Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Friday, 26 December 2014

The Wisemen Part 2

I wish I had maps to make this more "alive" but you'll just have to use your imagination or crack out your own. This one will give you a general overview.

So Abraham married again and had more sons. He taught them the gospel. He explained God would send His own Son born through Isaac's line and that He would be the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world.
Those sons moved eastward and taught their sons the Story. Generation after generation the story was passed on. Midian moved east and south into what is today Saudi Arabia. Sheba moved further south and east to what is today Yemen and Ethiopia.
So long and so far separated by time and space that the family of Isaac became the Israelite nation and the nations built through the other sons came to be seen as foreigners and even heathens.
There were points in history where their paths crossed. When Moses fled Egypt he went to Midian. There he met Jethro and his daughters. They were still worshipping the God of Abraham. When the Israelites were traveling from Egypt to the Promised land they came to Moab. The king of Moab summoned Balaam who was another descendant of Abraham living in the north east and he was a prophet of the One True God. When he came he made this amazing prophecy: "I see Him but not now. I behold Him but not near. Behold a star will arise over Jacob and a scepter out of Israel."
Jacob was the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham and the father of what was becoming at that time the nation of Israel.
Many years later the Queen of Sheba came all the way to Israel to seek out king Solomon and question him about the God of Abraham. Historians estimate her trip with her entourage was 5-7 years each way!
Now fast forward a few hundred years to the prophet Isaiah. He made the following prophecy about 730 years before Jesus was born. Buckle your seatbelts:
Isaiah 60:
1 "Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
3 The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.

4 “Lift up your eyes all around, and see:
They all gather together, they come to you;
Your sons shall come from afar,
And your daughters shall be nursed at your side.
5 Then you shall see and become radiant,
And your heart shall swell with joy;
Because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
The wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you.
6 The multitude of camels shall cover your land,
The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
All those from Sheba shall come;
They shall bring gold and incense,
And they shall proclaim the praises of the Lord."

The period of time from when Abraham sent his sons eastward to the birth of Jesus was approximately 2000 years. From Isaiah to the birth of Jesus was about 730 years.
What did Isaiah write? Gentile (foreign) kings would come to the light. Jesus is the Light of the world. Isaiah calls these kings "sons from afar". Isaiah said where they would come from - Midian, Ephah, and Sheba. He said how they would come - by camel - so many that they would "cover the land." He even said what they would bring - gold and incense.
Much nonsense has been written about these wise men calling them astrologers and magi(cians). What did the wise men say when they arrived in Jerusalem to inquire of King Herod?
2 "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”"
They knew exactly why they had come and Who they had come to see and Who He would become. Gold they brought because it was the appropriate gift for a king just as Sheba had brought gold to Solomon many years before. They brought incense because they knew He would also be a Priest. They brought myrrh because they knew He would die as the great Ram just as on Mount Moriah 2000 years earlier the ram took Isaac's place.
The Bible is one Story. All of humanity is connected by it. Those who follow the Story are called wise men and now 2000 years after all these things wise men still seek Him.

See you tomorrow when we continue in Romans 9.

The Wisemen Part 1

We will take a short break from Romans today. I want to take this opportunity to share with you the story of the wise men. There are many theories about who they might be but the truth is the Bible leaves no doubt and it is an incredible story. 

There are three major religions that trace their roots to one man - Abraham. Many know he had 2 sons, Ishmael and Isaac, but few remember he remarried when Sarah died and had several more sons who are all named in Genesis 25. The grandsons are also named. Then we are told Isaac remained in Canaan since the promised land and the Promised Seed that was to bless all the nations was to come through Isaac. Abraham sent his other sons eastward to the land of the east. The land of the east is any land on the east side of the Jordan River. Three names that stand out in the list of sons and grandsons sent eastward were Midian, Sheba, and Ephah.

Jesus said that "Abraham longed to see His day and he saw it and was glad". What that bold statement of Jesus means is that Abraham fully understood Who the Seed would be and why He was coming. On Mount Moriah in Genesis 22 Abraham understood that the Ram caught in the thicket by its horns that took Isaac's place on the altar was the only begotten son of God. When Abraham remarried and had more children he was a profoundly different person. He raised his boys with a passionate intimate knowledge of gospel, the good news that Jesus would come and bless all the nations as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the whole world.

