Archive for September, 2011

NO “IFS” “ANDS” OR “BUTS”

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Did you notice it?  The love described in this verse?  It stands in stark contrast to the conditional love normally offered us.  The world offers a love based on “if”—“if” you are good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy; “if” you have a good job and good connections; “if” you produce much, sell much, buy much.  The “ifs” enslave us.

The unconditional love of God, however, says “I know your faults, sins, and rebellion, but you are of such worth, value, and usefulness to me that I’m willing to sacrifice my son.  He will pay the cost and you will receive mercy.”  No “ifs” “ands” or “buts” about it—you are loved.

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YOU HAVE CHARISMA

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4).

Despite the fear and misunderstanding of the word, from the standpoint of scripture, every believer is a charismatic.  Charismata is the Greek word referring to the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit at conversion.  You can never argue that you don’t have a gift.  The Bible says you do.  You can never say you have nothing to offer to God’s work.  The Bible says you do.  The failure to utilize and implement your unique giftedness means that something isn’t being accomplished that the Lord desires to see accomplished in the life of the church.

You have charisma.  Let it shine!

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FULL OF JOY

“But now I come to you; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves” (John 17:13).

From every direction and venue, we are bombarded daily with the message that joy and happiness is to be found in what we have or what we accomplish.  So we breed false hope by buying more and more only to find out that we are settling for less and less.  We labor endlessly to build a name for ourselves only to one day discover that our family barely knows us.  We have wrongly believed that joy and happiness is something external; that must be pursued; that comes into our lives.  Jesus reminds us that joy is something that lies within; it comes out of our lives as a result of knowing and doing the will of God.

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PROVIDENTIAL CARE

“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

The Father’s providential care of his children isn’t a license to live carelessly.  There are consequences to our choices and being a believer doesn’t mean the laws of nature are interrupted for our protection.  For instance, no matter how fervently you might pray to do well on a test, if you have not studied, guess what is going to happen?  You will flunk the test.  No amount of prayer is going to override one’s lack of preparation.

It’s only when we seek to walk in obedience that we find the assurance and confidence of God’s protection and provision.  He will never leave us as orphans (John 14:18).

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THE BAD NEWS OF “HOWEVER”

“Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’  And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.  However…’” (2 Samuel 12:13-14).

There is a tremendous difference between the forgiveness of sin and the consequence of sin.  We would like to see forgiveness and consequence united as one.  We want to believe that if the Lord puts our sin behind us then no consequences lie before us.  Such is not the case, however.  It was not so for David nor is it for us.  David was forgiven but there were consequences.  The good news of the Gospel is that our sins are forgiven.  The bad news of “however” is that sin entertains consequences that cannot be undone.

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GRACE: The New Math

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one many boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The mathematics of the gospel are atrocious—it simply doesn’t add up.  The gift of eternal life, a life that offers meaning and purpose for today when entered into, is just that—a gift.  It cannot be earned.  You cannot work for it.  Nor can we ever get ourselves into a position of deserving it.  It’s God’s way of keeping it about him and never about us.  It simply doesn’t add up.  Thank goodness.

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RESPONDING TO DISAPPOINTMENT

“And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough!  Speak to Me no more of this matter.  Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes to the west and north and south and east, and see it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan’” (Deuteronomy 3:26-27).

All of his hopes, dreams, and aspirations unfulfilled.  For forty years Moses lived with the anticipation of entering the Land of Promise.  Can you imagine his disappointment?

What has been your biggest disappointment in life?  Notice, I didn’t ask, “Have you ever been disappointed?”  It’s a universal experience.  Something or someone has disappointed you.  The more important question, however, is one of response.  We can strike out in bitterness, resentment, and anger.  We can give up and just throw our hands up in exasperation.  Or, we can move on in faith; believing that God uses all circumstances to accomplish his ultimate purposes.

Moses’ disappointment didn’t cause him lose faith in God or hope in his future.  He died in peace on Mt. Nebo, trusting in the eternal purposes of God.  How will you respond?

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THE PLUS SIDE OF DOUBT

“So the other disciples were saying to him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe’” (John 20:25).

Have you ever had moments or, perhaps, seasons of doubt? You are in good company. While the Bible contains many accounts of extraordinary faith, woven within those same stories are shades of doubt.

Like many today, Thomas longed for empirical proof of the resurrection before he would believe. Unlike us, Thomas was given the opportunity to see the very evidence he desired. Did it give him a greater advantage? A stronger faith than ours? A greater blessing? Jesus said to Thomas, after having revealed the “proof” to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).

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FACING YOUR GIANT

“And David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine’” (1Samuel 17:37).

Who or what is the giant you will today face? Can you name it? Does it bear the name of some character defect you have yet to master? Is it the name of another person and a battle that looms on the horizon? Is it financial insecurity? Is it aging? Death? An addiction? Is your giant some secret that keeps you from living honestly?

Faith will not eliminate your giant but, like David, it will enable you to face them today, head-on, and with power. The life that is permeated by faith has only one fear—the fear of God.

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WHAT DO YOU KNOW?

“He then answered, ‘Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see’” (John 9:25).

Skeptics of the Christian faith most often focus on those questions for which there are no certain answers or those that, out of lack of knowledge, we are unable to answer. What is undeniable, however, is your experience. While my experience with Christ offers no objective proof of the existence of God, or the validity of my faith over other faiths, it is nonetheless my experience and offers validation to me. There are still many areas in my faith that I am ignorant and continue to seek understanding, but I’m the expert when I it comes to what has transpired in my life. Instead of being discouraged by what you don’t know, speak from the story that has been written in your own life. The power of the gospel has always been in the story, not in the persuasive powers of the messenger.

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