Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Persecuted for a Purpose Pt. 2

Christ was persecuted for a purpose! While I do not wish to take away from the encouragement and hope that Christ’s sacrifice is meant to provide us; as explained in yesterday's post, I do worry that in our day to day living we sometimes lose sight of the fullness of that purpose and the value of His sacrifice. At times, some appear to live as Christian Atheists. Craig Groeschel's newly released book of the same name defines a Christian Atheist as someone who "believes in God but lives as if He doesn't exist"

Jesus was persecuted for a purpose. He did not die for who we are – but for who God created us to be – Lovers of God and those who love others. He died so that all His plans for us – those dreams He placed in our heart, all He desired to do in and through us could be fulfilled.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” ~Ephesians 2:8-10.

Jesus died for us, to make all things new again and all that He asks is that we would remember Him, believe in Him, and that His legacy would live on through us. Do we continue to promote the legacy Christ's death initiated – a legacy of love? The sacrificial death of Christ gave us all tangible evidence, a reason to believe that God love’s us. Are we following the example Christ left us. Are we giving others a reason to believe that we love them, are we giving them a reason to believe that God loves them? Are we being Salt & Light, Preserving, purifying, and seasoning our world, bringing hope and healing?

His legacy was "not that we would be saved by His death, because of His love, so that we could attend services in our nice pretty stained glass buildings with new sounds systems and great music one day a week, listening to wonderful theology, studying God’s word while growing deaf to the cries of the poor & oppressed, the screams of injustice, the silence of the lonely."

The purpose of his persecution was not so that we would become a people who can not be identified in a proverbial line-up of our lives against those of the world. One foot in the world, one in the church.

The purpose of Christ’s sacrifice was not for it to be remembered and celebrated simply as a 4 day weekend. It is to be celebrated with our life as we are reminded of the persecution that was endured, the price that was paid so that we might be saved.

Christ was persecuted for a purpose: so that God’s work could continue in and through us. We were saved so that His legacy lives on, so that everyone would know His love, and saving grace. We were saved so that God would be glorified.

Christ was persecuted for a purpose; so that we could be saved by His Grace. Believing this, let us enter into Easter celebrations, reflecting on the great gift Christ gave us, by giving up His life. Then in light of the magnitude of such a gift, let us commit to focusing on living what we believe!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Persecuted for a Purpose

As Easter draws near, we can reflect on the persecution, torment, torture and death of Christ as a good thing, only because we know it was for a purpose. It would be quite a sad story if Christ suffered for not. Christ was persecuted for a purpose – there was an outcome which could only be fulfilled through the struggle and suffering – The shedding of His blood and His death for the atonement of our sins. Had Christ not been persecuted, had he not suffered, died and rose again, then we would have no hope! No Future! Christ was persecuted for this purpose.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:6-8

Jesus set aside his titles and emptied himself. He become like us, so that we could become like Him.  He came with a purpose, to cut us free from the eternal penalty of our sins. He took upon Himself our punishment, so that return we could gain His righteousness. He was hung on a cross and pierced for us. He essentially traded places with us.  As he was whipped, as he walked his bloody body to the place he would be crucified, as he hung there on the cross, I believe it was our face that He pictured. We are the reason He endured it all. This is the totality of what we mean when we say we have a personal relationship with Christ. Christ allowed himself to be persecuted, because for Him, it was personal. He would rather die for us – than live without us! His death paid the penalty for our sins. When we ask His forgiveness, His sacrifice washes away the sins of our past and makes us new again!

"It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.  Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving." Ephesians 2:1-9

Jesus’ mission did not end at death; He overcame the grave, overcame death and rose again. Just as He was risen, we will also rise to be with Him. It is a message of hope, because as we go through our own struggles, we see through Christ’s example of suffering that on the other side of persecution is victory! That when we press on, and press into God we will rise above, we will overcome – we will be transformed – we will fulfill God’s purpose for our lives and then when our earthly existence has come to an end, we will be united with our heavenly Father, our creator for all eternity.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Imperfect Board Member

Today I enjoyed a relaxing day at home. While it was cool and gloomy outside, I kept myself warm with some delicious white truffle rooibos tea, and occupied by reading the book "The Imperfect Board Member" by Jim Brown.  Initially, I thought it might be better to drown my body in coffee, thinking that the book would bore me to sleep and the caffeine may help to push me through to the end.  Surprisingly, the book was delightfully engaging, a quick 200 page read that I finished in a matter of hours.  Written as a narrative, with sage advice and proven principals comprising the meat of the material, this is a book that I would recommend to every person who works within an organization, church or company that has Board style governance.  Whether you be the CEO, Executive Director, Board member or even staff, Jim Brown's book offers invaluable insight.

As I do with most everything I read, I create a cornucopia of colour in my books. As interesting and poignant statements catch my attention, I stroke the little nuggets of wisdom with a highlighter for quick future reference. The rest of this post will be a quick summary of the pretty little pink lines you would come across if you read my copy of "The Imperfect Board Member", some of them are poignant and others just caused some personal reflection or left me laughing. I've bolded some of my favourites.

If I was to summarize the content of this book it would be encapsulated in this sentence:
To DIRECT and PROTECT the board must CONNECT - EXPECT - CORRECT and with regard to the CEO the board must SELECT - INSPECT - REDIRECT and if necessary - EJECT