Tomorrow we will continue this amazing story and I will share with you a prophecy from Isaiah about the wise men that still amazes me every time I read it.

Wise men. They still seek Him. See you tomorrow 

There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See...

Now what? Paul has spent 8 solid chapters building the case that all of humanity is in the same boat. Our sins have separated us from God and we no longer reflect His glory. Our characters are infected with sin causing us fear and shame and to behave in ways that He never intended.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that we all (regardless of race, religion, language, gender etc...) can be restored. All we have to "do" is choose Jesus and believe Him and we are automatically His. It will take time for the headless chicken of who we were to die and for the new person we are becoming to fully develop but we are His no matter how long it takes. There is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ and nothing can separate us from His love!
Sounds like the matter is resolved so why is there a chapter 9 and beyond? Let's go see:
9:1 "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen."
Paul was born a Jew. Paul was more passionate about his identity as a Jew than he was about God. So much so that he saw this new "Jesus following fanaticism" as nothing more than a threat to Judaism and a cancer to be radiated out of his people and his nation. National pride and religious bigotry blinded him and he traveled all over the land hunting down and imprisoning and killing those he could find who believed in Jesus.
Now Paul has "seen the Light". You can read what happened to him in Acts 9. He has but most of his countrymen remain "in the dark" and it is killing him inside.
Imagine you are dying of cancer. Imagine you are placed in a special facility that claims to have a treatment process that no one else has. You were selected for this place and this plan based on some qualities that you and the others there possess. You are part of the Chosen. The greatest hope and best treatments are available only to you and the other "special " ones. You become close to those in the facility. You are family. You look with sadness and pity at first on those on the "outside". In time as the "doctors" explain why you were Chosen pride grows in you. You develop a sense of entitlement and a feeling of superiority. You are elite. 

Over time you begin to realize that for all the "special treatments" etc... no one is getting better. Every once in a while someone speaks out that something is wrong but they are always silenced. If they persist they mysteriously disappear... 

Then one day you discover the truth. It is clear, well documented, and undeniable. The facility is a hoax. The "doctors" are deluded. There is nothing special about you and no healing in their treatment! You search deeper and find there is a cure inside the facility but it's not even being used! You try and tell others. They are like family. Some refuse to believe. Others out of fear of the "doctors" won't even listen. You know that if you stay in the facility you are in grave danger but if you leave you feel you are abandoning your family.

Paul was the man with cancer. The cancer was sin. Judaism was the facilty. The teachers of the law were the doctors. Paul became one of them and then discovered the Truth. Now he would do anything to help his "family", even give his own life but they won't listen...

See you tomorrow...

Simply Beautiful!


8:33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? (Satan will try but) It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? (Satan the accuser will try but) It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall (Satan will try using) tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 (But) As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
He (satan) will try and try but the headless chicken is already defeated he just hasn't completely keeled over yet.
In this life we may appear to be losing or even outright defeated but I read the end of the Story. From the ashes we will rise because the grave could not hold Him!
God is not dead and Love wins!

Romans Recap

I've been feeling the necessity for a few days to do a review and this is the perfect spot. Why? Because Paul begins verse 31 with a question that refers back to all he has said so far. So our first order of business is to review what he has been saying.
First he stated boldly that he was not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation (healing) for all who believe, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. This statement was earth shattering for 2 reasons. The first is that implying Jews need saving/healing is way outside the box since they are the chosen ones. Secondly putting the Greeks (all the "filthy" non Jews) on par with the Jews and part of God's saving plan is not just outside the box but off the map!
He then spends considerable time in chapter 1 showing how sinful we have all become (Jew and Gentile). In chapter 2 he says God's goodness is what leads us to change for the better and that He has no favourites. In chapter 3 he said we've all sinned and fallen short of His glory which is His perfect character. In chapter 4 he explains Abraham was no perfect man but God counted him as perfect because he believed. In chapter 5 he states plainly that humans may choose to die for a great man or even a good man but not Jesus. Jesus was crazy in love with us. So crazy in love that while we were still His enemies He died for us. In chapter 6 he begins the slave/free theme showing that we were slaves of sin but because of what Jesus has done we are free to stop being slaves and to serve Him instead. In chapter 7 he continues the same theme but acknowledges there is a problem. The problem is that even after we choose God with our mind, our old sin habits persist. Like a headless chicken the "old man of sin" is still running around wreaking havoc. What to do? Jesus will rescue us! Jesus is rescuing us. The process has begun. 
Then chapter 8 begins with this staggering good news! "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Now we come to verses 31 and 32:

