Tag Archives: grace

What if Jesus Mean What He Said?

Below is a re-post from Stand To Reason’s Greg Koukl. I met some of Greg’s staff and volunteers a few years ago at BIOLA and immediately recognized him as someone who “gets it” when it comes to grace… and Jesus… and the cross. I hope you’ll visit his site, learn about his ministry, and be encouraged by his word.

in Christ,

AP

Sometimes, knowing what Jesus did not come to do is almost as important as knowing what He did come to do because a wrong understanding of the first can lead to confusion on the second.

Two groups seem to go astray here.

The first are non-Christians enamored with Jesus for what they take to be His emphasis on the Golden Rule, love for one’s neighbor, concern for the poor and the outcast, and “tolerance” (the latter understood as accepting all and judging none)—broadly what has come to be called “social justice.”

The second group are Christians who, focusing on the “red letter” sections of the Gospels—the actual words of Jesus often rendered in red so they stand out—come to the same conclusion as the first group, on the main. These believers ask, “What if Jesus meant what He said?” in discourses like the Sermon on the Mount.  Again, social justice.

For those tempted to summarize Jesus this way, consider for a moment the final record of Jesus’ life—the last testament of His purpose and mission—written by one of Jesus’ intimate inner circle, the “beloved” disciple John.

Surprisingly, from John 1:1 to John 21:25 there is not a single verse that advances the cause of social justice.  Not one.  Jesus’ only mention of the poor is this—“The poor you always have with you” (Jn. 12:8).

Check any major discourse of Jesus—the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), the Bread of Life Discourse (Jn. 6), the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24, Lk. 21, Mk. 13), or the Upper Room Discourse (Jn. 13-17)—and you will search in vain for emphasis on the social gospel.  Why?

Indeed, check any Gospel. Yes, occasionally you will find a mention of the poor, but almost always when Jesus is making a point about something else—hypocrisy (Matt. 6:2-3), a widow’s generosity (Lk. 21:2-3), Zaccheus’s repentance (Lk. 19:8), the rich young ruler’s confusion (Matt. 19:21), or a lesson about the afterlife (Lk. 16:20, 22).  Why?

Greg Koukl, Stand to Reason

Because proclaiming social justice was not Jesus’ mission.  Jesus’ discourses focus on something else.  The Gospels focus on something else. The Epistles focus on something else.  Not on the works of Christians, but rather on the work of Christ.

It isn’t the poor who Jesus commends on the Sermon on the Mount (and elsewhere), but rather the poor in Spirit, not the poverty stricken, but the morally broken.

Picture the tax collector Jesus tells about—hardly destitute—beating his breast pleading, “God be merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke 18:9-14).  This man proclaiming his spiritual poverty went away justified while the Pharisee, whose spiritual arrogance clouded his genuine spiritual need, did not.

The main divide for Jesus was not between the poor and the rich, but between the proud and the repentant.  In His own words:

• “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 6:32).
• “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
• “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” ( Lk. 19:10).
• “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn. 3:17).

I point this out not to deemphasize our obligation to the poor because certainly the Bible teaches us to be compassionate and help those in material need.  I point this out to emphasize the centrality of the Gospel.  Did Jesus care about the poor and downtrodden?  Of course He did.  He also cared about the rich and powerful.  Jesus helped everyone and anyone who came to Him—poor beggar or prostitute, wealthy tax collector or Pharisee.

“Social justice”—a.k.a. the “social gospel”—is not the Gospel.  It was not Jesus’ message.  It is not why He came.  His real message was much more radical.

“What if Jesus meant what He said?”  Indeed.  That’s my question, too.

So many confusing messages and well-meaning, yet unbiblical viewpoints find their way to the forefront of our society. But at Stand to Reason, we continue to dedicate ourselves to ensuring you and others live and act in light of the true Gospel of Christ.

My Sister Knows… And, You Should, Too

Breaking Breakfast News:

The week after “Snowmageddon” had most of Atlanta iced into their homes, we drove a quick hour away for a quick “staycation” in Helen, GA. Nothing fancy, bargain hotel deal with a pool to wear out the toddlers and breakfast included. Just had to get out of the house, you know? After a post-breakfast stroll, I went back to the hotel to find 3 urgent voice mails eagerly awaiting on my cell. It wasn’t “good” news: my sister Shanua, had suffered a stroke… in India… and the brain bleeding looked like it could go from bad to worse. Shortly after admission to ICU, the doctor gave her 24-48 hours to live. “Fine, how was your breakfast?”

