Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Prayer Requests

God has been revealing some amazing things to me lately... but only in bits and pieces. I knew God was going to do some wonderful things in the month of May, and He has by answering many of our prayers and showing us some things we needed to be doing.

God has really put this desire within me to be more generous.  Last month, I prayed that God would help us be more generous, and I also asked that, as we became more and more giving, He would give us more to be generous with. 

We have been begging God to plant us with like-minded Christians who are passionate about "being" the church rather than just going to church.  Over the last couple weeks, we have made many friends who truly know what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We've been meeting up with these folks over food and fellowship, and have really enjoyed the time praising God and going through the bible together. I've also been praying that God would help us build some solid Christian friendships with people who are in the same season of life as we are, as I often feel very alone and could use encouragement, prayer, and study time with people who are "in the midst" of it as well.  It has been awesome to see God answer most of these prayers all at once!

Every now and then, someone asks how they can pray for us, and I'm about to tell you:

- Pray that God will show us where to direct our time, energy, and finances in order to bring glory to His Name and show Christ's love to those in need.  There are many causes and foundations and families out there that claim to need assistance, but we want to know where God would have us focus.

- Pray that God will help us be unselfish, even to the point of gladly and willingly sacrificing those things we think are "musts" in our lives.  I have come to realize that were are incredibly wealthy, even though not according to American standards.  However, considering that over half of the world's population lives on $2 a day or less, maybe Americans should begin to consider Matthew 19:24.  (... It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.)   We are the rich men, my fellow Americans.

- Pray that God will help us to share the gospel with our neighbors. We are building relationships with our neighbors and have had some wonderful spiritual talks with many of them, but it sometimes feels like a slow process.  Pray that God will open their hearts and minds to His Word so they can joyfully receive it.

- Our lease it about up, and we think we're staying put for another year, but please, pray that God would make it clear if He desires that we move.

- Please pray for our son, Keagan, who is quite the clumsy kiddo.  He has broken both bones in his left arm. Pray for healing, and that God would grant him a bit more grace when he walks and moves!

- We ask that you pray for our friends, the Moniers, who are in the process of adopting a beautiful little boy from Ukraine. Check out their blog, and, if you can, make a donation.

- Also, pray for my husband who has been quite weary.  His work schedule has been packed, and we're hoping he'll have some time off soon.  His body is on the verge of complete exhaustion.  If he hits that point, well.. let's just pray he doesn't.

- Pray for my brother as well who works for the same company.  Traveling mercies for their upcoming vacation, and wisdom and direction for the future as my sweet SIL is about to become a stay-at-home-mama! (Praise!)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Speak the Truth

My husband and I have been talking a lot about deception.  Many so-called-"Christian" preachers and religions claim to follow the bible, but, as John writes in 2 John 9, have gone beyond it.  They have added something to the gospel or taken something away from the gospel. They have not preached the Truth, and when I say Truth, I mean that they have not preached the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  -Romans 1:18

My brother and I have often discussed how some religious groups are unwilling to be open about what they believe.  Why would "Christians", who claim to be preaching the gospel truth from the bible, not want people outside their group to listen to or read their sermons?  Why would any true believer be unwilling to make or write a public statement of their beliefs?

In his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)  If we are correctly teaching and living out the word of truth, we don't need to be ashamed. We don't need to hide it, but proclaim it.  After all, if we believe we are preaching Jesus (the way, the truth, and the life), why would we hide such a bold light under a bushel?

Why are these people unwilling to sit down and really discuss the bible and their beliefs?  Why is it, when one asks questions and demands a clear scriptural reference, they are told that they just don't have enough faith?  True faith is trusting in God's Word, leaning on His promises, and being fully persuaded that God will do what He has promised.  True faith will take God's Word over the wisdom of men every time because true faith stands in the power of God.  (1 Corinthians 2:5)  Abraham believed God and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.  (James 2:23).  He believed God's promises and acted upon them.  You can bet there were many in his day telling him he had misunderstood God or that God had not really made such a promise. Yet Abraham trusted and believed God. 