** "He snapped on his positive, professional countenance- the one he had mastered after his
    MBA course on pubic relations, in which he learned to "always be sincere, even if you 
    have to fake it""
** "I'm just creating an environment for her to be her best. I view tips differently than many
    people do.  I like to use them to inspire premium service.  Why wait until it is too late to give
    her a message about her performance?"
** "Sometimes the best way for me to support you will be for me to disagree"
** Owners - Board - CEO - Staff - Customers -- "When the straight lines of communication,
    authority, and accountability get broken, confusion and chaos result"
** "President Lincoln wisely judged that 'it never does a boy much good to shoot him"
** "Hope is a choice.  Add to it perseverance and that's what changes the world"
** "Sometimes we inadvertently reward the behaviour we don't want and fail to reward 
    the behaviour we desire"
** "Sometimes a majority only means that all fools are on the same side"
** "When you're in the depths of despair, things appear dark in every direction.  But 
    when you raise your head out of the pit, you get a totally different experience"
** "Boards don't need to hear about how busy the CEO is -- they need to hear about results"
** "The only way a board can responsibly to it's job without medling is by monitoring well"
** "The best boards keep their noses in the business and their fingers out"
** "What you should know by now is that I don't just tell you my thoughts - I expect you to think"
** "It's amazing how uncommon common sense is these days"
** "Monitoring the results the CEO has achieved compared to the plans and policies set by the
    board is how the board fulfills the responsibility to INSPECT"
** "The board's position is not management one step up, it's ownership one step down."
** "An example of good use of board inspection is interviewing several staff members 
    to assess how closely the organization is following the board set values."
** "Tie as much of the compensation as possible to performance.  Despite what Woody Allen
    said, merely showing up for work is not enough"
** "Winston Churchill's response when a friend asked if he was impressed that ten 
    thousand people had come to hear him speak: "Not really.  A hundred thousand 
    people would come to see me hang""
** "Every director [board member] has a significant investment in the business.  We insist on
    that because we believe that board members must feel the impact of their decisions and their
    leadership as much as any other shareholder"
** "Feedback is the breakfast of champions"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Fruit Basket - The Gift God really Wants.

The one gift that God treasures most from His children, is a Fruit Basket. While not everyone appreciates receiving a fruit basket, it is a gift that can make all the difference to God, and each person we share it with, not to mention the benefit to our own lives.

Do you know how I know that God loves Fruit Baskets – He tells me so, repeatedly in His word, most notably John chapter 15. In Christ’s own words he tells us that we are to bear fruit “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” John 15:16 Straight from the mouth of Christ – BEAR FRUIT - FRUIT THAT WILL LAST

Verse 8 Jesus Christ says to us “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” There are two things we learn from these words of Jesus We Glorify God by producing Fruit and a true disciple produces a bounty of fruit – it is evidence of our relationship with Christ. Matthew 7:16 reads “By their fruit you will recognize them.”

The term fruit as it is used here includes everything from their growing in the image of God and the fruits of the spirit, to the fruit that is produced because of their sharing the gospel and the fruit that is produced as a result of their service to God and others. A fruitful life is a life that benefits others. A vineyard is worthless unless it bears fruit that provides life, nourishment and joy for people, so the Christian life would be worthless unless Christians lived so that others may find life, strength and joy through their example and good works, and so that the world may be brought into relationship with Christ through the cross.

Verse 16 briefly touches on the quality of fruit God desires. It implies (through the direction to “GO”) that the disciples should be rich in good works and be striving to produce fruit that lasts. If you are uncomfortable with the implication of good works here, you can turn in your bibles to Colossians 1:10 “We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work.”

Fruit is something tangible, it is something I can see, I can hold, I can touch, it nourishes me, strengthens me and gives me life. This is the kind of fruit we are called to produce – life-giving fruit.

As Christians, a fruit basket should be the easiest gift to give; we should be overflowing with fruit, a virtual cornucopia of plenty. Fruit is the evidence of life in Christ!

Take inventory of the lasting fruit our spiritual life is producing. What difference has your faith made in your life, made in someone else’s life? What difference has your faith made in your church and for God’s kingdom? What fruit is your faith producing?

We can claim to have the fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control, but if it is not evidenced in tangible ways, expressed in good works, giving life to others, and bringing God glory, then perhaps we need check for parasites and examine our roots for rot.

Jesus warns us that those whose faith does not produce fruit will lose their privileges. I quote Jesus from Matthew 21:43 “Therefore I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit"

We are a people who will produce the fruit for the Kingdom of God if we are faithful with what we have been given. There are 3 biblical principles that we can apply that will help to increase the fruit yield in our lives.

First and foremost, if we want to produce fruit that will bring sustenance to our life and bring life to the lost than we need to remain attached to the vine. The Vine is Jesus Christ. If we look again at Jesus’ words in the book of John chapter 15 verse 5 He tells us “If a man remains in me and I in Him, He will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Second we must submit to God as the gardener. Jesus refers to us in verse 2 as the branches and says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Finally “An apple a day keeps the pain at bay” The fruit that is produced in helping others, not only Glorifies God, and brings life to others, it actually brings us healing.

As Christians we need to commit to doing whatever we can to cultivate fruit so that at the proper time it can be harvested. It will not be easy but if we remain attached to vine; remain dependent on Christ; in His word &faithful to His word, our faithfulness will produce fruitfulness. If we submit to God as the gardener, allowing him, as painful as it may be to prune the dead branches in our lives, we will reap a harvest. If we take the focus off ourselves and place our focus on others, we will experience and abundance like we have never imagined and their will be a transformation of our lives, and community.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sometimes the Poorest of Men are the Richest

Today I watched an excellent Canadian movie called "AMAL".  Set in India this modern day fable, follows an auto-rickshaw driver in New Delhi who is content with his small but vital role in life.  One day he chauffeurs an eccentric millionaire who, disguised as a vagabond, is searching the streets for the last morsel of humanity - and someone he can leave his fortune to - and Amal's life changes forever.  The movie has a twist, which I think will leave you shocked more by your own response, than the plot turn.

I could not help but come away from the movie reminded of Jesus' teaching on the Beatitudes/Blessings.  Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

At least twice in the movie, mention is made of someone being different.  Although the difference was honesty, kindness and humility, it seemed to be looked down upon within a society focused on aquiring more and getting ahead, even at the disadvantage of others.  Amal was not crooked like all the other Rickshaw drivers, though it was not always easy to do the right thing he did it.  Sometimes the Poorest of Men are the Richest

Friday, March 26, 2010

Live What You Believe

If I were to rename the book of Titus I would entitle it “Practice What You Preach", as this is Paul’s charge throughout this letter to Titus.

