Thursday, March 28, 2013

Do we Understand that Grace is Amazing?

Does the  average Christian believer truly understand how grace operated in their lives when they were saved? I've discovered that the average pew sitter on a Sunday morning has no idea how grace operates now in their daily lives much less at the time of their conversion.

We need to put the "amazing" back into grace, and move away from our conditioned church taught way to live the Christian life. How many of us grew up in churches where we were spoon-fed bible verses, Christian slogans, and heard enough spiritual cliches to make one's head spin around and around?

Sad to say all to many believer's view the Christian life as a rule book to be followed; you remember reading that old college student handbook, the one that listed all the rules to follow,  oh yes, it is true that the Christian life for many has become a list of do's and don'ts.

There is no grace in following a bunch of rules and regulations. A believer will never know God's grace or experience God's grace by trying to earn God's favor or by being a good rule keeper. I can hear the charge already, so I'll put an end to that right here, no, I don't believe in antinomianism (no law), I do believe that God has given the believer a law to follow, it is loving God and loving your neighbor----remember Jesus saying that, " All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" Matthew 22:40. How about the Apostle Paul telling us that "... the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself" Galatians 5:14.

So why is God's grace so amazing? because it give the guilty sinner the gift of eternal life, it gives the depraved man/woman a new heart, it gives the hell-bound,  and hell deserved sinner atonement and forgiveness of sins. And never forget God's grace doesn't stop at our conversion, no, God's grace should and must reign in our lives at every moment, with every decision, with every effort,  and yes, the believing saint acknowledges that all he has, all he does comes form the fountain of God's grace.

So many churches present the Christian life as a life of doing, always doing, always giving, always filling in a need in the church, coming out to a program etc,---and by the end of the day you just have a bunch of burned-out Christians who are zapped of any energy or life.

Now I know that the believer is called to work, to labor, to toil, and be spent for the Master, however if this in not done in the soil of grace, if grace is not known and  experienced in the believer's life this work becomes onerous and heavy to the point that most Christians break down.

Christian, know that God does not accept you based on your performace level, oh no, He accepts you based on the work of His Son on the cross---"To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians, KJV 1:6). Come to the place where you find his yoke easy and His burden light Matthew 11:30.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Do your emotions control you?

This morning let's talk about emotions and the power they have over our lives. Emotions can be a best friend or they can become a worst enemy. I do not want to get clinical as I discuss emotions, but speak about emotions as an everyday Joe who has dealt with emotions for the better part of five decades.

Could you imagine what life would be like without emotions? Life would certainly be gray, dark and dull don't you think?. I think of our creator creating us in His image, and any theology student worth his grain would give a hearty amen to the reality that our emotions are part of being created in God's image.

The Scriptures are replete with descriptions that show God displaying emotion: God is "grieved" at the pervasive evil of mankind, yet "pleased" with Noah's faithfulness. After the flood, God is "pleased" by Noah's burnt offering. The New Testament book of Hebrews notes that "... we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses."

Of course anyone who is at all familiar with the Gospel's would see that our Savior showed emotions as He wept, became angry, and had compassion. However, when ascribing emotions to God we must keep in mind that God is sovereign, that  He is holy and He is God. God's emotions must be understood in the context of his immutability (un-changeableness), and his being completely self-sufficient. God's emotions can't be understood from a human view point mainly because our emotions are stained and touched by the curse of the fall.

As we go a little further into an understanding of our emotions it is absolutely necessary for us to understand that we are fallen and live in a fallen world. One of the dangers that people make with their emotions is they allow their emotions to control them----our emotions should not control us neither should they be denied. We must find a healthy balance between control and acceptance. The opposite of being controlled by our emotions would be the suppression of our emotions---there are those who turn off the emotions switch and stuff their emotions way down deep; and do all they can from allowing them to come up for air.

We should all do an emotional inventory check from time to time. If you feel close and connected with "others" in your life good chance is that you are emotionally balanced and healthy, if on the other hand you are disconnected and not in relationship with "others" you are  probably not in good emotional health.

We must all take ownership for our own "feelings," we must take full responsibility for how we feel. If you are experiencing anger, take ownership of your anger and discover where your anger is pointing you and deal with the situation. Good starting point is bringing your anger to God's throne and seek the help of the Holy Spirit, still further seek out a friend, counselor, or someone you trust and talk out you emotion.

This may sound foreign to some but even if depression comes by to pay a visit from time to time, stop and ask yourself what you can learn from this deep penetrating emotion. What needs to be changed in your life?---some times it can be as simple as the need to get out for a good 3-4 mile walk, sometimes we need to change the way we fuel our bodies, sometimes we may have to confess sin in our lives, or maybe just stop the merry-go-round and take a break.

Best friend or worst enemy? Well it depends on us, are you willing to take ownership and responsibility for you emotions? Your emotions can only be your worst enemy only if you allow them to control you.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The heart and soul of being a follower of Christ?

I've been thinking lately, what is the heart and soul of being a follower of Christ? I mean what really does it mean to be a Christ follower? If you asked this question to a roomful of Christians you would most likely get several different responses. How would you answer this question? Go ahead, right now, write out your definition of what it means to be a Christian; get your pencil and paper and write it out in a a single sentence or two or three.

Is there any one definition that is wrong? Are there some definitions that really seem to capture the heart and soul of the word Christian better than others?

The Oxford dictionary gives us this definition of Christian:  1. of, relating to, or professing Christianity or its teachings: says: 1.of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings: a Christian faith.

Merriam-Webster notes: 1.a : one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ
I don't know about you but these formal-academic definitions don't get to the heart and soul of what it means to be a Christ follower. Now I'm sure no one would disagree with the above definitions, but they just lack the power and essence of what a follower of Christ is really all about.

There is nothing more that I detest than cold-dead religious orthodoxy. I can still envision those religious figures in the movies about Christ who looked down their noses on others, those religious figures in the days of Christ that received the Master's harshest rebukes and denunciations.

When I think of a follower of Christ, I think the opposite of cold-dead orthodoxy, I think of fire and life. I think of abiding and living in the life of the Holy Spirit---not one who keeps a set of religious rules, not one who follows all of the liturgies of a church, or walks around with nose in the air and Bible under arm.

You know the main thesis of the New Testament is that the follower of Christ is being made into the "likeness and image of Christ." It should follow then that those who call themselves Christians would then look like their Master. As one reads the pages of the gospels, we get a clear picture of whom Christ was and who Christ is today as He reigns with His Father.

                                               So here is my definition of a Christian.

Christian: One who has been made alive by a supernatural act of God. One who has the Holy Spirit of God living in them enabling them and equipping them to love and serve the Father. The Christ follower loves God with all their heart, mind, body, soul and strength.

The Renewing of the Mind

I've have written in the past on the life of the mind. I cannot stress enough the importance for the Christian to develop the life of ...