Friday, July 30, 2010

STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS

"Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." -- 1 Peter 5:5-7

How do people do it? How do they withstand the Katrina-like blows that pummel their lives? The wind, the waves, the surges of heartbreak one after another. How do they survive . . . and still lift their faces to the Lord? How can they be so strong at their extreme weakest?

Today was an awful day. Some very heavy things hit me off guard. But somewhere in the middle of that storm, God's voice was telling me that He provides sufficient grace for this trial, and when I am weak He is always and still very strong. So I want to say to the glory of God that if there is anything in this ministry that is powerful, it is from weakness. Trust me on that.

"Therefore I will boast of all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-1). Well, here I am --- present and accounted for. It's the hard times and the unhealthy times and the hurting times that reveal my weaknesses. And it's also during those times that God shows up strong.

We often treat suffering like a dodge-ball game. Anytime anything painful comes at us, we jump out of the way. We spend our whole lives trying to avoid anything that will hurt or be hard. But there's a better kind of life -- a deeper, more fulfilling kind of life-- that isn't about avoiding every pain. It's about finding God faithful and powerful in the midst of whatever thorns He allows.

There's something about our weakness that opens the flow of God's strength.

When you are in the midst of a trial, there's a power coming into your life that you've never experienced before. When you see a hard thing coming, try saying, I may not want this, but I know I 'm going to see Christ working in my life in an incredible way.

God never allows a thorn but that he provides sufficient grace and strength in our weaknesses. Sufficient grace is not just enough to survive, but enough to have supernatural joy in the midst of anything He allows us to go through.
---James MacDonald

"Thievery is a horrible crime... it's mind-numbing how much is stolen from us on a daily basis: the spoils of victory, the comforts of joy, the grandness of redemption- all of it seemingly so accessible to the thieves that stalk us from their dark alleyways and cowardly hiding places.

I think what's more heartbreaking is that we unwittingly surrender our sovereignty over these things...

... so in the end it's not thievery at all, it's more like a case of us delegating undue authority unto demons who have no right nor position over us until that moment when we actually open the door and lay out our welcome mats to them.

This unseen war between the dying flesh and the newborn spirit is an all-too-real one, with casualties far beyond our capacity to understand. Far too often it is our joy and our dreams that lay battered by the wayside, victims of unholy cunning and wit.

I say, enough.

I will delight over you with joy, calm you with my love, and rejoice over you with singing... for you are my beloved who has stolen my heart, my sons and daughters who have captivated my thoughts...

Thievery ceases in the presence of awakened identity."

...............--- Sam from Jesusbranded

THE BIG PICTURE


"Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." So the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought him something to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work." -- John 4:31-34

"What is the will of God for my life" is a common question but it is not a good one. I have had many discussions around that question, but it is a flawed question and can only lead to a flawed answer. It is flawed because the focus is on the wrong place. It is about
me
and my life

and my future.


That is a legitimate concern, of course, but the real question to concern ourselves with first of all is, "What is God's will?" Not His will for me, but His will --- period! There the focus is on God,

His interests,
His 
will,

His 
agenda,
His purpose

on the bigger scale than how it affects just me. His personal will for my life may only be found in the context of His general will of which we are privileged to be a part. When someone joins a new company, in order for their own personal job description to make sense, they must first ask the bigger questions: What is this company doing? What are its objectives? How does it measure success? It is only in that context that a personal job description has proper meaning.

To know the personal will of God, we must first understand the general will of God for all people. We need to know that through His people God is continually at work on earth and we have the privilege of a particular personal role to play, but it is in the context of a bigger picture. Our personal lives must align completely with what God is doing in the world at large. It will include an upward look to the Lordship of Christ in seeking and saving the lost, and an outward look to the people being brought into our lives in whose heart God is at work and giving me the privilege of participating in.

The context in which Jesus said to His disciples, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work," (John 4:31-31) was when His disciples had busied themselves with a legitimate human function in going into Samaria to buy food. But, they cast only a cursory glance at a woman from Samaria going the other way to draw water and completely missed the harvest of a seeking thirsty soul. Jesus later rebuked them for missing the harvest He had sent them to reap. Why? Because they were preoccupied with the "my life," "my needs," "my agenda," instead of asking the question, "On my way into Samaria does God have something in mind that is bigger than just me and my food?" Never disconnect God's will IN you and FOR you from God's will THROUGH you to enrich other people. Sensitivity and obedience in the general purposes of God will ensure the outworking of His personal guidance in every other area.

