Category Archives: Grace

Handling our own…

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Recently, yet another controversy happened in the body of Christ that had to do with homosexuality. It’s a big issue, and as a general rule we are handling it poorly. This time the issue was over comments made by Dan Haseltine. Dan is the frontman of the Christian troubadours known as Jars of Clay. (Let me be clear I am not discussing their music. Its fine, I enjoy it sometimes)

Dan is in trouble with many people over a series of tweets he made. (Perhaps Mark Driscoll should lend him support.) These tweets were a stream of consciousness from Dan concerning the issue of Homosexuality, and Homosexual rights.

These tweets come across differently depending on who reads them. Some read it and think that he is supporting gay marriage. Some read it and are confused. Some read it and get offended. These are all legit immediate responses.

This is why we cannot make our decisions off of our immediate reactions. We need to be quick to listen and ask questions, but slow to speak and condemn. Yet, once again the Christian community has failed to do this. People jumped off the cliff right from the get go and wrote off the band because they think they know what is what simply by a few tweets.

Dan Himself responded to the critics on his website. Here is a summary.

  • Twitter is the wrong place to discuss this.
  • I ought to be clear with my words and not leave room for misunderstandings
  • I need to be sensitive when discussing sensitive topics
  • If you want to read the article yourself, go to Dan’s personal website. DanHaseltine.com

But to be honest, I am not even here to discuss Dan’s thoughts, or even tackle the questions concerning homosexuality. What I want to discuss is the way we handle our own.

Whether or not you like him, agree with him, etc… Dan Haseltine professes faith in Christ Jesus, the Lord who came in the flesh, was crucified for the sin of the world, buried and then resurrected to reconcile humanity back to God. Being that he is a brother, we need to respond to him as such we have certain ways we need to treat him and respond to him. So let’s look at the way the Bible tells us to deal with our brothers.

Step 1: Personal Discussion

Matthew 18:15“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

The first thing to do is to discuss the issue with your brother directly. ALONE! This means calling him out over twitter is wrong. Long before you get to twitter, you should have emailed him personally and shared your thoughts. Generally with folks like Dan, who are famous, or well known, many people will be emailing and this will cause them to publicly discuss it further. It is not your job to bring public rebuke, or public shame.

Galatians 6:1-2 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

I want to make a clear note here. Dan Haseltine has not been caught in a transgression, but rather a miscommunication. So be careful with your words. But the key in this verse is “Spirit of Gentleness” Perhaps you need to take time out and do a word-study on Gentleness. It’s important. While on the topic of gentleness, remember the words of Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Walk in forgiveness. Be quick to let things go and do not hold onto grudges. Ok, now suppose you have an issue, and you have personally spoken to him and he didn’t agree, didn’t repent, and didn’t change. Then the bible tells us to take a few brothers and go to him. Matthew 18:16

This one is harder to do with someone like Dan Haseltine, this is simply because chances are, as a general rule you do not know him. You might know all about him, but if you have never spoken to him before, you do not have a voice in his life. If you take the time to send him a private email, he may respond, but He doesn’t know you. You have no relationship, so do not assume he is required to engage you personally.

The big key to dealing with these kinds of issues is communication and Love. We need to discuss with one another to truly begin to understand where our hearts lie. Our goal shouldn’t be to shame or lose a brother. Our goal should be to restore a relationship, and while this is not always possible, it is possible far more often than we admit. The big key is our ability to value the others over our own need to be right.

We need to love our brothers and have open and honest dialogue. We need to recognize what is the heart of our brother. Sometimes we cannot find a common ground or an understanding, but often we could if we are willing to let go of our need to be right and our need to assume our understanding is truth.

It is a political spirit that tells us to value “truth” over relationship. Jesus met us while we were in sin and loved us. He never once left us alone. He never wrote us off. He chose to be connected to us no matter the cost. He was willing to die for people who hated him and stood against everything He was.

