Monday, June 28, 2010

Religion vs. Relationship

"No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you."

I have know idea who said it first, but I am thankful. I do know that I heard Pastor Dick say it most recently, and I am still thankful. This is the quote the blesses me each time I hear it, "The Faith of the Bible is about a relationship, not religion." In the context of this quote religion is defined as being a set or rules or ordinances that one must follow to please God. I am so thankful for the fact that what God has been after throughout the history of His interaction with humanity has been a relationship with His creatures (us). Yet, we are so often fooled and bamboozled by the world, our flesh, our old ideas of who God is, and what He is about.

The reality of the negative aspect of this statement (not religion) is often more greatly emphasized than the positive aspect (the relationship). We may be tempted to miss the reality of the relationship that we have been given in Christ Jesus. This week I would encourage you to read John 15:15. The Lord Himself has called us His friends. The proof of this friendship: He laid down his life for us. Additionally, He has made known to us what He is doing through His word, and sealed us with His Spirit that we might understand. All by His grace. Not because of anything of value in us, but because of His character which is loving, gracious and merciful. This is the intimacy and closeness that the Lord has invited you into. Do you have anything you need to bring to your Friend today?

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God to prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
(Joseph M. Scriven)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer has Arrived

While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease" Genesis 8:22

Summer is upon us. For some reason I cannot help feeling sentimental regarding the change of the seasons. It seems whenever it has been cold for a while I am ready for it to warm up. I look forward to summer's long sunny days, fishing trips, camping trips, bike rides. I love the smell of of freshly cut grass and colorful flowers. There is so much in each season to appreciate and enjoy. These seasonal changes will even go forward into the Reign of Christ, they are a part of the creation He made. And in each season we get new opportunities to behold His faithfulness and love. As summer wears on and the sunshine continues to bless us we can be constantly mindful that we are loved by our Father and He has made it evident to us that "...He exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him." I am thankful that we could all be out in the summer enjoying His continued faithfulness and care for us, and resting in His sovereign plan for the future of this planet and all eternity beside. Have a blessed week!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Who We Were

Philip Yancey, in his book What's So Amazing About Grace, tells a story about a woman that he knew who was struggling with some major issues, including drug addiction and prostitution. When he asked her if she would like to come to church she replied, "Church? Why would I go there? They would just make me feel worse!" This quote probably reflects the attitude of more people then we know, and it is heart breaking. In the same book Yancey poses a powerful question which I will paraphrase, "Why were tax collectors, drunks, and prostitutes so comfortable around Jesus, yet now so uncomfortable around those who now claim to be His followers?"

Jesus was not sinful in any way, nor was he permissive of sin. Yet He embodied grace and compassion and displayed it freely to these hurting people. Paul wrote: "For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saves us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

May we never forget: Being a Christian is not about what we have done, but about what HE has done. When we see the lowest wretch in the saddest condition, totally by their own doing (or not), we must always remember, "...but for the grace of God, there go I." Other religions of this world may grow because of the greatness of it's adherents, but true Christianity can only grow because of the greatness of our God. There is not one person in human history at whom we can look down our nose and say, "I would never be that bad!" But only confess the greatness of our Lord who saves us at His own expense. We can only confess, that if it had not been for the Grace of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice for our sin and His resurrection from the dead, we would be no better off. We have a great message of love and grace for the lost! We can weep with them and say, with all honesty and humility, "I am no better than you, no stronger, no smarter, but I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ, and HE has saved me." We don't clean up to come to God, we come to God to be cleaned. Do you know someone who needs to hear this message?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Love and Bad Investments

We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:9

God's love for us is a topic that we will be thinking about, and marveling at, for all of eternity. But there is one interesting point about His love that I want us to be occupied with this week. God's love for us makes very little sense on a human level. When we say we love something we usually say why. I love salty food because it tastes good and speeds the day when I will be with Jesus (if doctors are to be believed), another loves a person for their looks, a person loves their truck because it is so useful or dependable. You may find the one who loved his truck last week hating in this week because it broke down and will now cost them money. You may see marriages falling apart because the "thrill" of attraction that they were built on is no longer there. If something, or someone, is loved for their usefulness the love will only last as long as the usefulness continues. This is the only way natural man is capable of loving, and we often fear that God loves like we love. But the Bible gives us some insight into this:

"We love Him because He first loved us" 1 John 4:9

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love," Ephesians 1:3

God's love is not, and was not ever based on how valuable, how worthy, or how wonderful you are. It is fully and solely rooted in HIS character, by HIS grace. And that is comforting! You did nothing to earn it, you can do nothing to lose it, God's love for you was demonstrated at the cross and remains at that intense level of love 24 hours a day, when you are good, when you are bad, when you are secure and when you are insecure. That is exciting, and it's available to every person who dares to believe the wonderful message of the gospel:

"...for I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures..." (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)