I’m 42. My sister’s only a couple years my senior. Nobody in my family dies of a stroke in their 40s! Do they?

Fast Forward

A few days pass, tons of prayer across the country, some emergency expediting of visas takes place and a few family members make haste to her side at the ICU. She’s better, still a little numb on one side, but would have to return to the States to complete her very miraculous turnaround and recovery. The day before she arrived home I got the news one of our most beloved uncles died. It was tough news for me and would be tough news for her even under normal circumstances. I spoke with her on the phone yesterday morning, she had taken it well. I could tell she was a bit busy wrapping her brain around the fact that her brain had almost taken her out… “Less than 10% of people who went through what I went through survive.”

Today, with my sister’s miracle as the first word of the sentence and Uncle Rufus’ death as the period, I understand a phrase that Shanua now knows in all too vivid detail: we all have an expiration date.

The Two Days You and I Can’t Avoid

“There are only two certainties in this life – death and taxes.” Today, we get to talk about both. 

Day 1 – Taxes…
     If you’re planning to support Seasons of Life Ministries this year, you’ve got until Monday, December 31st to either get it post marked or give online. Anything after that and the IRS requires us to count it for 2013. The rest is in your hands.
    As of today, we’re only about $4,000 away from a “clean ending” for 2012. We have about $1,500 in matching funds still available to help meet that goal. So, if you’re planning to give, now’s a time when anything you give will make twice the impact.

     Helping us meet our support needs will ensure we continue supporting about a dozen families in the “working poor” and poor class that receive food delivery either weekly or monthly. You’ll also help support the many men I have the honor of walking with as a spiritual director. This year, our focus begins to shift from building up many of these men to guiding them as they begin discipling other men.

What to Do About This Day:
     Partner with us now. We’re praying for new quarterly partners at $125, $250, and $500 per quarter. If we reach our need of 16 of these, “Support” updates will likely become a thing of the past on our blog, giving me back a lot of time that can be more deeply invested in the men in my pastoral/discipleship care. Whatever you do, whether $20 a month or $2,000 this week, get it in the mail by Monday afternoon or online by that night. To send it to us, use our secure address at 2659 Freedom Parkway, Suite 285, Cumming, GA 30041.

     To give online using our secure online portal, use any of the following links:
Monthly
   $25 Monthly, $40 Monthly, $50 Monthly, $100 Monthly, $200 Monthly,  
or: 
One Time Gift
   $2,000 One Time, $1,000 One Time, $500 One Time, $250 One Time, $100 One Time, $50 One Time.

Day 2 – Death…

2 Cor. 5:10 “That Day”
     Dan Matthewson is a high powered software sales guy. Top in his class, top in the firm, being groomed for partner. Gorgeous wife, model children. Placed his faith in Christ as a young teenager. He’s got it going on.

But, he’s dying inside.

     This year, you may have a chance to hear Dan’s story. He, like you and I, doesn’t get out of here alive. Like you and I, he will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to be rewarded for the things he did for God’s kingdom and in God’s power and timing. He doesn’t realize he’s headed for a fiscal cliff that will last much longer than the US economy.

     That Day is an interactive, two-act, one man show that uses about a dozen characters to tell the story of what it will look like when Dan, and by extension you and I, may witness the day Christ calls us to account for all we’ve done here on earth. It’s funny, unnerving, engaging, and loaded as Bill Ibsen says “with more truth than a sermon and it all flies under the radar until after you’ve seen it.” This production has already impacted over 500 people in the metro Atlanta area and this year, we’re already being sought out for new performances that will more than double that.

Participants at a “That Day” event react to what they’ve just seen and
discuss “table questions” and scripture related to the topic.

What to Do About “That Day”:
     Keep your eyes on our Facebook page, the blog, or www.thatday.info. As soon as new dates are announced, you’ll hear about them first. But, read and pray about the judgment seat and consider the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 & 3. Start and continue conversations in your church, organization, or small group about “eternal rewards” and the role grace has in our salvation but works has in our rewards. Pray for wisdom and revelation about how eternity impacts today and vice versa. And, when new dates are announced, get your tickets right away. Who wants to be one of those people who couldn’t get tickets last minute like the last time?