The issue is not Dan Haseltine. The issue is not even homosexuality. The issue is how do we handle our own? The world is watching and the world is supposed to, “Know we are Christ’s disciples by our Love” Perhaps We need to learn to walk in love more than we walk in correction. I challenge you, next time someone treads this line, take the moment and pause and pray. Ask God what his heart and his plan and his goal is in this situation.

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Hunger and Thirst…

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“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6 

Chances are that you are at least vaguely familiar with this verse. It is a portion of the scripture we commonly refer to as “The Beatitudes” I have been pondering this specific one recently. As you probably noted, I have a thing for scriptures about hunger and thirst. This website is subtitled, “The Sound of the Satisfied Soul” which comes from Psalm 107:9 which reads, “For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.”

So I have been trying to understand the fullness of this. I mean we have heard many different teachings about this. But, I really wanted to grasp it for myself because I knew that God was going to speak something awesome into my heart. When we think of righteousness we often have interesting thoughts. We think of Righteousness a right living, which in a way it is. However often times we think it is something we do.

But as I began to pray into this, I began to see something more. “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6 Then in Romans 3:10 it says, “As it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;” Well, where was this written? This is a reference to Psalm 14:1-3

“The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.  The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.”

So this dilemma has lead some to believe that when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” That He meant that we should try to do good. That we should make it our Goal. If righteousness is something we do, then we are in trouble. Because none of us can be righteous. Its just not possible, if I had to try to be righteous, I would be failing so hard!

None of us can strive for righteousness, because no matter how “good” we do we will be so far from righteous. This dilemma has also yielded another fruit. Apathy. There are some people who become so discouraged by how unrighteous they are that they settle for a life of wickedness. It is more or less an attitude that says “I can’t, so why bother?”

This is not good. Remember THERE IS A DITCH ON BOTH SIDES OF THE NARROW ROAD. It is easy to fall in either one.

So what does Jesus really mean? What is He really saying? How does one hunger and thirst for something they can never achieve? I think the answer is so glaringly obvious that I feel like a fool for not seeing it so clearly in the past. Righteousness is not an act, or a state of being. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS JESUS. It is not a concept, but a person. When Jesus was telling us to hunger and thirst for righteousness, He was telling us to hunger and thirst for Him. The best part is that He then continues by telling us that if we hunger and thirst we will be filled.

Now this might sound like an odd interpretation. However, it really isn’t that far fetched. Jesus alludes to himself many times allegorically, and even has gone so far as to tell us we should “Eat His flesh, and drink His blood.” in John 6:56 In fact in this portion He tells us that if we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, that He abides in us and we in Him. That is awesome.

So perhaps when Jesus says that He is going to fill those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, He means that we should hunger and thirst after Him, and He will fill us with Himself. You see, this is how it should be. The only one who was every truly righteous was Jesus, and without Him none can achieve righteousness.

So, let’s hunger and thirst for Jesus. Let’s Thirst for Jesus. Let’s allow him to fully fill us. Instead of feasting on a table of Death, lets feast on the table of Life. Jesus not only sets for us the table, but He sets Himself upon it and says FEAST! Let’s feast on Jesus and Let His life fill us.

The Bible says this, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” 1st John 3:2 If we want to become like Jesus, and become like righteousness we need to see Him. When we see Him we become like Him.

Some of us work really hard ot be righteous, but it doesn’t work. The answer to righteousness is the Grace of God. Lean into Christ allow Him to conform you to His image. Allow Him to lead you. Listen for His voice, and do what He says. I know sometimes it gets overwhelming, but He is a good God, and He is for you.

Our Lord is the God of Truth, and if you simply listen and obey, He will teach you what pleases Him, and then He will wrap you in His grace to enable you to do everything He has for your life. What a Good king we serve.

Live Worthy of the Grace….

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“Now that you are free, live worthy of the grace God has given to you.”

I once said this to a man who was in some legal trouble. He was looking at jail time, and no one wanted that. We prayed together and had others who were praying. We asked God for mercy, and grace. That the judge would look favorably on him and let him off. Sure enough that is exactly what happened. This brother was set free. No fine, nothing, just freedom.

