I invite you to join discussions, it enhances the reading experience for everyone. Please share your thoughts, opinions and knowledge in a respectful manner. May we all learn something in our endeavor to educate our hearts and minds. I look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hard Lessons About Grace

I’ve told you before that some of my closest friends are atheists. Over the years, we’ve had several deep conversations that challenge my own beliefs in God (in the end this strengthens my own faith).

One such (repeated) conversation is how can God be loving and gracious and yet command armies in the Bible to kill entire villages?

How’s that loving?

How is this God any different from other gods?

To be honest, this is a tough conversation to have with non-believers because some things just take faith to accept…but it’s also hard because to even begin to understand, one must have a deep understanding of the HISTORY of the Bible and the context of what was transpiring around certain events (and I have a mediocre grasp at best).

In the 6th Chapter of “The Grace of God” by Andy Stanley, we begin to understand WHY God told Joshua to kill all living things after the walls fell around Jericho. 

Jericho had become increasingly corrupt. Destroying them wasn’t some quick decision made by an angry God. While the Bible doesn’t tell us God sent prophets to warn the people of Jericho to repent, it’s likely He did. After all, the harlot Rahab had heard stories about God and was willing to risk death to help Joshua’s spies. Her knowledge had to come from somewhere. 

Also, you need to remember there were other instances in the Bible where God sent messengers to nations besides Israel-calling them to repentance- Nineveh is one such example. So it’s not hard to draw the conclusion that God HAD warned the inhabitants of Jericho BEFORE sending Joshua in to destroy them (plus they had 6 days of the Israelites walking around the walls to have a change of heart and repent…and they didn’t). 

Even taking all that into consideration, why destroy them…why not just enslave them…wouldn’t that be kinder?


Here’s what a Christian needs to understand about God…He loves us too much to NOT protect us from evil- that’s why we have laws. And because we can never live up to those laws, we have grace. But even the laws are about grace- Grace goes out of its way for others in ALL ways imaginable. (click to tweet)

God had called His people OUT of bondage from Egypt and He didn’t want them to go back. They were still “new” in their walk with God, with trusting Him. It was still much easier for them to turn back to the idols their flesh could understand and manipulate. Grace didn’t want to take any chances with these fledgling Israelites.  Grace wanted to offer God’s people the best shot at success/happiness as possible.

And since God wanted what was best for His children…a clean slate was in order. A chance to take possession of the Promise Land without any defilement getting in the way of the relationship between God and His chosen people. 

As we know, it didn’t really matter that they had a fresh start. Over time, if we don’t guard our hearts, our flesh will win out. It did with Israel. Even though God had given them His laws to help safeguard their relationship from idolatry, even though He had purged the land of defiling acts against His holiness, the Israelites slowly hardened their hearts against God.

We’re all guilty of doing this.

That’s why God’s grace trumps the law.

It’s why we all need to seek His grace daily.

It’s why we can’t begin to understand the lengths God will go in order to help His children live the abundant life (John 10:10).

God doesn’t make sense.

His grace doesn’t make sense.

Sending His Son to die for us doesn’t make sense (John 3:16-17).

Some things simply take faith. 

Faith can be strengthened with a solid foundation of Biblical truths …but still some things simply take faith to accept.

God having Joshua kill innocent lives is hard for anyone to swallow…even harder for an unbeliever to understand how Grace toward God’s people meant others had to die. 

But grace can’t always be explained…it’s better experienced firsthand. (click to tweet)

To read more thoughts on this chapter, check out Jason, Sarah, and Dusty’s blogs (and links to others who are participating in this book club).

Monday, May 20, 2013

What Does "CHURCH" Mean To You?

Ever have a scripture you’ve read a million times suddenly take on new meaning?

I recently did… and it blew me away.

I’ve read John 13:35 numerous times. Each time I thought I understood it…The world would know I was a Christian by loving others. 

I thought my acts of kindness, such as giving money to beggars or not yelling at the waiter who got my order wrong-AGAIN, were showing God’s love.

And they were/are. 

But that’s not what this verse is talking about. 

Let’s read it.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (emphasis mine)

Love one another.

I took that in general, meaning -Love everyone.