Amidst false teachers, and a relatively unestablished church, Paul writes to Titus with encouraging words and advice as to how to address the problems, deal with various groups in the congregation and get the church in order. I particularly love the book of Titus, as I am passionate about how our saving faith transforms our lives and is evidenced through our day to day living

As with the false teachers, there are a lot of people who “claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” ~1:16 So Paul begins his theological teaching on deeds and doctrine. In verses 11 & 12 of Chapter 2 Paul teaches that it is God’s grace that enables us to live lives honouring to God. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” Given the actions of the false teachers it is apparent that they had not received the grace of God that brings salvation, nor anyone else who were living ungodly, worldly lives.

It is interesting that all the things that Paul was instructing Titus to teach to the older men and women, younger men and women, slaves and masters all had to do with their behaviours.

I often think of our lives as a case being made for our faith. Is there enough evidence for others to recognize that I am a Christian, that I am set-apart, that I have been transformed and am continuing to be transformed by the grace of God?

Paul cautions Titus, reminding him that good deeds are to accompany the receiving of the truth and thus serve as a defence of the gospel. The gospel itself is as much to be put into practice as it is to be preached. Paul in no way suggests to Titus that salvation can be earned through works, but that they are the evidence of a genuine, saving faith in Christ, provided by His grace. This serves as a trust worthy saying “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” [3:3-7]

Paul is calling the leadership to authenticity, to pay as much attention to their behaviour as they do their beliefs. Paul was encouraging Titus to model the gospel in His life. This is exactly what Jesus Christ did – he modeled the gospel and we are in turn called to be imitators of Christ. Titus found himself in a cess pool of debauchery, and ill living and he needed to step up and be the example of something better, to show them that there was another option, that it could be done and was worthy living even amongst the competing opposition.

This then sums up my favourite verse from the Titus epistle, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” [2:7-8] God helping me, may it be true of me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Somebody Who Cares

"Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it." ~Romans 12:9-19

Once I accept Christ as my Saviour, I can no longer accept the fact that I am a sinner. As a Christ Follower - I am somebody who cares! I was reminded of this a few years ago, when I was in Africa working with "Somebody Cares". Cathy, one of the leaders, shared the following with us before we went to work with those living with AIDS in the slums of Lilongwe

You are not the things you do – You are a Christian, a child of God – You are somebody who cares. You are not a sinner for if you were it would be natural for you to sin. But as a Christian – transformed with a renewed mind it should become as laughable and unbelievable when you sin as it would be for a man to wear a bra. A man does not wear a bra or skirt for this is not who they are. If a man is to wear a dress we would laugh in unbelief, same too if a transformed Christians was to sin – as this would be out of character. As Christians we are kind – giving – loving – good people- we are people who care – I am somebody who cares. Believe this and live it out – say it and own it. Even when tried and tempted remember - say it even under your breath or through gritted teeth – I am a child of God – I am somebody who cares. Behave like a Christian – Love, cling to what is good, be kind, be selfless, give to the needy, rejoice, pray and be patient, bless and do not curse. Rejoice and weep with others accordingly – associate with all people – live peaceably with all.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A God of Justice but Mercy is His Specialty

I love the biblical book of Micah, cause it exudes with themes of Social Justice. Reading the book of Micah, I can't help but notice how his heart broke for the same things that broke God’s heart. It was evident that Micah’s burden was for the poor and he rebuked the rich, self-reliant people of Israel’s two affluent capital cities, while presenting hope and support for the poor. The rampant deceit, fraud, injustice and corruption was crippling the people, allowing the rich to get richer, and the poor to get poorer. So through Micah, God issued his warning [2:3-5].

Of all the persons that should have set the standard for righteous living it was the leaders and prophets who were to be the example, but it was these same leaders of Jacob and Israel who led the people astray, oppressed them and devoured them amidst their corruption. Micah held little back exposing the hypocritical actions, and low living of the leaders and false prophets.  There was no way that in the light of these revelations that they could deny that the impending judgment of the Lord was just.

There was no excuse for the sins that were being committed, God had made it very clear, what was expected of His people. Time and time again, we see throughout the Old Testament that it's not their sacrifices, ritualistic worship or offerings that God wants but to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”~6:8.  It doesn’t require a lot of hermeneutic examination to know that this is still the essence of what the Lord requires of us today.

Micah encourages God’s people with the hope of an ideal future  to be ushered in by the Messiah born in Bethlehem "He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.  And he will be their peace." ~5:4-5. I love the contrast of the current leaders of Israel who oppress and destroy the poor versus the coming Shepherd King who will stand and protect his flock. What a relief that must have been to those who had been under the thumb of unrighteous rule.  Micah reminds us that Justice and Mercy meet at the cross in unparalleled perfection.

I love Micah’s prayer of thanksgiving  found in chapter 7, which foretells of the grace that was to come “Where is the god who can compare with you—wiping the slate clean of guilt,Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, to the past sins of your purged and precious people? You don't nurse your anger and don't stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty. That's what you love most. And compassion is on its way to us. You'll stamp out our wrongdoing. You'll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean.You'll stay true to your word to Father Jacob and continue the compassion you showed Grandfather Abraham—Everything you promised our ancestors from a long time ago. ~7:18-19. What a glorious image of our God, who is abounding in grace and mercy. I particularly love the line about hurling all our iniquities into the depths of the sea, what freedom is found in forgiveness as great and complete as this.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

LOST - It's Good to See You Out of Those Chains

Tonight's episode is the one I spoke of a couple weeks ago called " Ab Aeterno".  As I mentioned in my last post on Lost this is Latin for "from the beginning of time". The significance of this title is revealed below.
This episode of Lost is centered on Richard Alpert. Richard believes he has been living in hell and this whole episode takes us through his story and what brought him to the island and why he never ages.  There is so much to talk about from this episode so my apologies for  a longer post, but I tried to keep it brief.