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).  If you are truly preaching the Word of God, preach it boldly, loudly, and for anyone to hear.  Will people oppose you? Yes! The gospel is offensive! People do not like to hear they are sinful beings in need of a Savior!  But the gospel provides the best news of all- while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (and rose again!).  Why would anyone want to hide such a message?  If you had the cure for disease and everyone in the world was dying of this disease (including those you love!), would you not feel an urgent desire to share and spread this cure?

Folks, we are all infected with death (sin), and Christians- we know the cure.  Jesus is the cure!  By the grace of God, we are saved through faith.  It is not our own doing- neither our salvation or our faith, really.  Both are a gift of God.

Why would someone want to hide their preaching unless they are not preaching the gospel?  Why are they unwilling to sit down and open their bibles and look into the Truth of the bible with others who question their beliefs?  Should we not be prepared to answer?

You see, whoever does what is true has no problem laying out it all out, but those who hide are afraid that their works will be exposed.  (John 2:19-21)

Why would a church not be willing to share how they spend their finances?  Why would a church tell people not to read material that points out issues in their religion? Why would a church tell their members not to talk to people who question their beliefs or practices?  What do they have to hide?  If your faith and understanding are truly granted by God's power, then what do you have to fear?

I like to think of the Bereans (Acts 17:10-12).  Paul and Silas brought them the gospel, and they enthusiastically received it and searched the Scriptures daily to see if their message was true.

You see, faith is not simply accepting what your pastor, minister, or seemingly godly friend tells you as fact.  True faith seeks out what God says.  True faith seeks truth and will not be content until it has found it. God is compassionate and just and eager to give us the truth and the faith we seek when we honestly ask and pursue it.

During Christ's time on earth, He repeatedly told His followers to ask, to seek, and to knock.  "Ask of Me!" He proclaims! "Ask!"  Yet, instead of asking Christ, we tend to turn to those around us.  Do we not believe that the Holy Spirit will not teach us and fill us with wisdom and understanding if we truly desire it?

"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." John 14:26

In a world where many "Christian" religions are fronts for the devil's works, we must be willing to dig into the Word of God and discern what is truth.  The Holy Spirit will teach us. We must be soaking up the Word of God, searching it daily for truth and understanding, and allowing the Holy Spirit to give us a pure understanding.

I can clearly remember my husband and I sitting on our bed one night and realizing that we had a completely skewed view of the bible.  We began to pray- to beg God- that He would remove the filter which we had so often read the bible through and give us His wisdom and plant within us His truth as we read the people through eyes opened by the Holy Spirit.

Know what? God is good. He did just that.  We were astonished at how we had fallen victim to men who had twisted the Scriptures, who had perverted the hope of Christ.

Why are people unwilling to preach the truth when it is the truth that sets us free? Why would someone want to hide the truth, suppress the truth?  Why would anyone want to allow others to continue in slavery to Satan?

What is the truth?

[Ephesians 2:1-10) The truth is, you were dead in your trespasses and sins.  Dead. DEAD.  The dead cannot do anything.  They cannot do good works.  They cannot muster up faith in God.  They are dead.

You were by your very nature a child of wrath.  Whose wrath? God's wrath.  You were dead and under God's wrath.  You were powerless to remove yourself from this state of being.

But, Oh! Hey! Good news! GREAT NEWS!  God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love, has the power to make you alive together with Christ.  Alive! Do you get that? Dead. Brought to LIFE! BROUGHT TO LIFE by the mercy and love of God! By His grace and His grace alone you have been saved.  Not of any power of your own because you were dead! You had no power to raise yourself to life!  He made you alive in Christ! Why? So that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards you in Christ Jesus.  Again, we are reminded, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works so that no one may boast.

So, you can't say, "Hey, I pulled myself up by my boot straps and lived a holy life!"  No! You couldn't! You were dead! You couldn't earn your salvation! You were dead! You couldn't be good enough! You were dead!

But you are God's workmanship, not your own. We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we should walk in them.

Wait, see that?  You were made alive (by God), created to walk in the works which God prepared for us.

I'll be honest, when I first read this through my "new eyes" years ago, I thought, "So, let me get this straight God.  You're saying that my works don't earn me heaven. I can never be good enough to earn it.  Salvation- life- is Your gift to me even though I am a wretched sinner?  Even though I'm a lawbreaker? And so, you give me new life, you give me faith, you strengthen me, you seat me in Christ, and then you prepare good works for me to walk in?"

