Real Change

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:3-7

I was just at jail the other night, to lead a Bible study for interested women inmates.  I always pray that God would lay on my heart what to share. I’m never quite sure who is going to be there.  I can guess that a couple of the ones from the weeks before will still be in, but when I count on it, they either get switched out, or they don’t feel like coming.  But God knows.

Change was on my heart.  Plus God’s overwhelming mercy that shows up and brings about the change in our lives that we need.  If God doesn’t show up in my life to change me, I am stuck in the same old rut. And that rut doesn’t stay the same, it finds ways to get worse.  I am no different than the women in orange that I go to meet with.

I began the jail study by asking, on a scale of 1-10, to give a number of how much they really want to change–so they would never return to jail or prison, so they would be free from addiction, and so they would be with their kids again.  Each of the six ladies said it was definitely a 10. But then I said what was their reality of change score. They each said it was more like a 2 or a 3, maybe a 4. That’s why they are “boomerangs.” I have seen them again and again over the years.

Instead of lecturing them about knocking off their stupid ways, or not really wanting it bad enough, I turned to Titus 3, which God had put on my heart.  I shared how they only way we can really change on the outside is for God to change us on the inside. We are all like the description of verse 3–foolish, disobedient, and slaves to our passions.  All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God,  Romans 3:23  That’s the sin condition.  That’s why God had to send Jesus to save us.  We just can’t save ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

There is the account of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9, which we read the week before.  David hunted down anyone he could show kindness to on the behalf of his friendship covenant with Jonathan.  Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s crippled son who lived in hiding because he deserved to die when his grandfather King Saul died in battle years before.  

When the king died, they wiped out all of the sons and grandsons, so there was no claim to the throne. So when now King David found him (appeared), it was Meph’s  day of reckoning.

But instead of pronouncing Meph’s death sentence, David showed the same incredible mercy God shows us: David took Meph to Jerusalem to eat at his table as his son for the rest of his life.  No longer a death sentence, but now treated like the king’s son and living in the palace.

¤ That’s exactly what God does for us.  We have all sinned, but instead of crushing us like ants, He appears in the form of Jesus and pours goodness and loving kindness out, because of God’s mercy.  Also it is because of His covenant love for us, just like David’s covenant love that he had with Jonathan. He saves us, just like Mephibosheth was saved, and gives us a seat at His table.  It’s not because of works done by us in righteousness–we don’t earn it or deserve it.

¤ The other good news–God washes us because we are dirty because of sin.  Not just people with a rap sheet, but all of us, because all have sinned.  And not just new believers, but all of us regularly. We all need washing. Jesus told Peter at the foot washing at the Last Supper that he was clean and he just needed his feet washed (John 13:10).  So the good news for believers is that we get washed with a cleansing that lasts. It is a part of our spiritual renewal and regeneration that takes place at our new birth.

Isaiah 1:18 reads, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  We get them washed away.  And then the Holy Spirit renews us.  Again, not just once when we are born again, but all of the time.  That is good news! It is this renewing that they need to change to not keep coming back to jail again and again.  It is what I need to break my sin habits and to keep becoming who it is that He wants me to be–not the fleshly me that craves self and not the things of the Spirit.         

¤ But that renewing of the Holy Spirit is also what keeps me going in my Christian life, some fifty years after my new birth.  Psalm 103:5 promises, He satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  And Isaiah 40:31: But they who with for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.                 Image result for Titus 3:3-7

The renewing work of Holy Spirit is to keep changing me to be more like Jesus and it is to keep giving me the youth and energy that I need to enjoy life and to live it to its fullest!

¤¤I read a lot that we’re supposed to preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday.  Well, I did it at jail, and I’m doing it as I write this. The good news is that Jesus changes everything and He is changing me.  Without that I am toast. And without that x factor, so are those women that I spoke to in jail. He is the key to changing the heart and real change in our behavior and in our life.

