Stand aside, let God shine.

God employs strange means to reveal His glory and righteousness among mankind.

Certainly the strangest, is that God’s perfect righteousness is reflected through the testimony of unrighteous sinners.

In this world when you want want to espouse the Glory of something,  you use the best models don’t you?       I’ve never seen a toothpaste commercial  declare their Glory by using people with rotten teeth.

Yet In God’s wisdom, He does just the opposite of the toothpaste commercials.  He reveals His Glory through the Gospel and saves sinners who have not just rotten teeth but rotten hearts and He undertakes to make them point to His perfect Glory and righteousness.

No true Christian could ever say  ,“ I am the poster boy or girl of righteousness” God accepts me because  “I am Good”.

in fact the Gospels very clearly illustrate that it is the broken hearted the “sinners” and the “Poor in spirit” who come into proper relationship to God through the redemption that is in Christ.

A Christian can and should say, “ I am a great sinner and God is a great savior”.

We should make it a practice to never stand in the way of God’s light by pretending to be better than we are.    Instead we should be intentionally Stepping aside from taking glory onto ourselves and point to God and behold God who is truly Glorious.

Beware of trying to make people “believe in you” it is a fools venture.

By saying this I mean that God will be seen in our life as we know and trust in Him and as we look to Him and are changing, admitting our weakness and need of Him. There will be fruit of growth toward Christ likeness but only as we trust in Him.

Others as a by-product will see that God is real and will see through us the Glory of God Himself, even though we may appear smaller to those same people because we have stepped out of Hypocrisy into reality.   And the reality is we are not righteous according to God’s standard.

Jesus accuses the Pharisees ( A very proud and good works oriented people) of keeping  people out of the Kingdom and of refusing to enter into the Kingdom themselves!!!”

The Pharisees did everything to be seen by others as being righteous. They actually did do many “good Deeds” but they blocked the way.  Indeed many looked at them and said,  “wow I could never be like those people they are very devout and I could never be accepted”

The Pharisee loved to see this kind of reaction because it made them feel artificially secure in their own Righteousness. The more “self- righteous” they became ,the further they went from God and God’s true Glory was darkened as they stood in the way.

Thus the Charge from Jesus in Matthew 23:13

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”

As soon as we recognize the true Holy Righteousness of God we will not even dare to think of a    “self –righteousness”.

Instead we  see what God has provided in Jesus Christ  for the forgiveness of sins and as we trust only in His righteousness that is given to us by God as a gift through Jesus Christ, God will rightly receive all the Glory due His name as the only righteous one and as a merciful Savior.

It is this relationship based on salvation ,that we both get out of the way and also point to the Way.

If fact we perfectly testify to  the truth that Jesus Christ  declared when He said.  “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but through me”

And none of us who come this way block the righteousness or glory of God from others sight when we confess that we are sinners saved by grace.

The first outward note of our faith is that we no longer wear a mask before God and it then follows (sometimes slowly) that we no longer wear a mask before men.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Glorious precisely because God Himself is Glorious.

*  “In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

Praise be to Jesus Christ the author and finisher of our faith.

(*In Christ alone- written by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty)

Don’t be a Coward

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word  coward in its noun form as…

“A person who is contemptibly lacking in the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.”

Coward in it’s adjectival form is defined as someone being …

“Excessively afraid of danger or pain”

Cowardice is not approved of by God.  In fact it’s downright dangerous, much more dangerous than the momentary loss, danger or pain that a coward chooses to avoid.

Revelation 21:8 speaking of final judgment is very strong in its description of the kinds of thing that we must repent of in this life through Christ and it starts with calling out the Cowards.

Revelation 21:8 is strong stuff.

Revelation 21:8

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

 

So with those strong words in mind, where cowardice appears as the first indictment against the damned  it is good to examine cowardice.

what does it  looks like when it shows up in our world and how can we  ourselves avoid being cowards?

To clarify, cowardice is not just fear  Cowardice is much more than fear, it is excessive fear.  Every one deals with fear and  it can show up in any heart yet that does not mean we are a coward.   Cowardice  is excessive  fear leading one to act, or fail to act,  solely based on one’s own  self-interest.

At the heart of cowardice is the primary motivation of self-preservation and a complete concern for one’s own well-being and comfort in the face of a situation that requires self sacrifice or would cause, personal loss or pain. The coward calculates everything through a grid that centers on the self and selfish desires.

But what does cowardice look like?

Here is a short-list of examples of the “Common Coward”.

