Monday, May 31, 2010

The Danger Of Drifting

Here's a post from a terrific writer, Steve McVey. You may access his blog (which I highly recommend) at http://www.gracewalkministries.blogspot.com/. Have a look!


My wife, Melanie, and I love to sail. Years ago we took classes and were certified to skipper a sailboat. One of the things we learned was to determine our course using a protractor and a chart. One important thing about sailing is that if you plan to go a long way, you’d better be sure you aren’t off course a few degrees when you begin. If you are, you’re going to end up in big trouble later. A few degrees off course in the beginning doesn’t look too serious, but the problem is that, the longer you sail, the further you move away from your intended destination.

It doesn't seem to make a big difference if you’re off course a little when you start, but as you move along your journey, you get further and further away from where you wanted to go. The same is true in our grace walk. When our eyes were opened to the gospel and we began to follow Christ, that wasn’t the finish line, but was the starting point of our journey.

Paul begins all his epistles with the word "grace" because that is where we have to start if we want to end up where our hearts long to be and where our Father has determined to be our destination. If you start your Christian life at the point of grace and you move forward, charting your course by grace, you will move further and further into the waters of abundant living.

If, on the other hand, you start from a place of grace, but you begin to drift toward legalism, you will most certainly end up in a place of frustration and defeat in your life. Many have started well, but drifted away from a grace walk and have found themselves in the troubled waters of legalism.

I actually got lost at sea once because I got off course. We were in the British Virgin Islands and my plan was to go around the tip of Virgin Gorda from one side of the island and stop at a beautiful bay on the other side. It didn't work out that way and for hours and hours we saw no land at all. When I finally spotted land again, I couldn’t figure out where I was because I had completely lost my bearings. Eventually, I made contact with a cruise ship whose captain sent the Coast Guard to rescue us.

I started well, but drifted off course. The same thing has happened to many who follow Jesus. A man at the conference where I spoke this past weekend said to me, "I didn't have to be taught grace when I first trusted Christ. That's how I naturally lived. I had to be taught legalism. Then the things I had done in the beginning because I wanted to became things I should do and that's when it all unraveled."

He's right. It made me think of Paul's words to the Galatians when he said, "You started out well. How has hindered you?" Staying on course with grace must be intentional because the current of religion always pushes against grace. Let us set our course by the love and grace of the Father and be careful not to drift away from Him into a religious lifestyle.

It can't be stated any better than the writer of Hebrews said it: "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away" (Hebrews 2:1).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rest & Trust

Here in the states we're enjoying a long weekend. You may know that means things get a little more relaxed around here.

So here's a little video of "someone" realizing that the illusion of control is just that--an illusion. We're made for Him, and realizing that means rest and trust, no matter the circumstance.

Right?

video

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Fuel Of Service

Nowadays we commonly measure ourselves by the amount and quality of our service but rarely by the enjoyment of our friendship with our Friend. If service to God has become a grinding drudgery, the antidote is not more service or less--it's a renewal of friendship with God.

Serving God is a high calling--friendship with God is not the cost but the fuel.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Catastrophe Avoided--Barely

It's the weekend, which means it's time for a little more fun than usual.

The following video has truly incredible footage of people narrowly avoiding catastrophe. I think its name, "The Luckiest People On Earth" is about right. You'll enjoy it.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

No Longer Flesh Bags, Pt. 5 (Conclusion)


In concluding my series about the flesh, I want you to consider another angle on the gift of Jesus, one indispensable for you and me.

When you received Jesus, you received the gift of everything you want to be—the best of it all. That’s really His gift to you.

Think of some of the ways you want to be: more loving, more joyful, more faithful, more self-controlled, more patient, more kind, more gentle, more peaceful, . . . more better. Have you ever asked God to make you more like one or two or maybe all of those? I have. Maybe you too.

But where did you look after you asked God? Did you look at yourself? Did you start a self-improvement vigil and regimen? That’s what I’ve done, and when I didn’t see what I wanted to see, I eventually stopped asking. And gradually, I stopped expecting.

Here’s my point: can you believe that all of the way you want to be, all of it, is the gift of Jesus?

Some of the best news of my life is that I don’t have to become anything more than I am right now, I’ve only to believe everything I want is in the gift of Jesus. It’s all there. It’s Him. Really.

Want to be more loving? Follow your desire to know Jesus and He’ll give you His love for others. Want to be more joyful? Ask Him to be that way in you. Soon there will be no room for Grumpy Gus or Gloomy Glenda. Short on the faithfulness scale this year? Ask the Spirit to produce Jesus’ faithfulness in you. You’ll be amazed. Lacking in self-control? Talk with Jesus about how much you want Him to do that in you – He will. In other words, pay attention to receiving the Gift, to knowing and enjoying the Gift, and He will pay attention to being in you everything you want.