 


Are you submitting to God, or resisting Him?

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Submit yourselves therefore to God. James 4:6b-7a 

There is a hymn by Israel Houghton, “I Surrender All,” that has these lyrics:

All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow, worldly pleasures all forsaken;  Take me Jesus, take me now; All to Jesus I surrender, Make me Savior wholly Thine; Let me feel the Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine

It is a nice song to sing at the end of a sermon, but much harder to really live out.  Let’s think about what it really means to submit to God and to be humble for a few minutes.  Submitting to God means giving up pride, self-centeredness, and pretty much anything having to do with self.  The group ‘Mercy Me’ has a song called “So Long Self,” by Bart Millard. Its lyrics hit a little closer to home:

Believe it or not but life is not apparently about me anyways; But I have met the One who really is worthy so let me say–So long self.  Well it’s been fun, but I have found somebody else, So long self.  There’s just no room for two, so you are gonna have to moveDon’t take this wrong, but you are wrong for me…

When you die to self, say ‘so long,’ that’s when Jesus really takes over.  That’s what Galatians 2:20 says, and it’s the guts of the Christian life: I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

This is where you let Jesus take over for you.  It involves submitting to God, which is a part of James’ verse.  Submitting to God means giving up your right to be right and it makes you have a teachable spirit.  You don’t shift blame when someone points out something. A blame shifter says things like, “You always point out everything I do wrong,” instead of saying, “You’re right, I need to make sure I don’t do that next time.”  

Again, someone without a teachable spirit does not receive any kind of input.  He or she might be quite adept at picking out other people’s faults, but not so able to see her own weaknesses, let alone do something about them.  She might make excuses for the obvious weakness, or place blame on someone or something else, rather than do the hard work of change.

humility is the gateway to grace.jpgOn the contrary, a humble and teachable spirit owns his faults, doesn’t shift blame, or fall apart when corrected.  Someone bent on submitting to God is able to submit to others, whether that person has his act together or not. And James tells us that when we are humble, God pours His grace on us.  

I do not want God to oppose me, but I really want Him to pour His grace on me.  James tells us the secret: Be humble. In Psalm 51:17 David wrote, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

*Image from Google Images


The Two-Edged Sword

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

I was just with a group of Christian friends and one was a youth leader.  He was talking about how he was challenging the high schoolers to memorize 1 John and he would shave his head if they did.  That’s what I thought I heard. But then he clarified. He said, “No, I will shave my head if they just memorize the first chapter.”  I said, “That’s only ten verses long.” He responded saying that he didn’t know if they would even do that, they’re teenagers.

My reply was that when I was a teen, I could recite over 800 verses by heart.  Another woman sitting there said, “Yea, but you were exceptional. But we appreciate having you around so when we need to know where something is found in the Bible, you can tell us.”  That statement has stuck with me.

memorizing.jpgIs that the only reason people think that they memorize Scripture?  If that is so, then they are missing the two edged sword that is at work in their lives.  Since then, I’ve been thinking that I need to come up with what memorizing has done in my life.  This is my list of benefits. I could elaborate on each of them with many examples, but for the sake of space, I won’t.

Memorizing:

