Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dear My New Potential Youth Pastor

I know you’re probably out there, looking for a church that needs someone with your mad skills to lead young people into a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ.  Hoping there’s a group somewhere whose vision resonates with your passion?  Maybe you're feeling under-utilized for Jesus?

We’re looking for someone who knows the value of discipling teens to become secure in who they are in Jesus.   Someone who has a passion to see the power of peer pressure emasculated from driving our youth today.   Not a narcissistic overgrown kid that just wants to be their friend (being friendly is good, but they have friends, they need a leader.)  We’re looking for someone who can develop and lead youth in a brand new community.  We’re looking for someone who knows how to have fun, and still speak into young lives in a positive life-changing way.  We’re looking for a genuine, godly, gifted leader who lives the gospel, loves people and is radically growing in Grace. No masks necessary (or desired).

In order to not rob you of your treasure in heaven, the financial remuneration is minimal to start.  Such as we have, we give to thee, but paychecks might come in the form of dinners at our home and change from the couch, at least initially. We will need someone willing to be bi-vocational to start as we develop this brand new multi-site, radical grace church.

I will also commit to personally taking an interest in and mentoring you. Whatever resources I or my family has at our disposal we will leverage to get you out here and settled.  I will pray for you regularly.  I will seek to develop already existing skills and work with you in areas you want to grow in.  I will spend time with you and facilitate community to love and support you.

If you are looking for something hard, but fulfilling, we should talk soon.   This is a blank-slate opportunity.  Check out to catch a glimpse of what God is doing through us.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Can grace save us with out some effort on our part?

Can grace save us with out some effort on our part?  Or must we obey the laws in God’s word? 

I had a lady tell me the other day; “Grace is not enough to get us into heaven.  No way can I embrace Jesus only as the way.  God’s laws are in the bible and He means for us to obey them.”  I sensed a sincere heart that was repeating things she may have been taught for years.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not Jewish, and the law was given to the Jews.  Gentiles were never included in God’s law.  Beside that often over-looked fact, there has never been one person successfully able to follow every detail of the law (except Jesus Christ).  Jesus said if you offend the law in one point you’re guilty of the whole law. 

People try to apply the law to guilt themselves (or others) into being more godly.  1 Co.15:56 says the law gives sin its strength.  Applying the law will actually cause people to sin more because the strength of sin is the law.  The law was designed to reveal sin (Ro.7:7).  The law is also meant to lead us to Jesus (Ga.3:24). Jesus came and fulfilled the old covenant law.  He.8:13 says the old covenant is obsolete.

For years we have heard that Grace is not enough to get to heaven (not as blatant as that, but through the implication  “come to Jesus and then do all these things to secure your salvation”) but is that bible?  Jesus said “it is finished”, was He incorrect?  If the blood of Jesus isn’t enough, what more could I possibly add to satisfy God?  You see, a pastor can fill an altar with fearful people by dangling them over hell.  That’s “manipulation”.  Jesus said we shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free.  We’re told to rightly divide the word.  We have to know what is written to us and what was written to a specific person or people group.  Many people find that takes too much effort to rightly divide so they erroneously try everything or reject everything.  Neither approach works.

If you ever see Jesus, guess where you will find Him?  Sitting on a throne of Grace He.4:14-16.  I love Jesus Christ. One day just as I was about to stand and preach before a large crowd of people I said “Father I’m sorry I’m not perfect”.  He immediately said back to me “so you think your perfection is better than the blood of Jesus?” I said “no Father that’s not what I said.”  He said “that’s exactly what you said.”  In that brief moment I decided I would rather be forgiven that self-righteously perfect any day.  I’m not looking to change your mind, that’s not my job, I’m presenting Jesus who bids you to jump off the performance plan and find the rest in what Jesus accomplished for you

We choose to tell people what’s right with them.  They have enough people telling them what’s wrong.  David said “my sin is ever before me”.  The most miserable person is a Christian who is self-condemned.  Ro.8:1 says there is therefore now no more condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  You see the church has reduced Grace to a doctrine. That way they can accept only as much as they want or can tolerate.  Grace is a person, His name is Jesus, and you either accept Him entirely or not at all.  You can’t accept Him just a little bit.