Merry Christmas Season and Happy New Year!

AP

Update Account Information   

The One Gift We All Should Buy Ourselves This Year – Monday Morning Momentum

Lost the Plot, Did We?
     Amazing how great and tragic loss gets us asking the right questions, isn’t it? Sad there are so many distractions to take our eyes off the plot. Ever felt so stuck in the swamp you forgot you were sent there to drain it? Then, you must have seen the news on Friday, too… Terrible that we have to lose dozens of precious children to get us to pray more fervently, attend church more faithfully (even at all), or take a break from the busy-ness of business to consider what really matters at the time of year that really matters… Then, as the media cycle dies down… back to our Christmas shopping again, right?

     Which is more tragic, the tragedy we saw or the tragedy of forgetting it?


OK, Shift Gears…
In Pursuit of Happiness…
     At the intersection of all the newer stuff out there every year – the better, sleeker, smaller/larger (depending on the technology) – the “better deals than ever“, and the constant IV-drip of the marketers’ “you, you, you”, lies what used to be the village of “I really ought to get something for me”.

      It was founded decades ago when Madison Avenue discovered that adding a few drops of consumer psychology to our water supply could turn grown adults into whiny, tantruming children who lose their minds when they can’t have what they want when they want it. Today, the town has grown up into a bustling city, renamed “Gimme” and you and I all have hearts that speak its native language.We even have a gift or two on our list that we’re buying just for us, right?

      Paul makes in interesting point in 1 Corinthians 1, as he points to the identity of his audience:

“[I am writing this letter] to those who have been set aside/dedicated to serving God – holy by calling”

     In fact, the letters God inspired Paul to write are all reminders to people who have lost the plot. “You started out on the right foot. You just got so caught up in the walking, you forgot where you were supposed to be headed. You’re so wrapped up in the men around you, you’ve lost touch with the Maker. You were called out to be holy – turn around and stick with first things in light of what’s been done for you!”

     See? You just read half of the New Testament.

To Regain the Plot, Consider the Characters
     We were created in God’s image, not a carbon copy of God, though. We are the creation, not the creator, and not endowed with the wisdom of all He knows. We lose the plot constantly because we don’t think like God. Yeah, you’ve been reading the Bible for a decade or two. That’s great. Me, too. That just makes me more prone to the sin of pride. God calls out to His people over and over again – “repent” – change your mind, radically and agree with the ways of God.

     God isn’t so busy wrapped up with my deadline, your project problems, her sales quota, their ballet, soccer, karate, and gymnastics schedule. He always knows what the plot is… His glory. He’s totally stuck on Himself, but it’s okay. He’s the most important person in His life, and that’s okay. Implication: we’re not. We’re not the reason we’re alive, not the answer, not the point of the story… So, when we get all caught up in “us”, by whatever device, we’ve hijacked the lead role and lost the plot.

The Good News
     The Good News, of course, is Jesus. But, the message of the Gospel isn’t. The Message of the Gospel is something far more offensive to our carefully tuned ears: “repent”. That’s great news – there’s a solution to… us. Repent… Turn away from the way that you used to think when you were, as God calls us, dead in your sin. Take off the old self, what’s familiar to you, “The Pursuit of Me and My Stuff”, and put on new thoughts. Renovate your mind.

     But, the news Paul writes in 1 Corinthians is not to those who don’t know Christ. These aren’t people who are “dead in their sin”. These are people who’ve received grace by faith, but are being tugged this way and that by “every wind of teaching and the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14). Know anyone like that?

     The great news is, at least we know the Main Character and the plot. At least we have a means to regain the plot once we’ve lost it. And, despite the pain we’re feeling over our loss, their loss, any loss, we have gained something by the tragedy – a painful post it note that reminds us there was a plot in the first place. Go ahead, put your kids’ picture or one of the photos of those victims of the shooting on your dash board. But, don’t let it be there in vain – let it be a reminder of who the story is about and who you and I are not.

    Pray for comfort for the families who have lost. Pray that God puts a smile on their face through the comfort that can only come from “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles (2 Cor. 1:3-4)”. But, pray also for the salvation of all around them. No sense in showing up to the gates of Hell with a smile on your face… Let’s not gain a smile and lose the plot. Give the gift of the Plot Writer to yourself and others this Christmas. 