  • Changes you.  Romans 12:2 tells us that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Ephesians 4:17-24 also talks about this process of being renewed in the spirit of our minds and putting on the new self.  I’ve known people who have been Christians for years, but their characters are untransformed. I’m guessing that they are not in the Word much.  Memorizing Scripture takes the transformation process a step deeper because it goes with you wherever you go, enabling you to meditate on that verse throughout the day.  The Holy Spirit can speak it back to you and roll it through your mind until you get it.
  • Keeps you from sin.  That’s what Psalm 119:11 says: Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.  I take that at face value.  Bringing up verses in the time of temptation just like Jesus did can send Satan packing.  Jesus said, “It is written” three times in the wilderness and Satan left. So say the verses you know out loud, not just to yourself.
  • Makes you fruitful.  Psalm 1 tells that if we meditate on the Word day and night we will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth fruit in season and out of season.  Memorizing is a way to totally meditate on verses throughout the day. The Holy Spirit is able to bring words of Scripture to your mind because they have been stored up in your mind.  The promise of Psalm 1 is that if this is the pattern of your life, you will be fruitful. In other words, you will see things happen spiritually as a result of this pattern. You will see change in your own life, whether it is bad habits broken, or good habits produced.  You will also see opportunities spring up to speak those words to others, and the desire to share Jesus with others in productive ways.
  • Makes you God’s spokesperson.  Jeremiah 15:16-19 talks about this.  Jeremiah said, Thy words were found and I ate them and they became to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.  I did not sit in the company of revelers but I sat alone because Your hand was upon me…Therefore the Lord said: ‘If you utter precious words and not worthless ones you will be as My mouth–you will be my spokesman.’  If you are like Jeremiah, spending time in intimate fellowship with God, knowing the Bible so much that you can quote it, you will be His mouth piece.  These are worthy words.

Those aren’t all of the by products of memorizing, but it’s a good start.  I know that it has kept my mind sharp. Our minds are like muscles. People say they can’t memorize, but yet they can reel off details of what they are interested in, whether it is about sports, their favorite television series that they have just binge watched, or the breed of dog that they have.  The more you use your mind muscle, the better you get with it.

So use it for the living, active and transforming Word of God that is sharper than any two edged sword and able to change your life and the lives of the people God uses you to impact.

 


I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.  For, ‘Yet a little while, and the Coming One will come and will not delay; but My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.  Hebrews 10:35-39

The title is the last lines to one of my old favorite hymns, “How Firm a Foundation.”  The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;  That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never, forsake!   (Bernhard Schumacher, 1931) The writer of Hebrews could have written that hymn.

Hebrews is filled with calls to persevere in our faith, and warnings about what will happen if we don’t.  In Hebrews 6:11 we find, We desire each of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  There the writer called them sluggish, in Hebrews 5:11 he called them “dull of hearing.”  

And the writer says, if you don’t stop drifting (2:1) and neglecting your salvation (2:3) and forsaking the assembling of yourselves together (10:25), you are going to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and fall away from the living God (3:12–13).  Those are big warnings.  If you drift, play around with sin, don’t pursue holiness, and aren’t growing in grace, this is a wake up call for what we call “carnal Christians.”  

Hebrews 10:39 tells those carnal Christians that if they shrink back in their faith they will be destroyed, causing me to discard the word ‘Christian’ from the description.  This would be a deception, perhaps causing such people to think that they could and would eventually get their acts together. In other words, that thinking would be a mark of someone who is not really saved at all.

On the faith side, for those who do not shrink back in their faith, there is great reward.  In order to do this, you will need much endurance. In other words, the Christian life is not a cake walk.  Difficult times are to be expected. Don’t think that you are going through something unusual if hard times hit because of your Christian faith.  

In Luke 21, as well as other places, Jesus told of how we will be brought before kings and governors for His name’s sake.  We will be delivered up even by parents, siblings and friends and some will be put to death.

Luke 21:19 encourages, By your endurance you will gain your lives. And Paul stated in Acts 14:22: Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.  So get your endurance gene sharpened!enduring faith

A mark of saving faith is that it endures because God will give you the grace and the strength to endure.  That is what will give you the courage to sing “I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.” We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but are of those who have faith and are preserved–no matter what.


Christ is our life

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.  Colossians 3:3-4

First of all, I read these verses over and over, trying to grasp what it means to be hidden with Christ in God.  Part of it means claiming the truths of what it means to be a child of God, like:

  • Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39)
  • Because of the blood of Jesus, I am justified, made right before God (Romans 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:11))
  • I am therefore a friend of God (John 15:15)
  • My eternal destiny is in Heaven and is secure (John 3:16; 5:24; Jude 24; John 10:28)

I could go on and on!  That lifts my spirits just thinking about all of the things that are mine because I am in Christ.  What I really wanted to write about today is that Jesus is my life, and what that means. It’s all connected.