8:31 "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
Read it. Reread it. Ask God to give you the capacity to begin to believe it. God sent His Son as a demonstration of His love. He did not wait for us to be deserving or to even ask or desire to ask. Now that He has shown His love all we have to do is choose Him. By seeing His goodness we say "God I want that. I want a heart like yours. I want to be like you". As soon as we say that, all condemnation for our sins is removed and the healing process begins. The headless chicken may run around but his death is guaranteed and so is Jesus' victory in us.
That is Paul's point. No matter how real the struggle is to die to who we were and become what He is the outcome is guaranteed. What is the only possible answer to his question? "If God be for us who can be against us?" God is fully invested in your success and mine. He staked the life of His Son on it. He can't be more invested. If you choose Him failure is not even possible. God does not fail. Abraham believed Him and the impossible happened. Will we?

He's Working It All Out

8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."

Please note what verse 28 does not say. It does not say that all good things will happen to those who love God. Far from it. Jesus said "They hated Me, they will hate you also. They persecuted Me, they will persecute you also."

Hebrews 12:2 says "who (Jesus) for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

We live in an instant gratification society. We don't want to suffer one bit or wait for anything. The least amount of discomfort and we pop a Tylenol or something of the sort. We want to buy something and rather than save up and buy later we borrow and buy now. When something is no longer "good" we throw it away and get a new one. Suffering, waiting, restoring are all becoming foreign or at least intolerable in our current culture.

Our desires are becoming our masters and we their slaves.

Jesus denied every desire that would not help His mission. His mission was to see you and I in His kingdom fully restored to the glory we had when humanity was created. A glory we can't even imagine. He knew that every sacrifice He made was helping lead to something better.

When we choose to follow Him we enter into the same path. It is true that we won't walk it as well as He did. However we need to remember that every difficulty, every sacrifice, every suffering we go through is being permitted by our Father and leading to a glorious end! He intends each of us to experience this glorious end. It is our destiny but we must choose. He is calling and for those who respond He will bring us to glory. You can bank on that. 

I Don't Know How To Pray

How can we fear or doubt with promises like this?
8:26 "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God."
Often people will tell me they don't know how to pray. I happily tell them they are right but it doesn't matter. Jesus has every detail covered. He knows we come to Him in such bad shape that not only are we not anything like the masterpiece we are meant to become but we don't even know where to start to get there. Like a drowning person that swims down thinking he is swimming up we are completely lost, confused, and disorientated. We try and pray away the very experiences God is taking us through to restore us simply because they are uncomfortable. Then we fret and doubt because our prayers are not being answered. All the while God looks past our fretting and doubts. He looks past our prayers even. He sees that in our hearts we want Him and He responds to that. Like a medical team God and Jesus and the Spirit work together to give us what we need not what we ask for.

So if you pray wrong or can't even find any words don't worry. They don't need our words. They have it all worked out. Help is on the way even when we never knew how to ask... 

Hammer Blows of Hope

Our two words for today are glory and hope.
I love to work with my hands. I especially love taking old things and making them new again or at least as close to new as my abilities allow. In my mind I have a picture of what it will be. Every cut, every hammer blow, every grinding spark, every pass with the sand paper, all of it is a step in bringing back the object of my attention to its former glory.
Glory: the word has a consistent meaning in the Bible. It refers to character. What makes God glorious is not His limitless power or boundless knowledge. Either of those attributes as great as they are could be used for unspeakable evil and harm. What makes God great and worthy of our trust and love and worship is His character. God is love and patience and gentleness and peace and kindness and generosity and honesty and loyalty and persistence and the list goes on. Every good quality you can think of is personified infinitely in Him. Men were drawn to Jesus by His character. Those who saw themselves as hopeless or unlovable found hope and acceptance in His presence.
The truth is we were created just like Him. The ravages of sin has warped and twisted our characters. Flashes of Him shine through at times but we struggle. There is a war inside of us, the character of God vs the character of satan. When we find Jesus hope springs to life. Hope not so much to "get to heaven" but hope that heaven will be restored in our very essence. That the very image of God will be reproduced in us and the internal war will be ended. Glory. Hope.
8:18 "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance."
Every trying circumstance God leads us through in this life is a hammer blow closer to glory and another evidence that we have every reason to hope. He who has begun a good work in us will carry it through to completion.
See you tomorrow 