Richard's story begins in 1867 in the Canary Islands.  Richard's wife is burning up and coughing up blood. Early on, we are given evidence that he was a man of God.  He makes statements about God's will and prays for His provisions.  His wife hands him her cross that was hanging around her neck and said for him to give it to the doctor, that he is about to run off and get in order to save her.

The doctor refuses to ride the 1/2 day in the rain to see Richard's wife but says he has medicine that will save her life.  It is very expensive, so Richard gives him all he has and her cross necklace, which the doctor throws and says is worthless. He struggles with the doctor and inadvertently pushes him into a tale and kills him, but leaves with the medicine in his hands.  When he returns she is already dead, and the authorities show up at his house to take him to prison, where we see him reading the bible. The book of Luke was what he was studying. He prays for forgiveness and asks the the priest to grant him absolution, but the priest responds that  he can not grant him absolution for murder, even if it was an accident. Furthermore the priest tells him the only way to earn forgiveness is through penance, which he has no time to for because tomorrow he is to be hung.  The priest leaves him with the words, "the devil awaits you, may God have mercy on your soul".  This made me so angry, for a number of reasons.  First of all, a priest can not provide absolution only God can.  Forgiveness cannot be earned, by works and Penance is not a requirement of forgiveness.  God forgives all those who turn to Him, pray for forgiveness and repent of their sins.  "When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." ~Luke 5:20; " If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." ~ 1 John 1:9

The next day, instead of being led out to be hung, the priest brings Richard to a Mr. Whitfield, who purchases him as a slave, to take him to the new world, upon the Black Rock ship.   On the ocean one of the other slaves says he can see the devil, that the land ahead is being guarded by the devil, in fact it was an old Egyptian statue, which they ran aground on.

We witness Whitfield come below the ship and kill 3 of the slaves, skewering them with his sword. He comes to Richard, and goes to kill him, only to have the ship rocked by the black smoke, leaving blood pouring down below before the black smoke takes Whitfield, himself.  The black smoke comes below and stops in front of Alpert who interestingly enough is not wearing his cross necklace. The black smoke leaves Richard alone.  Interesting to note that it is never what we where around our neck, or the churches that we attend that save us. When everything is stripped away, it is the faith within our hearts that saves us.

A woman shows up on the ship and ask is anyone here?  It appears to be Richard's wife Isabella.  She tells him they are both dead and in hell. She is there to save him before the devil comes back.  He tells her to run, that he said he would save her -and if she loves him she must go as she leaves she gets taken by the smoke monster.

Richard is passed out in chains, when someone touches him, and offers him water.  He says that he is a friend and tells Richard that he is dead and in hell and that he will help him if he promises to do anything he asks in return.  The man tells Richard that the only way for them to escape hell, is to kill the devil. Interesting considering the only way for us to escape hell is through Jesus Christ himself - who died, overcoming death, defeating the powers of darkness and rose again to earth before going to heaven. "Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."~ Revelation 1:18 [AB AETERNO]

You only have one chance to kill the devil, you must walk up to him and stab him in the chest, do it quick, if he speaks to you it is already to late, he can be very persuasive.  Richard questions him and says "But you killed all those people...Murder is wrong that is what brought me here." to which the man replies "We can talk all day long about what is right or wrong but the question remains the same do you ever want to see your wife again."  Richard seemed to already know in his heart that what this man (devil) was telling him did not make sense, was not truth but his desires consumed him and led him into the jungle to find and kill the "Devil".  We compromise the moment we entertain conversation with the enemy.  One of the tactics of the devil is to convince us that someone else is the enemy.  It is what trapped Eve, when she entered into conversation with the snake (devil) in Genesis 3 and it is what trapped Richard as he entertains the request of the man in black to do his work, and kill Jacob. 

Jacob who according to the man in black, is supposed to be the devil meets Richard at the statue and wrestles the dagger from his hands. Jacob asks him "Did you meet a man in the jungle dressed in black. What did he say? He said you are the devil and the only way I can see my wife again is if I kill you." Jacob explains that it was not his wife, and that Richard is not dead.  Richard argues that he is dead so Jacob takes him into the ocean and keeps dunking him in the water as though about to drown him (obvious symbolism of baptism) and poses the question do you want me to stop? Why should I stop, if you are already dead?  To which Richard says, "because I want to live"

Richard asks him about his dwelling place, to which Jacob responds "Nobody comes in unless I invite them in."  "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ~ John 14:6.  The following discourse was amazing. 

Are you the devil? - NO.  
Then who are you? - My name is Jacob. I am the one who brought your ship to this island. 
Why? - [Holding up a vessel of wine] Think of this wine as what you call hell, malevolence, evil, darkness and here it is swirling around in the bottle because if it could escape it would spread.  The cork is this island and it is the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs. That man believes that everyone is corruptible because it is in their very nature to sin.  I bring them here to prove to him, he is wrong. I wanted them to help themselves, to know the difference between right and wrong, without me needing to tell them.  

This reminded me of the story of Job, where Satan tried to corrupt him and prove his lack of faith in God, only to find His attempt futile.

Richard responds, well if you do not step in, the man will.  Jacob says I do not want to step in but maybe you will, you can be my intermediary between me and the people I bring to the island. In return he offers him eternal life and sends Richard back to give the man (devil) a white stone. The white stone is a blatant bible reference found in Revelation 2:17 "To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it."

When Richard hands him the stone, the man in black, tells Richard that he can change his mind at any time.

We come back to the present time almost 150 years later and Richard runs back to where he buried his wife's cross and yells out to the man in black (devil) that he changes his mind. "Are you listening to me?", he screams. "Does the offer still stand?".  It appears that Richard is losing his faith. As they pan out to a view of what could be Eden, Hurley who has the ability to talk to the dead, approaches Richard and says his wife wants to know why he buried her cross.  She says it wasn't your fault that I died, as much as you wanted to save me it was my've suffered enough. Richard tearfully speaks out, ""I miss you, I would do anything for us to be together again, Isabella his wife love..we are already together.

