Grace

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#Lent#27

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

I have said in the past, “I was saved by grace; I am being saved by grace; and in the end I will be saved by grace.” Paul put it this way: “This grace by which I stand.” (Rom.5:2)

You see, the whole idea of salvation relates to the past, the present, and the future. Using what I said earlier, I could say, “I have been saved; I am being saved; I will be saved.”

Take the death of Jesus. His death saved; His death saves; His death will save. He paid for all sins of the past. He paid for all sins today so I can know I am saved and secure in His grace. He paid for me to know my future home is waiting, kept in heaven for me. 

I’m rejoicing this Easter season that even though there is a quarantine (2020) that will keep us from meeting publicly as a body, nothing can damper the promise of forgiveness of sin-past, present, and future. His shed blood is a stamp guaranteeing eternity for me. And it can be for you as well.

#Lent#7

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Grace. That is the theme of two very important events: the birth of Jesus and the death of Jesus.

The birth of Jesus is a picture of grace. More specifically, His lineage. I’m sure you have heard the analysis of the women in His lineage. If not, here it is:

  • Tamar- played the prostitute with Judah to have a child.
  • Rahab- was a prostitute who saved the spies.  She became the mother of Boaz.
  • Ruth- a Gentile who married Boaz and became the great grandmother of David.
  • Bathsheba- an adulteress the mother of Solomon.
  • Mary- the mother of Jesus. A virgin, yes, but not sinless. One of us.

PURE GRACE.

The death of Jesus is also a picture of grace.  Maybe it would be more accurate to say it was grace in action.  Grace is defined as “unmerited favor.”  Who of us can say we deserved that kind of love?  None of us. But that kind of love is grace in action. The King dying on a cross He didn’t deserve, for someone like me, who didn’t deserve that display of love. As the old hymn says, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene/And wonder how he could love me a sinner condemned unclean/ O how marvelous, O how wonderful and my song shall ever be/ O how marvelous, O how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me.”

GRACE. PURE GRACE.

#Lent#6

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

I’ve just finished reading The Creaking on the Stairs by Mez McConnell.  It is subtitled “Finding Faith in God through Childhood Abuse.” I have to admit I was sickened and angered by his stepmother’s treatment of him (and his handicapped sister), and the lack of compassion , even laughter, displayed by the so-called adults she surrounded herself with. The book is about him coming to grips with a God of love, grace, and forgiveness. It is his journey from childhood abuse; to teenage bullying and rebellion; to a life of drugs and crime; to prison; to eventual salvation, fatherhood and being a pastor.

Lots stuck out to me…this being one of the sharpest:

Jesus came for victims. For the helpless. For the abused. For the lost. For the wayward. For those without a voice. For those who’ve faced injustice. For those who’ve known only pain and hurt.  For the abuser. For the oppressor. For the violent. For the murderers. For the rapists. For the paedophiles. For those who have caused only pain and hurt.

For broken people like me.

For broken people like you.

For broken people like them.

(The above quote was taken from page 168)

It’s the you that got to me. Mez was including himself in the “me.” He was including me in the “you.” He is including us all.

We are all sinners before a holy God.  I. AM. A. SINNER. BEFORE. A. HOLY. GOD.

You need the cross. I. NEED. THE. CROSS.

 

#Lent#5

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

In my years as a pastor I have heard more than once (okay often) people say, “I figure as long as my good deeds outweigh my bad ones, I’m good to go.” They are, of course, presuming several things: their good deed will outweigh they bad; and two, God operates that way.

News Flash!! NOPE.

For one, our good will never outweigh our bad.  What part of “There is none righteous, no, not one” do they not understand?  What part of “By grace are you saved by faith.  And this is not your own doing;  it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast” do they not understand?

We are not saved because our good deeds “outstack” our bad ones. We are not saved because there is any merit in what we do. There is no balancing act. The reality is this: one sin throws the whole scale off.  We are not judged-weighed- on good vs bad deeds.  We are judged on only one thing: have we come to Jesus and had our sins washed away by His blood. Nothing more; nothing less.  So don’t waste your time looking in the mirror at your deeds and do the comparison game.  It won’t work; it won’t matter.

#MonsterQuote#HearIt!!#Review

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

I just finished reading a really interesting book called A War of Loves by David Bennett.  It is subtitled The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus. 

Question: What would it mean for an atheist gay activist to become a Christian?

Good question. No…great question. One David answers fully. At 14, he came out to his parents. At 19, he encountered Jesus Christ. At this moment his life changed forever. But…and this is key…that change did not happen overnight.  This book is his journey…and a well-traveled and documented journey it is. Throughout the 250+ pages of this book you will ride the highs and lows with him. You will tear up (your eyes); you will want to tear him up due to some of his actions and reactions (to the Bible when his mother read it to him after his moment of salvation, for example).  You will travel with him to France and his native Australia as he seeks God and more education. You will identify with his sin struggles (not necessarily his homosexuality, but sin that lingers).  And you will find your heart and mind stretched as he “fleshes” out his beliefs and his faith.

