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!

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“S.O.C.”

Research* suggests 6 out of 10 Americans identify themselves as “Christian”.

Just over 4 out of 10 American’s claim that they are “actively practicing the Christian faith” (APC).

Surveys have shown that just over 1/3 of those 4 (those identifying themselves as “APC”) – that is between 1-2 of them – strongly support things such as murder (aka: abortion), unnatural sexual perversions (aka: gay lifestyle/same-sex marriage), fornication (aka: living together outside marriage in a committed, loving relationship), and the like.  That means that 28 of every 100 actively practicing Christians is supportive of behaviors that Scripture teaches – unrepented of – will cause them to “not inherit the Kingdom of God”. So, can we assume that the other 72 out of 100 “actively practicing Christians” are firm in their Scriptural convictions regarding righteousness? Unfortunately, no – at least not entirely.

When this same 40% of American’s who claim to be “actively practicing the Christian faith” is asked these 9 simple questions – shamefully – everything changes.

  1. Have you made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in your life today?
  2. Is your faith very important in your life today?
  3. Do you believe that when you die you will go to Heaven because you have confessed your sins and accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior?
  4. Do you believe that you have a personal responsibility to share your religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians?
  5. Do you believe that Satan exists?
  6. Do you believe that eternal salvation is only possible by grace, through faith, and not by human works?
  7. Do you believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth?
  8. Do you assert that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches?
  9. Would you describe God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today?

You, like me, would probably answer 100% YES to all 9 questions, and, for a moment, wonder to yourself: “Isn’t that Christianity 101?”

Yet, would you care to take a guess at what happens to this 40% when these 9 questions become the criteria for a Scriptural definition of “Christian”?  The group is reduced from 40%, to just under 7%!  That’s right, 7 out of 100! There is not a question among these “9” that is extreme or unreasonable for a person who claims to be a Christian (Little Christ)… And yet, for the overwhelming majority of “APC’s” – these are not beliefs that they adhered to.  How can that be?

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So, if we accept that there is a 40% that are called Christian (let’s call them “The Christian 40”) – how do we distinguish the mere 7% who hold to the historic Christian teachings of “The Law, The Prophets and The Apostles”? I propose we call them “Scripturally Orthodox Christians” or “SOC” for short.  (Side note: Jesus called them “Believers” – John 6:60-66.)

And of great concern to me is how prepared these 7% are to face the days we are now find ourselves living in – in which our society has – over as few as 20 years – become not just “Post-Judeo-Christian” – but even hostile towards SOC’s – a society in which the “religious establishment” (“The Christian 40”) will make peace with the ruling government of the day, and will oppose – even make war – against the 7%. As with our Lord – they will call us intolerant radical extremist, who hate & judge – they will claim we are not “Christian” at all.

Consider Acts 14:2, which reads:

“But the Jews (accepted established religion of the day) who disbelieved, stirred up the minds of the Gentiles (governments of men) and embittered them against the brethren (the so-called intolerant radical extremist).

“Are you an “SOC”?

Are you the 7%?

If so, are you prepared to face these defining days in which those whom you have worshiped side-by-side with, will become identified with “The Christian 40” and stir up the minds of the government, and embitter them against you?  Are you ready…?

Stay tuned… Much more to come on “Dressed In Readiness With Our Lamps Lit: Living As A Scripturally Orthodox Christian in a Post-Christian Society”

~

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* Some of the survey results that “inspired” this blog can be found at: https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/723-christians-react-to-the-legalization-of-same-sex-marriage-9-key-findings#.VaR1ePlViko

Prayer of Confession & Intercession for the National Day of Prayer 2015

prayer1On Thursday, May 7, 2015, during Douglas County, Georgia’s National Day of Prayer observance, my dear friend, brother, and mentor, John Brown, offered a eye-opening prayer of confession and intercession for the Church in America.  In many ways it brought a bit of sobering reality to the participants in this gathering – encouraging us to look inward – and not outward – as we prayed that day.

I wanted to share the transcript of that prayer for your edification.  I pray that you might chew on the many morsels of repentant cries herein, as if they were your own:

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Prayer for the National Day of Prayer

“O Lord, great and awesome God, You keep covenant and steadfast love with those who love You and keep Your commandments,

Listen to my words, O Lord;
consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
for You are my Lord, my King and my God,
for to You do I pray.