The message of God’s amazing Grace will not bring unity in the body of Christ.  The organized religion didn’t receive it that way from Jesus or any of the disciples.  We’re likely going to meet similar resistance.  The elder brother refused the Father’s request to celebrate the return of his once lost younger son.  The elder brother felt more deserving, yet he never enjoyed his relationship with his father.  Both boys were extended the unconditional love of the father.  That’s what’s so amazing about Grace, no one deserves it, it’s unmerited favor.”

Someone has His eye on the horizon, looking for you.  Yes, He’s just that into you

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Which Jesus do You know?

Oh man, don’t tell me there’s more than one, I’m still getting to know the savior.  I’m not referring to the “other Jesus” Paul mentions in 1 Co.11:4.  I’m talking about something more subtle than that.  Of those who even give Jesus space in their life, some have Him trapped as a little baby in a manger.  That’s understandable, maybe they only show up once a year when there’s a nativity scene in church.

Many believers have a picture of Jesus locked in their mind as a thirty-something young tan guy who gently did all sorts of cool miraculous things.  Maybe for them, they’re trying to live their life with the mantra WWJD, what would Jesus do?  I submit to you, a better question is; what DID Jesus do (on my behalf)?

If we grasp the scope and benefit of Jesus’ accomplishment for us on the cross when He finally cried out “It is Finished”, it will turn our faith world up side down.  Or perhaps I should say down side up!  Let this short three minute video challenge your image and concept of the resurrected redeemer, Grace Himself, Jesus Christ.  If it speaks to you, the full teaching of the same name is available for your listening at this link       

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Behavior Modification and Control Freaks

I commented on an Fb friend’s post yesterday that said “if Father accepts me for who I am, why is it others try to make me feel like I need to meet their expectations?”  I suspect that’s a question many can identify with to some degree.

When others (individuals or groups of people) try to sculpt our life by their expectations whether implied or often outright vocalized, that's called “Behavior Modification”.  People exert that upon you for THEIR benefit. Somehow they feel it makes it easier for them to tolerate your difference while going through life next to you. It's clearly not God's idea.

Jesus moves right in where ever He is welcomed, and our life begins to radically transform from the inside out. He is not put off by the disheveled mess our lives may be in.  Behavior modification is an external effort that doesn't give a rip if you ever change inside, as long as they don't have to see it.  They do not want to be embarrassed by your life.

Understanding the root of such control is a start, but if you’ve ever been in relationship with a control freak, you know it’s easier to straighten out a piece of wrinkled contact paper than extricate yourself from a controlling person’s grip.  That initial Fb post brought up a couple other questions. 

·                    What is our response in the Spirit to a control freak’s kind of behavior?
·                    What if loved ones are oblivious to the pressure they apply on you?
·                    If you confront them they just can't seem to take that much honesty.
·                    How do we handle this with integrity of heart towards those we love?
A few thoughts regarding those questions and our response:  Our response "in the spirit" is probably a bit easier than our reaction in the flesh.  Some people can not comprehend stress; they're simply "carriers" of it.  Like a tornado, they seem to live oblivious to the wake of hurt they leave in their path.

As far as confronting them and their inability to “take that much honesty” Pro.27:6 says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”  How do some people grow up to be crabby old busy-bodies?  Because no one loved them enough to call them out on it (it’s scary I know, been there – done that, got the bloody T-shirt).

A person who demands behavior modification from another is likely adept at manipulation.  The fact they don't seem to be able to "take that much honesty" is an expression of their manipulative prowess.  It’s been my experience you can not negotiate with a manipulative controlling spirit.  They can tolerate confrontation about as well as you can tolerate their control – it’s a toss, go for it.

Ro.12:2 in the JB Phillips translation reads: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed.”

The best cure for coming out from under the control of Behavior Modification is a secure sense of your identity in Jesus Christ.  That’s not a Christianese cliché, but rather a vital realization.  Until you are completely convinced of whom you are in Jesus and who He is in you, you are as vulnerable as a dingy in a perfect storm.  You’ll be tossed by the every whim of others who wield influence over your life.

It didn’t seem to be an issue for Jesus hanging with imperfect people that the religious leaders called riff-raff.  And they didn’t mind hanging around the Son of God.  Why?  Because when a person realizes they’re accepted, and on what basis they are accepted, the stress is off, and any change needed is a product of the love of God in their heart, NOT external behavior modification.  Be transformed!  He’s just that into you.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Incestuous Relationships in the Church

Sound like a tabloid expose’ on yet another church scandal?  This one is even more rampant than our Catholic brothers’ troubles.  However this insidious problem is flying below the radar and hasn’t even been detected by most involved.  Let me explain.