This summer we “cut the cord” on Direct TV, which has been a good thing all on its own.  We still have Amazon Fire Stick, but the only thing I’ve really watched all summer has been Christian speakers on Youtube.  It’s been really edifying. I was watching a talk by Paul Tripp (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9S7fgW8XVw) that really got me thinking about Colossians and Jesus being my life in a deeper way.  If you get time to watch it, it is really good. So most of the thoughts of this study are the ideas from Paul Tripp’s talk.

In Mark 6:45-52 there is the account of Jesus putting the disciples into a boat to go across the Sea of Galilee.  He didn’t get into the boat with them, and a storm blew up. He put them into the boat by themselves, knowing a storm was coming.  Why? To build their faith.

“Faith isn’t natural.  Worry is, envy is, doubt and anger are, but faith isn’t.  That’s why God has to take us outside of our comfort zones to produce in us what doesn’t come naturally to us.  He has to take us where we don’t want to go to produce in us what we can’t achieve on our own. That’s grace. It’s not the grace of relief.  It’s the grace of refinement–it’s uncomfortable grace. Often the grace of God comes in uncomfortable forms because that’s just what we need.”  Paul Tripp

Then Jesus really blew them away by walking on the water to the boat.  They thought it was a ghost.  He stood next to the boat. He spoke to them and said, Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid. And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded.  Mark 6:49-51  

*When you are in the middle of something terrifying, what do you say to yourself about God?  They said, “It’s a ghost.” No–it was Jesus. It showed that they just didn’t get it.

*Who do you talk to the most?  It is yourself.

Watch what you say to yourself about God, and watch what you say to yourself about yourself.  Think about it. Think about the last time you were in a jam–what did you say to yourself about you?  And what did you say to yourself about God? Were they good things? Were they faith things? Or were they things that cut like a knife, words that were so bad that no one else would ever dare say those things to you, or out loud say them about God?

Look at Mark 6 and see what Jesus said to the disciples.  He didn’t say: “Get out of the boat you imbeciles! I’m getting 12 different guys who are smarter.”  No–He said, “Don’t be afraid, it is I.” “It is I” is a variation of “I am.” In other words, “I AM” is here.  I AM has invaded your life with grace.  This is what I must say to myself. I am not in this alone because my life has been invaded by the great I AM and it has changed everything.

Don’t forget who you belong to, who has invaded your life and who you belong to.  Stop with the negative talk, the worry, doubt, anger and fear! It hurts you, and it hurts others.  You end up saying those things to others that are close to you as well, like your spouse or your children.

Suppose you got a really cool gift, but you were more taken with the gift wrapping than with the gift.  Don’t just be happy with the box and not the amazing gift of grace. Don’t be content with just a little bit of Jesus or of Bible knowledge, a small dose of worship, or a small adventure with this life of faith.  

Grab a hold of this AMAZING GRACE with both hands, saying with your life: I love this Jesus isn't a small partgift.  It is my life. I am blown away.  This is who I am and I AM has invaded      every inch of my life.  

When Christ who is my life appears, then I will appear with Him in glory.

 


Christ my energy

To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.  Colossians 1:29

Years ago one of our kindergarten teachers came out of her classroom cracking up with laughter.  It was early in the first month of school and she was trying to practice with the kids how to write their first names legibly.  One of the littlest boys, Jake, kept his head close to the paper and was mumbling and wouldn’t look up. The teacher kept asking what he was saying, and he just kept mumbling.  But she kept asking, “Jakie, what was that?”

Finally, he lifted his head, looked at her and pronounced loudly, “Mrs. Hoel, I suck at this.”  