Richard places the cross around his neck!  She said one more thing that he has to do - stop the man in black (devil) from leaving the island cause if he does we will all go to hell.

As the show closes, the man in black (devil) is sitting on a log and Jacob comes up and sits beside him.  Jacob says to the man in black I see you got my gift (the white rock), to which he replies "don't gloat, it does not become you."  The man in black admits that he was trying to get off the island, which Jacob says will never happen as long as he is alive, which is why he is trying to kill him in the first place.  The man in black is held on the island, which aligns with what we read about Satan being bound for 1000 years, with the keys held by the angel of heaven in the book of Revelation chapter 20.  Hmmm... perhaps the candidates are the angels who hold the key.

Monday, March 22, 2010

One Person with Courage is the Majority

As I was Googling for a pic to include with yesterdays post, I stumbled across recent accounts of women who are being stoned to death.  Disturbed by what I read, I began to dig a little deeper, and discovered a movie, released just a few days ago, called "The Stoning of Soraya M".  I rented that movie and watched it today.

It was the most disturbing movie I have ever seen.  I believe it is a movie everyone should see, but the heart-breaking true story and graphic images makes it hard to sit through.

The overall tragedy and abhorrent act of stoning someone to death in the name of God, left me appalled, yelling at the TV screen as righteous anger almost oozed from my pores.  I could go on forever, but this is not the forum, so I will simply address in brief, a couple specific things that stood out to me in the movie.

Zahra the main character, a brazen, bold and outspoken woman lives with a heavy sense of justice.  She recognizes that what has happened to her friend and in her community is wrong, and she is refusing to stay silent about it. She says "I know right from wrong and what happened here yesterday was wrong." So, to the French reporter, Freidoune Sahebjam, whose car has broken down in her village, she says, "The voices of women do not matter here, I want you to take my voice with you".  She was determined to stand up, at risk of her own life to have the truth told! On one hand my heart resonates with Zahra's, I am propelled by justice.  Wrong's should be made right.  People should not be able to continue unchallenged, in behaviours that are deceitful, unrighteous and detrimental to both themselves and others.  Light needs to be shone to expose the darkness for what it is. However, I found myself finishing the movie, a little convicted.  More often than I would like to admit, when I should stand up and speak out, I remain silent.  One person had the courage to speak up when everyone was silent - now the whole world knows the truth!

Throughout the movie we see characters struggling with wanting to do the right thing, but instead choosing to maintain the status quo and not rock the proverbial boat.  They were willing to keep their mouth shut, to play along and even participate in the what they knew was the unjust stoning of Soraya.  The men in the town, even her friend the mayor, pleaded with Zahra to "soften your tongue, work with them, respect them, give them what they want, tell them what they want to hear". To which Zahra responds "That is what you do isn't it - but at what price?" At one point she says that he is nothing more than a slave, a prostitute to those he serves.  I am reminded of something I once heard a pastor say. "If God put it in your heart to say it and you don't say it - if God put it in your heart to do it and you don't do're not a prophet of God, you're a prostitute of the church." Our silence can costs us and more often others, dearly, sometimes their lives, spiritually and/or physically.

The mayor, realizing that he had participated in bringing about this travesty, having conceded to this innocent woman being stoned, prayed just before that fateful hour "dear God help me, if what we're doing is according to Your will then grant me the strength to go on, help me to do the right thing. But if this is against Your will give me a sign so I can stop it." Soraya's own father picks up the first stones and throws them at her, they miss her time and again.  An onlooker speaks up and cries that Soraya should be set free, that it is a sign from God that the stones are unable to hit her, that He is protecting her because she is innocent.  First of all, the mayor never had to pray to God in the first place, because he knew this woman was not guilty and his heart told him that stoning her was wrong. Then we see the mayor recognizes that this is indeed the answer to his prayer, she is innocent, he is to stop it and yet  influenced by those who orchestrated this deadly plot he does not intervene.  Perhaps we can identify similar situations where we've asked God for a sign, for help, and He faithfully provides it to us, but we choose to do it our way, because at the time it seemed easier, reasoning everything else away as coincidence.

This whole scene reminded me a lot of when Jesus was brought before Pilate, and the mob mentality that contributed to him sentencing Christ to death by crucifixion. 

This incident takes place in 1986, however this is what I found with a little research:

In 2007 a 17 year old girl from Mosul Iraq, was stoned to death by 1000 men for having a relationship with a Sunni Muslim boy.  More abhorrent is the fact that they video taped the act on their cell phones as they threw the stones.

In October, 2008, a 13 year old girl, Aisho Ibrahim Dhuhulow was buried up to her neck at a football stadium then stoned to death in front of more than 1,000 people for the alleged crime of adultery

A survey carried out in August 2009 found that 83% of Pakistanis believe that adulterers should be stoned. In another survey carried out in 'moderate' Indonesia (at 220 million, the world's most populated Muslim country) it found that "almost half the respondents back stoning as a punishment for adulterers.  Also take note that the book which this movie was based on written by Sahebjam was banned in Iran and I imagine the movie will be to.   I do not suggest by way of these statistics (how accurate or biased they are is to be taken into consideration) that people hold these views simply based on their ethnicity or religious beliefs, this would be a bigoted and abhorrent suggestion.  However, I personally find it abhorrent and repugnant whenever anyone of any religion (Christians included) uses God to condone hurt and oppression against others. 

The passage found in Acts 4:1-21 describing Peter & Paul being brought before the Sanhedrin is the scripture that came to mind as I watched this movie.  The Sanhedrin were responsible for the stoning death of Stephen, depicted in Acts 7 and they also conspired to have Jesus killed. We are reminded in these verses that a group of people can come together in their hate, to kill and destroy, perverting the name and word of God, but ordinary people with the courage to speak up and stand in the truth of God can be used by God to help change and save lives.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Throwing Stones?