When Jesus prepared to leave His disciples, He commissioned them to reproduce, to make other disciples (followers) by teaching the way that leads to everlasting life that Jesus came to secure.  The pattern set forth was relational.

Now think of what is commonly practiced in church settings of all varieties in our day.  We have perfected the art of program driven relationships.  Members are minimally expected to gather once or twice a week at corporate events. It’s not uncommon for more high-impact congregations to expect their followers to additionally attend a small group once or twice a week. 

Evangelism has morphed to an event planned for a Saturday outreach into a targeted neighborhood. A“witness” is something you “do” (or feel inferior if you don’t do).  That’s not at all what Jesus had in mind.  He said in Acts 1:8 that we are to “be” witnesses.  Our everyday life brings Jesus in very close proximity to people who desperately need the savior.  In our lifetime, some have fought to keep the Ten Commandments out of our public schools and buildings.  No one is stopping us from bringing Jesus in to those places, they can’t.  Where we go He goes.

Typical believers are busy gathering with other believers to “do” religious things.  That’s program-driven community.  Who’s reaching out to the lost neighbors on our own street?  The church at large is preoccupied with an incestuous relationship with each other while lost outsiders are entering a Christ-less eternity right before our eyes.  Friends “these things ought not to be so.”

Most people I meet are busy; they’re not looking for one more demand to be put on their plate.  Many people I see do know the loneliness of wondering if anybody cares they exist.  The masses that followed Jesus didn’t do so because there was nothing better to do.  He touched them, spoke life into them, it felt hopeful and they followed Him.  Do you think His approach just may have been intentional?

Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America.  Insiders separated from outsiders, believers from unbelievers.  For those who venture inside the church doors, parents go one way, youth another (sometimes split again by gender) and the littlest children yet somewhere else.  I understand the concept to deliver truth that’s age-appropriate, but that doesn’t exempt the church from taking that same truth outside wherever hurting people are.

When I brought our core team to Crystal Lake last summer to survey the city, we went 2x2 on that Sunday morning to as many churches as we could, to get a pulse for the spiritual climate of the area.  We experienced a lot that morning.  Two of our young gals attended a small church meeting in a hotel setting.  After the service there were cookies set out, it was a great opportunity to meet people.  These gals were hoping to make a connection.  What they experienced was not only silence, but as the church goers talked with each other, they rotated their backs to these obvious “new people” so they could enjoy each other’s company.  The “norm”?  I hope not.  The “exception”?  I fear not.  Why?  “Because it’s Sunday, I already went out evangelizing with the church Saturday.”

“Christianity is not a religion it’s a relationship”.  Heard that one?  Oh, you mean with “other people” too?  What a concept, “be witnesses unto me”.  You are bringing Jesus in very close proximity with people every day.  Can they tell?  Are you wetting their appetite for the savior?  Or are you presenting a cloistered community called church, which they hope to avoid?

I double dog dare you to go visit a new church Sunday.  See what it feels like to be an “outsider”.  Maybe it will change the way you see and relate to people you don’t yet know.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Does The Bible Really Say That?