That’s basically what God wants us to say, sooner rather than later.  He wants us to give up on ourselves so we utilize Jesus’ power and energy, which is limitless–not our own, which is pea sized.  Allow me to elaborate…

Struggling with all His energy.  This is really revolutionary.  Usually it is not until we come to the end of ourself that we discover this truth, if at all.  The quicker you realize that you cannot do something, perhaps the quicker you can fall into Jesus’ arms and say, “You do this–I am spent (or I am a failure, or I NEED YOU).”  Isn’t that what John 15:5 wants us to say? I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from ME you can do nothing.

I have mentioned the book by V. Raymond Edman They Found the Secret (Clarian Classic, 1960) earlier.  One of the testimonies in the book is by a man, Major Ian Thomas.  He had given his life to Christ at the age of 13 and to missionary service at 17 and then for seven years ago set about to a flurry of activity for Jesus.  He travelled and spoke of Jesus wherever he could, “buzzing around every holiday, every spare moment” with any evangelistic activity going on. All of this was out of a sheer desire to win souls.

The only problem was that nobody was converted.  The more he did, the less happened. Finally one night Ian sunk to his knees in a fit of despair, asking God to tell him why he was a hopeless failure.  “This was the moment God had been waiting for; seven weary years He had watched me running round and round in the wilderness! I heard His voice: To me to live is Christ…I am the way, the truth, and the life…When Christ who is our life shall appear, then we shall appear with Him in glory, to me to live is Christ!

What God revealed to Ian Thomas that night is what we all need to learn: “You have been busy trying to do for Me all that only I can do through you.  Now supposing I am your life, and you begin to accept it as a fact, then I am your strength!  

You have been pleading and begging for that for seven years.  I am your victory in every area of your life, if you want it.”  

Ian left his room after that night a changed man.  He left with a “sheer cold-blooded faith, that Jesus was His life, his victory, his strength, his power and his future.”  He began to see people come to the Lord all over the place. The striving had ended and he finally found joy and peace. (pages 165-171)

It might look different applied to your life.  Everybody has different circumstances. But everyone needs to make a choice each day: Am I going to live today in my own strength, using my own wisdom, my own resources, my own choosing?  Or, do I start each day with prayer and Bible study, knowing that apart from God I can really do nothing?

–Knowing that all kinds of things could happen today that are out of my control, but aren’t out of God’s perview.  –Knowing that I only look on the outward appearance of people but God looks at the heart. –Knowing that I could easily get deceived by other people, or taken advantage of, and knowing that people’s hearts are really desperately wicked.  –Knowing that if someone that’s driving in an oncoming car could be texting or swatting a fly and veer into my lane. –Knowing that I could think I’m making a good choice but it’s really not a good one for some reason. –Knowing that I’m exhausted and I just got up and I have twenty things to do today.  –Knowing that my spouse keeps randomly exploding and I don’t know what it is that is going on deep inside…

Jesus, would you be my energy, my wisdom, my strength, my victory, my peace, my rest?  I want to live each day with Your energy, and thus be victorious, fruitful, joyful, resting and abiding in You.  

overcoming.jpg

 


Accepting Christ is just the beginning

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  Colossians 1:23; 2:6-7 NIV

This is just my pet peeve, so allow me to get it off my chest.  Then maybe I can move on from it. I can’t tell you how many sermons I have sat through that the application point is, “So, if you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, now would be a great time to do that…”  I am not against pressing for a decision when the gospel is preached, don’t get me wrong. Repentance and faith in Christ are a big deal, not just for those who have never placed their trust in Jesus, but for all of us.

Here is where I struggle:  I want the application points to be brought to the point of growth, not just to stop at accepting Jesus.  Parents don’t just have babies and say, “Well, my job is done. You’re on your own now kid.” No, that would be absurd.  Birthing a child is just beginning. So it is with the Christian faith. Now it is time to continue in our faith, to be established and firm, to be rooted and built up in Jesus.  We need to help each other learn how to be established and firm in the faith, and to put our faith into practice.

