Lifetime

Deut. 31:6
Deut. 31:6

It only took God 7 days to create this world. It’s taken Him 38 years to mold my heart into something He can use… and it’s still not finished. It must be awfully hard for God to get any work done with me always getting in His way. Good thing God is patient.

Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit. It never ends. It is constant. There is never a sense of “arriving” as a Christian. I’ve heard it said that you are either just getting out of a valley, in a valley, or heading for a valley. Mountaintops and plains are temporary reprieves for the inevitable challenge to come. And that’s a good thing! It means you are alive. It means God wants you to grow. Many look at the mountain and never climb it at all.

Becoming Christlike is a lifetime quest. We run the race and sometimes we stumble. (1 Cor. 9:24-27) Sometimes it feels like we aren’t even running anymore. Are you walking or running? Are you standing still? Sometimes we lose our bearings and leave the course altogether. We look at the guy behind us and say, “Well, look how much better I’m doing than that guy! I’m way ahead of him!” When the race isn’t against the other runners. If we are to compare ourselves with anyone, it should be with our goal: Jesus. Compare yourself with Him, then see how you measure up.

Becoming Christlike is a lifetime battle. The world would say Christians are self-righteous know-it-alls who think they are perfect. Let me make this plain. Christians are not self-righteous, we are righteous in Christ alone (Romans 3:24). We don’t know it all. There are many things that we do not understand, but we have faith! (John 20:29) We do not think we are perfect. In fact, the closer we get to Jesus, the more apparent it is how completely imperfect we are (Romans 3:10).

Becoming Christlike is a lifetime journey. It is not easy! However, it’s worth all the hardship, sacrifice, and suffering. It’s far exceeds the ridicule, smirks, and jokes. You will still get flat tires. You will still get sick. But you will never be alone. Jesus will never let you go through the hardship, sacrifice, suffering, ridicule, smirks, jokes… or flat tires alone (Deut. 31:6). That’s a promise from God (Isa. 55:11). HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!

It only took God 7 days to create the universe, but He never stops working in you. It may take a lifetime, but it will be the time of your life.

May God’s Love be with you

Pray Like Jesus

John 17
John 17

There have been many great prayers prayed by many great men. Notable supplications have been made by Solomon (1 King 8), Abraham (Gen. 18), and Moses (Exodus 32).

Naturally, the all-time greatest prayer was made by Jesus Christ, Himself.

You might be thinking of the prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 & Luke 11:2-4. You know, the one that starts out with: “Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name…” That’s the one commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” However, a more accurate title might be “The Apostle’s Prayer” seeing as it was the prayer Jesus gave the apostles when they asked how they should pray.

I am talking about Jesus’ prayer in John 17. This one is sometimes called, “The High Priestly Prayer.” Take a second to look it up and read it today. I’m not going to quote the whole prayer here, but I will give you a quick outline.

Jesus “lifted up His eyes.” We tend to bow our heads and close our eyes, don’t we? Whether we lift or bow our head doesn’t matter as long as we are praying with humility, praise, and love. Customs are not essential. A right heart is.

First, Jesus prays for Himself. Do you pray for yourself? I know, it may seem selfish. But it’s OK to pray for yourself. Jesus did. But notice that He prayed for Himself so that the Father would be glorified. If we are petitioning God for ourselves with the end result being the glorification of God, then by all means, pray for yourself!

Second, Jesus prays for His disciples. He taught them all that He could and now He commits them to His Father. Often we are hard on the Apostles, but here Jesus gives His assessment. “They have kept Your word, they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You and they believed that You sent Me. I have been glorified in them.” Not too bad. I hope Jesus can say the same about me!

Third, Jesus prays for YOU. Say what now?! Me? How is that? He extends that scope of His prayer to all who would come to faith by the testimony of these disciples. That would include you and me! It’s pretty cool to think that Jesus prayed for us specifically.

There is a common thread throughout this prayer. Did you notice it? Oneness. “That they all me be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” Jesus prays that every race of every social class of every language would be united. We are to be equally unified just as the Trinity is equally unified. We do this not just for our benefit, but also so the world may believe in Jesus. If we are always fighting among ourselves, how can we be one? The world is watching.

Finally, Jesus ends His prayer in triumphant love. “That the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Jesus and His Love lives in every believer. We serve a living God. We serve a loving God.

Simple. Beautiful. Perfect.

May God’s Love be with you

Propitiation

I John 2:2
I John 2:2

Stick with me on this one.

Got a church word for you today: propitiation. From the Greek hilasterion “to appease/that which expiates/the gift that procures divine favor.” It’s used only once in the New Testament:

“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” I John 2:2 (KJV)

“Propitiation” is also alluded to with the Ark of the Covenant, particularly the mercyseat or atonement cover in Hebrews 9:5. The mercy seat was sprinkled with atoning blood on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:14). This all represented that the sentence of the Law had been carried out changing a judgment seat into… what? A mercy seat. Still with me?