I was absolutely astonished! God does it all!  All I have to do is accept the gift and walk in the works He already prepared for me!  My purpose as a new (wo)man in Christ is to walk in the good works God prepared for me- to glorify God by living out the purpose and plan He designed for me!

If we are unwilling to share the truth, then we must not understand how powerful that truth is.

I know this post has been all over the place, but I hope it makes sense.  Seek truth. Settle for nothing less. Don't stop seeking. Keep seeking.  Keep pursuing God.  You will know when you have found Him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Holy Spirit: Teacher of Truth

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. - John 14:26

I've been studying verse by verse through Hebrews lately.  I admit, Hebrews was once one of my least favorite books of the New Testament, along with Revelations, because I had such a hard time understanding huge chunks of it. Not long ago, I began delving deeper into both of these books longing for understanding and wisdom so I might better understand God's truths.  I am glad to report Hebrews is becoming one of my favorite books of the New Testament thanks to the Spirit's grace in giving me the understanding I asked for.

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him--the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:2)

As I read through it, I am filled with such deep adoration for God. It's hard to explain, really.  This giddiness just swells within me, and I literally feel like dancing.  It's too much for this little body to contain so it often pours out in songs of praise and joy- some which are made up on the spot, others which have been unintentionally memorized.

I would say, what I love about the Hebrews letter most is that it helps me understand the Old Testament better.  Here's another confession. I once tried to steer clear of the Old Testament.  Before I "came to Christ", I was a bible reader. I have been reading my bible since I learned to read but, of course, much of it was such a mystery to me because God had yet to lift the veil from my eyes. The OT seemed out-dated, so I didn't read it unless it was part of our group study, and even then, I did so with lackluster efforts. (Now I love it!! I did not understood how it pointed to Christ. I really was so clueless!)

After I submitted my life to Christ, I mainly focused on the New Testament. Even though I had been reading my bible nearly all my life, I had read it through a filter where much of the Scripture had been twisted.  I had put my trust in men to interpret it for me and, well, many of them had steered me wrong.

The amazing thing about walking in Christ is that the Holy Spirit becomes your teacher.  I begged God to remove my "filter" and wash away the false ideas and teachings I had accumulated over my lifetime and to fill me with His Truth as I read the bible with new eyes (and as a new creation in Christ).

That was five years ago, and I am still amazed by God's Word.  It seems this education takes a lifetime, and God is always revealing more and more to those who honestly seek Him and ask of Him!  While I love to listen to bold and biblical preachers and read articles and blogs written by those who walk in the faith, their words can never compare to the simple reading of the bible.  Does God open my eyes to things in His Word through others? Sure! Does He use others to convict me or encourage me? Most definitely! But it is actually those moments when I am alone with His Word that I am taught, convicted, and encouraged the most.

John 16:13 states, "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [...]" How wonderful is that? What a blessing! What a gift!

Spurgeon, in his sermon The Holy Ghost- The Great Teacher, said, "There is no college for holy education like that of the blessed Spirit, for He is an ever-present tutor, to whom we have only to bend the knee, and He is at our side, the great expositor of Truth."

He definitely echos my own thoughts in this sermon... and I'd like to leave a larger excerpt with you:

This is none other than God, and this God is none other than a person. This person is "he, the Spirit," the "Spirit of truth;" not an influence or an emanation, but actually a person. "when the Spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into all truth." Now, we wish you to look at this guide to consider how adapted he is to us.

In the first place, he is infallible; he knows everything and cannot lead us astray. If I pin my sleeve to another man's coat, he may lead me part of the way rightly, but by-and-bye he will go wrong himself, and I shall be led astray with him; but if I give myself to the Holy Ghost and ask his guidance, there is no fear of my wandering.