Cowards can look like the person who takes another persons life in order to gain worldly possessions, position or seeks to destroy another  persons life in retaliation for injured pride.  Some even do under a religious guise.           A  “Murderer”  is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the guy that fathers a child and refuses to take his responsibility to raise that child.  He gives no concern for the well being of the child or the mother.    Mothers are certainly capable of this too.       An  “Irresponsible” person is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the person who  focuses on career and builds a comfortable nest egg and never gives to the causes of others around them who may be in desperate need. (remember the rich man and Lazarus). Some may give but mainly for being recognized by others.            A “Greedy” person is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the person who refuses to work (though they have able bodies and minds along with opportunities to do so) because they can lean on others to keep them comfortable.    A “Slothful” person is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the person who insulates themselves against unpleasant thoughts concerning their own mortality, Gods existence, and whether there exists an ultimate purpose for their life.  They are their own God and make an Idol out of themselves.          An “Idolator” is a Coward.

This is by no means a complete list but I think the point has been made.

God requires of us to trust and obey even if it will cause discomfort, loss, pain and rejection.

In the process you will enjoy the fruit of the Holy Spirit and partake of the divine nature. No one partaking of the divine nature can be a Coward.

The opposite of cowardice is not Heroism but it is Faith in God, (which may certainly lead to actions of heroic proportion).

I say to myself ….and to all.

Don’t be a coward.

Follow Christ wherever he may lead.

God is able to make us stand in Christ in any and every situation.

Unleavened bread, a picture of authenticity.

When we think of a relationship with God we intuitively know that we must always be real with him.

After all, God knows the heart. ‘Nothing is hidden from His sight”.  A person in true prayer before God comes quickly to recognize that there is no choice but to  be open and sincere, to be “unleavened”

We also have a wonderful promise of assurance that as we do come to Him, even to confess our many faults,—as David well knew ,— God will not reject us.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;   A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17

This of course is a principle of an Eternal Kingdom, where God ,…

“…who was and is and is to come”,      reigns now both in heaven and the hearts of His own children.

Yet, how difficult it is to be real in “This present  earthly world or kingdom”!!!

It is not a part of the value system of this” present earthly  kingdom” where God is ignored, denied, and where men  hide from, and even  hate God.

As a principle, “authenticity” may be given lip service and may even be applauded to a certain degree in this world. ( Of course all within respectable bounds). Never to acknowledge ones full spiritual poverty.  “Lets Just all agree that were OK and just need to “self improve”.

Personal reputation or the keeping up of false appearances will be the undoing of us if we try to hold on to it.  Holding on to this just shows that the “fear of man” (what people think of us) is more important than “The fear of God”.

Being completely unleavened is a work that only the Holy Spirit can perform in the heart.

As John the Baptist stood crying out on the shores of the Jordan, “Repent and be baptized” , it was those who knew themselves to be “Poor in spirit” and who desired above all else to be right with God who were drawn toward God ,  it was those ones who could  …step out from the crowd …and  identify themselves before their peers as needing God more than a reputation before man.  There stepping out  was not out of an abundance of personal virtue but out of a lack of it.   They chose to identify with God even though they would forever be self identified sinners in need of rescue.

And the really amazing thing is, that Jesus himself  at the very beginning of His ministry, stepped into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized by John!!

Why?!!!        I mean even John Knew that Jesus had no need to repent of sin. John almost refused to do it,  stating  to Jesus. “It is I who NEED be baptized by you and yet you come to me?”

Jesus stepped into those waters because He came to identify with “Sinners”.

Why?        Because Jesus would take upon Himself the very sins of those whom He came to save.

This is basic Christianity; Basic Gospel.  Lose this and there is no Gospel to tell.

Jesus is “The bread of Life”. The true and perfect unleavened —“bread of Life ,“who came down from heaven.

The way to God is through the “unleavened way”.  Coming as sinner to God through Christ, who identifies with sinners who are willing to let their knowledge of spiritual poverty drive them to Him.

The Law of God against sinners stands.  Yet as the Apostle Paul proclaims, “Christ is the end of the law for all who believe”, because Christ fulfills the law for us.

In the end, when this present  life is slipping away— and it will— our reputation before men will be a hollow comfort, even a torture to us, if we have not allowed the ultimate reality of the kingdom of God to supersede this temporary reality so that we act according to “Ultimate Reality” .

We see this if we follow the logic of Jesus, speaking of the “leavened” pharisees who stood upon their own righteousness and reputation before men, ” I tell you the truth they have already have their reward in full”.  Jesus said such are excluded from the Kingdom of God because they refuse to enter into it.

But to have God Himself, and the knowledge of His forgiveness and Love , because we have settled the issue through relationship to Christ while we could, will be more than a comfort at death.