I was moved by a prayer I heard today.  It was prayed that we might be the kind of individuals who could and would forgive the unforgivable, who would extend grace in the most difficult of situations.  As I reflected on that prayer, I was reminded of the story found in John 8:1-22.  It describes Jesus' interaction with the leaders of the church, who were about to stone a woman because she had broken the commandment thou shall not commit adultery.
"Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them. The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, "Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?" They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him."

Let me interject here, it says that the woman was caught "red-handed", and  that "they stood her in plain sight of everyone".  It occurred to me that this probably meant that they literally caught her in the act of adultery with another man, and dragged her out, perhaps naked onto the street, scared, ashamed, embarrassed and about to be stoned.  I wonder where the equally guilty man is in this situation? The story continues...

"Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, "The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone." Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt." I wonder what he was writing in the dirt, perhaps a list of the countless sins the accusers were guilty of.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?"

"No one, Master."

"Neither do I," said Jesus. "Go on your way. From now on, don't sin." 

First thought, from the last line. When we turn to Christ for forgiveness, He is faithful to forgive, and tells us to go and sin no more! As we turn to Him, we turn away from the sin which ensnared us.  As soon as we take our eyes off Christ, we can be sure that we face the danger of getting caught up in the things that trapped us in the first place.

Moving on.  Jesus said “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” At this those who heard went away until only Jesus was left, the only one standing that truly was without sin – an illustration of His divinity, and the reason that as the Son of God only He could pardon her sins.

In this instance Jesus not only encouraged repentance by revealing His mercy to this woman, but also by revealing to the accusers, their own sins.  To often we take on the task of judge and jury, when we are the least qualified to do so. If Christ himself, who was without sin, forgives us of all our sins, when we turn to Him, who are we, to throw stones at others?  To judge or in Greek "Krino" means to condemn. Jesus did not come to judge the world but to redeem it - to save it. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." ~ John 3:17. While God's word clearly states, that there will be a judgment day, where we will all stand before God and answer for our actions, I do not recall anywhere in scripture where Jesus Christ, passes judgment. Romans 14:10-12 reads, "You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: " 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,  'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' "So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. "  Indeed Jesus, spoke truth, revealed through God's word the condition of each person's heart, corrected and provided rebuke, but He did not stand in judgment.

We are not to harshly judge others, but we are to rebuke, out of love. Rebuke simply means to call sin by it's rightful name for the purposes of correction. "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction." ~ 2 Timothy 4:2. If we see the need to speak with a friend or fellow Christian who is openly committing some sinful act, that is not judging them, but addressing their actions.  That does not mean we should condemn, disrespect or harshly judge someone but we should pull them aside and speak to them about it, with patience, gentleness and mercy. Always led by the Holy Spirit, with the word of God as our guide, so that they can make it right with God.
If God did not assign Jesus the task of judging and condemning others, who do we think we are to do so?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

God the Missionary

God is on a mission.  In fact, He is the ultimate missionary. The Good News – is hope for all people and we receive that hope through our personal relationship with Christ. God saves us from sin and death, but not only that He saves us for a Mission. A mission of gift giving. We are saved to continue to share with all mankind the gifts that we have received from God, to extend His gift of hope, grace, mercy & love to others.

God is a missionary. The Latin theological term “Missio Dei” actually means “sending of God”. When kept in the context of the Scriptures, Missio Dei correctly emphasizes that God is the initiator of His mission to redeem through the Church a special people for Himself from all of the peoples of the world. He sent His Son for this purpose and He sends the Church into the world with the message of the gospel for the same purpose. God is Love – God is our Hope – and was sent as Love as Hope in His son Jesus Christ, and He send us now having received this Love and Hope to share it with others. God saves us through  and  then sends us to Love.  Given the example provided by God himself and Christ His son, we are not to get caught up in the notion that people need to come to God via the church or it's buildings, but rather that God extends His hope to us, sent His Son as hope for us, and ultimately lives within us and send us out to extend that hope to others.

Here we sit as Christians the largest religion in the world. More than 1/3 of all the people on the planet profess to be Christians. Over 2 billion strong – with the power of God on our side – the hope of a Saviour and yet our world is in despair, in darkness, lost, stumbling around in the darkness looking for a glimmer of hope.

I recall sitting in a seminar  years ago, that author Michael Frost led, and at the end he shared with us this challenge to create a missional rhythm of living, a way of living that would allow us to be that glimmer of hope in the darkness. Each person would meet with two others to keep each other accountable on the following:

BLESS X3 - What 3 people or 3 ways that you have blessed someone this week -

EAT X 3 - What 3 people did you have time to break bread with / eat with -

LISTEN X 1 - Take time to be attentive to the Holy Spirit - What did you
hear God say this week

LEARN X 1 - Take time to learn the person of Jesus -CHRIST LIKENESS

SENT - Journal ways you have done the work of God this week. - MISSIONAL

The church has always been the one called to bring life, to bring HOPE, "if we rise to the crisis’ our society faces it will be the biggest witness the world has ever seen."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Give Him What You Got

I enjoy reading the story of God calling Moses into service for Him.  In Chapter 4 of Exodus we see Moses scared, insecure, and seemingly unqualified, at least in his own eyes to do what it was God was asking of Him.  "Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." ~ 4:10 These personal doubts in himself nearly brought him to the point of disobedience, which would of resulted in a loss of opportunity and blessing too large to even consider.

When I read Exodus 4:2 "Then the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied."" the thought occurred to me, that God can, will and does use whatever we have available, what we offer Him, to get His job done. If we simply offer what we have, regardless of how little it may seem, God will do great things with it. The theme is alluded to again in verses 4:11-12, "The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."" Again God uses what little we appear or think we have to offer, if only we are willing. This aligns with the premise in Genesis where God chose the second born, the seemingly weak to see His plans come to fruition. Along these same lines, God has equipped us each accordingly to ensure His work is carried out, provided us gifts to be used for His glory. "...Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you..." ~Exodus 31:6 

When I'm faced with an opportunity that seems larger than myself, beyond my qualifications and I am tempted to cower and turn away, I think of this story, and the impact that Moses was able to have when he stepped out in faith and trusted God, allowing himself to be used  to lead the people out of bondage and into the promised land. I am reminded of a saying I heard early on in ministry and believe to be true "God does not call the equipped, He equipps the called."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Our Proverbial Tongue

A profound collection of statements, illustrating practical application of Godly wisdom, is how I would describe in one sentence the content of Proverbs. Where Psalms illustrates how to be in right relationship with God, Proverbs gives direction on how to be in right relationship with others. 

