Category Archives: Grace

May I Have Your Attention Please?

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In what has been arguably the most bizarre presidential campaign in modern history, tomorrow, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be POTUS Elect #45, and the future of the US, and even the world, is facing a dramatic turn of events.  But, thank God, that in His sovereignty, the Elect of the Lord, have no need to fear, or panic – for it is our Lord who appoints His Divine choice as the leader of this country (and all others).

Now, in the midst of this day we are living – with a large amount of “Christiandom” wallowing in the permissiveness of carnality, or blatantly living in a love affair with the world;  and, with a substantial amount thoroughly distracted by an unhealthy allegiance to patriotism that is dangerously close to spiritual adultery – we, as Christians, need to pause for a moment, in the midst of this political climate of division and distention, and ask the question: Are we ready for the days ahead?

Regardless the outcome, we face a potential firestorm of assault from both sides when their candidate loses… this will likely bring a tumultuous period from November 9th, til January 20th.  But then, once Inauguration Day – and The First 100 days – arrives, something significant will take place.  Either way, I am concerned for the American Church. There are urgent – even overdue – questions that each member, individually, and corporately, must come to terms with.

I submit to you the following concerns: if Hillary wins, the Church in America will face a time of tribulation like has never been seen in our young 240 years. I do not believe that most are ready for the judgement, and the persecution that this will bring.  Alternately, if Trump should somehow pull out a victory, it is likely, for the most part, that the Church will rejoice, and quickly return to our worldly slumber, embracing our freedoms and liberties.

You see, it is time for the Church to step up. We – as aliens, sojourners, even ambassadors from another realm – are the moral compass for whatever nation we reside in. Martin Luther King Jr said in 1963:

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”

We need to reevaluate our roles, obligations, and loyalties to any worldly systems of government or rule.  We must come to terms with the very real truth that, as born-again children of the most high God, we are ambassadors sent from the Kingdom of Heaven, wherein is our eternal citizenship, to live as sojourners in this land called America. And, as ambassadors, we must grasp the depth of responsibility that we have to take our direction in all things – including our democratic progress – from our source of Life, that is: “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (See my blog on faith, hearing, and *rhema*)

17-20 months ago I was among a contingent of men of God who began to speak out a strong message of conviction that “a storm is coming, and we must be prepared.” Could the days ahead be this storm?? Are we ready for dark days?

I am greatly disturbed by the multiplicity of yard signs I see in my area that state: “America Needs Jesus” –  Really? That type of thinking seems to shortcut Our Lord’s method, which was to “The Church”and commands us to “Go and make disciples.”  Seems to me that what the signs need to proclaim is a change if thought-process to Christians, stating: “America needs the Church” … (it’s the Church that needs Jesus!)

If you’ve stuck with me this far, you may be asking “but how?” Dr Michael Brown recently said:

“What ultimately decides the state of the country, is the state of the Church. What ultimately decides the direction of the country, is the direction of the Church. [Therefore] are we going to devote ourselves to prayer, Scripture, making disciples, holy living, and reaching the lost?”

What is our “state” (or condition) – what is or direction?  What are our priorities; what do we value greatly? These are hard questions we must prayerfully ask! We must address them from our pulpits (while we still can). We must seek Scriptural answers, answers that are “every Word that proceeds from The Mouth of God”, not with logic, rational, or careful human calculation.

If we ever expect to fulfill God’s commission to us as His Church, living by faith, pleasing Him, and impacting the world for His Glory – we must learn to hear His Voice, and His Voice alone, and by Grace, obey.

So Church, if Hillary is God’s choice for POTUS #45, then we will find ourselves neck deep in an anti-Christian environment like we have only read about in books! She will make all-out war on babies in the wound, and make criminals out of  anyone who is not in agreement with her demonic and abominable assault on biblical marriage. She will spew her ungodly, liberal ideology from the rooftops, and make it the law of the land. So I ask: are you dressed in readiness? Don’t think for a minutes that our all-powerful and glorious God would not do such a thing – for He has before, and will again – if not now, then one day soon.

And what if “The Donald” should put in a change of address to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Will we collectively sigh a breath of relief, whipping our brow and declaring: “that was a close one”?  Will we kick back, relax, and return to our safe, comfortable, quite, church-going lifestyle, wherein nothing changes about our allegiance, loyalties, devotions, or priorities towards God, because it doesn’t have to change – cause “we really dodged a bullet this election”?  Again I ask: are we ready? Or have we wasted so much time, effort, and energy, being distracted by an agenda towards life, liberty, and the pursue of happiness, that we are actually laboring in our own strength to avoid the very things that Jesus promised His Followers: judgement (for refinement and purification), tribulation, and persecution. Is my lamp lit?