Some might wonder why I am recommending this book, and for those who don’t know, why I am reading so much on this topic and have more in my cue).  The little town of Spencer has a very active, and at times militant, PRIDE group led by a young man (as in according to my age) who was raised in the local Nazarene church but now identifies as an atheist. And yes, that breaks my heart. I want to know how to reach him with Jesus.

This did not start out to be a book review nor an endorsement…although it has turned out to be both. I wrote down several quotes in my Moleskine and want to share just one of them. I plan to use the others in future posts.

If we come to Scripture with our minds made up, expecting to hear from it an echo of our own thoughts and never the thunderclap of God’s, then indeed he will not speak to us and we shall only be confirmed in our own prejudices. We must allow the Word of God to confront us, disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.  John Stott- quoted on page 123

What Mr. Stott says is true. No matter the topic or thought. We should not come to God’s Word with our minds made up or with preconceived ideas and then look for proof. No….we read and allow its words to become our standard. To quote Bennett: “God does not discriminate, but He calls believers of all kinds to a standard.” (quote from p.242)

I’d like to recommend you read this book, not for fodder, but for a better understanding of the “gay” mindset if we are ever to reach them with our friendship and with the Gospel. You will also deeply appreciate his two appendices.

A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus

#Quote#Darkness

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Quite honestly I have never been one to listen to sermons or podcasts while I drive. I don’t know if you would say I am a typical male or whether it is just me, but I have trouble doing two things at one time.  Even reading more than one book at a time is hard, especially if I find one of them more interesting than the other. So I tend to be a “one-tasker” (as opposed to multi-tasker).  Driving and listening to a sermon is not on my radar for obvious reasons. Hint: you have to think while listening.

But lately I have found a couple podcasts I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to. One is Carey Nieuwhof’s leadership podcast, as well as Craig Groeschel’s. Another is Hole in my Heart with Laurie Krieg. Her husband, Matt, and friend, Steve, often join her. I have personally met Matt & Laurie and had them as our weekend guests here at OVCF. Laurie has what she calls “broken sexuality” (Same Sex Attraction). But her podcast has not focused on that alone. She did have one guest whom I really enjoyed listening to concerning his SSA but also his conversion to Christ. A recent guest, Sheridan Voysey, talked about the struggle he and his wife had with infertility.  It was during a “side road” Laurie took Sheridan on that he said something I wrote down (after I got back to the office).

This very darkness you are going through and your waiting and hungering and hoping for that new birth or rebirth, God can be doing things under the surface without you even realizing it, which is all part of Him making you who He called you to be.

I sent that to someone I know who is going through a really tough time right now. Short thought: nothing is ever wasted in God’s economy. His plan is sometimes curvy; sometimes uncomfortable; sometimes painful; but always with purpose.

I leave this quote with you for your perusal. If you care to comment, I’d love to hear what you think.

#Control#ShownMercy

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

I have come to the conclusion that much of the Christian life is one of control. Who controls whom? For example, I was speaking to someone this past week and we were talking about legalism. I made a statement I firmly believe in: many pastors/teachers/leaders use legalism as a way to control their people. I know when I was very legalistic in my outlook and preaching it was my way of controlling people. I wouldn’t have called it that. I would have called it “loving words from your pastor.” But in reality, I and others like me, used a legalistic approach to keep people “under my thumb.” Grace changed that for me. But it still happens. How many pastors do you know who tell their people “You better” or “If you don’t” or “If you do” in order to keep their flock in the sheepfold and not wander out at night?  So we make dress, church attendance, hair styles, tattoos, etc a way to judge a person’s “Christian” witness.

But consider this if you will: We are not meant to control our Christianity; Christianity is meant to control us. (I read that recently but can’t remember, where so I’m sorry for the failure to give credit).  So many in our culture might say they embrace Jesus but they want to conform Jesus and His teachings to their lifestyle. I think it should be the other way around: Jesus should inform us on how to conduct our lives and how to treat others. His teachings ought to transform us rather than trying to bend the teachings to fit us.  We are, after all, told to “present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God which is your reasonable service of worship.” Then we are told “not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That sounds a whole like surrender to me, of giving up control to someone else.

There is only one Person who should control our lives. Not us. Not a pastor. Not a leader. Not a teacher. Not a (fill in the blank). Only Jesus.  ONLY. JESUS.

#Qualities#NewCovenant

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

I’m thinking that sometimes we who are Christ-followers really do miss out on the importance of the New Covenant over the Old. Now…before I say even more I want to make one thing very clear: I am in no way discounting the importance of the Old. The TRUTH is that we miss out on a lot of the meaning of the New by discounting the Old and we miss out on the observances of the Old by relegating it to “non-person” status. The power of the New Covenant is enhanced by our understanding of the Old.