Again, we rejoice in this Spirit because he is ever-present. We fall into a difficulty sometimes; we say, "Oh, if I could take this to my minister, he would explain it; but I live so far off, and am not able to see him." That perplexes us, and we turn the text round and round and cannot make anything out of it. We look at the commentators. We take down pious Thomas Scott, and, as usual he says nothing about it if it be a dark passage. Then we go to holy Matthew Henry, and if it is an easy Scripture, he is sure to explain it; but if it is a text hard to be understood, it is likely enough, of course, left in his own gloom; and even Dr. Gill himself, the most consistent of commentators, when he comes to a hard passage, manifestly avoids it in some degree. But when we have no commentator or minister, we have still the Holy Spirit; and let me tell you a little secret: whenever you cannot understand a text, open your Bible, bend your knee, and pray over that text; and if it does not split into atoms and open itself, try again. If prayer does not explain it, it is one of the things God did not intend you to know, and you may be content to be ignorant of it. Prayer is the key that openeth the cabinets of mystery. Prayer and faith are sacred picklocks that can open secrets, and obtain great treasures. There is no college for holy education like that of the blessed Spirit, for he is an ever-present tutor, to whom we have only to bend the knee, and he is at our side, the great expositor of truth.

But there is one thing about the suitability of this guide which is remarkable. I do not know whether it has struck you—the Holy Spirit can "guide us into a truth." Now, man can guide us to a truth, but it is only the Holy Spirit who can "guide us into a truth." "When he, the Spirit of truth, shall come, he shall guide you into"—mark that word—"all truth." Now, for instance, it is a long while before you can lead some people to election; but when you have made them see its correctness, you have not led them "into" it. You may show them that it is plainly stated in Scripture, but they will turn away and hate it. You take them to another great truth, but they have been brought up in a different fashion, and though they cannot answer your arguments, they say, "The man is right, perhaps," and they whisper—but so low that conscience itself cannot hear—"but it is so contrary to my prejudices, that I cannot receive it." After you have led them to the truth, and they see it is true, how hard it is to lead them into it! There are many of my hearers who are brought to the truth of their depravity, but they are not brought into it, and made to feel it. Some of you are brought to know the truth that God keeps us from day to day; but you rarely get into it, so as to live in continual dependence upon God the Holy Ghost, and draw fresh supplies from him. The thing is—to get inside it. A Christian should do with truth as a snail does with his shell—live inside it, as well as carry it on his back, and bear it perpetually about with him. The Holy Ghost, it is said, shall lead us into all truth. You may be brought to a chamber where there is an abundance of gold and silver, but you will be no richer unless you effect an entrance. It is the Spirit's work to unbar the two leaved gates, and bring us into a truth, so that we may get inside it, and, as dear old Rowland Hill said, "Not only hold the truth, but have the truth hold us."

[Read the whole sermon here.]

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bible Study: One True God

My husband and I have been going through Paul Washer's Bible Study Guide, The Truth About Man (a free e-book-  the link is posted in a entry under the category of Free Resources.)

We aren't even halfway through it, and we have both learned so much.  I definitely recommend it. It allows the Scripture (text) to speak for itself.  I think going through this bible study has also helped me learn how to really study the bible.

I'm eager to dig into his other (free) e-book, One True God

Click here to begin downloading the PDF.

I believe it is so important for us to study God's Word in order to understand who God is... and it's important that we understand who God is!  This is just the study to assist you in gaining a clearer understanding of the One True God.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pressing into Christ, On His heels

I started listening to a series of sermons by Matt Chandler. He's very easy to listen to but also very convicting and bold.

I wanted to pass along the first part of this series "The Path (part 1)" [MP3]. If you'd prefer, you can read it [PDF] by clicking here.

I know I've talked often about the need to have our works match our profession of faith, but it's so hard to do that without becoming a legalist. I am sure many of you stand with me on this point.  Chandler has a great way of explaining how one becomes more Christlike without becoming legalist.  It is rare to hear a pastor give you a biblical HOW- I'm not sure many of them exactly know how.

Here's an excerpt of this sermon that really stood out to me:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” So by knowing the Scriptures, walking in the Scriptures and meditating on the Scriptures, we become competent and equipped for everything that God might have for us. I want to talk about how this happens. Because it’s very clear that the Bible doesn’t give us a list to choose from on anything that might come across our radar. So how much TV is too much TV? What should I do about this? Should I move here? Should we purchase this car? Should we move to this house? Should I marry this person? You’re not going to find a list for all of those things. There are a couple of reasons why you’re not going to find that list. The first would be that God’s plan of reconciling all things to Himself is a long plan. In fact, it began in Genesis 12.