It is time to get ready.  Time to give my time, energy, effort, and attention to the hearing of our Heavenly Father’s voice, and obedience to what we hear.  It is found in abiding, and living by His life, not our own.

A storm is coming, I tell you! A storm like we have never seen in the west. Are we dressed in readiness with our lamps lit? Do we have the oil that we need to keep our lamps burning? Or will we be caught like a thief in the night unprepared, and naked – like a sheep to be slaughtered. The time is now, Saints of God. The time is now to prepare.  If we are not wrapped in His Grace, and Abiding in His word, His righteousness, His love, His glory, and His very life, we are doomed. We must take shelter in the Secret Place, that we might thereby abide in the Shadow of the Almighty. It matters not who is POTUS #45 – what matters is our readiness.  There is no other way.

May you find rest and peace in the confidence that our Lord and King is fully in control – for our Good, and His Glory.

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Oil Crisis! (Part 2)

Oil Crisis

In followup to the foundation laid in “Oil Crisis” (Part 1), I now present to you – to be taught of the Lord alone – numerous passage of Scripture – with thought-provoking questions – for your consideration. (If you have not already done so, please read Part 1 now.)

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Jesus said something rather shocking in John 16:7, “It is good that I go away…”

“it is for your good that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper (The Holy Spirit) will not come to you but if I go, I will send Him (The Holy Spirit) to you.”

Are you still living a Christian existence based on the Life of Jesus, and not what His Life produced/provided?

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Then, John 14:16-17 reads:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

Is it possible that you are living this Christian life as if the Spirit of God is sill only “with you” in the form of Jesus at your side, rather that living knowing that the Spirit of God is now living on the inside?

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Ezekiel 36:26-27 reads:

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

Could it be that you are resting comfortably in the glorious regeneration of God alone, and neglecting the purpose for which He has provided such great a salvation, that is, the very habitation of the Holy Spirit of God within the life of a mere human being, to lead you, guide you, teach you and remind you of the logos of Christ?

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Acts 2:38 says:

“Repent and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall [future tense] receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

And, Luke 11:13

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Yes, Child of God – you have been given a “lamp” that is Christ Jesus Himself, and His most Holy, infallible written Scriptures – but have you sought “oil” for your “lamp”?  Have you asked the Father to light the fire and fan the flame of His Holy Spirit within you?

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2 Cor 3:6b reads:

“the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life

Are you living your Christian journey with your sole source of nourishment to be the Scriptures alone (logos) – void of the power of the Spirit (Rhema) that has been made available to you?

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Acts 19:1-6 tells us:

“It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized was a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them…” (Footnote #1)

Is it possible, that like these Ephesian believers (disciples), that you are stalled in a place of repentance and forgiveness, weakened and defeated by the enemies of the world, the flesh and the devil – unaware that such a Helper as the Holy Spirit even exists?!

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Oh Child of the Most High – Virgin that you have been made to be by the Sovereign Choosing of God – I beg you… do not be found to be foolish – rather cry out to the Lord God to awaken you to His Most Holy Spirit!! The great OIL of God that has been given to cause YOUR LAMP – the very life of Christ within you – to burn white-hot and bright for all to see.  Cry out that this same Holy Spirit will take the precious logos of God, and whisper the utterance of His Rhema in to your heart.

_____________

Footnotes:

(1) It seemed wise to me, and I was deliberate in my omission of the later portion of the 6th verse of Scripture, as to not allow a “good thing of God” to be a stumbling block to the readers who might be disillusioned by false impressions, misuses, abuses or teachings on such things as the gift of tongues and prophecy.

Oil Crisis! (Part 1)

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The headlines should read: “OIL CRISIS”…. but they don’t.

To the watchful eye, however, the crisis is real, current and critical.

I am not talking about the Middle East, the Ayatollah, or the Saudi’s. No. Rather, I speak of a land and people who have been granted a greater abundance of access and right to oil than any nation, geographical region, or worldly power has ever conceived.

The crisis was brought to the forefront by Christ in Luke 12:35 when He prefaced a parable about preparedness and watchfulness, with these words: “Be dressed in readiness, with your lamps lit.”

More notable, and somewhat cryptic, Christ years later tells the story of 10 virgins at the end of the Age.  Of them, He prophecies of the Kingdom of God, that of these “pure, holy and set-apart ones”, who represented all those who had identified themselves with our Lord, Himself – the Bridegroom – would be distinguished as Wise or Foolish.  In this example, our Lord makes it crystal clear that among those who identify themselves as belonging to “Him” (the Virgins: “pure, holy and set-apart”), that as much as half, would suffer fatal eternal consequences for their “lack of oil”…

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:1-13)

In light of the frightening prospect revealed herein – that some have lamps, but no oil – the question begs to be asked: What is the oil, and how can I be sure to have some?