Personally the verses that got my attention; increased my wisdom; convicted my heart; and gave me hope for change were those referencing the tongue. Not that I am so much a gossip (though I am sure I do) "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret." ~ Proverbs 11:13; nor that I am a liar (though I am sure I have) "...better to be poor than a liar." ~Proverbs 19:22; "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will perish." ~ Proverbs 19:9. It for me is more the idle words I speak, that can serve as my struggle, nothing spoken from malicious intent, but perhaps unnecessary. Verse 10:19 sums it up perfectly “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise”. I would be wise to hold my tongue more often, in jest, in rebuke, in defense, in frustration.

On the other hand, I also have the gift of encouragement and am blessed by God to be able to use my tongue to bring life and healing as spoken of in verse 15:4 “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life”, and to promote and persuade as in verse 16:21 “The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” However I am more keenly aware, how even this can be faulted, and less effective when done as a form of idle flattery or in nauseating abundance, like wearing out your welcome, or gorging on honey to the point of throwing up. [Verse 25:16]

Our words have the power to uplift or tear down, to bring life or death and we need to be wise in the words we let roll of our tongue. "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit—you choose." ~Proverbs 18:21

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day - A Call to Serve Your Enemies

After the Irish songs are sung and the pinching is done, do you really know about why we celebrate this one?
Did you know that St. Patrick was a slave?  He was born in Britain but captured and sold into slavery in Ireland when he was 16.  Though not very religious at the time, his faith grew as he served as a slave shepherd in Ireland.  One day he felt God tell him through prayer to escape, so he made a run for it and ended up meeting a ship as it was about to set sail.  Somehow he got on board that ship which landed him in France, where he eventually found himself in a monastery.  At some point Patrick has a dream where an Irishman beckons him to return to Ireland to share the gospel.  With no schooling, it did not seem very feasible that the church would let him serve as a missionary.  However God told him to go, and prepared the way for him to do incredible things in Ireland.  Now the Irish are famous for their tall tales, so it is hard to separate fact from fiction. We know our God is big and can do more than we can ever dream or imagine, nothing is outside his abilities, so when hearing stories about  how he drove all the snakes out of Ireland, survived poisoning, turned an evil ruler into a fox and that his fingers turned into flashlights in the dark, the best we can do is use discernment, using reason, discernment, tradition and experience to shed light on these claims.  For example Ireland is not known to have had any snakes even before St. Patrick's time, and thus it probably referred more to the various pagan beliefs that were being espoused at that time.

What is cool is that we understand that during the time of his ministry in Ireland he used the 3 leaf clover to explain the Trinity, with each leaf representing the 3 parts of God being one.  One leaf for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit. Oh but what about the elusive four leaf clover? When a Shamrock is found with the fourth leaf, it is said to represent God's Grace.

So many celebrate this day, without understanding the impact and life of the one we celebrate.  St. Patrick a missionary who went when God said go, and as a result was freed from His chains of slavery, given a calling to share the Gospel with his enemies, the Irish, who initially enslaved him as a teen. It was not an easy task, as he faced opposition.  St. Patrick shared in one letter that he was on one occasion beaten, robbed of all he had, and put in chains, perhaps awaiting execution." In being obedient however, he freed many who did not even realize that they were living in the bondage of sin, enslaved in chains that only God himself could release.

I think the greatest lesson in the life of St. Patrick, is not only did he willingly return back to Ireland to serve his captors, no longer a slave to them but a bond servant of God himself,  but he invited His enemies to join with him in the celebration that comes from a new life found in Christ.

Amongst the festivities, parades, limericks and beer, may St. Patrick's day serve as a reminder to us that we are called to serve our enemies, to love them as we love ourselves and to share with them the same, love, grace and mercy that was extended to us, by our Heavenly Father.  God helping us, may we have enough forgiveness to invite our enemies into our lives, so that they too may come to know the joy of the Lord and thus join us in the celebration that awaits all God's children. 

As proud as I am of my Irish Heritage, I am more proud of being a Christian.  Today I can celebrate and wear that shamrock proudly, knowing what it represented to St. Patrick.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mark Reflects on the Humble Servant.

The book of Mark focuses on Jesus as the humble servant, his Life in many ways serving as a parallel to our own spiritual walk. Jesus is portrayed as the suffering servant with the power to heal, who through His death would bring life. We too are called to be servants in this world, at times we will suffer for it, as we pick up our crosses and follow Christ. Yet as we die to our old selves, we will find life in abundance through our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Again the consistent theme throughout the bible, of God using the weak, is really emphasized throughout Mark. Christ makes it abundantly clear “If anyone wants to be first, he must be very last, and the servant of all.” He himself fulfills this command being the humble servant of all, who sacrificed for all and is first and Lord of all.

Christ set us a wonderful example to follow, as evidenced throughout the book of Mark. We continually see Jesus taking the time to stop what He was doing and minister to the needs of those who were struggling and in need. We are instructed in what it means and how it looks in practice to be a follower of Christ – to be His disciple.

I loved the emphasis placed on the power and authority to forgive someone their sins. It is one thing to have the ability to heal a man’s body of infirmity, but to heal their spirit, through the forgiveness of sins, is something only God has the power to do. The teachers of the law realized it is one thing to heal a man of paralysis with a touch of the hand, sure that is cool but to grant him forgiveness of his sins, well that is something no one has the power to do, except God. Yet they were blinded in their ability to recognize the humble servant as the one who was God. [2:5-12]

Throughout the book of Mark we also see statements that refer to Jesus knowing in His spirit what people were thinking in their hearts and responding to their heart condition. What a sobering and yet encouraging truth for us. There is nothing that can be hidden from Christ; the nature of our Heart is what is of upmost concern to Him, not our outward facades of religiosity. Our relationship with Christ is so intimate that he knows the thoughts of our heart, and will correct us from within.