Every way you want to be – He’s all that.

I know it sounds simple. But if you and I can grow in receiving from Jesus all that He is, if we can raise our expectation of what the Gift can do for us and in us, we’ll walk by the Spirit and not fulfill the desires of the flesh.

And for me, that’s it. That’s my hope – Jesus in me. That’s where the Gift is in every Christian. It’s incredibly satisfying to find Him there.

Have a look.

No Need To Hide

If the grace of God means anything it’s that, in light of what God thinks He has done for us and to us through Christ, we walk together in humility, without competition or condemnation, and without feeling ashamed into a cover up. Trusting God together with ourselves—who we are, what we’ve done and what we’ll be—means a love affair, grand and reckless. It’s like leaving a dark cave of isolation for the freedom of sunlight. It’s risky! But it’s living.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

No Longer Flesh Bags, Pt. 4


(This is part four of a series, “No Longer Flesh Bags.” Below, we continue from last week…)

Luther Price wrote: “Be what you is, not what you ain’t; ‘cause if you ain’t what you is, you is what you ain’t.” In other words if you believe you are something (the flesh) when, in fact, you are not, the life you live will be a false one. You won’t live as you really are and have become because you’ll believe you’re something else; you’ll live as you ain’t.

This is why we must be very careful about imploring Christians to surrender because it's likely that they hear a false message when we do. Rather, we should encourage them to believe and to offer themselves to God, who now lives in them. While it’s true that we have flesh, that isn’t us, not anymore, neither does the flesh surrender to God’s commands. Paul wrote that the fleshly mind “is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Rom 8:7-9 NAS, italics mine.) Now that you have been reborn and belong to God, “you are not in the flesh”! You’re no longer found there! You’re “in the Spirit”! And you’re of the Spirit!

This is why, falsely identifying ourselves, whenever we implore ourselves to surrender, we add fuel to the false fight! If I believe that part of me which seems stubborn and reluctant to offer itself to God is me, then I’ve believed the flesh is me and I’ll see to command its surrender. Yikes! No wonder we can never seem to do it.

“Now, look here, flesh – I’m serious! I’ve had it with you and your terrible rule in my life, so I’m ordering you to cease your efforts immediately. You must no longer produce all that lousy, ugly stuff you’ve long pumped into my life – no more of that! Further, you must submit to daily prayer and Bible reading and like it! You hear me?! Surrender! I mean it!”

Twisted in my belief, I will invariably be twisted in my efforts. The way out of the twist is to live by faith and rightly identify the monster. Paul said that if he sinned, it was not him sinning; who was it? The monster! The flesh, through Paul! That which Paul used to be, but was no longer, ever since he had been remade and given life.

The following describes our hope:

11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Rom 8:11-14 NAS, italics mine.)

You’re no monster – you’re a son! And you have the Spirit of God, and you have life. Because this is so, you may now happily put to death the ugly and awful deeds of the flesh.

When sin is evident in my life it isn’t the evidence that I am still seriously sinister, nor is it what I truly want to do. Sin is now a fleshly compulsion through the mental and emotional faculties of my body to harken back to empty days of long ago by rejecting dependence upon God in order to do something else. Empty stumblings.

Now, what do we do with this? If I offend you, I’ll say something like, “I’m sorry I did that to you…” But, I’ll know from where it came. If I don’t apologize to you and own the offense, then I’m irresponsible and our relationship will be impaired. After all, the behavior came through me – I am responsible. However, if I do not accurately identify the producer of the behavior, I’ll be blaming the wrong thing, most likely the devil or me, and I’ll be boxing the air.

But that’s not for you…not anymore. You’re better off than you think.

Friday, May 14, 2010

No Longer Flesh Bags, Pt. 3


(Don't miss this. What follows is part 3 of my series, “No Longer Flesh Bags.” I pick up with the last paragraph of part 2.)

With centuries of practice it is now common for men and women to live by the flesh and call it normal – it’s all they know because it’s all they have. But get alone with someone and they might admit that life isn’t at all satisfying and that it doesn’t work. You and I know it’s because, having been designed for something more, all they have is flesh. They’re left to walking “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God,…” (Eph 4:17,18 NAS)

No one can live like that.

Living without God’s life is impossible; it’s a caricature, a perversion and cruel joke of life. It’s the sad lot of Pinocchio, who, while walking and talking and interacting with the world around, had not life. That he one day realized it was the gift of an irresistible itch.