The scripture in John.5:22 clearly says "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son". In Acts 5 regarding Ananias & Sapphira, the Holy Spirit intentionally did not mention judgment, though some might draw the conclusion. I think we need to be careful not to draw conclusions where the Holy Spirit clearly omits details or words. What we do know about those two is this; Vs.3 says their issue was the effect of "Satan filing their heart" which let them think they could get away with lying to God. We don't know their age or health, only that they were likely mature and well off enough to own land and pretend to give its whole value to ministry. The shock of the unexpected exposure of his heinous crime of lying to God Vs. 5 says, caused them each to "fall down and give up the ghost." Usually the grief of gross blatant sin wears on the conscious of a man till the restless tormented individual's health finally fails and they die a sad withered death. All we know was the news was so serious that "great fear" came upon everyone standing by. It might have been so great as to stop the liar's heart. We don't know more than the scripture records. We know from John.3:16-17 it was not God's plan to send Jesus to condemn the world but His great love that sent Him to save whosoever would believe in Him. If a person rejects or refuses to believe the grace of God, they place themselves under the law. So we can not say God judged them, but they fell under the law of "bearing false witness". Regarding the improper irreverence with which some Corinthians observed the Lord's supper; the words "judge" & "judgment" are mentioned several times. The  sickness and premature deaths some Corinthians experienced, Paul said, were because those people "ate & drank in an unworthy manner, not discerning the Lord's body." Jesus bore stripes in His body to pay for and provide healing for man. Even today, some people suffer chronic illness or die prematurely because they don't discern their healing is in Jesus' body. The passage does say we would NOT be judged if we would judge ourselves (1 Co.11:31). There are actually two different Greek words used in that verse. Half of the translations translate both words as judge. The other half make the distinction. The first Greek word means to discern and separate. The second is best translated judge. If we discern sin in our life and deal with it appropriately, we "would not be judged". If a person fails to discern the body of Christ, fails to "do this in remembrance of Jesus" they place themselves under the jurisdiction of the law. The judgment demanded of the law was met in Jesus Christ. He paid the price in full, once for all, and redeemed us from the curse of the law. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. V32 says that "when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord." It doesn't say we're judged by the Lord. We're judged by the law and chastened by the Lord. Chastened (in the Greek) means to train up a child by a parent. Being trained by a loving dad should be an entirely different experience than being sentenced by a judge. If I jump out of a tall building, my hurt will be because I came under the law of gravity, not because God was punishing or condemning me. Our preconceived ideas, or assumptions, can place the consequences of our actions on God rather than realizing the onus that falls on man for failing to believe and place himself under the amazing Grace of God. Hope this sheds some light on just how good our God is toward us.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

God Isn't Judging You!

I have heard it said in Christian circles that "if God doesn’t judge America He is going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."  Give me a break.  Just because something sounds edgy, or is repeated all over, doesn’t make it true.

First of all, God won’t judge America, or you, and He certainly will never apologize to Sodom.  God patiently acquiesced while Abraham negotiated the threshold down to ten righteous.  God probably would have spared Sodom if Abraham pressed the number even lower.  There are more than ten righteous in America.  But the absolute truth is John 5:22 says God doesn’t judge anyone!  He has deferred all judgment to Jesus.  Jesus said in Jn.12:47 “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”

Ro.3:23 is a well know verse, especially to those who have been trained in evangelism.  “All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God”.  Did you notice there are two different tense in that verse?  “Have sinned” is past tense.  Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, all people are born in a sinful condition, “there is none righteous, no not one.”  And we “fall short” is present tense.  Even after we confess our sin and enter into a right relationship with God by Jesus Christ, we still make mistakes.  Jesus doesn’t go to the cross again, it’s finished.  So what now?

V.25 continues by saying that God made Jesus to be the “propitiation by His blood. That esoteric term means an act of graciousness.  It further refers to an item called the Mercy Seat.  When God instructed Moses to fashion the Ark of the Covenant that contained the two stone law tablets, He told Moses to fashion a solid gold lid called the Mercy Seat.  God then said that whole item would be referred to as The Throne of God.

Under the old covenant law, once each year the high priest would offer an atonement sacrifice for all the people’s sin.  He would sprinkle the innocent blood on that gold Mercy Seat.  It provided a “covering” for one year, and then it had to be repeated, year after year.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, shed His blood once for all – all time, all people, all sin.  The bible says in Hebrews 4:14-16 that our high priest, Jesus, is now seated at the right hand of God.  We are invited to come confidently to His throne of Grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help when we need it most.

We will indeed all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  The law will demand payment for our sin. The righteous judge Jesus will say “I am the propitiation”, I have paid the price in full for them.  Mercy triumphs over judgment because of the blood of Jesus.  Not because of anything you have done or have managed not to do in your lifetime.

You can hear a full teaching on this topic with expanded insights at our website just click on “podcasts” and select “The Original Jesus”.  He's just that into you!  The extravagant, radical Grace of God really is Amazing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sinners in the hand of a Good God!

The best, most loving dad willingly sacrificed His only son to utter rejection, humiliation, torture and ultimate death to save an ungrateful, hell-bent people, and He is often billed as “an angry God”. Go figure!  God so loved the world that He gave Jesus.

Papa has been so misrepresented by His representatives because they fear He’s too good. Just like Jonah, they’re sure He’ll forgive people and they won’t appreciate Him. So they malign His character to portray an angry God to make people too afraid to sin.

Wow, that approach has been an utter failure.  There hasn’t been a single righteous person since creation save the Lord Jesus Christ.  Turns out the rules, laws and regulations lathered on by religious people have actually done the very opposite, they have actually given sin its strength (1 Co.15:56). 