What Is and What Will Be and Inbetween

Colour charts and rainbows are amazing for the same reason. They both contain a myriad of different colours yet each colour flows into the next in such an amazing way that you can't pinpoint where one colour ended and the next begins. 
The growth of a child is similar. Each day they remain the same as the day before. Nothing changes. However as the weeks and months pass they grow out of shoes and clothes proving they are not staying the same.

Romans 8 may seem repetitive precisely because it is. It seems nothing is changing. Read on and I'll meet you below...
8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together."
Flesh and Spirit. The person we were and the person we will be. Like the children of Israel who left Egypt we are no longer slaves yet we are not in the Promised Land either. We are inbetween. We are not babies nor are we adults. We are not what we were but we're not what we are going to be.
When I was a kid I had hockey posters on my walls in my room but in the midst of all the posters there was one I made myself. It simply said: Don't Get Lost In Inbetweenia. It was based on a book I read. The idea was not settling for starting out but never finishing.
Walking with Jesus is a life of constant imperceptible growth. Day to day nothing changes but over time if we're following His lead growth and change are inevitable.
What I love about this seemingly repetitive section is three words: adoption, fear, and heir
First of all when we choose Christ we are adopted. We were born in a land and with a nature that was against Him but He adopted us giving us all the rights and privileges of being His child. As a result we don't have to fear any more. We don't have to fear who we were or who we are or who we will be. Satan's kingdom is fear driven. Like animals we live in reaction to our fears. We don't need to be afraid anymore because we have been adopted and once adopted we are now heirs. Everything that is His is ours. His peace becomes our peace. His love our love. His strength our strength. Every thing He is is a blueprint of what we are becoming. Keep going through the land of Inbetweenia. The before and after pictures will be stunning. 

Body/Mind War

Let's define terms before bite into a new section of Romans 8.
Paul has been repeatedly using the terms flesh and mind together as well as body and spirit.
To help understand I'm going to add actions and thoughts, physical and heart
Flesh = body = actions = physical
Mind = spirit = thoughts = heart
Now read the passage and I'll meet you below... 

8:5 "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."
When we first come to Jesus or even begin to recognize we need Him the process starts in our thoughts/mind/spirit. Our mind usually begins to seek Him out because our actions/flesh/body are out of control in some way.
The section we read today describes a process, not an event, and it begins in the mind.
Can we talk about our wild kittens again for a bit to illustrate? Those kittens were cold and hungry. Both of those are physical/flesh/body issues. We fed them and put blankets out for them. As a result their thinking began to change. Complete fear changed to less fear but still lots. They ran away still when we came near but not as far. Eventually they would eat with us very close but you couldn't touch them.
Why did they run which is a physical/flesh/body/action? They ran because in their minds they were still not convinced.
The mind determines action.
Now fast forward. Three kittens live in our house now. One (Lucy) has for months. The other 2 (Tiffany and Tina) for about a month.
All three will let us hold them to some degree. All three will purr. But of the three which one(s) do you think aren't scared at all? Lucy for sure. She has lived in our love longer and it has had a deeper effect on her mind which affects her actions. Tiffany and Tina came in at the same time, siblings raised by the same mother in the same situation yet they are very different. Tiffany started purring the 2nd day we had her. Tina took almost 2 weeks to purr. She is much more timid by nature. She has required more love since there is more fear to conquer...
What is also interesting is that loud noises or a sudden movement will still cause Tiffany and Tina to run and hide but Lucy takes it all in stride.
Love conquering fear is a process. Changing our minds about God, His character, and our relationship to Him is a process. The process begins in our mind and filters to our body. Jesus said "Out of the abundance of our heart our mouth speaks". Our words and actions are a byproduct of our minds and hearts.
This is why religion is often ineffective. Too often religion works on the actions/flesh/body/physical level. It tries to work on behaviour without first working on the heart/mind/spirit/thoughts.
Those kittens did not need behaviour modification. They did not hiss and scratch and bite us because they were mean. They did it because they were afraid. They needed a change of heart and mind about us. We had to demonstrate our love to earn their affection.
Do you see it?
While we were still hissing and scratching and biting God demonstrated His love by sending His Son. This demonstration of radical love gave us pause to rethink (mind/heart/thoughts/spirit) our picture of God. The more we consider Him the more our thinking changes which leads to changes in behaviour.
If you find yourself battling wrong behaviours what you need is to spend more time considering Him. Once He has your thoughts the miraculous process of going from wild to wildly in love has begun and the best part is you are entirely His through the whole process.
Those kittens are learning to trust our love more every day but they were as much ours and safe on the first day as they will ever be.