Propitiation means that God is satisfied with the sacrifice of our Lord on the Cross. It is not a representation. It is literal. Jesus’s literal blood has been sprinkled for us to atone for the sentence of the Law. Changing what would be judgement into… what? That’s right: MERCY.

Isn’t that incredible?

Let me put it to you this way: Imagine a courtroom where the judge declares the defendant guilty and then has an innocent bystander pay for the crimes of the defendant. Outrageous, is it not? But that’s exactly how it works. “He is righteous, so much so that a sacrifice for sin had to be provided. He is loving, so much so that he provided that sacrifice Himself.” (Millard Erickson “Christian Doctrine”)

Like the song goes, “He paid a debt He did not owe. I owed a debt I could not pay.”

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished” Romans 3:23-25 (NIV)

  • Jesus is our advocate. (1 John 2:1)
  • Jesus is our mediator. (1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 12:24)
  • Jesus is our interceder. (Romans 8:34)
  • Jesus turns our seat from one of judgement to one of mercy.

I heard it put like this: Jesus goes to bat for us.

Jesus is our propitiation. He is our atonement. Without Him advocating and mediating and interceding we could never pay the debt owed. We would be thrown into prison. Our sentence would be for life without parole.

Without the shedding of His precious blood, we would be doomed.

May God’s Love be with you

Above Reproach

Daniel 6:4
Daniel 6:4

They were trying to get him fired. They looked for anything they could use to get rid of him.  They found nothing.

“At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” Daniel 6:4 (NIV)

Daniel was above reproach. The only thing they could use to trip him up was his faith and devotion to God. What a testimony. What a relationship with the Creator! What an inspiration.

Imagine if the same could be said of us? This kind of character is something for which we should always be striving.

May God’s Love be with you

Roller Coaster Faith

Eph. 4:14
Eph. 4:14

I’m a visual person. I have to see it. If I don’t write it down, it’s hard for me to grasp certain things. Spelling Bees? Nope, not for me. I stunk at them because I needed to actually write the word down in order to spell it.

I really get into the Old Testament. I find the accounts unendingly interesting. Since it covers so many years and a multitude of people,  I’m always searching for the best timelines to help me get a visual. I found one in particular that showed not only the Kings of Israel and Judah, but also the spiritual state during their reigns. I had never seen that before.

Take a closer look at it. The green line above the timeline is Israel’s spiritual state and the blue line below the timeline is Judah’s spiritual state. Notice anything?

Doesn’t it appear to go up and down and up and down? Also notice how the spiritual state slowly goes down. It immediately reminded me of a roller coaster ride.

A roller coaster is never steady. It jerks this way and that. It soars up and screeches down. It makes quick turns and throws you around. It makes a lot people sick quite frankly.

Is our faith like that of the Israelites? Is it constantly going up and down. Is it never constant and sure? Does it get “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14)?

We are hard on the Israelites, aren’t we? “Oh, I wouldn’t have done that. Or I would have done that differently.” But the truth is, we are all too similar. Our faith, just as theirs, wavers so easily. We need to take special caution to ask Jesus to fortify our hearts and minds. Only through His intercession, is anything accomplished.

Get off the roller coaster and onto the escalator! How’s that for a visual?

May God’s Love be with you

Many Other Things

John 21:25
John 21:25

John ends his account with a bang. I’ve often thought about that last intriguing verse with a big smile.

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)

“Many other things.”

What were they? I mean, we know that He raised people from the dead, gave sight to the blind, and literally walked on the water. And He did many other things as well?! So many in fact, that the world could not hold the books if they were all written down?!

Just imagine!

I want to know what those other “things” were, don’t you? I want the unabridged version of His ministry. I know we are given what we need (John 20:31), but I am interested in what some of those other things were. I want the complete version of what Jesus said and did.

I guess I will just have to wait and ask Him in person.

May God’s Love be with you

Dusty Grace

Eph. 2:8-9
Eph. 2:8-9

It’s not what we can achieve, it’s what we can receive. Joseph Prince said this in his book, “Right Believing.” I’ve been chewing on that all day.

It’s not what we can achieve, it’s what we can receive.

It’s tricky in your Christian walk not to become puffed up and legalistic. There’s an inclination to stack up your righteous deeds and try to build your own stairway to Heaven.

• Go to church. Check!
• Read your Bible. Check!
• Pray. Check!

However church-y these things may be, these things don’t make you a Christian. These are only things that Christians do. Our “good deeds” are merely “filthy rags” to an absolutely Holy God anyways. What would you do with filthy rags?

What does make you a Christian is Grace, through Faith (Eph. 2:8-9). ”Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” is what Paul told the jailer in Acts 16:31.

It is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is our faith that He is our Savior and the one and only Son of the Living God (Acts 4:12). That is what makes you a Christian; not what you do, but what’s been done for you!

It’s not about rules (what you can achieve), it’s about relationship (what you can receive). Let me say that again, because it’s sort of important: It’s not about rules, it’s about relationship. How is your relationship with Jesus? Is there even one? Or has your faith become separate… divorced from Jesus? That may sound unusual, but if you are not in a relationship with Jesus, then you are divorced from Him.