If you board an aircraft bound for Poughkeepsie, you can obey all the rules like a good passenger.  You can hope and believe that if you’re good enough the pilot will fly you to Disneyland because that’s where you really want to be, but guess what?  Forget the sun screen, you’re going to Poughkeepsie!

Romans 2:4 says it’s the “goodness of God” that leads to repentance.  Nothing irks pretty good people like God being good to people who don’t deserve it, but that’s His amazing, radical Grace.  That’s also what He knows really leads people to repentance.  Not rules.   Not fear.  Guess what, Father knows best.

Truth is, even “pretty good” people need God’s Grace, every bit as much as the “notable sinners” the Bible mentions.  I am against sin and ungodly living, and I am all for holiness.  I believe the way you get there is the way Jesus provided by His finished work on the cross.

Fear can get people to alter their behavior while the fear is present.  That’s “behavior modification”.  God chose goodness knowing a heart flooded with His love produces transformation from the inside out that is lasting, whether the person is in a loving environment or a loveless setting.

Fear preaching like “sinners in the hand of an angry God” may fill the altar with fearful supplicants, but Jesus is more interested in filling the Lamb’s book of life with the names of people He died to redeem.  What a good God.  He really is, just that in to you!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Power of Prayer, a Fresh Testimony

We saw first-hand today in a meeting with other ministry leaders that prayer works. Before I share my exciting experience, humor me for a moment of background.

One of my main mentors in life was an elderly pastor who has since gone to be with Jesus. His whole life revolved around prayer. He taught prayer at a Christian University for many years. I had the privilege of learning much from this dear mentor.

One day I took a group from the church I was pastoring at the time, to a Grateful Dead concert to share Jesus. If you know me at all, you’re probably smiling knowing that was entirely out of my comfort zone.

As we walked through the parking lot, there were thousands of young people partying there, as many as were actually in the concert. It was dark, loud unpleasant music, the smell of pot hung heavy in the air, and there were many seedy-looking characters tail-gating.

We prayed our way through the masses, trying to witness to those we felt the Lord prompt us to. We approached a car with three young men drinking and smoking. They offered us their goods very openly.

As we asked where they were from, we learned they had driven up from the neighboring state. There was something different about one of the young men and I said “what’s your story, you have a gentle heart”? I wish I could show you the look on his face as he began to cry.

He told me his dad was a pastor, and he knew he shouldn’t be there. We hadn’t even introduced ourselves to them (though likely my most casual attire betrayed I hadn't come for the concert.) I’m sure his parents were praying for their son, and God answered by sending us right up to these three young men. They were self-convicted and packed up their party and headed home. Prayer works!

I mentioned the background to say I have a heart for prayer; I start and finish each day with prayer. Recently I have been blessed to assemble a group of people from around the country that I have met on Twitter. These are real people, serious about prayer, and they are praying for me and the new ministry we’re planting in Crystal Lake.

This group recently prayed for favor for us as we submitted a request to lease a facility for our new church plant. I received word last week that we had been preliminarily approved. Today we had a formal meeting with the leadership responsible for the building to discuss the lease terms. My friends have been praying for us today as well.
It is a beautiful facility in a high visibility location that is only a few years old, and is actually owned by another ministry. Clearly God gave us favor with the owners. We expressed our gratitude and told them we had been praying for them. The pastor looked at me and said “it worked”.

He went on to say he had made up his mind not to lease the facility to us. On Pentecost Sunday he said the Lord spoke to him and told him they were supposed to let us have the building. The pastor was
able to say this with a friendly smile on his face.

Clearly God opened a door man had determined to close. God also gave him a cheerful heart in his ultimate decision. I am convinced this was a direct answer to my new world-wide Twitter prayer team to whom I say a great big thank you.  I appreciate you, and I love you in Jesus. God has blessed me with praying friends, prayer partners.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

For the Birds

Pamela and I enjoy sitting out in the garden courtyard on pleasant mornings like today. It’s a great place to spend quiet time with the Lord and each other. Plus seeing the birds, fish and turtles enjoying their habitats is calming.

Today before I sat down I put fresh water in the bird bath. As I was reading I watched a few birds land at the bird bath a few feet from me. They would each look at me for a moment as if to say “is it OK if I use this”? Then they would proceed to enjoy a bath.

From my perspective, I placed the bird bath there for them to enjoy. I keep it filled with fresh water, mostly for their enjoyment. I say mostly because actually they could bath in the lake, but I thoroughly enjoy their presence and seeing them happy. Furthermore, I have a child-like belief that since God’s eye is on the sparrows, He sees me caring for them as well.

