Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Growing in Grace

Many of us have retained the same images and beliefs about God we held in childhood without much, if any, variations to those first convictions. We are also unable to verbalize our beliefs using words much different from when we were nine or ten years old. Now I'm the first to acknowledge that a childlike faith is indeed a blessing, but as adults if we don't recognize that same faith with an adult understanding of its simplicity we become easy marks for those whose aim it is to shake us loose from it. There isn't a lot to like about anything half baked, including faith.

I firmly believe that children have the ability to recognize Jesus a lot easier than adults because they can identify (or sense) real love. Whereas adults have been jaded by all the negative experiences of falling in and out of love which causes them to tread lightly... children just gravitate to the real thing. They may not be able to describe, but they know it. If we have not developed a maturing relationship with Jesus beyond those early encounters we, as adults, live as if Jesus fell out of love with us because we have with Him. Therein lies our vulnerability, and our disconnect between God's love and our ability to love. His is unconditional... sadly, often times ours is not.

You've heard that if you don't stand for something you will fall for anything. That's so true!!! ... and because we have been beaten up for so long for having convictions we have become quiet..... and where has that left the society we live in? If you don't know why you believe what you believe you are just one conversation away (not even a debate) from either being conflicted or worse, off track. Then without a foundation a person can wander in their own wilderness for years and maybe even till death. It is in these environs many of us find ourselves now. All this and more because we have not grown to understand what we first learned as children. Maybe its like having to learn the multiplication tables in elementary school..... we didn't comprehend why that was important then but we surely
know the value of understanding their usefulness now.

What have we lost? Are we lost? Do we care if we're lost? I'll take a shot at that last question.....if you're reading this I'm guessing that you do.... care that is. If I'm correct about that and you've been doing that "wandering in the wilderness"-thing for some time now,,,, you must for your own peace of mind resolve that by coming to an understanding of why you believe what you believe. The old hymn with the lyrics "faith of our fathers" is of no redeeming value if it isn't your own. Remember we cannot be saved because a parent/grandparent was a good Christian. Do you know why you believe what you believe? what is the source of that belief? Was it from all those Sunday lessons when you were a child? Perhaps you got it right then (and I'm betting you did) but as an adult your faith hasn't
matured with your years. Faith that is not growing is dwindling.

Be careful..... there are alot of people from so many faiths and persuasions that will try to answer for you, but when we all (each of us) stand before the Father and the Son, only our answer to the question "Why should I let you into my heaven" is the one that will count.

May I suggest the late Dr. Ray C. Stedman's look at Christian maturity in 1 John 2:12-14, Growing in Grace, and The Maturing Process.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Out of the Mouths Of Babes

Here you'll find the video clip that was created just for you. Logan is a 13 year-old boy who lives on a ranch in a very small town in Nebraska. Logan listens to Christian Radio station 89.3FM KSBJ which broadcasts from Houston, TX. Logan called the radio station distraught because he had to take down a calf . His words have wisdom beyond his years.Since airing the audio of the phone call and now the making of the video clip, it has taken on a life of its own. People are forwarding it all over the world. We encourage you to share the love of Christ with anyone you can.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Confusing the Goodly With The Godly?

This is a continuing reflection from the previous two posts...

Many of us grew up in church, and that's a good thing..... but.... many like us fall prey to problems. Probably the biggest danger that those brought up in church will experience is the belief that growing up in church makes us a Christian. In other words, our ticket got punched
after all those years of perfect Sunday school attendance and we're registered in the Book of Life automatically without actually having our own personal conversion experience and daily walk with the Savior.

In today's world, more people than not feel "good enough" to enter into God's heaven. Many are quick to say that they have never broken the commandments, always abided by the law... and,well, they've never really killed anyone. All that being said (and most likely true) that is NOT what God is looking for, and honestly if you understand Christ, it shouldn't be what you're looking for either. FATHER, GIVE ME THE WORDS.

If we are quizzed long enough we might be surprised to find that we all mostly agree with this statement: that we agree with the "spirit of the law" more so than with many of the actual laws.
That's because laws are of no value until they are broken. It is then that a price that must be paid. Actually, doing what is right usually protects us from the breaking of any laws. One reason why God gave us the law through Moses so that we could live together, amongst ourselves, with rules that steer us to live good-neighborly... but He never intended that law-keepers, or even those who grew up churched could, in that alone, be saved. Just because you haven't been caught breaking a law doesn't mean that you haven't broken the law.... remember that spirit of the law thing?

That point that I made about the danger of growing up in church..... We often times mistake living within the law ( i.e. the church attendance ticket punch) as the same thing as Christ living within us. The difference is an eternity apart.... and I’m afraid, that many have not dealt with it. Please do not be so foolish (and proud) enough to think that living a "goodly" life is the same thing as living a "Godly" life.

Don't you remember thinking on how "restrictive" all those 'Thou shalt nots..." sounded. Yet, almost every evangelist you ever heard would belt out the phrase....' the Truth will set you free'. RESTRICTIVE vs FREE !? Are we confused yet? (Point to remember: confusion is of the devil, not of God). But the Good News (did you know that is what the word “gospel” means) is that you can know the Person, also known as the Truth, also known as the Good News who is the "Spirit" of the law. The One and only Jesus Christ. His entire life, death and resurrection was prophesized centuries before His birth and His life exampled what living with God is all about.