But in this verse Jesus was speaking to the disciples about loving each other…loving their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

By loving each member in the Body of Christ, the world will see/know/recognize Christ in us.

By loving those INSIDE the church who irritate us, the world will see/know/recognize Christ in us.

By loving other Christians even when it’s not convenient, the world will see/know/recognize Christ in us.

Lately it seems each time I read the NT God is showing me how much we have to actively guard our churches from disunity. It was prevalent shortly after Christ’s resurrection and it’s prevalent now. 

1 Cor 13 is commonly called the “Love Chapter” but when we read the chapters BEFORE and AFTER we see these qualities of love are talking about loving those INSIDE  the church, not just our spouses or the world.

Why do we have such a hard time loving those who sit in the pews around us?

Think we don’t have this issue? Read thru 1 Cor 13: 

It’s not loving to gossip about fellow Christians.

It’s not loving to criticize our pastors when the sermons run long.

It’s not loving to hold grudges.

It’s not loving to be selfish.

The list can go on…and it does- all throughout the Bible.

Christians are called to love the world AND each other.

By NOT showing love to each other, we are misrepresenting Christ to the world (Tweet this). 

Why would the world want to be a member of something that seems broken?

Why would the world want to fellowship with people who are mean and make them feel bad about themselves?

Why would the world want to follow Christ when it seems that those who do are some of the most unhappy people alive?

I’m currently reading “I Am a Church Member” by Thom S. Rainer. So far it’s a pretty powerful book.  

Church members have a responsibility to LOVE each other, to SERVE each other, and to be UNIFIED.

Church isn’t a country club membership where the pastor and staff serve you. 

Church isn’t something to make you feel better about yourself.

Church isn’t a way to heaven. 

Church membership is work…being part of the Body of Christ is work.

Are you doing your part?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

So Which is it...Law or Grace?

Today I have the privilege of joining week 4’s Book Club discussion on “The Grace of God” by Andy Stanley.  You can read both Jason S’s,  Sarah Salter’s  and Dusty’s thoughts on this chapter by clicking their names. 

Both Christian’s and non-Christians struggle to understand the relationship between God’s GRACE and God’s LAWS. 

This has lead to much confusion inside and outside the Church. 

Are we saved by grace?
Can we earn our salvation?
Can we lose our salvation if we don’t obey the commandments?
Was the” Ten Commandments” OT and “Grace” NT?

These questions stem from not understanding WHO God is.  They also arise out of ignorance of God’s Word. 

In chapter 4, Stanley provides background information surrounding the Laws God gave Moses. This information shows the established RELATIONSHIP between God and the Israelites BEFORE He gave the guidelines marking them as His chosen people.

These Laws” CONFIRM an existing relationship (emphasis mine).  They don’t CREATE the relationship. 

“God doesn’t throw fences around people to make them his. God gives rules of conduct to those who already belong to him.” 

Following “rules”, AKA the Ten Commandments, doesn’t make us Christian. Instead, those who call God LORD have these rules to help them walk in this deceitful world, to set them apart from this world. 

“These divinely inspired instructions stand not as a gateway into a relationship with God, but as a confirmation that you already belong to him.” 

That’s pretty awesome.

But some of you might still be wondering “why have the rules to begin with?”

This is where understanding the context surrounding God giving Moses the Ten Commandments comes in handy.

The Israelites had been slaves for over 400 years! That’s a long time to acclimate to a culture…a pagan culture that frequently worshiped numerous gods and sought their favor in various ways.

AFTER God called these people out of Egypt, He needed to help them know WHO He was. Not just the power He was capable of (plagues anyone?) but of His character. They needed to know they couldn’t manipulate Him the way they could the foreign god’s the Egyptians served.

You might be thinking, “they knew WHO God was” but you need to remember that 400 years is a long time. Think of American history, do you think we hold our nation as sacred as those who fought and died in the American Revolution did? We can understand why they fought. We can appreciate their sacrifice. But few of us hold America as dear as they did. Few of us are willing to die for love of nation.

The Israelite's knew “of God” but they didn’t have a sacred love for Him their forefathers- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob- did.

These rules helped them learn WHO God was.  It gave them AWE of the ONE true God, the God above all the other gods they had been surrounded by. 