Today it crossed my mind that is how our heavenly dad feels about us. When we enjoy His abundant daily blessings, we’re not taking advantage of His goodness, we’re blessing Him back. He loves it when we draw near to Him and refresh ourselves in His presence.

The heart of this post is not for the birds, but you. No matter your age, how many times you’ve been around the block or how bruised, broken or tired you are, please hear this. God still has an awesome plan for your life, the hope-filled future you may have dared only to dream of. Be assured by reason you still have breath, that He is not finished with you. In fact He longs for you to step into position even more than you long to.

I don’t care if you totally surprised your parents starting your life in the back seat of a ‘57 Chevy, make no mistake, God was not caught off guard. He gave you your life, and it came after He had a purpose He desired to fulfill, and chose you to do it. Jesus has placed each of us here to impact this world in a specific way – to convey the heart of God in a unique way only you can.

Don’t be afraid of drawing close to Him. He has intentionally prepared a place just for you. No one can fill your spot; no one can hold you back, just you. Enjoy! He's just that in to you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Perfection - or Forgiven. What are you aiming for?

I remember getting ready to stand up before a group of maybe 2000 people to preach at a pastor friend’s church when I had a brief talk with God.  It hadn’t been a great week. My relationship with the Lord still had an unhealthy component of “do” in those days. It’s one thing to have a crummy week all by your self.  It’s another thing to crash and burn in front of a large group of people that expect you to tell them what God has to say to them.

A minute before I was to preach I simply said “God I’m sorry I’m not perfect”.  It was a heartfelt comment with a slight spin. 

He & I both knew no one would confuse me with perfection, especially “that” week. 

Though I meant it, I probably wanted to show contrition so He wouldn’t let me crash and burn in front of all those people.

I was not prepared for the quick fireside chat I encountered at that moment.  I heard the Lord speak in my spirit “So you’re saying that your perfection is better than the Blood of Jesus?”  No Lord that’s not what I meant.  Instantly I heard Him say “That’s exactly what you said”. 

My dad was a very hard working, extremely gentle Irishman. I have long said my dad wasn’t perfect, but he was the perfect dad for me.  I remember feeling that day as if God was speaking those same words over me.

In my short chat with my heavenly dad that day before preaching I realized an important truth regarding my relationship with God…..

 I would rather be forgiven than self-righteously perfect any day.

Growing in Grace I have realized my heavenly father isn’t being patient with me, He IS patient.  He can’t be any other way. 

That’s not trivial semantics.  Even the most patient person (like my natural dad) can at times loose their patience – but not God!  He does not want me fearing I am disappointing Him.  You may be disappointed when your restaurant meal doesn’t meet your expectations, but how can the God who knows everything ever be disappointed by unfulfilled expectations?  He always knows exactly what He’s going to get.

I have also come to realize forgiveness isn’t something I have to request daily.  I received His complete forgiveness the day I accepted Jesus Christ because Jesus paid the complete penalty for my sin (past, present, future)

The chat with my heavenly father that day has brought such freedom in my relationship with Jesus.  I no longer help the devil beat me up with condemnation.  I don’t call myself condescending names when I have a bad day anymore

I get it now……

It really is finished.

I hope you throw yourself at the mercy of God and find Grace to help in your time of need (He.4:16).

He really is just that in to you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What’s with the Double Stuff ?

Isaiah 40:1-2 “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, and that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.”

Here is yet another beautiful snapshot of God’s amazing Grace. You have to hold it up to the light to see it in all its beautiful detail.

These are the toughest times financially that most people have experienced in their lifetime. You can drive the streets of your town and see a sheet of paper taped on the front door of homes all over town. It’s a legal notice of pending foreclosure on that property. Most of us rarely if ever remember seeing those signs in our lifetime.

Yet they have been around since Isaiah’s time. When a person incurred a debt they were unable to pay, a sign was posted on their front door that spelled out the scope of the debt. How humiliating to have your worst out there for God and everyone to see. Even worse, back then not only the person’s property but their family and the very person themselves could be seized for the debt.

You may be feeling less than “comforted” at this moment especially considering Isaiah said she received from the Lord’s hand “double” for her trouble. But this is a picture of redemption. The whole context speaks of valleys being filled in and difficult peaks being lowered and rough places being made smooth. We could use some of that today.