Sorry, I’m getting off point.

Grace is a gift. It’s unmerited favor. It’s something for nothing. Have you ever received a gift and just let it set there on the table unopened? Of course not! You ripped it open! You claimed it. Grace must be claimed. If not, it sits there unopened, unrealized, and unused.

Don’t let the gift of Grace set there unopened collecting dust. Dust it off and enjoy it!

May God’s Love be with you

The Dark Side

Romans 7:14-25
Romans 7:14-25

Even people who aren’t fans of Star Wars know Darth Vader. When he tells Luke to “Join the Dark Side.” They know what he’s talking about, don’t they? In the fictional mythos of Star Wars, all matter is made up of an energy field called “the Force.” One can either be a practitioner of the Light Side of the Force (Good) or the Dark Side of the Force (Evil). The Dark Side draws from raw emotions like anger, rage, hatred, fear, aggression, and passion. Sounds an awful lot like the flesh, doesn’t it?

Romans 7:14-25 talks about “The Conflict of Two Natures

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”

This all sounds pretty horrendous, doesn’t it? There is a war raging in our very bodies and even Paul was powerless to control it! Now if Paul, arguably the greatest born-again Christian ever to have lived, could not master this inner-conflict, how can we?

Easy. Look at the next verse in chapter 8:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

No condemnation. The greek here for “no” is “oudias” – not a single one. There is not a single condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That is how we do it! The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set us free!

God knows we will falter. That’s why He sent Jesus as our mediator. Only Jesus could win that battle. And now we are hidden in the precious Blood of The Lamb. Only through the intervention of Christ are we not condemned for repeatedly falling short.

The Dark Side and The Light Side pretty much sums up the inward struggle between our flesh and spirit. We would be well advised to remember what Yoda said, “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

May God’s Love be with you

Shade From The Heat

Isaiah 25:4
Isaiah 25:4

I was fortunate enough to go to Bonnaroo in 2007 and then again in 2008. For those who don’t know, Bonnaroo is a 4-day music festival held in Manchester, TN. Well, let me tell you: Tennessee is hot and Tennessee in June is really HOT! So, I made one important improvement from 2007 to 2008. This one small change made my second venture exponentially better.

I brought a canopy. The canopy provided shade. Shade made all the difference.

Without shade, we were up with the sun: 6:30am. And then you are out in it, man. Until the sun goes down. There is no escape! In fact, one thing I noticed throughout the day were the shadows of the trees. Everyone was looking for shade all day. The only shade was from the trees. So all around, people were sitting in the perfect shape of trees without realizing it. It was as if the shadow of the trees were made of people.

That’s how important shade can be. It protects you from the elements. Without it, you are exposed. You are vulnerable. Eventually, you will perish.

“For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; For the breath of the ruthless is like a rain storm against a wall” (Isaiah 25:4 NASB).

It may be strange to think of God as shade. Don’t we usually think of Him as perfect radiant Light? But God is also shade in the sense that He is cool and refreshing to a parched and dried soul. He offers rest and reprieve from the elements that will eventually overcome us.

We can finally rest in His shelter. We can revitalize. We can survive only with His loving cover. Without God in our lives offering His divine shade, we are in the desert at noon with no water, no cover… and no hope.

May God’s Love be with you

Addendum: My Christian walk has graduated me from Bonnaroo to Creation Festival. And thank God for that! I give God all the glory for the amazing new song He has given me to sing. (Psa. 96:1)

Weight Loss

Hebrews 12:1
Hebrews 12:1

Kurt Vonnegut wrote a story once that always stuck with me. It was called, “Harrison Bergeron.” It told of a future where the government forced people to wear “handicaps” in order to make everyone equal. If you were really graceful, you wore heavy weights to make you clumsy. If you were handsome, you had to wear a hideous mask. That way no one felt insecure or sad about not being as graceful or as handsome as anyone else.

Anyways, there’s a scene in which a beautiful ballerina is on TV. She is weighted down with 200lb weights because she is so incredibly graceful. She is masked because of her great beauty. Of course, her dance is not very good. It’s been “handicapped” so much that she is now average.

This is political fiction. However, the tragic image of that ballerina trying so hard to perform even though she is so clearly hindered perfectly illustrates how sin can literally weigh us down.

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1, HCSB).

Think of it this way: sin has actual weight. We are told to lay aside the sin. We all know that. But we are also told to lay aside the weight. Extra weight slows our progress. Sin slows our progress. Sin ensnares us. It trips us up. Just like the ballerina weighted down, if we are full of the weight of sin, our performance will suffer.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV).

David was a man who knew the weight of sin. He knew all too well just how ensnaring it can be. But he also knew the sweet freedom that comes with throwing off that weight. He knew how much easier it was to continue on the path of righteousness without it!

Want to lose some unnecessary weight? Lay aside sin! But please don’t dare think you can do this weight-loss program on your own. Ask Jesus for help. He’s the only one that can take every weight and the sin that SO EASILY ensnares us, and cast it aside so we can join him in the light.

May God’s Love be with you