So it can be said this way, if we live being good without knowing God personally, our good will not be good enough to have our name recorded in that Book of Life I mentioned earlier. Sadly, we live in a time where even the churched are not receiving from our pulpits the needed call for repentance because we don't like to hear or think that we've ever done anything wrong. We can't be sinners.... We haven't killed anyone.... right? We are quick to point at others to offer our lives in contrast to theirs. Our aim is too low! We are told to compare our lives with Christ, He is the standard..... not the Billy Grahams’of this world! Do churches really teach people how and why to “pick up your cross” and follow Him?

Anyone been crucified lately for loving others???

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It's Personal for The Father & The Son

For years between my youth, when I was fully involved with church and my return to a life with faith, I would often tell anyone who asked that my faith was "personal". Of course that was my way of sidestepping any religious questions from inquiring minds. the funny thing is.... our faith
is personal, as in, a personal relationship with Jesus. That little thing, a personal relationship, is difficult for many to grasp, when in reality relationships are the one thing we do with ease..... "please Father give me the words".

You see, religious types are so often very much tied to being "religious"... which can be a very dogmatic and hard way to live. You've seen these folks, they don't smile and there appears to be no joy in their lives. I've heard a Christian comic (and yes there are some) say that when these dour-faced types proclaim to be Christians, he implores them to please not tell anyone because they could scare people away! Having said that let me also muddy the waters of understanding by saying there is a place for the law... but... for Christians IF one lives by the words accredited to and the life exampled by Jesus, Christians would not have a problem with breaking the law.... whether it be God's or man's.

Have you ever done anything that hurt someone who loves you? A parent, a grandparent, spouse, child......a close friend? Hopefully when you realized the hurt you inflicted on them you went to them and asked for their forgiveness. Having done so, you found joy in being reunited with that loved one. (Remember that Sunday school lesson of the prodigal son?) The father in that story was looking for that wayward son to return and when he saw him in the distance the father ran to meet him, embraced him and brought him back into the family... much to the chagrin of the "by the book", legalist, older brother.

I've often told others that our relationship with God is like that... that personal... and that close. Have you ever wondered why God would come to earth, subject Himself to the meanness of this world if He didn't need to?? That's the point....HE NEEDED TO, HE CAME TO MEET US!!! Yes for us... but also from the very beginning He created us to have a relationship with Him.... He desired to have a relationship with us! He loved us before we even knew Him. Isn't that how a family comes into being. I can remember thinking after the birth of our children.... this must be how God loves us.... one day I never knew my son or daughter then the next day,they meant the world to me.

We mean the world to Him.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Revival, It's Personal

REVIVAL.... ITS PERSONAL are my thoughts on being a Christian based on fifty years of experiences with a concentration of studying and experiencing this journey as a deacon and Sunday school (Bible study) teacher for the last twenty something years.

This particular writing is for the benefit of those who believe themselves to be Christian but are uncertain as to their relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus. Some recent statistics (Fall 2007) indicate that over seventy percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian. That's an awesome number but I'm afraid that number is as inflated as the number that depicts church or denominational membership.

Also there are many groups that identify themselves as Christian, but a deep look into their theology does not match those that are considered mainstream. (One measure, and there needs to be more than this one, I use to determine if I accept a group as Christian or not is whether they use their own Bible translation and/or additional works as part of their gospel). Let's be honest with each other, if you don't even own a Bible, you may be premature or mistaken in considering yourself Christian..... now wait!!! I'm not saying that is a prerequisite.... but seriously, shouldn't you have one???

It's an entirely different relational matter if you don't know Christ as Savior and you readily admit that you are not a Christian. As empty as that would make me feel, I appreciate your honesty and as much as that is a good characteristic to have (honesty), its not good enough if it will solely be based on just you. BUT, I'm trying to tailor this writing to those who consider themselves Christian and will also add the word.... but... as the next word out of their mouth.

Perhaps I'll speak to that another time, as I do believe that resolving these issues are a matter of life and death and time is running out. God's Word even says there will come a time when man's heart will be hardened to the Truth.... One only needs to look to the Middle East, the events and cast of characters to reasonably believe something cataclismic, which the Bible refers to as the end times, is forming.

I am gonna resist in bombarding you with scripture to look up (especially if you don't have a Bible handy) but please know that anything and everything I say or write is subject to being in concert with God's Holy Word.... and I've been wrong before.... For example, in my twenty's I tried real hard to squeeze reincarnation into this whole process..... can't do it!!!! Its not written there! Now having said that I also suggest that all you do, say or believe also meet that requirement. The reason I say that is because I know so many good people who have packaged different beliefs together as "theirs" without the benefit of holding it accountable to that one requirement.

I use to work with a guy who was brilliant in so many ways... enlightened, intelligent....worldly and he employed the "cafeteria-style" religious thing.... you know,some of this, a little of that stirred together to comprise "his" faith. For what its worth, and I think it terminally important, God did not give us that kind of authority. It's His Way or the highway to hell...... didn't someone make a song out of that??? (Please try to see humor when I try to inject it, but please don't lose sight of the gravity of the depravity we are surrounded by and possibly living in all too willingly).

Stay tuned for more...