Did you notice the phrase “she has received from the Lord's hand double”? In that situation of impossible debt, if a person of great means happened to pass by and pause to read the note of debt, and if they were moved by compassion to help by paying the debt, something very special happened. The benefactor would fold the card in half on to the nail, and sign their name across the card. They became surety that they would pay the debt for the debtor, and the person was completely free. That action of folding the card in half was called “The Double”.

Now can you see why the comment “from the Lord's hand” takes on such great significance? What does that do for your understanding of Philippians 4:19? “My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” God initiated this “front door signature” concept on the very first Passover with the blood of the lamb. God has always been an extravagantly gracious God except to those who demanded to live by rules (Moses you talk to God for us. Whatever He says, we are well able to do.)

One final thought on “The Double”. Once the benefactor folded the card over and signed to cover the debt, NO ONE had the right to peak behind the doubled card and see what the debt “was” (past-tense) because it was no more. It was paid in full. Not only was the debt paid but the person was free. Isaiah specifically said the “double” was for her sins. That’s amazing Grace, He really is just that into you!
                                          The Well at Crystal Lake

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Can't Touch This"

In his opening line MC Hammer thanks the Lord for blessing him with his lyric ability. I wonder if he got the title from God Himself. The Lord used that phrase when He was speaking about a holy artifact that represented His presence, for in fact from time to time He rested there. God gave the people specific instructions regarding the handling of His presence.

One time Israel went to face off against the Philistines and got kicked to the curb. Befuddled (not accustomed to loosing) they realized “oh yea – we forgot God (the Ark) we better go get Him.” Now we can get all spiritual and say “how could they” like how could Mary & Joseph misplace little Jesus? Truth be told, more people head off to work each day and forget the Lord than those who won’t leave home without Him.

So they send back to Shiloh for the Ark, born by two priests who were not the church’s best and brightest representatives. In short, they lost the Ark; let it fall right into the hands of the enemy. Now the Ark wasn’t a magical box that brought fortune to the beholder. But the enemy knew as long as God’s children didn’t have the presence of God with them, it leveled the playing field, and that it did (and still does today).

The enemy was amused by the special box but calamity struck everywhere they brought it. They surmised God might be angry with them for hauling Him all over town so they decided to make a peace offering and send the Ark back on an Ox cart. Imagine, this is the God of the whole earth we’re talking about. So they fashion gold mice & hemorrhoids (representing the problems they were experiencing) and sent the gold objects along with the Ark back towards a town called Beth-Shemesh. God has a sense of humor. “Hey what’d you get for Christmas? ….Ah….don’t ask.”

The milk cows pull into town and the children of God are happy to have their Ark back. They know something about handling the presence of God so they get the priests to remove the Ark from the cart. They burn the cart and sacrifice the cows as an offering to God. You won’t believe what happens next.

Some curious fellows want to sneak a peek inside the Ark so they slide the lid off – oogh can’t touch that. Half the translations say 70 men dropped dead. The other half say 50, 070 dropped dead. If you were one, it wouldn’t really matter how many others there were would it?

You see, the lid of the Ark is called the Mercy seat, that’s where the blood of the lamb was shed for the atonement of mans’ sin. The Mercy seat is also where the presence of God sat between the cherubim. When Jesus (the Lamb of God) shed His blood for your sin, it covered the Mercy seat. Your transgression was removed as far as the east is from the west. What is “under” the blood is off limits, paid in full. No one has the right to slide the mercy seat off and look into your past. You don’t have the right to let them or even help them.

So when someone approaches you with the obvious intention to lift the mercy seat and per into anything that is under the blood, back away just as if they were about to pick up a stick of dynamite. There’s dynamis power in the blood of Jesus. Tell them, “you’re own your own there bud, I wouldn’t touch that thing with a ten foot pole.” It’s just that serious to God! Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Does God give second chances?

Matthew 12:20 captures one of God the Father’s descriptions of Jesus, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” The message version reads like this “He won't walk over anyone's feelings, won't push you into a corner.”

There is a beautiful word picture here if you can see it. Along the banks of the Jordan were growths of large reeds. Craftsmen would sit there daily and fashion musical wind instruments from the reeds, skillfully hollowing out the pith and carving holes of precise size and location.

Occasionally the knife would slip and cut too deep, or the reed would crack under the pressure of the craftsman’s hand while being fashioned. Because of their abundance, it wasn’t worth the effort to try to repair the damaged instrument; he would simply discard the damaged reed and go start on a new one.