-- Charles Price

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

your future

It is always a mistake
to decide
what you want to do
before you decide

who you want to be."
-Andy Stanley
at Passion 2010
every single college student should watch THIS video

Sunday, July 25, 2010

LEGALISM & LICENSE


They seem so different. One person lives his life striving for moral perfection. The other person doesn’t try that hard. The first is convinced that he can avoid sinning, if he tries hard enough. The second is equally convinced that he can’t avoid sinning, so why try at all? After all, He says, “I like to sin; God likes to forgive; that’s a pretty good deal.” The first is all about keeping the rules; the second is all about breaking them.

The first is a legalist. The second is licentious. They seem very different, don’t they?

Here is a twofold truth, seemingly paradoxical, yet thoroughly Biblical. It’s a great way to diagnose yourself, and determine if you are a legalist, or if you are licentious:

We are never permitted to sin.
We cannot avoid sinning.

If you’re a legalist, you will affirm the first part, but deny the second part. You will say, “We are never permitted to sin. We can avoid sinning.” If you’re licentious, you will affirm the second part and deny the first part. You will say, “We cannot avoid sinning. We are permitted to sin.”

Now that you know which one you are, consider this: While at first glance they appear to be polar opposites, Legalism and License are really very much alike. Legalism and License have several, very important things in common.

  1. Both Legalism and License share a common, false assumption.

    Both Legalism and License seem perfectly logical in their respective conclusions. Legalism reasons,

    • God forbids me to sin.
    • God cannot forbid something I cannot avoid.
    • Therefore, I must be able to avoid sinning.

    On the other hand, License reasons,

    • I cannot avoid sinning.
    • God cannot forbid something I cannot avoid.
    • Therefore, I must have permission to sin.

    Although they come to completely different conclusions, both Legalism and License share the assumption, “God cannot forbid something I cannot avoid.” This assumption isn’t Biblical. God’s commandment doesn’t imply your ability to obey. Your inability to obey doesn’t nullify God’s commandment. St. Paul says that God’s commandments are there to show us our inability to obey, and still hold us accountable for our disobedience:

    Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)

  2. Both Legalism and License underestimate sin.

    Legalism underestimates sin’s depth in the Christian’s life. License underestimates sin’s danger in the Christian’s life.

    Legalism stems from a misunderstanding of how pervasive sin is in our lives. The legalist thinks of sin atomistically, that is, he thinks of sin as a set of individual, discrete actions he either does or doesn’t do.

    The legalist thinks, “There are thoughts, words and deeds that I do that are sins; and there are thoughts, words and deeds that I do that are sinless.” The legalist’s goal is to decrease the sinful thoughts, words and deeds in his life, and increase the sinless thoughts, words and deeds in his life.

    The legalist thinks that if he could break up his life up into individual seconds, he could identify the seconds when he was sinning, and the seconds when he was sinless.

    Of course the Bible doesn’t support this view of sin at all. The Ten Commandments in particular, show us that there is nothing we think, say or do that is sinless. Everything we do is stained by sin, even our good works: “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6)

    The devil loves it when the legalist strives for sinlessness. It means he’s trying to achieve a righteousness of our own that comes through the Law (Galatians 2:16). The Old Adam thrives on the legalist’s rule-keeping, it is his lifeblood, it makes him very strong.

    License stems from a misunderstanding of how dangerous sin is in our lives. The licentious person views sin as harmless, and without serious consequences or penalty. The devil loves this too. It means that the licentious person no longer fears sin or its penalty. Of course, the licentious person must ignore the constant drumbeat of the Bible, warning of sin and divine judgment. From Genesis to Revelation Scripture warns that sin is dangerous and incurs God’s wrath.

    The devil also loves it when a licentious person ignores sin’s danger and penalty. It means he’s ignoring God himself and living in open rebellion against Him (Psalm 36:1; Romans 3:18). The Old Adam hates God and His commandments.

  3. Both Legalism and License prevent the Christian from struggling against his sin.

    The legalist thinks that he is struggling against sin successfully, more or less. The licentious person has given up the struggle against sin altogether. Neither the legalist nor the licentious are able to avoid sin or its penalty. This is because neither is really struggling against sin at all.

    Isn’t the legalist at least struggling against sin? No. The legalist thinks he is struggling against his sin; but he is only struggling to keep the rules, God’s rules, house rules, etc. Struggling to keep the rules isn’t the same as struggling against sin.