But first, I think it is insightful and prudent to know what the lamp is, who it is that has a lamp, and why anyone would think that a lamp alone is good for anything.  Initially, upon reading these and other accounts of lamps and oil, I remained baffled at the thought that anyone would have one without the other, particularly if they had any intention of using the lamp. Unless, of course, they were unaware of their actual need for the lamp. Maybe the lamp has just become a relic on the shelf…

So, what is the lamp?  Psalm 119:105 says: “Your Word [logos] is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.”

And 2 Peter 1:19:

“So we have the prophetic Word [logos] made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”

In the original text, the Greek word for “Word” in both of these instances is “Logos”, which is speaking of the written Word (Bible, Scripture) or the Word incarnate, Christ Jesus.  However, there is a second word for “Word” in the original language that exists, and carries great importance: “Rhema”.  Rhema is literally “utterance” – a spoken word heard – such as personally hearing it from the mouth of the speaker.

Consider Matthew 4:4:

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word (Rhema) that precedes out of the mouth of God.”

This verse, in light of Jesus’ words in John 6:35 – “I am the bread of life”; and, 6:51 “I am the living bread”; we can derive that Jesus Christ, the Logos, says of Himself, that “man shall not live on the Logos alone, but by every Rhema that proceeds from the mouth of God” – what a great mystery this is!

So it is important to clarify that in the case of “lamp” we are speaking only of the Logos Word of God – that is the writings of Scripture, or Christ Himself.  So then, if that be the case, we can conclude that possessing Scripture and Christ alone, without this “oil” is somehow inadequate?!?  As voices now begin to cry “heresy”, let’s re-look at our passage, spoken by Christ Himself, using our properly defined word, Logos:

“For when the foolish took their [Scriptures and Christ], they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their [Scriptures and Christ].”

Suddenly, knowing what this “oil” is, and possessing it in adequate supply – though mysterious – is of critical importance!  Reality is, we don’t have to look far or wide to get insight to this symbolism/meaning.  Oil has always been understood to be directly associated with “anointing” – and anointing is always understood in the New Testament to be directly speaking of the Holy Spirit (for there is no other anointing.)

So, consider our scripture now:

“For when the foolish took their [Scriptures and Christ], they took no[t] [The Holy Spirit] with them, but the prudent took [The Holy Spirit] in flasks along with their [Scriptures and Christ].”

What on earth does this mean?  There are many I am sure who will internally struggle (even argue) with a suggestion that a Christian could ever be found “without the Holy Spirit” (“they took no oil”) – but these passages have to mean something.  We cannot ignore them – and more importantly, what cannot ignore what they are speaking to us.  The “warning” they are giving us.

Before we go there, however, let’s briefly take a moment to alleviate the controversy of those who would stop right here – claiming poor doctrine, or heresy.  Clearly the Holy Spirit has a critical role – if not the sole role – in regeneration.  His power alone – more than mere influence – gives us new life and brings wretched man to a place of repentance.  Yet, there is overwhelming testimony and evidence in scripture, that the Holy Spirit has yet another role beyond grace of regeneration, in the life of one who is called “Christian”.  It is the grace of sanctification.  Great men of God have debated and disagreed for 2000 years what this “second work” of the Holy Spirit looks like (and if such a “second work” even exists) – how it manifests or “plays out” in the lives of those who have been called and chosen of God – and yet no one denies the work (grace) of sanctification is uniquely different from the work (grace) of regeneration – though some do (surprisingly) debate the necessity of sanctification.  With that said, let us move forward to explore further the necessity of “oil in our lamps”.

At this point, following much prayer on the matter, I have concluded that “a mere man can not teach another man further, about mysteries as great as these”!  Oh, I could attempt to persuade you with many words, eloquent speech (as if I have such), and strong arguments – however, at the end of the day, only the Holy Spirit Himself can teach a man (or woman) the very living Word of the Sovereign Lord.  So now, with the previous foundation laid, I will give you numerous scriptures that I am convicted are relevant to this matter of “what it means to have oil for your lamps” and he necessity thereof – and ask that you pray now – before proceeding – asking the Lord to teach you Truth on this matter, as only He can do.

(Continued in Part 2)

Negotiations in Progress

What is to follow is definitely the most unique blog I have ever written.

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I am learning some unexpected truths in recent weeks…

Unless I am missing something, there are only 2 basic ways to resolve conflict? 1) force/domination/control; 2) communication/mutual respect/compromise.

One requires manipulation, intimidation, selfishness, pride, and arrogance; the other requires selflessness, yielding, deferring, showing preference, humility & sobriety.

Which one sounds like Jesus?

Which one requires the Life of Jesus to be manifested, by Grace, in my life?