God Still Answers Prayer

The truth is that there are some things that can't be done. Last fall we were on vacation in Pennsylvania and met some sweet people at a little church there. One of them was a young lady full of life yet dying at the same time. She was 28 years old and waiting for a heart transplant. She was dying and there was nothing she could do about it. No amount of clean eating, exercise, green smoothies, or any other health practice could change the fact she needed a new heart.
In the months following we kept in touch with her and our son Nathaniel has prayed for her every night. As time passed she grew weaker and more sick. In August her doctor told her because of the meds she was on her liver was badly damaged and now she needed a liver too.
To make a long story short on September 17 she received a liver and a heart and is doing very well. She had to get them or she would have died. For her to receive them someone else had to die.
There was nothing she could do except accept her condition, recognize her need, surrender to the care of physicians and wait for the sacrifice of another who's death would give her life.
Romans 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
See all the law could do was identify the problem. All the doctors could do for our friend was tell her what was wrong. The law is powerless to effect change.
She accepted the diagnosis and walked according to the instructions the doctors gave her. For a time things got worse but she trusted and waited. She had no power or ability to change her circumstance other than trust, obey, and wait.
Do you see how simple it is? We need new hearts too. One has died for us so that His heart can become our heart. Trust Him, follow His lead and wait. The transplant will come. Don't fall for any other plan. Don't try and cut corners or patch up the old one. Trust, follow, wait...
See you tomorrow 

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Headless Chicken Won't Last...

Let's keep this real simple today.
I choose Jesus. I experience a death and a new birth. However just like the expression "running around like a chicken with your head cut off" the "old man of sin" - the person you were before you chose Jesus - refuses to give up that easily. Like a dying chicken with no head your old nature continues to run around trying to wreak havoc. Do not allow this to trouble you. It is normal.
7:24 "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."
What satan doesn't want you to realize is that his successes here and there with causing you to relapse are completely powerless.
They have no bearing, no effect, on your standing with Jesus. You are not less married during a fight than you are during happy times. The only way to be not married is to choose to not be married anymore. If you still choose Him you have nothing to fear. He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it and in the meantime His perfect life covers your relapses. Eventually the headless chicken will collapse never to rise again.
 Jesus will complete His masterpiece because Love never fails...

We're Pregnant!