    In fact, the legalist’s rule-keeping is no better than the licentious person’s rule-breaking. St. Paul says, “through the commandment [sin] might become sinful beyond measure.” (Romans 7:7-13; 5:20) The legalist’s rule-keeping and the licentious person’s rule- breaking only increase sin and its power in their lives.

    The Christian struggle against sin is not done by rule-keeping, but by repentance.

    Some Christians think that to avoid the error of License, it’s OK to be a little legalistic. Other Christians think that to avoid the error of Legalism it’s OK to practice a little License. Both are wrong.

    As you can see, Legalism and License are not two different errors. They are the same error expressed in two different ways. Whether you travel the path of Legalism or of License, you come to the same, inevitable end.

    Both the legalist and the licentious, whether they deny sin’s depth or sin’s danger, ultimately ignore the saving work of Jesus Christ.

    The assumption Legalism and License share, “God cannot forbid something I cannot avoid,” undermines both Jesus’ sinlessness, and his sacrifice for sin. The legalist believes he can avoid sin, and manage (if only occasionally) to live sinlessly. If he is right, then the legalist doesn’t need the sinlessness of Jesus, or if he does, he only needs it when he fails to avoid sin. The licentious person believes he has permission to sin. If he is right, then the licentious person doesn’t need Jesus to suffer the penalty for his sin.

    If Legalism and License are really the same error, is there one answer to both? Yes, first the Law.

    The legalist needs to see that he is totally sinful, from top to bottom, from beginning to end. The legalist needs to see himself as total sinner, and say along with St. Paul, “I know that nothing good dwells in me,” and, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:18, 24)

    The licentious person needs to see his sin for what it is: open rebellion, enmity and insult against God. Though he may take his sin lightly, God does not. The licentious person needs to answer along with St. Paul, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” and, “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2, 15)

    The first answer to both Legalism and License is God’s Word of Law. The proclamation of the Law leaves the legalist with no place to stand; no thought, word or deed –no second of his life– that he can call sinless. Likewise, the Law leaves the licentious person on God’s enemies list; an impudent creature, spitting in God’s face with every sin. The first answer to both Legalism and License is God’s Word of Law that condemns sin completely; but we can’t stop there.

    What comes next is counterintuitive. Many preachers think that they can cure people of licentiousness by preaching the Law more. This is a good first step, but the Law is only the diagnosis and prognosis. The Law alone isn’t the cure for licentiousness. Preachers sometimes think that Legalism can be cured by really driving the Law home to those who think they are keeping it. Again this is a good first step, but the Law alone cannot cure Legalism either. Why are our churches filled with both the legalists and the licentious? Because our pulpits are not filled with both Law and Gospel.

    The Law destroys the common, false assumption of both Legalism and License: “God cannot forbid something I cannot avoid.” The Law says to the legalist, “You cannot avoid sin.” The Law says to the licentious, “There is a penalty for your sin.” However, this is all that the Law can do.

    Only the Gospel gives both the legalist and the licentious freedom from their error, not by avoiding sin, nor by indulging sin, but by forgiving sin. Only the Gospel shows the legalist the sinlessness of Jesus Christ, and the licentious the penalty Jesus paid for sin.

    Some pastors are hesitant to preach the Gospel to the legalist and the licentious –especially to the licentious. They reason, “If I proclaim the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, this legalist will only use that forgiveness to go and start sinning; or this licentious person will only use that forgiveness to go and sin even more.”

    These pastors understand nothing about Law and Gospel. They mistakenly think that the Gospel needs to be “balanced” or tempered with a dose of the Law, or Christians will become lax about sin or lazy in doing good works. By doing this, pastors only reinforce the error of both the legalist and the licentious.

    The Gospel says, “Yes, God always forbids sin, and you can never avoid sin. But the very sin you cannot avoid, Jesus avoided for you. The very sin God forbids and condemns, Jesus took to the Cross in his body for you.”

    Theologians call it the active and passive obedience of Christ. The Gospel replaces all the legalist’s efforts to be sinless with the sinlessness of Jesus. The Gospel shows the licentious person the true penalty for his sin, taken entirely by Jesus.

    The continual proclamation both of Law and Gospel is the only cure for Legalism and License. Not only that, but only the continual proclamation of Law and Gospel engages the Christian in the true struggle against his sin, the very sin that God forbids, the very sin that cannot be avoided.

    The licentious person thinks that the struggle against sin is unnecessary. The legalist thinks that the struggle against sin is all about rule-keeping. Both are wrong.