It will be the entrance of eternal Joy, to a degree that as we slip away into Gods eternal presence, we will know the full, undiluted, unleavened joy of perfect fellowship through the eternal ages!!!   It is those who are”in Christ” that will enter.

That day will  most certainly come to all and the eternal realities will roll back every covering anyway so why not come and stand in the light of Christ as a trophy of God’s grace while we live?  Now is the time to be unleavened the cost will seem like nothing compared to what we gain in Christ!!

As John Newton , the author of Amazing Grace so famously said ,

“Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

Oh Lord, forgive, love, cleanse, guide and transform us as we look to you in unleavened honesty may we have no less than all you offer in Christ. Amen.

J.I Packer and his challenge to the church

  J.I Packer: A Christian worth listening to…

J.I packer, is a British-born Canadian Christian theologian in the  Low- Church- Anglican and Calvinist  traditions. He currently serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at  Regent College in Vancouver British Columbia. He is considered one of the most influential Evangelicals in North America.

He has been the theologian emeritus of the Anglican Church in North America since its inception in 2009.    (courtesy of Wiki)

J.I Packer has written many  good theological books and articles including one of his best know entitled , “Knowing God”.

Make him a part of your theological library, ( I can count 5 of His books on my shelf currently)

What a privileged we have to speak to one another– and to listen– across denominational lines concerning struggles and the realities of our faith. we may even issue challenges to one another in the spirit of love as J.I Packer does in this short video

J.I Packer is a very wise elder brother in Christ and my prayer is  “Lord gives us more men like this!!”

 

Oh the Value of a bible in your hand!!!

pexels-photo-636010.jpeg

 

Technology is moving at the speed of light.  The common thumb-drive that fits in your pocket can potentially hold more information than the original NASA computers that were involved in the moon landing. Yes a thumb-drive!!

Your cell phone is way, way beyond that!!!

Technology is a great tool, it can be used in so many ways and the applications are virtually endless. Technology is very useful.

But I am going to raise an issue here that will sound very “Old School” and in fact it is, “Old School”.

The issue stems from a strong conviction that was ingrained into me during my Theological Schooling and in particular my Preaching (elocution) classes.

It was taught to us, that when  you are going to preach, you must enter the pulpit “Carrying your Bible”  and then you are to place that bible deliberately on the pulpit in an attitude and gesture of reverence.  Then you were to pray over it then read from its pages.

To that picture, let me add the words of a Pastor whose ministry I sat under for some time.  This pastor told me, “When you preach, STAND BEHIND THE WORD”.

“When you read the passage …”, I was told, “ …pick it up off the pulpit, hold it in your hands and show where it comes from”    ( Thus teaching them how to read it)

In other words, this is not about you, it is about God, His word and what He has to say to “US” today.

So what does this have to do with tech?

When that Bible is placed on the pulpit everyone knows its function, its power, its purpose and if we are “standing behind it” as a teacher or preacher we will know its application too and will be able to convey it.

If I carry my laptop, tablet or whatever into the pulpit, it is a common thing in my hand, often used for common purposes.  It just cannot convey the same singularity of focus and expectation required for a very uncommon and eternal message.

Oh sure you can preach a fine sermon, a very biblical sermon in fact from a tech screen.

But…

The value of a bible in your hand is beyond measure, not only for preaching but for your personal time with the Lord.

The only “call” that you will receive or “text” you will be presented with will come from God Himself, with a Bible in your hand.

Don’t get me wrong I have a bible app on my phone and top notch Bible study software on my lap-top.     But oh… there is nothing like a bible in your hand!!!

Oh, the feel of it when opening it up; the deliberate turning off of distractions to focus on it. The turning of the pages , back and forth. It catches your tears when they fall on the page, the pages crease when you grip it in frustration over passages you struggle over or in times of coming to grips with conviction.

There is nothing like the value of a Bible in your hand.

 

Sin is never general but specific.

I often wonder what it would have been like to be one of Jesus first disciples. I mean what was it like to have no place to stay, to be simply following Jesus along the dusty roads. To see a person who “did not sin”,To hear the sound of his voice, to see people physically healed, delivered from demonic oppression and see marginalized people treated with genuine Godly love and concern.
But of all the things that I wonder about, I wonder most of all what it would have been like after the crowds left, and Jesus and his disciples sat huddled around a fire sharing food and just talking together.
More specifically these men were in the presence of a person who knew them better than they knew themselves.
They had often witnessed Jesus “knowing what people thought” He often confronted people at the level of what they thought not what they said. the disciples would surely have been aware that he could read their thoughts too.
We all have very specific struggles with sin, envy, lust, pride, gossip unbelief etc.
I wonder what it would be like to open up in one of those conversations around the firelight with Jesus about those struggles. You could never do it without being specific. He knows everything and it would be pretty useless to hold back.

