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Sunday, May 10, 2015

The futility of trying to be "good enough"

    On my own, I have been studying the book of Romans over the last few weeks.  It seems to me that the emphasis in chapters 1 is mainly towards the Gentiles.  There was a large Gentile church in Romans that Paul wanted to speak to.  He told them in no uncertain terms that they had all fallen short of the glory of God.  In chapter 2, the emphasis shifts slightly to Jewish christians.  He reminds them that "there is no partiality with God." verse 11.  This means that even though in their ancestory they had the law and the prophets God does not play favorites.
    There is also at the same time a common thread of Paul emphasizing that while all the law did was make us more aware of our sin it doesn't lead to righteousness.  In Romans 1:17 Paul says, "But the righteous man shall live by faith."  Which is a very important verse that Martin Luther is known to have noticed and led to his leading the Protestant reformation.  Paul goes on to say in Romans 3:21-22 "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe, for there is no distinction."  In other words, there is no difference between people groups.
      Paul has gone on and on for three chapters declaring over and over what he says again in Romans 3:23 'for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  By falling short, it means to miss the mark.  Paul was even more graphic in chapter 3:10-11 where he points out that nobody is righteous in God's sight, none of us understands or seeks God on our own.  It is an utterly desperate situation that mankind is in apart from God's grace.  And that is what many people don't really understand.  The pride of the flesh is that we think we are somehow good enough.  We underestimate the goodness and holiiness of God and overestimate our own goodness.
     This also speaks about the absolute inability for us to be good on our own effort or skill.  There is not just something wrong with our actions, but also our heart.  It is not just our thoughts, but our motivations behind the thoughts.  It is an utter depravity of the human mind and will apart from God. It leads Paul to say later in Romans 8:8 "those who are in the flesh cannot please God."  If we grasp these verses, it makes us realize that there is no place for pride in ourselves in God's eyes.
      So, it is not a matter of trying harder.  It is a matter of being a disciple of Jesus and following Him and allowing Him to change us from the inside out.  We need a greater and more radical repentance of our sins and realization that there is something within us that is deprived and broken.  Without faith in Christ and reliance upon the grace of God then we are doomed.  The realization should be that without the cross of Christ and the victory He has over death due to the resurrection we have no chance of saving ourselves.
      I need to pray and I encourage you to pray that God would change us from the inside out.  That He would change our desires and our heart.  We need not to try harder, but we need a new heart.  We don't need to change appearance but substance.  In the Old Testament, this was called a circumcision of the heart.  It says in Deut 30:6 "Moreover the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the Heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live."  This is my prayer also, that God would circumcise my heart to love God with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength.  

Friday, April 10, 2015

How Big Is Your God?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.   Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV

     At different times in my walk with God, I have had times when I prayed and it felt like nothing was happened.  I didn't know if I had done something that had created distance between me and God or if God was simply not ready at that time to answer my prayer.  That item just stays and stays on the prayer list.  You see other things come off and on and still that one remains.  It is difficult to understand what God is up to sometimes and then sometimes it is impossible.  Have you ever thought about why that is?  
     One thing that I think that sometimes christian are guilty of is treating God as if he is simply a bigger human.  We seem to attribute so many human qualities to God it makes it seem like he is just a bigger version of us.  But, if you look at passages such as the above, we see that God is vastly different than us.  God's thoughts and his ways are different than us.  He doesn't operate by the same principles or values that we do.  He does everything in order to glorify His own name, in perfect holiness and love.  He does everything with perfect insight in past, present and future and perfect power to do whatever He wants.
      But, we can be guilty of attributing to God the same temper that people have such as "I did so and so, so God must be mad at me."  Like God didn't know before the universe was created who and what you were.   One of the glorious things to remember about God's love is that God knows you better than you know yourself.  He knows about sins you haven't even committed yet.  He knows the thoughts you will think 20 years from now and every motive your heart has ever had.  He knows all our dark places and yet loves us anyhow.  So, no, he is not like us.  Because I can barely stand myself some times and I don't even understand the depth of the darkness of my own soul like God does.
     And the simple truth is that it is impossible for a infinite God to always communicate everything to a finite being.  It is important to realize that there will be times when we cannot understand what God is up to because it is so much more above us.  Our understanding is limited while His is not.  In those times, we simply have to trust God.  We do that by remember His character and His love for us.  And remember that God doesn't do things just to be mean like people do.  His motives and heart is always pure and good.  He doesn't make mistakes or speak out of turn.  He doesn't need to repent and correct Himself.  He hasn't forgotten about you and there isn't something he should touch that is beyond Him.  We simply have to trust Him that even though God may be quiet, it doesn't mean He is not at work.  I would encourage you to trust Him when you don't understand what He is up to.
      One other thing to remember if your waiting on God is that it is up to God to speak when he is ready and it is up to us to listen.  Your not to speak for Him, but to be still, wait and listen.  Your job is to be faithful doing your part and then let God do His part.  It may seem that God is late, but He is not.  He does tarry at times though to test us and prove us that we might be stronger from having gone through a trial.  He may simply be waiting because it is through that perseverance that you become stronger.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Signs of the Times

