Tuesday, July 28, 2015

God's Plans For You

Wonder why you can’t hear God in prayer?  Stop talking at Him all about your unforgiven sin.  Instead, ask Him how effective his plans were for you:  relocation (you’re in!), redemption (you’re perfected and secure!) and forgiveness (you’re clean!).  And listen up.

Colossians 1:13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Nation of Never-Ending Favor

A friend recently told me that her church leaders were saying that America was in danger of losing “God’s hand of protection” because, as a nation, we are not upholding His commands.  Presumably, our government’s position and action on abortion, immigration, gay marriage and the like is in danger of causing our otherwise beneficent and gracious God to throw up His hands and say, “I can’t help you.  In fact, I am against you.”  Whoa.  What trouble that would be.

Frankly, I don’t see God as having a hand of protection that can be moved or removed by a worldly defined, boundary drawn nation of people who earn or lose His favor by the behavior of everyone within it.  That might have been true for the vagabond nation of Israel and the Jewish people during the first covenant, but that covenant was for them alone and it’s over now.   It’s finished.  It’s all done.  Further, those of us who are Gentile (and that likely includes you) were never part of that (See Ephesians 2:11-12).  Now there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female—only sons and daughters of God (See Galatians 3:28-29). 

In Christ, we have how many things?  We have all things, every perfect gift and every aspect of His favor.  We have become His heirs (See Ephesians 1:3-13), and that cannot be reversed, making us “un-heirs.”  Our inheritance can never perish (it’s not going away), our inheritance can never spoil (there will never be any rot threatening it), and our inheritance can never fade (it will never lose any of it’s luster), and our inheritance is kept for us—it is preserved and guarded for us by God Himself (See 1 Peter 1:3-5).  Can we lose what we never earned and what is not ours to secure?  Can God’s gift to us in Christ be taken away?  Fortunately and evidently, no.  In every way we are secure because we have been secured by The Security Expert.

Can individuals do foolish things and look lousy while still having all things, every perfect gift and every aspect of His favor?  Yes, they can.  Yes, we do.  Look around you.  Isn’t it true?  God’s favor goes to everyone, especially to those who deserve it least.  Maybe that bothers you, maybe that bothers some church leaders and speakers, or the authors of the books you’re reading, but it’s still true.  Grace, or favor, if you like, is freely and magnificently given in Christ, but that’s such a bother, it’s such a confrontational collision to our better sensibilities.  You know, our “just look at our behavior—you know what we deserve.  God ought to give it to us.”  These “better sensibilities” become easy avenues to target and by which to motivate us—falsely.  Poorly.

Here’s the question:  if lousy-behaving Christians collect themselves together and the misbehaving continues, is there anything they lose?  Well, yes.  They lose the enjoyment of God and of His people. That gets all tangled and fouled up.  You’ve probably noticed that before.  But they do not lose what they have been given in Christ.  The collected Corinthian Christians went temporarily nuts (their behavior reflected it), and Paul wrote a letter to revive them, but not to tell them that they’d lost anything (See 1 Corinthians 1:4-8).

So, believers are secure in Christ, having all things in Him, and are not identified by this world’s lineage or geography but by heavenly.  We’re in Christ, we’re born of Him, we come from His lineage and are His family now, and we’re His holy nation—on purpose, with purpose.

1 Peter 2: 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

God sees “a holy nation” not according to worldly boundaries and geography, but heavenly.  All over this world people are going nuts and doing nuts.  You’ve no doubt noticed.  There’s a parade of it on television every night.   And God’s holy nation—likely you and me—is right there with them, no matter the desert, no matter the valley, no matter the plain, no matter the mountain.  We are His nation, His chosen and royal people, never changing, who inhabit ever-changing, worldly boundaries, which do not and cannot identify us.  We will endure what they endure:  nuttiness affects everyone—you and me—and that’s why we’re here.  We are secure; they are not.  Let’s help them to life.  Let’s help them to The Security Expert—to Jesus.  Nuttiness proves the need.

And the next time you hear or read about God’s hand being lifted from our nation (or the nation you’re from), taking His favor and blessing with it, remember your heavenly geography.  Don’t look to the boundaries of this world to find it.  You’re in Him, and you’re good.

(This is a transcript of yesterday's video, "A Nation of Never-Ending Favor," and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, scroll down this page, or click http://youtu.be/Gj5EGNwa8sA.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Nation of Never-Ending Favor

“God is going to remove His hand of favor from this nation!”  Have you heard it?  In 8 minutes you’ll find out why it isn’t true because of what IS true.  It’s good news. 