For any conflict to be resolved, both parties must have an abiding attitude of Biblical repentance: my ways & my thoughts, are NOT God’s ways & God’s thoughts. In fact my ways and thoughts are contradictory to His. Possessing a foundational attitude that my ways and my thoughts are “wrong” will go a long way in resolving conflict. But – as will life in general – we don’t really believe we are wrong… Do we?

No one enjoys conflict. Yet, conflict is clearly a natural part of life.

To see conflict resolved, both parties have to be willing to lay down “self” at the negotiation table and both must approach resolution with a willingness to “take all the blame” (if both are willing, then in the end, neither will have to).

Hidden (or not so hidden) agendas have to be abandoned, and both parties must want the good of the other, above their own good. Coming to the table – reserving force or control as a possible option “if all else fails” – will not produce lasting results (at least not godly results). It is better to come to the table willing to accept your own defeat, than to come resolved that “at all costs” you will settle the matter!

So there are two problems with this: 1) I have to have these qualities in me; 2) The other person has to have these qualities in them (and technically a third problem when we accept that we only have control over our own qualities).

What are we to do then, if we don’t see signs of these qualities in the other party? Seems to me, all I can do is to diligently ask God to work the qualities in me, and as He does – sit back, wait and trust, and see what He does in the other party…

Just sitting here pondering the hurts, pain, wounds and scars of much unresolved conflict around me….

~ Gary

P.S. Also, remember, there is only one Being who can persuade change in the heart of a person, and it isn’t me nor you – we are at the mercy of the Grace of God alone…. Just the way He wants it!

What Sort of People Ought You Be?

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You have likely heard the old adage: “If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, how would you live differently today?” I wonder if anyone has every truly experienced a life change as a result of this concept? So, consider this:

If you knew there was a time of intense persecution, which could not be avoided or escaped, coming to your community – what would you do? How would you live differently? Or…

If you knew that forces were on the verge of a full-scale invasion of your land – and the threat was immanent and verified – how would you react? How would you prepare? Or…

If you knew that a time of judgement was on the immediate horizon – clearly positioned to directly and personally affect every aspect of your day-to-day life – what would you do to ready yourself? What would change?

In our world, events like this are very real, everyday occurrences for much of our planet – except here in “the west”, where, for all of our lives (at least those born after about 1940), the vast majority of us have known ease, freedom, liberties, abundance and rest. But *what if* all that was taken away – or at least highly restricted? How would you react? How would things change?

From a spiritual perspective, The Holy Scriptures have taught us to “come out from among the world”, “be not of the world”, “live in readiness”, “be watchful”, “be alert”, and much more, in the way of preparation for that which will come (maybe many times over) throughout our lives, to test us, try us, prove us and refine us.

So, if this is how we are to live anyway, how much more so, if we are hearing from multiple sources, in a variety of venues, that a storm is coming?

I challenge you to wake up! To step up! To rise up and become the unashamed, passionate, radically devoted, extreme lover of God in Christ, that the Holy Spirit will enable you to be! Why? Because of the storm? Sure… But how about because that is who we who have “been given the gift of Life in Christ” are called to be everyday!

We have been called to be a people who live by radical organic Christ-initiated faith!

Wake up Saints and live!

We have been called to be a people who love one another with an extreme illogical sacrificial love!

Arise Church and love!

We have been called to in passionate intimacy with our Heavenly Father that is unmatched and unbridled that will bring to light an unashamed display of His Glory in our lives!

Step up in prayer people of God and shine!

We have been called to a surrendered life of death to self and life by The Spirit of God that empowers us to demonstrated the fulfillment of Christ’s rule and reign in our lives that proves the Grace of God to a watching cosmos that both desires and hates such a thing!

So yield absolutely and bathe in the Grace that works, that His Name will be magnified.

When these unashamed, passion, radically devoted, extreme lovers of God in Christ come forth, Her radiance will offend the multitudes, but will miraculously cause His glory shown to all the earth. She will be hated by all; but deeply loved by God. Her purity will shine like he dawn; Her countenance like the noonday sun!

So I say to you, in the words of God through the Apostle Peter: “…what sort of people ought you be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for, and hastening the coming of the day of God…?”  

A storm IS coming – but irregardless, we are to be a people – if we are indeed His people – who dress ourselves in readiness, with our lamps lit, every day! Wearing Christ-initiated faith, sacrificial one-another love, Holy Spirit empowered grace and passionate intimacy with the Father, at every moment, in every way. Amen!

\o/ Surrendering Daily,

~ Gary

More on what it means to wear “Christ-initiated faith”, “sacrificial one-another love”, “Holy Spirit empowered grace” and “passionate intimacy with the Father” – coming soon.