     I saw a post on facebook yesterday that gave a prophetic word that Jesus would return as a part of the rapture on Easter.  While I don't believe in date setting because Jesus said when he was on earth that even he did not know the day or hour, I do believe it is very soon that he will return.  As christians, we should be watching the signs of the times and recognizing that they look very similiar to what is mentioned throughout scripture.  Those words that I stated from a pulpit in West Virginia in 2005 about Jesus returning in my lifetime seem even more prophetic now.
     As a believer and student of the Bible, I believe end time events will center around Israel.  Specifically, they will center around Jerusalem.  The Prime Minister of Israel these days sounds like an alarmist.  Our President has shown a shocking disregard for the Prime Minister.  You might think that he is completely wrong.  I happen to think the Prime Minister is dead on right and should be alarmed.
     In recent day our leaders and world powers have been talking with Iran to try and make a deal to avoid Iran getting nuclear weapons.  I never thought that I would see something like this, but it looks like reading scripture to turn on the news.  We are making a deal with a known sponsor of terror and a sworn enemy of Israel.  What makes anyone think we can trust them?'
      In 2 Thessalonians 2 it speaks about a man of lawlessness that is to be revealed.  Based on what the Bible says there and other places this will be a man of deception who come initially preaching peace.  The nations will be tired of war and ready to make a deal.  Our own President has made similar comments when he says that America is tired after over 10 years of wars.  The stage has been set for a deal to be made.
      In many places it says that Israels problems will come from the north.  Some draw a line straight north and see that Moscow is north of Israel.  So, they conclude that the antichrist will come from Moscow.  To be sure, Mr.Putin has a spirit in him which would welcome the antichrist since he is a man devoid of truth.  But, it doesn't necessarily have to come from there.  In ancient times, people traveled along the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia from east to west.  If you were traveling from Iraq, Iran or points east then you would travel up the rivers Euphrates and Tigris and then travel south down through Syria and Lebanon to Israel.  It was a major trade route from points east to Egypt.  What scripture is really telling us is that this trade route would be used or that the person coming to destroy Israel will come from the east.  Nations such as Iran, Iraq and Syria will be involved.  I have long thought that the antichrist would come from Syria, a known supporter of terror.  The man who is leader there now is responsible already for 100,000 deaths and has used chemical weapons before.
      The this man of lawlessness has been restrained by the Holy Spirit until his season arrives.  In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-6 says, "Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself  above every so called god or object of worship so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with
you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed."
     Having visited a lot of churches over the last few years, the apostasy is already happening.  People are turning away from church and they have gathered for themselves teachers who will tell them what they want to hear.  Churches have forsaken the Holy Spirit and turned to man made ideas about church growth and abandoned repentance and seeking God.  The pulpit has turned into nothing more than man made ideas and few really preach the Word of God in truth.  Even though we have Bibles in most homes today the level of biblical ignorance is shocking.  Clearly, we may have bibles, but they aren't being read, studied and meditated on like they should be.
     So, what i am saying is that the stage is set.  As a believer, that means that our redemption is drawing near.  Jesus is getting ready to come back and end history as we know it.  If your an unbeliever, you may read this and think I have completely lost it.  Your within your rights to feel that way.  But, search scripture and see what I mean for yourself.  And remember to keep your eyes on Jerusalem for that is the apple of God's eyes.  All of history will as we know it center around Jerusalem.