Our first manuscript of Genesis 12 is 4,200 years old. Genesis 12 is where we first get that, “Here’s what I’m going to do in the world.” So the process of reconciling all things to Himself through Christ on the cross is a long process. And so the Bible becomes a missionary handbook able to enter any culture at any time in God’s planned history. So the Bible worked very well in any culture in 1809, and it works very well in 2009 in any culture. So there’s a lot of freedom in that. Here’s the second reason. If He simply gave us a list, we would all run straight towards legalism and our hearts would never be transformed. All my rule followers are like, “That’s so true.” I mean, if God just said simply, “Here is everything I want you to do, and here is everything I do not want you to do,” some of you would have like a whole flow chart on the wall. So what would happen? Those who couldn’t do the list would be devastated, and those who could would be self-righteous and impossible to be around.
So how then do the Scriptures make us competent and prepared for all that God has for us? Let me answer it this way. The Scriptures are God’s self-revelation to us, so that how we learn about the nature and character of God is the Scriptures. So by an ever growing understanding of the nature and character of God, we see Him as more and more and more majestic and we see our sin as more and more and more repugnant. So once again, a failure to understand what the Scriptures teach leads to what I think is pandemic in Evangelicalism, and that is we believe Jesus loved us at our worst, He saved us when we were sinners and now that He’s married to us, once He’s got us, He regrets it immediately. So He marries us and now He’s just like, “Oh, I just can’t stand to look at you. I’ll tell you what. Go clean yourself up and then come back to Me later.”
And so what most of us do is cease pressing into the Lord, cease learning about His majesty, His glory, His might, His grace, His character, His power, His nature and we go off here and go, “I’ve really got to fix this porn issue. . .I’ve really got to fix this lust issue. . .I’ve really got learn how to fix my mouth. . .I’ve really got figure out how to quit acting like this. . .I’ve really got to learn how to be a better father. . .” And the whole time, God’s going, “Come here. That’s what We’re doing.” And we’re going, “Aw no, I’m just so unattractive to You. Listen, there’s going to be a better version of me that comes down the pike. You’re really going to love that version of me.” And so if you understood your Bible, you’d understand what we said last week. It’s not at your worst that God finds you unattractive. It’s at your best. The Bible says, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” to Him. You have no capacity for good before a holy God. So how is this plan of yours going to work?
How many of you grew up in church? Okay, so you’ll know this one. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Yeah, that’s sanctification.

We press into the Lord, we know the Lord and then what happens? He becomes more glorious and sin becomes more and more repugnant.

Chandler then goes to break down all the excuses we have for not getting close to the Lord- for not spending more time in prayer and reading His Word, and then makes this great point:

I think we don’t take it seriously, and we don’t pursue Him for a slew of reasons. I think you don’t think you’re going to die anytime soon. Like if you read those old school guys like Luther and Edwards, do you know why those guys pressed into the Lord as hard as they do? Because people are dying constantly all around them. The world was a dark place. And for some reason we’ve got this veil pulled over our face like all of us are living to 70.
Could I give you a promise? Could I just give you my word? If you’re a covenant member here, I’m doing one of your funerals this year. I don’t know who you are yet. Shoot, somebody might be doing mine. It’s coming, and not all of us get to 70. Because this is so far off our radar, nobody feels like they need to press in and know the Lord. Nobody feels like you’re going to have to give an account today. Nobody feels that way anymore.  [...]
And then I think you live in a day and age where there’s great teaching available all over the place. So you never really learn to feed yourself. You’d rather live vicariously through other people’s studies. Which is kind of sad because you’ll never love the Lord like the people who studied that, found that and wrestled with that will love Him. Like if I started talking about all of the reasons I loved Lauren, it wouldn’t make you love Lauren. It would make you maybe go, “Oh, I wish I had that.” But it wouldn’t make you go, “You know, I love her too. She’s amazing. I love her with my whole heart right now.” That’s not how it works.
In the same way, you hearing me or some other guy talk about the grandeur and might of God is not necessarily going to make you love Him. You need to read and let the Holy Spirit engage you, chisel at you, work you over. May we repent of our laziness.

Ouch, right?