     Jesus is the reason, not just a season.

Grace, peace, and momentum to you today in Christ!

AP

Speed Read – Head Bowed, Yet Still Held High

the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. (John 1:27b)”

Pretend one of these guys is your boss for a moment… Will ya?


Meet the New Boss
      Pick your hero of industry – Trump, Gates, Ellison, whoever – they’re your boss and you’re their direct report. At a private lunch they tell you about this amazing concept that’s going to revolutionize your industry, even the world. It’s one of those ideas that’s actually been around for a long time, but the company got busy with other things, and now the simplest, cleanest idea that actually launched the whole industry has become crystal clear, relevant, and the timing has never been better! 

Mission: Possible

     As the check comes, he drops the bomb on you – “We’re going to give the technology/idea away for free and I want you to be the worldwide spokesman for the campaign!”


     John the Baptist had a great head on his shoulders – lived outside the mainstream, ate non-GMO honey and free-range grass fed locusts, wore organic clothes… But, he also had an amazing attitude. Despite the fact that God had given him the same news “you’re going to be the worldwide spokesman for the free gift of the oldest, simplest concept, ever!” John kept an incredibly level, sober head. “This idea I’m about to drop on you comes from the biggest boss out there – I’m not going to take an ounce of credit for it, but you’d best pay attention.”

     There are two ways to look at this – “I’m such a loser. I’ve been wracking my brain for years and the Boss comes up with something so big it even makes my life simpler, because I’ve been complicating my life for all my life.” This is not the Gospel. The Lord of Grace doesn’t lord grace over our heads to make us feel like crap.

     Second way to look at this is honor by association – “Our company’s idea kicks your company’s butt so bad and you’d better listen to me because I’m with company X!”

     If I were John, I’d have probably erred on the side of #2 and gotten cocky because my boss is bigger than all of your bosses combined and he tasked me with bringing the greatest idea, ever, to market. 


Be Encouraged

     The good news of Christianity is the Gospel of grace – we don’t deserve anything but God’s wrath and yet He’s sparing us from that so long as we repent and turn back to Him. The great news about the good news is not only is option 2 put to death by the humility of Ephesians 2:8-9, but also option 1 is over as well. Condemnation is through (see Romans 8:1). We can keep our heads bowed in humility rather than condemnation, yet held high as we boast in the Cross of Christ and the power of God (Gal 6:14).

Never Satisfied – Monday Morning Momentum in a Minute

Mark 3:2 reads:
Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.”

Some people are just never satisfied.

     But, should we be surprised by the actions of the Pharisees? Their eyes, being so trained on the law that they gave up worshipping the law-Giver to worship the law, how could we expect them to recognize the God of grace standing before them performing deeds of true righteousness? He didn’t match the headline they expected in the Jerusalem Times:

“Warrior King Liberates Israel from Roman Oppression”



     How often do we get into that match with God – the Comparison Game? Have you been disappointed by how things have turned out? Have you ever found yourself, like me, wrapped around the axel of “God owes me” when He never promised you what you were expecting in the first place?


     The two most powerful words in the entire bible are not “Jesus wept.” In my opinion, (as was mentioned last week) they “but ” and “God”, as used in “but… God, who is rich in mercy made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions. (Eph 2:4-5)” When we look at what we have in light of what we deserve [judgment], it is all blessing. The danger for us is taking the gospel for granted and falling back into “but, God didn’t”___. Fill in the blank – “save my grandmother from cancer”, “deliver my dad from addiction”, “give me the job I wanted and was qualified for…”


     When did God promise you those things? What does He really owe you?


Be Encouraged
     Every one of us has something coming our way in the form of blessing. For all of us in Christ, it is transformation. For all of us in Christ, it is perfection. For all of us in Christ, it is a glorified body and eternal inheritance. For many of us in Christ, it includes crowns in heaven that we will lay at His feet. The only thing that can truly set us free from the comparison game is knowing that God is not constrained by our profile, our headlines, our expectation. 