The “Great Commission” verses of Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe (obey) all that I have commanded you.  The whole idea of making disciples reaches beyond simply making a decision for Christ.  The application points of sermons then should reflect what it looks like to be established and firm, rooted and built up in Christ, strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Grow.png

 

With that in mind, the following are some of my application points of what that would look like:

  1. Established and firm.  Hebrews 12:1-2 urges, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  There are a few things in that passage.  One is that being established and firm means to get rid of any known sins and weight in our life.  No sin habits, no hidden sins, no bad habits, no questionable things–put them aside. This Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint.  It calls for endurance. Just like a die hard runner has a whole different lifestyle (no sweets, early morning runs, geared for the long haul), so must we be.  
  2. Not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus.  That is one way to stay steadfast and strong. Encouragement is another way of staying the course.  Hebrews 10:24-25 states, Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  The root of encourage is courage.  We meet together to give courage to one another.  Sermons are a way of speaking courage into the body of Christ, to say “Stay strong and don’t give up–you are on the right track.”  The more we see evil amping up in our society, the more we need to depend on this because the more outnumbered we will be.
  3. Rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.  Psalm 1 is a marvelous psalm that gives the contrast between the one who does not stand in the way of sinners and the one that does. His delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law does he meditate day and night.  And he will be like a tree planted by the streams of waters that brings forth its fruit in its season.  Its leaf does not wither and in all that he does he prospers.  The godly feeds on the Word of God, delights in it, and his roots go down deep.  When the storms come, he stands strong. He bears fruit. “As you were taught,” connotes that this grounded person takes advantage of godly teaching, which includes Sunday school, regular church attendance, small groups and personal Bible study.  “And in all he does, he prospers.” That’s a promise of a blessing.
  4. And overflowing with thankfulness.  In Romans 1:21, Paul wrote that when things fell apart being unthankful was to blame: For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  It is the start of the downward spiral.  On the opposite end, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul commands: give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  If you want to know God’s will in your life, start by giving thanks in all of your circumstances.

My application is this:  Take a look at these four areas and pick a couple of things, maybe just one to work on.  If you have been grumbling a lot lately, pick #4 and list out all of the things you have to be thankful for and start giving thanks.  If you have some sin habits you need to shed, get rid of them now. Ask God to search your heart and spotlight what it is that is grievous to Him and hurting you.  

May you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, established and firm, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness!

 


From Alienated to Reconciled

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation–Colossians 1:19-22 NIV

The story of the Bible starting in Genesis is that man was created to be with God.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the evening. What fellowship, what perfection.  Then sin entered, disrupting that bliss. And boom! Separation, alienation, sin, finger pointing, blame, toil and pain.  Genesis 3:15 contains a promise that one day someone from Eve’s seed would come and crush Satan’s head. It’s been a long time in waiting…

The best news in all the world is that our alienation from God is ended and we are reconciled to the King and the Judge of all of the universe and of all time. God sent His Son, His only begotten Son Jesus, the One who would contain all of the fullness of Him in bodily form to come and be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  In dying on the cross, shedding His blood, Jesus made peace. The result: God is no longer against us, but for us. His wrath is satisfied. How can it be?

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things.  That is what gave Jesus the authority to reconcile everything to Himself when He died on the cross.  When He shed His blood on the cross, He brought peace to everything and to everyone that was totally alienated from God.

When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, it alienated humanity from God, nature from God, humanity from each other, and humanity from ourselves.  That’s why we need counseling. We can’t even get along with ourselves. Romans 8:19 says that even creation is awaiting its redemption. It was thrown off by sin too.  Jesus came to bring reconciliation to all parties by shedding His blood on the cross.

Once we were alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior.  That’s why people can’t stand Christians, can’t stand church, and can’t stand the name of Jesus.  It is really because they are enemies of God because of their sin. They don’t know that. John 3:19-20 tells us that men (and women) love the darkness because their deeds are evil.  That causes them to hate the light.