So I just finished this fascinating study where I learned that even though December 25th is not the birth of Jesus it does have huge significance. It is not the time He was born but rather the time the angel announced to Mary that she was now pregnant and Messiah was on the way.
What does this have to do with Romans 7? A lot actually. I'll never forget when my wife told me we might be pregnant. We were Christmas shopping at a mall. We got a test kit and I waited outside the washroom. She promised she wouldn't look until we could both look. She came out and we sat down on a bench. We waited until there was no one immediately around and we took a peak. There were 2 bars!!! I will never forget the feelings. It was AWESOME!
Now think about Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. His birth story began with the announcement of his conception. Zachariah and Elizabeth the same thing and so it was with Mary and Joseph. The excitement doesn't begin at birth. It begins the instant you know the baby is on the way.
Romans 7 is a struggle between death and birth. The person we were before Jesus came into our lives or before we finally chose to allow Him in is struggling not to die and the new person we are wanting to become, a person like Jesus, is struggling to be born.
Now think about it. Why do we get excited the moment we discover a baby is on the way? And think about this: When did Jesus go from being a speck in Mary's womb to being the Messiah?
Still thinking?
Now think about this: Has Jesus completed His mission yet? Has His role as Messiah been fully "signed, sealed, and delivered"? Let me give you a hint:
(Jesus speaking) "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father's house are many dwellings. I am going to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I Am there you may be also."
Now remember how important we said context is right? When did Jesus say this? Right after telling Peter and the other disciples that they would all deny Him! "You are all going to fail Me and abandon Me but don't let that trouble you. Believe in God and believe in Me..." - Jesus
Why do we get so excited when we find out a tiny microscopic seed is growing in a woman's belly? Because experience has taught us that a real living little person will soon arrive.
Are you seeing the connection yet? When we choose Jesus it is like the conception of a baby. There may be no visible evidence of change. We may seem no different than we ever were. The difference is that now we have hope. Real solid hope!
14 "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"
Who will deliver me not what will deliver me.
25 "I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Jesus will deliver us. It is a process not an event and on the days when our old nature lashes out and we feel hopeless we should not allow our hearts to be troubled. Jesus is not dead and neither is He done. He who has begun a good work in you and I WILL bring it to completion. Jesus has not completed His mission in the universe nor has He completed His work in us but He will. We need to stop looking at our lack and start rejoicing that the seed of who we will become has been planted and that new life is growing and we have MUCH to look forward to.
See you tomorrow when it gets even better!

Who Will Rescue Me?

Quite a few years ago a friend asked me if I wanted to come for a ride in his boat. We were at Pugwash for those of you who know where that it. It's on the Nova Scotia side of the Northumberland Strait which runs between Nova Scotia and PEI.
I said yes of course and soon we were cruising east across the water from the town of Pugwash. We passed our church camp and continued east. He wanted to show me a beautiful property at Fox Harbour. After passing that we came to this tiny island. I've always been fascinated by islands and this one was truly bizarre. Not a tree on it, there was one little building and hundreds of birds. The name of the island was super creative: Bird Island...
Paul stopped the boat and I was in my bathing suit so I jumped in the water and swam over to see this bizarre little island. The birds didn't attack but there wasn't much to see so I didn't stay long. I would like to know who built the tiny shack and why.
I jumped back in the water and began to swim. Instantly I knew I was in trouble. The boat was a good 100 ft or more away from the island and because of shallow water and rocks couldn't get closer. It had been so easy to swim to the island but swimming away was near impossible. You guessed it. The tide had created a strong current and I was swimming against it. I have never swam so long and so hard to go such a short distance. More than once I doubted I was going to make it.
So easy to swim with the current and so hard to swim against it...
I could break chapter 7 down into smaller bites but it really needs to be left as a whole. It deals with the role of the law, our position as Christians, and the reality of our struggle. First of all you will note right at the opening that Paul is writing to "brethren who know the law". He is writing to people in the church who know. They know all the "Thou shalt nots".
He starts out by comparing our lives to marriage. Marriage lasts as long as life lasts. When you die your spouse is no longer married and free to marry someone else. Baptism is our death and we rise free to "marry another".
See before Jesus we are all slaves "married" to our desires and thought nothing of it. Our behaviours and choices were all desire driven. Then we meet Jesus, "die" to our old lawless life and rise to a new life where we are free to live above our desires rather than be slaves to them.
Problem: the desires don't just go away. In fact Paul says they get worse. He says it's like just knowing the law makes you want to break it. For those of you who have tried dieting do you think about food more or less when you are on a diet? Exactly! It seems knowing right makes wrong even more enticing.
Then Paul describes what swimming against the current is like. "The things I want to do (keep the law) I don't do and the very things I don't want to do I do (sin). I want to get to the boat but I keep getting sucked back toward the island I'm trying to leave. I left Egypt and I want to get to the Promised land but I keep getting drawn back toward Egypt.
The struggle is real and hard and I'm losing. Who will rescue me from this mess I'm in?
See you tomorrow

Slave or Free?

Simplify, simplify, simplify. I believe in simple. Today as we finish out chapter 6 you will find the passage repetitive and a continuation of yesterday. Clearly in the church in Rome there was a problem with church members choosing Jesus but living like the devil.
The term Paul uses to describe this condition is "slaves to sin". Paul makes it sound like at baptism a switch should have flipped. Until we meet Jesus sin rules us. We submit to it's every demand. Like a crying baby we feed our lusts just to shut them up. Our body demands something and we like mindless slaves obey.