     Thank God for that


     He is so much greater than the box we’ve put Him in. He is the “author and perfecter of our faith” and is capable and caring. Sometimes, He says no. Sometimes, He says “no” for a lonnnng time. But, He’s got His reasons, His plan, His headline which will blow us all away when we see it face to face:


“Glory to God”



in Christ,


AP

Monday Morning Momentum (Alright, 3:42…)

     This week is anything but “business as usual”. So, instead of trying to articulate during an inarticulate time, I’m letting Tenth Avenue North run the Monday Morning Momentum Minute. They’ve said it much better than I can and if a picture is worth a thousand words, the chalkboard in the background is worth a million bucks. Have a great week – you are loved.

     Thanks, for all of your prayers on our behalf.

in Christ,
AP

More from Cristine

     This past year, the Lord met us in (or directed us into) some dark places. The term “dark night of the soul” became not only a phrase we understood more empirically, but an everyday, household word that brought our own, human weakness into the foreground and had us on our knees regularly in upward reverence. One thing became clear – God was supreme author of this season. A byproduct of this time we spent in the crucible is that His exposition of the pain in our past would clearly be used to minister to others on the other side of the night.

     Cristine asked me to look this story over before sharing it on the blog, but I don’t have much to add or subtract. I hope if you have experienced pain, loss, abortion, grief, or other similar tribulation, that His story of how He loves us and the grace He can and does pour out on us meets you, comforts you, and lifts you up to know more than just a shadow of the Almighty who calls us to be His own. – AP

Cristine’s story (or, more of it than you had before):
      As some of you know, I had an abortion when I was 22-yrs-old.  I was not a believer in Christ, so my decisions were based on my fleshly fear & selfish self will.  Years later, I believe the Lord showed me that this baby was a boy. I also felt impressed by the Lord to name him (posthumously) “Jack”. (I also highly recommend seeking the Lord to name your aborted child in order to bring greater completeness to the grieving process).

     I often pray to God that He will open the Heavens every now & then to allow Jack to see me so that I can tell him how much I love him. As I write this, I do believe I have received full forgiveness from Jack as well as the Lord from this grave sin against both of them as well as myself and the many others who would have been impacted by Jack’s life here on earth. Now I just want Jack to know that I love him, that I think of him often & that I can’t wait to see him when I get to Heaven.

     Over two years ago, I became pregnant with our twins. As only one with multiples can imagine, my mind was blown in the natural about the fact that I was carrying two babies. But, in the
supernatural, it was also blown because I couldn’t imagine that my Heavenly Father would double my blessings in that way after having this abortion back in 2000.  And really… it was a triple blessing since He had already gave to me Presleigh 8 yrs after having the abortion! 

Coincidence? Probably not.
    Aarron and I have always put great thought and prayer into naming our children. It took us going through the 5,000 Baby Names book, the 10,000 Baby Names book, and an even bigger one before we came up with (and agreed on) a name for Presleigh. We had already agreed on a name for our daughter “Jovi”, which means “joy”, but hadn’t come up with a boy name. One day in November, we were driving to our counselor’s office the day after already finding out they would be boy/girl twins, when the Lord downloaded to me the name “Jezreel”.  So, I was thinking… “I wonder what the meaning of ‘Jezreel’ means.” Both within 15 minutes and before I could tell Aarron, he turned to me & said “I wonder what the name ‘Jezreel’ means?”

     WOW! Say what you want about coincidence, but that’s not a very common name. It’s also not one that either of us had read about recently in our devotional time.  Wow. I mean, I hadn’t yet had a chance to tell my husband what name just popped into my head the moment before… & here Aarron got the same confirmation from the Lord at the same time! We were amazed, to say the least- as well as VERY anxious to find out what that name meant.

What’s in a Name?
   Now, it just happened to be that our counselor had a Biblical name book at her office. So, once we arrived & told her what happened while on the way to her office, she immediately grabbed that book in order for us to find out! The meaning showed up in Matthew 13 where the Bible says “the Son of Man sows seed”, and “Jezreel” comes from the Hebrew meaning “the Lord sows/plants”.  Now, there is another place in Hosea 1:11

“The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited, and they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.”

     In that verse it is believed to be that the “scattered seed- known as the people of Israel- would then be gathered by the Lord”, so great is the day of ‘Jezreel’ (or rather ‘the gathering up of what was once the scattered seed.’)  And, of course, we know that we Christians are referred to as the ingrafted branch of Israel, so applying that Scripture to me meant “that I was once lost but now I am found (and gathered up by the Lord), as well” -very fitting, wouldn’t you say? I mean, the fact that this son that the Lord now blessed me with was to be THE very representation of what My Heavenly Father has done for me in my life was too awesome!