Lines Are Being Drawn

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SAINTS OF GOD: Are you watching the news? Are you reading the headlines? Are you paying attention to what world leaders are saying – and what they “are not” saying? It is all becoming so clear. It is not ISIS we need to fear (as if we should fear man anyway). It is not the American government we need to “watch out for.” No, but the table is being set, and it is becoming clearer every day. As it was for our Lord, so shall it be for the people of God, in the days ahead.

 

The US government (even most of the free world for that matter) is clearly establishing its opposition (and intolerance, in the name of tolerance) to “radical religious extremism” – whether ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Boko Haram or the like.  Meanwhile, “church leadership”, by and large, in epic proportions, is increasingly establishing itself as firmly embracing compromise and unscriptural positions on non-negotiable positions on what they call “social issues”, such as homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and abortion – as well as condemning as “judgmental”, the antiquated notions of morality, truth and faithfulness – and opposing those who firmly embrace Scriptural positions on such matters.

 

Can you see the line being draw?  Soon, with the full support of governmental laws (right here in the good ole’ USA), the vast majority of church leadership (or maybe I should say “pharisaical religious leaders”) will begin to attack those Saints who hold firmly to traditional scriptural principles. (It is happening already, and is rapidly in the increase.). They will call us “radical religious extremist” and “intolerant haters”, and they will use ever-increasing laws against such extremism to silence, reduce or otherwise “eliminate” the faithful. (Thus resulting in a clear distinction between those who are “faithful sons of the Kingdom”, and “the goats” who are wearing a label, but are casual, marginal, and/or insincere.) There will become two camps: those who are firm in their faith in Christ Jesus (and will be “dealt with”), and the rest who will be “accepted” among the “religious” and among “the world”.

 

This is not a call to arms. This is not a warning to run and hide. This is not a plea to step up and attempt to bring about change (it’s long since too late for that – the only change we can bring about is in ourselves). No, rather this is a passionate cry to those “true Christian believers” to prepare yourselves for the coming storm(s) of persecution:

 

  • Establish now where your allegiance lies (the Kingdom of God, or the kingdoms of this world);
  • Devote yourself to abundant prayer (become increasingly certain and familiar with the Father’s voice);
  • Become assured of your personal community of godly support (be clear as to whom you stand with, and who will stand with you);
  • Commit yourself to a life of faith (hearing the Father’s voice, agreeing with Him, and taking obedient grace empowered action according to what you have heard Him speak);
  • Establish your determination to live by the Life of Christ in you, as one who has been set apart for holiness and righteous, to be the light of the world, no matter the cost.

 

Remember… Jesus has said it, and so it shall be:

 

“…a servant is not greater than his master, if they hated me, they will hate you too;”

 

“…a man’s enemies will be those of his own household;”

 

“…father will turn against son and mother against daughter; brother will betray brother…”

 

“…many false teachers will arise and lead many astray;”

 

“…you will be hated for my name’s sake.”

 

The time is now! The days are short! Dress yourself in readiness & keep your lamps lit. Carefully examine and insure your “house” is built upon the Rock.  For there is… a storm coming!

Let him who has ears to hear, hear.

 

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Good Enough

I’ve known some really good people in my life. In fact, I have known some “non-believers” who were more pleasant to be around than some who profess Christ. Problem is, how good is good enough? The Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus encountering a young man who inquired of Christ, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

As Jesus talked with this young man (Luke 18:18-27), we find that this man was far more “good” than anyone I have known in my 53 yrs of life. He confessed that he had never committed adultery, murder, stolen or lied, and has always honored his father and mother! (Who among us can honestly say that we have been that good?!? Personally, sadly, I am 0-5 on that list.)  But Jesus said that was NOT good enough. In fact, we see in the opening of this passage that this fella also confessed Jesus was both God & Savior – I surmise this because 1) he asked of Jesus a question about eternal life… This strongly suggests to me that he knew Jesus was the Savior sent from God; 2) he knew He was God, for he called Him “Good”.

But, alas, confessing Jesus was both God & Savior, was not good enough either.

Lastly, Jesus essentially says to the man “You want eternal life? Then allow me to be Lord & King of your life, ruling and reigning over even your most prized possessions.” In this, the man walked away sad, for he was willing to admit Jesus was God; willing to admit Jesus was Savior; willing to live a “good” – even very good – life; but not able to surrender the throne of His life to The Christ. 

Isn’t that our problem really? We want a Savior (for heaven); we want a God (in heaven); we want to be pretty “good” so we can feel good about ourselves (a little heaven on earth); but it all comes to a grinding halt when we are faced with the reason the Savior came… To make a way that we might return to know His rule and reign in our hearts and lives; knowing intimacy with our Father; and knowing the indwelling of the Spirit – i.e.: “thy Kingdom come”

So, here is what every person (including the rich your ruler) wants: “a list of rules for inheriting eternal life!”