For us, Pinocchio’s itch is answered in Christ - thank God. Since Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life,” made His entrance into us, we’re not flesh bags anymore! "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6 NAS, italics mine.) Jesus has successfully made us spirit, new creations now filled with God, now filled with life! Remember? That’s why He came in the first place, “that you might have life.” (John 10:10; 1 John 5:12)

While I know who and what I was born - a pagan-natured flesh bag - I know who and what I have been born a second time – a godly-natured spirit, a son filled with life. Where at one time I was by nature an object of wrath (Eph 2:3), I have become by nature an exalted son! (Eph 2:6) What a miracle.

You and I know that while I still have a monster (flesh), and can walk in the manner of a monster (by the flesh), I am not a monster! I have an enemy, but I am not an enemy of God; the enemy is not me. God has a problem, but it is not me. I am not God’s problem anymore. Without making excuse for sin (more about that next time) if I believe I am the problem, if I believe I am the reason for my stumbling, for my sinning against God and against you, I am deceived. (And the natural course of deception is that I’m off course but don’t know it.) I’ll usually make war on sin, which, in my thinking, usually means I make war on myself. If I think “I’m bad,” or “I’m the problem,” then where does my attention and where do my efforts go? Right at me…or the “me” I think I am. And that forces me into a double life.

Luther Price wrote: “Be what you is, not what you ain’t; ‘cause if you ain’t what you is, you is what you ain’t.” In other words if you believe you are something (the flesh) when, in fact, you are not, the life you live will be a false one. You won’t live as you really are and have become because you’ll believe you’re something else; you’ll live as you ain’t.

And that’s a mess. But you’re no mess. You’re better off than you think.

(To be continued.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No Longer Flesh Bags, Pt. 2


(This is part 2 of a series I began yesterday, “No Longer Flesh Bags.” Because we endure terrible struggles and behavior, I am writing to help you identify where they come from, why they’re there, and what to do about them. I hope you’re helped. – Ralph)

(Continuing from yesterday…)
From that terrible day when Adam and Eve passed through the gates of the paradise that was Eden and began their lives in a comparative wasteland, man has become well acquainted with flesh. Having been born into a dependent, life-giving relationship with God, Adam and Eve were blessed with many of the qualities and characteristics which made up the “image of God” (Gen 1:26-28). With the life of God as his life, man was to steward the garden surroundings as God would.

But when Adam chose to do things differently, independently, he and his wife were banished to a quasi life of independence from God, an existence without real life.

God is life – He gets it from nowhere else. Everything He does erupts with life. When Adam and Eve were severed from life, they were left to do what they could with what they had left – mortal flesh. In a sense, they were left on their own, which is how they tragically became “like God,” with only the life (if it could be called life) they could muster by themselves.

Those first steps on the other side of the gate were the initial stumblings of empty mankind. The sudden realization of what they lost has echoed throughout history, inducing every relative of Adam and Eve to make something of life without life, to make a fallen existence work.

That’s the flesh. Still bearing Gods’ image, man has what David Needham (Birthright) calls an "unbendable bent" to fail at making life work because he has nothing with which to pull it off. No matter how good a working man or woman looks, regardless of what they do for their kids and their community or how well they plan for their retirement, they are without life; they are dust, mere bags of flesh.

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
(Gen 3:19 NIV)

Regardless of what it does, neither dust nor flesh can make any boast before God (1 Cor 1:25, 29; Isaiah 55:9). As an example, think of Solomon. Now there’s a man who did it all and had it all. Plus, since he had more brains than anybody else, he could figure out what more he could do, or what more he could have better than us all. And what did he conclude? Futile.

From Solomon himself:

1 I thought in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 "Laughter," I said, "is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?" 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly-- my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. 4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well-- the delights of the heart of man. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. 10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. 17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11;17 NIV)

Without life, without God, Solomon’s days were empty, not of activity, but of meaning and satisfaction. As it is with most of us, it took him a while to make sure. In the end, Solomon was miserable, and apart from God, we are, too.

Quoting the Psalmist, Paul writes of the wretched state of man:

10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12 NIV)

“Worthless.” “Not even one.” Ouch. It’s not easy to admit, is it?

Try posting “You And I Are Worthless” as a bumper sticker on your car (or maybe on your neighbors’) and see what happens! With centuries of practice it is now common for men and women to live by the flesh and call it normal – it’s all they know because it’s all they have. But get alone with someone and they might admit that life isn’t at all satisfying and that it doesn’t work. You and I know it’s because, having been designed for something more, all they have is flesh. They’re left to walking “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God,…” (Ephesians 4:17,18 NAS)

No one can live like that.