I have definitely found the more often I dig into the bible and the more time I spend thinking on the things of God, the less sin appeals to me.  And sometimes my drift away from God starts very simply- I start listening to the radio, and then I watch a few shows that aren't very godly, and then I read a few books that have no concern for the commandments of the Lord, and then I "suddenly" don't feel like reading the bible very much. So, I put in my time... a few minutes at the end of the day, and then maybe miss a few days here and there, and then one day I wake up and wonder why I'm so miserable and why God is so distant.

But, when I press into Christ, I stay out of trouble.

The other day the kids were literally on my heels all afternoon. It was getting a little irritating, actually, because I would turn around and accidentally wack one of them in the head with my elbow or trip over them and spill something.  My first thought was, "Man, I wish they'd just run off and play and get out of my way," and then I realized that... because they right by my side, they were staying out of trouble. They wanted to be by their mother.. and isn't that what I want? Children who love to be by my side and learn from me? Who want to assist me in whatever I'm doing?

It made me so grateful that our Lord desires us to be "right on His heels". When we're right on His heels, we're staying out of trouble. We're pressing in to Him, learning His ways, and eager to be more like Him.

Sometimes the kids get so busy playing and doing their own thing- wrapped up in their own world- that when I call them, they act like they don't even hear. I'm sure sometimes, even though they are only a couple yards away, they truly don't hear because their ears are not tuned to my voice.  Sometimes they hear and ignore me. They refuse to listen because they are busy doing what they want to do. And, it's at those times I wish they were at my heels, listening and obeying, desiring to do whatever would help our family.

I can be like this as well. I get so wrapped up in things- whether it's reading a blog or a book, scrubbing the kitchen floors, or maybe watching a film- that when the Lord calls me, I ignore Him or put Him off. Like my children, I holler, "Just a second!" And that second turns into minutes and hours... and sometimes even days.

The other day my son was trying to be very helpful. We would ask him to do something, and he would come up with another "helpful" suggestion.  My husband kept having to correct him, "That's nice, but that's not what we asked you to do."  I realize that I also do this. I want to make my own list of things to do and then say, "But I've been obedient!"  Then the Lord tells me, "Well, those are good things, but you haven't done what I asked you to do." 

You know that saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  I can see how my "good intentions" are actually just a form of choosing "my way" instead of God's way.  I think many legalists are drawn to this path because you can do A + B + C and think that you're a really good person doing God's will.  They may be good, godly things but you're doing it on your own. You're not pressing into Christ, and so these good intentions, these good works, are but filthy rags.

I'm always amazed by how God uses the little moments with my children to teach me such (simple, yet..) profound things about Him and my relationship with Him.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

If we don't get the gospel right...

My brother shared this excerpt from a sermon with me today, and I thought I'd pass it along to you.  This is one of the points we've been striving to share with anyone who will listen.

It is VERY IMPORTANT to get the gospel right.  The gospel matters. Every single detail of the gospel matters.

In this sermon, Matt Chandler says, "If you don't get the gospel right, then what ends up happening is men and women become conformed to a pattern of religion but they are not transformed by the Holy Spirit of God. Without the gospel, you inoculate people to Jesus Christ. You give them just enough of Him to never know Him."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The gospel is unstoppable!

I really enjoyed Trevin Wax's post "Do We Defend the Gospel? Yes and No" on his blog Kingdom People. My favorite part?

The gospel is like kudzu that just won’t go away. People try to stomp it out (persecution), trim it back (watered-down doctrine), or spray it with weedkiller (heresy), but the vine just keeps on growing. Defending the gospel? It’s more like unleashing the gospel.
So take heart. The gospel is unstoppable!

I long and yearn....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I will not settle for anything less.

Excuse me while I ramble.

There is this deep ache in me.  I long for true fellowship with like-minded believers. In my prayers, I cry out, "How long, Father?" 

Have you ever begged the Holy Spirit to move in your church day after day, only to feel like there is a dry well? Have you ever been in a church and wondered if the lampstand has been removed?

I used to think it was just me.  I know at times it has been.  But when others come to the same conclusion, when others leave feeling empty, when someone I trust tells me I should be concerned... well..........

There's this knot in my stomach, this lump in my throat. I am so tired of false doctrine. I am so tired of scripture twisting. I am so tired of man trying to manipulate the church as to bring in more people rather than simply boldly preaching the Word and allowing God to build the church as He pleases.

Why are men more concerned about the numbers filling their seats than the souls?