Then we become Christians and we want to live like Jesus and Jesus was not a slave to His desires. He went 40 days without food and then resisted the temptation to eat because He knew the temptation wasn't really about food. None of us can say we've been tempted to that level. We give in long before that.
So what about that switch? Before Jesus we just serve our own desires and then after we choose Jesus the switch flips and we only want to serve Him right...?
6:12 "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
I sense a lot of tension. The tension will only get worse in chapter 7. Think about this. You're a young good looking guy. You're charming. You're the life of the party. You are a ladies man. You walk into a room and an attractive brunette catches your eye. The rest of the evening becomes a pursuit. You've been down this road before. Then you meet someone. She isn't just another conquest. She takes a hold of more than your eyes and your lusts. She is the one.

 Question: Now that you have chosen "The one" and she has chosen you and you're making forever plans with her what will happen to your old habits? The next time you walk into a room will that beautiful blonde not catch your eye? Will your desire to pursue and conquer suddenly be gone? Will you only have eyes and desires for "The one"?
As Dr. Phil would say: "How's that working for you?" Yet Paul is pretty insistent and clear. We are to serve Jesus in right living and holiness and no longer be slaves to our old destructive desires.
Hmmm, the wages of sin is death. If I remain a slave I will die. However the gift of God is eternal life... gift? Present? Received not earned? Provided by someone outside myself? You mean there is a solution to my slavery but the answer is not inside me?
See you tomorrow when Paul gets real. Real honest...

What Do We Believe?

Consider these verses:
6:5 "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
There are two words we're going to pull from this passage: slaves and reckon.
Slaves because it is a theme that runs throughout the Bible. The Israelites were literally slaves to the Egyptians but they soon discovered in their new found freedom that they were slaves in their minds to fear and unbelief. Our minds are far more powerful than we realize. Proverbs 23:7 sums it up well:
You are what you believe you are and you can do or not do only what you believe is possible or impossible. The Israelites in their slavery to fear believed going into the Promised Land was impossible so they stayed in the wilderness. Had they believed it was possible they would have entered successfully.
Reckon: it comes from the Greek word logizomai. Our English word 'logic' comes from this word. Paul is saying we need to be logical and reason through what has happened. Jesus died carrying our sin, guilt, fear, and shame. When He walked out of the tomb all that stuff was gone. It was dealt with and paid for. When we get baptized we are choosing to die to who we were recognizing that because of Jesus we don't need to be that person any more. Just as Jesus came out of the tomb free and new and victorious so we are free and new in Christ. We are not slaves any more.
So what is the problem then? Why aren't we experiencing victory and freedom more? Quite simply it is because we are like this horse. We see ourselves as defeated slaves tied to a life of sin.
We had a lab/collie cross once that loved to chase cars so we had to keep him tied. The first day he was tied and a car came ran full speed toward the road and came to the end of his chain. He had so much momentum he literally flipped over himself. He was a slave to the limiting power of the chain. Soon he learned he could only go the distance of the chain and he stopped on his own.
Soon I discovered something quite amusing. I could unhook his long chain on the other end when he wasn't paying attention. The result? He would run to the end of his chain length and no further because he believed he was still a slave to it's limiting power.
What do we believe? Experience tells us we're slaves. Jesus says we're free.
See you tomorrow

If You Love Him...