    Scripture is clear. God never gives us permission to sin, but we can’t avoid sin. If you can’t avoid sin or its penalty, there is only one thing to do: repent. Repentance is the true struggle against sin. Repentance kills the Old Adam. The devil hates it when we repent. It means that we, like St. Paul, are seeking the righteousness of Jesus Christ that comes by faith:

    Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Philippians 3:8-9)

    Once the legalist finds his sinlessness in Jesus alone, and once the licentious person finds the penalty for sin paid in Jesus alone, then the struggle against unavoidable sin can really begin. The former legalist will now struggle like he’s never struggled before. Because now, he won’t be able to take a breather and say, “OK, right now I’m not sinning, if only for this one second.” No, there won’t be a single second in his life when sin will not be there, close at hand (Romans 7:21). The former licentious person will struggle against sin, perhaps for the first time. Now, he won’t be able to sin without hearing the Law’s condemnation; he won’t be able to ignore sin’s penalty.

    Now, both will struggle against their sin by repentance every second, in every thought, every word and every deed. Under the proclamation of Law and Gospel, their lives will become lives of constant repentance and faith in Jesus’ all-sufficient sinlessness and sacrifice.

    You may have noticed as you began reading that it was difficult to diagnose yourself as either a legalist or as licentious. That is because we are all both. We go back and forth between the two every day. We think we can avoid sin sometimes, we give ourselves permission to sin at other times. But God’s Word will not permit our Legalism or our License.

    God’s Word puts us in the impossible position of struggling against our sin, the very sin that God forbids, the very sin that we cannot avoid. This position is impossible for us, but not for Jesus Christ. Jesus has taken our sin, the very sin that God forbids, the very sin that we cannot avoid. So, whether you’re a legalist or licentious, repent and trust Him...---------Todd Wilken, Brothers of John the Steadfast

HOW TO BECOME A LEGALIST

1. Make rules outside the Bible
2. Push yourself to try and keep your rules
3. Castigate yourself when you don't keep your rules
4. Become proud when you do keep your rules
5. Appoint yourself as judge over other people
6. Get angry with people who break your rules or have different rules

Saturday, July 17, 2010


"IT IS A POVERTY TO DECIDE .....THAT A CHILD MUST DIE..... SO THAT YOU MAY LIVE ...........AS YOU WISH." ...........
........................................................---Mother Teresa

Talk to someone about the tragedy of abortion.

IS YOUR BLOOD HEALTHY?

A while ago I heard a sermon about our blood: diseases of the blood like anemia (spiritual weakness, not feeding ourselves), leukemia (allowing the cancer of sin to take hold), and Hemophilia (the inability to forgive) and how they correspond to the Christian life. You can hear the three sermon series here. But there was an additional bit of information the pastor placed on his blog that I found interesting. The first:VIRUSES
There are thousands and thousands of different types of viruses that we know about, and scientists believe that most are still undiscovered. They are found in every ecosystem on Earth and are the most abundant type of biological entity on the planet. Some viruses make you sick for a while and leave. Some are lethal.

How does one avoid contracting a virus? By staying out of unhealthy environments. If you spend all of your time in unhealthy environments, you will become unhealthy. Even the most fit person will eventually succumb to a virus through continued exposure.

So look around you. Where are you spending most of your time? Is the environment healthy? Does it energize you or drain you? Are you encouraged or discouraged? Are the people healthy or sick?

We need to make wise choices about where we spend our time and who we surround ourselves with. Our souls have an "immune system," and that immune system has a breaking point.

No, we don't need to isolate ourselves and retreat from the world. We are in the world but not of it. But we need to be wise about how much time we spend in places where we could contract a virus and then balance out the time spent in unhealthy environments with time spent reviving our souls.CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
This comes from not taking in enough oxygen and inhaling too much carbon monoxide. We have all read stories about people sleeping while the deadly gas was spilling into their homes. It usually isn't a very good outcome. It is a toxic gas but it is colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating. People are poisoned without even knowing it.

Want to check your life for spiritual carbon monoxide poisoning? Check your iPod, your Netflix queue, your bookshelf and your DVR. What have you been taking in lately? What are you breathing? Are you taking in something that is poisonous to your spiritual life?

We don't want to become closed-minded either. Sometimes we need to ventilate things a bit. Sometimes read or listen to different views, not to anger or frustrate, but to understand and respect the views of others. Study God's word using different teachers. Don't let your brain become stagnant.