It helped provide structure to the relationship God had already established between them, a relationship not based on any merit of their own, a relationship based on HIS grace. 

Rules follow Grace.

God’s Law also shows us what He values, and He values YOU.

“We protect best what we value most.”

God’s Laws are a means to protect us. He loves us enough to not leave us as sitting ducks for satan.
His laws help us see how satan works. They keep us safe. They protect our lives and our relationship with the one who loves us most- GOD. 

Remember: The Law is for those who have a relationship with God, who are called His beloved. 

“Obedience does not determine ownership.”  

Another great example of this is the Garden of Eden. God made Adam and Eve THEN He gave the ONE rule (don’t eat from one tree). They had a relationship with God first. A relationship established by HIS grace, THEN He gave them a rule to protect their lives and the relationship. 

Rules weren’t given to tie us down, burden us, or to be used as a measuring stick…they are meant to protect what God’s loves most- His Children.

Monday, May 13, 2013

I Got Him...Now What Do I Do With Him?

“We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him.” A.W. Tozer (emphasis mine).

This quote has me thinking about ALL types of relationships, but specifically marriage relationships as they compare to our relationship with Christ. 

When I first met my spouse I set out to WOW him! I wanted to dazzle him, to capture his undivided attention. It worked.

But once I had it, I couldn’t have stopped there or we wouldn’t be married today. 

I had to continue to dazzle him, to seek him out, to engage him in my life. 

This has kept our marriage fresh and has sustained us during trying times. 

Without a continual pursuit of him, I would lose him to the distractions in the world. I’m not necessarily saying to adultery, but I could lose him to work, to hobbies, to other relationships/commitments in his life that pull at his attention.

No, I must be intentional about keeping our marriage relationship relevant and alive!

The reverse is also true. 

Once my spouse knew he “had me”, he couldn’t just set me aside and think I’d be satisfied with occasional pats on the head or his left over time. 

No, I wouldn’t stand for that and I bet you wouldn’t either.

When we give someone our heart, we want theirs in return!

It’s only fair. Both parties have to be actively engaged and involved in order for the relationship to not fizzle out. 

This is true also of our walk with Christ.

Coming to know Him as Savior isn’t enough. 

He isn’t a life insurance policy, a get out of jail free card or any other gimmick to make life “easier”.
Triune God is a person. He LONGS for a RELATIONSHIP!

That means it’s a two-way street.

We can’t just seek God when we want something and think that’s a good relationship. He’s not our genie. (Please Tweet)

If that wouldn’t fly in your marriage why would you think it would be okay to treat the God who created you, the God who died for YOUR sins, that way? 

It’s NOT okay!

We need to continually be seeking Him. Engaging Him in conversation. Including Him in our daily lives. Showing Him He is important to us. 

While we don’t have to “dazzle” God (He’s already dazzled by His creation- you), we do have to keep the relationship fresh. 

God’s ready to do His part…but are you ready to do yours? 

“To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionists, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.” A.W. Tozer

1.        What’s holding you back from pursuing God in a RELATIONSHIP?
2.       How can you include God more in your daily life?
3.       Are you treating God as a genie or as a person deserving respect, time and energy?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Just a Reminder about FREE STUFF!

Last week, I posted two GREAT offers from my blogging friends Michael Kimball from Longings End and Kimanzi Constable from Tales of Work

These men both have a passion for Christ as well as  generous hearts. 

While their writings styles differ, they both offer great reading material that will challenge you and entertain you. 

To get a FREE copy of any Michael’s Christian Fiction Novels simply go to his book store (link above) and type WISDOM in the promo section. This offer is good through the end of May.
To get $100 in Free bonus’ when you purchase Kimanzi’s new book “are you LIVING or existing? 9 steps to change your life” simply purchase the book between May 1-19, email a copy of your receipt to the address provided in the link above and get the freebies. 

Simply follow the links above to enjoy these generous offers. 

Don’t forget to spread the word…everyone likes FREE stuff!

Thanks and God bless.

Lastly: I ask, not these men, I ask that once you read these books you go to either Amazon or Barns and Noble and leave a review. Thanks! 

Disclaimer: I did not have to give positive reviews for either of these men, I’ve done it because I believe in them both.