The most commonly mistranslated verse in the Bible is John 14:15. It causes me to twitch every time I hear someone misquote it which in my circles is a lot. In their defense the reason is that in a few Bible translations it is not quoted accurately. The reason for this is rooted in grammar. In English we only have three verb tenses: Past, Present, Future. The new testament was written in Greek and has many verb tenses. Love is a verb. In the Greek the verb tense is accurately translated "If you LOVE me you WILL be keeping my commandments"
The difference is night and day. The mistranslation implies we need to prove or demonstrate our love by commandment keeping. The proper translation reveals that love makes commandment keeping automatic. In other words if we find ourselves breaking the commandments our problem is not that we are law breakers. Our problem is that we are not in love. Unless we understand this we approach people all wrong including ourselves. We try to modify behaviour rather then improve relationships. Let that sink in for a moment or two...
Romans 5 ended with Paul explaining that God gave the written law to the people through Moses to magnify sin so that grace would be magnified. Then chapter 6 begins this way: 6:1 "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
Paul knew that some would use his words against him to justify their own evil desires. "Hey Jesus has more grace than I have sins and my sins make his grace increase so what's the big deal about sin? The more I do it the more grace I get!"
This a convenient theology that betrays one thing. We are intensely selfish. We use God and treat Christianity as a rewards system: If I do this I will get this. Where is the love?
In true Christianity love is the motivator. It was love for us that brought Jesus to this planet in human form. It was love for us that caused him to expose for us our true heart condition. It was love for us that kept Him reaching out to us while we pushed Him away, lied about Him, attempted to defame His character and His motives. It was love for us that kept Him reaching out while we plotted His murder. It was love for us that lead Him like a Lamb to the slaughter while we cried "Crucify Him!"
Through all of it He never retaliated. He never was provoked to anger against us. Why? Because that's how love behaves. His love for us was greater than our sins against Him.
Now the deeper we explore this reality the more we will be drawn to love Him in return. Our hard hearts will melt as we see more and more of His boundless love in the face of our self obsessed hate.
If we see an opportunity to sin more so we can get more we haven't seen His love an all. We've only seen an opportunity to exploit Him for our own selfish gain and that is not love.
Next time you find yourself in a situation where you are being hurt or are doing the hurting forget about screaming injustice and talking about your rights. Work on the relationship. Build the relationship. Demonstrate to them the love you wish to see in them. Love creates love and where there is love no rules are needed.
See you tomorrow

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Close My Closet Quick!

When company is coming unexpectedly we load the closets and close the doors. Jesus wants to deal with our closed closets so there is nothing to hide...
5:20 "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
If you ever feel like your head spins a little when you read Paul's letters fret not. Here is what Peter had to say about his written art work:

2 Peter 3:15 "...and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures."
So Paul isn't always easy to understand and it is true that most of the errors that have crept into Christianity over the centuries use a twisted explanation from Paul's writings to support them.
Now back to the law. Paul says basically the law got magnified so that sin could be magnified so that grace could be magnified so that Jesus could be magnified!
I want us to consider for a moment the first sermon Jesus ever preached that we know of. It starts in Matthew 5 with "Blessed are the poor in Spirit..." and after the series of "blessed are" statements Jesus goes into a "You have been taught but I say..." In each of them he introduces a topic, states the current teaching of the church and then says what the law really means on that topic.
Let's take adultery. Adultery used to be a crime. It still is a crime on the books in many states in the USA. Adultery is when you are married and you sleep with someone who isn't your wife or husband. In Jesus' time this was a crime punishable by stoning. In some countries it still is. But Jesus had a different take on adultery. He said adultery starts in the mind. He said if you look at someone and desire to sleep with them you are an adulterer.

Riddle me this. If you were taken to heaven with the mind of an adulterer would you be happy there? If you went to heaven and still had hate in your heart would you be happy there? If you went to heaven and you were the same exact person on the inside with the same fears, anxieties, insecurities, and destructive thoughts and desires that you have now would streets of gold really make it all better?
See we have a way of painting over our real issues and making them seem not so bad. Jesus preached that sermon in such a way as to tear off the painted on smile and socially acceptable behaviour and expose the rotten floorboards and cracked foundation of our heart.
Jesus isn't mean and He isn't trying to shame us. Like a good doctor or a good mechanic or home inspector He is dealing in reality. He is exposing the problem so we will realize our desperate need for a solution OUTSIDE ourselves. Remember Abraham and Sarah? They came to the place where they KNEW having a baby was IMPOSSIBLE. We need to come to the same place. The law must be magnified so we have no more delusions that we can somehow fix ourselves. Perfection of soul is beyond us. We need grace. Grace only comes from Jesus. We need Jesus.
"This is the work of God that you believe on the One He has sent" - Jesus
Abraham believed and it was counted as righteousness. Do we believe that the same God who brought Isaac from a dead womb can create a new heart and mind in us?

See you tomorrow