Enable me by Your empowering grace, to pray according to Your will, breath Your living word through me, for You have promised that if we pray anything according to Your will, that You will hear us, and that we will have whatsoever we ask.

O Lord, we – the American church, have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from Your gospel of the Kingdom — Your Reign, and the commandments that our Lord taught us to observe.

We have not listened to Your Son, our Lord Jesus, nor to Your servants the apostles and prophets, who spoke in Your name to our Elders, our pastors, our teachers, and our fathers, and to all the people of the church.

To You, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us, the American Church, a member of the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, the church of the firstborn, the bride of Christ, ——— belongs open shame.

To us, O Lord, the American Church — belongs open shame, to our Elders, our pastors, our teachers, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.

To You, O Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against You, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in Your ways, which You set before us by Your Son the Lord Jesus Christ, and the apostles and prophets.

For we have played the harlot, sharing our affections — that belong only to You, with this American nation. We have made of her an Idol. Looking to her for our well-being, our security, our health, our lifestyle, and our provision.

Looking to America for our rights to pray, and worship, and to be the people of God. Ignorant of the reality that on the day that we gave to the American Constitution, our rights to pray, and worship, and be the people of God, was the day that we lost those rights.

We have chosen to see ourselves as citizens of America rather than as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God to this fallen nation.

We lift up prayers for our lover, America — at the neglect of prayers for the Kingdom of God and its citizens, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Each denomination, congregation, and man — building his own kingdom at the expense of unity in the body of Christ, which according to our Lord’s prayer for unity, would convince the world that Jesus is the Christ sent from God the Father, and that You, Father, love us even as You have loved Your own Son.

O God, we see the storm that is on the horizon, this calamity that is coming, that You are sending — to cleanse Your Church of all that is not of You. Yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by the truth of Your Word.

And now, O Lord our God, who redeemed us by the blood of the Lamb, as of this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

Because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, the Bride of Christ, Your people have become a byword among all who are around us. Our hypocrisies have made us a laughing-stock.

“O Lord, according to all Your righteous acts, let Your anger and Your wrath turn away from us, Your called out people.

Now therefore, O God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for Your own sake, and Your name’s sake, O Lord, make Your face to shine upon the American Church, which has become desolate.

O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the people that are called by Your name. For we do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy.

O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for Your own sake, O my God, because Your church and your people are called by your name.” 

Now O Lord,

Let all who take refuge in You rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread Your protection over them,
that those who love Your name may exult in You.
For You bless the righteous, O Lord;
You cover him with favor as with a shield.

I do pray, with intercession, for Your people,

In the name of Your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

AMEN

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

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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.

Biblical Faith: As Simple As 1-2-3 (-4-5)

Luke 5:4-6 “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’  Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.’  When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break.”

1) Jesus spoke.

“Jesus said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’”

Rom 10:17 “…faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the [rhema; spoken; alive & active] Word of Christ.”

2) Peter heard.

“…as You say…”

Matt 7:24a “Therefore everyone who hears…”

Matt 13:16 “But blessed … are your ears, because they hear.”

3) Peter believed (Jesus’ words in opposition to logic or reason)

“..but I will do…”

Heb 11:1a – “…faith is confidence…”

Matt 4:17 – “Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent [change your way of thinking & your perception], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Isa 55:8-9 – ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

4) Peter took action in obedience to what he heard spoken.

“…I will … let down the nets.”

James 1:17a “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead…”

Matt 7:24b – “…act[s] on them [words of Christ]…”

5) Jesus produced unmistakable & miraculous fruit.

“…they [the nets] enclosed a great quantity of fish, and began to break.”

James 2:18b – “I will show you my faith, by my works.”

Heb. 11:1b – “faith is the proof of what is not seen”

Matt 14:29 – “Peter … walked on the water”

 

Remember, the “lawless one” does without hearing…

Matt 7:22-23 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

And, the “foolish one” hears without doing

Matt 7:26-27 “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. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

 

Don’t be lawless…

Don’t be foolish…

Instead, be a man or woman of faith, who hears Christ speak, believes & takes obedient action!