For my Southern California friends, I will be speaking at New Hope Church of Penasquitos (http://www.newhopechurch.com) on Sunday, August 2, at 10:00am. I love these people and their Pastor, Joe Rhodes, and I hope you can join me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Re. Prayer Request

Sarah has been doing well since her shoulder replacement surgery on Friday. Here at home, she has endured weird feelings, bursts of fever and odd sleep demands, but she has done well. She/we are about to enter a new phase in which the powerful pain blocker administered by pump runs out. The transition from automatic to manual pain management will be awkward. Our journey together goes on. We appreciate you very much. You know?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Prayer Request

Would you pray for my wife, Sarah?  She will be having shoulder replacement surgery tomorrow morning (Friday, July 17) from about 8:30 - 11:30am, Mountain Time. I love my woman, and would deeply appreciate your support.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How To Escape Corruption

When those crazy thoughts and feelings threaten to drag you into something you really don’t want, here’s how to escape the moment by enjoying God with you.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Stand Up, Jesus

One of the biggest problems you’re going to have in listening to sermons—maybe this weekend—is that the speaker does not start from a Christian foundation that will affect you beautifully, as God intended.

Because of the constraints of time or the desire to be immediately effective, the speaker will identify a problem in your life that needs to be fixed, and then give a prescription to overcome it.  It will conclude with a kind of “get to work now,” as you go out the door. “How practical!” you might say.  But you’re in danger if you accept it.  Let me tell you why.

No matter what the preacher says, no matter how well he or she says it, you won’t be able to conquer sensual cravings with sensual abstinence. You won’t be able to overcome sexual immorality with sexual morality.  You won’t be free of anger, jealousy, hatred, envy or impurity by praying hard and by building barricades against them.  None of that is how a Christian lives.  Not really.  All of it will stumble you because all of it is by the flesh and by works, and not by the Spirit and by grace.  It won’t work. 

The everyday foundation upon which you and I rest and from which our messages and sermons must proceed if we’re going to do well, could be summed up this way, from Romans 5:25:  “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” If we truly start there, we’ve truly started well, and everyone benefits.  Anything else is a bad beginning.

I’ll show you.  Pretend my sermon began with the above verse, and follows below.

According to the verse, all of your sins—every one of them—He forgave and took, as though they were always His.  You cannot have them back because, as far as He is concerned, you didn’t do them.  He became your sin, and there’s nothing you can do about it now.  Besides, they’re gone—no matter what, even if you do more.  His act was both retroactive and future.  You’re never going to sin-up-a-mountain-full and be identified by God on the basis of what you’ve done; He knows you only on the basis of His life and your birth.

Your being “okay” with God is forever secure and out of your reach.  You cannot improve it, you cannot worsen it, you cannot change it—it’s perfect!  100% stellar.  Jesus earned it.  He did pretty well, didn’t He?  And He gave it to you.  Not only has Jesus’ resurrection made you as having never once sinned—you’re a sin virgin—but He has made you as having always done everything perfectly right.  That is your past and that is your future, because of Jesus.  Yeah, you actually are a perfectionist.  You’ve been given a score of 100% on every test, all of the time.  That is justification!

That’s how it is.  The Great Sin Thief has forgiven and taken your sin, you’ve been justified by the Righteous One Himself, you’ve been made at peace with and by God, and you’ve been brought into harmony and compatibility with and by God.  He did it!  It’s over!  You’ve got it.  What did you have to do with it?  Zero.  Zip.  Nada. 

“Amen,” sermon over.  How do you feel right now?  Pretty good?

Pop Quiz:  What are the odds on you running out right now and sinning up a storm?  Poor, right?  Why?  Because you don’t want to!  You have no taste for it, because grace is working right now in you.  In other words, you and I have been looking at and marveling at Jesus and His grace (all that He has done for us) in a single verse, and—Oops!—He is at work in us!  We feel great about it, too.  And it was easy, wasn’t it?  According to Jesus, isn’t it supposed to be?  You know, that whole “my yoke is easy, my burden light” kinda thing.  Right?  All we’ve done here is look at Jesus and what He did for us through the cross and resurrection, and He has done the rest.  He’s done you!  And He has done me.  Aren’t we glad?