But it would be pretty difficult at the same time. Jesus himself was without sin. He could however be trusted to deal with the heart of sinners.
When I think of this I remember that I actually can open up to Him. I can do it anytime because He yet lives and I do.
Whether it is the sin of Lust (like Pornography which I have had to deal with and still watch out for in my own life) or it is gossip, (which may be your treasured sin). If you are a Christian Jesus will confront, challenge and forgive you as long as you keep close and learn to trust Him as the savior that He is.

I am a sinner and I know it. He died for sinners to take away our guilt and rose again to restore us continually to God. Get real….we all need to get real.

The warriors cry and the victory of Christ.

The Christian life is clearly described in the bible as a life of ongoing battle, as a spiritual warfare, a wrestling between the Spirit and the flesh as clash between light and darkness.

If you are a Christian you know it well. If you aren’t I could never convince you of intensity of that battle or of the joy of victories in that life of faith and the sorrow of defeats or of the time and energy spent in regrouping to fight those battles again, [hopefully] having learned from the past. Christians are engaged in battle often against their own inner desires and temptations.

If you are not a Christian then you will not know any of this reality. Never the less you may find what follows interesting and perhaps have your eyes opened too.

Today I will add my voice to a battle cry not as a spectator but a warrior. (One actively engaged in battle) My victories and strength come from the Lord alone. My failures are mine alone.

Perhaps what follows has been your battle too.

There is no way to ease in to speaking about the topic of Pornography so let’s get direct.

These are some statistics gathered and published by the “Safe Eyes” accountability software website.

About 64-68% of young adult men and about 18% of women use porn at least once every week.

Another 17% of men and another 30% of women use porn 1-2 times per month.

But what about us Christians?

Timothy .C Morgan of the Publication “Christianity today” states,
“Don’t assume that porn isn’t a problem in the church. One evangelical leader was skeptical of survey findings that said 50 percent of Christian men have looked at porn recently. So he surveyed his own congregation. He found that 60 percent had done so within the past year, and 25 percent within the past 30 days. Other surveys reveal that one in three visitors to adult websites are women.”

It has also been noted that 51% of Pastors said that pornography was a possible temptation. (To themselves)

“Pornography is prevalent everywhere today. In fact, one in eight online searches is for pornography. Because Porn use thrives in secrecy, many Church members are trapped in a cycle of sin and shame, thinking that they’re the only ones facing this temptation.” (safe eyes)

Those are the realities. The light destroys darkness and before I move on as a Christian and as a warrior I must acknowledge that this has been battle ground for me.

My close Christian friends know this and as I have made disclosure and sought accountability I have found that many have sheepishly acknowledged that this is an area of battle for them too.
You are not alone. Don’t ever believe that.

Stay tuned this is only the beginning and because of Christ I have no fear in allowing light to overtake my darkness. For “He alone is my rock and shield”

“New World Order?” (No, it’s just a repackaged tower of Babel).

Here we are today living in a world where technology, telecommunications and air travel, have created a world that is more connected.
People that have long been isolated from one another by vast tracks of land or oceans who over many, many generations developed independent cultures, languages and codes of ethics are now finding new mediums to share information and are merging into people belonging to a “Global village”. A new world is emerging….so they tell us.

The sovereignty of independent nations is being subtly yet increasingly suppressed through global governing bodies such as United Nations and the European Union. Presidents, prime ministers and monarchy are all beginning to sing the same tune about Global economies, free trade and shared global objectives. Even religious leaders have been singing the tune and many Popes have called for a,” New world Order”. Developed countries are all moving toward the center of a globally unified system of governance and the third world countries are invited to come on board.

Closer to home I am increasingly being reminded about my “global responsibilities” I am being told to “Act locally and think globally” such as participating in our local curb side recycling program.

I am instructed through media that my “Social principles” must be of the sort that can be accepted in any culture in order to be politically correct; they must be for the “Common good” of all peoples. So don’t offend anyone with a contrary opinion to the new standard of tolerance and acceptance of others and their lifestyles or views. I think they forget that you can truly love someone and at the same time be entirely against their religion or lifestyle. Or are all such people with contrary views haters? No they are not.

In all of these ideas there is a backdrop of manipulation of conscience, heaven forbid if you throw your star bucks cup into the waste section rather than the recycling one!!!

Recycling is good to be sure, but if the collective conscience of humanity takes a greater offence at a person failing to recycle than it does to ignoring it’s responsibility toward God, then society is straining out the gnat swallowing a camel.