  1. Acknowledge Jesus is God
  2. Acknowledge Jesus is Savior
  3. Do not commit adultery (or even lust); do not murder (or even hate); do not lie or steal; honor your mother and father.
  4. Surrender wholey to the Lordship of Christ without reservation into all aspects of your life that He might, by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, and His sovereign regeneration of your life, bring His Kingdom to rule and reign in you…. (grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone).

Sorry, I realize #4 kinda destroyed “my list” – but after all, isn’t that the point… 

Let him who has ears, hear.

  

Mercy and Grace – Part 1: The Distinction

mercy-grace

Mercy and Grace

Part 1: The Distinction

Guest Blogger: Phil Powell

Most Christians I know take great comfort and find welcomed relief in Romans 6:14b.  “…you are not under law, but under grace.”  We tend to gloss over or flatly ignore the surrounding versus including the first half of that same verse that declares, “For sin shall not be your master,” let alone the following verse, “What then, shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  By no means!”

Our struggle is this.  We have accepted the gift of Christ from the Father, but we see in our lives that we still go on sinning, perhaps less or differently than before, but in the light of Christ we still see our darkness.  The sinless life of Christ acts as the same plumb bob as the Law that exposes the fact that our lives do not line up with God’s requirement of holiness.  For the most part, we have justified our sinning condition by declaring our position in Christ and rejoicing that we are no longer under the Law meaning, in our minds, we no longer have to do what the Law says because we are under grace.  But here’s the rub.  The Father gave us more commands through Jesus Christ than He did through Moses.  The Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commands.”  If we are even slightly familiar with the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John this should be a frightening prospect.

Of course, Isaiah 53:5 says He took our punishment.  Yes!  Praise God!  Our position with the Father, lost through Adam, has been restored through the sin offering of Christ.  We have been reconciled back to our Father.  Because of the death of Christ the veil between us and our Holy Father has been ripped in two and we are now seated in Heavenly places with Christ.  Because of the cross and the shed blood of Christ the sacrificial Lamb, and through our faith in that sacrifice, our position is established.  Again, praise God!

Isn’t that enough?  Now that that’s settled, can’t I push on through life doing as much good as I can to show Him how much I appreciate my “avoid hell free” ticket and what He did to obtain it for me?  This is the mercy of the cross: while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

But there is something more.  Through faith we died with Christ.  Anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (Rom. 6:6)  We have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Rom. 6:18)  Paul’s instruction is to offer the parts of your body in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness, not to impurity as you used to do. (Rom. 6:19)  We are not free from the consequences of sin, for we shall reap what we sow. (Gal. 6:7, 8)  He that sows to please his sinful nature will reap destruction; he that sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life.  “…do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.” (Gal. 5:13)  “…live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (or flesh).” (Gal. 5:16).

However, if we are honest with ourselves, we know we are frustrated that so many of the desires of our flesh still control us.

“Why, if I am seated with Christ in Heavenly places, do I still get so angry when someone obstructs or hinders my pursuit of what I want?  Why am I so dissatisfied and want more or different than what I have?  Why do I still gravitate to those familiar sins that gratify my flesh?  Why do I try so hard to get people to think highly of me?  Why do I worry about tomorrow?”

Why would Jesus tell us not to do these things knowing we couldn’t even keep the Ten Commandments much less the scores of Christ’s commandments?

I submit that Grace has lost its effectualness for us because we have confused it with mercy.  We cannot have faith in something we’re not aware of.  As long as we think being “under Grace” simply means the penalty for our sins has been paid, doing away with the consequences of sin, the true power of Grace is rendered impotent by my lack of faith through which Grace is made effective.  Let me explain.

Mercy is defined by the modern dictionary as “compassionate treatment of an offender.  A disposition to be kind and forgiving.”  The Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines mercy as “that benevolence, mildness, or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries or to treat an offender better than he deserves.  The disposition that tempers justice and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and to forebear judgment.”

In the Old Testament, the Lord often referred to having mercy on someone.  The Psalmist repeats many times “His mercy endures forever.”  The original Hebrew word translated as mercy refers to favor, kindness, pity, and compassion.

It was because of God’s mercy that He gave the Law.  His people needed to know what sin is in order to see how their lives contrasted with and were at enmity with their Holy God.  His goal was for the creation to ultimately be reconciled to its Creator so that, once again, the Creator might indwell His creation.  Without the Law, His people couldn’t know what sin was, nor realize their need of a Savior.

In the New Testament, the original Greek word translated as mercy also means to have compassion or pity on someone.  Many times those who needed healing or deliverance cried out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me;” an inducement to show compassion or mercy by doing something.