Where are the people, living in unity, reaching out in unity, being the hands and feet of our Lord Jesus? How can one claim to be saved yet have no evidence of it?  How can one preach that one can be saved and refuse to be a disciple of Christ?

I disagree!  If we are saved, then we are no longer slaves to sin but willing slaves to Christ. Under His control, under His discipleship.  How can we be in Christ and living Christless lives?

This message stings my ears, pains my heart, and makes me want to run out the door.

But I sit there. 

I want to scream, but I sit there.

Because I am not sure what to do.  If I say something, I am called a legalist.  But, isn't faith without works dead?  Is discipleship really optional?  I realize my works do not earn my salvation- it is a gift- but if I love God- if I am truly in Christ- should not my life be submitted to Him? Is submission to His will optional?

If one truly feels that way, can they truly be saved?

All these questions swirling in my mind. I pour over God's word, and I am sure of my beliefs.  Oh Holy Spirit, give me strength. I seek truth. I'm tired of lies. Tired of people trying to fool me with fancy words, holding their titles over me.

I have learned to find my answers in His Word. He will not lie. He will not contradict Himself.  Jesus doesn't mince words. Sometimes His words are hard to swallow... but they always bring me guidance.

I will not sacrifice Truth. I have seen it twisted, seen it added to and taken from. I have seen it bent out of context.  I have seen this my entire life, and I'm sure it will not end until the day Christ comes in all His glory.

I am told to ask, and it will be given. Seek, and I will find.  Knock, and it will be opened for me.  Why? The Lord is full of mercy and grace. He does not want to withhold His Truth from me!

I will not settle for anything less than Jesus.

Oh, Father, give me strength to fight, to stand, and to keep standing.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Time for Tea?

I was reading my bible this morning (okay, bibles.. I like to read several translations at a time), when my daughter brought me "pretend tea".

She noticed I did not have my usual cup of coffee and so, surely I needed a cup of hot tasty tea. I am so thankful to have such a sweet, thoughtful daughter. The Lord really blesses me through her.  (She's going to be eight in a few days! I can't believe it!)

She reminds me to take joy in the small things. She reminds me of myself.... many years ago.  She softly sings the verses she's memorized. She dances down the grocery store aisles.  She opens her bible and slowly sounds out the words.  It takes a while, but she works at understanding it.

She brings me joy, and, through her, I'm reminded of what it is to be a daughter of the Most High God.

My Big Fat Greek Mindset

I've enjoyed reading through My Big Fat Greek Mindset by Tim Hegg.  This six-page PDF download is a great (free) article on Biblical Worldview- or Bibleview.  My family (husband, brother, sister-in-law, and I) have been on a journey.  Christianity has become so entangled with Paganism, it's become quite a task to unravel it within our own lives, yet we know this is a task one must take seriously.  Maybe some of you are also on this journey and would enjoy reading this piece.  Here are some tidbits I wanted to share with you:

While Platonic thought teaches “it’s the thought that counts,” God tell us “it’s the mitzvah that counts.” Surely proper motivation is important in obeying God, but good intentions are not enough.

The Hebrew worldview, however, never considered the physical world as inferior to the nonphysical realm, nor did it elevate ideas above actions. The physical world was endowed with God’s blessings at creation, and such blessing remains even though because of the entrance of sin, the creation groans for redemption (Romans 8:22). Enjoying what God has created is therefore a spiritual endeavor, and should be done with a heart of blessing and thanksgiving to Him. He gave us all good things to enjoy (1Timothy 6:17) which is why, from a rabbinic perspective, there is a blessing for everything. “In everything give thanks” (1Thessalonians 5:18). Moreover, there is nothing “neutral” in our world, a kind of “secular” part of our lives that is neither sacred nor profane. Rather, everything in our world is either good (and can therefore be sanctified to God) or evil: “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). In this way, our work, our recreation, our hobbies, as well as our times of corporate and individual prayer and worship—all aspects of our lives are to be sanctified unto God as the means by which we glorify Him (1Corinthians 10:31). As the Torah teaches us: “Cling to God and obey His commandments” (Deuteronomy 13:4).

Unwrapping ourselves from the Greek mindset which characterizes our western culture is a difficult task but a necessary one if we hope to understand the Scriptures on their own terms.

Click here to download this article