Some people can’t stand the idea of the Biblical God, so they just make up their own God.  They imagine God to be the way they would like Him to be, which is heavy on loving and very light on judging, except for the people that they don’t like.

But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.  Reconciliation Col 1-19involves a change in the relationship between God and man.  There has been a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of peace and fellowship.  2 Corinthians 5:18 says that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ.  And now the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  It is all because of the blood of Jesus.  

Now we are found to be holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  In a jail Bible study, a woman said, “I am nothing but an old junkie.”  I said with a fiery determination, “You are not!” She said, “That’s what I feel like.  That’s how people treat me.” She has called out to Jesus to save her. She is earnestly attempting to leave her life of drugs behind her, but still has relapses.  

I took her and the other women to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor adulterers..nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We were all washed, sanctified and justified by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit of our God.  We are not old junkies, we are not just ‘sinners saved by grace,’ or anything else that would minimize this reconciled, changed and empowered position.  We are washed and clean, friends of God, ready for action!

*Picture from Google Images

 

 

 


First things first

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead that in in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  Colossians 1:15-18

When I was in college there was this cult, “The Way International,” that was sweeping the campus.  This was in the late 70’s, so it was a while ago. They would prey on vulnerable students with the pick up line, “Do you want abundant life?”  Then they would invite them to a weekend retreat for $250 and brainwash them. Their main book was “Jesus Christ is NOT God.”

Two gals on my dorm floor were getting sucked in.  They hadn’t gone to the weekend retreat because they didn’t have $250, but they went to their so called Bible studies.  I kept saying, “It’s a cult. Get away.” I was like 19, so not a fully developed brain…I went with them to one of their meetings.  Of course, people from “The Way” drove and it was a snaggly route all over the city, in the dark. They went through this programmed Bible study, so to speak, and sang a couple of strange hymns, and one of the people spoke in tongues of some sort.  As soon as the meeting part was over they broke out wine and started downing it, which I thought was strange.

The other two young women and I were the only non-groupies in this apartment.  I was sitting on the floor chatting when one of the leaders asked me what I thought about the study.  I launched into a complete monologue about why Jesus had to be God, not taking a breath because I knew they would break in and this was my only chance.  The person who asked me was standing and I was sitting. He snapped his fingers and within seconds the whole group was standing encircled around me.

I kept talking, going through Colossians 1, John 1 and Hebrews 1.  Then I went through Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8 and Romans 6:23. As soon as I finished, they nodded silently not saying a word.  No one spoke a word in response. We were there for at least another half an hour and no one talked to me, only to the other two students with me.  As I look back, I’m fortunate that we got home that night! The good news is that the two young women that came with me joined my dorm Bible study and quit going there, which was my intent.

Colossians 1 proclaims the glorious truth that Jesus Christ IS God and He is the king and Lord of the universe.  After Jesus rose from the grave, He was alive on the earth for 40 days. He then ascended into Heaven.

He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high and from there He upholds the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).  Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, Hebrews 1:3 words it that He is the exact imprint of His (God’s) nature.  

Moving on in Colossians 1 it says For by Him all things were created.   In other words, Jesus created everything.  John 1:3 tells us the same thing: All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.  So get this “Mother Nature” thing out of your vocabulary.  It is a slap in the face to Jesus every time you say it! He made everything and is behind what takes place in nature.  In Him all things hold together.

All things were created for Him.  Everything, even Satan and demons.  They were created to bring glory to Jesus.  Have you ever thought of it that way? They are under Jesus’ authority, so whether we can wrap our minds around it–they are Jesus’ pawns.  World leaders were created for Jesus, mosquitos were, everything.