Paul greets both Timothy and Titus with “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy and find Grace to help in time of need.  So, there is obviously a distinction between mercy and Grace.

It is the great, forever enduring mercy of God that motivated Him to send His son to take the punishment for our sins and reconcile us to Himself through the death of Jesus.  We know from Romans 5:10 and others, that through His death and our faith in His death we are brought back into right position with God; new wine skins ready to receive the new wine.

So there was mercy under the old covenant of the Law and there is mercy under the new covenant of Grace.  But the story does not stop on the cross.  It doesn’t stop with the atoning blood.  It doesn’t stop even with the tearing open of the veil of the temple giving us access to the holiest of holies.  No.  After the cross is the resurrection!  Christ made alive to indwell us with His Life.  Romans 5:10 goes on to say, “…having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”  “Saved” is translated from the Greek word sozo, meaning to be healed, made whole, and made complete.  This is accomplished by Christ’s Life.

COMING SOON: Mercy and Grace – Part 2: Welcome To Grace!

Guest Blogger, Phil Powell, is a husband, father, and grandfather; entrepreneur, business owner, community & church leader, mentor, faithful Berean, and passionate lover of Christ. Phil resides in rural west Georgia with his wife of 40 years, and attends The Church at Chapelhill in Douglasville.

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Mercy and Grace – Part 2: Welcome To Grace

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Mercy and Grace

Part 2: Welcome To Grace

Guest Blogger: Phil Powell

The modern dictionary defines grace as “seemingly effortless beauty of charm or movement or form. A pleasing characteristic or quality. Skill at avoiding the inept or clumsy course. A virtue or gift granted by God.” That’s just a secular definition but, I have to say, it’s a pretty good picture of what the Life of Christ looks like in someone who is truly and completely surrendered to His Grace.

Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines grace as “Favorable influence of God in renewing the heart and restraining from sin. A disposition proceeding from divine influence.”

The original Greek word translated as grace refers to “the divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life including gratitude. It is a benefit, a gift.” Although it is occasionally translated as favor, it is overwhelmingly used in the context of divine power gifted from God to people for the accomplishing of God’s purpose. It is the divine empowerment that makes it possible for humans to do what humans cannot do. Or, better stated, Grace is the actualization of the Holy God doing through man what man cannot do himself. Let’s see if we find this to be a foundational scriptural principle.

“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and much Grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33

“So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of His Grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” Acts 14:3

“From Attilia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the Grace of God for the work they had now completed.” Acts 14:26

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of His Grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32

“…through whom we have gained access by faith into this Grace in which we now stand.” Rom. 5:2

“So that, just as sin reigned in death, so also Grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. 5:21

“We have different gifts, according to the Grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.” Rom. 12:6

“I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the Grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the gentiles…” Rom. 15:15

“By the Grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder…” I Cor. 3:10

“But by the Grace of God I am what I am, and His Grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them, yet not I, but the Grace of God that was with me.” I Cor. 15:10

“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s Grace.” II Cor. 1:12

“And God is able to make all Grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” II Cor. 9:8

“But He said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”” II Cor. 12:9

“But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His Grace…” Gal. 1:15

“For it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8

“I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s Grace given me through the working of His power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this Grace was given me to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Eph. 3:7, 8

“You then, my son, be strong in the Grace that is in Christ Jesus.” II Tim. 2:1

“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.” Titus 2:11, 12

“Wherefore we are receiving a Kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have Grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear.” Heb. 12:28

There are many more references and much could be written about them. For our purposes here, it is important to note that Grace is used to denote both “God’s favor” and “God’s favors” and includes the power that connects them.

So, how can we realize His Grace in our daily lives? How can we experience this empowerment not to sin and to actually fulfill the purposes for which He made us, redeemed and called us? Just as we enter into His death and receive forgiveness and reconciliation through faith, so also we receive the power of Grace through faith.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him…” II Pet. 1:3

So how do we begin to have faith in the Grace that God has given? According to James chapter 4, God gives Grace to the humble. We must submit ourselves to God. The Kingdom of God and God’s favor is reserved for those who become as little children recognizing their total dependence upon their Father who works in them both to will and to do according to His good purpose. We must bow to the “author and finisher of our faith.” It is God’s will that His children know Him. Let us ask Him to reveal Himself to us. When He does we will hear and faith will arise. May we behold His glory, the one who came from the Father full of grace and truth. His truth sets us free from sin and His Grace empowers us to live that way.

Guest Blogger, Phil Powell, is a husband, father, and grandfather; entrepreneur, business owner, community & church leader, mentor, faithful Berean, and passionate lover of Christ. Phil resides in rural west Georgia with his wife of 40 years, and attends The Church at Chapelhill in Douglasville.