In my sermon Sunday I brought to light 8 distinctive qualities of the New Covenant as found in 2 Cor. 3:6-18. I’d like to share them with you but also ask you to go to your Bible and see them for yourself. Underline and highlight them and use them to earn a greater appreciation for what we have. Here they are:

  1. It gives life. (v.6) Check out this verse on your own. “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” What a powerful statement against legalism. I’d almost say it was this one verse that solved the mystery for me years ago.
  2. It produces righteousness. (7a,8-9) The phrase “now if” can be translated as “since.” Since the law was a ministry of condemnation it could not offer righteousness. That could only come through Christ.
  3. It is permanent. (7b,10-11) Just as Moses’ covered reflection faded, so does the Old Covenant. The glory of God never fades away.
  4. It brings hope. (12) Those under the law had no hope, which also meant (are you ready for this?) no forgiveness of sins. Hope is the confident belief that God will fulfill all the promises of His New Covenant. It is a hope the Law could not offer.
  5. It is clear. (13-14a) Moses had to put a veil over his face after being in God’s presence.  He did that for two reasons: to hide the blazing glory of God, and to hide that it was fading. In contrast, the New Covenant reveals the mysteries of God that were obscure in the Old. All those sacrifices. All those rules. All those rituals.
  6. It is Christ-centered. (14b-16,18a) The veil which obscured the Old Covenant was removed in Christ, and was made plain in Him.
  7. It is energized by the Spirit. (17) The same God who gave the Old gave the New. The same God who gave the Law is the same God who gave salvation to all. The same God who gave the rules and regulations of the Old is the same God who set us free through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  8. It is transforming. (18b) We are daily being transformed in the image of Jesus.

There is no doubt the New Covenant is superior to the Old. Let’s not denigrate the Old; let’s just remember its place and purpose. Galatians tells us it was a “schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.”  Paul was upset with the Galatians that they were going back to the “old ways of the Law.” Let’s not go backwards. Let’s move forward in faith.

#SecondBest#WhySettle?#New/Old

Friday, January 10th, 2020

It is common among children, either on a playground, a class or a field to say something along the lines of “My dad is stronger than your dad” or “My dad can beat up your dad.” Since I am not a fighter, I sure am glad my girls never made those kinds of boasts about me! Talk about being in hot water. My Man Card would definitely have been called into question. 🙂

The whole purpose behind those statements is the idea of superiority: my dad is superior to your dad. Many who call themselves Christ-followers are content to settle for second best. We have a group around here-and perhaps you do as well-that want to be known as Torah observant. My question to that is why? Paul’s book to the Galatians effectively-least I think so- negates the life of the one who chooses the OT over the NT. Please understand that I am not taking the stand of one well-known pastor that we need to cast aside the OT (old covenant) and solely follow the New, but I am saying the New Testament should be our “go-to” not the Old. Paul himself said the Old covenant was not evil or wicked, but  it was and is certainly limited in its ability to save us.

My sermon for this Sunday is entitled Why Settle for Second Best? and as you have probably gathered it will on the Old versus the New Testament. I’ll be doing a comparison of both and will obviously come out on the side of the New Testament as being superior.  The Scripture is 2 Corinthians 3: 6-18. I’d love it if you would read it and then listen to the podcast if you are unable to attend. But above all I covet your prayers.

I’m sorry you are unable to listen to last week’s sermon via podcast. We had a guest leading our worship and a person on the soundboard for the first time on a Sunday morning. He pushed a pause button but when he turned it back on it had disappeared. He felt bad. Ryan just doesn’t have a job anymore as the Youth Pastor.  🙂  I wouldn’t trade him for anyone or anything (unless an exchange of significant money was made).  I jest about it all (except for the high praise for him).

Thanks for your prayers. They are much appreciated.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post20

Friday, December 20th, 2019

Have you ever noticed how our view of something is determined by our perspective? What I mean by that is this example. Supposed you are driving a car toward an intersection. It is a 4-way stop and you know that because you have been here so many times. The corn is high and as you slow down you do not see the truck coming to your right. It is going way too fast and has no way of stopping in time. You stop then proceed and find yourself T-boned by the truck. Meanwhile, someone is in a helicopter above and sees the whole thing developing. The intersection. Your stop. The runaway truck. Their perspective gives them a totally different view of the developing disaster.

When Jesus was born the world was not the way God wanted it to be. Nor intended it to be.  The world Jesus entered was one of darkness and ugliness and sin. God knew what was needed. His perspective said, “My Son will come. Live. Die. Raise. All to save you.”

The interesting but sad thing is we think we know better.  Our view is skewed.  The Christmas season should remind us we are messed up and needed a Savior.

We are not the way we ought to be or the way God intended. But God is at work to transform us into becoming the way He wants us to be. The Christmas story is so much more than a baby in a manger. It is God’s way of reaching out to us to save us from ourselves and our sin.

“Father, thank you for having a different perspective than us. And because of that perspective we have been ‘reached out to’ in order for us to be transformed. Please do your work in me.”

Make sure you check out my other #ChristmasChallenge bloggers. Diane at Hadarah and Ed at WORD!