To grow in Christ means we ‘re increasingly convinced that He is perfect for us and with us and in us.  It means we’re increasingly attracted to Him—during any moment, ugly or pretty.  And that attraction takes advantage of the secure connection He made with us in such a way that He becomes obvious to us—to ourselves and to others.  That’s the plan:  we have The Way, The Truth and The Life, and others get us as a picture—an everyday video playing out right in front of them—of what that looks like.

But, and it’s a big but(!), if the message you hear—maybe this weekend—doesn’t start from Jesus as your foundation—that He has forgiven and stolen away all of your sin, and that He replaced all that with His life and righteousness—then you won’t be built up in Christ, you won’t be attracted to Him, who is happily inside, and Jesus, Grace Himself, won’t be standing up in you, capable and trustworthy and evident. 

Instead, you’ll have work to do, principles to apply, promises to keep, integrity to worry about, and “Christian responsibilities.”  And that won’t go well.

Here’s our picture of Grace at work in us: 

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation (or “soundness”) to all people. 12 It teaches us (literally, “Grace stands up inside of us”) to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  (Italics mine.)

That’s you!  And Jesus is inside, the one who stands up when we look at Him, when we marvel at Him.

What you want and what you’re fit for is to wonder at Jesus . . . at what He did, at who He is, at where He is, and how compatible the two of you are right now.  He did all of that!  Take a look, and He will stand up in you and work, just like He always has.  That’s the deal.  It’s pretty good, right?

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Best Confession

The best confession is to confess, not what we have done, but what Jesus has done about what we have done.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Who Am I?

There is an awful lot that suggests an “awful you” or a “lesser you,” one that bears little resemblance to who you are because of how you’ve been made—or re-made by God. And if you’re reading this, chances are good that you know what I’m talking about: the new creation you. I’m not talking about the businessman or businesswoman you, I’m not talking about the student you, the employee you, or the father, mother, son or daughter you. Those are all tributary identities to the primary identity—to the source identity—to the you you truly are. I’m talking about the you that is clean and holy and perfect, the Spirit-born you, an actual son of God, a light in this world, in whom the Kingdom of God dwells, God having seen to it, God having seen to you, through the new birth in Christ.

I’m talking about that you. And I simply want to remind you today that sometimes you’ve got to stop in order to think again about who you are because it can seemingly get lost in the things you do.

If you have been made to live by faith in Christ (that He was who He said He was and who He says He is, perfect God toward man) and that you are who He says you are (perfect son or daughter), then you’re going to have to answer that question, “Who are you?” You’ll even have to ask it of yourself—“Who am I?”—so you can proceed in your day and live well from the answer.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Evidence of Christ In Us

It has been one of the most focus-required and engrossing days I've had in years. I'm wrung out. Epaphras comes to mind, to whom the apostle Paul gave an honorable mention in Colossians 4. While most versions have it as though Epaphras was wrestling and working hard in prayer for people, the Greek actually translates it as something that was being done to him:

Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always "being wrestled" in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is "being worked hard" for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. (Colossians 4:12-13 NIV)

The Spirit of God in us "works us" or points us toward something He is wanting to do in someone else, even a group. He shares with us His desire, giving us words to speak and images of the outcome, which can then feel like a worthy wrestling or a holy labor so that it gets done. It makes the presence of God and the Kingdom of God in us very obvious. Sometimes I am invigorated at the conclusion, and sometimes I am satisfyingly fatigued. Spent well.

I know this falls into the "loosie-goosie, weirdo" stuff of Spirit-led Christianity, but there it is.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy Birthday!

While we struggle like other countries, our struggles are not hidden because common men and women—the “everybody” of our melting pot—gave rise to our nation’s birth. Like them, we are actively assessing the needs of people near and far, citizen and foreigner, and laboring to birth our country’s approach to tomorrow. That’s amazing and scary at the same time, but we’re all involved. We’re all responsible. It’s the greatest profit sharing plan ever. God bless America!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


Christian, your being “okay” with God is forever secure and out of your reach. You cannot improve it, you cannot worsen it, you cannot change it. It’s perfect. 100% stellar. Jesus earned it, and He did pretty well, didn’t He? And He gave it to you. Not only has Jesus’ resurrection made you as having never once sinned—you’re a sin virgin—but He has made you as having always done everything perfectly right. That is your past and that is your future, because of Jesus.

Yeah, you actually are a perfectionist. You’ve been given a score of 100% on every test, all of the time. That is justification. (See Romans 5:25, and 7:14-20.)