(February 11, 2015)

Storm Warning! Immediate Action Required

Sunday August 28, 2005 4:00pm EST – The national weather service had been saying for nearly 5 days that they were “greatly concerned”. Their concern turned to “alarm”, and went from serious, to grave! The course was fixed and the destination was clear. With an less than 24 hours till landfall, this was no longer a forecast with a percentage of likelihood… It was now a reality, and danger was imminent. A weather statement was issued like never before in modern history: “Catastrophic Hurricane Warning” – a Landfall in New Orleans with a strong likelihood of massive damage and significant casualties. A Mandatory evacuation order was issued. A Federal State of Emergency came from the nations capital: “Take immediate action now. Prepare for historic devastation!”

Some, even prior to this frightening alert, had heeded the advance warnings. Others had heard this and prior warnings, but failed to take action. Others simple scoffed the warnings. Many were prepared; a great many were not. And for those who were not prepared… or ill prepared… their loss was great, and unmerciful.

As a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the city, the landscape, the commerce, the economy, the population and the people of New Orleans were changed forever by the “single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. History.”

Consider this: when the 145 mile per hour category 4 hurricane cleared the city of New Orleans – 80% of the city was underwater; damaged exceeded $108 billion; tens of thousands were left homeless; over 1 million people we displaced by the storm; shelters, at peak, were housing some 273,000 citizens; the cities population was cut in half; and 1,833 people were left dead. No one was left unaffected!

Matthew 7:24-27 reads: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

What if I said a storm was coming? Would you heed the warning – both hearing, and taking decisive action? Or, would you hear the warning, but only talk about it, attending meetings about it, but never take any measurable action? Or would you scoff at the warning, and ignore it altogether? What will the result be, if a storm does indeed come? If you heed the warning, what would that look like? How would you prepare? What would you do?

What if I told you that the preparations that need to be made, would be every bit as beneficial during the storm, as they would be if no storm came at all? What if I can promise you that you had nothing to lose in preparing for the storm, even if a/the storm never comes? But it will come. Even if it’s small unexpected rain showers. Or just a spring Thunderstorm that passes quickly. Or a overly blustery fall day. Life sends us storms – almost daily. Yet, there may be a large storm brewing. Not unlike the reoccurring headlines on the U.S. West coast: “The Big One is Coming” – and the wisest of residents that live there, live prepared, all the time, every day – so we too, are called to live prepared.

Even if you doubt “The Big One”, you know that you will face storms tomorrow; next week; next month; and next year. And the preparation that I am proposing, will be that of a wise man who built his house upon the rock. And a house upon the rock, whether there is a storm or no storm, is the place our Lord has said that our house must be.

Our Lord does not propose to tell the building contractors among us – in this parable of the wise and foolish man – that we are to build some physical structure of a home, upon a granite slab; rather it is clear that the message of the parable is to take obedient steps of action, in response to what you are hearing from Him, regarding the spiritual foundation of your life. Matthew 6:33 teaches us that we are to so prioritize the spiritual aspects of His Rule & Reign, that all this “other physical stuff” will be added to us (taken care of) as a result. If our lives are firmly established upon the rock that comes from true Biblical faith, then there will be no preparation necessary when we hear the “storm warnings.” But I submit to you that many – if not most – among Christians in America – are living a religious brand of Christianity that is so shallow, they would sell their souls to the devil for a loaf of bread in time of need.

So what of me? And what of you? Are we living a life of true faith (that is: Hearing the Father’s voice; Believing what He says [in spite of ourselves]; and because of love, by grace, taking action, in obedient response to His words) that will allow us to not only survive the coming storm, but actually thrive spiritually on the midst of it. Being prepared looks like “the fullness of the obedience of faith”, manifesting in a great many ways including: intentionality in discipleship, commitment in relationships and community, self-sacrifice, grace empowerment, repentance, devotion, allegiance, love and much time devoted to intimate prayer with the Father that we might come to know His voice in all things!

Preparation looks like embracing the storms of life, and the prospect of “the storm” (whenever it comes, and whatever it looks like) with joy and thanksgiving, knowing that He who had begun a good work in you, is seeing it through to completion in Christ, in and through the storm. Preparation looks like being consumed with a radical extremist lifestyle of loving God, loving one another, faithfully being devoted to His Word, and establishing now – in advance of the storm(s) – where our allegiance lies!

This is the preparation we need. This is the life we are called to. It should not take the threat of a storm to bring us to this place of preparation that we have been called to since our conversion to Christ – nonetheless, prepared we must be:

“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” (Luke 12:35-40)

It is past time to prepare. We must trim our lamps, prepare our oil flasks (Matt 25:1-13), and be dressed in readiness. Not just because of storm warning, but because this is how our Lord and Kings has called us to live every day in His Kingdom.