There is a warning that we would do well to heed, perhaps a plumb line for us to measure our spiritual walk against. Jesus said to the religious leaders and teachers of the law “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions” [7:9] we would do well to ensure we have not let go of the commands of God and are simply holding on to the traditions of men and religion.

I have two favourite verses in Mark. First in chapter 5 verse 36 when Jesus told the synagogue ruler “Don’t be afraid; just believe” what a simple and profound comfort when faced with struggle, doubt, fear and opposition. I also loved the response of Jesus in Chapter 9 verse 23 “”If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”” It is not a matter of if you can it is a matter of belief and faith in the one who provides power.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Our Message Needs to be Seen

A friend handed me a DVD on the weekend, which they had randomly come across and thought I might enjoy. The DVD called "Ignite the Light", contains messages from some popular speakers who had spoken at a conference held at the Peoples Church in Toronto.  One of those speakers is my favourite apologist, and learned evangelist, Ravi Zacharias.  The following are some of his points that resonated with me, as I watched it today.

Ladies and Gentlemen there is a world out there that needs to be reached, and our message needs to be seen. 

We are the only ones, in the world views around us, that claim our transformation is supernatural. We're not talking about being better people by more disciplines, we're not talking about lifting ourselves up by our moral bootstraps,  we actually contend that God has done for us what we cannot do ourselves. We are unable to do it, that is the doctrine of our regeneration, we are born again of the Holy Spirit of God.  If this birth is supernatural we had better be able to demonstrate that supernatural change.

We need a Christian answer that is...

Not Merely heard, but also Seen: It's the thorniest thing, why so much of quarreling that goes on in our circles, why so much of  jealousy, why so many big egos, why such power struggles. If we really want to change this world and take it seriously, I truly believe it can be done with a much greater victory than it has been, if the ministry we have to our friends is visible and not just audible.
Not Merely Argued but also Felt: Henri Nouwen taught us a lesson that the message is not merely cerebral and argumentative, it is a message that must be felt and felt deeply in the soul.

Harnesses the Word: How do you reach a generation for whom feeling and life is identical? You reach that generation by demonstrating that word and life must be identical to. If you can show that, in the beginning was the the word and the word became flesh and dwelt among us, the word has to become like a fire within our bones

I realize that by excerpting certain quotes, you lose some of the supporting content and context, but the truth's he elaborated on are valid and powerful .  The question is in light of it, what are we to do?  This is precisely what I am excited to share on April 11th.  Interest peaked?  Check back then to see how you too can take baby steps that will have the potential to create epic ripples. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Impact Your Life

Tonight at our Breakthru service, I shared a message on Jesus, focusing on who He said that He was, and who we say He is. I thought I would continue that line of thought in my post tonight, only looking at it through the letter , Paul sent to the Colossians.

Jesus is all in all. Christ and Christ alone! He can not be added to or taken from. We need nothing more and nothing less, for our salvation, for our lives. Paul clearly and boldly reminds the Colossians and us of the Supremacy of Christ “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. For by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have supremacy.” [1:15-18] With many outside influences and powers competing for our devotion, when we are tempted and wooed to consider a better option, the word and witness of the spirit reminds us that Jesus is the only answer, the only way, the only one who is completely adequate in and for all of life’s situations.

I remember before I was a Christian trying to find that thing that would complete me, entertaining every offer, exploring every option, for the one thing that would fill the void, for the best answer to all of life’s questions. Some options provided a few answers, but not all; some things filled the void in part or for a moment, but then ultimately left me empty. There was nothing the world could offer; there was no philosophy that fit, no religious order or rule that made me feel victorious, and it was not until I found the fullness of the Truth of Christ that I found completion. I am complete in Christ, which means as it did for the Colossians, there is nothing else I need – no more you can offer – for I am full! "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” [2:9-10]

It is integral that we know what we believe and in whom we believe. If individuals are not grounded in the truth of Christ, in the foundations of the faith it will be easy for them to be tempted and drift from the true Gospel. It is a slow fade, a subtle compromise that can lead to one’s downfall. Paul knew this and so did the heretics and religious rulers of the day. So Paul wrote this letter to encourage them and remind them of the Supremacy of Christ, to help firm up their spiritual foundations so that they could stand strong against those who were preying on their newly found faith. "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” [2:2-4] This letter again brings me back to those Christian students who are heading off to University, where they will be prey for the philosophers, heretics, and worldly rulers. Unless they have been brought up by strong pillars of the faith, with a firm foundation in Christ, and been allowed to ultimately prove and discover their faith, establishing with certainty what they believe and in whom, they will fall and fall hard, under the onslaught they experience outside their Christian bubble. They need the example; encouragement and teaching that will guide them to a saving faith in Christ for themselves. Then the support, prayer, mentoring and teaching that will help them to grow and stand firm in that faith. But I digress…

I love how Paul once again balances our faith in Christ with our response to Christ as outlined in Chapters 3 & 4. The Supremacy of Christ, our salvation through Christ, our relationship with Christ should have an everyday impact on how we live our lives. Jesus is not only the Saviour of our life; He is Lord of our way of life. Our relationship with Jesus creates in us a desire to follow His commands, a yearning to be transformed into His likeness and that is reflected in our relationship with others. Dare I suggest that the health of our relationship with God is reflected in our relationship with others?

When I had finished speaking tonight, a young gentlemen came up to me and as we were talking  he shared a great truth. The best proof we have for the validity of our faith, is for others to simply experience Jesus for themselves.  Encourage them to test the scriptures, pray, ask questions and seek God, cause if they do, they will find Him. If they test His promises they will find them to be trust worthy, if they experience Jesus for themselves, they will never turn away, they will believe in Him and live for Him, experiencing the abundant life He prepared and promised.