Jesus is the head of the church.  If we diss the church, then we are disrespecting the head of the church, which is Jesus.  The church is the agent which God has chosen to carry His great name and to fulfill the great commission.  It is not perfect, but it has a perfect head. Ephesians 1:22-23 tells us, God placed all things under Jesus’ feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.  

foam fingerSo that in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  You wouldn’t say to your spouse, “You’re in my top five.”  Same with Jesus. Jesus must be our number one. If you put Him first, according to Matthew 6:33, everything else will fall into place.  I’ll never forget when the Arizona Cardinals won the Super Bowl and they stuck the microphone in front of Kurt Warner asking him how he did it.  He said, “First things first. I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He now has a ministry called “First things first.”

That should be all of our taglines.  

 


By Your blood You ransomed people from every tribe

For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering.  For My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts.  Malachi 1:11

Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  Revelation 5:9

Back story: I live sandwiched between two Native American reservations.  When I  moved here just over 25 years ago, I cried out to God that a Gospel witness would be raised up with the Native community.  It seemed so dark.  The longer I’ve been here, the more I have seen the darkness grip the lives of families in the school system, and more closely in the lives of women I am able to personally interact with about Jesus in the County jail.

thumb_IMG_1683_1024.jpgOver 75% of the women that I have met with over the past 18 years at the jail have been Native.  So many are gripped with addictions, mainly alcohol and meth, but also heroin.  They study the Bible in jail, but once they get out, they fall so quickly back into the old party ways.  And then they are back in jail again, or prison.

Last fall the outreach committee from our church began to dream and plan to bring in a group from Minneapolis, the “Heart of the City” Band.  A woman on the committee heard the leader share their story on the radio about how the group had been going to reservations in South Dakota and God had been using them to reach the Native Americans with the good news of Jesus.

The leader, Dan Adler is a gifted song writer,  just “happens” to be from this area.  He grew up just down the road from the one reservation and learned to play the guitar in the tiny church down the road from the reservation where we have held prayer meetings in years past that God would raise up a Native church.  I called Dan, a cold call, and said: “Dan, come home.”  I explained how we have a heart to see the Natives reached just like he told of how they were reaching the ones in South Dakota.

He has written music with Native flute and drumming music and one of the ladies in the group is a Native American who God has rescued from a life of bondage to drugs and trauma from an early age.  She has a powerful testimony.

2FA6C4F9-AB68-466D-95C6-EE8136550566

Last weekend, our dreams came to fruition.  The multicultural “Heart of the City” band did a two hour concert on the tribal grounds amphitheater, powerfully and beautifully proclaiming the truth of the Gospel to the land that Jesus is Lord and the one true way to God.  They proclaimed healing to this land and to their hearts because of the Jesus way.  Jesus is not a white Jesus or a black Jesus, or a Native Jesus.  On earth He was from the small tribe of Judah, in Israel.  But He is for all people everywhere.

This was to a place where this has never been done!  About 150 people were there.  While not many Natives were in attendance, this was a first fruits, a leading out in worship.

In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat and all of Judah faced an attack from the Moabites and the Ammonites.  He called out to God, who told him not to be afraid or dismayed, “For the battle is not yours but God’s,” vs. 17.  All of Judah bowed in worship to the Lord and praised God in holy attire.  And when they began to sing and praise the Lord, God set an ambush against the attackers.  The two opposing forces turned on each other and they were routed.

There were so many spoils that it took three days to carry it all off.  On the fourth day they assembled in “The Valley of Berucah” which means the Valley of Blessing, for they blessed the Lord (really, the Lord blessed them).

So Jehoshaphat led the battle simply by worshipping and God did the work.  “The battle is not yours but God’s.”  The battle for the hearts and lives of the Native peoples is not ours, but it is God’s.”

The weapons we fight with are not of the flesh but have divine power to demolish strongholds.  2 Corinthians 10:4  May strongholds be demolished because mighty weapons of mass destruction were dispatched last night!

May this lead the way for a harvest of souls amongst the people of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians.

This is one of their songs:“We Speak Life” Heart of the City”

Check it out!  It’s a powerful song.