When Does the Other Shoe Fall?
     You also may remember there was a little hiccup during that pregnancy. The perinatal doc was concerned that “Baby A”- aka “Jez” could very likely have a brain problem from some ventricle showing up as congenital abnormality (according to the ultrasound).  I thought… “Yep, here it comes… my punishment for my aborted son Jack.”  I had so much guilt, worry & concern that I brought about this ailment- that my transgressions were now falling upon my unborn child.  So, we prayed, I confessed, repented, wept… we gathered the troops (fellow brothers & sisters in Christ) to pray and PRAY HARD along with us!  (Thank you to those of you who were part of that, btw!)  And we waited & hoped & trusted in God’s Word.  For He says in Psalm 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

     Fast forward to months later we see that during the time of delivery, both babies were not only allowed to be born naturally, but were healthy & whole- Praise God! Abba Father has also allowed Jovi to be the physical proof of the joy the Lord returned to me WHILE ALSO showing me how she was meant to come into this world alongside of her brother Jezreel (“Sower of seeds). He brought me evidence of this in Psalm 126:5-6 “those who SOW in tears will reap with songs of JOY. He who goes out weeping, carrying SEED TO SOW, will return with SONGS OF JOY…” !!!  Jezreel AND Jovi- united in Christ (who is “the Word made flesh”).
     Now, as most of you know, I have the best husband ever. [He’s blushing while he proofreads this…]  While were just dating I made him fully aware of the abortion, so now upon my request of wanting to honor Baby Jack in some way, we both agreed that Jezreel’s middle name would be “Jaxton”.  This is the name Jack whose Hebrew origin is John meaning “The Lord is gracious”.  As Aarron so eloquently puts it: “The name Jack, with an ‘x’ [a cross to symbolize the work of Christ] in the middle and a ‘ton’ [a suffix meaning “town” or “from the town of”] conveys the meaning ‘from the town of John’ or more poetically- “from a place where God’s grace makes His home”.

The Living, Active Word:
     Ok, so with ALL of that said… today my Master Creator showed me something else that showered me with even more revelation of His unfailing love, compassion and kindness to me.

     Sometimes I like to be refreshed & reminded of Jesus’ love, so I was reading in Hosea 2:6-7 about how God had once upon a time blocked my path, walled me in, allowed me chase after other lovers (literally) but not find them (not find the love I needed in them) to then call me back unto Himself; to find my true Love & Husband in My King & My God.  So, there I was falling even more in love with the One who loves me & saved me when BAM! My eyes were yet again enlightened by what I was reading!

     Hosea 2:22 says when we (in that book referring to the people of Israel) return to the Lord God He will cause the earth to respond with “grain, new wine, new oil and they will respond to ‘Jezreel’.”  So, I go to Biblos.com for further understanding on what this may mean.  The first part of that passage is referred to as: to nourish and strengthen; like “wine” to comfort, cheer, and revive; and like “oil” to heal and soften, as well as make glad”.  (Do you see how “Jovi” for “joy” is in this passage yet again?!?!?) Ok… I am seeing this all come together now.  Then the Lord ties it in a beautiful bow for me when I ask?  “So, what about ‘will respond to Jezreel’?”

     Well, the commentary goes on to say: “And they shall hear Jezreel; or ‘answer’; that is, these trees and fruits shall answer to the requests and desires of Jezreel who shall be abundantly blessed with them.” Jezreel is not used here as the name of a place as it is in other verses of Scripture. No, here it seems to mean “the people of Israel just as I wrote about above from the verse in Hosea 1– unworthy in themselves yet shown such favor through the riches of God’s grace He still chose to bestow upon them.” The commentary also translates it as “The great rejoicing with which they shall receive God’s gracious returns towards them”. The end of this chapter goes  on to tell us that “God will show His love… we will be called His people… and there will be no denying the One we call Our God.” (Hosea 2:23 paraphrased by Cristine.)

