bitter that we refuse to taste and see that the Lord is good. May we never become so hard and cold that we live as people who never knew God’s love.

Jesus Christ poured out His life so that we may live. Jesus Christ suffered and died to pay for our sins and separation from God. Jesus Christ laid down His life as a sacrifice for sin once, for all and forever. Jesus Christ gave up everything so that we can have everything in Him. Jesus Christ was, is and will forever be our Redeemer, Deliverer, Savior and Lord.

I pray that each one of us draws closer to our Savior and bows down before Him in humble adoration for all He did and continues to do for us. We have been given so much. I pray we never forget all that He is and all that we are in Him.

17
Mar
13

The free gift of the grace, mercy and love of God in Christ Jesus vs religion

Without the grace of God, we are doomed to eternally suffer the consequences of Adam’s sin. Without the mercy of God, we are doomed to receiving the full punishment for every sin we ever committed. Without the peace of God, we are doomed to forever be in conflict with God’s righteousness. Without the love of God, we are doomed.

The only reason any of us have a life worth living is because of the grace, mercy, peace and love of God. Anyone who is too good, self righteous or perfect to need these things is no friend of God. Anyone willing to lay down their pride, arrogance, egotism and haughty self sufficiency is able to receive the fullness of all God has given to us in Christ Jesus.

Most of the Pharisees could and would not receive Jesus’ message due to their belief they were already righteous because of their piety. Religion has a way of driving people into a state of separation from God due to the belief that by good works they become self righteous and in no need of God’s grace and mercy.

Religion seeks to perfect the flesh through legalism, rituals and good works. Religion has nothing to do with God per se. Religion is far more interested in projecting an aura of perfection than be a living epistle of God’s love, grace and mercy. Religion may produce good works that help the downtrodden, hungry, but religion has nothing to do with one’s personal relationship with God.

Religion cannot and will not accept the free gift of God’s grace, mercy, peace and love found in Christ Jesus. Religion accepts no free gifts, period. Everything good is the result of hard work, faithfulness to rituals and staying out of trouble. When a religious person is offered everything he works so hard to get for free, it is rejected as being counterfeit.

True Christianity is not a religion. Religion is man doing things to become so righteous that God will accept them. Christianity is accepting everything Jesus Christ did to make us righteous. Religion and true Christianity do not get along even if those who are religious claim to be Christians.

Everything good we have in our lives is a gift from God through His grace, mercy and love. We were dead in our sins with no hope in this world before the grace and mercy of God saved us. In Christ Jesus we have been given justification, righteousness, sanctification, wisdom and redemption. None of these things were the result of our good or hard work. They were all given to us freely by God’s grace, mercy and love.

The world is full of “good people” who do not know God and have rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The world is full of religious people who do not know God and have rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray that we are willing to show the world the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as we live in the glorious grace, mercy, peace and love of God freely given to us in Christ Jesus.