When we picked him up, he gave me a big hug and thanked me for standing with him and praying. I was glad he had gotten the miracle he need. However after all of that, I looked at him and simply said;

“Now that you are free, live worthy of the grace God has given to you.”

He knew instantly what I meant. It wasn’t an angry statement, or a judgmental statement. But he knew God had given him grace, and he knew he had to shift his mindsets, and actions so he wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. But this article is not about him, its about me.

I was born a sinner. I deserved Hell, but Messiah Yeshua intervened and gave me grace. I love the way Bono, the lead singer of the world famous U2 put it.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

source: http://bit.ly/bonograce

The power of the cross completely overwrote what I earned, it overcame my sin and shame. I am free. However, If I am honest, I still make mistakes. I still need grace.

There are hundreds if not thousands of messages on grace and they cover a wide spectrum of opinions. Some would tell you we have grace, and therefore we cannot sin, everything is cool. Some would tell you, you got grace, but if you sin again you are going to hell. Someone will tell you just about any wild thing you can imagine when it comes to grace.

But I think Paul can share some great insights with us. Remember that he was the man who hunted and killed people who followed Yeshua, and yet God extended grace, and transformed him into one of the greatest missionaries of all time. In Romans, he discusses Grace and Sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
Romans 6:8-13

I would love to quote all of Romans 5-7, but its just to much. Read those passages and let grace wash over you through the word. This specific passage is great because it reminds us of several key facts;

  1. We died with Christ, and are no longer alive to Sin
  2. Sin does not reign in our lives.
  3. We are to be instruments of righteousness

So many people go around proclaiming themselves as sinners. Their mindset says they are still tied to sin. However this is just not the case. You were born a sinner because you had the DNA from Adam, but by virtue of being burried with Christ, you have been brought back into newness of life with Him. That Life, and that Blood is free from a sin nature. You can still choose to sin, but your IDENTITY is no longer a sinner.

The more you identify yourself as a sinner the more you will be likely to sin again. The more you identify with Christ the more you are likely to become like Him. You will probably sin again, but it is not your identity. Grace doesn’t prevent sin. Grace enables you to overcome sin by the Blood of Jesus and frees you from the consequence of that sin, which is Death.

Is grace a license to sin? NO! Grace will never encourage you to sin. Grace encourages you to stop looking at yourself as a sinner, and look at yourself as the Child of God, Washed and cleansed by His Blood. Now, because you have been given such grace, stop living like you used to. Look to Jesus and learn to live like Him.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2nd Corinthians 3:18

The Blood took the veils off our eyes to help us behold the Risen King. Grace helps us to keep our eyes on Him, so we become like Him. We are not sinners if we have been saved, and baptized. Instead we are the children of God by the spirit of Adoption and we are called to be the Bride of Christ. Stop Identifying with your sins. Stop letting them reign in you.

Sin does not have power over you. The blood of Jesus and the Spirit of the Living God has power over sin. Let that power guide you into righteousness and shape you into an instrument of His righteousness. Let me end with one final encouragement from Paul. The man was just like us, and overcame to become great in the kingdom. The one who Identified himself as the chief of sinners, was the instrument of righteousness that God used to bring the gentiles back into the family of God where they belong.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2

Father,

I pray that you would teach us to Live worthy of the Grace that You have given us. Teach us how not identify as a sinner, but rather as Your child. You have called us to be overcomers. You have not meant us to continue to undergo. Help us to live worthy of the Grace that You have given us.

Amen

Figuring out the Tabes…

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Let me begin by telling the testimony of a woman who became a Christian after being raised a Hindu.

She was raised a Hindu, and was a very devout one. One day she was diagnosed with Kidney disease and her prognosis was very bad. She didn’t have the money for good treatment, which is common in third world nations.
So she began to follow the Hindu tradition. She cooked rice and laid it on a table before an Idol. She was praying that Shiva (I believe she said shiva) would heal her if she made the offering. Every day she made fresh rice as a offering to her god as was the tradition and requirement, but showed no improvement.

after some time, she was nearing death. A neighbor invited her to a Christian church and said the church would pray for her healing. With desperation setting in she agreed. She went to the church and they prayed. The miracle of the story is that she was healed, and fully recovered within days.