How Great is Our God?
    “Wow” just doesn’t seem to suffice.  Even after all I have done to You, Father God, mixed with the hurt I have inflicted upon others as well as myself by committing the sin of murder in aborting Jack along with innumerable others wicked deeds- Your grace still allowed me to live, Christ’s blood still covered my sins AND Jesus still calls me friend!  Where can I go from there but forward?  I mean, to know that I will someday see the fulness of my family when I see Jack in Heaven is exactly that hope the Bible speaks of in Romans 5: 5  “hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” And by faith I pray that this testimony continues to defeat the enemy in my life as well as help those reading overcome the accuser just as it says in: Revelation 12:11 “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”.

-Cristine

Tullian Tchividjian Guest Blog? No. But, Great Link

     Tullian Tchividjian (just call him “Tull”) is one of my favorite writers over at The Gospel Coalition and an excellent thought leader and communicator. He’s Billy Graham’s grandson, so no wonder, right?

     One of the things that remains front and center in disciplship conversations every week, month, and quarter is “saving the saved”. Often, as followers of Christ, we forget the gospel is what both saves and sanctifies us, falling into the trap of performance. The good news is… the Good News. It’s also good news that getting back on the log of grace is just as easy as falling off. Abiding in Christ – “you’re never more than one prayer away from grace. You’re never more than one prayer away from access to the full resources of Heaven.”

     Take a click over to Tullian’s article: http://theresurgence.com/2011/09/29/did-you-forget-youre-saved. Clear thinking, simple application, a lifetime to practice. Abide, gang.

If Only…

     When I’m consistent with “quiet time”, I’m not very consistent with which devotionals I read. I have a couple in hard copy and then a few others that come via email to my “@newsletters” folder in Outlook. Other times, I just skip back and forth between Psalms, Proverbs, Prophets, and the New Testament. When you talk to people for a living, you notice a handful of people who do the same thing every day, consistently. These guys are the low-spiritual-fat-percentage/chiseled character guys with 18-inch spiritual biceps that we all often idolize. Oops, did I say the “i” word? The i word often leads to the “c” word – comparison.

     Today, as I’m reading through Neil Anderson’s final devotional for February, his questions jumped off the page. The scripture selection was from Colossians 2.6-7:

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith 


     I have a tendency to notice the “who” part of passages as I’m reading them and this morning, I thought “How often do I muff up the “so walk in Him” part? How often do I compare my self to Matt or Jeff or Jim when I should be comparing myself to “who I am in Him?” Doesn’t the passage say “so walk in Jim?” Nope. The comparison game can get messy when we’re not playing by God’s rules – when it comes to man, “comparison is the enemy of contentment”.
     Anderson goes on this morning to ask the following litmus test questions about our faith (and, as he’s famous for doing, our identity):

I would be more successful if . . .
I would be more significant if . . .
I would be more fulfilled if . . .
I would be more satisfied if . . .
I would be happier if . . .
I would have more fun if . . .
I would be more secure if . . .
I would have more peace if . . .

     The completion of these statements give us a great picture of the completion of the work of Christ in our lives. See – Ephesians 4.12-16.The biggest troubles we get ourselves into can be traced back to a lie that we once bought, which can easily be detected by holding it up to the plumb-line of God’s truth: Would you be more successful if circumstances changed or if you stayed out of God’s way and let Him work through and lead you? Would you be more significant if you made your mark on a situation or if you trusted in who God has gifted you to be and ran on the steam of His grace instead of your own effort? Would you be more secure if you had $25K in the bank or if you were breaking even every week, but clinging to Christ for every dime?

     The worst form of idolatry is self-worship – my agenda, my plan, my energy, my competence. The greatest gains have been made in my life when I stepped aside and got God out of the co-pilot seat so He could fly the plane. Conversely, the biggest trouble and darkest times I’ve experienced in business, ministry, marriage, etc., have been the places where I “leaned on my own understanding” and trusted in my ability to walk, talk, work, or manipulate my way out of a jam. Grace is God’s way of empowering us to do His work. Misformed and misunderstood identity in Christ is the surest path to lost confidence in God’s sovereignty and diminishing Christ’s finished work on the cross.

     If only we all would walk in that. If only we would encourage each other in that (like, discipleship). If only we would reassure each other there is no condemnation, God’s grace is big enough (though not to be abused), and that His mercies are new every morning. If only we would all slow down the hustle, quiet down the noise, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s lead – what would a lost and dying world think of our God if we all grew up into maturity in the faith, attaining to the full measure of Christ?

in it with you,

AP