Into the Fold

Do you ever stop and think back on your life?  Who are you?  Where have you come from?  Where are you going?  What is your purpose?  Do you have an answer for all of these, or any of them at all?  Now if you are a child of God in Christ, consider what you’ve become by the grace of God, the blood of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  What does it look like?  Who are you?  Really?

As I consider these things I realize that though I sometimes hold on to things that used to bring me enjoyment, my heart has been changed.  Not only am I not who I was, but I am not who I would have been apart from Jesus.  This is a very elementary statement, I know, but sometimes the most simple thoughts can be the ones that blow you away.  In fact, I’ll share something I came across this afternoon that left me amazed.

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.  It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”     -1 Peter 1.10-12 (ESV)

“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly placesThis was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.”     -Ephesians 3.8-12 (ESV)

We Christians, as messed up as we are, are being perfected by God’s grace.  Not only that, but we are being used by God to teach the angels and demons God’s purpose for redemption.  They don’t understand it!  It’s not that we’re superior to angels, Hebrews tells us that when Jesus veiled his glory and became a human, he was (albeit only for a bit) made lower than the angels.  The angels stand in the presence of God, worshipping him.  Instead, we are pursued in a way that the angelic hosts are not.  We are transformed and redeemed in a way that they are not.

All this to say if you are in Christ, you are not who you were.  If you’re in Christ and are not living as a new creation, deal with your obedience issues and listen to what God said in His word.  Does the Holy Spirit speak to us and guide us?  Yes.  Jesus promised that He would be with us always, even until the end of the age (that is his return in glory), but I know many brothers and sisters wait for God to tell them what to do when he already has in His Word, and the Holy Spirit will NEVER contradict the Bible since He wrote it.

God made us His family, He made you His child.  And He loves His children.

The Trap of Fear

I have been a Christian for about 8.5 years and I would like to say that I’ve been able to trust in my God and Savior with my whole heart.  The problem is that is simply not the case.  While I have learned and grown through the years I still have a lot of distrust.  Right now, my family is barely scraping by financially. I am working multiple part time jobs trying to pay the bills after leaving a well paying job because I was being asked to do things I did not agree with morally or ethically and despite having good references and a pretty solid resume I cannot find anything full time.

It has been very difficult and taxing on all of us.

While I do not regret the decision to leave my last position, I have often wondered why God has allowed us to reach this point month after month.  I have been asking “Why?” for too long. Today I spoke to a manager at a previous employer, at which I had exceled before accepting a new job offer, and it doesn’t look like that is going to work out either.  I began feeling overwhelmed and afraid.  With each passing day the bills keep coming in.  Some can be paid on time and some cannot.  As I sit in this chair paralyzed by the situation I remember what God always tells His children,

Don’t be afraid. I am with you wherever you go, even to the ends of the earth. I will not leave you or forsake you.

I write this not as a petition for sympathy, which stems from pride, but as an encouragement to myself along with anyone else struggling with fear. Fear is a tool of the enemy; he uses it to manipulate and control us into forgetting and doubting our Father. May this be a blessing to someone somewhere for the honor and glory of our Father and Most High Priest, Jesus.

Maranatha, selah.

Middle-Class Jesus, or the Truth of Sacrifice

“We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.”    – David Platt: Radical (p. 7)

Here we are.  America, 2012.  The pressing issues in the nation? The economy, presidential elections, gay-rights, and a flurry of

American Megachurch

other not-so-important issues that each of us have deemed earth-shattering.  In our Churches, we claim the victory of Christ, but we have not suffered for him (a grandiose generalization I know).  We build our churches bigger and better to make church seem more appealing to the masses.

THIS IS NOT A MESSAGE ABOUT THE LAVISHNESS OF LARGE CHURCHES

This is a message about the believer.  The individual believer.  We have watered down the gospel to make it more comfortable.  The stories we hear about individuals that Christ interacted with are taken as figurative examples.  Whether by blind ignorance or willful disobedience we overlook these passages because they take us to a place that we are not ready to go.  Jesus told people who said they’d follow him that they had to sell everything they had, to leave their homes, to not even look back if they wanted to follow him yet we read the scriptures on our new tablets or smartphones, sitting in our comfortable living room set or in an overpriced coffee shop sipping on an overpriced blend of coffee and milk.  I am guilty of these things.  I enjoy my comfort, and despite how much I talk about the need to live more sacrificially, I want to keep my belongings.  I don’t mind sharing, but they are mine.  I even have five storage bins full of old toys, cards, and third grade sketches for my childhood in a garage 500 miles away!

The point is: EVEN WHEN WE THINK WE ARE POOR OR DON’T HAVE ENOUGH WE LIVE LIVES OF EXCESS

Men sleeping on the dirty streets of Haiti

I recently read a blog entry from a man who had returned from a trip to Haiti.  He talked about the extreme poverty, about the children digging through trash piles to find any possible scraps of food they can, about the workers whose job it is to go to every latrine (outhouse) and collect the human waste and throw it into the street gutters because they lack even the most basic western amenities (i.e. a sewer/septic system).David Platt, in his book Radical, talks about his trips to Asia to visit the underground churches and the suffering and persecution they face.  Our brothers and sisters are being tortured and dying for their faith, losing everything to oppressive governments and violent opposition.  Yet many American Christians live in excess not only with flat screen HD-TV’s or Blu-Ray players, but even those of us who have far less.  We can are just as wrong!  We complain that we don’t have enough, yet we have food in the pantry, one or more vehicles, new-ish computers and smart-gadgets.  I believe that we would be well served to remember our brothers and sisters that have nothing.  They are more blessed than we are!

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  –Matthew 5:10-11 (ESV)

I understand that these words may not be well received, but I pray that we would all be open to the Holy Spirit, and that we would strive to be more like the early followers of Christ who left their worldly possessions behind to follow the Son of Man.