After experiencing the Healing power of Jesus Christ she decided to become a Christian. After all she had been a devout Hindu her whole life, but no Hindu god helped her in her time of greatest need.

However after a few days, her family noticed the change and implored her to give up Christianity and go back to Hinduism. Since Hinduism allows for many gods she decided to follow the Hindu traditions and Christian ones.

So she set all her idols back up next to the picture of Jesus and put her dot back on her head. Shortly after, the kidney disease came back. In her heart she knew this was because she had been healed by Jesus, but then went back to her idols. So she made a final decision she was Christian and would not have any other gods besides Jesus.

Once again her sickness was healed and ever since she has been a strong Christian. Served God, Prayed for the Sick, and been a faithful witness of God’s power.

When she shared this testimony my heart was broken for the Hindu people. They are so devout, and do so much for their god’s but see no real blessing. Later I was teaching in a church in Dhulabari, Nepal and felt compelled to share on the difference between our God and the Hindu gods… Here are the two main points.

1. the Hindu gods require you to make a table for them. they require offerings and effort in hopes that you might be blessed. But instead our god says, “I make a table for You in the presence of your enemies” (Psalm 23) He also says, “I will bring You to my banqueting table, for my banner over you is Love” (Song of Solomon 2:4)

The Hindu gods require you to make their table, but our God makes the table for you. Instead of taking from you, He gives to you, becuase He loves you.

2. Hindus are marked physically with symbols, and the dot on their head, but our God says “I mark you with my presence so that the nations will know you are Mine, and have favour in my eyes.” Our God doesn’t want to mark us with cuts, tattoos, piercings, or any other symbol. He gives us his presence. In fact, when the Apostles worked, people recognized their power and remarked that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13)

When I finished preaching this message I saw several come to accept Jesus as their saviour. The key is that He doesn’t require anything of you.  He just wants you to come to Him. To call out His name. When you encounter His love, you begin to love him back (1st John 4:10) Then when you are experiencing the love God and loving him back, you experience His kindness. It is his kindness that brings us to repentance.  (Romans 2:4)

When we show people the Love of God, and how simple He has made it for them, they naturally want to come to the foot of the cross and give their hearts over to Jesus Christ. It was a beautiful time, and I am so grateful for each person who heard the word of God.

The Doctrine of Grace as a catalyst for Spiritual Awakening.

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I am still stuck on the doctrine of Grace in my personal life. I know some of this is going to be repetitious from my previous blog on the subject, but bear with me. These are the notes for the class I teach on Wednesday nights. This is what I was intending to share with my college ministry before it was decided the group was going on a break.

 

We all try to draw closer to God. There are many disciplines by which we achieve this; Fasting, worship, prayer, studying the word, etc… However these alone by themselves do not make us closer to God.

To ignite the Spiritual Awakening within us, we need to truly understand, and live in, the Doctrine of The Grace of God. Pastor Stovall Weems defines grace beautifully in his book Awakening. “Grace is the practical working of the Goodness of God in the life of the Believer.”

If we are not actively living in this grace, then all of our spiritual disciplines are worthless because they are works of the flesh and vain human effort. You could fast 21 days straight but, if it is not done with the Goodness of God enabling you, it is for nothing. When we live in the Grace of God, there is an empowerment to grow.

Many people have a distorted view of Grace. They view Grace as a license to sin. It is not. Grace was never given so that you could sin. If you need proof, remember that before you were saved and living in the grace of God you were a sinner. Lets look at Rom 5:8 NASB “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Grace instead becomes the enablement to live the life of holiness. We need to connect Grace with the fruit of Love. We have discussed the Jewish Shopkeeper in Jerusalem a few times, but I love his worldview. “When you love someone you want to be a better person, you desire to better yourself to please them more.”