This happened so often that as people would walk along the river bank they would be stepping on a mat of damaged and broken – “bruised” reeds, you could hear the crunching. Father said “not my son.”

It gives Jesus great pleasure to take a bruised instrument, bind up the broken heart and once again hear beautiful music from one the world said “not worth the effort”. There are no disposable people in God’s eyes. But wait; see one more very important detail.

When the Lord took Jeremiah to the potter’s house for an illustrated talk, Jeremiah 18:4 reveals a key detail. “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.” You must note that the vessel was marred “in” (not “by”) the hand of the potter.

God will never use you up and leave you dry and spent like a crusty sponge by the kitchen sink. No, He “made it again”. Does the God you know give second chances? I’d still be in trouble. Mine is a God of “another chance.”

Well how many times will God do that? Let's let the bible define itself. “It was marred, so He made it again. It was marred, so He made it again. It was marred, so He made it again.” How many times is “again”? One more than it was marred! “A bruised reed He will not break”. He is just that in to you!

Friday, April 9, 2010

"The good old days"

Perhaps you have heard Christians romanticize about the early church in the book of acts.  Maybe you have read Acts and thought “why isn’t my church experience like that?”  Acts is a broad but orderly overview of the first thirty years of the church born on the day of Pentecost.

It’s easy to glance at a popular ministry or minister and envy what you see.  Seldom is it obvious the price they paid to be that which you admire.  Certainly that is the case with the disciples and fathers of the early church.  John is the only one who died a natural death (not because Domitian didn’t try to keep the record).

The traditions, corruption and jealousy of the leadership in the established religious system of that day fought the new covenant church every inch of the way.  They stopped at nothing – no false accusations and no twisted doctrine were off-limits to trip up the young church.  The Sanhedrin defended their system while the new Christians defended their faith.

A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.  Times change, people and systems change, but the age-old opposition to God’s Grace remains the same.  The reasons are not all that different either.  Self-serving leaders wield control over people by imposing difficult lists of rules.  Today people are invited to receive Jesus at an altar call, yet it’s not unusual for a preacher to dangle parishioners over hell weekly to scare the hell out of them.  The Bible says it’s the goodness of God that leads to repentance.

Jesus came to save the Jew first.  The “older brother” rejected Him as sure as the prodigal’s older brother.  Again, the names change, but the fact remains that God still loves the older brothers too, and He’s not willing that any should perish.

The “gospel” is supposed to be good news.  I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation.  Why is it that people who must own the newest model of cell phone or current model car or latest fashion in clothes are so adamant about clinging to an old obsolete covenant relationship with God?

What we find so exciting as we read of the early Christians in the book of Acts was born of an atmosphere where people were so serious about a living vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ that they would let nothing dissuade them.  Well friend, Jesus is the same today.  He’s looking for a people who will worship Him is spirit and in truth.  Paul said in a race all run but one wins, run to win.  If it’s worth it to you to start the race, then stay the course, reach for the prize and defend the faith.  Let someone else warm the pew.  Amen?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Good News!

Life isn't perfect - Jesus is.  It's hard to get through life without some bruises and skid marks.  A good life isn't a problem-free one, but the result of casting your cares on the one who cares most for you - Jesus Christ. He's the author and the finisher of your faith.  No one can write "the end" on your life's story except the author.

Time doesn't heal - Jesus does.  I once had a friend who lost two little children in separate events.  I relayed a word to him that I received from the Lord while in prayer for them.  There's nothing a man can do to completely insulate his family from ever experiencing crises.  Jesus said "in this world you will experience difficulties, but take heart, because I have overcome the world."  Time can make the pain less acute, but only Jesus heals.  Unless a person allows Jesus to heal them, time will only make them bitter.

Good deeds don't guarantee your salvation - Jesus did.  The Cross of Christ wasn't "plan B" for a hopelessly flawed mankind.  Jesus is the lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.   So much of what is standard fair in sermons isn't really the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The good news is Jesus died once for all - all man, all time and all sin (past, present and future).  I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.

So if you feel you're too flawed to be really loved by God, I challenge you to spend some time with me here as I reflect the goodness of God which leads to repentance.  1 Co.4:15 says "There are a lot of people around who can't wait to tell you what you've done wrong, but there aren't many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up." 

Here's to our Well Being!

Happy Father's Day Paul! We Love You! -The Team at THE WELL