At the risk of offending the many,( while still loving them) let me simply say that this idea of building a society without correct reference to God has been tried and has failed. It is not a “New World Order” it is an “Old rebellion”.

If you don’t believe me just ask yourself why the symbol of unity used as a visual motif by the EU is a reproduction of the famous painting of the tower of Babel. Yes the tower of Babel the original great rebellion. A colossal failure…..

Jesus Christ is the Lord, he overcame the world, and he certainly has no interest in our “New World Order” and as a believer either do I. Here I stand.
tower of babble EU

How God uses our enemies to help us overcome sin.

No one loves to find our faults more than our enemies. A friend, with good intention, may overlook a fault; an enemy however, with evil intention, will rejoice to see it.
The friend wishes not to bring humiliation, the enemy seeks to humiliate. God in his grand intention seeks to humble (not humiliate) his children. So with all wisdom God uses our enemy to expose hidden faults. Our close friend is not nearly as useful as our enemy in a situation like this.

The will of God is overarching and sovereign over all other wills. His will is done on earth. And especially toward those who He has called to follow Him as stated in Philippians 1:6,
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Now there are some precious friends who love us enough to tell us our faults but they are usually very rare. The word of God declares in the book of Proverbs, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”  So in the absence of such friends our enemy will actually do us good as God works his will into our life through them. Having our sins exposed by one who seeks to discredit us and humiliate us is good in the grand scheme of things.

We can say with Joseph in Genesis 50:20
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Remember that God may desire to save them too.

Having accepted Jesus Christ as both Lord and saviour through His death and resurrection we are forgiven of all sin past, present and future. That was done for us by Jesus on the cross and made to apply to us through faith in Him. God however takes and begins to shape us into a new creation and in our deepest being we desire to be righteous and free from our sinful habits.

Our desire to be free does not easily translate into our daily lives and we struggle, never satisfied with our own sin. Sin is more a misery than a delight and we seek to get away from those entanglements. Sometimes succumbing to those temptations, and sometimes finding victory over them. This is a real battle.
These tendencies are not easily shaken, propensity to lie, lust, argue, doubt God, be self righteous and love things rather than God are patterns and paths that are very easy to retrace if we walk out of step with God.

In this battle we have many strategic helps from God, His word instructs us, His spirit leads us friends love us and enemies confront us.

If people gossip about you, try to listen to what they are saying. Just maybe there is that kernel of truth that God wants to show you. It may be humiliating, but let it be so you are in a larger picture than your enemy can see.

I give thanks for my enemies because God loves me with good intention even if they are operating out of bad intentions. I pray for them too because Christ is a savior of sinners.

How God uses our enemies for our good

One of the most interesting and unexpected realities that appear in the Biblical narrative is that God’s will is performed through the rebellion of His enemies.

This unexpected reality becomes even more interesting when we clearly see that God uses the enemies of his children to shape His children and that though we may have enemies who mean us harm they are actually doing us good and can’t help but serve God’s purpose in our lives.

Oh, it is meant as evil from them and it will come as a very painful experience to us (in the short term) but since it is God who is above them, it comes out for our good in the final end.

In the story of Joseph (Gen 37) we find that his brothers were jealous of him because he was favoured and were angry with him because of His dreams which showed his older brothers one day serving him and bowing before him. Out of this jealousy and anger they decide to sell Joseph into slavery and tell his father Jacob, that Joseph had been killed in the field by a wild beast.

Over a period of many years (sold into slavery) and much suffering, Joseph eventually comes to the place where He is placed in a position second only to Pharaoh and basically rules all of Egypt. Joseph, through the providence and leading of God prepares for a coming famine by storing food beforehand. The famine then causes all surrounding regions to come to Egypt for rations of food. Eventually his own brothers come to Egypt (having long forgotten their younger brother), find in the end that their brother is the means of their deliverance.

Though they do not recognise Joseph (as they bow before him) Joseph recognises them. Joseph at one point is so overcome with emotion, and he quickly walks into another room and weeps, (though not in front of his brothers), nor does he let on that he is their brother.

He could take revenge but he longs for them to find blessing and eventually chooses to reveal himself. He forgives them and embraces them. He then provides for them and shows favour to them. When he reveals his identity to them they are stricken with heart pounding fear (Joseph was in the place of judgement and he certainly had not forgotten what his brothers intentions and actions had done to him)

Joseph forgives them and makes this amazing statement not denying their  earlier treachery and the intentions behind it.

Gen 50:20

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

In this case there was mercy and redemption for even the enemies and many others as well.

In my next post I will show how God uses our enemies to deal with our own sin. The same reality applies.