Monday, March 30, 2015

My prayer this Holy Week

     I'm in the middle of wrestling with God over a number of things.  I want to post this prayer as a confession and prayer to God for Holy Week.

     God, I don't understand other people much of the time.  I have felt both frustrated and confused over other people and their problems.  I feel misunderstood and confused much of the time.  Your voice seems only one of many clamoring to get my attention.  I am often distracted and too busy for you.   I seem to love to dwell on who has hurt me and my wounded pride at times.  Help me to move past these things.  Help me to crowd out all the other voices and distractions that keep me from hearing You.

     God forgive me for not loving as I should.  For not giving you all of my attention.  I thank you for being patient with me.  For loving and forgiving and having mercy on a soul that seems so dark and confused.  I can fool other people, but I cannot fool you.  You silently wait for me to come to You.  You wait for me to be silent and still and ready to receive what you want to give me.

      Forgive me for dwelling on past hurts.  For being absorbed in petty issues and to ignore the big ones.  I get so offended when someone hurts me not realizing how much I have hurt you.   Thank you for not treating me as I deserve.  Help me Lord to forgive others the way you do.  Help me to love others the way you do.  Help me dear God to die to self as I should and take up my cross and follow you.  I have followed my own ways too often, for too long and it has gotten really old.

     Thank you for this week of Easter, where a grave stands empty in Jerusalem.  Thank you for being willing to suffer and die and rise again that I might live for you.  I pray for my family and friends that don't yet understand this.  I pray for those who do, but like me are too much of a hurry to notice the empty tomb.  We crawl like ants when you want us to soar like eagles.   God help me to remember who I am in you.

In Jesus Name, Amen


Sunday, March 22, 2015

One day all barriers will be gone

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

    These verses should be read keeping in mind what has happened in chapter 13.  In chapter 13, we see the disciples around Jesus at the last supper.  They have joined him for the Passover meal and Peter has asserted himself that he would not deny Jesus.  To be fair to Peter, all the other disciples also proclaimed the same devotion.  But, Jesus tells Peter that not only will he deny him that it would happen before the rooster crows three times.  In light of this discouraging news, Jesus adds the words we read in verse 1 of chapter 14  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. . . ."
     It must have seemed hopeless for the disciples in those days after Jesus was crucified.  They were hiding for their lives and afraid to meet in public.  Jesus doesn't want their hearts to dwell on fear, but gives them a word that there will one day be a place where they will again all dwell together and he goes to prepare a place for them.
      Jesus further reminds them to place their confidence in Him as they have the Father.  That is what that word "believe" in verse 2 means.  It is to place confidence in Him as the one mediator between God and man.  A mediator role that Jesus earned by dying for us on the cross and becoming both the priest of our confession and the sacrifice that paid our sin debt.  
      That is why it can now say in Romans 8:1 that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  It isn't because of how great we have been.  Some of us think that we must live up to some type of standard and it is true that we should strive to obey God's word, but I don't do this in fear.  I do this in love knowing that when I fall that I can get back up.  When I fail I know my Father's hand is there to help me back up.  When I make mistakes God expects me to learn from them and grow, but never tires of forgiving me.  He actually looks forward to it when we ask for forgiveness and embrace the fact that we can come back to Him.
      Jesus also wanted to encourage us, that even though as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, we see through a mirror dimly, one day we will see Him face to face.  Our dwelling place (mone) which literally means a place of abiding, will be with Him.  This is what heaven is all about, it is about a perfect relationship with God where there will no longer be any barriers or times when it may be difficult to believe.  He will be there to wipe away every tear himself.  He will be there in all his glory to see.  There will be no more separation, pain, sin or unbelief in His presence.  It is something that we should keep in mind and look forward to.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelations 21:3-4, NIV