(To be continued…)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No Longer Flesh Bags


I am saddened.

A friend has fallen to sinful cravings and doings. Why? His flesh got the best of him.

And the flesh gets the best of us whenever any of the following is true:
· we begin to believe fleshly desires come from our selves
· we begin to believe fleshly behaviors come from our selves
· we begin to focus upon obedience and good works, rather than upon knowing Jesus
· we begin to fight ourselves
· we stop living by the Spirit as the spirits we have become.

I have written and spoken about this before, but it bears repeating: the awful thoughts and desires, as well as the sinful behaviors of your life do not come from you, but from the flesh. And you are not the flesh.

The “flesh” (a word the NIV unfortunately translates “sinful nature”) is mortal man on his own, separate from the life of God, and bent upon living independent from Him, a condition and trait that you and I inherited from Adam. It pushes us to have an opinion different from His and to follow it, the flesh presses us to do anything apart from what He would counsel us to do, and it induces us to look anywhere but to Him for the power to live in our day. The flesh can make us look good (Paul writes about how great he looked while under its’ influence in Phil 3), and it can make us look bad (he also wrote to the Galatians about the ugly fruit of the flesh, which included sexual immorality, envy, rage, etc.). The problem isn’t only what we do, it’s that we do it without the power and life of God. So, either way, looking good or looking bad, it’s flesh.

Before we received our new selves and became spirit, before we became new creations, all we could do was flail away at life, mere flesh-bags without any life. That’s how we lived – no choice because we had nothing else.

How did that happen?

(To be continued…)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day


It's my second without my mother, who is spending this one with God. I even have moments when suggested guilt slaps at me for not calling her. And then I remember--she left for home in June, 2008.

Do you suppose they celebrate Mother's Day in heaven? Probably not, but if they do, I'll bet it's all about God in a way that makes perfect sense of it.

You know—it was He who gave mom’s radar, eyes in the back of their head, a mother’s prerogative, insight, discernment, motivational skills, fashion sense, providential giving, wisdom, the silent treatment, and loads and loads of love.

See? A lot like God.

My mother loved me tons. It was obvious and I’m thankful.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Quote of the Day


(In this quote from the final chapter, two friends are talking about a growing awareness of God and what that has meant regarding their experiences.)

"You had this incredible hunger to know God and follow him. But you also wanted to be circumstantially secure and well-liked. Those just aren't compatible with following him. We are safe because he is with us, not because our circumstances are easy, and trying to get everyone to like you only made you less a person than God made you to be. When you started following what God put in your heart, the other kingdom had to collapse. It was inevitable if not enviable. It is never easy watching people go through it."

(I have been posting quotes from Wayne Jacobsen’s and Dave Coleman’s book, “So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore.” If you like what you’ve been reading here, you will find their book at your local Christian bookstore, at Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Quote of the Day

(While discussing why Christians gather together, a flock of geese flies over, providing an illustrative moment.)

“. . . Jesus is always gathering his flock to himself. People from all over the world are finding their hunger for him eclipsing their hunger for anything else and that every substitute they try only adds to their restlessness. As they keep their eye on him, not only do they grow closer to him with each passing day, but they will find themselves alongside others who are headed that way too. Geese fly together like that not because they are obligated to do so, but because it lightens their load and lifts them closer to their goal.”

“That’s the gathering. It’s not when you meet, where you meet, or how you meet in meetings, but that you are gathering your heart to him. If that’s happening, you usually won’t find yourself going it alone very long. You’ll find others heading the same direction and by traveling together you’ll be able to help one another along the way.”

(I have been posting quotes from Wayne Jacobsen’s and Dave Coleman’s book, “So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore.” If you like what you’ve been reading here, you will find their book at your local Christian bookstore, at Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Quote of the Day


(Here's a provocative quote.)

“But there were elders and apostles and pastors (during the early days of the church), weren’t there?” “There were, but they weren’t out front leading people after their personal visions. They were behind the scenes doing exactly what you have on your heart to do—helping people to live deeply in Christ so that he can lead them! Elders won’t end up managing machinery, but equipping followers by helping them find a real relationship with the living God. That’s why he asked us to help people become his disciples and why he said that he would build his church. Let’s focus on our task and let him do his . . . Didn’t Jesus tell us that those who facilitate within this family are not those who exercise authority over others, but those who serve?” (Italics mine)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Loving--It's Not Always Convenient

Here's a little video I think is fun. Have a great weekend!

(To begin with, the video remains black for a few moments.)

video