The next “enemy” of grace is the Law. Most people fall into legalism. They fast a certain amount, or pray a number of hours a day, because they have been taught that is what we must do. We focus on the Commandments, especially the Ten Commandments. We get lost in a system of rules, regulations and strategy. However this was never the purpose of the Law.

Continuing to think about what Pastor Stovall has said, he shows three purposes of the Law.

  1. It helped to keep Israel under Guard
    1. Gal 3:23 NASB “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.”
  2. The Law was given to show us our need for the Saviour. It points us to Jesus.
    1. Gal 3:24 NASB “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.”
  3. The Law shows us the Justice of God. God has to punish sin, because he is Just. The Law shows us the consequences of Our sin.

However the grace of God is the solution to this. Lets look at one of the most beautiful passages in scripture. Found in Hebrews Chapter 8. Here God explains the technical side of the New covenant.

Heb 8:10-12 NASB 10“FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 11 “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM. 12 “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”

I love this passage of scripture because it shows us the true nature of Grace. Not only does he forgive us from our sins, but he goes beyond that. He takes the time to write the law upon your heart, and enter it into your mind. This is a harkening back to the words of the prophet Jeremiah. The writer of Hebrews here is quoting from Jeremiah 31:33. Also, it is a reminder of the words of Psalm 199:11, where the writer of the psalm says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

The new covenant is the Grace of God erasing our prior sins and putting the Law in our hearts and minds. The purpose of this is to renew the covenant that God spoke four times in the Old Testament.

Obviously we have seen it in Jeremiah 31:33, but it also appears in Leviticus 26:12, Ezekiel 36:28, and Ezekiel 37:27. God wants us to be his people, and he wants to be our God. This is the covenant. Both the old and the new covenant were to this point. Jesus was the one who bridged the two covenants so that all might experience this Relationship with Abba God.

So, when God forgives us of our sins it is not so we can keep doing it, it is so that we can move on; so that we can draw closer to him. The thing about the doctrine of Grace is that we live it fully when we first get saved. How do I know this? Look at a newly saved person, they have life, and vitality, and energy, and exuberance, and Joy. They know they are screwed up, but they know that God’s grace is fully at work in their lives and that grace is going to change them. It takes a little while before this wears off. Why does it wear off? Religion creeps in. Legalism creeps in. The lies of the enemy and the lies of other Christians creep in. What do I mean when I say this? I mean you start off living fully under grace, but then people come at you with the do’s and do not’s of the Christian life. They give you the systems that they have that are supposed to help you grow. But often times these systems just make you start working for it.

When you live in the flowing Grace of God, its not a work. Its an act of Love, and when that religious, legalistic, works mindset comes in and tries to take away the grace of God, that is when It becomes hard.

I have good news for you. THIS GOSPEL IS NOT HARD!! In fact it is the easiest thing in the world. It’s so easy that Children at the temple in Jerusalem were able to see the Messiah for who he is. This is not a hard thing to be doing. We need to just rekindle the flame of Love within our hearts. We need to remind ourselves of the Grace of God, and we need to ask God to make that Grace living, breathing, and active in our lives. If we have that grace in us, then everything else will become easier.

You want to get closer to God? You want to be able to pray more, and talk to him more? You want to be able to fast and draw closer to him? You want to worship him so much that he can’t help but come to you? You can’t do that on a works based system; you can’t do that with religion. You do it with the Grace of God.

He helps you to fast, and pray and read the word, and worship. You ask him to teach you, to woo you, and to draw you deeper. That is what living in the grace is all about.

The question however, is this; “How do we get the Grace of God active and living in our daily lives?” Once more referring to Pastor Stovall,

  • Be Intentional
    • Ask God to lavish his Love and His Goodness upon you
  • Be focused
    • Begin the day by focusing on the Glory, Goodness and Grandeur of God
  • The Lord’s Prayer
    • Recite the prayer, but not just to say some words, think about all that each word and phrase means, and how it affects your life.